Proud of These People

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.







#special seniors









Preparing Your Children for The Moguls

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.




















Topo-Keto Dreamsicle

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!












It Is No Mystery Why I Love This One So

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)



























Successful Closet Office Couture

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?























This Girl is on đź”Ą

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.













Change in 2019

Raise your hand if the thought of New Year’s Resolutions gives you cramps. Ok, you can put your hand down. They make me feel like the chunky girl at Baylor whose bestie taught aerobics. You know who you are, Colleen Gibbs.

Resolutions fill me with dread because what if I fail? What if I do not have the discipline to keep my car clean and the inside looks like overflow housing for Chimp Haven? What if I commit to more sleep but Netflix? What if my intentions toward the manna of morning prayer are edged out by the emotional sugar-rush of social media? Twinkie-over-oatmeal-style?

If we are honest, and the human bent toward self-defense keeps this from happening at all costs, there is clutter holding us back. Clutter like the content of literal storage sheds we need to shed or the energy-suck of anxiety over what we cannot control. Honesty is the assassin of our false selves* and the open door to change.

Can’t you just feel the terror of your secrets? There is dog hair in your fridge, people you love to judge. There are entire days spent mentally crucifying those who have done you wrong. Real Dr. Pepper cans in your trash. Like a LOT. Drugs under your bed. Degrading photographs on your lap top. Overdue library books to name just a few. This clutter must be named before we can change.

“We’re only as sick as our secrets” Stephen King has said. Maybe a resolution is not what you need, perhaps just a decision that before February you will get honest with yourself about one thing clogging your life which needs to go. Perhaps if today you name your clutter and write it down it will not be so terrifying.
























The Happiness Advantage

Shawn Achor asserts that we can rewire our brains to be happy. There is a mountain of evidence to support this.

His book has been around since 2010. I am a little slow to the party but his Ted Talk has blown me away! Some members of our work family are undertaking the Happiness Challenge of recording three new things a day for which to be thankful. Beginning January 1 and lasting 21 days, we are hoping to personally increase our positive outlook by looking for the good things.

Monica Grant shared her moving life story which further inspired me to life change. So incredible!

Count your blessings. Name them one by one.

#gardenpark #happiness #lifehacks #shawnachor #happinessadvantage #changethelenschangeyourlife #monicagrant


Be A Rockefeller Christmas Tree

(Stocking cap creds: John Craig Henson, Sr.)

New York is magical at Christmastime. The most iconic image for me is The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

If you pilgrimage there, beware of flying selfie sticks (yes, there are still a few in existence) and just know that your head/face/hat will play a supporting role in a at least a few Christmas cards. I even saw a woman on the steps of 30 Rock applying makeup for her selfie while her spouse held the mirror. Which was so completely obnoxious that it made me angry…that I had not thought of it.

The sheer size of this year’s Spruce is staggering; the tree is 74′ high and 50′ in diameter. Amazingly, there is no bad side to the tree. Believe me, I looked. Nowhere will you find a bare patch with no lights. There is no wall to hide the bent limbs or squirrel-damage. The 75-year-old tree at Rockefeller is huge, symmetrical and beautifully decorated. On every side.

When I was a high school and college student, I worked at Neiman Marcus in Houston on Christmas break. Most times I was at the candy counter front and center but occasionally I would be pulled into epicure and holiday decor. My Dad being men’s suit manager is the only reason a clumsy girl like me would ever have that assignment. I will never forget the manager’s instruction: pull the tree away from the wall and make sure the lights and ornaments are evenly-spaced around the entire tree. Do not neglect the less-visible half which faces the corner.

“How stupid,” I thought. The level of unnecessary attention to detail was striking. Why waste good ornaments on the hidden half of the tree when you could make the front completely amazing? I wondered quietly why we worked on the half of this Christmas Tree that shoppers will NEVER see? Confused yet respectful, I did as I was instructed. She was beautiful from every angle even if no one would ever appreciate the hidden side.

I am reminded of this tree when I put all my good stuff in the front window and cram the junk under the rug. I proudly display the leg lamp of my highlight reel front and center while ignoring the things which God wants to touch and change in me with the light of His love. This illumination can only happen when I take honest inventory.

The secret of the tree has unfolded before me; character is the fruit of a soul which we assume we can hide or display at will when actually it is expressed continuously in all we do. If we are to desire that God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven we must connect with that God to even know how to breathe.

What escaped me was the fact that the stand for this display tree actually rotated. All the Christopher Radko Ornaments would actually be seen by everybody. My effort so grudgingly expended was not for naught as I assumed.

The interior life of our souls is worth all the time we can sink into it and so much more. Our openness to God’s Spirit before we open our social media accounts is the best work we can accomplish all day. The deep work of silently listening to God’s Word saves us from the humiliation of a revolving tree stand revealing the appearance of goodness while lacking goodness indeed.

The image to project today is Jesus. If all the effort we invest is merely in how we look then perhaps we need a second look at our souls.