Thursday, November 27, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Giving Thanks

Surprisingly, it's been a really restful day in our household. My three year old is mesmerized by the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, so I’m sitting on the couch reminiscing about this past week and all the things that happened this week for which I’m thankful. Here's just a quick look

Medicine: About five or six weeks ago, my dad thought he pulled a muscle while playing soccer with my nephew. Last week he finally saw the doctor who diagnosed a torn Achilles tendon. Last Friday they scheduled the surgery for Tuesday to repair the damage. Everything went exactly as planned; he charmed everyone there and is on the long road to recovery.

Equitation over fences during horse show
Guardian Angels: Since the girls would be out of school all week, my older daughter accepted an invitation to ride her horse, Charley Brown, in a special lesson held at an outdoor cross-country eventing facility.  Even though her dad usually takes her, I was able to take the day off work and go.  My mom-super-spidey-sense tingled making me anxious, though I just chalked it up to my dad’s surgery taking place at the same time. However, Brown got really excited at being outside galloping on such a beautiful morning. He sailed over the very first “Welcome Jump,” landed big, and my daughter fell forward onto his neck and slid off the side. It didn't look like a huge fall, but she landed hard. I've seen her take some big falls – and this wasn't one of them – so I didn't freak out, but when I got to her I could see she was in pain. After being checked out, she was able to get up but the lesson was over. She did mount and put Brown into a walk/trot, but the pain prevented her from being able to post or jump. Apparently she bruised her tailbone, a painful injury that takes weeks to heal. I am so relieved it wasn't anything more serious. (The picture is from a show earlier this year, not the lesson.)

Growing Up: Normally, I would have sat with my mother during Dad’s surgery, but we’d already scheduled my daughter’s special riding lesson and couldn't cancel, although in hindsight, I wish we had. Lisa and our brother were both out of town for the holiday week and the surgery was scheduled rather quickly. Instead my 12 yr old daughter stayed with her Nana and helped. I’m so thankful that she showed the maturity and caring towards her grandparents to step up and be there.


President Bush Dinner
Surprises: Four and a score years ago I spent a summer internship in Washington DC in the Office of Public Liaison for the Bush 41 administration. Now I belong to the Bush Alumni Association and receive invitations to all kinds of interesting lectures and dinners in College Station as fundraisers for the library foundation. One of the more recent invitations was to a special Vintner’s Dinner with Dennis Miller as the guest speaker. I laughingly showed it to my father at the office in one of those “oh ha ha look at these invitations-who goes to these things” moment and he surprised me with tickets! What a fascinating adventure!  Who goes to these things? Well, my husband recognized former Houston Oilers player Ray Childress, the former head coach of Texas A&M R. C. Slocum, and Wade Phillips, son of the iconic legendary beloved Oilers head coach Bum Phillips, and former head football coach of Dallas Cowboys.  The three couples at our table included a French vineyard representative and two business owners.  There were six or seven wines paired with dinner – I lost count – with some surprisingly delicious food. Dennis Miller performed a splendid mix of humor with respect towards former President Bush 41.


Playground funNeighborhoods: We've had such beautiful weather for the past week that I've been taking my two younger kids to the nearby playgrounds. They've had so much fun chasing, racing up to the top of the play structure to slide down. My three year old is getting really good riding his tricycle on the wide sidewalks. It's a real blessing to have a great neighborhood where my children can bike and play safely.

Family Dinners: Dad’s surgery on Tuesday changed all our Thanksgiving dinner plans. Instead of heading out to the ranch for dinner with his sisters and their families, we celebrated a quiet dinner at home. Wednesday afternoon my husband and I organized the food, prepped and chopped for the dressing, and baked the pecan pie. Mom and I made the dressing at my parent’s house, the guys watched football, and the kids played really well together. We left a little later than expected because Dad was in such a great mood, but we knew he needed to get some rest. What could have been a stressful holiday turned out to be an easy-peasy no-stress event. #everybodywins

You: Lastly, I'm so very thankful for all of you who visits with us here at Of Sound Mind and Spirit. The past five years have been a journey I never could have predicted and it's been a real blessing making so many new friends. I pray for you often and with the best for you always. Thank you for visiting with us, commenting, and sharing our time.
Of Sound Mind and Spirit - Thanksgiving Prayer for Families

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Counting our Blessings After a Disappointing Morning

After last weekend, I thought I’d learned my lesson of not trying to be productive, but watchful and appreciative of those quality moments.

God’s not finished with me yet.

Reflection on a series of events from Saturday morning reveals another interesting lesson. How do you deal with disappointment?

