Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Guest Book.

When Greg and I married, we received a gift from a woman named, Wilma Glass.
I barely knew Mrs. Glass but I think Greg knew her for years, maybe all his life.  Mrs. Glass was a member of Highland Baptist Church, where Greg's family attended church for nearly 30+ years.  Mrs. Glass was probably somewhere in her 70's when I met her and what I remember most about her is a note that she wrote to us.  Mrs. Glass gave us a Guest Book for our Home and the note reads:
I have this "thing" that I believe a guest book in your home is a real pleasure.  I like to look back and see who came to see me through the years.
Now with this wide gap in our ages you may feel entirely different.
I wish you love and happiness and just wee problems to make you appreciate the good things that will come your way. 
God Bless,
Wilma Glass"

I still recall the moment I read this note..that single sentence in the middle of the note made me sad.  Mrs. Glass didn't know that I was as nostalgic and sentimental as a person can be! So despite her doubts that someone of my age would appreciate this bygone tradition, I vowed we would fill The Guest Book and make it a priority in our home.

In every home we have lived, The Guest Book has been out for all our friends and family to sign.  In our current home, it has taken a bit longer than usual to get settled and all things put in their place but as I reworked a bookshelf the other day, I picked up The Guest Book.  I read through the pages and wonderful memories came flooding back...which house or state we lived in...the people who visited us...favorite entries that still make me laugh...favorite people that I rarely see anymore...some people that I don't even remember, haha! The Guest Book that Mrs. Glass gave us has been filled and I'm so thankful for such a thoughtful gift given to us 15 years ago.

Now, the beautiful irony.  About 10 years ago, my friend Robin happened across a Mary Engelbreit Guest Book.  Robin being very familiar with signing The Guest Book at our house understood that one day we would need a replacement, so she gave us our next Guest Book. Here's what I love; Robin, who is my age, gave us our next Guest Book, to keep this practice going. Mrs. Glass, you would have been pleased to know that though there is a very wide gap between our generations, some of us still respect and love the old customs! : )

Since our last move, I haven't been as diligent in reminding folks to sign our Guest Book but after revisiting some great memories that I may have otherwise forgotten, it's time to get back on that train.  So when you come by, please don't forget to make a note of the time we spent together!

 The Guest Book awaits your entry.

Thank you Wilma Glass and Robin Snyder for giving such a priceless gift oh so many years ago!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Seek Counseling. Its a Gift. For Yourself.

Laura Mangin McDonald, MA, LPC

In June 2007, my husband and I lived in Texas and shortly after the birth of our son, I sought out a licensed professional counselor. Limited by insurance lingo and in-network jargon, I picked two random names from a list and left two voice mails.

Counselor #1 returned my call and we set an appt for about a week out.  In the meantime, I did not hear back from Counselor #2.  I finally met with Counselor #1 and within 20 minutes Counselor #1 was ready to write me a prescription and move to her next appointment.  I left frustrated. That was not what I wanted.  I wanted someone who would take the time to talk and help me. Immediately after my appointment, that afternoon, I came home to a voice mail. It was Counselor #2, apologizing for the late response, she had been on sabbatical and was just getting to client calls. Please don't miss the significance, I had a message waiting for me from Counselor #2, immediately after leaving Counselor #1's office. This is called Divine Timing.

I returned her call, we talked briefly and then very matter of fact she said, "I work from a home office and I have a few pets that are in my sessions, will that be a problem for you?" I was so thrown off guard, I almost laughed, instead I said, "Uh, no. That's not a problem for me."

When I arrived for my appointment, a cat scurried by me as I rang the doorbell.  Cat waited at the door with me as if it had an appointment too. Seeing a counselor is nerve wracking, it's like a scarlet letter on your chest that screams "Hey! I got problems!  I'm a mess!". It can be intimidating and I was being distracted from my anxiety by a cat.  Then Counselor #2 answered the door with a small menagerie of animals wagging their tails at me. The waiting cat brushed past me inside the house and then I walked in. I was so preoccupied trying to count all the furry friends that I forgot to be nervous.  
  Counseling in session

In my first session, I tried to present a cool confidence that I didn't feel. I efficiently summed up why I was there; what I needed to talk about, what I didn't need to talk about and what I needed 'fixed' in my life. She listened, looked at me thoughtfully and smiled.  And just as I needed - we talked.  Much later, we laughed about that moment; how I tried to neatly package up and present my messy, tangled up life. 

