Wednesday, December 31, 2008

50 things I learned in 2008

Julie at Mirror of Grace decided to blog on the fifty things she learned this year, and I decided to do the same. I'm sure that just like me, Julie has learned many more than 5o things this year, but these are some highlights.

1) How fast the kids grow up.
2) How easy it is to gain 15 pounds.
3) How hard it is to lose it again.
4) Why Weight Watchers says, "the meetings are the magic".
5) Who my real friends are. Again.
6) How absolutely black with depression life can get.
7) How Jesus and friends can help.
8) How limited I am in finding solutions.
9) How vast God's resources are.
10) How wise the counsel is of my true friends.
11) How betrayal can sting even when you thought it couldn't affect you that bad again.
12) How God uses a myriad of sources to heal us.
13) How fun it is to teach a class on apologetics.
14) How fun it can be to teach piano.
15) How much I love to TEACH, period.
16) The fact life really isn't worth living if you aren't going to be real.
17) People who are worth being in relationship with are okay with you admitting when you're a wreck.
18) How freeing it is to have left the politics of ministry totally behind.
19) That things will get better even when you can't imagine in your wildest dreams how it will come about.
20) How valuable covenant relationship is.
21) How Africa finds it's way into one's heart and melts it.
22) How much closer we are to Jesus' return.
23) How much more sinful the world is getting.
24) How much greater opportunity there is for revival!
25) How much I loved snuggling with my family.
26) How important daily time with the Lord is.
27) One piece of dark chocolate every day really is good for you.
28) If you are depressed, saturating yourself in worship is a must.
29) Everybody can't be in your front row.
30) You can't be truly close with someone who doesn't share your core values.
31) God picks busy people to do important things. He typically doesn't go hard after lazy people.
32) Speaking something is very important. Speak it - give power to it.
33) When life gets hard hang on like a hair on a grilled cheese sandwich.
34) If someone walks away they were never truly with you in the first place.
35) I lose the most weight when I eat soup and half a sandwich for lunch most every day.
36) America would be better off to "take tea" mid-day like a lot of the rest of the world.
37) I am absolutely wild about animal prints. (I was wild about them before they became so popular, just FYI.)
38) People who are depressed can't just "snap out of it."
39) People who tell people to do that should be strangled or at least have their mouth duct taped.
40) Sometimes obedience to God has to be enough.
41) There's never a right time to do the wrong thing.
42) Emo people are people after God's own heart.
43) "All of us are smarter than one of us." ~ quote by Rick Warren. I've learned my friends come up with solutions I would never think of. Oh how valuable they are and how important it is to drop my pride and ask them for input. (Wouldn't have made it without you this year, my friends!)
44) Life is hard, but God is good. True story. More than a cliche.
45) It's much easier to eat than to face what's eating us. (But it doesn't work.)
46) Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. Enough's enough.
47) Share wisdom with people. If they don't listen, let adversity teach them.
48) I love listening to podcasts.
49) To everything there is a season...
50) Being alone is a blessing if you like yourself.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I woke up this morning feelin' fine

Did the spa thing again this morning - set my alarm a little before my family woke up and went through the same routine I did last night and wow, it was great. I will set the alarm again to do the same thing before we have to leave in the morning. It's worth it.

This afternoon our family went to lunch to Friendly's. We don't have it in Tampa and it's one place we really love. I was very good to myself health wise and while the rest of my family had the customary burgers and premium full fat ice cream, I had a turkey burger and a salad...and no ice cream. I was proud of myself.

Tonight we went to Arabian Nights which is a horse show and it was a special one for the Christmas holidays. It was very entertaining. At this point Jordan and Savanna are at the pool til' late night and Dustin has gone back to Tampa because he has work in the morning.

We did some very fun and refreshing activities today which were very needed.

I did however have some stressful situations today to deal with aside from all of the above. I did wake up this morning feeling more than fine but then a few things happened that basically made me feel in a way that would be difficult for even a wordsmith like me to describe. So I won't try. But this shouldn't surprise anyone -- the enemy never takes a holiday especially from my life. The devil never leaves anybody alone who is actually doing something. I've learned that so maybe I should consider myself blessed to actually be somebody accomplishing something? Really, aside from all the refreshment today my heart is dealing with lot. If you are just happening on this blog for the first time, ignore that I just said this but for anybody who is a good friend of mine reading this just say my name in prayer. Thank you my friends.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My night alone at Shingle Creek

“We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly. . . spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to
renew itself and create order.”
Susan Taylor

I spent one of the most awesome evenings I have had in a long time...with myself! I love being alone and wrote a blog about that recently. I realize my previous post stated that I was going away with my family, and I am. However there is also some time for me to renew myself personally while we're away. Oh joy!

