Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

It feels so good to sit down tonight and write.  That may sound a little insignificant but I feel like I have been running on a fast track with no time to slow down.  Like I have stated before, Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I love the Christmas lights, the music, the gift-giving, the smiles on kid's faces when they open their gifts, Santa, and mostly celebrating the birth of the Savior.

But man this Christmas season has me feeling like I am riding a bull and I can't seem to get a grip on the horns and am about to fall off and get stomped on in the process.  I feel like I have been playing catch up all season.  I am a planner and like Christian told me the other day, I like for things to be in order.  Part of it was because Bryan and I made some wrong turns in life and found ourselves back where we needed to be but with no time to plan.  I have found that in life sometimes those wrong decisions help you to know exactly what is right in your life, what you need to focus on, and what you need to invest in.  Nonetheless, we found ourselves thrown back into the daily grind of getting the feed store ready for the busiest time of year.  We also had our local basketball league starting up at the same time.  So all of the craziness that comes with that collided with our business and has made for some stressful days and nights.  Throw in kids and everyday life and it seems we are in the midst of a hurricane.

I always have my tree up and decorated the first weekend after Thanksgiving.  Given that we sell trees at our store, I still did not get mine up until just about a week ago.  My Christmas cards weren't done by a professional photographer like I wanted.  I went to seven stores trying to get jeans to fit my 12 year old and still haven't been able to find any to take professional pictures in.  So our pictures were done courtesy of this momma forcing my kids to put a shirt on and stand by the fireplace.  A momma who told her kids that we were getting that picture done in 10 minutes so stand up and smile.  And there you go..."picture perfect."  I am still running around on my lunches and after work picking up last minute gifts, because if I could get everyone in my life a present, I would.  I ran to four different stores yesterday trying to find one more Nerds on a rope candy because even though Bo's school paper said take 20, he said his teacher said to bring 21.  Let's just say I never found one so Bo doesn't get one.  I am tired of running but I need to get my behind back to running again.  Well, let's not even go there.

So I am out of breath typing all of this.  Maybe you feel the same way.  I told Bryan, this is the first Christmas in a long time that I felt like I haven't been able to take in the magical moments of Christmas.  But wait, there have been some great moments, some small moments that have reminded me that Christmas is everyday.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of a baby who would change the world by His words, His actions and His love.  What better way to reflect the Savior than to change the world just as He did one small step at a time.  So I choose to remember the great things that have happened over this crazy period of time in my life.

I am proud of a husband who recognizes his weaknesses, puts his pride to the side and admits when he has made a wrong decision.  I am proud to be the wife of a man who says he is going to fight for what is his and for what he believes God has put before him.  I am humbled by a son who is not outspoken about his good deeds but everyday when I drop him off for school, I see him opening a door for a classmate with his backpack, laptop and lunch in hand.  I smile when I see my youngest offer his hot chocolate to a little girl who wanted some but there wasn't any left.  I am confident in saying that we have prayed many prayers for some friends that are fighting for their life in a hospital room right now.  I am thankful for great workers and the loyal customers who support our business and have made this a great Christmas season at the feed store. It was great to see three of my neighbors who don't even have little kids at home anymore come see my boy play basketball. I love having friends who go above and beyond to help make Christmas wishes come true.  I was completely in awe getting to witness the woman who took care of my kids for four years get a new home, fully furnished by her wonderful kids.  Her tears of joy made my heart smile!

I write all of this to say that Christmas is so much more than the pretty bows and the perfect card.  It is the special moments that are packaged so genuinely that when opened they create happy hearts.  We were given the best gift of all.  We were given the answer to our hustle and bustle.  We were given the answer to this crazy thing called life.  Jesus came to give us abundant life.  He came to give us peace and joy.  Remember Him this Christmas.  When you make Him your focus, you will see His children rise up and share the gifts that are inside them that He has given them.  Share your gifts of laughter and joy.  Spread love in the little moments that make powerful impacts on people.  Never grow tired in doing good.  God promises that at the right time it will come back to you.

Though my shoulders are tense as I sit and right this tonight because I am carrying the weight of some stresses in life, I write to tell you that God is good.  Sometimes life is a whirlwind but if you can close your eyes and take a deep breath you can smell the sweet fragrances in the air.  If you open your heart, you will see all the good that is out in the world.  Hold on to the moments that may seem small but that make your eyes light up with joy.  I pray that happiness fills your soul today!  I pray that you take time for what matters most to you.  May your families be blessed this Christmas and in the years to come.  May Santa leave you some goodies.  May you be showered with love by the One who gave you the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas to you and your families!  You are loved!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Picture Perfect

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are all excited about stuffing our faces with turkey and getting to hang out with family.  It is a time of being thankful but it has also become the holiday that sets the stage for Christmas.  Is it just me?  Or does everyone seem to start setting up for Christmas earlier and earlier each year.  I absolutely love Christmas!  It is by far my favorite holiday and favorite time of year.  I love the colors, the smell of Christmas trees, fires burning and hot chocolate.  I love the meaning of Christmas.  It is the day that a Savior was born!  It is a time to be joyful and a time to give as we were given such a great gift.
During this time, I start preparing to send out my Christmas cards.  So, I have been running around for the past two weeks trying to find my tall and skinny kid a pair of blue jeans just so we can take a family picture for our Christmas cards this year.  I have yet to find anything that fits him and I refuse to have him in wind pants or shorts.  That would just defeat the whole ambiance that I am trying to create.  So what goes into the photograph that makes it just right, picture perfect?   That very question has me wondering just what lies behind the scenes of  the perfect picture. 
Anyone who has little ones, knows how difficult it is just to get just one picture where everyone is looking in the same direction.  I know over the years we have done everything to get our boys to cooperate.  The final product turns out fine but if you saw all the out takes you would laugh.  I have had Christian crying because we threated to spank him if he didn't smile.  I have had Bo crying because Christian hugged his neck too tight and caused him to choke.  Bryan has mooned both boys just to get them to smile.  Someone farts just in the middle of the count and then we have to start all over because everyone is laughing hysterically.  After several shots, we usually have a couple to choose from.  Everyone sees the picture and says how great everyone looks.  They don't know the struggle that is behind those perfect poses and those sparkling smiles.
When you look at someone's finished portrait, you may not know the struggles or the triumph's they have encountered.  There may be a loved one missing from that picture that has left a void in the family's life.  There may be scars from a surgery and wounds from battle that are covered nicely by clothes and makeup.  There may be pain in their body because they are sick but they are able to muster up enough energy for a picture.  There may be internal hurt because someone has betrayed them or because they haven't let go of past experiences.  And of course not every story is full of heart break.  Behind someone's smile might be the recent joy from the birth of a child.  Someone is beaming because they were just told they are healed of cancer.  A young man asked a girl to marry him and she said yes.  They may be smiling because they know what all God has brought them through and they are just glowing with thankfulness. 
Behind my picture is a whole life story.  My life is not perfect.  I have encountered sickness.  My smile is crooked now because of a wound that never fully healed.  I have broken relationships that have caused a void in my life.  I have missed God's voice and made several wrong decisions.  I have had to swallow my pride and admit that I am wrong.  I have lost loved ones that I miss a whole lot.  I have smiled when I don't feel like smiling.  And I have been hurt because no one asked me what was wrong.  I have had pity parties and invited only myself.  I have been discouraged because I feel like I am not using my gifts and talents the way I should be.  Maybe I am scared that I don't even possess those gifts and talents anymore.  But even with all of that said, there is so much good that comes with that smile.  Behind that smile, is a woman who genuinely cares about people.  I smile because I have two healthy boys who make me more proud to be their mom each and every day.  I smile because I have a husband who has my back and wants to be a better man even though I already think he is the best.  I smile because even though I interfere with God's plan for my life, He takes me where I am and puts me back on track.  He believes in what I am called to be and who He created me to be.  I smile because God reassures me that my gifts, talents and dreams are not dead.  I smile because I have a God that will get me through anything.  I smile because there is hope in Him.  Heaven is picture perfect to me!
So I challenge you as you are opening everyone's Christmas cards and seeing pictures of their families, remember that they have a story.  It may be a good story but I am sure it has some bumps and turns and twists.  You got their card because you are special to them.  Remember to ask them how they are doing.  Take time to pray for them and whatever they may be going through.  It may be all good. In that case take time to thank the Lord for blessing them and ask Him to continue to do so.  As you sit drinking hot chocolate in your home, opening cards, there may be someone in the hospital fighting for their life.  They need your prayers because they may not have the energy to pray for themselves.  As you sit and take your family picture, there may be someone just trying to hold their family together.  Be thankful for all that you have!  Take time for people.  We are all very busy and sometimes feel like we don't have an ounce of energy to give to anyone else.  But there will be moments when you may be all the energy they have.  Love people.  Don't love them just from a distance.  Put your arm around them and let them know that you care.  Christmas is all about Jesus who was born to save us all.  Jesus preached love and compassion.  He carried our burdens and told us to go out and change the world.  You may not be able to help everyone.  But you can make a difference in someone's life.  You could be a part of the smile that lights up their family picture.  You can help make it picture perfect.
I hope you all have a great holiday season with your family.  I encourage you to spread love through this wonderful and hectic time.  I pray your families keep smiling and keep sharing your life story.  Everyone has a story and everyone can make a difference.  I am glad you are a part of my story as you take time to read my random thoughts in this blog.  You humble me and I am thankful.