Because of the time I spent in Laura's office, amidst the flurry of furry friends, I was able to learn some really, really important things.  She consistently poured into me such powerful truths that it truly changed me and my life. Laura impacted me in such a profound way that without much thought, I regularly pass on the wisdom and insight that she imparted to me.  The note I wrote to a friend recently is a perfect example of something significant I learned during my time in counseling:

I write about all this today because my former counselor recently published a devotional book and this week I received a personalized copy in the mail.  As I read the inscription Laura wrote inside the cover, I cried.  When I read the Preface, I cried.  As I read the Introduction, I cried.  I can nearly hear her warm and sure voice speaking the words I've read.  It's not just the words she's written...it's the power of the Truth behind  the words. It is the same Truth that she poured into me years ago. Only now, it's in written form.  So the more I read, the more I cried.  It's Laura's heart poured out on paper reminding me of that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  What an unbelievably incredible Gift.

There will never be enough, adequate words for me to thank you Laura....from the absolute bottom of my heart...seriously.  

Lastly, I want to say this. There should be no shame in getting a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, whoever you need, to help you.  I often say that before counseling I was holding a connect the dot picture of my life but with no numbers. It was just a piece of paper with a bunch of confusing dots that I couldn't connect.  Counseling helped me put numbers next to the dots so I could make connections until a picture emerged. It wasn't until then that I could finally make sense out of some things.

Ask for help and it will be given to you, Seek the help you need and you will find it., Knock on a door for help and it will be answered.  If your really lucky there might be a sweet Golden Retriever named Buddy at the door waiting.  : )

Purchase Laura's Devotional: https://www.createspace.com/4222339
Follow her Blog: http://christianinsightforlife.blogspot.com/
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristianInsightForLife

Friday, August 29, 2014

To my future forgetful self....

I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed this book.  But because I'm an avid reader and tend to forget details and/or mesh stories together, I didn't want to forget why I enjoyed this reading.  So I inscribed inside the book my brief thoughts when I finished reading.  It also seemed important that I remember the dates I read this so I can recall my stage of life at this reading.  Certainly, my thoughts and feelings about this book are so intertwined with the stage of life I'm in right now that it's notable to note. ; )

As I exhaled the contented reader sigh that I imagine every reader releases at the end of a good book, I grabbed a pen. I quickly jotted my inscription, marked the day I started reading, the day I finished and included my signature.

"What a neat idea.  I'm so clever, I didn't even see this on Pinterest." I thought as I finished my inscription.  Though, now I wonder, has someone already done this?  Is my idea original? I was in the middle of this book when I thought of writing an inscription...I'm not going to Pinterest this.  I'm not.

I have to do this for every book I read now.  How cool, twenty years down the road to look back at my bookshelf and recall how those books moved my heart or simply entertained me at the time.  Of course, this will be a little awkward when someone checks out a library book and they read my personal note inscribed but whatever. Hahaha!  Just kidding, not to worry, I vow to be a good role model and not mark up library books. : )

Disclaimer if you choose to read this book:  If, by some chance, you pick up this book to read and by some chance, you want to discuss the virtues of this book and what you loved about it, I'm all for that conversation-count me in. 

However, if you want to debate-criticize-condemn the author for her potential controversial theology and beliefs, I'm not interested in that conversation. You are entitled to scrutinize in your own space.  However, there is enough negativity that parades by my face each day and I am not inviting more of that to my doorstep.

Just had to say it. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer School At Home

 Isabel & Nathan

In May, as the school year was closing and Summer Break was on the horizon, I was racking my brain for a way to occupy Nathans time during my work day.  Summer Break is every working mother's conundrum, though I realize I have a major advantage working from home full time.
I could easily let Nathan watch hours of tv & play endless video games but I could not do that with a  clear conscious.  So in an effort to find a productive way to occupy Nathans time,  I started constructing a Summer School curriculum. Before school was out, Nathan had a holiday which gave us a chance at a trial run of this genius plan of mine. I have just two words for that day.  Epic Fail. I spent all my time managing Nathan instead of working and he finished his assignments within a couple of hours.  Not exactly how I envisioned it in my mind but that's what trial runs are for - to work out the kinks. 

Summer School Schedule

One Sunday, as I took care of one-year olds at church and served alongside a particular 12 year old girl, another plan formed.  I was always impressed with Isabel.  She was actually very helpful with the babies,  needed little direction and carried herself beyond her years. Other folks at church often made the same observation, we all thought she was a few years older than her age.  From my point of view, she was mature, smart and most importantly responsible.  Lightbulb moment; I needed HER to oversee the 'At Home Summer School Project'!  I asked if she would be interested in a job over the summer tutoring Nathan.  From her point of view, she could go to a babysitters with her brother or she could work and earn some money over the summer.  She took the job.  We ironed out details around schedule, weekly pay, benefits, etc. hahaha!