We got here to Shingle Creek and Larry wanted to take the kids to Sea World. They all have passes but I don't. So they left immediately for the park which left me to do something alone. I ate dinner by myself (cuban) and sat there just relaxing enjoying the gorgeous outdoor surroundings here at the resort. Then after dinner settled I went to the workout room and spa. It is absolutely A-MAY-zing!!! I couldn't believe all that I got to do at this place. You can use the spa facilities even if you aren't getting massages or other treatments. Wow, I felt like a queen. The first thing I did was work out for an hour. Then I headed to the "ladies only" spa. Walking in it says, "shhhhh....quiet zone" and you walk in to candles everywhere and soft music and they hand you a robe and slippers. I took a shower which sounds very basic however it wasn't your everyday was with their special massage shower heads, and shower products...then got in the jacuzzi, and afterwards showered again and then slipped into one of their robes which feels like a million bucks! Then I went to the "quiet room" where I had complimentary ice water with oranges, an earl gray tea, and I even indulged in one tiny butter cookie dipped in dark chocolate (Just one!) I sat there for about 45 minutes in the chair and read Southern Living, then got up and went to the changing room and got dressed to go upstairs to my room. The whole place is completely geared to women and their needs from all the products provided in the showers, restrooms, any product you could possibly need is right there. So, I decided that tomorrow morning and also the next day before I leave I'll go down, work out and do this same little routine. It will be worth it to set my alarm and although not getting up at the crack of dawn or anything, I'll make sure to get up well before my family so I have time to experience this again twice while I'm here since it's so great and it's right here for me to take advantage of as a guest of the hotel. Amazing!

I needed this in a very real way. Seriously...I'm so glad we got to do this before the year starts. It was also really good for my back to do this and I'm hoping to go back to Tampa feeling a lot better. Although I have a jacuzzi at home this one hit my back in different spots. I have blogged some the last week about not feeling well and being in pain. This time away will be good for me, for all of us...

Right now I'm having some quiet time in my room and Larry and the kids are on their way back. Since it's a Jon and Kate Plus 8 marathon, Savanna and I will probably snuggle up and watch it which will make for a nice cap off to my evening.

Family time in Orlando

Our family is taking two days vacation in Orlando at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. I am so ready for this especially after yesterday.

This will be a nice little break before we come back to get ready to host our New Year's Eve party here. Our house is going to be absolutely crammed with people but it's going to be so fun!

These two days I'm going to relax and enjoy my family, sleep late, work out, and enjoy the Florida sunshine. I'm sure I'll blog too, since it's one of my most enjoyable things I do!

Sunday, December 28, 2008 such a lonely word.

I'm a daily blogger and an honest one at that. Today was difficult until the afternoon. There's a little rule we were probably all taught as kids, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So, nuff said there.

Thankfully part of the day was redeemable. I had a good time of fellowship at lunch with friends, then went home to get some rest, and woke up later to go to the movies with Larry & Savanna, Tom and Cathy and Michele. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And, tomorrow's a new day...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gearing up for the new year

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I can't believe we are just a few days away from 2008 closing out. Wow-ee. We are getting ready for our New Year's Eve party, and also looking forward to a special overnight trip as a family. So much to do in this small amount of time and we are making the most of it.

The past few days since Christmas I have been completely dedicated to getting back on program. I had blogged a few days ago about the physical problems I've had since getting back from Africa. I can't help but think that the fact that I've gained some weight has made it worse. No, it's not "the problem" but it sure doesn't help! So, I have been completely "O.P." (on program) the past two days, and walked and biked four miles yesterday and three today. Then I came home and got in the jacuzzi to try and work the pain out of my back, which is what I've been dealing with for over a month now.

Larry and Savanna and I went to Applebees tonight and spent a Christmas gift certificate and enjoyed ourselves. Time to clean a bit before bed and get a good night's rest for church tomorrow. I'm expecting great things!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Meme

I got this meme from my friend Pastor Leanne Weber. Enjoying some time to relax and do things that don't take a lot of effort or brain this meme!

i am an extremely committed person.
i want to know God more.
i have a long way to go.
i miss my family of friends in Africa.
i fear deep water and going through more pain.
i hear songs in my head all the time
i search for an answer when things don't make sense.
i wonder how God will resolve my problems.
i regret a few things but never talk about them.
i love the fact that God is bigger than my mistakes.
i forgive always but sometimes it takes time.
i ache inside when I am betrayed.
i always tell my kids how much i love them.
i try to live in the moment although it's hard at times.
i seem to be much happier when my house is clean.
i know that God loves me.
i feel alone sometimes but Michele reminds me that I'm not.
i dance whenever the opportunity presents itself.
i dream with my eyes open - wide awake - more than asleep.
i give as much as i can wherever i can.
i listen when wise people talk.
i sing reasonably well.
i laugh at true stories more than anything.
i can't wait to go back to Africa!
i sleep as much as i can.
i am in love with Jesus more than anyone.
i see a lot of people in the world who don't have a work ethic.
i need to stay very strictly on WW program the next few months.
i should never worry but sometimes i do.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Shrodesville

Today Christmas started out in our home like it always sleeping in! Yep, we are all night owls, and sleepers. Now that I have a middle schooler, high schooler and college kid, well...sleep is easy to come by for the parents in our house. No more "crack of dawn" stuff on Christmas morning. We all got up at about 10:30 am. Before we opened our presents we sat down at the table in the kitchen and had my famous breakfast sweet rolls. I made extra for the boys since it was Christmas day.