Below is some of our imperfect Christmas pictures over the years!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Because it's November and I am thankful!

Since it is November and we are well on our way to Thanksgiving, I was going to try and do a daily post on Facebook of what I am thankful for.  But I have already missed three days.  So I thought I would just sum it all up into one blog.  I have so many things to be thankful for that I am sure I won't be able to cover it all.  But as I write them all down, it does remind me that my life is truly blessed.

Let me start off by saying that I am thankful for the little things.  I love the things that make me smile like chocolate when I have a sweet tooth thing going on.  I love when my favorite songs come on the radio and cause me to sing at the top of my lungs and put my hands in the air and wave them like I just don't care.  I love when the sunshine is out, because it reminds me that there is warm ray of light that shines down in a dark and sometimes scary world.  A baby's giggle and toddlers beginning to talk make me smile.  I am thankful for lipstick because I don't leave home without it.  I am thankful for basketball gyms, and baseball and football fields because they give me a place to cheer my favorite people on at.  I am thankful for the people who hold the jobs that I would not want to do but are so vital to our way of living. I am thankful for teachers who deal with my kids all day long and then have to go home and be parents to their own.  I am thankful when Summer first hits so there is no more homework and then I am thankful when August rolls around because I get my routine back.  I could name so many more things but you get the drift.  I tend to always remember the big stuff and forget that there are so many little things that I am thankful for.

I am thankful for my family and friends.  I am thankful for my Dad who has taught me to work hard and to get your hands dirty.  He taught me how to mow a yard and how to catch a softball.  I am thankful for a mom who put her teenage life on hold to raise me and love me.  She always made me believe that I could do anything and is always in my corner.  I am thankful for the rest of my family who have filled my life with so many memories that will forever be in my thoughts.  I am thankful for friends who have been like a family to me.  They have brought me caramel apples and homemade food.  They have shuttled my kids around.  They have coached my kids.  They have fed them and cheered them on.  They have prayed for them.  I am thankful for the ones who cheer me up and the ones who shoot straight with me.  I am thankful for the ones who make me laugh so hard that I shed tears.  I am thankful for the ones who I can say something off the cuff with and yet they still love me.  I am thankful for the ones who defend me when I am not around.  Words can never be enough to describe how much my family and friends mean to me.

I thank God everyday for the two precious gifts He gave me in Christian and Bo.  I am thankful that I have a brown-skinned one like me and a light-skinned one like Bryan.  My point in saying that is not because the color matters.  I love it because it is a true representation of Bryan and I.  We are different but we fit and what comes out of it is beautiful in every way.  I am thankful for my oldest who has made me question my every move as a mother.  Being his mom has made me work on being the best mom that I can be.   He has caused me to pray more prayers than I have ever prayed in my life.  I am thankful for his uniqueness.  I am thankful that when it counts, he has listened to what we have taught him.  I am thankful he shows his character through his actions.  I am thankful he believes in prayer and knows the Lord.  I am also grateful that Bo came into our lives four years later.  We almost didn't have him.  And now, I couldn't imagine life without him.  I am thankful for his dimples and his smile.  I am thankful for his huge heart.  I am thankful we decided to name him Bo because who knew two letters put together would create such a great kid.  I am thankful I have two boys.  I do wish at times I had a girl so she could wear cute clothes but I am thankful for jerseys and tennis shoes too. Thank you God for entrusting me with the lives of these two amazing boys.

The Lord blessed me beyond measure when He brought Bryan into my life.  I am thankful for his humor and playful attitude.  He makes me smile.  He keeps me sane!  He can give me just a look and it lets me know that everything is going to be alright.  I am thankful that he has an opinion.  That may bite me in the behind though.  He is not scared to stand up for what is right no matter if he becomes the outcast.  I am thankful that he lets me be me.  He is complimentary and unselfish.  I am thankful for the father he is.  He spends a countless amount of time with the boys.  He plays video games and throws footballs and runs races and coaches and works hard.  I am thankful that he is a man of God. He is believer and he is a doer.  I am thankful that he hugs me and tells me he loves me every day.  I am thankful that God gave me a man who is everything a man should be.  His genuine spirit makes me want to be a better person.

And most of all, I couldn't have all of these things if I didn't have God in my life.  I am thankful that He gave His only son up to die for me so that I could have an abundant life and a promise of a future.  I am thankful that He loved me before I was even born.  He knew where I would be and what I would do and yet He still loved me.  I am thankful for every perfect gift that He has given me.  I am thankful that I can wake up each morning and know that He holds my every moment.  Thank you God for my health because without it I could not be a good mom to two very active boys.  Thank you for your promises of healing sweet Savior.  For in those promises, I know that my friends and family that are struggling with sickness have hope.  Thank you for loving me despite the ugliness that can fill my mind and my heart.  Thank you for hearing me when I pray even when it seems like it has been a long time.  I am glad you listen because I am praying for so many that need you right now.  I am so thankful that you saved me and that you are still walking through this life with me.  I am thankful that I get to be with you forever!

I hope that after reading this, you will see that there was no way I could fit all of this into a daily post.  I am thankful for each of you who read this.  I pray that each one of you would have so much more to be thankful for.  Thank you for being part of my extended family and for letting my words speak to you.  I hope this November is filled with an overwhelming amount of gratitude.  Life is good!  I am thankful!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The not so good side of me!

My goal in these blogs is to be inspiring.  I had to write this to get through some thoughts in my head.  I pray that in reading it you will see my heart through my transparency.

Have you ever had these thoughts? Where are all the good people? Where are all the loyal people? Where all the people who stand up for injustice? Where are all the people who look for me and wonder where I am at? Where are all the people who are praying for me?  Maybe it is just me but these things have been wandering through my head lately. I often wonder who are the people who genuinely care. Sometimes I feel like there are some who hug me in the front but when I walk away they secretly hope I trip and fall. They compliment my kids or my family and then secretly wish we would fail. They smile silently when I go through struggles in life. Very raw emotions, wouldn't you agree?  Sometimes I think it is just me being distrusting because I have been burned.  Or maybe I am being a little on the paranoid side.  I have found myself to be more guarded over the years because I want to protect my inner circle.
 So, lately I have been doing some soul searching. I have asked the Lord more and more each day to empty me of me and fill me with more of Him. The "me" that is inside can tend to be protective, defensive, and downright ugly. But everything in my spirit longs to be more positive and encouraging, more giving, more compassionate. I desire to be to be more like Christ. You see it is easy for me to encourage those who are easy to love. I can always be happy for someone that I know is genuinely happy for me. I can always entrust what is special to me, my children, to those I know truly love them.  But it is hard for me to be nice to the one I know talked about me last week.  It is hard for me to shout for joy when someone I think is selfish and uses people rises to the top.  It is absolutely gut wrenching to entrust my kids to people who I believe don't have honest agendas.  I know some of you may feel astonished by these words but I want to be real.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all have felt this way before.  But when I think about the Lord, I am reminded of His goodness to all.  His love has no boundaries. He doesn't have favorites.  The Lord set such a great example for us. He told us to pray for our enemies and love one another as ourselves.   He was gentle to even those he knew wanted to crucify Him.   He let a man walk, sleep and eat with Him whom he knew was going to betray Him.  I can't even imagine.  I would want to call that man out and justice to be served. 
But again, I am humbled when I think about the Lord and all of His ways.  For His ways are not our ways.  I just look at my ways sometimes and hang my head down and ask for forgiveness.  There are those times when I just want to call everyone out and make them admit their wrong ways.  But then I am convicted and have to turn the mirror on myself.  I can change me.  I haven't been the best person.  I have let many people down in my life.  There are friends I keep trying to meet up with and just can't seem to find the time to do it.   There are needs I have forgotten to pray for because I got too busy.  I have forgotten birthdays.  I have gotten caught up in drama and have opened my mouth when I shouldn't have.  I have lost people in my life who I miss and think about often.  Saying I am sorry hasn't always been easy for me.   My thoughts are not always pure. What I am trying to say is that I am a work in progress.  God is constantly having to work in me so that I can put out the good stuff.   I have prayed so many prayers for God to make me more like Him.  I have even asked that He just erase what is inside of me and just start all over.   But I am reminded that He created me in His image. He doesn't create ugly.   He refines me.  He purifies me.   He gives me enough love to fill my soul till it overflows and pours out onto others.
I still believe in people.   My passion is people.   I desire relationship.   I love to see people smile and encouraged!  I have a hard time letting someone go once they have come into my life.   I love going through the different stages of life with people.   Nothing is better than experiencing babies being born, vows being said, degrees being earned, championships being won with the ones you hold close to you.  I feel people's burdens.  I do pray for them.  If you could be a fly on the wall during my prayer time you would probably laugh.  I put it all out there.  I throw tantrums and act like a 2 year old sometimes during that prayer time.  But when I am done, I am comforted to know there is still a Father who loves me like a daughter.  He disciplines me when I act like a baby.  He talks to me like a friend.
This is not the best side of me and a side that I share with caution.  I am an average, everyday woman who seeks to be made whole by the only One who truly understands me from the inside out.  When I want to give up on people I remember that God didn't give up on me.  He blesses me with the relationships I have that are built on honesty, graciousness and love.  Thank you God for mercy because I sure need it.  Have mercy on the part of me that isn't so good.  Thank you sweet Lord that in You all things are made new.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