Typical Sunday night; curriculum planning

Modicum of the subjects covered

Isabel's schedule was Monday through Wednesday, 7:15am - 3:15pm. As a result of this week to week schedule, Isabel became like a big sister to Nathan and a natural addition to our family.  I cannot sing enough praises about Isabel and how much I enjoyed getting to know her better.  Her quick wit and sense of humor had me cracking up quite a bit but it was her kindness and patience with Nathan that really touched my heart and meant so much to me. She was such a perfect fit for this job.  However, I'll be the first to admit, Nathan gave her a run for her money on some days, quite literally.

Building a T-Rex model
Nathan grudgingly accepted that he would have school work over the summer but I promised he would have fun too.  That was the deal we made and I did my best to bring that balance.  Most days, Nathan went with the program without much weeping or gnashing of teeth.  However, there were some days Nathans attitude made the day more challenging and less enjoyable - par for the course and just being a kid, I think.

 Electronic Circuit Board Project

Music time

As soon as the list of school work was completed, the kids had free time to spend however they wished.   Games became a regular part of the routine.  Isabel learned how to play Hand & Foot.  Nathan became a better Chess player, thanks to Isabel's competitive chess skills.  We ALL learned how to play Mancala.  After lunch, the kids were able to go swimming, I think they enjoyed this part of the day the most.

 Pool Time

The advantage of Pinterest.  Isabel and I set up a shared Pinterest board and we were able to incorporate projects we both found interesting and pinned.  As with all Pinterest projects, some were wildly successful (pictured below) and some were Pintrocities (i.e. make your own bouncy ball).

 Pinterest Project: Puffy Paint

As summer came to a close, I wanted to know Isabel's thought about her summer job, so in answer to a few questions I asked, here are her words:
"Responsibility plays a big role in any job, big or small.  I had some responsibilities such as being a good role model and teacher.  I also had the responsibility of keeping Nathan entertained which, in my opinion, was pretty easy...some days.  My summer job tutoring was, in one word, fantastic and if I had the chance to do it again I definitely would."
Pinterest Project: Stacking cups

In closing, the 'At Home Summer School Project' was a great success for a few reasons; I had productive workdays, Nathans continued education kept him ready for back to school and most of all we adopted the sweetest big sister to our family. The truth is, it simply would not have worked without Isabel.  Period.  She saved us all, haha!

 Pinterest Project: Name painting on canvas

We are back to school this week...here we come 2nd grade!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

First Grade Today

448 Math worksheets
288 Language worksheets
192 Spelling worksheets
142 Reading worksheets
34 Weekly Reports 
31 Handwriting sheets 
5 Poems

Other = Countless

This is just the classwork.
It does not include the homework.  
Imagine another pile for homework.

The spelling notebook looks like hieroglyphics.

This is what First Grade looks like in 2014.
Its hard work!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It was 1994 and if I could do it again - I wouldn't.

Photo circa early 90's

It was 1994 and I legally changed my name.  Its a shame A Series of Unfortunate Events was already written because this could easily be my book title and this particular subject would be part of the story.

What made me reflect back on this?

