Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stop It. Stop It Right Now.

Friends, Americans, Countrymen, Mommas, Adults, Youngin's, All Y'all--Lend me your ears.

There are a few things, for the sake of all that is good and pure, that we just gotta stop doing. Some of these things are not easy, but we must. This is not an all-inclusive list and some of the following items are cheeky or snarky and some are dead serious. 

Listen. I'm guilty of a few things on this list, so hold me accountable! I've got to do some 'stoppin', too! I'm compiling this list for the good of all mankind!

Let us stop...

Keeping up with the Joneses.

Going out of the house without asking your most brutally honest
friend or family member, 
"What does this getup say about me?"

Letting other people change the world. 

Withholding forgiveness.

Sitting so much. 

Ignoring God.

Selling humans.

Comparing ourselves to others.

Attempting to pack 200++ lbs. into a little 'ole string bikini. 
At a waterpark, no less! Good gravy! (Doh! I bet it was! Bah!)
I don't judge the 200lbs. I judge the string bikini.

Withholding encouragement and compliments. This is FREE! Give FREELY!

Eating out so much.

Skipping church. Just go--not for Peter's sake,
or even for God's sake--for your sake.

Making excuses.

Entertaining ourselves to death.

Keeping everything we get or make for ourselves.
Give stuff away! We have too much!

Watching so much TV. Read, Man, Read!

Doing every little thing that makes us happy.

Being afraid of failure. Try and fail! At least you did something!

Looking in the mirror so much.

Ignoring the Comment feature on brilliant blog posts.

What do you think we 'just gotta stop'?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Little C Church & Big C Church

"Remember when your parents gave you 'The Talk'?

I kid you not, those were the first words out of the mouth of Jason Hatch this morning as he began his message at First Baptist Church Irving, Texas.

This is a Yelp! picture. Not mine. :)
I was in love with this little church already. Spouse, the girls, and I visited this church today for the first time at the recommendation of a friend in Houston. I put a request out on the Twitterverse looking for Dallas/Ft. Worth area churches to visit, places to go, etc. My new Houstonian friend, Amanda, replied simply, "First Baptist Church Irving. In Jesus Name. Amen."
Well, since she said it "In Jesus Name", we gotta go, right? Good call, Amanda.

Let me say now that this was a superb day to be in the House of the Lord. I hope you were with the Body of Christ today, too.

Alright, so we walk in to First Irving...
We hadn't figured out how to work our movie-theater-style seats good before these sweet people started chatting with us. Seriously, we were greeted by more people this morning BEFORE the traditional greeting time, than we have been in all other first time church visits combined! Score. These are some friendly, welcoming people! One of the most welcoming couples has only been there twice! Is that precious?
One guy said, "Are y'all new here or do you come here every week?" I love that! They have three Sunday morning services; I dig the fact that even though we may have been regular attendees, he didn't want to chance it. So, he asked. Yes! Take notes, Kids. If you go to a church with multiple services, or even if you don't, welcome everybody! Even the folks that are members.

Right away I noticed it was a casual atmosphere. Score. I admit, this isn't very 'Radical' of me, but I also noticed the theater-style seats. I liked it. I'm sorry, Dr. David Platt. I'm sorry, Francis Chan. I just liked them, okay!? Score for the seats. Ok, fine. Just half a point for great, comfy seats.

Then, the band got up on stage. They pulled out Hillsong's "Cornerstone". Whoa, Nellie. Goallll!!
 I was about to bust out my air-drums, but I figured that was at least a third visit behavior. What? Some people raise hands, don't judge if I want to play my air-drums.  Really, it was an amazing worship experience.
Also, I noticed the worship leader favors Michael Vartan from Alias. I think he did some other acting, too, but he is always Mountaineer to me. This resemblance to a CIA counter-intelligence agent did not distract me from my praise, by the way. That may be incomprehensible for my non-spastic readers to believe, but I was focused on Jesus the whole time. :) By the way, I wanted to post some pics of Michael Vartan, but they didn't substantiate my claim, so I skipped it. I stand by it, still. Jared, I think is his name, will be forevermore known as Mountaineer.

