To volunteer or donate (please put for khakifair in note section, thx!)
To volunteer or donate (please put for khakifair in note section, thx!)
Back to school shopping was a beat-down. I vividly remember being inconsolable when a dump truck full of sand which my father purchased to add to our front yard (to augment the soil?) was delivered and instead of playing in it with the rest of my neighbors I had to go shopping. At Sears. For back-to-school clothes. In the chubette girls plus section no less. It was tragic.
I was uncharacteristically opinion-less about wardrobe that year. All I could think of was my friends having all the sand fun on sand hills while I was hanging out with the chunky, faceless mannequins. With bellies. And goiters. At Sears. I felt tortured. Little did I know the budgeting that went into getting my brothers and me ready for school. I learned years later that picking out the clothes was the easy part but paying for it all was as fun as getting hit in the eye with a sand chunk.
Many parents get that back-to-school anxiety. As in how can we swing it all? Shreveport, the city I call home, has a tremendous amount of children in poverty. Well above our nation and even our state’s poverty rate. That paired with with most public schools in Caddo Parish requiring school uniforms makes for a back to school panic. Maggie Lee’s Closet’s clientele are children K-8th grade whose parents working minimum-wage jobs have little wiggle room for groceries, bills and school uniforms. Khaki Fair is a big party usually around the time we lost Maggie Lee where we throw love & uniforms around like confetti.
Khaki Fair is an opportunity to welcome these children whom God adores and give them the one new set of clothes, undies and socks they will have this year. We cannot heal the deepest wounds of their souls but we sure can have the khakis and toothbrushes to back up our claim that God loves them. And He can heal them.
Many times I share Maggie Lee’s Closet’s stories of life change through the clothes and volunteer hours you give. The self-esteem which new clothes bring is an amazing thing. Pure magic and I want to share that joy because I know that God can use any tiny gesture to show himself as pure love and change the trajectory of a life. Just like God showed his love-self to me.
So, here’s the invite: if you are free from 4-6pm on August 2nd and want to volunteer, come on. Shoot me a message that you’re in. The volunteer sign-up station will be well- labeled where you absolutely cannot miss it. The needs are great and we cannot fix the whole world but we can in this little way spread joy like a pile of front yard sand!
I don’t say God is love to use your reaction as a litmus test to determine if you are in my camp and therefore right. I do not proclaim it because if you disagree you are a mission project in need of taking on. I share this foundational truth which I believe holds the world together because you will need it someday.
Parents who believed this truth raised me in church. I took to God’s word much like athletes to sport probably because there were no prerequisites required. I need not be brilliantly best at anything to receive this love which was the greatest truth ever. Late at night during the Summer, I would gaze at the moon and feel as though God had spun it there just to show His love for me.
The aim of my life was to know God and make God known. I felt the great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews cheering me on as I walked through my life. I always loved the encouragement that it mattered how I lived.
Like all of us if we live long enough, I arrived at a circumstance which far outstripped my strength. Devoid of easy answers, bereft of logic and deeper than any platitude could ever plumb was God’s love. Steelier than the fuzzy, Kaopectate-colored relief, this was gritty enough to fall into my deepest sadness and spring hope in due time.
I believe love is the only answer, the highest call and the timeless balm for which our charred souls long. God’s fierce, street-fighter, Mama’s love has sustained and educated me in the the wee hours of my soul’s dilapidation. I was tore up from the floor up. And was seen through.
God’s love is for the many not the few. His aim is to draw his children close and as one who is one child short, I can tell you that there is nothing you could ever do to quench that love. Nothing. If we love our children this way, just imagine how unfailing the love of our Heavenly Father is for us. All of us. You are invited to stick your toe in the stream but I know with all my being’s fibers (all the fibers) that you will want to dive deep and float in the river of grace and peace you find.
I implore you not to come over to any side of the aisle and believe exactly as I do, but rather to lean into this lavish love of God and be warmed by the relieving glow. All that is required is the will to defrost.
These are the Church for The Highlands 2019 Graduates. I am proud of the people they have become. You never really know when you meet a squirrelly 6th grader exactly how it’s gonna go down. But each has matured. And done so well.
Last night in the gym our church honored these students with a great meal and gifts. The personalized decorations were as beautiful as any Pinterest spread and it was all for love.