We went in to open presents and took our time as we always do. The highlight was Savanna's phone gift. She has been wanting a cell for the longest time and we have said no, but this was her big day. Larry put the gift (we had put it in a big box under the tree) on her lap but said, "hold on a minute...don't open it. Grandma and Grandpa wanted to be on the phone when you open this to hear your reaction." She said, "really? Is is THAT good?" He said, "yep!" and he called her phone number for the phone that was in the box. Her Christmas present started ringing and she started screaming with excitement and said, "NO WAY!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS??!" She was beside herself with glee. That was the gift that just made my day. Truth be told, I'm feeling much better now that she has a cell. I want her to be able to get ahold of me anytime even during school should she have to. (I know they aren't supposed to use them at school but I am speaking of in an emergency situation.) Parents just feel safer nowadays to know that our kids have a line to us anytime.

My gift that I'm very excited about is a Zune. I am so thrilled about this and it will assist me greatly in getting some more exercise to my fav tunes. I already went out and walked a mile with it today I was so excited! I downloaded about 10 of my favorite worship CD's on Zune (I did a 14 day trial thing to download as much music as I want) and I have ever single Sara Groves CD on my Zune right now was well as Rita Springer's latest and a few others. I am all set for at least a few days. :-)

 Dinner turned out well except for two dishes. I couldn't believe it. Not saying this to brag or anything but just as a fact I'm a good cook. I rarely have something flop especially our usual dishes. But we had two mishaps today. I don't know why but the sweet potatoes never turned out and I had to throw them away. Seriously! I know this sounds bizarre but we peeled and chopped them and I boiled them to mash them for our casserole that I usually make. Not only were they very hard to cook (didn't turn real soft) but they did not taste sweet and almost had a bitter taste. I tested one and said,"yeccck! what in the world is wrong with these?" and ended up throwing them out. No sweet potato casserole for us this year. We must have gotten a bad batch of potatoes as weird as that sounds. Then there was the matter of the creamed corn...

My family still hasnt' stopped laughing about the creamed corn. I had Larry shop for the groceries for Christmas dinner. I had "cream" on the list, meaning whipping cream for the creamed corn. Instead he picked up french vanilla creamer. Ugh! Well, I didn't notice that until Christmas morning. What to do? What to do? Finally I know, vanilla might not taste all that bad in creamed corn. It's got kind of a sweet taste. So I seriously made the recipe with french vanilla creamer. And, put it on the table like it was the norm. Dustin was the first to taste it. He said, "oh my gosh, what in the world is in this?" Then he smacks his lips and second and says, "this tastes like vanilla. What's wrong with it, Mom?" I said, "vanilla? Are you serious?" "Yeah, I'm serious..." he replied.

I said, "don't say anything til everyone else tastes it." But he kept going on...

Casey took a bite and said, "I think it's fine. Dustin, don't complain about it." And he said, "Well it's awful, seriously..." and she kept chastising him...

Larry tasted it and said, "hon, it's too sweet. Something's wrong..." and then Jordan and Savanna tried it and didn't say much but didn't look like they were enjoying it. So I fessed up that it was made with french vanilla creamer. I thought Jordan was going to hit the roof. "MOM! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" To which Larry says, "this is all my fault, isn't it?? Did I pick up the wrong items at the store?" and I said, "well, I just didn't have regular cream, that's all..." to which someone shoots back to Jordan and Dustin, "stop it guys...she did the best with what she had! Don't complain..." but in the end everyone including myself had a tremendous laugh over it and what a memory it now is! When the meal was over Dustin said, "thanks mom for the meal, it was great...especially the yeast rolls..." The rest turned out well as always, it was just that darn creamed corn and the weird potatoes I had to throw away. Aside from that the 7 layer salad, cherry glazed ham, hash browned casserole, broccoli with cheese, yeast rolls, pumpkin pie...was all delectable!

We took some pictures before we shared pie, games and conversation. A good day and night was had by all. These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives...

But my best Christmas memory this year was actually last night. I had finished getting all the things in the kitchen set up for cooking this morning and vacuumed and got ready to turn all the lights out and go to sleep. I popped my head into Dustin's room to say good night. He was almost asleep. He said, "wanna lay down next to me, Mom?" So I came over and snuggled for a little bit. It had just turned a little past midnight when I laid down and I said, "merry Christmas baby..." and gave him a kiss on the head as he was falling asleep, and he said, "Merry Christmas Momma...I love you " as he drifted off to sleep. And with a tear running down my cheek I said, "I love you too beep beep..." and tucked him in and went to my room.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams...

Northside staff @ communion tonight...

Tonight was our traditional Christmas Eve candlelight communion, and it was a very steady stream of people for the whole three hours. It just flew by. Our Christmas communion is not a service but a time when people stop by anytime between 5-8 for personal communion and prayer. We always had people waiting to be served, except for a very few minutes where we got to sit and rest for a few quick seconds before somebody else walked in the doors. This is one of our favorite events of the year and such a special time to be with our people who have stayed in town and not traveled for Christmas. This seemed to be the year that felt the shortest, due to being so busy with the people coming in and out and having little to no time to sit for a moment. But that's the way we like it! We also had a good number of our new people there...this is really a blessing.