Anyway, the pastor is in Uganda. Mission-minded. Score, again. Also, a team to an undisclosed location was headed out this afternoon. Amazing.
Jason Hatch, the College Pastor (Yay! for College Ministry!) brought the Word since the pastor was out.

So, this dude, Jason, got up and straight up began his message with, "Remember when your parents gave you 'The Talk'?"

It was over.
Score 77 times.
He had me at 'The Talk'.

Here's the scene: Matthew 16:13-18. Jesus has his disciples gathered together and he is about to give them an important talk. Just like many of your parents, Jesus took them away for this talk.

But, Jesus's talk with the disciples was not about sex. Probably because Jesus isn't Melissa. Jay-Kay! Settle down. While I am a believer in having 'The Talk' with your children early and often, Jesus's message was much more important and foundational.

Here are my notes, but it wouldn't kill ya to go online and listen to the message.

Listen, Jason, if you ever read this, Thank you. You delivered a message from God's Word as if you love it. If I know anything about the Millennial Generation/ College students it is that they can track insincerity better than any hound. Thank you for preparing relevant, exegetical message with passion. I dig it and I know Jesus does, too.

Matthew 16:13-18
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Jesus's Church

The Church has an origin. Church was God's idea. Not Peter's. Make no mistake, Peter was awesome. He is my favorite disciple, cause he and I would rather do the wrong thing than do no thing. But, Peter was not Jesus.
The Church has a foundation. Peter will be used to build the church, but Jesus is the foundation. See Psalm 118 and Acts 4.
The Church has a promise. '...upon the rock I WILL build my church.' Jesus went from 12 to 2.5 billion and the Church is still growing.
The Church has a leader. '...upon the rock I will build MY church.' The Church has been bought with a price.
<This is about the time I leaned over to Spouse and said, "We aren't going to visit other churches are we?" "No."  We have a list of churches we want to visit while we are here. Ay, the rub! Now we already like this one! Bless us.>
The Church has an identity. His people. "Big C Church" is the Body of Christ. "Little C Church" is the local church. He mentioned that college students wanting to be a part of the Big C, but not the Little C. It doesn't work that way. Acts was about the Big C Church scattering and planting Little C Churches.
<Note to Jason: I will be using this Big C, Little C thing. I love it. This is me giving you credit.>
The Church has a mission. Our mission is to offensively attack the gates of hell. We can't play defense. We are to GO to the dark places. This business about getting people to come to us and into our buildings is not GOing into the dark places. A to the Men! This is where he got pretty passionate and I was about to jump up out of my seat. Just keepin' it real, Y'all.
The Church has an enemy. Satan hates the Big and Little C Church.
     How will he attack?
  • The enemy will divide. Insert great analogy here: When a lion attacks antelope, she (we all know that the female lions do the hunting!) will separate one antelope from the herd. Perfect picture. 
  • The enemy will distract. If he can't divide the church and get some infighting going on, he will distract us. Often times with 'good' programs and events. If our attention is diverted to programs, we can think we are doing good, but we aren't finding darkness! I've heard a few times lately that "Good is often times the enemy of best". Now, that isn't in the Bible, but it is straight up truth!
  • The enemy will dilute. He will use this Seeker-Sensitive movement to water down the message.
  • The enemy will attack. He will take out a shepherd. It is very strategic. If Satan can take out some key leaders, he can destroy a church. Pray for leaders and pastors. 
The Church has a victory. Can I get a 'V for Victory'?? The gates of hell will NOT prevail. Be a part of a winning team!

What will you do?
Join. Join the fight. Pick up a sword.
Serve. "If Jesus Christ, the very dude who build this church can serve, we can serve." He said 'dude'. 
Belong. The church is not a perfect family, but it's still a family. It has the crazy uncle. This guy started using family references and I about fell out. 'Cause guess what? When you're here, you're family.We might just be the reason that there is some fun in dysfunctional. 

"If you look around your family reunion, 
and you can't find the crazy uncle, chances are, 
you may BE the crazy uncle."
Oh, my word! Just thinking about our church family in PC, I can tell you who the 'crazy uncle' is. His name is Dee and I adore him.  I know who the cutesy little kids at the kid table are. I guess I am the family member who always says inappropriateness. Or maybe Betsy. Spouse is the one everybody actually pays attention to. Or maybe B Fearnow. I know who is practical, an academic, a party planner, a worrier, a warrior, a thinker, a dreamer, a doer, a fighter. I love knowing who the family is at Plant City's First. I love knowing the roles we have fallen into. Of course they may change, but this is who we are now. And, it works.

