Making A Wardrobe Capsule

We face choices many times per day but making decisions can be stressful, especially for a perfectionist like me.  I have learned that I make many decisions by process of elimination. Having too many choices overwhelms me so I must narrow the choices down by eliminating whole groups of items as I consider what is required of my choice.  

You may be like me in that you have a lot of clothes.  Standing in my closet to choose an outfit is befuddling because there are hundreds if not thousands of combination possibilities. I have stood for long periods of time like a deer in the headlights just staring at my clothes.  There have been times that I got so tired of standing there that I finally just sat down on the floor to wait for an outfit to materialize. I began to dread getting dressed each day.  It was ridiculous to the point that I knew I had to do something to fix this (first world) problem. Necessity is definitely the mother of invention.

My dilemma is partly due to the way I shop.  I am a Maxxinista.  TJ Maxx just has the things I like and most items are $10, $20, and $30 each! The return policy liberates me to take things home knowing it will be no problem to return them if I decide against keeping them (and you’d better buy it if you MIGHT want it because it most likely will not be there when you go back for it.  “Never the same place twice.”). My wardrobe is almost completely from TJ Maxx except for the beauties I get from the Talbots or Ann Taylor/Loft outlets I visit once or twice a year.  The problem with the way I shop is that I buy single pieces at a time which puts the burden on me to make outfits out of them.  It can be a fun burden but takes skill if I want to look put together.

This chore of making outfits helps me see the necessity of a wardrobe capsule. If I could separate my wardrobe into groups of items that go together, getting dressed would be so much simpler.  

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With the arrival of fall, I layed out all my fallish items.  From there, I made outfits and took pictures of them as flat lays.  I didn’t spend a lot of time making them artistic; I just wanted to see the items together. It took a lot of time and energy as I switched one part of an outfit with other options and climbed on and off the chair on which I stood to take pictures with my phone. Sometimes when I see a nice outfit on someone or on a mannequin, I have the thought that I never would have put those pieces together but it looks really good.  I tried to throw out my preconceived notions while putting outfits together during this process to allow me to discover combinations I normally wouldn’t make. It really did help me consider new options.

 I have been eagerly anticipating wearing these wide-legged capris this fall. I think any of these combinations would work and I can switch the capris out for my faux leather olive drab skirt. This exercise saved the flesh colored top in the lower middle picture; I was about to chunk it because I had never worn it but now I have used it several times after making these outfits.

I have been eagerly anticipating wearing these wide-legged capris this fall. I think any of these combinations would work and I can switch the capris out for my faux leather olive drab skirt. This exercise saved the flesh colored top in the lower middle picture; I was about to chunk it because I had never worn it but now I have used it several times after making these outfits.

 I thought these salmon-colored pants would be a good transition color from summer to autumn but I didn’t like any of my styling options so I returned them.

I thought these salmon-colored pants would be a good transition color from summer to autumn but I didn’t like any of my styling options so I returned them.

 Wondering if this is my style anymore.

Wondering if this is my style anymore.

 I like this skirt but the black blouse is the only one I like with it. Everything else is ho-hum. I’m starting to think it has something to do with pulling out the blocks of color—too much vying for attention.

I like this skirt but the black blouse is the only one I like with it. Everything else is ho-hum. I’m starting to think it has something to do with pulling out the blocks of color—too much vying for attention.

These pictures helped me see things that were right in front of my eyes all along.  It reminded me of when I chose my wedding china.  I would float my eyes across those great walls of china and through many glossy brochures but the same pattern caught my eye every time.  That’s how I knew it was the one.  The same happened as I flipped through my outfit photos: “blah, blah, blah, Oooo, I like this one!” I’m not excited and confident to wear “blah.” Life’s too short and I have too many choices for that.  I want to dress every day in “Ooooo!”

 I have owned this skirt for several years and never worn it. It seems like a good thing to have, right? And there’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Patriotic occasions. You can see how the jackets change the outfit completely. Should I keep it if I have to work so hard to like it? This process also showed me that the gray blouse in the lower middle picture can come off as lavender.

I have owned this skirt for several years and never worn it. It seems like a good thing to have, right? And there’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Patriotic occasions. You can see how the jackets change the outfit completely. Should I keep it if I have to work so hard to like it? This process also showed me that the gray blouse in the lower middle picture can come off as lavender.

 I could go for any of these. Which is your favorite?

I could go for any of these. Which is your favorite?

 Several of these can be dressed up or down with accessories.

Several of these can be dressed up or down with accessories.

