Monday, June 30, 2008

The house...she is ready (sniffle...sniffle). The last "big push," as I've been calling it, is complete in LARGE part to some GREAT guys that I work with. Upon reading in my blog that I was going to sand and stain my door, Lee shows up the next day...hands me a black carrying case and says, "You'll need power tools..." too cool. Then he gives me step by step instrustions...which I followed...and the door is lovely. THANKS LEE.

Then, there's John. He brought his truck over Saturday and we were schooled in the fine art of collecting, hauling, and dumping mulch. Whew....

Finally, there's Bob-O. He replaced my fence boards, edged my yard, AND trimmed the hedges.

These are all such beautiful, God-loving men. I praise God that I am able to work with such men...heros...each of them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"The camp group" had a very special evening last night...we celebrated Laura's 40th. We met at a beautiful new hotel downtown...boarded a river cruise...had dinner ON THE BOAT...toasted Laura...who toasted those she loved. It was perfection. Later...up to the FANCY hotel suite...seriously...it was like an apartment...with a doorbell and everything. Nicole (with the help of Laura's family) made a slide show with classic Laura pics.


Here's the deal...Laura is...oh man...how do you describe her??? She is a gentle healer with an impish smile...a good naturedly ornery risk taker with a heart of gold and unreknowned grace...but that really doesn't do her justice. WE ALL LOVE YOU, LAURA!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Well, the inevitable has happened. In preparing my home for sale...so that I can move into an apartment...so that I do not need to be handy...I have become handy. I don't know when it happened. I don't know how it happened. But here I am...a full month into home repair projects...and I have accomplished the following:

  • priming and painting seven rooms in my house (including 2 ceiling areas...with walls up to 18 feet high...I did have some help with this...thank God)
  • sealing and repairing cracks in my ceiling
  • hanging brackets for valances made of wood
  • covering said valances with gorgeous fabric (purchased at a great price...thank you Hancock Fabrics)
  • hanging valances
  • removing front door handle for polishing
  • replacing front door handle (MUCH harder than removing)
  • repairing head on sprinkler system (NEVER again will I call for this simple, cheap repair...seriously...one minute and two dollars)

These projects are on the horizon for the weekend...if help is unavailable...I'm thoroughly prepared to take on:

  • repairing my fence (about 15 boards)
  • sanding and staining my front door

NOW...this may not sound like a big deal...but if you knew me...you'd probably pass out from shock.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Something significant happened in my life yesterday...but I'm not sure how to explain what it was. It all happened as the result of a simple request given out of utter saddness, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening," he did. No, I did not hear his voice. He spoke into my spirit...he spoke scripture...and I'm still trying to understand exactly what the scripture means...oddly enough.

Yesterday was filled with tears from beginning to, well, to about 5:00...constant, steady flow. MY HEART MISSED CHUCK SO MUCH. It's weird...I have days like that...they sneak up and simply take my breath away...literally. I cannot express the sadness...sadness in all its purity. No anger...no frustration...simply sadness over the absence of my beloved. I felt like I did when I was four and my mom would drop me off with a baby-sitter. (I was one of those kids...the kind who would cry until they exhausted themselves...and simply passed out...to the relief of the baby-sitter.) I tried napping...but Chuck's empty side of the bed kept calling to me. I ran my hand up and down his spot...the spot where he used to sleep beside me...and wept uncontrollably. Alas, I did not pass out from exhaustion...much to my dismay.

Here's the deal...VBS started last night, and I knew I had to face five-year-olds near the end of the day. My first thought...this is most likely part of a spiritual attack...my second thought was, "Ha Satan...I'm going anyway...take that!" Cause seriously, I was having hesitations...what if I have a melt down there? Then God spoke...in the midst of a wing-dinger cry session..."out of this broken state, pour yourself out." I perked...I wanted to offer myself...my broken, shattered self...to God...I wanted to give myself to service TO HIM... as a token of my love and appreciation to HIM. I do not know why the broken part was so important...but my spirit received direction to give from this place of intense sorrow.

Now this concept is counter-intuitive to me. I give out of abundance...doesn't a vessel need to be FULL in order to pour out from it??? In any endeavor like VBS, I psyche myself up...come up with a wealth of ideas for activities...prepare myself body, mind and soul. Yet God was calling me to give out of my broken emptiness....(I am a HARSH critic of the martyr-type person...always giving and wearing themselves out...so this directive was given to an unlikely candidate. I tend to always worry about spreading myself too thin...I guard against such reckless behavior. Make no mistake, this odd directive...once acted upon...FILLED me with energy...joy...peace and rest.)