As we watched the slideshow of each Senior, the photos told a story of service. Dre was face painting for one of our carnivals, Robert was landscaping, Jason was painting a swing set, Shameiko was serving in Lake Providence and Chase at a block party.
The unvarnished truth is that they have shared life with us and we with them. Kyle Kelley our volunteer youth minister who nearly died in the bus accident in 2009 joined forces with FBC Shreveport to take our youth to Colorado so that they could see mountains. What an absolute picture of love that is.
Life gets messy and the youth are no exception. Each one of these children of God deals with challenges I never faced. Issues like basic transportation: most have walked to church at The Highland Center for years. That in itself is a phenomenal feat: youth getting up on a Sunday Morning and walking to church?
If the students lived too far from church to travel on foot, Kyle or David have driven the church van to pick up these kids and their families. They have made the effort to reach across pesky barriers like transportation because of the love of Christ. These actions, seemingly small, (unless you have ever done them) is an extended hand which says “come join me!”
The most beautiful sentiment shared last night was the statement of one youth to another:
“Thank you for the positive impact you’ve had on my life. You helped me become a better person and choose priorities over pleasures in life and I thank you. ”
That brought the frivolous laughter to a halt as we all took in the gravity of this eloquent compliment. Perhaps God enjoys profoundly watching the church be a place for people to find their way home. And journey there with each other.
I remember walking to my homeroom class at Fondren Middle School. I knew if Stephen was there he would have some random insult de jour. It would make me raise my defenses at least until homeroom was over. I would not deem Stephen a bully, just a middle school boy.
His power was limited to his audience and most of us were aware that his harassment was merely a thirsty attempt to elevate himself. The awkwardness of middle school drove us all to make questionable choices. Like the salmon polo / salmon jean combination I proudly wore with bright green socks and loafers. None of us of us had unimpaired judgment.
Imagine if Stephen would have had a larger audience. Say, the entire cafeteria. But instead of just having a minute to craft a creative criticism he had an entire school day. And a cache of internet references from which he could fashion hilarious memes. Say a side-by-side of an actual salmon and my salmon-on-salmon ensemble. What was an uncomfortable ten minutes could potentially expand to consume an entire day. Or two. An embarrassment limited to a homeroom class now would be granted a limitless geography.
Because this is the reality our children swim in each day we must do our best to arm them with perspective: a reality which transcends their current reality. We must strive to imbue our kids with an eternal perspective. This is an encouragement which if embraced can transform our lives and strengthen our children.
An eternal perspective has the potential to bring peace to our anxious minds because it takes the pressure off of any one moment on any one day. Did we forget a lunch or the donation to teacher appreciation week? Space out in a meeting and screw up the fundraiser? I mean, don’t dare screw up the fundraiser, handle your business, man. But seriously, will the rotting orders of cookie dough you forgot in the back of your SUV matter in ten years? No! You did not forget your toddler in the car. It will all be alright.
Eternal perspective is not the magic bullet which will remove all chaos from your household within 24 hours but it will arm you then alternately your child with a sense of security. I have viewed my role as parent as such: to raise self-sufficient humans who make a positive impact upon the world. Part of self-sufficiency is learning to soothe yourself. You may have had a night or two of baby wailing when your taught your child to soothe themself. The baby was fed and dry and just needed to learn that she could be content even without you. Some never taught that lesson because being needed is our reason to live.
The reality is that we will not always be with our offspring to dry every tear they cry. Because college. And marriage. And so the encouragement we give while we raise them will either give them a steel core of survival:
“you can do this on your own.”
“In the entire scope of eternity this day will seem less horrible.”
“It’s a bad chapter but a good book.”
Or our intervention in each situation for a favorable outcome will convince them that life will always be fair and people are here to guarantee that:
“If your third grade teacher wants to torpedo your chances at Stanford, he’s got another thing coming.”
“The online assignment did not specify a number of sources and she penalized you for that? What an idiot”
“I’m friends with his mom’s friend on Facebook. I’ll just reach out with a little heads’ up about his bullying since the principal refuses to get involved. We’re not gonna let this one slide.”
The problem with reactionary parenting is that it treats each mogul as the hill to die upon. Instead of doing the hard work of setting up our children to maneuver around the moguls we stop on each one and fight until it is smooth for our child to pass. In doing this we create fearful humans who look back for our permission to proceed each hour rather than people equipped with the confidence that they may fall but they’ve got this. It may be rough going but one bad day does not dictate one’s life.