They Are Watching

For those of you who know me, you know that I always question myself as a mom.  I always wonder if I am making the right decisions.  I am constantly seeking wisdom on decisions regarding my kids.  Sometimes when I choose to show tough love, I realize I should have reacted with gentleness.  Other times, I have been soft and figure out that I should have used the belt.  For these reasons, I usually try to not be so judging of other parents.  We all make mistakes and we all share guilt at times.  Some of us get "mother of the year" awards at times.  Others get "I barely made it through another day" awards.  None of us are perfect but in the end God chose each one of us to be the parent of our kids. 

Sometimes my kids will do things that make me fear that they will pick up some of my worst qualities.  And other times like today I think maybe Bryan and I aren't doing so bad.
I am sure you have all experienced those awkward times with your kids when they have imitated you at just the right second.  I remember Christian being impatient and vocal at a restaurant because our food didn't come fast enough.  I just had to look at Bryan because he has acted that way before.  As a parent all you can do is correct them all while giving your own self a punch in the gut.  I always have the habit of telling my kids to hold on in a very loud and frustrated tone.  And it embarrassed me to hear my oldest tell his brother those same words in a very loud voice.  I just kept thinking "Oh my! Is that how I sound?"  The truth is that they watch our every move and they hear our every spoken word.  They watch our actions and how we treat others.  So I have to ask myself just what am I instilling in my kids?

I sometimes wonder if they will end up with my stubbornness or my lack of patience.  Will they end up with my insecurities?  Will they see my faults as a mother and grow up thinking I failed them?  Will they ever know how much I love them and how much I will fight for them?  Will they ever know how many tears I have cried in prayer as I pressed in for them and for their futures?  Am I teaching them how to be strong men with gentle spirits?  I have so many questions.  But I am reminded in little God moments that I am never alone.  I keep serving my boys while keeping my convictions.  I still do many things for them.  My reasoning for this is that I want them to see how a woman should take care of the special men in her life.  But they also get to see how their Dad loves me and always puts me and them first.  I hope that they see our home as a place filled with love where each person matters and selflessly gives of themselves.  It is daily work in progress. 

We aren't the perfect family.  Our home is never spotless.  Balls are always bouncing in the house.  The corners of our walls have fingerprints on them.  Boy noises are made all day and all night long.  Toilet seat lids still get left up every once in a while.  We hardly ever eat at the kitchen table but we always eat together.  We play music and I mean all kinds of music.  We dance and we sing.  We pray every night together and everyone is comfortable in bringing the needs of others into our family prayer time.  We have many friends going through many things and I am confident in saying that the Rhodes family is praying for you.  We don't just say it lightly.  We are truly praying.  Today at church Bo had his hand on my back for almost the whole service.  As I would lift my hands in worship I would look down and see him staring at me.  He is watching me, watching every move I make.  We got up to take communion and I leaned over to my boys to tell them to not forget a few friends of ours in their prayers.  They both said they had already turned in prayer cards for them.  My heart was smiling.  As we took communion and prayed, I was brought to tears.  Actually, I think I cry every time I take communion.  I am such a baby!  In the midst of my tears, I heard someone sniffling beside me this time.  It was Bo.  He was crying too.  His eyes were filled with tears and he was rubbing my back.  I don't know what moved my precious boy but it was such a wonderful sight.  If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I love "moments."  At that moment my heart was filled with such peace.  I just know that my boys are going to be alright. 

They will have trials and they are going to walk through some valleys.  But I know that they know the One who has the answers and who holds the world in the palm of His hands.  I know they believe in the power of prayer and I know they have compassion for others.  Aren't those the two greatest commandments?  "Love the Lord with all you heart, soul and mind and love others as yourself."  There will be times when the world comes against them and people will say unkind things about them.  There will be times when the enemy comes to steal their joy.  There will be times that they question their faith and question who they are and what their purpose is.  But I hope they will always remember watching their momma with a hand raised high and another hand on their back praising the Lord for who He called them to be.

Jeremiah 1:5

New International Version (NIV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Three Little Words

So all of you who read my blogs know that I have a 7th grader now.  He has gone through a lot of changes over the last several months.  He actually is quite easy to deal with right now.  He talks more maturely and of course his physical appearance has changed.  I have even seen him come out of his shell in the last year and have really enjoyed his playful personality.   Affection is a hit or miss thing with him.  He is not one to give me a hug out of the blue.  I have to initiate it and it is usually a side hug.  But he has always told me he loves me.  Most of the times he is just responding because I said it first, but nonetheless, he still says it.  I love you.  These are three simple words that hold such a huge meaning.  So naturally, hearing these words every day make me happy and content, but I didn't realize how much I take those words for granted until Christian stopped saying them.

We are in the 3rd week of school now, and since schedules have changed, I have been able to take Christian in to school each morning.  It is a short ride but we usually listen to music and talk about school or football.  Sometimes it's a silent ride if one of us is tired.  I began to notice that I would say "I love you" before he got out of the car and he would not respond.  He grabbed his lunch and his backpack and just walked into that Middle School building without looking back.  His body language did not seem disrespectful but he just left.  The first day it happened, I thought maybe he just didn't hear me or it was first day jitters.  But it happened the next day and the next and the next.  I talked to Bryan about it and first thing he asked is if anyone was around.  Bryan thought maybe he doesn't want to be embarrassed in front of  his friends.  But this was in the car before he even got out.  I chose to not confront him about it and to just keep my hurt feelings to myself.  Christian has always been buds with Bryan.  Bryan can sit and talk to him at bed time and Christian will just tell him stuff about his day.  And I get one word answers.  All those emotions began to flood in my spirit.  So I started pouting about it to myself.  I thought to myself, "Does that boy know how much I believe in him, how much I pray for him?"  Does that boy know I still wash his clothes and make his lunch?  Oh poor pitiful me!  I have to admit the pity party is self satisfying but only for a short time.

But even after all of that, I still hid my hurt.  Then it happened.  Today, September 20 at approximately 7:05 he told me he loved me.  And it was before I said it.  I was trying to keep it together as I simply responded "I love you too."  I did my best to play it so cool.  So needless to say I was on cloud nine.  I couldn't stop smiling on the way to work.  I put my praise music on and began to pray.  This is how my prayer sounded, "Lord thank you for Christian telling me he loves me.  Lord I hope he realizes how much I love him and how much he means to me..."  I suddenly stopped and was silent for a moment.  It hit me.  Tears came to my eyes and I asked for forgiveness.
How many times have I forgotten to tell the Lord I love Him?  How many times have I been ungrateful?  Here I was expecting a 12 year old to wrap his brain around all that I do for him and how much I love him.  And yet I am 35 and forget how much the Lord does for me.  He has blessed me with so much even though I fail Him daily.  He tells me He loves me everyday but sometimes I am so busy that I forget to hear His still small voice.  He is proud of me but not based on my performance.  He loves me just because I am His.  He gives me clothes on my back, a roof over my head and a feast to fill my belly with.  And yet I forget to pause and say thank you and I love you.  God must have a pity party every second, right?  But He doesn't because He understands our burdens and His grace follow us, and He forgives our sins as far as the East is from the West.