Love a Little C church that does Big C work. 
P.S. If you were keeping score, the total was 81 and a half for the win. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Meet Lauren.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:31-40

Meet Lauren. 
Lauren and I met this morning. She probably doesn't even remember my name. She was stumbling and walking in the middle of a pretty busy intersection wearing a pair of boxers, a tshirt, and flip-flops. Lauren was running her fingers through her greasy, sunset hair, talking to herself (she later told me she was praying), indicating to me that she was crying out for help.

Meet me. I am Melissa and I often feel compelled to stop and 'get' the Laurens of the world. I don't want to be a goat. I want to be a sheep. 
You should also know that I am in my gym clothes. Bless.

<Before anyone wants to judge my parenting: I had taken Mark to work, my girls were not with me. They were still sleeping, safely bolt-locked in our hotel room, which was in my sights.>

I spotted her. Immediately I began to mumble some gibberish to Jesus, I have no idea what I even prayed. Then, I made the U-turn I have made so many times in these situations. I need to put a Caution sticker on my car:
Will make U-Turns with No Warning When Intoxicated, 
Underdressed Girls Obviously Need Jesus.
Seems reasonable, right?

I pulled into the gas station, and walk over to her at the corner. I also sent this text to Spouse: Girl on road. Drunk or something. At *street* and *street* convenient store. Stopping.

"Hey, Sister. What are you doing? Where are you going?"
"I don't knowwwww. I need to go somewhereeee. I need to go over there." (Points across the interstate.)
"Who is over there? Where are your clothes? What's your name?"
"My friends and my mom are over there."
"What's your name?"
"Lauren. I'm Melissa. Do you know why I'm here?"
"No. I mean, I was praying. I pray. I've been praying for somebody to help me and take me but I don't want to do anything with them people that stopped. I don't want to be a girlfriend. I don't know. Who are you?"
"Lauren. You prayed and I showed up. I saw you walking on the road and Jesus sent me."
"I know Jesus. I need to get out of here."
"Yes, you do. And, If you want help, I will help you."

Bless. About this time, I'm looking up the number of my local, Jesus-loving friend, Jeff, because, let's not forget that I am in Arlington freaking Texas and I don't know my way around this hood! I need backup. Poor Jeff. 

Meanwhile, we've been standing there for a few minutes and she tells me this old guy over at the store was going to give her a cigarette. She got one from him and he asks me if I was OK. Dude. I'd be doin' a whole lot better if you'd just take it on down the road and let me get this girl away from the likes of you!
He seems to be as nervous about me as I am about him and he takes off. 

Then another guy walks up. He is sketchy as can be, too, he is overtly polite, telling me it is a wonderful thing that I am there to help Lauren. This makes me more nervous and I pray him away, too. 

Just know that this whole time, I am sure to stand in the widest, openest place possible in this parking lot. It is a gas station. People are everywhere, looking at us. But, no one stops. They are just a buncha dad-gum lookie-loos. Blech.

Anyway--Jeff, in all his greatness, answered the phone. He used his resources to get me a number of a woman's shelter. Lauren says it's ok if I call them. I called a shelter, who sent me to someone else. 
Throughout all of this, Lauren and I are just talking. She isn't making much of sense, and I was just praying the Holy Spirit was on my lips and changing my words so that she could comprehend. I was talking straight to her. 

"No way. I'm not taking you to your friends house. You just told me they always take your stuff. They sound sketchy and I'm not doing it. Look at my face. Do I look like I'm gonna take your stuff? I have my own stuff. You prayed and I showed up. If you want me to help you, I will help you, but it is not helping you to take you to sketchy people. What do you want to do?"
I vacillated between a desire to pop her upside her head and put her in my car and just hugging her while she babbled. I was surprised she even let me hug her.  

