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The Best is Always Yet to Be

Memories, if we can appreciate time as it was, and not long for what has passed, are a beautiful thing. Often as I am going about a task a funny saying of my father’s or toddler Maggie Lee’s and baby Jack’s will echo in my mind and make me laugh.

I. Love. Toddlers. So much. They are tiny little people kits coming together. Every day is a brand new world for them and spectating this is superbly entertaining. Sometimes when incorporating a new thought or word a sentence looks like a janky Mr. Potato Head with a nose where the eyes belong and an ear for an arm. And that verbal modern art is spectacular.

One Sunday many years ago when searching for a sandal in Maggie Lee’s closet floor I was beginning to get impatient. If anyone is going to throw up or lose a shoe it will be as one is trying to get to church. Because Satan. Rifling through the underbelly of the closet and mumbling rhetorical statements like “Where could it be?” Maggie Lee looked up earnestly and said, “A mystewy took it.” Oh, mystery, you thief.

I remember certain phrases which still make me laugh. We were flying to Orlando when the kids were five and three. Coming from Coach, restroom-bound, Jack and I walked through First Class as they were enjoying their bacon and eggs. He noticed the lavish breakfast trays and asked me, “How come we don’t got no eggs?”

Memories are meant to bless us. We can let them cripple us and convince us that our present will never compare. The funny thing is that once we subscribe to the narrative that life will never be as good as it was, it will not be. What we focus on grows and the past while we can appreciate it, is a finished chapter. Any farmer who reminisces instead of planting knows this. It is no sign of devotion for one to crumble because an era in life is over. It is a sign of self-pity.

We have every resource of Heaven behind us when we choose joy, even in the darkness. The decision to live life to the fullest (John 10:10) is to accept the life Christ died to provide, even in the valley. If there are lessons the cross teaches, they are that there is no length God will not go to love us and that love brings about a future hope that is better than any past we had.

It may be a beautiful mystewy but the best is yet to be!

#faith

#regret

#Christian

#Christianjoy

#toddlers

#Mom

#parent

#unconditionallove

#Godslove

#peace

#Holyweek

#Christ’slove

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Let Your Light Shine

This Little Light of Mine always sounded like Toeing the Line of Mine to me. If I had the light and love of God, I SURE as heck HAD BETTER SHOW IT. My motivation was faithfulness to God and avoidance of hypocrisy. Not bad in aim but perhaps a theology not fully congealed. I wonder if a subtle tweak might not make a world of difference?

This little tune, often mistaken for a negro spiritual, was actually written by a white guy from Michigan in the 1920’s. Harry Dixon Loes wrote a myriad of hymns while working st The Moody Institute until his death in 1965. Civil Rights Hero Hattie Lou Hamer popularized it when she sang it while in police custody. Her crime? Trying to register to vote.

Jesus’ words which inspired this hymn, Matthew 5:14, 16, always struck me as an admonition to be shiny for the benefit of others. Now I see it as an invitation to reveal the unique spark God planted inside of every creature He has made. I believe that the most effective impact an individual can offer is revealing their unique God-given glow of light to this world. I also believe that unless we get close to God and live in His light we are destined to cover our light and render ourselves useless. How easy is it to see a gorgeous light and try to replicate it. Can a strobe light be a simple night light? Certainly not. Nor should it attempt such.

It is easier to be distracted and try to fashion ourselves as the shiniest light than it is to quiet our souls, turn off our comparative minds and accept that God may just want us to be a 15 watt flicker bulb or a tiny Disney flashlight. All we need to incarnate Christ is a relationship with Him and the guts to get out of our own way.

I love a campfire. I cannot stand this wacky blue-hued LED lights. Let your beautiful, authentic light shine before others today and see if it does not brighten your own path.

#matthew5

#pathtoauthenticity

#personalimpact

#faith

#Christianity

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Heads Up!

Any baseball little sister knows this term all too well. Of the countless nights I spent at Braeburn Field watching my oldest brother, Ted, there would inevitably be several “pop flies.” A batter would slice and instead of the ball shooting toward the outfield, it would pop over the fence toward the head of the least-aware grandparent or younger sibling.