Communion was followed by our other family tradition of going out for a Chinese dinner. We always invite the staff to go with us and this year Trinity and Misty both have family that has come in for Christmas so they actually left tonight right afterwards to go to Daytona and spend it with them. But the Garlands went with us and this year we went to Liang's which has become the favorite Chinese place of all of us on staff. It's sooooo incredibly good especially their orange peel chicken. Yum!

We're back home and it's time to wrap up a few last minute Christmas things and get to bed. I'm so tired, and very much looking forward to rest this next week. Did I say that before?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore...

Today has been a day filled with Christmas preparations. We worked a full day at the office today trying to tie up loose ends. Then we went to the post office to mail some Christmas things after work and I had Larry take me for a cuban sandwich since I've been craving one for days and haven't had one. Finally this craving has subsided. (And yes, I counted it on program.)

My husband dropped me off at home after picking up the cuban and went out Christmas shopping for me. I came home and rested a bit and then started doing things in preparation for Christmas day such as setting our dinner table, and making two pumpkin pies while listening to the Holly station. I just love it...will miss it once the holidays are over. Savanna and Jordan started a fire in the fireplace on the patio and started setting up the tent. They are going to be "camping" in the backyard tonight, as Jordan did last Friday night. They are all excited about it.

I am looking forward most of all to relaxing after Christmas. To rest is the greatest gift I could receive. I could never adequately articulate to most people the load that is on me. Most times I don't try, I just bear it. The last week of the year is one of my favorite times of the year and usually when we get to this point I'm just ready to crash. It's time for a slower pace for a week, and renewing my body and spirit. I really need it right now in a way that few could understand.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Double duty

Today found me working very hard to get things done by Christmas so that we can take some time off the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. That week is one of my favorites of the year because we give the staff off except for essentials (church services, bank deposits, hospitalizations, etc.) and aside from those mandatory things, after the Christmas Eve communion until New year's day, we are home with our families. If we are especially blessed then we have no emergency phone calls and that makes for just the relaxing break we need in preparation to start the year off with the amount of energy that we want to in getting ready for what we believe will be a banner year in the church.

Today I was doing multiple weeks of work which means several weeks worth of preparations in paperwork, teachings, e-magazines, yada yada. You name it, it all must be done ahead. Amongst that time we did carve out time for a nice staff lunch together. I miss being in the office with the staff but we are all so close we usually hang at each other's houses during the break anyway during part of the time.

After work tonight we came home and I made myself a lean cuisine and Larry got a bowl of cereal. Today I have been able to stay 100% O.P. (on program) which is a MUST, not just after Christmas or the New Year, but I am at such a 9-1-1- in my weight status right now that I have to get with the program right now, not a week or two from now. The scale has spoken...loudly.

Larry wanted to go to the movies tonight so we went to see Yes Man, the new Jim Carrey movie. He's my favorite comic. If you haven't figured it out, we are a movie-loving family. So much so that my son works for Cobb Theatres and is absolutely wild about his job. We get free tickets to go anytime we want so it's something we do often. One reason I am so nuts about movies is that I was never allowed to go growing up, and now I make up for lost time and see every movie I possibly can. I never lose the joy of it.

I have another full day at the office tomorrow to try to wrap things up in time for Christmas and if I do I might even take Christmas Eve off during the day until we have to go in late afternoon to prep for communion. We are almost done our Christmas shopping but not quite. Tomorrow night will be the night for that, I presume. I'll be so glad to have it all done. Somebody remarked the other night about the great amount of gifts (already wrapped and there) underneath our tree. There are a lot but I explained this is the time my kids get all of their school clothes and stuff. I generally don't buy anything at the start of the school year except their school supplies. All of their shoes, socks, underwear, t-shirts, pants, shirts, yada yada yada get purchased for Christmas. This is it for the year, so at Christmas time is when they get their yearly supply of everything and I wrap each and every thing (or rather Savanna does it now, ptl!) including the little things so that it's more enjoyable to have more to open. Aside from that they do get one "toy" they've been wanting (their toys are different and more expensive now that they have gotten older) but mainly for Christmas they get their supply of what they need as far as clothing and such. Not that I have to justify it to anybody, but I guess some people might think we are millionaires if they see all the myriad of stuff that's wrapped underneath our tree, and a few people have commented. No, we don't have that much in the bank accounts, but in spiritual things, yes we are millionaires and more.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives...

It was a great day with the Northside family today -- one of the days that I'll always treasure. It's over now and I have cleaned up the house once again and have opportunity to sit in the quiet out by the fire and blog about it. A blogger friend, Aaron remarked tonight, "you sure are getting your money's worth out of that fireplace!" (yep! We're loving it.) Here's a photo by the way, as I sit here, so you can get more of the effect of what I'm experiencing minus the actual heat and the crackles. :D

This morning was our Christmas program. I was really looking forward to it, especially the choir's final song -- I knew it was going to be a blockbuster that would turn the place upside down, and it was. We had a new soloist, Epi Ruiz, who was making his debut today and let me tell you the man can sing and he not only sang but he went around the sanctuary and danced and just absolutely rocked the place like nobody's business! It was awesome. We did the reprise not once, but TWICE! Those who missed it really, really missed it.