So even though I want to hear those three little words all the time from my 7th grade boy, I know to cherish the moments he says it even more.  I will hold those moments close to my heart.  Maybe something clicked in Christian's mind today.  Maybe he had a moment of compassion for me.  Whatever the reason, God's timing is perfect.  He knows just how to get to my heart.  Even if it was a brief moment of one rainy morning, my heart is full.  If I am ecstatic about those three words then I can only imagine the Lord smiling when I take the time to tell Him...
"I love you Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you.  Oh my, soul, rejoice.  Take joy my King in what you hear.  May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A little bit of Johnny. A whole lot of Humility.

I know I am a little late on this topic but I have been thinking a lot lately about this Johnny Manziel issue. First let me say that I don't know all of the facts, so die hard Aggies please don't bite my head off. I can tell you that this topic has made me think a lot lately about humility.  I feel this world could use a little more of it right now.   Humility is defined as the "quality of being modest or respectful."  Humility is hard enough for adults to get much less a college kid who is at the top of his game. Let's be real, we have all gotten caught up in our own abilities. In the same respect, we have all been knocked off of our high horse at some point or another. Getting knocked down doesn't mean we are out of the race. It just gives us a moment to dust ourselves off, take a deep breath, get back on the saddle and hopefully readjust our attitude and strategy.  Sure Manziel obviously has some things going on in his life.  In my eyes, I see a young man who is in the spotlight and may be caught up in the moment.  But he is also a young man with loads of talent who is still in the game and hopefully will come out a changed person through all of this.  In all honesty, who doesn't like a little spotlight from time to time?  Who doesn't enjoy being complimented?  What college kid hasn't acted irresponsibly at times?

I think success is great!  We all want to achieve certain goals whether it be a promotion on a job or holding a high position in a certain club or sport.  We all have our own definition of success.  I believe striving for those things is great.  It can be personally rewarding when your drive and passion get you to the next level.  The problem comes in when you step on people to get where you want to be, or you get caught up in your own glory.  You find yourself developing the "I" attitude.  You start becoming bigger than your own shoes.  I always ask the Lord for promotion but I also ask him to give it to me when the time is right and when I am ready to handle it.  I have had those moments when I have gotten caught up in positions and titles and started to look at all "I" had done.  Instead I should have been relying on God to place me where He wants me to be. That is tough to admit and maybe that is a pride issue, but it is the absolute truth.  I have found that when I think I know it all, I leave no room for the plans God has for me.  But in the times I have been patient and asked the Lord to bless the gifts and talents he equipped me with, I have been way more successful. 

I have said before that one of my regular prayers has always been that my kids would be successful by the Lord's standards and not by the world's standards.  Sometimes that it hard to understand.  You sometimes might find yourself in a place that everyone else may think is second best when indeed you are right where you need to be for God to do some amazing things in your life.  The world doesn't see the big picture but God does.  Hold on to His promises.  Jeremiah 29:11 reads " For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Prosperity may look different for all of us but the good thing is that God doesn't have favorites.  He plans to prosper all of His children.

I do believe that success is easier to handle if you exemplify humility.  You realize that your success came from more people than just you.  God equipped you.  And just maybe someone opened a door for you, someone took a chance on you, someone fought for you, or someone believed in you.  Manziel didn't get where he is at today without dedicated parents, committed teachers, devoted coaches and self-discipline.  Is he caught up in the moment?  That is a matter of opinion.  Some will say yes that he is a over-indulged, cocky kid whose head has swollen up twice the size of his body.  Others will say he is a normal college athlete playing his game to the best of his ability and a little trash talking on the field is nothing to be crucified over.  However you look at it, a little dose of humility can go a long way.

If he were my son I would probably knock him upside the head and bring him back down to reality.  I would tell him to practice a little modesty while his life is being lived out in front of millions.  I would tell him to humble himself before the Lord and let the Lord bring justice to the situation.  But I would defend my son to the world.  I would protect him from anyone who would cause him harm.  I would tell him that I am on his side.  If he was wrong I would tell him and ask him to make it right.  But I would be in his corner because that is what a mom and father is suppose to do.  I would tell Him that God isn't finished with him yet and that He has a purpose.  I would tell my son to get back on that field with a whole lot of humility and a heck of a lot of God's grace.

We will see more of Johnny's life unfold, I am sure.  I hope there is more good than bad to come out of this.  I am so thankful that when we mess up that God doesn't let it end there.  I am thankful for the valleys I have seen because they make the mountains all that more breathtaking.  I give God all the credit for my promotions and thank Him for helping me understand the times I was "overlooked." I am thankful that I can rejoice when I get the trophy.  But I can also smile when I get second place because I know I left it all out on the field.   My paths haven't always been straight but it is refreshing to know that I can get back on the path with fresh eyes and an open heart to learn from my mistakes.  And never do I walk my path alone.  God sends people along the way to walk with me and He sends those who will be in my corner no matter what I face.  God is also on my path leading and guiding my footsteps.  I hope that myself and my boys will go through life with humble spirits so that we can take on the challenges life can bring and have faith that God has a perfect time for every advancement.

1 Peter 5:5-6
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bring on 7th Grade!

Well tomorrow starts another school year.  Although I am not looking forward to endless homework, I am looking forward to getting my schedule back.  My family works better on a schedule.  People often tease us because we are so routine.  But I am excited about new teachers, new adventures and all the other great things that come with the school year.  I've got the backpacks loaded, food for lunches bought and all the new clothes washed and dried.  I think I am prepared, except for one thing.  Even though I have one entering 3rd grade, I am not prepared for my oldest to enter Middle School.

I know so many of my friends are going through different emotions right now.  I have some with kids starting Kindergarten and some who are starting High school.  I know others who have sent their babies off to college.  So, I don't know why the approaching of this middle school year is hitting me so hard.  I have so many mixed emotions about seeing my first born starting to enter a new phase of life.  I am a pretty tough mom.  I don't freak out when they get hurt.  I talk pretty firmly to my boys.  I am not real gentle like other moms.  I have to be tough or they will run me all over.  With that being said, these emotions are coming at an unusual time.

Maybe it is because I am beginning to see my little boy starting to change into a young man.  I remember the first day Bryan and I brought him home.  We sat him down in his carrier on the coffee table.  We both made eye contact and asked "What do we do now?"  Nothing had prepared us for the moment when our precious, quiet newborn, turned into a screaming nightmare at 9 p.m.   I remember us both crying our eyes out because we were so exhausted and frustrated.  To be honest, Christian was a difficult baby.  He had colic and cried all the time for the first few months of his life.  I would beg Bryan to not go to work and leave me all day alone.  I would hear other moms talk about how wonderful having a baby was and how they never wanted to put their babies down.  I thought I was all alone in my feelings.  But once he was on a routine and eating cereal and lactose free formula, and after loads of prayer, he settled down.  Once he became a toddler, he became a daddy's boy and hasn't changed since.

Christian was a pretty easy toddler and young child.  He was my blanket baby, thumb sucker and nightlight kid.  People told me he would never give up the thumb but he said when he was 4 he would.  That promise was kept.  He was also my sleepwalker who had night terrors.   After many powerful prayers from myself and other prayer partners, he stopped having them.  He has also given me the opportunity to go to the ER on more than one occasion.  That child has had a couple of sets of stitches and always on his face.  There have been other instances when he may have needed stitches and we just didn't go and settled for super glue.  He and I have very similar personality traits so we tend to knock heads.  We have had stand offs and I was determined to win.  Those were the times when I pulled out the "because I said so" line.  I always disliked that line but sometimes it just fits.
He was always the kid at daycare who did not follow the crowd.  I remember asking his teacher if he had friends and she said yes.  He just preferred playing with one or two at a time.  He is still like that.  He was content playing by himself and lining up all of his hot wheel cars or Noah's ark animals.
When he hit the age old enough to play sports, Bryan always had him outside throwing a ball to him.  He knew how to squash a bug, and which way the laces where suppose to be on a ball at a very young age.  When he started school, I was excited!  I thought school would be great for him.  He has always been a great student and done well in school. 

So I ask again, why do I have some anxiety?  Maybe because I hear my son's voice changing.  To be honest, I thought he was having allergy issues for several months.  Maybe it is because he is shaving now.  Maybe it is because daddy is no longer coach and I am no longer team mom.  He is now entrusted to his school coaches and teachers.  Maybe it is because he works out with me and is starting to care about bettering himself physically.  Maybe it is because I am seeing the little things we have taught him starting to stick.  Like the other day when we went to work out I had my keys and phone laying by my mat.  Christian saw a man coming our way and he put my keys under my mat and never took his eyes off the man.  It was one of those moments when I thought maybe he is listening to the things we have taught him.  And maybe it is because I remember what middle school was like. 