Protective Dads wanted to be the first to assess the sitch and blurt out the warning. Others would reflexively join in to emphasize the precaution. A fun way to entertain ourselves was to feign a deep grown-up voice and yell “heads up!” just to see who would stop dead in their tracks and look around like it was a nuclear attack. I like to blame our behavior on the synthetic nacho cheese preservatives.

Heads up is generally a good phrase; a quality reminder which snaps us out of our sleep-walking into awareness of our present situation. It could be a danger soaring our direction we need to be concerned about or an urgent reminder to fight the spiritual narcolepsy which quickly takes over. Life will bite us if we’re not vigilant. It will turn us into Zombies like that wholesome Hallmark Channel show The Walking Dead. Our default setting is always distraction and self-absorption. That’s my nature. And yours.

Awareness is a conscious decision, not a natural state. If not intentional about the present, we obsess about the past and worries about the future petrify our minds. We drone on from the bleachers to the snack bar to the bleachers to the bathroom on autopilot. Good thing I do not mix metaphors. So here’s the day’s call: notice the birds, notice Jesus in the distressing disguise of hurting humans (especially the most annoying ones. Yes, that guy, in adjacent cubicle with Funyon body odor and no boundaries) notice the amazing taste of your coffee.

This is exilerating: when you live heads up, life shifts. The groceries you complain about lugging in your home become sacred gifts for which to thank God. I mean we get bananas from countries far, far away. And they arrive in our neighborhood grocery store. And we don’t have to even climb a tree to hack them off with a machete. And pistachios and bacon and wine, oh MY!

Our homes (yes the one with the balding couch with the festering cheese stick in the cushion and tricky toilet) become glorious centers of refreshment and joy to the degree which we are grateful. A condo transforms into a holy place of nurturing when we bravely force ourselves to wake up and choose gratitude. Our backyard may be a Pinterest fail to everyone but feral cats but it is holy ground. If you decide it will be. The kicker: we have help in this heads up endeavor. The Holy Spirit works in us the Bible says. The Spirit moves in us and takes away the poison pity pool of comparison we love to soak in. While it is always easier to hop on the hamster wheel and sleep walk through life, it will only exhaust. You were meant for more.

Heads up!

#Springtraining

#baseball

#faith

#life

#Jesus

#seizetheday

#positivestories

#Braeburnlittleleague

#soul

#help

#overcoming

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Interesting Goes A Long Way in Marriage

When John and I were newlyweds we enjoyed a most juvenile game. We had a plastic roach which we would stage different places and the point of the game was getting a reaction. That sucker was hidden behind the shampoo, under the sink, in a newspaper or in the undie drawer. 

You never knew when Ralph would surface or how long his sabbatical would be. That was the hilarious part. Looking back it was like Elf on The Shelf for poor seminary students. I was so happy to have found my person I could hardly stand it. True bliss before life got complex and there were no inklings that life could be anything but joy. 

This morning as I was washing my hands I glanced over and saw this farmgirl magnet inside the tiny cloche with an egg. I busted out in laughter and John innocently asked, “What?”

Me: “The magnet in the windowsill”

John: “I thought you put that in there. Maybe she hatched from that egg.”

“Maybe.”

I am always made to laugh by this introverted, bookish, classical music enthusiast who never ceases to make life fun. The kindness and comraderie he brings to my life is just a gift of God. And he is still super cute. Which never hurts. 

Interesting goes a long way in marriage. 

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Aren’t We All So Devastated about Florida (and so thankful it wasn’t us?)

A few years ago a church reached out to me to do some comedy which I was totally great with doing. Some clients want straight funny, some funny & generically impactful & yet others want funny, impactful & very personal.  I can do any. I can do all. I am great with whatever. Corporate Event, Fashion Show, Hebrew Temple Fundraiser.  I’m down.  A working speaker serves the interest of the client. Period. We serve at your behest. Colleen keeps my calendar and her 15-point survey uncovers your precise desires. 