Birth Certificate.
"I can't go to a shelter. They won't take me. I don't have ID. I only have a birth certificate."
"You have a birth certificate with you?"
"Yah. I keep it here, in my bra."
She pulled out of her bra a small, brown paper towel reminiscent of a middle school bathroom, soft from time and excessive folding. As she unraveled this paper towel, I thought "This chick is crazy. That is not a birth certificate. Did she just write her birthday on a paper towel and she is so far gone she is calling it her birth certificate?"

She unfolded that paper towel to reveal her birth certificate. She was born in April 1992. She is 20. Lauren does not have her sense about her enough to complete a coherent thought, yet somehow, she knows that birth certificate is so important that she tucks it away in her bra. Not in her purse, lest it get stolen. She had it almost underneath her armpit. 
"My grandma will kill me if I lose this."
"I'm not gonna take it, Lauren. I just want to see it. I love that you are smart enough to keep you birth certificate hidden, that says a lot about you."

She smiles at me and I tell her that the One who made her knows all the details about her and He made her perfectly. 

"Yah. Yah. I know. God didn't make me like this."

"He loves you like this." I hug her.

"I know. I gotta go. I can't go to that one shelter."
"This is the only ID you have? The shelters make you have ID?" 
"Yah. And they kick me out cause they say I'm too far gone. Even the God rehab place kicked me out. They said I am too far gone to help me."
"The God rehab?"
"Yah, the one with the Jesus people. They can't even help me."
"I will help you. I know people that can help you. What do you want to do? I'm not going to stand out here all day, Lauren. You decide, Sister. I'm here and I'm not sketchy."
She kept grabbing at her stomach. I asked her if she was hungry.
"No. I'm not hungry. I need to go back to school."
"YES!! Yes! That's what I'm talking about! I can get you with some people to get you to school! It won't be tomorrow, but we can do it. In Jesus' name, I will help you. "
"I need to go to my mom's. She is over there." Pointing again.
"I'm not taking you there. You told me there are sketchy people in and out and they take your stuff and want you to do stuff. I'm not taking you there."
"I just need to go to my moms. She has to know what I'm doing. She knows those shelters, my sister went there."
"Your sister didn't have me to take her there. You do."
She laughs and tells me I'm crazy. No kiddin'.
She let me pray a short prayer over her, but when I was finished, I could tell she was even more nervous.

Success or Fail?
Somewhere in the course of all this I called the other shelter and didn't get anyone on the phone. I got Jeff back on the phone really quickly, because Lauren had started mumbling to herself walking away. I wanted to check in with him really quick. She came back over and started sort of freaking out. Each time I made a call, her anxiety level heightened. She said something about not taking her medication (people keep stealing it) and not wanting anyone to help her because they always want her to 'do stuff' and they take her stuff. She told me at one point she was having a panic attack and that if she has a panic attack, her mom will have a heart attack and they will both die. She was so afraid I was calling the cops on her. I don't even remember all of the conversation. Once again, I found myself feeling like I was in the spin-cycle. 

She started speed talking, saying she had to go. She walked off to the intersection again, and another friend in the Dallas area called. I quickly let her know what was going on, again, I'm thinking the more people that know where I am and what I'm doing, the better.

I could sense at this point that Lauren was leaving. She is grown. I gave her the piece of paper with all the phone numbers that my calls had gotten me. 
I watched her as she walked away, looking like a crazy person from a movie. Talking to me from under the overpass, yelling across 3 lanes of traffic. I have no clue what she was saying.
I was torn. I couldn't go chasin' her down. (The children!) 
I had Jeff on the phone, telling him I am tempted to feel like a failure, but I know better.
Jeff told me what I already know: 
Success or failure is not dependent upon her response, only mine.

She's gone.
I have no idea where Lauren is right now.

I left a little bit of me in that gas station parking lot.

Monday, July 16, 2012

If You're Gonna Play in Texas...

It's another Road Trippin' blog post!