Middle School was a super fun time for me.  It was the time when I turned from a shy kid into a social one.  I wasn't scared anymore to talk in front of a crowd.  I also remember it being a time when guys popped our bra straps, although I was told they don't do that anymore.  I also was introduced to certain words for the first time and realized that boys always find it humorous to make loud gas noises.  It was also a time of boys and girls starting to notice each other and zits appearing in the most prominent places just in time for picture day.  It is a time when you know you are old enough to be left alone, but in reality, you still need your parents for more than you want to admit.
Yes he will survive!  And I know all of you dads are probably rolling your eyes at me but you had a mom too.  Maybe I don't vocalize it, but in my prayer time, I am crying out to God for my 7th grader.  I am praying for his future.  I am praying for protection and safety.  I am praying for wisdom of when to hold on and when to let go.  I am praying for finances, because let's face it, these boys are expensive too.  I am praying that he is tough on the football field but he is compassionate enough to help his friends out when needed.  I am praying he approaches school and sports with confidence but stays humble through success.  I am praying he waits as long as possible to have a girlfriend but is still a gentlemen to his girl classmates.  To be honest, I am just praying!  It is the only thing I know how to do.  I am so excited to see Christian's life unfold.  I have held him when he was a screaming infant and I have spanked him when he was a defiant toddler.  I am now satisfied with the side-hug that Christian so graciously offers me.  So I thank God that He made me the mother of a brown-eyed boy who is no longer at my eye level.  Christian has taught me so much about being a parent.  I know that no matter what job I have outside the home, that being a mom to that boy is the most honored position I could ever have.

So I send him off tomorrow to a new school where he will start a new path.  I know God goes before him.  I know that He knows the very number of hairs on his head.  I don't even know that and I gave birth to that boy.  I know that God has a plan for his life.  I feel super blessed to know that I will be a part of Christian Bryce Rhodes' future.  So bring on 7th grade!  I can say with boldness "God's got this!"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Football-A Team Sport

Recently I was asked why I had a blog.  And if I actually thought people were interested in my life.  Well I don't really know if people are all that interested but I really write to get my thoughts out on paper.  It helps me reminisce at times and other times it helps me to heal.  If someone can relate to my experiences then it makes it all worth it.  I do want to say thank you again to those of you who choose to read my thoughts and who keep coming back to read some more.

Most of you have endured my posts about basketball over the last several months.  If you're not a fan of the basketball court then you will be happy to know that I am moving on to football.  I love football and always have!  I use to film football practices and games in high school and it was such a fun experience.  I was engrossed in the Friday night light scene.  I never was a cheerleader even though I always wanted to be.  Believe me I can't even get a couple of inches off of the ground and couldn't have even competed with those girls if I tried.  I loved the sound of the band marching down the hallway on game days.  Till this day I will watch football even if I am all by myself with none of my boys around.  I love the drive and passion of football fans and players.

Both my boys play and I have enjoyed every second watching them.  My oldest will enter Middle School this year and it will be his first time to tryout for a school sport.  I have a lot of anxiety about this.  I want him to excel and to do his best.  I hope that all the fundamentals that his daddy has taught him since he was little will pay off.  I pray he stays protected on that field and has a season free of injuries.  I have tried to talk to him about following his dreams and having a passion for what he does whether it is football or something else.  We have talked about mental toughness and being a leader.  We watched a documentary called "Undefeated" the other night and I loved a line in that movie.  The coach said "Football doesn't build character, football reveals character."  This is so true!  You have to have good character and the things you do and the experiences of life will reveal that character.  Just like you can have faith and love the Lord when everything is going good but when you are in the valley and at your lowest, do you still praise His name?  Do you still have faith?  I pray that my son will always have good character.  I want him to be tough physically and emotionally.  I want him to be passionate about everything he does and to let that passion lead him into the things God has willed for his life.  His character is more important to me than an actual win or loss.

Now it is Bo's first time to play tackle football.  He is built totally different than my oldest and has a different work ethic so not sure how this will all end up.  He doesn't have the fundamentals down as well as my oldest did at his age.  Part of this is the result of being the second child and us not spending as much one on one time with him as we did Christian.  He is happy being out on the field with his friends.  I watched him for the first time during his scrimmage.  My frustration came out because he is so passive and when you are on the line, you can't be.  But anytime a team member was down he was patting them on the back and offering a word of encouragement.  He has such a sweet demeanor so it is a little tough trying to teach him to be "mean" in the football sense.  One thing is for sure, he smiles every time he comes off the field.  So needless to say, he is a work in progress.  Neither one of my boys has ever been overly aggressive so years ago I would have told you they would have never lasted in such vigorous sport.  But they both have surprised me over the years and I look forward to many more seasons of watching them play.

Now why do I love this sport so much?  I can't help but relate it to life.  I really do love any team sport because it is all about unity.  When you are on offense your goal is to get that ball into the end zone to score a touchdown.  You have a line that is there to protect the quarterback and ensure that their man with the ball gets down the field.  They have to give all of themselves physically and mentally to make sure the opposing side doesn't get their man down.  Are you following me?  In life you have to have an offensive line.  You need people in your life that will always be there to protect you no matter what giants stand in your way.  They are the people who say "you can't get to her unless you get through me first."  In the same respect, a QB is a leader.  They have to be tough.  They have to be able to read the field.  They have to have confidence in their line and also know that they don't get the ball off without the protection of that line.  Don't take those who are close to you for granted.  They are the ones willing to stand up for you.  You have to be a good example. It is imperative that you build them up. Quarterbacks also have to have confidence in their receivers and running backs.  They have to know that whatever I throw at you, you are going to catch it and we are going to make it down to the end zone.  And when they do, the whole team scores.  Sometimes you throw your thoughts, your passions, your dreams to people who you know will hold them close and help you to accomplish those things.  Because when they rejoice in your successes they know it benefits them as well.  Hold on closely to those who cheer with you during your successes and achievements.  

It is extremely important in life to not become over confident.  You can't use people. You can't do for people always expecting something in return.  You are where you are because someone along the way, aside from God, has helped you.  Parents raised you, friends helped you move, someone made a call on your behalf to put in a good word for a job.  Strangers bought you dinner.  I believe so much in divine appointments.  I believe God places people in your life.  We are a part of the same team, God's team.  It hurts my heart when some people say "well I don't need anyone."  I believe we all need someone.  We all need a line of people who are willing to block for us, willing to pray for us, willing to lay down their life for us.  We need the QB's in life who tell us where to stand, tell us to get our head in the game when we keep messing up, and who tell us they believe in us enough for them to share their life plan with us.  God knows are strengths and our weaknesses and I believe he gives us an army (a team) to help us along the way.  We have to stay unified.  A team divided against itself cannot stand.  You can't have self-seekers or self-righteous people on a team.  Each member is vital to move forward and succeed.  So be mindful of each other loving in the way God loves us.

I apologize to those of you reading this who don't love sports but I have learned so much about life through sports.  And God is in every part of my life so He speaks to me through those experiences.  I love the thrill of a game and the drive and determination that comes with it.  I want my boys to have drive.  I want them to be determined.  I want them to be passionate about their dreams and know that with faith all things are possible. I want them to press on and never give up.  I want them to dream dreams that only God can help them accomplish.  I want them to stand up for good and fight for their team.  I want them to have people in their life who pray for them and lift them up.  I want God to place people in their life who will hold on with them, run along side them so they make it to the end zone.  And when they make it there, I want to see all of them celebrating and rejoicing together.  That is what football is all about.  That is what life is all about.

Thanks again for reading this!  I am glad you are all a part of my life team even if we don't cheer for the same "football" team.
Go Eagles!  Go Texans!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oh God! This Parenting Thing Ain't Easy!

The other day my mom called to tell me that Bryan and I were doing a great job raising our boys.  She had them that day and something set her off to tell us that.  I thought it was a great compliment coming from my mom who I am sure is a fan of mine either way.  I told her that I had good examples to learn from. She did get on to me for telling my kids not to ask her for anything.  I understand that grandparents are suppose to spoil their grand kids and love on them constantly.  But I told my mom that she wouldn't be complimenting my kids behavior if we weren't constantly on them.  We both laughed and agreed.  My parents were strict and at the time I did not understand it.  But it was those boundaries that kept me from totally falling off the deep end.  Was I perfect? Well of course not! And none of my friends need to share stories proving that I am not.  But I can honestly say that this parenting thing isn't easy. Sometimes I feel like a complete failure and then other days I feel like I barely survived another day.