So the committee came to another gig I had where I had filled the client’s request of both funny then serious. The church wanted to bless the community with laughter as well as encourage the women in their faith through my story of surviving loss. I thankfully hit the marks and got great feedback on my humor as well as story. (Something which really matters to me) 

After seeing me in action, the requesting committee then sent Colleen an email outlining concerns which stopped me in my tracks when I read. They were concerned about me just being funny. Could you just do comedy? We love your story but can you just be upbeat? Which I had already assured them I could. 

“And we just do not want our women to think that anything like this could happen to them. We just want them to laugh.”

We do not want them to think that this is something that could happen to them? I completely get that they just wanted to laugh. Which again I have zero problem with. I can do just funny. But she would hate women’s ladies night to be ruined by the thought that something tragic could happen to them. 

It is not lost on me that I am a comic by trade who has been through some not so hysterical times. Many comedians honed humor as a defense mechanism against the world’s arrows, be they criticism, poverty, bullying or just Garden-variety pain. I always loved the gift that humor has been in my life: a true pressure valve that released stress and allowed the fresh air that proved vital to my soul’s survival. 

When George Clooney entered the ninth grade he was far from the sexiest man alive. He had a paralyzing Palsey his first semester of high school. In discussing the awkwardness of walking the halls, looking as though he were a stroke victim, he recently told David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction that “That’s where the funny comes from.” 

If a kid is quick enough the humor will come at the moment they need it most. 

What also comes at us is life. We will all suffer. If we think that we are immune, we are in grave danger. The fact that life is random should liberate us not terrify us into a sheltered existence. As much as we seek to avoid discomfort, we were made for it. We can adapt to even the most horrible circumstances such as running out of Kuerig Pods and that awesome sugar-free creamer that makes us ecstatically happy. 

Florida has gripped us as a nation. I feel it in my bones. There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn according to Ecclesiastes. The fact is that I think about those children being physically obliterated by a semi-automatic weapon and it makes me sick. This could  be your child’s school. It could be mine.  There actually was a campus lock-down this Fall at Texas Tech when a student gunman killed a police officer and fled. That chilled me. 

We are at a crossroads and have to decide if  we will bury our heads in Pinterest and all the beautiful little projects of our lives or we will confront the very ugly reality of the availability of semi-automatic weapons and fight to change that. It certainly will take so much more than that but when we consider  that our children could be next it is action which has GOT to happen. 

I keep envisioning a hostage situation with an armed perpetrator and authorities saying, “Throw down your weapon. Hand over your gun” This is what needs to happen first. There is so much work to be done with those intent on harming themselves and others but we have got to take that primary step. 

No one is asking for hunting rifles. God have mercy. No police state is going to go door to door collecting weapons. We are simply saying that as parents lets ban assault weapons used in the past mass shootings in our country. It could happen. 

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Ribbon Friends; The Ties That Bind 

 ​​
In many ways she is my opposite. She is effortlessly organized as if a West Point graduate. Organization is something for which I constantly strive but have no natural giftedness in. I have, however, fallen in deep love with my labelmaker. I have to have fun props to fool myself into systemically categorizing belongings. Colleen’s mind map of nourishment storage struck me last week as I opened her pantry which resembles an IKEA Ad far more than a location where a hungry family of four finds food.

  I met this detailophile at the tender age of 11 at Fondren Middle School. I was still in my ahem…euphemism alert…big-boned phase and she was crowned with a curly brunette halo. Both of which calamities one good growth spurt for each of us would rectify. My predominantly Jewish Herod Elementary School Crew held together en masse which meant that most of my closest friends went to Saturday School at Temple. The first time I spent the night and mentioned my church, Colleen was very confused. She assumed that I was Jewish as well. 

Colleen’s Mother, Mary Grace, laughed at her daughter’s assumptions. MG was an endless supply of one-liners which still reverberate 37 years later. When a constable came to The Gibbs’ door looking for her son Jack and later left, MG questioned Jack about what caused the altercation. He explained that a neighbor kid “flipped him off.” M.G. asked, “off your bicycle?” We were actually both looking for a snack in her Mom’s pantry and fell down laughing hysterically. We dropped like two fainting goats. 