So here’s to you in the middle school hell your child is in. Facing wack-a-doos with followers. Bullies with audiences. Should we never intervene on our child’s behalf? Absolutely not. There are times when that is completely necessary. But today, ask God to give you an eternal perspective to impart to your children. It may just be the fresh air your families’ lungs need.
In my Lenten Bible Study I saw a quote from this author. In researching Francis Frangipane, I found these words which I felt merited reposting.
Topo Chico (Spanish for Top Boy) is a delicious mineral water which is extremely popular in Texas. Topo Chico is even available in vending machines at Texas Tech. The bubbly kick from a beautiful glass bottle seems special and is reminiscent of drinking a real Coke. It seems fancy but at $7.88 for a case of 12, it serves as a reasonable splurge.
For my friends avoiding sugar or who will be giving the vice up for Lent, I have a sweet little recipe that came together after my radical decision to buy groceries today. I had to go to the “Pajama Brookshire’s” for obvious reasons. Best morning ever snuggling dogs and catching up with friends.
Alas, was born from my incredible bounty of actual food inside my house: the simple-to-make Topo-Keto Dreamsicle. If you want a sweet treat this is a low-carb dream.
1 Topo Chico Mineral Water (my fave)
1 shot Orange Tangerine Mio
I shot Nestlé Sugar Free Italian Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer (15 calories/ 2 carbs)
1 Tbsp Whipping Cream (50 calories 0 carbs)
Combine all ingredients in a separate, larger glass to prevent a volcano. Let me know what you think!
This nine-year-old photo which today appeared in my Facebook memory feed both warms and breaks my heart simultaneously. It touches me because I see such complete love and concern for me in the eyes of my eleven-year-old son. Conversely, is a gut punch that he ever had to wear such a weighty mantle on his tiny little shoulders.
I do believe you can teach and encourage a child to have empathy but reflected there in his little green eyes are a love from an entirely different place. From an eternal place. I have no doubt that he would have moved heaven and earth to bring joy and laughter into my life.
So often in our first year of life without ML, I prayed for strength not to cry around Jack. Often God blew upon me with fresh deliverance and helped me to keep a stiff upper lip. Not that he would think I was some pillar of strength but that he could believe that his life would still be good.
At other times the tears would fall. He would stare at me with that kindness and ask me if I was ok. He would tell me I could tell him what was wrong. And through those teaming tears I would tell him that I loved him for asking but that it wasn’t his job to take care of me, that I was his mom and it was my job to take care of him.
I did concede this,
“When I’m 90, though, you can change my Pull Ups.” That never failed to send him to another room.
I feel so honored that God granted me such an amazing daughter for a short twelve years. And unbelievably blessed that The Lord has given me such an incredible son for these twenty-plus years. It is no mystery why I love him so.
*Jack is a sophomore at Texas Tech University, 9 hours from home. I am so proud. He is studying Natural Resource Management / Ranch Management, playing intra-murals, writing songs on his guitar, dating a sweet & beautiful girl and sharing a dude house with 2 fellas and his dog. And going to church. No, really. He sends me proof. (Not that I ask or anything)
My part time job in employee engagement has grown into a position with perks. Like huge perks. I now am the ecstatic occupant of a closet-turned-office. It is exactly 4’10” by 5’3″ and it is amazing.
What began as prime real estate for marketing posters, brooms and folding chairs has transitioned into a beautiful cloffice. My cloffice is perfect for deep work like writing and apparently fashion design.
Like most fabulous things that happen my Project Runway moment was brought on by necessity. The way my blouse hung when I first dressed in the morning had me totally irritated by 10am. It seems I am still reaping repercussions from Holiday Pie Month as my jeans screamed for mercy at the waistline.
With ill-fitting top and gut-sprung bottom, something had to give. An employee T-shirt would fix it but I didn’t have cash and corporate has some obscure bias towards not stealing or whatever.
Suddenly I remembered the 2 yards of stretchy fabric in my cloffice storage area (behind the mirror) I rarely purchase fabric but my amazing tufted sofa from Weir’s had been victimized by a protracted 11 months of use and began farting tufted button covers. So I had to replace the buttons with a craft kit and fabric. It worked like a charm and I had fabric left over.
I fashioned the leftover stretchy fabric into a scarf two weeks ago which I shucked at work. Now in need I searched every inch for the fabric. Once in hand my historical brain thumbed through clothing periods, reminding my creative brain that in ancient times they mainly had large swatches of clothing tied in brilliant ways.