First, have you heard the analogy that 'men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti'?  Men's thoughts are very compartmentalized like waffles, there's a box for each subject.  Women's thoughts are more like spaghetti freely flowing from one thought to another yet all inter-connected.  It's the best way to explain what made me think of this event in the first place. So I'm serving up some Spaghetti, follow along, if you can:
  • In my morning study time, I scribbled the following note in my bible study :
"This is such a healing word for the child in us who wasn't loved.  It explains that Jesus loved us all along despite what happened to us.  It hurt His heart even more than ours because He knew the bigger picture and the long term effects of our abuse what happened to us." (Reference Matthew 18:1-10)
As I wrote this, I immediately crossed out the words "our abuse" because it inferred something that no longer 'fit' me - like an over sized coat.  I really don't see myself as defined by the abuse I experienced anymore.  It's just what happened in my life but its not who I am.  But that wasn't always my story...Parmesan with your Spaghetti?
  • My thoughts traveled to a time when my identity was the sum of all my bad experiences.  Experiences from the hands of others as well as those that were self inflicted. I didn't like my past and I didn't like my present. If a person could swim in self-loathing, then I was literally drowning in it. Then I did something so...bizarre.  I can't think of a better word.  I legally changed my name.  Legally changed from Myra Jane Davidson to Julia Dianne.  Julia was my new first name. Dianne was my new last name. No middle name.  More Spaghetti please. 
  • As I continued to reflect on the past, I wondered 'exactly what year was that?'  It seemed sooo long ago and I'm sooo old now, haha!  I shuffled through a file cabinet looking for a file with "Name Change" scrawled at the top.  Found it.  Held the official document and looked at the date; November 3, 1994. Realization struck......20 years ago...TWENTY YEARS!  A lifetime ago...
  • I had to share the moment with my BFF who would fully understand the impact of such a moment.  A snapshot  of our conversation:
    • How about a dash of Crazy with that Meat Sauce?  This part is even crazier.  I don't know where I got the...kahunas (can I say that?) but I handled this legal proceeding myself. I researched "legal name change" at the library, typed up the legal forms, filed the paperwork at the courthouse and represented myself on my court date. No attorney present, just me, standing in front of a judge in a court room full of people. Who did I think I was?! I honestly laugh at the absurdity of it all when I think about it!
    • If I could go back and do it again - I wouldn't.  I didn't know it at the time but changing my name only created more chaos, some of which is still felt today. It depends on who I'm spending time with and the name they call me by- I cringe at the 'teachable moment' coming up one day with my son. Spaghetti heartburn anyone? Ugh.
    • As my thoughts returned to the present, I was humbled at the thought that over time my identity did change but it had nothing to do with my name.  Instead, it had everything to do with discovering Jesus and letting his Truth heal all the hurts and regrets of my past.  Consequently, as his Truth was applied to who I am as a person,  I was transformed by a renewing in my mind and it set me free in a way I had been searching for all along.
    "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
    John 8:32

    Now was that some bowl of spaghetti or what?! : )

    (in order of appearance)
    Myra Jane JD Julia Dianne Davidson Hull

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Book Challenge Accepted.

    While trolling Pinterest back in December, I vaguely recall some hype that blogger, Jon Acuff  created when he issued The Empty Shelf challenge.  Essentially, you empty a bookshelf in your home and fill it with every book you read from now until December 31st. It was a neat idea but I was to busy (uh, trolling Pinterest) to give it a second thought. 

    Then recently, it occurred to me that I've finished at least 7 books since reading about that challenge...humpf! So I cleared out some books and emptied a shelf. 

    Then I added the books I've already read this year.  I had to return two of the books to the library but I'll keep that in mind for future reads.  Now I'm looking forward to filling my empty shelf. What a fun little challenge and completely unintentional!  :)

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    I don't have many Heroes but Gary is one of them.

    You know when you get together with friends and you begin to walk down memory lane and reminisce the years history you've shared?  You remember the funniest moments, special occasions, the tough times.  Then someone recounts an important detail but they get it all wrong  and those who know the facts pounce on the one in error to correct them?

    This happened a couple of weeks ago as we were having dinner with friends who I lovingly refer to as the 'other Nortons'.  As the four of us talked, Dave casually mentioned that if it hadn't been for our close friendship with his sister & husband 12 years ago, we would never have connected with his entire family, the 'Nortons'.

    Greg was very quick to correct Dave, it was not our friendship with his sister & husband that created the connection, it was Dave's Dad! I was dumbfounded at Dave's remark, how did he not know this?  I recalled a post I'd written a few years ago for Gary's birthday and read it aloud so the facts were set straight.

    In conjunction, we are often asked 'How do you know the Nortons?'  To keep it brief we have a nutshell response but the truth is...its much more.  In answer to this question and in honor of Gary's birthday this year, I am borrowing from the post I wrote to commemorate Gary's birthday then and now. :)

    This is Gary.  He is my Pastor.
    He doesn't have a church building.
    He doesn't speak in front of a congregation.
    But he is my Pastor.

    We first moved to Arizona in 2002 and while it was exciting and adventurous, we never felt more alone or disconnected.  We had no friends, no family, not even a church to speak of.  After visiting numerous churches, we both felt comfortable at Superstition Springs Community Church (now Mission).  The church was still meeting in a school and at the time was about 500+ people.  We attended for a brief time, less than a month I think, before we met the Pastor. Gary.  In our brief meeting, he suggested we get together for lunch.  And we did. We ate at Fuddruckers and I could even tell you the booth we sat in.  I don't know if Gary remembers this lunch, but I do. 

    The Thanksgiving holiday was just a few weeks away and days before, we received a message on our answering machine from the Pastor. Gary.  He said he remembered we didn't have family in Arizona and wanted to invite us to Thanksgiving dinner at his home.  We couldn't attend because our family came to Arizona that year but the gesture meant so much to us.  I don't know if Gary remembers that invitation, but I do.