Colleen was my person through so many milestones. She watched my very first comedy performance at Camp Tejas in 7th grade and still keeps my speaking calendar to this very day. We tied up our families’ land lines for hours after our first day at rival High Schools. We spent literally all of our Summers between Westbury Baptist Church and Maplewood Pool. She, Cara and Jill (sweetest and smartest among us) skipped school to watch my cheerleader tryouts Junior Year. We all made cheerleader for our Senior Year which was (no exaggeration here) everything. 

She went with my family to visit my two older brothers at Baylor when we were 15 and I was at her house the Christmas Morning to watch Colleen open her Baylor T-Shirt. This was M.G.’s way of giving her Irish Catholic blessing for Colleen to attend the very Baptist university. Colleen did attend Baylor with me and our shenanigans continued. Mainly we schemed about upperclassmen who had our utterly unrequited love. Once in Denny’s after such a conversation, a man leaned over as he was leaving and told us he hoped we wound up down the street from each other in houses with white picket fences. Did I mention that we could be loud in public?  And self-unaware? 

We graduated from college and I continued to Seminary for my Masters of Communication while Colleen landed a job in event planning at Dallas Fanfares. With her attention to detail and people skills, she flourished. I finally began loving school after 16 years and discovered another love: John.  Well, actually re-discovered. Our former Youth Minister at Westbury, Steve Wilson, moved to a job at FBC Tyler. Sparks flew on a youth choir tour in 1985 when Colleen and I were assigned to spend the night at The Lake’s house. (Church families volunteer to house a few kids from the group.) The Lakes had three boys: Jody, Jonah, Kyle and one daughter: Kristie. I began dating the oldest, our age, who turned out years later to be one of John’s best friends. What a tangled web we weave! 

Colleen was not only in our wedding but was the first at my reception to try to inform me that a screen behind my cake had been jostled by a renegade toddler, knocking the first few layers to the ground. Ever the fixer, Colleen tried to make things better before we arrived. When we did get there, she ran up to me with icing-laden hands to break the news. Unable to deliver the sad tale after stammering, she began crying and ran off. To this day, my favorite picture from the night is us cutting the reconfigured confection with icing prominently displayed on the lattice screen behind us.  

You do not always value treasures for their true worth when you are young: one thinks there will always be an unending supply of smart, strong, praying women with which to do life. One assumes Mom and Dad will be ever-present to comfort and encourage you when you hit a speed bump or road block. There will always be more time to finish college, have children, prioritize a spouse, save money, get the kids in church or volunteer. When you are a child Christmas comes every 24 months, when you’re in charge of Christmas it happens every 6.  

As way leads unto way and you live and lose and love and pray you notice the beauty of the tree ribbons others have tied, especially when a heartbreak slows time for you. Those ribbons are markers along the way that reassure you that God loves you and to simply keep walking. They are a life-line pointing forward which is the only real direction one can go with sanity. When we are intentional with those around us who are going through a rough patch, we are ribbon- tiers. 

Colleen spent many, many nights giving me proof that come what may there was always hope.  When we were in Jackson praying for God to spare our Maggie Lee in ICU, Colleen and so many others came to help. When she had to return to her small children, she stayed up praying literally all night long. Texting Bible Verses and prayers. She wanted me to know that I was not alone. 

When my Father died, she tied a ribbon. Her faithful kindness extended to me in physical ways. Our Fathers were both incredibly kind and affable men. I lost mine and then she lost hers. And I tied after she lost MG. I was there with her to remind her that she was not alone. There is just something unforgettable about someone’s silent presence down life’s dark forests that gets imprinted on your memory. 

I attest that although God could in one nanosecond deliver us from all disappointment and struggle that clouds our way He does not. God is not obligated to insulate us from the results of others poor choices made of their free will anymore than he protects other people against ours. But He does provide encouragement: friends are the ribbons tied in the trees reminding us that they cannot remove our great sadness but they can point us toward home. And that in our darkest days means the difference between hope and total despair. Life on Earth is not for the faint of heart. But what I have found is people who show up for me that know I will show up for them. This is only possible by God’s grace and often that ribbon looks a lot like you and me. 