Saturday morning brimmed with exciting hope and opportunity.
  • My daughter left before dawn to compete in her FFA LDE Radio Broadcasting Area competition, where the top two teams advance to State. 
  • The impending stormy weather wasn't supposed to strike our area until noon, so off I went for two hours (alone) to take advantage of a morning sale. 
  • My OSU Cowboy husband would be driving to Waco to represent his half of a house divided with his Sic ‘Em Bears brother at the big OSU-Baylor football game.

Instead it turned into one of those mornings that we tell our children “builds character.” You can probably guess.

My daughter sends us a text, “It was bad. Our mic levels were all messed up and [something else was going on] so we didn't have time to fix them. I’m not sure we’ll even place.” As parents your response must be empathetic: Oh sweetie, that’s such a bummer. How disappointing. I know your team worked so hard for this. There’ll be next year honey.

The store I’m headed to doesn't open at 9 a.m. but 10 a.m.  No big deal – I’ll pop into another nearby store on this side of town and browse for some ideas. As I turn into the parking lot something shifts inside the car engine and red lights blink across my console. Alarmed, I pull into a parking space on the far outside of the lot and turn off the car. Don’t panic…  Turn on the engine again, one of the lights has disappeared, but it wasn't the engine light.  No!!!!!!  Can I drive it to the shop?  I ease it into drive, give it a little gas, and roll into the next parking lane. Nope, something feels off, like I’m driving with the parking brake on, and I know I’ll just do more damage if I try to take it on the road.

For the past two days all the weatherman talked about is this impending clash of fronts/weather system that will bring hurricane style storms, with tornadoes, lightning, straight-line winds on top of us all Saturday afternoon.  And I’m sitting with a not-working car in a parking lot.  #facepalm

My husband forgoes his trip, coming out to meet me instead, and waits with me for the tow truck driver. He reminds me that I was supposed to take the car in and have two recall notices repaired, not to mention get the oil changed. (I’ve been too busy! Well, are you too busy now? Ouch, point taken.)

This leads me back to my original question, How do you deal with bad moments? A Saturday morning that brimmed with exciting hope and opportunity, quickly turned into a day of misfortune.  

As I sat stewing in my husband’s truck, I recalled the words of C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters (#21).
Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. … Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.
We tell our children that moments like this build character, those mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.  What we really mean is you get to choose your reaction to these minor inconveniences and build good habits for yourself.   It’s easy to be a person of good character when life is going well, but your true character is revealed when life falls apart, when things don’t go as planned. Do you let these problems sour your mood and ruin your whole day? No one is hurt by messing up in competition. No one is suffering as a result having car trouble. Yes, life is full of disappointments and “but that wasn’t how I planned to spend my day!”
This week we look ahead to Thanksgiving Thursday, so let’s turn this morning around and consider our blessings.
  • Even though it’s her first year to compete in this LDE, my daughter’s team made it to Area.
  • We were able to get a tow truck called out before the bad weather struck.
  • My husband loves me so much he sacrificed his trip to put me first and make sure I was okay.

Seriously, I don’t have a thing in the world to complain about. God is good. All the time.  And All the Time, God is Good.

Sunday morning postscript:

My daughter called us late Saturday afternoon. The judges didn't deduct points for the microphone issue and her team won First Place! They’re advancing to the State competition on December 5-6.  I screamed so loud you probably heard me. She’s strutting around today reminding me that she gets a letter jacket now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Measure Time on the Weekends

Every working mom knows the weekends are your catch-up days. We need these two days to be productive, not “restful.” Gone are the bored, nothing-to-do weekends of my childhood. Katrina Fernandez aka The Crescat published a humorous post on Patheos titled Sunday’s a Day of Rest… that made me roar with laughter and self-identification.

Time is a valuable commodity, not measured just by the available minutes but by productive minutes. In other words, sitting on the couch with your husband at 10 p.m. trying to watch Castle without falling asleep doesn’t count as productive time.  Take this weekend for example; there were only two productive tasks on my plate.
  1. Write two blog posts:  How to Plan a Paleo Thanksgiving and 3 Saints to Know in November
  2. Finish the last 50 pages of the latest “quick read” teen novel Four: A Divergent Collection

Day One:

It’s the last weekend for fall-ball and our three year old plays blast ball game at 9 a.m.  It’s 45F with a wind chill in the “why am I outside?” range. This is the weather that separates native Houstonians from the many transplanted Yankee-Mid-Westerners. We’re wearing tights, lined pants, two shirts, a fleece pullover, scarf, coat, hat, and mittens.  They’re strolling round in long shorts and a sweatshirt. 