We had a pretty full house this morning for service and except for one big media snafu which I glossed over as well as could possibly be covered so that nobody but myself and the choir knew there was a huge chunk of music missing, everything went great. No one in the congregation really knows, so I just have to pretty much let it be a L.I.G. (let it go) and move on. Like I said, aside from that the morning was perfecto, could not have been better.

After service we went with anyone in the choir who wanted to go to ABC pizza for lunch. We had quite a number who could not go but about 34-40 people still went. We had a great time just talking and laughing and eating our lunch. Afterwards we came home and I took a much needed nap. We were having a youth party at our home tonight however I have been having some issues health wise since getting back from Africa, and needed to rest while the fam did most of the cleaning. I got up and helped clean about an hour before the party and we had all the youth and their families over tonight. So much for sticking strictly to my WW program tonight. :-) (And I was doing so good...) We had an amazing amount of food here tonight again as well as people E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E! At any given time about 10 people were in the jacuzzi, lots of people gathered around the fire, around the game on the TV, around both kitchen and dining room tables, in the kids rooms, everywhere! It was a great night of fun, food and fellowship! Sue was here with her boys and she gave me an absolutely delightful gift. A santa hat with animal print around the edge (totally my style if you know anything about me!), and an adorable little monkey Christmas ornament (love monkeys too), and a Starbucks mug. Gosh, does the woman know me well or WHAT? I was so blessed by this as well as a gift bag from Susan today that had another beautiful watch and some perfume from Victoria's Secret as well as a few other things. I am so thankful for these blessings, most of all the wonderful people in my life.

I briefly mentioned not feeling well, above. It's nothing serious but I would appreciate the prayers of anyone reading. It's been 30 days since I've returned home and I still have the same issue I had since the ride home. I have had chronic (I'm talking 24/7 pretty much) pain in my back, midway down, and sometimes the pain will move to the front as well but mostly just in the back. I have taken a lot of OTC medication the past 30 days, pretty much every day, and put my little rice pack that you heat up on when I've gone to sleep and now for the past two nights slept with a heating pad on it, which has brought some relief while sleeping, but when I wake up and get away from the heat, it still hurts. I have not resorted to going around smelling like Ben Gay all the time but it may come to that if God doesn't hurry and take care of it . I hesitate to blame any of this on my trip however I did not feel this way until right after the plane ride home. It could have something to do with being cramped up and on a trip for 30 hours however I can't imagine I wouldn't be over it in 30 days and it would still affect my sleeping and such. Thanks for your prayers as I come to mind. I am just believing the Lord that it will dissipate and be gone. I also hesitate to go to the doctors for this at all because I have always heard that pretty much when you have back pain there is nothing they can do for it.

Only a few more days til' Christmas. We're not quite ready yet but we will be, hopefully least that's my prayer. What a busy time of the year this is and most of all I'm just trying to enjoy people. In addition to this season being all about Jesus' birth, it also really needs to be about loving those around us. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another year completed of life coaching

Today ended our 2008 year of life coaching with the current group of women and we begin again fresh next month. Last year I hosted our December meeting at my home however with a party at our home tomorrow night I thought it was too much for me to host two events in one weekend to the degree that I like to go with things. So...

We met at First Watch this morning for brunch. I just love being with our group of women. Looking back and reflecting today on various changes over the past seven years, I stand in awe of the caliber and character of women that I am now privileged to lead. They are a true blessing and I take such joy in them.

As we start a new year of life coaching, there is opportunity for others to join the group and make the one-year commitment to be a part of it. I asked some of them today to express what life coaching means to them and why anyone should think about being a part of it, and here's what a few of them said:

Michele ~ "Life coaching is life changing. It has given me the self confidence to step outside my box - my comfort zone. We also share life's ups and downs which has been really awesome..."

Liane ~ "Being connected to other women who help you stretch and grow is what it's about. We have learned so much that has also brought us closer to God."

Anita ~ Life coaching gives you a safe haven to be yourself - to open up."

Cathy ~ "Life coaching brings a real sense of community."

Susan ~ "I say DITTO to what everyone else just said!"

If you are a Northside woman and you are interested in life coaching for the 2009 year, let me know asap so that your spot can be reserved. The first meeting of the new year is January 31. Get ready to change!

Somebody's on the job!

Well, yesterday I reported on some deadbeats that caused a lot of grief by not doing their jobs, and the sad state of work ethic in our country. At the same time, I'm a big believer in giving kudos where they are due. When I experience good customer service, I want to shout it from the rooftops! Last night I experienced phenomenal customer service, with Littman Jewelers and one of their excellent employees named Matt.

Right before I went to Africa one day I looked down at my hand and noticed one of the diamonds was missing out of my anniversary "eternity" ring. My heart sunk. Couldn't believe it. Ugh. To make it worse, I had gotten so busy the last six months that I failed to keep up with my end of the service agreement and go (every six months like I'm supposed to) and get the ring serviced - the prongs checked and strengthened, etc. This and the fact that I wear the ring every day and work very hard with my hands might be a reason the diamond fell out. At any rate, I accepted the fact immediately that I would have to put the ring in the shop and pay for the replacement diamond, vs. having it covered under my service contract.