That was a very telling process, but the process wasn’t over.  There’s a difference in how clothes look flat on a bed and how they look on my body. The color may not flatter me. The top may hit my hips at the widest point. It may be too tight or too loose. There are a myriad of other problems that could be revealed when I try them on but I’d rather discover them at this point than when I’m trying to get out of the door.

 Left: I liked this outfit better on the bed than on me. I am reminded why I stopped tucking shirts in: it adds bulk just where you don’t want it.  Middle: This soft, casual jacket finishes the look nicely and brings down the formality of the blouse. However, it also hides the detail on the blouse cuffs which is the best part.  Right: This is a casual look that could be dressed down further with less formal shoes. The knit tank top reveals the distracting lines at the top of my skirt though.

Left: I liked this outfit better on the bed than on me. I am reminded why I stopped tucking shirts in: it adds bulk just where you don’t want it.

Middle: This soft, casual jacket finishes the look nicely and brings down the formality of the blouse. However, it also hides the detail on the blouse cuffs which is the best part.

Right: This is a casual look that could be dressed down further with less formal shoes. The knit tank top reveals the distracting lines at the top of my skirt though.

 While you are trying on, experiment a little. These pictures show the difference in wearing a white versus a gray tank top underneath this sheer blouse. I prefer the gray.

While you are trying on, experiment a little. These pictures show the difference in wearing a white versus a gray tank top underneath this sheer blouse. I prefer the gray.

I photographed the outfit on me in the mirror. While I had it on, I experimented with accessories which told me which elements I lacked to finish the outfit. These items went promptly onto a shopping list. Now I know exactly what I need. Many of those times sitting in front of my closet, I was putting together outfits in my mind but they fell apart when I realized that I didn’t have the right sweater or shoes or hosiery. Lacking the right accessories can prevent you from wearing items that you really would enjoy wearing. Purchasing the right shoes may give you more outfits to wear than buying new outfits would.

Now that I had pictures of the outfits, I organized the pictures into albums on my phone.  I created the following albums: 

Casual outfits—cool weather

Dressy outfits—cool weather

Casual outfits—warm weather

Dressy outfits—warm weather. 

Now when it is time to get dressed, I can look under the appropriate category and choose.


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As I carve out time for wardrobe coordination, I will choose one theme each time.  I have plans to do a capsule of navy blue outfits and of Christmas outfits. There may be a favorite scarf that has never found its outfit and you just need to settle that once and for all. I have been known to wear purple to church every Sunday in February so that I could wear my amethyst birthstone jewelry in celebration of my birthday month. I will hang these garments together when the time comes.

For this fall, I have my fall items grouped in a section of my closet.  That signals to me that this is the area from which I am to choose. I now enjoy getting dressed with ease, knowing that the thinking is already done. As the weather gets cooler, I will replace the lighter weight pieces with heavier ones and continue to keep viable choices at the forefront.

 Yes, I still pull pieces from the rest of my wardrobe, but grouping my fall items together has given me a huge start on getting dressed each day.

Yes, I still pull pieces from the rest of my wardrobe, but grouping my fall items together has given me a huge start on getting dressed each day.

 I even gathered my fall scarves and hung them with my fall clothes. I am much more likely to wear them when they are next to the pieces I am eyeing.

I even gathered my fall scarves and hung them with my fall clothes. I am much more likely to wear them when they are next to the pieces I am eyeing.

Creating this one wardrobe capsule has shown me the value of this process. Here are three things it did for me.


  1. It acquainted me with what I have and what I need.

I had items in my closet that I thought should be useful but that I had never worn.  Gathering my fall items to make outfits forced me to consider those pieces and I have now worn things for the first time and liked them, things that were in danger of being purged. I would say this process gives you fresh eyes.

I also discovered that it was time to purge some things that I was just accustomed to wearing. I found that I had three dark gray jackets that all served the same purpose.  The one I bought most recently is butter soft and could be dressed up or down.  I know I will use it a lot.  One of the jackets just wouldn’t hang right so I took it back to the store since fortunately the tags were still on it. (Yep. TJ Maxx. Having no receipt got me a gift card. That’s fine.  I would have spent the money right back there anyway.)  The final gray jacket was just a little snug through the shoulders so it now hangs in my daughter’s closet. I am left with the gray jacket that I will truly enjoy and I now have more closet space. I will not continue to waste time trying those three jackets with my outfits repeatedly and coming to the same conclusion each time.

Knowing the items I need will keep me focused when I shop. The process helps you to prioritize those needs by showing you which items you need over and over for different outfits.  I now realize that brown boots and gray heels would finish off several of my ensembles.