So I halved the remnant, held it square and cut a slit for my neck hole. Way smaller than I wanted to cut but you cannot go back. I stuffed my epically large head through and bam! Poncho city, sweetheart. Holding my left arm out, I cut the two layers into 3 strips and tied them. Repeating the cut and tie method for the right armhole, I now held arms up and was happy to be covered and comfortable.
Emerging from the cocoon of constraining couture I was free to move about Garden Park until halted in my tracks. By compliments. Apparently I was accidentally stylish. How fun is fun?
So I bring you the cloffice couture. Who knows what a day may hold?
I first saw her from afar in front of the Baylor Library (was it Moody? The big one with a Starbucks now?) The occasion was a fraternity event on a sunny February afternoon my freshman year.
Fresh from sorority rush in our pledge jerseys, we stood glommed together by house waiting for the chance to pour ourselves into a VW Bug. The house with the most girls fitting in a vehicle won. This archaic challenge required the combination of flexibility, small stature and mainly being OK with a banana clip full of frosted spiral perm in the mouth.
A friend pointed her out to me,
“There she is! That’s the one who asked Rick to the pledge dance.”
She was Gina Rhodes. A radiant, bright-faced beauty from Arkansas. The worst part? She was as sweet as she was gorgeous. AND had the audacity to ask my Freshman Formal date to her dance.
Remember that guy? The one I made a mix tape for probably before ever meeting him and did not deliver only because Betsy tackled me as I was marching out of our Collins dorm room to foist upon him. The line between stalker and crush, so razor-thin at 19. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.
I admired Gina from afar and once Rick failed to fall madly in love with her either I suddenly found her far more palatable. I mean, come ON. Clearly that was on HIM. I would never imagine that those bright blue smiling eyes and the heart just South of them would impact my life for decades to come.
Through sheer grace, I wound up having this sweet one as a suite mate sophomore year in Memorial Dorm. A group of us with parents who strongly preferred another year on campus for their baby girls got a block of rooms to make it fun. It was there that the initial admiration for this person so unlike myself grew.
One evening returning from popping the nightly bag of ACT popcorn I was startled by the figure I saw through our Jack and Jill bathroom. Sweet Gina was dressed in a high-neck, floor-length white cotton gown. All we needed was a Nutcracker. Shutting the bathroom door, I drew within whisper distance to Maureen and mouthed, “What is that?” “Honey, I know. I don’t know.” she replied.
Like anyone who lives in close proximity to an oddity, I was routinely pulled aside in hushed hallways and asked “Seriously, Jinny, what is Gina like? Is she really that sweet?” Sub context question: “How is anyone that sweet?” The answer to their verbalized as well as hidden queries was “Yes. And I know, right? As the year progressed I saw not a saccharine actress but rather an authentic and loving soul.
While most of us knew we should treat people as God would and probably talked a fairly good game, the outcast of the outcast was her actual squad. Overlooked people were her wheelhouse. In the hidden and private moments away from any audience or ethics professor, Gina spent valuable study time simply sharing life with other people. Many of us operated from excellent intentions while she overflowed with indiscriminate kindness.
From 1991 to 1994 this surreal saint Gina was my room mate. She studied Marriage and Family Counseling while I hacked away at a Masters of Communication. The tears we cried over adulting and academic anxiety were only surpassed by those flowing from uproarious laughter. The disarray of our tiny bathroom, grosser than that of any dudes, was never rivaled. Each night as I would come in from my Uncle Julio’s job and she from McKay’s Steakhouse next door, our 600-square feet apartment was a safe place to fall.
When John and I began dating and he spoke of me people would correct him,
“Not Jinny. You mean you’re dating Gina? Not the comic. The sweet one?”
God knew I would need a good listener. My skill in that area improved and as iron sharpens iron, how Gina sharpened me. This counselor got me and got me through so much in 30 years. As different as we are we share an unshakable similarity in absent mindedness.
We got lost en route to DFW (which would be my engagement trip) sharing a dance party in her Impala, we performed a funeral for a McKay’s customer whose brother was a famous preacher, we cluelessly attempted to divide itemized phone bills and caught Restless Heart at Billy Bobs at least once.
It simply matters who you choose to let in your life. It is unexplainable how profoundly a sister of my own choosing has made me better in every way. Thank you, God, for Gina.