Thankfully, Blastball is only 30 minutes of adorable cuteness. We jump and run with the kids in a desperate attempt to make sure they’re warm and we’re warm, because no one wants to stand still in that breeze.  On our way out, I notice that our concessions volunteers are packing up the Keurig coffee maker.  They’re out of K-cups?! I run home, raid the house of any and all K-cups, no matter the fru-fru flavor. Then it’s back to the fields for Concessions duty where I dig my hands deep into ice-filled coolers pulling out bottled water to pour into the Keurig coffee maker while listening to complaints that the only hot coffee we have to offer is Donut House - Chocolate Glazed Donut flavor or HEB Texas Pecan.

Are you ready for some SOFTBALL!! 

Fastpitch 12U softball catcher coach
At 11 a.m. it’s time for the last fall ball 12U game with my husband coaching and my 12 yr old catching. Since our older daughter agreed to stay in the warm house and let her brother watch TV, I get to shoot some video, keep the official score book, chat with parents, laugh, and have a great time.  * Major Quality Time *

After the game, a hot soaking bath at home takes away the chill in my body.  Oh, so thankful for this Little Moment of Solitude! After warmed up leftovers for lunch, I ask the girls to bring down laundry baskets.  No answer. Ask the girls to pick out what they want to wear for family pictures tomorrow. No answer. 

It’s already mid-afternoon when I suddenly realize that the library is only open for two more hours. I need a new audio book since I finished listening to Dinner with Churchill: Policy Making at the Dinner Table,  but I can’t find my library card.  No one wants to go with me, so I score 30 minutes of additional “ME” time!

When I come home, there’s no laundry going and no one has clothes picked out for tomorrow’s photo shoot.  Explode into tornado mom of exasperated fury battling teen insolence, scowls of disdain, and laser eyes of “I hate you mom.”  Surprisingly clothes are chosen in record time.  The evening event is driving oldest daughter to visit with friends at their DeMolay Installation of Officers, dinner, and dance

Day 1 Tally -
Blog posts written:  0
Book pages read: 5 (albeit water spotted)
Personal Quality Time: 3

Day Two:

Sunday morning dawns with giggles and playfulness from the 3-yr old that included the whole family, but the quality time ends when I announce it’s time to get ready for Mass.  After church we run up to the grocery store for the week’s meals, planning on the fly which never helps my budget.

Sisters Selfie - Of Sound Mind and Spirit
For this year’s family Christmas pictures, my parents hired a local photographer to do a two-hour photo shoot with all four of the families  -- outside. I've been stressing over the potential weather all weekend, but miraculously it’s not too cold and the rain stops just in time.  Shooting with this photographer is a lot of fun; he brings a real creative energy to each of the separate family shoots smoothing over any anxiety. For my personal family portrait, we took a little latitude to have fun; no stuffy poses for us. I can’t wait to see the end result and share it with you! Unfortunately, ants attack my oldest and youngest while we're setting up the shot. Casually I strip the boy down to his superman underpants, find and kill the offending bugs. My brave daughter suffers many bites to her feet, but you’ll never know from the expression on her face in the picture.

The photo shoot is such an adrenaline rush that no one wants it to end, so we decide to capitalize on everyone being in a good mood and splurge on a nice dinner out; we invite my parents. The three-year old is fading from all the activity, then conks out in my husband’s arms. Later, he rouses long enough to give us a stoned look. Suddenly it hits me, DUH, and I ask my husband, “Too much Benadryl?”  (to counteract the ant bites.)  We burst out laughing. 

Talking with GrandpaWe barely make it back from dinner in time for my teen and I to turn around and head to the church for Life Teen/Confirmation night. By the time we come home, it’s time to get things ready for bed. In our absence, my husband started the laundry, but we won’t be able finish it. My daughters pack their school bags hoping that I’ll call them to watch “Once Upon a Time” on the DVR, but with a two-hour episode waiting and the already late hour, I tell them to go to bed. Much grumbling. But it's more important for Mom to balance the checkbook and pay bills.

Day 2 Tally -
Blog posts written:  0
Book pages read: 0
Family Quality Time:  3

What's Important?

According to my plan, nothing was accomplished this weekend. (The laundry is still sitting in the living room on Wednesday morning.) I did finish off the book late Tuesday night, but I still haven’t written those two blog posts. While I jotted this one out in record time, it still took nearly three days to actually post it.

However, this weekend taught me that maybe we shouldn't be quick to measure our time in terms of Productivity, rather we should measure our time in Quality for ourselves and with our family. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do Something: Visiting the Imprisoned

Visiting the Imprisoned- Teaching the Corporal Works of Mercy to Teens

Last night our middle school students attending the EDGE program really impressed me.  Those of you involved in Life Teen/EDGE will understand. It was one of those nights when everything just came together and you really felt God working in their hearts.