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Act Yourself. Millard Fuller Love. 


“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting” -Millard Fuller

Not only is this sassy little statement pithy…it actually WORKS. This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my faith heroes and recipient of The Presidential Medal of  Freedom: Millard Fuller. He was not only a witness to but change agent for those in abject poverty. 

Fuller was a millionaire lawyer who climbed the pinnacle of business success, then at 29, turned his faith-fueled business acumen into Habitat for Humanity. After building 200,000 homes world-wide, Fuller was heartbreakingly asked to step down from an organization he birthed and served for 46 years until his 70’s. Despite this crushing blow, Millard persevered, championing a new organization: Fuller Center for Housing until his death in 2009. 

Millard Fuller just kept moving forward. After years of sacrifice, service to others and devotion to “The Theology if The Hammer,” he was asked to resign. After giving his life away was told, “We’ll take it from here.” I do not know all the details, only the ones which I have read from his perspective but I do know this: Millard kept moving forward in faith when heartbroken. 

My family met Mr. Fuller in 2007 at a marriage conference Florida. John and I proved utter failures at wide-eyed staring each other in the face for ten minutes without laughing. Sorry, people, we are just not that couple. I opened one night’s event with a few minutes of comedy and Mr. Fuller brought the house down with signature Southern story telling style. His obsession to eradicate homelessness, improve the lives of the poor and provide a meaningful vehicle for others to serve provided a new way of thinking for over a million people. 

After his speech, he graciously signed our Building Materials for Life books and said he’d catch up with us in Allendale, the location of his Shreveport Fuller Center for Housing Build that Fall. To my shock, Mr. Fuller invited me to lead the work crew devotional one morning in Allendale. As if I had anything at all to say. He was incredibly sweet and kind. Just as one would imagine a soul intimately acquainted with Jesus might be.

My faith life has been profoundly impacted by the unflappability of Millard Fuller. I am challenged to try and improve the situation of those caught in Pay Day Lending Schemes and even those who just need a simple winter hat at the bus stop. I want to help everyone but know that to go the distance, organizations must take on root causes of systemic poverty and involve people in their own solutions. Fuller required HFH families to go through a rigorous interview process, invest sweat equity in their homes and pay for the homes (without being charged interest.)

Meeting this man briefly and knowing him better through his books informs what it means to me to follow Christ. To care for other people when it seems scary or totally awkward (me at all times.) His example calls me to at least try to partner with those waist-deep overwhelming struggles of life when I would rather just drink my coffee, paint my pictures and eat Beth Watkins Cheese Wafers la-la-la style. 

There is evidence that acting ourselves into motion (caring for others, deciding to be happy, stepping away from the crack-like pull of the cheese wafer) actually is the behavioral tail which wags the dog.

From a February 2017 Huff Post Article: This notion is prevalent among behaviorists and much of the today’s therapeutic community. Indeed, in the treatment of depression and addiction, clients are often urged to to practice “opposite action” – that is to say, to behave in ways that run counter to what they “feel like” or to what their present state or mood urges them to do or not do.* Full Huff Post Article here

Every human who has every walked upon Mother Earth has faced disappointment. Your smiling Rabbi, your spunky cousin, your wise counselor, your perfect room mate. 

-If you feel stuck in jello take a brisk walk around your cubicle and keep the co-workers guessing. 

-Feeling cynical about religion? Read Jesus’ words (any & all) and serve the first person you see who needs a boost (even if that person is in your family.)

-Feel bitter about how behind you feel compared with others? Go to a cancer center and volunteer or at least do a hard reset on your life. 

Forward, forward, always forward. 

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Why is Podnas BBQ Dealing in The Soy Game?


We’re going low-carb for the season. I decided that a Podnas BBQ Podtato was a viable strategy as long as I avoided consuming the actual potato. I figured if I stayed in topping territory i’d golden, Ponyboy.

I ordered my lunch at the drive thru and asked the young man to omit the green onions. I am breathing near people with noses after all.  I put in a solid 10 minutes waiting when the drive-thru window cracked open and the gentleman requested payment. I paid, thanked the chopper and spun off.