I am absolutely enjoying the age my kids are at now.  Recently, Bryan and I were in a restaurant next to a couple who had a toddler and an infant.  The parents were having to eat in shifts because the baby was very fussy.  It did not bother us at all because we have been there.  Fortunately, we are past the bottles, potty training and temper tantrum stages.  They know how to use a spoon and fork and drink in a real glass without a lid. They don't need me to carry them anymore.  They wipe their own behinds.  They may mutter things under their breath that I can't hear, but they don't throw themselves on the floor and wiggle around like a slimy fish.  We are on the verge of the teenage years so I may be writing my blog from a totally different perspective in another few months.  Lord willing, I will still like my kids ages in another couple of years especially as one is entering Middle School.  All I can say regarding that is to be continued...

Growing up in a very self serving society, it can be difficult to teach kids to be givers and to think of others first.  We have worked very hard to give our kids all that they need and want.  There is a fine line on giving them those things without them developing a spoiled attitude.  We have encouraged them to save money and buy things on their own.  That is how my oldest bought his Ipad and he has taken very good care of it.  Now there has been the time when little brother can't use it and we have to remind older brother that if he won't let his brother use "his" Ipad then he can't use "our" electricity to charge it.  I think we proved our point.  We have tried to show them how important is to give.  Bo is my giver.  He is always making pictures for people.  He is the one who wants to buy his teachers expensive gifts and is always saying sweet things.  Christian has a sweet spirit but tends to be introverted when it comes to this.  But Christian will have moments in his giving that will make your heart melt.  I also try to explain to my kids the importance of humility.  They both do well in many areas, but let's face it, none of us like braggers.  So how do you teach that?  Well you explain to them the difference between being confident and being cocky. We also tell them how when you are arrogant, you have to remember there is always someone out there who is bigger, better, faster and stronger than you who will shove that arrogance right back in your face.  My oldest has always been very humble.  Someone will compliment him after a game and he just shrugs it off like it is no big deal.  But he has also had moments where he was over confident and got his butt handed to him by someone shorter and faster with equal or less skill.  It is amazing how two kids raised in the same household can be so different.  And it so great to see how much of yourself you can see in them.  I say all the time that I fall in love with Bryan more everyday when I see the glimpses of his spirit in each one of my boys.

There are daily challenges with children.  Loving them is easy but raising them is tough.  I have often found myself in situations of not knowing what is the right thing to do or the right thing to say to them.  This weekend was a perfect example.  Christian has been complaining of his back hurting for a few weeks now. Both Bryan and I decided it was just a muscle and even took him to a chiropractor friend of ours.  He gave us some exercises and stretches to do with our rapidly growing boy.  After weeks of stretching, we headed to the National Primetime Tournament in Dallas.  After our second game to play I was highly frustrated with Christian because I felt like he was just complaining and whining about a simple back pain.  It was one of those moments when I gave him the "suck it up" and "your team needs you" speech.  I felt I had the upper-hand at that moment and was sure I had broken him and he was given new revelation.  But a day later while helping him stretch he could barely lift his leg and his eyes began to water as we continued his stretches.  Talk about feeling like mom of the year.  I realized my son was in pain.  As he walked to the restroom, I began to cry and ask for some heavenly wisdom.  It is in those moments that you would do anything to have God speak audibly to you regarding your kids welfare.  I called in another favor for some advice from my chiropractor friend and he told me things to do.  He said he could play and then he would see him soon.  We iced him up, stretched him and let him play because he wanted to.  But before we left that room, Bryan and I did what we know how to do as parents.  We laid hands on him and prayed.  I will tell you that I am not a great parent but I am one feisty prayer warrior when it comes to my kids.  I refuse to let an enemy take away the gifts and talents that the Lord has blessed my boy with.  I knew Christian heard the tears in my voice.  At that time and place, my tears were saying, son I love you, believe in you and nothing is going to hurt you because you're God's child.  He played his game and played great and I was so thankful.  God is good and when I don't know what to do, I know that I can always pray.

I do feel honored to say that we teach our kids to pray.  Our kids know that our house will serve the Lord.  They know that we give God all the glory for the blessings in our life.  I think the best way to show them the love of the Lord and for the Lord is by example.  We pray every night with our kids.  We lay hands on them and we pray for other people's needs.  I know they listen because when I am tired or sick, Bo will tuck me in and put his hand on me and pray.  They both come home with people who they think we should pray for.  We had a neighbor who was going through an illness and Christian took that need to his Sunday school teacher at the time.  This is how I know that my kids listen.  They know that God answers prayer.  I don't know if they pray on their own when they aren't with us but I believe good seed is planted in them and the good Lord will follow them all of their days.

You may not agree with all of my parenting skills.  I know that I have so many things to learn.  But I know that God chose me to be the mom of these two boys.  And I know that Bryan and I through the Lord's guidance will figure this parenting thing out.  I will make the wrong choice and my kids will make mistakes.  But I will trust the Lord to guide my steps and give me wisdom when I need it.  I will count on His grace and mercy to follow my boys wherever they go.  Like your children, I know my boys have purpose.  They will do greater things than Bryan and I have ever done.  I trust in their character and I am confident in the one who holds the key to their future.  You may not be a perfect parent but remember you were chosen.  Believe in your kids and speak great things about who they are and what they will become.  They are a reflection of you just as you are a reflection of the Father.  Guide them, teach them, discipline them, pray with them.  The same hands I have disciplined with, I have also prayed with.  Most of all, love them as the Lord loves you.  Always remember, we are in this together.  My dear friends and family, I am praying for all of you and your children.

God Bless!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I learned on Vacation-Frio River 2013

Well I am sitting here taking a break from trying to clean my house, after being gone a week to the Frio River.  It was my first time to ever visit Garner and I have to say it is as beautiful as everyone has always described it to me.  This was also the first time I ever vacationed with 3 other families.  We got to go to Canyon Lake with one other family last year and had a blast, but this year I wasn't so sure about 3 families.  Let's just say we had a total of 8 adults, 3 teenage girls and 6 young boys all sharing a 5 bedroom house.  I have to admit I was a little leery about it all, but it was an eye awakening experience and I enjoyed myself to the fullest.
First, I learned that each family is created uniquely.  And that is a good thing.  They all have their own way of doing things.  Some live out of their suitcases the entire time while others unpack everything and put it in drawers and closets.  Some stack their shoes nice and neat while others find one flip flop under the couch and the other floating in the pool.  Some shower every day and some (mostly kids) think a dip in the river constitutes as a shower.  Some get darker by the sun, others get golden and some just fry.  Some like grape jelly and some like strawberry.  Some like to inch their way into the cold water and others just dive in.  Some kids eat everything in sight while mine remain the pickiest eaters of all.  Some are night owls and others, like myself, are yawning by 10 p.m.  Some drink coffee for a boost of energy and some drink a diet Dr. Pepper to start the day off.  My point is that we are all different and I love that!  It is about taking those differences and making it work.  Sometimes you take a little and other times you give a lot.  It may not always be your way but your way may not be the best way.   We were all placed together with a common interest and were able to enjoy ourselves.  God asks us to love one another.  Such an important commandment and probably one of the hardest for us to keep.  But God has his fingerprints all over us and I am thankful that we are all created in His image.  Though we are uniquely made we are put together to do this thing called life.  So thankful I can enjoy life with some great families.

Secondly, I learned that there are still people out there who value family and marriage.  I was able to spend 5 days with people who love their spouses and actually enjoy being with them.  Together, they create something dynamic that can take on the world and its challenges.  These special bonds are passed on to their children.  You saw a group of kids who actually didn't mind hanging with their parents.  I know this could change at any time but I love to embrace the moment and wish I could freeze it still.  And because our hearts are so full, it is easy to give the excess to the kids who aren't even ours.  There were a lot of laughs and a lot of smiles along the way.   Every couple looked out for each other's kids like they were their own.  Isn't this what the Lord wants us to do?  He asks us to carry each other's burdens and to encourage one another.  We have to look out for each other.  I have many friends who I didn't go on vacation with that are a great example of this also.  Sure, there will be times when we don't always agree and we may get on each other's nerves but we are called to carry each other through the twist and turns of life.  There will be circumstances where you will need a community of people who think the way you do, love the way you do and pray the way you do.  It brings me joy to know there are people in my life who value the same things that I do.