Over the fall semester we've been learning about the Corporal Works of Mercy. If you aren't familiar with them, they come from Matthew 25: 36-40
Naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me, Then the righteous will answer him and say, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, Amen I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
The point of this lesson is that it’s not enough to Know Christ and Love Him, He asks us to Serve Him through serving others in a physical way.

The YouCat (450) answers the question, “What are the ‘corporal works of mercy’” more directly for students:
  • To feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick and imprisoned
  • Bury the dead
In order to get these young minds to warm up, loosen up, be open to receiving and sharing the message, we started with some praise and worship, singing How Great is our God. Next I challenged them with Matthew West’s video, DO SOMETHING.   We opened the Proclaim (main talk) with a reading from the Gospel of John 8:3-11.

The EDGE lesson titled “Just Visiting” tackles the potentially overlooked mercy of “Visiting the Imprisoned.”  After a few minutes of discussion about convicted criminals who go into the prison system, we heard from Mr. Paul, an elementary CCE teacher who volunteered for about 10 years in a prison ministry. He spoke about his own call to serve in the prison, his initial feelings, thoughts, and fears regarding the inmates. He spoke about the hierarchy between prisoners, the fact that many of them had never known the gift of love, the change in them he witnessed by bringing them the message of God’s love and Christ.  He spoke of the positive message and community that developed between the men who participated in the ministry, both inside and outside the prison.

Paul held us in rapt attention; the kids fell silent; the adults brushed away tears. 

At one point he told about a man on the inside who said God’s message made him feel free.  Free, despite being locked in a maximum security prison. Paul told us about his own personal conversion in how he considered what “those people” truly deserved.

Visiting the imprisoned is an act of compassion and forgiveness that reminds us not to cast stones at the sinner, but bring them the message of God’s love and pray for their conversion and redemption. They’ve already been judged by men.  Both Paul and the lesson plan references St. Dismas. While you may not know the name, you’ll recognize his story. In all four Gospels it is recorded that Jesus was not crucified alone; two criminals were also punished on either side of him.  
While one taunted him, “Are you not the Messiah? Save us and yourself.”  St. Dismas “…said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,”   -  Luke 23:39-43
We broke into small groups to discuss what we’d heard and challenged them again to do something by writing a group letter of spiritual encouragement bringing a message of hope and love to those on the inside. The letters our students wrote moved me so much as they clearly reveal how Paul’s talk and the message of the EDGE night touched their hearts.  Someday an inmate will read a card with these messages.

We Pray 4 You
Dear Child of God
You are in our thoughts and prayersYou should also know that there is hope for salvation.Know God is always with you through your good and bad times. God has a plan for your life.

Keep your soul in peace. Everyone commits sin and everyone can be forgiven.

We are praying for your well being.
I want you to know that we are praying for you. You are not alone in this world. You are a child of God just like me. God is watching out for you no matter what you do. We all sin. And God will always forgive you. Don’t give up. There are rough times in life, but they are not here to stay.  You are in my prayers.

Love, your sisters/brothers in Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dialogue on Death with Dignity

It doesn't feel like a coincidence that Brittany Maynard’s choice to commit suicide to avoid a lingering death from terminal cancer came to light during the month of October. Since 1972, October is designated as Respect Life Month, dedicated to increasing a greater awareness of the human dignity of all life.

Brittany’s choice to publicly share her story in support of assisted suicide and euthanasia really opened a dialogue about death across the country. There is little doubt that God is working through Brittany’s case to reach out to all people, forcing them to examine their consciences in search of what they believe is right. As a result, October 2014 yielded some of the most beautiful testimonials from others currently suffering from various stages of terminal illness. They reached out to her, counseled her, loved her, prayed for her, and did so in a public manner so we can all be witnesses. While ultimately they were unable to change Brittany’s heart, we do not know how many others are currently struggling with their own illness, their own suffering, and heard these witnesses speak of faith, hope, and love in facing their own redemptive suffering.

Here are two stories that you may not have seen. This is their courageous decision. This is their plan for death with dignity.

Another post offers another perspective, written not by the person suffering, but by the man who cared for his family as they sought out death with dignity at the end of their fight. Jason Welle shared his experience on Love and Dignity and Dying.

God works in mysterious and unseeing ways. Sometimes we don't realize how much we are not alone as people struggling to live with faith, to know what we believe, and beyond that… to be able to truly live what we believe. Whether you think Brittany’s suicide to avoid suffering was right or wrong, God alone is able to use her life and death to work in your heart. He will lead us to discern how we minister to people when they suffer and how we show Christ’s love and respect while offering them a death with dignity.
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