Back at work, I unloaded the podtato, opened the styrofoam treasure chest and was instantly confronted by a sickening sight: neon red faux bacon bits intermarried with shreds of cheddar cheese. Throngs of Bacos shamelessly masquerading up in amongst my other honest ingredients. Real beef,  actual cheese and sour cream with “made with milk” warnings for idiots who eat green bananas. 

These little posers at pork fat bring to mind the square of lunch tray lettuce doused in watery ranch dressing.  Once you consumed a single Baco it greedily begged for gastric freedom manifesting in nasty belches. They remain abhorrent. Really, how have bacon-flavored soy bits not experienced an improved incarnation? We drank Tab only until Diet Coke helped us see the light. Sadly, despite  the fantastical progress made in the food industry in the past 40 years, Baco’s remain precisely the same. 

The greater offense than just how nasty those faux bacon bits taste is the fact that a BAR-B-QUE joint tried to get away with sprinkling a meat substitute on my potato like it’s a salad shop in South Beach rather than a Shreveport Bar-B-Que restaurant. I mean, know your audience. 

Sprinkling Bacos on my podtato was like getting a Tiffany’s necklace for Christmas wrapped in a used Merle Haggard CD Case. Which Jack may have done for a girlfriend along the way. Man was it hysterical…to him. Who knew it was the beginning of the end? This lunch was the moral equivalent of smothering a bowl of Blue Bell ice cream with sugar free chocolate sauce. 

So, Podnas- I am imploring you in the name of ethical Podtato production to drop the Bacos. No one is fooled. No one is amused. We are far too busy belching. 

#podnas 

#bacos

#thestruggleisrealbutthebaconisnot

#seriousissues

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Really? Google Arts and Culture? Really?

What handsome three boys you have.”
Said far too many strangers to my brothers and me when I was a little girl. Which was flattering, especially since I had pierced ears.  In my defense I also had a tragic mushroom-cut and an outgoing nature to boot. I was the loud Richardson boy. 

Eventually my passion for collecting frogs in the Summer was replaced with a collection of tiny metal Lip Smacker tins and tickle deodorant in the iconic domed polka-dot silo of a container.  I did not know who shot  J.R. but I used weekly Dallas T.V. Shows as a tutorial in proper hair feathering. 

The pack of girls with whom I grew up were not super girly either with the exception of Christie the ballerina. The rest of us played with Breyer Horses instead of Barbies. We would literally invent plot lines with toy horses to rival the twists and turns of any General Hospital episode. I took pictures of my horses with my pink Kodak camera and always ran out of flash bulbs before I ran out of film. 

 It was an amazing treat to have my own camera and a painful exercise for my Mother to pay for the off-center, overexposed 3 x 5 inch clustershots. A tiny kiosk to the West of Foodarama Grocery  was the collection point of film and once that film was developed, days later,  a rat hole to toss hard-earned money down into. Unfortunately there was no prior knowledge that your photograph would be crap. 

2018? Well, that’s a different story. With my endless storage of photographs which I see instantly and do not have to pay for, I may over-document a tiny amount, perhaps. I am most happy behind the lens taking pictures of others. When not taking wide-mouthed selfies.  So when Jack told me about Google’s Arts and Culture App which, among thousands of other useful aspects has the “Is Your Portrait in a Museum?” Activity, I was curious. He said he’d take my picture and instantly see which historical painting subject my face resembled. I was down. 

Jack snapped my face.  Then waited a beat. Then began laughing from his gut’s gut. This app brought me right back to 1978’s King Super Drug in Maplewood Square with my two brothers. The historical figures my face most closely resembled were all DUDES. Every single one. Albeit, handsome men but seriously that brought my room down a notch. 

Sensing my shock, Jack decided to try again. I made a completely different face and to my relief neither George Washington nor George Washington Carver was my match this time but completely different men. 

Hair up? Guys. Hair down? Male. Silly face? Testosterone. Straight face? Mister. I encourage everyone to give it a try. Show me what you find! 

#googlearts&culture 

#dudelookslikealady 

#jinnyhensoncomedy

#egoboost

#parenting

#thanksJackHenson