We are on the road to Arlington, TX, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 
Couple of Randomisms for ya:
  • We are living proof that God has a sense of humor. And a plan. As we were packing up this morning and joking around, I said, "Welp. We're going to Arlington!" Spouse said, "Yep. It ain't Manila!" Dang. No, it ain't! Bless us. We just have to laugh!
  • Florida beach people going to Houston, Texas and loading up to go to Cowboy Country in the middle of summer. Good grief. Landlocked.
  • We don't own boots. Just flip flops and running shoes! Well, Spouse has dress shoes. 
  • The girls and I didn't even bring a single pair of jeans. 
  • Our Pandora station is even reflecting the change: Jimmy Buffett Radio to Aerosmith to GooGoo Dolls and Maroon 5 to now--sit down--Spouse has us listening to Alabama Radio. And we love it! We are, at this very second, "Walking in High Cotton"!
  • It's a temporary trade, just some mood music--we are not trading in our GooGoo Dolls. :)
  • The humidity in Dallas area today is 59%. Yay, for good hair!
  • We passed a truck with a paddle board and a NOTW sticker and I wanted Spouse to chase the guy down so we could be friends! What? Like you've never thought that!
  • I was a little bummed this morning when we were driving away from that skyline I have grown to love. Not to be confused with the all-out depression I feel when I drive away from a coastline, but it stung a little. I mean, I like it here, but let's not get crazy.
  • Pandora Alabama Radio plays a lot of songs about Texas.
  • If you're gonna play in Texas, it's gonna be hot. 
  • When our family uses the phrase 'get home' or 'at home', we have an understanding that means the temporary home in which we are sleeping in now. Kind of funny and pitiful, but such a lesson in biblical living.
  • Dude. The devil is now going down in Georgia. I gotta go. I can't even focus.
God bless Texas.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is God Asking You to Do?

A day or so ago, Susie Davis over at Good News Girl posted this video, and asked,

"What is God asking you to do?"

What an elementary, yet profound, question. Watch this video, then ask yourself again.

What IS God asking you to do?

Remember, this question isn't "What is God asking you NOT to do?" Some of those are easy: don't lie, don't steal, don't be a home wrecker...ya know.

What is God asking you TO do?

Is He asking you to face forward when everyone else is facing the back wall? 
Is the Maker of Heaven and Earth asking you to wear your hat when everyone else takes theirs off?
They are going to think you are nuts, you know that, don't you? 
Some of your fellow elevator patrons are going to think you are irresponsible. Even though they are supposedly going the same place you are. To them, we should all ride the elevator the same.
Or, could it be, the Lord wants us ALL to ride the elevator facing in a different direction? As individuals with a common goal?

I think it's only fair that I answer the question that I've passed on to you.

We are choosing, for this season, to stay facing forward. We have been in Houston for 3 months, and we came back on Tuesday with the intention of staying another 6 weeks or so. 

Then God spoke.

He said, "Go." Again. Yet, again! It's getting hilarious, really.  

Even though our rent is paid in this fab apartment through August, we are leaving here in about a week for the Dallas/ Ft Worth area. I'm going to have to change this blog to "Gypsyisms".

Laugh out loud. Go ahead. Meghan was laughing so hard she was nearly hyperventilating. She is pretty sure we should score our own reality show. 

We could go as early as this week, but I bought us tickets to a Houston Dynamo game and I really want to go. (Not sacrificial, I know.) And, we just got here! Bless! We have a list! I know, fleh-fleh-fleh with the list. We are going to try to get in a playdate or two with our Houston friends before taking off, too. 

Here's a little Q&A for the other "Busy-Body, Melissa-types" out there (You know who you are!):

How long will you be gone?
The assignment is 60-90 days. We are 'planning' (Bah!) for the end of September. I chuckle even typing it.

What is Mark's job?
Well, if we know each other personally, I will tell you privately, so call me. It's a financial institution. I'll say there are some personnel issues out in the Dallas area that Mark was asked to handle. Some folks around the company have realized that he is quite mobile as long as his girls come along, too, so they asked if we'd be interested. We would. It is a completely different side of the business, but this guy is good at building people. He is a good manager, so I have every confidence that he will do what needs to be done. 

Why are you going? 
I think the real question is, "Why not?" We don't have to go. We could say, "No".
We don't want to say "No".
My guess is someone out there needs a friend. Why not me? Why not us?

Where will you live?
We will start out with the Suite Life again, and decide from there.

What about the girls?
My kids are awesome. They are getting some great experiences and are seeing the Lord work. My sweet friend, JoBeth, told me that we have prepared our girls for this from the time Meghan was 3 months old and we took her off to her first Student Life Youth Camp. 