Last night we did our annual trek down to the Brandon Mall to Christmas shop. We always do our Christmas shopping there and eat at Buddy Freddy. It's a tradition all of us look forward to. This was also a convenient time for me to take the ring and put it in the shop though I dreaded paying for it, especially at Christmas and figured I might have to even leave it in a month or two once it was ready, til' I got the money to pick it up.

As soon as I gave Matt the ring I said, "Just so you know, I realize I didn't keep up my end of things and I'll need to cover this repair and I've just accepted that I need to bite the bullet and pay it." He said, "okay," and proceeded to take a look at the ring and look up the purchase on the computer and all the info about it.

A few minutes later he came over and said, "Mrs. Shrodes, it will be ready in a week and a half, and please don't worry about it...I am covering this for you."

I said, "what do you mean?" He said, "It's Christmas time. Spend your money on something besides a ring repair. I've taken care of it."

I couldn't believe it! I was shocked and so happy. I said, "You've made my decade! In fact, two decades since this is my 20 year anniversary ring. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this."

Amazing! I am still just so grateful for this blessing and thanking God for it. Just a note to anybody thinking about buying some jewelry...I'd highly recommend Littman's for their great customer service. And Matt is a definite standout employee!

I'd also like to thank the Lord for His favor on this matter...I know God definitely is the ultimate one who paves the way for these kind of blessings.

Friday, December 19, 2008


News reports today have confirmed more than the remains of Caylee Anthony or the true killer of Adam Walsh. They have sadly confirmed once more the shoddy work ethic of much of America. It makes me SICK. It's bad enough that horrific crimes like this are committed in the first place. But to add insult to injury of the families involved, you have various workers who so botched up the investigations causing irrepairable harm long after the case is solved. Due to somebody's laziness, families are often victimized twice.

These aren't just current events that I'm choosing to blog about because they are current, but rather an issue that bothers me to the core and something I've blogged about many times, and that is, what in the heck is wrong with the work ethic of Americans? We can't seem to get it right whether it be investigating a murder or making sure an amusement ride is safe. Somebody is laying down on the job, or not showing up, every time you turn around.

I was sickened today to turn on Fox News and see that the utility worker who called about Caylee's body in the woods had called THREE times to report seeing a bag or something suspicious in the woods, and was largely ignored. Oh, they did go out and "check it out". But they didn't find anything. Well, actually one police officer said he "had to get out of there because he saw a big snake". (Give me a break...kill the snake and keep looking for the body! Didn't he have a GUN?! What kind of sissies are working for the police department these days? I hope if I call 911 and there's an intruder in my house they don't leave if they see an alligator from my lake around the corner. Gee whiz. Ridiculous!)

Fast forward four months and they are just NOW finding little Caylee's body.

In the case of Adam Walsh, his family had to go for all these years without any closure in his killer being brought to justice. Why? Because the police once again bumbled the case and lost the piece of carpet the killer had decapitated their son on. How in the heck do you just "lose" something like that? In between donut runs and smoke breaks, these guys lost the key piece of evidence that would have nailed Ottis Toole to the wall legally or possibly even sentenced him to the death penalty. Sadly he never came to trial for Adam's death although he has now died of natural causes. It didn't have to be that way, if only the police wouldn't have done such a poor job on the case. In my opinion they should be fired...end of story.

What I want to talk about in this post is more than the tragic deaths of two children. I want to speak to the tragic death of hard work in our country, and a job well done. Nobody seems to know what that is anymore. DETAILS are important, people. I'm a person who believes in some cases, we should be sweating the "small stuff." A bag in the woods? A piece of carpet? Small at first glance, but to someone else such as John Walsh, or Caylee's grandparents who have been at their wits end with frustration and means everything. Somebody could have prevented these families from having a whole lot more pain than they needed to have.

This applies to anyone. What is your job? And how are you doing with attention to details? It was a utility worker that found Caylee's body. He had to call more than three times to finally be heard in the matter. What if he would have quit? Whether you are a waitress at Waffle House or a pastor of a church, or a teacher, or a person who works on the assembly line at GM, are you paying attention? Are you doing your job? Do you care about the details? Somebody's life depends on it.

Every time I see something like this happen in the world it not only prompts me to pray for the families involved, but it motivates me to be a better worker. Somebody is counting on me. Will I fulfill my responsibilities or will I be found sloughing off when I was supposed to be working?

Christmas Meme

Got this Christmas meme from my friend Pastor Leanne Weber...perfect for this "Fun Friday"...

Egg nog or hot chocolate? Oh, DEFS hot chocolate, are you kidding me? What a non-sensical question.

Colored lights on tree or white? Both. Currently I have three Christmas trees in my house. Next year we'll add a fourth. Right now I have one tree with colored, another with white, and another with blue. Not sure about next year's yet. There's a very good reason why I have several Christmas trees, and it's actually amazingly meaningful but I'll leave it for another post.

When do you put your decorations up? The day after Thanksgiving. No, I do not shop on Black Friday. That would drive me nuts. I'm too much of a homebody and don't like crowds, believe it or not.