Last night was amazingly and surprisingly fun...and challenging. As you might expect from spending hours with a group of five-year-olds...there was narry a thought given to my sadness. But I was left with the question...what was the pouring myself out about? I did a google search...yes, a google search of scripture. I found a couple of references...all by Paul. I read the words but still didn't quite get them...what the heck is a drink offering anyway? (Philipians 2:17: But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.) I'm quite sure God will be revealing this to me in the days...months...years ahead.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I give! Here are some of my favorite photos of the trip...











Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Going home is always such a mixed bag...such joy and such ache. I miss my mom desperately with each visit. Yet, I feel amazingly close to her...reconnected each time I go home.

This trip was "to share my heritage" with the kiddos. I loved my childhood. I loved my community. Thus I travelled home for Hansford County Days...a celebration that brings the entire community out for a parade...followed by a meal. Ahhh. I ran into two of my best friends and shared my whole "heritage" plan...we laughed each time something really "classic" happened..."that's our heritage" we would giggle. The best example was the last "float" in the parade. A man pulling a trailer filled with junk...most likely on his way to the dump...wrapped up the parade. Apparently he thought he was caught in traffic...and joined the long line of cars and floats. "That's our heritage."

The kiddos came down with strep...but we had a blast at the doctor's office, as you will note by the photos. I was firmly scolded by the pediatrician when he came in and found Kyser with a rubber glove over his head.

One of the best parts of the trip was spending time with Kelli's kids. I see them about twice a year. Kelli and her crew live on a ranch, so it's always fun to get a taste of country living. As you will see in a couple of the photos, four-wheelers are, ummm, not for the uninitiated. Kyser drove right through the fence. Oooops. This mothering business is TOUGH!

Okay, another great moment involved the Spearman swimming pool! We went on Saturday after the parade and brother was it hot. Hardly anyone was there...and that pool is HUGE. Sadly, they got rid of the high dive, but replaced it with three huge water slides. For half an hour, the "deep end" was occupied soley by the Crawfords...Kyser, Celis, Madison, Hadley, Kelli, Lance, and me...we owned the place! What a blast

(I can't get my video to load...I'm working on it!)



video

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I am awaiting a moment to reflect on my trip...it's been such a whirlwind since I got back...a mere 36 or so hours ago! Know this, it was fantastic...even the trials...and there were some...were heartening.

Okay, God has placed me in a church so FULL of opportunities to serve and minister to the hurting that I've been praying for discernment...what do you want me to do? I had a moment of clarity last night...much like Esther, "if I do not step up to this, God will raise up someone else." Alas, I would miss out on the miracle of seeing God change a life. God does not need me to serve for him.

Last night (details below) showed me clearly...I am the one encouraged by serving. I am the one who "benefits" from giving hope...pointing to God and reminding "he sees you...he sees this...he knows what is happening." I find such JOY in seeing others cling to Christ in moments of desperation...knowing that they will find comfort and hope.

My small group-which ROCKS by the way-took dinner to the AMAZING women at the Woman at the Well house. It is a home that helps women (for up to 6 months) transition from prison to "life". There are so dang many strikes against people coming from prison...so many reasons to return to their former ways...there is comfort, support, community in that old life-style. But I digress. Sadly, the government has cut back on money for housing (unless you are elderly or disabled). You may not realize this...but it is ALL but impossible to 1) get a job and 2) find housing with the word FELON on your record. The places that provide housing are often drug-infested...calling these women back...back to slavery.

Here's the deal...we NEED churches to step up...to claim these women as their own. The government will not take care of them...but the government is not called to do that. We are called to do that...the body of Christ. We are called to fill in the gap...I am so inspired and filled with the joy of "discovering" this opportunity...something I can get behind and support. Women I can love...who are filled with Christ...who have lived hard, suffered much, and have found HOPE in the only place that gives without taking. Know this, they are scared...they are up against HUGE obstacles...and they bravely step forward to try for the life Christ has called them to. These women are precious and holy...often bearing the physical signs of where they have been...of what they have done...of their enemy's hold on them. Daily they must throw off their chains...shut out the voice of Satan demanding that they return to slavery...Christ has made these women NEW...it is for FREEDOM that they have been set free. Alas, freedom can be scary if you've never experienced it before.