What about the girls' school?
Next question.

Will you come home at all?
Yep. We've got a wedding in August! We will fly home for that. 

What are your long-term plans?
This question is two-fold.
1. My new long-term plans are to not make any long-term plans.
2. We are just going to see where this takes us.

Gracious. I think that's it.

Now, back to the original question:
What is God asking you to do?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Home Is Where the Spouse Is.

Let me tell you something, Dearies. When Spouse and I got married 16 years ago, we moved all the way across I-75 to Temple Terrace. It is a whopping 10 miles max from our hometown. Then, when I was pregnant with Meghan, we moved onto family property right back home. We didn't go away to college. We didn't travel with the military or the circus or anything like that. Neither of us had traveled very much, really. Pretty boring little existence, some would say. I guess we didn't know any different. 
We have since traveled on a relatively small scale, but still, there has been some traveling, domestic and international.

Fast forward to 2011. Through a series of events (you can check the archives from March 2012 to get caught up) the Lord has had us contemplating where we will live and serve His church. We have come to realize that this will be through the avenue of Spouse's business. Make no mistake, this is a secular company, but we see these little field-trips as mission trips.  We are absolutely about serving the Lord wherever we are. The Lord has really shown Spouse a great deal of favor with his business, too. Not all has gone as we planned, that is for sure, but we are confident that His hand is all over it. 

<<Side note: The company announced a substantial change in their business in Manila yesterday. We are beginning to see the 'Why' that door may have closed. Proverbs 19:21, yet again:  Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails.>>

All in all, this has been a pretty neat experience. We have gotten to take several fun road trips that we would have not otherwise taken. San Antonio? I never knew how fun it was! New Orleans. Love that place! Homeschooling has a new face in our family--a lot of experiential learning.
So, we went from living the Suite Life to Apartment Life. Not too shabby.  

I think I've said it before, but I am still loving the fact that this company is honoring our requests to travel as a family. For many years, they approached Mark to travel all over the world, and for years he said "No." Our girls were younger and the time just didn't seem right. Now, it's different. We can make a home anywhere. I keep telling the girls, 
"Home is where the Spouse is." 
I guess, at the end of the day, we will just follow him.

We are grateful, though, they have really done every thing they can to take care of us. 

Here's their latest attempt:

Cutesy little corporate apartment that they let me pick out.  Really, we were given almost full choice of where we lived. Spouse cut me off at this $12k a month penthouse with a Baby Grand Piano in the foyer. 
Master bed.

Master bath.
Girls' room.
Office/ School room. No schooling has taken place here--->yet. :)
Awesome pool. This place looked like Club Med on July 4th.  Today, it is a lovely place to write the post you are reading! 
It really is a nice place. I mean, Maria isn't coming to change my sheets tomorrow or anything, but ya know, it'll do for now. :) I kid, I kid.

Ok, Y'all, humor me. Please go back and read A City Prepared.
And, await the next post...

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouller!

"Let the Good Times Roll"
OK. Cheesy, I know. But, how often is it that I could use that phrase!?

Judge all you want.
I love New Orleans.
I do. I love it in all its depravity. I know some of their 'good times' need to come to a screeching halt. I am not a drinker (and everything smells like beer), I abhor the debauchery there, & I probably would not choose to raise my kids in that city,  but THE PEOPLE!!
I love how they LOVE each other and their city!
And, let's not forget the food. Bless my heart, I love that food.

I would enjoy making friends with an older, preferably black, grandma type woman in New Orleans.
Listen. I'm just sayin' is all. Just to glean the mad-cooking skills!

Anyway, the last time we were here, Maddy said she was sure "the Holy Spirit doesn't even come here." Well, she's over it.  She had some awesome food and beignets. She doesn't love it, but she doesn't detest it, either. :)

While were ate dinner at Cafe Maspero, we met a sweet group of short-term missionaries from a little church in Valdosta. This youth group was  on mission in partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. They were easy to recognize with their matching T-shirts, so I had to go chat with them.  They were cutesy.