What is your favorite holiday dish, exluding dessert? Oh wow, so many that it pains me to declare one fav, but as far as things at our Christmas table I would have to say my husband's cherry glaze ham.

Favorite holiday memory as a child? Not being able to get to sleep I was so excited and then waking up at the crack of dawn.

When did you learn the truth about Santa? What are you talking about? I have no idea what that question means.

Snow. Love it or dread it? Love it as long as I don't have to drive in it.

Can you ice skate? Yes! I love skating! Good grief, I'm a child of the 70's/80's!

Do you remember your favorite gift? Definitely a cassette tape recorder.

What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Being with my family and experiencing all our favorite traditions. I love Christmas Eve Communion and our traditional chinese dinner together afterwards among many other things.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Pie!!!!! Pumpkin and cherry being the favs.

What is your favorite tradition? Christmas Eve - communion & chinese

What is your favorite Christmas song? I'll be home for Christmas

Ever recycled a Christmas present? Hasn't everyone? It's just good stewardship.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Later on we'll conspire...
as we dream by the fire...

Another wonderful evening around the fireplace...oh how I'm loving this!

To re-cap my day, I got up this morning and had a writing project to do for church and thought it best that I work from home to get it done. I get much less interruption there and can bust through work faster. I am trying to get several big things done in preparation to take a little time off during Christmas week with my family. This afternoon after sipping on strong coffee all morning and working on the newsletter amongst other things, my eldest son comes in and says, "Momma, get ready and shut your computer off. You're coming with me." I said, "Son, I do have some more work to do..." and he wouldn't take no for an answer and said, "finish it tonight. You're coming with me...and I'm taking you to lunch."

I went with him to the new shopping mall in New Tampa. We went to Moe's for lunch and did some Christmas shopping for Casey and Larry. It was a nice time together as we always have. I love that boy so much if no one has figured that out yet. He's just the apple of his Momma's eye that's for sure.

I came home and did some housecleaning and prepared to have Val over for dinner tonight. She is a piano student, an absolutely wonderful young woman, and someone who has become a friend. I'm just crazy about her. Last night she had her work party and couldn't make her regular lesson time and we rescheduled for tonight and I said, "why don't you just come for dinner first, then we'll have your lesson..." Perfect excuse to have her to our house! (I've been wanting to anyway.) When Val walked in our house she said, "oh how cozy! And it's the perfect scent of Christmas candles and garlic bread!" :-) I know her favorite food is spaghetti. Well you know, we just love my husband's spaghetti in our household and I asked him to make some for tonight. We had my ceasar salad recipe, garlic bread and spaghetti, and then went on the patio to make smores. I took our teapot and cups out on the patio coffee table and we sat around the fire. It was a lot of fun talking out there and sharing. Everyone in the fam was here but Dustin -- he went to Casey's for dinner tonight.

We had Val's lesson and then after she left Larry put another log on the fire and I came back outside for a while with my computer by the fire to finish my work I had left undone this afternoon. (The beauty of laptops and wireless internet!) I'm caught up for the moment and will be able to enjoy Fun Friday tomorrow...I think. I really would like to finish our Christmas shopping and have that put to rest.

Savanna and I are also dreaming a bit about a little overnight trip we might be able to take as a fam on Christmas week. I'm really would be so much fun. I'm ready for a break before the new year takes off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Voices singing let's be jolly...
deck the halls with boughs of holly!

Tonight was our Fusion Christmas party. I decided a while back that I wanted us to do Christmas dinner. It was awesome! I was glad to have something fun tonight. My work day at the church was fine today but mid-day I went to have my yearly mammogram -- a necessary pain. I'm always afraid the machine is going to malfunction and keep me in that vice-grip like state. "What iffff....the electricity goes out in the place while I'm stuck in there are keeps me pinched in that horrific side view position?" UGH! I know, I know...unfounded fear but I can't help but think about it as I'm holding my breath staring forward,ever so ready to hear that machine click and the tech say, "okay, you're all done..." And this new "digital mammography" is supposed to be easier? Perhaps they can detect things better but I'll tell you this, you are still flattened out like an absolute pancake, feeling like you have been entrapped under a garage door. If I wasn't a woman of God, I'd have a shot of whiskey or something before going in there. Seriously. Next time maybe I'll at least take a Motrin beforehand. Or maybe two. At any rate, it's over for another year...I don't have to be made into a pancake until next December. On to party time...

The evening was so festive when you walked in tonight and the smell of a bunch of delicious food plus the scent of coffee percolating hit you when you walked through the doors as well as the Christmas music. Thankfully the ladies who helped set up (thanks Aimee, Susan and Cathy!) had the foresight to add an extra table to what I had asked them to prepare for because we needed it. We filled every seat that was set up for the dinner plus I think somebody added a chair at another table. It was wonderful but not very good for watching my weight. Oh my. So many favorites. Shepherd's pie, lasagne, manicotti, chicken alfredo, picadillo, rice and beans, cajun chicken, cheesecake, cherry pie and list goes on and was an amazing array of food.