Last night was filled with tears, laughter, prayer...and love. I thank God he allowed me to partake!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And we're OFF! Kyser, Celis, and I leave for Abilene this evening...swimming and snacking are sure to ensue once we arrive. We'll get up in the morning...swim, swim, swim, swim then a hop-skip-and a jump home.

I've instructed Shea to load Celis down with books as the girl goes through one a day now.

Most likely will not post from the road...panhandle, here we come!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Today was a gift...my plans fell through cause God had something special planned...just for me.

Mindy called me at work right before 9:00 this morning...I was dutifully working.

"How are you doing today?" she asked hesitantly.

"I'm doing really great. I had my meltdown yesterday..."

"Are you at work?"

"Yes."

"Would it be bad for you to leave???"

"Ummmm, no...why?"

AND THEN IT ALL TUMBLED OUT...."Trout is playing this morning at camp...in an hour...you'll have to leave right now to make it."

So I paused briefly, "Ohhh, I have plans," I whined. "I brought cake for my widows group..." and then the words she had said registered...CHUCK, BIRTHDAY, CAMP, TROUT...GO!GO!GO!

I shouted a farewell to my boss and RAN with absolute abandon...giddy and joyful...RAN to my car...in my heels...ran, ran, ran. There have been a handful of times that I have ditched "plans" and fully embraced a moment for all it had to offer. This one was spectacular...God's delicate, precise details...I was in awe the entire drive...

Remember my hesitancy to have an intimate relationship with God...this was his reply. "Jan, I love you so much...I will arrange life so that you will have just enough car in your gas to haul yourself to your husband's most favorite place on earth to hear his most favorite group in the world with children who are most precious to him...on his first birthday away from you...I love you that much...."





Keith and Ezra dedicated this one to Chuck:

Today is Chuck's birthday. Mom and Dad will take Lindsey to a movie (and when Matthew gets older, he will join). This will be the way they commemorate this special day.

I am taking chocolate cake with chocolate icing to my young widows' group...and tonight will go to Chris Madrid's with friends.

Beautifully and amazingly...the wonderful people at Baylor Specialty sent their love TODAY through Victoria, one of my heroes. They were just thinking of Chuck...of all days.

Here's some giddiness for the day...clearly, we were meant to be, if only for a brief time:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I AM FINISHED PAINTING...whew...no words. My home is beautiful...just lovely. I picked a neutral "watercress," and it looks like I live in a house of light...all the windows and the open spaces. It is truly breathtaking...that is if you can overlook the mess I created in the process. Most of my furniture is still in the middle of all the rooms...and I really got into the "my house is a mess anyway so I don't need to pick up after myself" thing. Ooops.

Next step...a few repairs; start cleaning up clutter; sorting through what to give a way, what to sell, what to keep; and CLEANING.

I've pretty much hit the "good enough" point. I had grand dreams of staging my home and making it look like a model (look at that...even in fixing up a home I'm trying to go for the unrealistic!) It is looking MUCH better...but I'm weary and will most likely wind up with something in between model and home-sweet-home.

My plan is to have my home...precious beautiful homeyish-model that it is...on the market by the end of the month. Ummm, perhaps I should check in with God on this?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Calling all grant writers! I am currently writing a grant (for Picciuti Park at TLC) and need some guidance. My first draft got the following response, "Whew. You've got lots of work to do on this." I have received some friendly amateur feedback, and am interested in getting some hard-core professional input as well. If you have experience and can review my fledgling draft, please email me. Thanks!
Ahh the panhandle...such amazing beauty. I will be off to this GREAT part of Texas next week...two of my sister's kids in tow. Can't wait.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On a lighter note...I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with my hairdresser yesterday. (I thank God for women who will sit me down, look me in the eye, and say...come on, Jan, pull it together...reminds me of what my mom would have done.) Okay, in any case, now that I am showering EVERY DAY, the hair is next on the docket. I just know that for the past month or so, Mom (former hair dresser) and Chuck have been discussing my progress.

"Chuck, our girl is NOT doing well."

"What do you mean, Hester? Just look at her...painting the house...making wise decisions on her own. She's doing great."

"No, Chuck, she's not. If I instilled anything in my daughters, it is the necessity of having cute hair. Would you just look at that mess? Some days she doesn't even brush it. No, Chuck, she is not doing well." (I wish I had some photos of the wing-dingers mom pulled on us for pictures...curled within an inch of our lives we were.)