Lastly, I was reminded that God didn't just created the Heavens and the Earth.  He created me to enjoy His creation and to take care of it.  I have never been one to want to travel the world but there is so much I haven't seen.  I was taken back by the beautiful country in Leakey and Garner.  We couldn't have asked for a better vacation spot.  We got to wake up every morning to trees and mountains and all the sounds the animals make.  On the morning of our 14th wedding anniversary Bryan and I got to sit on the front porch and drink coffee and just talk.  We talked about the blessings in our life and how God is just so amazing!  The God who created such beautiful scenery also created the man who was sitting beside me in a rocking chair.  I was reminded just how much I love Bryan even after 16 years together.  There was no one else in that moment that I wanted sitting beside me enjoying all that God had created.  When I look into Bryan's eyes, I see my two brown-eyed boys and my heart is full.  We got to enjoy, as a family, what God made.  God is so good to us!

What a great vacation!  Thank you Lord for being the creator of the universe.  Thank you Lord for supplying my every need and giving me extra to be able to enjoy this beautiful land.  Thank you for people who aren't like me in every way but are like me in so many good ways.  Thank you for our unique DNA but also for the same hearts who long after you.  Thank you for new adventures but also for the common ground we walk on. God is great, friends are good, and people are crazy!

Until we meet again Frio River!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I love men! Happy Father's Day

As Father's Day approaches, I know many people have mixed emotions.  Some people rejoice in the day because they are able to celebrate the special men in their lives.  Some dread the day because it brings up bad memories of having a horrible dad or the absence of one.  Others will feel a sense of void because they have lost that special man in their lives.  Regardless of the circumstances, I feel it is important to recognize the special men in my life.  Please know that I am sensitive to those who have bad memories of their father due to abuse or abandonment or other reasons. 

With that aside, I do feel that sometimes we give men a bad wrap.  I could sit here and tell you about my dad's faults but I know that he is not perfect.  My parents divorced when I was still a toddler.  I do remember my Dad always picking me up when it was his turn to have me.  I know he would do everything in his power to protect me. My Dad is a macho man who can be hard at times but I always have known he loves me.  We didn't have the closest relationship growing up but that has changed a lot since I have been married and had kids of my own.  I can look back now and see that my Dad may not be perfect but he has influenced my life in so many ways that I can't thank him enough for.  I still will never forget the butt-whoopin I got from him from spilling milk in his truck.  We laugh about that all the time now.  He always practiced softball with me and made me the best 3rd basemen I could be.  He is the only one who calls me by my middle name "Diamond."  I won't even give Bryan permission to call me that.  He is the first to always call me on my birthday even if it is at 6 in the morning.  He has always worked hard from sun up to sun down and with his hands.  He taught me to mow and Bryan should thank him for that because I love to mow now.  Just the other day I sent him a picture of Christian mowing the yard.  His response was "the yard man stops with me."  I don't feel that way at all.  I love my Dad for being a hard worker.  I admire that about him!  He has his ways but he is my Dad and I thank God for the influence he has had in my life and for loving me the best way he knows how.

Now with Bryan in my life, I have been able to see fatherhood in a different light.  I fall in love with that man more each day when I see him with our kids.  He would give up everything just to know his kids are happy and safe.  He is a disciplinarian but he is the fun one.  He wrestles.  He raps.  He shoots baskets, throws footballs and swings bats.  He goes to school parties even if sometimes he is the only Dad there.  He makes 3 different types of breakfast each morning.  He is the one who rubs their backs when they relax on the couch.  He tells them he is proud of them often.  He gives hugs and says "I love you."    He doesn't just get on to them when they do wrong, he sits down and explains things to them.  He says he is sorry to them when he is wrong even if he isn't wrong very often.  He doesn't just take them to church, he is a walking example of a Godly father.  He lays hands on them when they go to bed and prays for them often.  He not only loves his own kids but he has tons of others in his life that he treats like his own.  I don't know how much more I can love that man. But when I see the brown in my boy's eyes sparkle,  I see their Daddy even more.  Thank you God for blessing me with Bryan Rhodes.

I am so fortunate to have great men in my life.  I addition to my father and Bryan, I have had the privilege of getting to know an amazing man who has become my step dad.  He loves my mom and has made her happy and is one of the most giving people I know.  My brothers are doing outstanding jobs with their kids as well.  I also have the privilege of working with some great men.  Each one of them love their kids so much and you can see their faces light up when they talk about them.  They are family men who provide and are active in their kid's lives.  I am also grateful to the men who have coached my boys, taught them, and who have just been family friends.  Those men have made a difference in my boy's lives by their own choice.  Men don't realize just how important they are to us.  They are called to such an important job and I am thankful that many of them rise up to it.  Thank you guys for being such a great part of my life and my boy's lives.  Sure you stink at times and laugh at the most obnoxious things, and leave the toilet seat up, and hurt our feelings by some random thing you say.  But you also make us feel safe, stand up for what is right, kill the nasty bug crawling across the floor, and makes us feel loved like no one else can.  You men rock!

Before I go, I have to thank my Heavenly father.  Without Him in my life, I am nothing.  His love for me cannot be compared.  His love is flawless and endless.  He only gives me the best and He is showing me over and over again just how much He has planned for me.  Thank you Lord for being the greatest father of all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unfinished Projects

I do have to start out by saying that I apologize if most of my blogs have to with running or sports.  But this seems to be my inspiration for writing right now.

Last Saturday Bryan and I went out for a run before Christian's basketball tournament.  I hadn't ran 4 miles since last December so I wasn't totally looking forward to it especially in this Texas heat.  When we got to the park, I realized that I forgot my ipod.  This is a sin in my book.  I have to have music to run.  Those of you that know me, know that music is a big part of my life and I listen to everything.  If you grabbed my ipod, you would hear everything from Kid Rock, to George Jones, to Donna Summer to Disciple mixed in with a little Bob Marley.  So needless to say, I was not looking forward to a run without my tunes.  Bryan told me that it would be a good time for me to pray.  Pray? Really?  I don't mind praying but I can't do it when I am running.  I will usually start out by saying "Lord help me to endure, give me strength."  Then I usually start singing something like "Humpty Dance" or something totally not something I would sing in church.

Despite the lack of music, I had to put my big girl panties on and run anyway.  Surprisingly, I made it through and caught a little perspective along the way.  I was asking the Lord to help me finish the run.  As I began to ask for this, I felt some conviction.  I though about all of the unfinished projects in my life.  Sure I can name things at my house that are unfinished.  In order to protect my husband, I will not call him out on such things.  But I know that I have pictures scattered all in my front room that I have been needing to organize and put away.  They have become such great decorations for the floor.  I have used items that are piled up in the garage that I need to either tag for a garage sale or just donate.  While all of these things need to get done and I need to get disciplined about doing them, I am more concerned with all of the things I have not finished regarding the Kingdom. 

A while back I started writing letters to people who had influenced my life and had planned to mail those out to them.  I have yet to complete them.  I have made so many promises to God that I know I have failed to keep.  So there I was asking the Lord to help me finish, to help me endure and I realized that there is so much I haven't done for Him that I said I would.  Now I know that we are not saved by our works but when we follow God we want to do good things and are often prompted to do them too.  I am humbled by His grace and I am thankful that His love for me is not based on my performance.  I am grateful that just because I don't keep my promises doesn't mean that He doesn't keep His.  He reassures me that even though there are things that I do not finish, He still believes in me and will equip me with all that I need to finish.  He doesn't write me off just because I fail to complete what I initially set out to do.  Instead, He takes me right where I am and gives me another chance.

I have so many dreams and so many things I want to do and be in life.  I want to be a better wife and mother and I am daily working on that.  I want to learn to say "I am sorry" more often. I want to not get tired in being the bigger person.  I want to be in a position to bless people and encourage them with my words and my finances.  I want to read my bible more.  I want to never go a day without praying.  As I write these sentences on paper, I can't help but think that I am going to screw this up.  Just today, my stomach hurts and my head is full of the stresses of life.  And I want to sit down and play candy crush all night just to clear my head.  But instead, I am writing this to bring some healing to my own heart and mind. 