Following dinner I went to the piano and led in a game of Christmas "name that tune", selecting dozens of old Christmas songs hoping to stump somebody. Well, they were real good players and got them all...but Pat won the prize of the evening! Boy she really knew her songs that's for sure. They even got the Hippopatumus song on the first few notes. Ha!

Following the Christmas name that tune I asked Bill to go around with the wireless mic and have people share their favorite Christmas memories while I softly played some carols in the background. It made for a nice sentimental touch.

Good stuff...and...speaking of stuffed, I truly am literally and figuratively, and ready for sleep. Lord Jesus, I've got to get back on track. I was hoping to before the first of the year but each day is difficult this season. Tomorrow night we have company for dinner so it's not lookin' real good for tomorrow either, but despite the struggle of trying to get back on program I sure am enjoying the fellowship with friends and family.

Off to watch a few minutes of Fox and drift off to sleep. I am soooo wanting them to talk about something besides Blagojevich or Caylee Anthony for just a few minutes. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For all of us who speak...

Lately I have been doing a very long teaching series in my Sunday School class on apologetics. It didn't start out this way quite honestly (I only intended the series to be a few weeks long) but it has mushroomed into more and everyone seems to be just absolutely loving it. As it has progressed, I have delved into much deeper study myself of what I believe and why. I have rolled it over and over in my mind countless times, honed it, and found new ways to express it to those I teach. Some fascinating class discussions have ensued. I told them I don't know when we'll ever get off of this topic...we'll just keep it going as long as we're still riding the wave.

I was doing my devotional in My Utmost for His Highest and came across the following this week and it so powerfully described what has been happening more in me as I study to prepare. I think this is a great reminder from the author, to those of us who communicate publicly. What a challenge!

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest:

If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else.

But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, "I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else," then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak
it clearly and boldly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sometimes you've just gotta look a gift horse in the mouth...

Okey dokey folks, let me set the tone here...I'm sitting out here on the back patio on my swing, alongside my poinsettias that I planted, next to the warm glow of the fire in our new fireplace. We are really enjoying this new blessing and I'm commiting to myself that I will sit out here and relax at least a little bit each night.

Last night we were sitting out here with our church leaders around the fire and talking and Bernie started asking interesting questions of everyone -- nostalgic type stuff, and things about memories. One question he asked was, "did you ever get a gift you did not want to receive?" I instantly said, "no" because quite frankly I couldn't remember a present I didn't want to get. But upon further reflection I did realize I have received some. I thought I'd share about them here, and find out...perhaps some of you have also had the same kind of thing happen from time to time.

Have you ever had someone give you a gift that had an ulterior motive behind it that really kind of hurt? For instance, a friend of mine had a Christmas gift one year that devastated her. She had not asked for any type of exercise equipment or such and her husband bought her the video, "Buns of Steel". She basically sat by the Christmas tree and cried, pretty upset that he obviously thought she needed a lot of improvement. Sad. I am grateful that my husband has never gotten me anything to do with exercise or such unless I asked him to, which I have several times. I know I need some work on various body parts like most women but thankfully he never points it out to me. I don't think any husband with his head on straight would.

In retrospect I realize Larry and I have gotten some gifts we didn't want. There was a lady in one of the churches we pastored and she was famous for giving gifts to "make a point" when she knew you disagreed with her on something. For instance if she thought a person's kids were unruly she'd give something like Dr. Dobson's "Dare to Discipline" and write something inside like:

Thought this book would be a real blessing to you...
Praying for you...

Sis. Scuttlebutt


Realize, I think Dobson's book is awesome, however the point is that this particularly lady wasn't giving the book in love, she was doing it to slam someone and basically say they were a bad parent. Such things don't cause people to change, it just makes them mad. One time she thought I was allowing "sin in the camp" on the worship team (a long story unto itself, but suffice it to say it wasn't true) and soon thereafter I received a book about holiness complete with one of her famous inscriptions that let me know in no uncertain terms how much she was praying for me. I always let her know I appreciated her prayers...I mean, hey...I could always use more prayer, so lay it on. But I must say, I didn't always read her books nor receive them with much joy because of the spirit they were given in. Her gifts were not really given in love but were more like a slap in the face. One thing that made me glad when we were no longer pastoring that church was that I wouldn't have to receive her boomerang books anymore, designed to come back around and whack me emotionally.) But I was mistaken because would you believe after we came to our new church she actually put a book in the mail to me? Yup. Honestly. It was basically a, "oh yeah, and here's one more thing I forgot to tell you in a not-so-subtle-way that really bugs me about you..." Sheesh!

In the earlier years of my ministry I also had someone who gave me a few books about a woman's place only being in the home, and paying strict attention to the "seasons of life" when they thought I was "out of order" for working in the church office. Suffice it to say those books were relegated to the same stack.

The good news is, if you get a gift you don't want you can always return it or re-gift it although I must admit I have never re-gifted most of the books I've been given such as these because in most cases, I didn't want to propogate the message they were giving and besides, they had those pesky inscriptions from Sis. Scuttlebutt on them anyway! lol

How about you? Have you received any gifts you didn't really want or were given as sort of a message in disguise instead of a gift of real blessing and love?