AND IT'S TRUE. I have not been doing well. Sabrena to the rescue. This is what she boldly told me yesterday as I sat in the stylist chair..."Jan, it doesn't matter HOW I cut your hair. If you are not going to fix it...it will not look good. Period." She then sweetly and gently showed me some hair-blowing techniques and offered a free lesson. I can come in with all my supplies and she will coach me as I fix my hair.

I can assure you, my mom is relieved!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

This is my m.o., share something about myself that is honest...yet highlights my deep spiritual awesomeness (couldn't think of a better word). Okay, I'm being a bit hard on myself, but the truth is, I don't like people to WATCH me learn...requires a degree of humility that I lack...as of yet. I'm happy to share the lesson learned...once the struggling is done...if I've shared during the struggle, it's a happy coincidence...just part of God's plan of slowly molding me into the image of his son.

SO...here's the deal, thought I'd share what I am struggling with...show my TRUE spiritual immaturity...and let's see what God does. For my entire Christian life, I have lacked a true relationship with God. I don't get how to do it. I don't get how to be close and feel him. Each time I see my counselor, she asks, "So, how are you and God?" My answer is always a version of, "Distant." After a year of this distance...me struggling to be close to him...yet never achieving it, Tiffany states, "I think you may have some unresolved anger towards him."

At first I thought...no, surly not...I've dealt with that...right? But NO, I have not...and my anger is not for the obvious fact that Chuck is dead...it is this...HOW THE HECK CAN I HAVE A REAL, GIVE-AND-TAKE RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE PERFECT??? I WILL ALWAYS BE IN THE WRONG WHEN THINGS GO POORLY. GOD WILL NEVER SAY, "SORRY, JAN. I WAS WRONG." THAT SUCKS!!! I HAVE TO DO ALL THE WORK...ALL THE REACHING OUT...ALL THE EVERYTHING...ALL THE CHANGING. GOD IS PERFECT AND NEVER CHANGES!!! HOW IN THE WORLD IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR ME? IS THAT EVEN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP...ONE PERSON MESSED UP BEYOND BELIEF WITH SOMEONE COMPLETELY WONDERFUL? ISN'T THAT A BIT CO-DEPENDENT??? WHY WOULD I WANT THAT?

So there. My anger at God...fully expressed in all its embarrassing self-centered, pridefulness.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Yes it is 12:01 a.m. and yes I am still awake. I know...boggles the mind that my body has not imploded nor spontaeously combusted. I CANNOT sleep. Cannot recall the last time this has happened to me!

Soooo, thought I'd share how God has changed one area of my life...and for me it's a biggie. You may recall, a couple of days ago I had a blissful reprieve from missing Chuck. In my heart and mind, I felt he was home waiting for me...and that everything was normal. Of course, I eventually had to return to an empty house and realize he's gone. But here's the miracle. I was okay with it. I was okay with facing the pain. I was okay KNOWING that the pain would be coming. I didn't run. I didn't hide. AND I let it come wash over me...knowing that it would pass.

This was me when my mom died...in order to avoid the "wake-up-and-remember-mom-is-dead"...I stopped sleeping. For three days, I refused to sleep...because one morning I woke up, forgot she had died, and was assaulted with fresh grief..."Mom is dead." Taking matters into my own hands, I put an end to that...for a few days...not the healthiest of choices.

I have been known to run to food, alcohol, relationships, and TV in order to avoid feeling pain. I even dabbled in EXERCISE, heaven help me. I praise God for changing me (oh so slowly) in this area. I praise God for the brevity of pain. That's the crazy thing...I have spent so much energy and time avoiding something that, once invited in, stays for such a brief period.

Okay folks...I'm off to bed...and hopefully to REST.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Couple of things: first...the swim meet! It was a perfect morning = cloudy, shady, cool breeze...not sure how the swimmers felt about it...but the adults LOVED it. As far as I can tell, the coolest thing about the swim meet is free reign with the sharpie. By the end of the meet, my ten-year-old nephew was sporting a mustache and goatee...his uncle Chuck would heartily approve of the look, and both nieces were covered in "tattoos."

Second, and most importantly, I was reminded of a simple truth this morning...God loves me. He has a plan a purpose for my life...everything else that defies this is a lie...all those doubts that plague me fly in the face of truth. This helps me frame what happened to Chuck. It helps me frame where I am today. It helps me frame my friendships, my heartaches, my hopes, my dreams...it is the foundation and framework of my very life. I just need to be reminded from time to time.