    As time passed, we continued to receive invitations to special holidays, then family events and eventually to just their regular Sunday night dinners.  I don't know if Gary knows the impact this had in our lives, but I do.

    Later, we up and moved to Texas.  And we found ourselves in trouble.  Our Pastor, Gary and his wife, Elaine flew in for a weekend.  And we were able to get our lives back on track.  I don't know if Gary realizes how life-changing that trip was for us, but I do.

    When we decided to move back to Arizona and we needed a place to live until we could purchase a home, it was our Pastor, Gary and Elaine who opened their home to us and had us LIVE with them for as long as we needed.  I don't know if Gary understands how significant that was, but I do.

    I've attended numerous churches, held member's status at many of them but there is only one person, I call my Pastor.  It is Gary. Because he is the only one, that has truly been a pastor - a shepherd - to me in all senses of the word.  He is a remarkable Pastor to this day. I don't have many heroes but Gary is one of them.

    Happy Birthday to my friend, my Pastor. Gary.  You are a hero to me and many, many others! :)

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Breaking Free Cliff Notes.

    Living in Freedom is a hefty subject, but it's worth the time. I have found it is the most life changing, greatest impacting endeavors I have ever poured myself into.

    In my previous post, Stepping into the Arena, I mentioned that I first picked up the 'Breaking Free' workbook by Beth Moore in 1999.  I emphasize Workbook because the 'Breaking Free' book by Beth Moore wasn't published until 2007.  As with many things, when something is successful, reiterations of that successful work will soon be found.

    In 1999, I picked up the Breaking Free workbook and I read each word, answered every question, filled in every blank, checked all the boxes, drew the pictures, read every scripture, watched all the video sessions.  I studied that material.  It was like living water to a dry and parched soul. The truth is, I never stopped doing the study and as a result it changed me.  This is a picture of my workbooks.  I would write multiple times in each workbook, responses varying from season to season. I would fill the pages with my notes and I would need a new workbook for the next time.  I'm currently doing it again, the updated edition on the right, which is what prompted this Daring Greatly moment.

    The Breaking Free study course-corrected more than my life, it course-corrected my mind.  I was literally "transformed by the renewing of my mind."  What I learned then and continue to study today is quite literally "the truth that set me free."  Cliche? Yes.  But this is a true story.

    Perhaps this all sounds like religious mysticism.  To lofty, a little wacky, 'out there'.  I get it and that is probably why I am so grateful that I have had someone walking beside me and watching me as a "new creation" evolve over all these years. No one knows this is a true story better than my husband.  God. Bless. Him.  Seriously.

    In Part 2, I'm going to outline some fundamental facts, key truths, that I have learned and have been studying from Breaking Free during all these years.

    Living with genuine, authentic freedom - emotionally, mentally, spiritually- is unparallelled to anything I know or have experienced.  The catch is, you have to step into the arena. You have to fight a battle for it.  You have to work hard for it.

    I know from raw, personal experience - it's totally worth the work. 


    "If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going." John 8:14

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    Stepping in the Arena.

    I am not articulate or eloquent enough to express how deeply this Theodore Roosevelt quote resonates with me.  Every. Single. Line.  It stayed with me from when I first heard and read it.
    For more years than I care to admit, it was the critic's comments that counted the most to me.  It was the one who pointed out my stumbling  and told me I wasn't good enough that I cared the deepest about.

    In 1999, I stepped into the arena and I began fighting in a battle with a clear mission and purpose. I was covered in dust, sweat and blood. I had a number of victories. I also had many defeats.  I did not deter from the course though because I was fighting for a worthy cause.  As long as I was striving towards what was right and true, the errors and shortcomings did not matter as much. 

    To this day, I will catch myself placing to much value in criticisms, opinions, expectations.  So I step in the arena to battle for a worthy cause and before I realize it, I find myself Daring Greatly. Again.

    What is the Worthy Cause?  It's Living in Freedom.
    Make no mistake, I'm not talking about living in a free country with certain liberties as a nation.
    I'm talking about living Life. Free. Not just physically but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. 
    Entirely. Different. Subject.

    Anyone who has known me for any amount of time, has heard me mention a study titled 'Breaking Free'.  I'm very comfortable 'talking' about the impact this study has had in my life but the idea of writing about it seems daunting. Daring Greatly. Simply because - it's a worthy cause.

    Next post; Breaking Free Cliff Notes. 

    Stay tuned.  Or not.  Whatever.  ;)