My friend, Angie, recommended this place. I do, too. I had my first Muffaleta. Bless. I'm gonna attempt to make one.
The proof that the Holy Spirit does, in fact, come here.
Since Maddy didn't match us, she had to be the one take the picture. ...KIDDING!
The Marine Corp & Navy Bands were giving a concert at St. Louis Cathedral. It was top-notch patriotism. Even in the church all I could smell was beer. I guess beer must be like Doritos. They only smell  good to the person drinking it/eating them.

So, I saw this street artist with a cutesy little boy with him, and his tool box had "Ron Paul 2012" stickers all over it. He had signs up asking for no photos because he "already has enough copycats!", so I didn't get a picture. I just HAD to go talk to him, though. I asked him how people respond to his conservative displays. He was so cool! He said that most people visitors give him "thumbs up", and that he's only gotten in one fight with a carriage driver who was nasty to him.
Anyway, he went on and on about how he is the "token black guy" of his local Republican Club, and he is trying to get his family to see that they are really NOT Democrats when they look at values. He is the only registered Republican in his family of Christians. He said he gets so aggravated! He has a sister that just had to pay $59 this year in taxes for the first time, so she is just now coming around! Haha! I could have hung out with him and that cutie-patootie kid of his all day.

Night swim!
It was a good trip.

We took a little carriage ride through the French Quarter. I didn't want to spend the money. Spouse insisted. It was a good move. Our guide, Mark, was grand. He was articulate and answered all my questions--point for him! :) 
Of course, to get all up in his business, I asked him how long he had been in NOLA. He grew up here, but was in Kosovo and Bosnia for 27 years and just came back to New Orleans last August.  He has 3 boys, the oldest is 16. That means all his kids were born overseas. Hmmm...My spidey senses were tingling. So, we chat and he gives us the tour and some info on the city.  He seemed to be focused on the Cathedral, Micaela Almonester Pontalba, the Convent, schools, etc...I found this curious. 
We learned that Micaela lived in 3 different countries by the time she was 9 years old and she never left New Orleans. It was Spanish owned, the French owned, the American. I had a little proud mom moment, when Meghan could hold her own in conversation about the Louisiana Purchase, too! Maddy said she did 'Carriage School'. See, they are finally understanding that learning can take place anywhere!

Well, shockingly, at the end of our ride, Spouse (!!) asked him what he was doing in Kosovo for 27 years. He is learning!! So, check this. Our little friend, Mark, was a missionary with Assemblies of God Churches. He was a church planter, among other things. And, now...he is back to his home. It was a neat time to encourage him and I think we even felt a little encouraged by him, for no specific reason.

Maddy, with Elvira, our mule.
There is so much history and life in New Orleans.
It is a really unique place.
I can see why the locals are so loyal.

Imagine a city like New Orleans trading its hedonism for a passion for Jesus? What a party. It could so happen.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beach Snobs

I think our family may have a bratty bone. A spoiled one. I'm not sayin' as I'm proud to have such a skeletal character flaw, but we have one, just the same. 
We are beach snobs. 
Y'all can have your paragraph-long coffee orders, your sushi, and your whatever-whatever year wine. We are Floridian to the core and are accustomed to our Central/South Florida beaches. Subsequently, we require this standard of beach to be met or better, I'm afraid.

I really wanted to check out Panama City Beach on our way out to Houston this time around and check out a couple of the other beaches of the Emerald Coast. 
We did. It was real. It was fun. But, well, you know.

Panama City was what you would expect: party atmosphere and whatnot. That wasn't our issue, just wasn't our kind of beach town. Hotels, condos, and other buildings were so close together, we couldn't even see the each in between 'em! There was a pretty cool little mall-ish, hangout place with some restaurants, shopping, and stuff. We visited the Life is Good store, Tervis (cool, of course!), and the Ron Jon. We didn't even LOVE the Ron Jon. I'm tellin' you, our attitude was poor by this point! We did manage to get a cutesy picture.

We drove on down the beach a bit, thinking it had to get better! It did. We got some dinner from Publix and took it on the beach. Around Santa Rosa, I think. I will say, the sand up there is powder soft! Glory!