I ask you to look into your own life and see if there are any "unfinished" projects.  Are there things you have started that you want to finish?  Are there promises you have made that you were unable to keep?  Is there someone in your life that you have put on the back burner that may need you right at this moment?  Are there dreams you have that you have buried beneath your current circumstance?  Know today that God knows exactly where you are at in life.  He knows your current situation.  He takes you right where you are and gives you all that you need to pick back up.  He always keeps his promises and He never fails us.  We are like unfinished clay that the potter is continuing to sculpt to create a beautiful masterpiece.  Just as God doesn't give up on us, we should never give up on becoming more like Him.  Whether it is a walk, a jog, or a full out sprint, make sure you finish the race.  The reward will be more than we could ever fathom.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Running, Basketball & Friends

So much has gone on from last Sunday until today.  On Sunday, May 5th I had a group of 24 people, who I consider super important in my life, run the Lupus 5K with me.  It wasn't my first 5K but this race meant so much more to me.  My mom and I both have lupus and I have missed this race every year.  This year I was determined to fit it into my schedule.  When I set out to enter the race I never expected the response I would get from family and friends.  I had a huge support group! For some, it was their first 5K to ever do.  Each person had a different goal.  Others just wanted to run without stopping.  Some wanted to beat a certain time. Some just wanted to finish the race.  This race wasn't just about lupus.  This was about rising up against life's challenges.  This was about running towards a goal and not letting anything drag you down. 

Sure we all face different obstacles and we all have our way of dealing with them.  Some of us sprint towards the finish line while some of us have to stop and catch our breath before moving forward.  But in the end, we all cross the finish line.  It was so cool getting to see the people I knew making their way towards the end.  All I could say was "That one is on my team!"  Isn't that how life should be?  We should all run this race together.  We should all encourage one another daily.  Whether we finished first or we finished last, we all had the same smile to go along with our sweat.  I feel like God is looking at us as we go through this thing called life.  He wants us to get to the finish line.  He wants to look and say "that one is on my team."  He rejoices when we don't give up.  He gives us strength when we want to quit. He breathes into us when we can't seem to catch our own breath.  He sends people along the way to lift us up and motivate us when we need an extra boost.  I am so thankful for every person who took time out of their Sunday to run with me.  There is power in numbers and I am so glad you are on my team.  We did it!

After the race there was no time for slowing down.  We headed to Canton, TX on Wednesday for the Little Dribblers National Tournament.  I got to travel with some of the same people who were on my 5K team.  This time our goal was different.  We were there to cheer on our kids as they played for a national championship title.  As parents, we were so excited to see our team play and we were anxious as to what the other teams might bring onto the court.  We have a great group of boys with big hearts who reflect the parents that are raising them.  We fell short of the title but the experience was great.  We played some giants with some fancy moves and a lot of swagger.  Our boys aren't quite so big and play what I would call "clean" basketball.  But I watched them get out there and face these giants.  At times they were intimidated but they gathered their composure and faced them head on for four quarters.  They missed some passes, took some falls, and had some shots blocked. 

I can only relate this back to life.  Sometimes we face things that are bigger than us, problems that are too big for us to handle.  And though our knees may tremble and our hearts beat fast, we stay focused.  We ask God for courage and strength and He gives it to us.  We may not always get the trophy but greater is our reward in heaven.  Always play with integrity and with heart.  God doesn't look at the outside but at the inside.  Just as God beams with pride when He sees us so did we when we looked at our boys.  Sometimes we only point out what they could have done better or what they didn't do.  But they do so many things right and I want to remember that.  They got back up, they sunk some beautiful shots, and they rebounded several balls.  Again, this experience was about more than basketball.  It was about community.  We all cheered for eachother's kid and truly wanted each one to do their best.  I couldn't be happier being a part of a group of people who share the same values and who truly desire to see the best in each kid.

Through these experiences, I was able to see God's love for me.  He loves me so much and he has sent so many wonderful people in my life to display His love.  Talk about divine appointments!  I truly believe that so many have come into my life for a reason.  I have had happy moments, sad moments and even moments of frustration.  But these people have been there with me through it all.  We don't always agree but we have a common purpose.  We are all seeking to be the best friends, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children of God that we can be.  God wanted us to fellowship and to encouarage one another daily.  I am so thankful that he has picked some of the best people for me and my family.

Lord I thank you for each person in my life today.  I pray that they know how important they are to me.  And Lord if they don't know, help me to show them.  Help me to never take them for granted.  I pray that you watch over each one of them and their families.  Lord bless them abundantly because they are your children.  Give them the desires of their hearts as they delight themselves in you.  Thank you for showing me how much you love me and my children and using them to show me just that.  Lord help me to keep my eyes and heart open to receive anyone else you bring into my life.  Thank you Lord for loving me, my friends, and my family.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Call Me Crazy!

A few of my friends commented that they hadn't seen me blog lately.  I usually have some life experience that inspires me and if I don't get it down soon then I will move on to something else.  A lot of times, I write just so I can get some thoughts out of my head.  It is nice to know that some of you can relate to my experiences and I do appreciate those of you who keep reading when I don't make a lot of sense.

These last few days have been crazy, but again, I learned some life lessons in the process.  I have always told myself  to never say never.  I find when I say that one word that I wind up choking on it later in life.  I have choked a lot on that one word since I have had kids.  I have also been known to do some CRAZY things in my life.  Recently I joined the crazies overnight to sign Bo up for football.  I never did this for Christian and he played 3 years of peewee football and turned out just fine.  But Bo wanted to play with his friends so in this particular case there was a limited amount of spots and he said he wanted us to try.  So for about 2 weeks Bryan and I contemplated on whether or not we were willing to stand in line for this.  We tried every way to talk ourselves out of it.  But I thought to myself about all of the crazy things in life I have done before.  Why should this be any different?  I begged my mom in jr. high to buy me some high dollar (at the time) pair of Guess jeans because everyone else had some.  I threw some cd's out of my car window at my ex-boyfriend because he made me mad. I did a bungee catapult in Cancun my Senior year in High School.  I stood in a long line to buy Garth Brooks concert tickets which happened to be one of the best concerts I have ever seen.  I have gone black Friday shopping at wee hours of the morning.  I have dressed up in a buddy barrel costume at church and did the cabbage patch down the center aisle.  I get up at 4:40 to go to a 5 a.m. boot camp three days a week and all my night-owl friends think I am nuts.  I will spare you with any more examples because some are just better left unsaid.  My point is,  I have done some crazy things over my life. So I loaded up an overnight bag and headed to sign ups. 

We could only go on Friday since we had to work but what we didn't know was that a friend of ours stayed overnight to hold Bo a spot.  She did not tell us because she knew we would not agree to it.  When Bryan found out, we didn't know whether to be mad or give her a hug.  It was one of the most sweetest, generous acts I have ever been on the receiving end of.  To know that someone cared that much about us as a family that they would sacrifice their time for no benefit of their own was beyond words of appreciation.  I also was able to be a part of a group of people who watched out for each other.  Everyone was so nice and would offer food and drinks to everyone there.  It really was a great experience minus the lack of sleep.  These last couple of days showed me just how much I am thankful to be a part of a team.  I am not just talking about a sports team.  I am talking about a team of people who pay it forward.  I have a team of parents, friends and family members who have my back.  They pick my kids up.  They feed them.  They cry with me when I hurt for one of my kids.  They rejoice with me in my triumphs and lift me up when I am defeated.  Most of them share the same family values and serve the same God I do.

There are those who think this is insane and that we come across as a bunch of crazed sports parents.  What's funny is that I didn't see any parent out there whose kid was not smiling or who was kicking and screaming saying they didn't want to play.  I can say that I have never forced my kids to play anything.  Although, deep down I do wish I could make them both still play baseball.  I do encourage them to stay active because there are many health benefits to it.  I do push them because naturally they probably would rather sit in the air-conditioned house and play video games all day.  I also push them because you need people in your life that raise your standards and make you want to achieve higher goals.  I personally like the commitment and dedication that most extra curricular activities teach.  I admire the die hard runners who get up at the crack of dawn and run the Fred Hartman bridge.  I respect the agricultural students who feed their animals mulitple times a day and go to shows.  I am in awe of the kids who have a study book in their hand at all times and fit every advanced class in their schedules.  Most of all, I commend the parents of these kids.  I commend the parents who are a part of whatever their kids choose to do.  I commend the parents who drive all over town picking up school project materials, who stay up washing uniforms after a full day of work, who run a taxi service for kids needing rides, and who cheer as loud as they can for every kid.  Go ahead and call us crazy!  You are right on!  I don't know if I could get everything done if I wasn't a little on the looney side.  I am crazy about the Lord, my church family, my friends, my family, and my kids.  (And most of all crazy about my man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  Bryan sat down and added this line.  He is crazy too!

I want to say thank you to all of the people in my life who love me for who I am.  You may do some things that I think is nuts too but I will love you any way.  Jesus only gave us two commandments.  He told us to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind and soul and to love others as yourself.  I am thankful for the love you have shown me and I hope that you know that I love you too.

Blessings to you from this crazy lady!

Graduation 2019

Today I packed the last sack lunch for my oldest son.  Yes, I have made his lunch every day since he was in school, give or take a few sick ...