You know what we take for granted? Beach sunsets. I'm not even one that has to go out every night at the beach to see the sunset. I mean, I will, but if we are there for a week I don't feel I have to go out there every night.  But, up there, I felt like I was getting ripped off! I mean, the sunset should be there just in case I want to see it, right!? Bless. Ridiculous.

Burying Maddy's feet.

The Spouses.

Annual Feet Pictures. I have one of these for every summer since Meghan's first beach trip. 
So as not to be a Negative Nancy, I should tell you that we ended up staying the night in Gulf Breeze, FL at Pensacola Beach. LOVED IT!!
We really loved the little town, the beach had great sand, and we ate breakfast at an adorable little place called Native Cafe.
There must have been a hint of red tide, because the water smelled pretty fishy, so we didn't swim, but we liked it. We made some rounds at a few surf shops and talked paddle boarding with a couple of nice locals.

Good times were had by all.

Next posts: The Big Easy and our *new* temporary home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Happy Sunday! I've got a little Week-In-Review for you--an online scrapbook, if you will. 

This time last Sunday I was nursing an episode of Strep Throat and glued to the radar watching Tropical Storm Debby's path. I am not fearful of storms, but I do become obsessed with watching that ever-popular 'cone of uncertainty'. I like to see the storm moving on the radar, ya know? Thank the Lord, we only had to deal with heavy rain and a little power outage. 
So, with Strep and rain, Sunday and Monday were fairly uneventful. 

Tuesday was declared "Tuesday Skate".  The girls and I joined few of the Millennial Loves for ice skating. It was ridiculously freezing in there, who'da thunk it?, but we all had a great time. I didn't skate, I was in charge of bags and photography. 

Meg, Caleb, Maddy, Jessica, Ham
She fell about 18 times and didn't care a bit. Tough chick.
So, after ice skating and some Christian Chicken at Chick-Fil-A, we went roller skating at my old school hangout with some friends from church. And, I definitely skated. There are no pictures, but I did.
This may have been the Hokey Pokey.

My girls and some sweet friends after roller skating. 
 We also attended the graduation ceremony for our friend, Marty, He finished up his Reserve Deputy Academy for Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. It is a really neat ceremony. These Reserve Deputies are especially neat because they go through the Academy at night and most Saturdays for a full semester in order to VOLUNTEER! Dedication, Kids.
The Lord will keep you from all harm-
He will watch over your life;
The LORD will watch over your coming and going,
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121:7-8

My crew was feeling benevolent, too, and invited me to tag along with them for a beach trip. I thought about it long enough for her to finish her sentence and said, "Beach? Yes! Yes! Beach!" It is always a big deal when our college students include us in their plans. They are pretty sweet like that.
This is what the beach looked like, courtesy of Tropical Storm Debby. This is real live beach erosion, Y'all. We had to wade through ankle to knee deep water just to get to the beach! Crazy!

It was less than desirable to carry all our stuff through that water. It's watcha gotta do for some fun in the sun.

Johnny the Builder. Can he build it? Yes, he can! Just give him a toothpick. He'll build you a house with that thing!
Jon, Meg and me on the sandbar. Can you even call it a sandbar? It was like another beach!
The girls and I decided to kill some time over at the St. Pete Pier/ Baywalk area before time to go pick up the Spouse from the airport. I love these little spontaneous detours!
Stopped at Sweet Diva's for some ice cream. See how cooperative they are? Happily taking a picture?  That is how good this stuff was!
Bless that dimple!

In addition to volleyball, basketball, swimming, soccer, surfing, SCUBA, and reading--Meghan now wants to go to sailing school. She needs a sponsor.
Trying not to blow my diet, the girls let me stop at a cutesy little park bench and eat my hummus and pretzel chips.  Generous of them after having that awesome ice cream!
Just before we went to TIA, we drove on over to get a good view of the sunset in Clearwater. The dimple-faced Mini-me snapped this one. 

Is that lovely?

As I type, we are in a little North Florida town in the panhandle. No joke, we just passed the Gadsden County Fire Department/Public Library. Same building. Looked like it was an old house. Bless their pea pickin' hearts.

So, thanks for ridin' along with me! Please pray with us for this next trip to Houston. We are looking forward to a few more adventures and some family time with Jesus. Wondering what He's got waiting for us this time!? Prepare us, Lord, and we'll be ready!