2. It focused my attention on one look at a time.

As I have focused on dressing for fall, I have also incorporated fall hues in my make-up and nail polish.  I do not typically wear orange so I have made a project of finding orange shades that lean toward pink. This has given me time to experiment with blush, lipstick, and nail polish that work with my coloring and clothes. My nails are good to go for the week since I am wearing clothes of the same color palette every day.  I know I always have the right shade of lipstick thrown in my purse since it will match everything I wear this week.  And speaking of purses, I will use the same one all week since it coordinates with the look I am wearing right now, eliminating the need to daily switch purses.  Lots of winning and time saved!

 These cosmetics gave me just enough orange to feel fallish:  OPI Infinite Shine 2 Gel-Lacquer in “Excuse me, Big Sur!”  NYX Lipstick in “Tea Rose”  Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in “Paaaarty”  Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in “Manic”

These cosmetics gave me just enough orange to feel fallish:

OPI Infinite Shine 2 Gel-Lacquer in “Excuse me, Big Sur!”

NYX Lipstick in “Tea Rose”

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in “Paaaarty”

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in “Manic”


3. It simplified the daily task of getting dressed.

It’s crazy to call getting dressed a task.  It should be part of my pampering session as I get ready. It is nice to approach my closet with thanksgiving for my beautiful clothes and the artistry I am trying to reflect back to God in carefully crafting my outfit and doing it decently and in order. Stress is not something I need before I go out in public; being in public is already stressful for me.  I need to enter it with peace and focus on what I am going out to do, and this process has helped me tremendously with that.

I can see how wardrobe capsules are going to help a ton with packing.  That can be the worst part of going on a trip but to have things already grouped that work together and are interchangeable will make that chore much easier, and one purse and nail color will work for the whole trip.



My suspicion is that this process would solve other problems as well.  Being prepared really eases my mind and helps me do a better job. I am easily overwhelmed so I like my ducks in rows ahead of time. I have been Martha Martha at events so many times that I have finally figured out that I need to be Martha BEFORE the party so I can be Mary DURING the party (Luke 10:41-42). Making wardrobe capsules is just one way that I can attend to myself in advance so that I am free to serve others wholeheartedly.

Closet Switcheroo

School has begun and the glorious month of September is upon us. This means it is time to dress in more snuggly clothes in colors which often reflect the new palette we see with each new autumn day. Traditionally, Easter and Labor Day are the cues to transition into dressing for the cool months versus the warm months.  I adhere to this tradition, not because it is traditional, but because it heeds the wisdom upon which traditions are built. They are holidays at the turning points of the seasons. I have a task on my permanent to-do list for April and September to switch out my closet for the next season.

Pictured below is the bottom rack of my closet where I hang my bottoms (naturally). These are the bottoms that have been hung there since April. I hung all the hangers backwards at first and hung them the other way around throughout the summer only if I wore them.  This picture is irksome to me because the clothes are not organized according to type but, just for this picture, according to the direction the hangers faced.  The clothes to the left of center (where the little blue marker is) were worn, and the clothes to the right were not worn.  It turns out that I wore  thirty-eight bottoms and did not wear thirty-five. How nice it would have been if I had known in April that I would never wear those thirty-five this year and eliminated them up front so that the clothes I did wear had more hanging room. My daily decisions would have been less complicated and time consuming.

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Once I determined which pieces were not worn, I put a tiny elastic on each hanger so that I will know at the end of next season which items have gone two seasons without being worn. When that is true, I will need to seriously consider whether I should continue to pay their mortgage. I bought these little elastics to use with my scarves. (That will have to be a separate blog post on another day.)  They are found in the hair care aisle and a package of one gazillion will cost you less than $3. I have never used them on hair but I am finding them to be handy in unexpected ways. 

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The next step is to pull from the rack anything that is no longer appropriate to wear this time of year.  That would be whites and light colors and fabrics that would be too cool or worn with summer shoes.  These need to be stored elsewhere.  You may have to get creative with storage under the bed or on closet shelves.  I have hung off-season clothes behind my hanging clothes on the bar that anchors the wire shelf to the wall. I was sad when my oldest son left home but was slightly comforted when I realized he left me an empty closet. It has become my off-season closet.  It is nice to get clothing out of sight and out of mind for a whole season.  They then seem like new clothes when you are reminded of them next season. 

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The summer items now transition to the off-season closet and I pick out the pieces from the off-season closet that can be used when the first chill of autumn is felt. There aren’t many for me because I have half a rack of sweaters that stay in my closet year round.  Most buildings in the South are very cool to combat the high temperatures outside so I find that I need a sweater every time I go anywhere.  The day I determined to wear a sweater everywhere was the day I left my lunch half-eaten on a restaurant table because I was so miserable from shivering that I couldn’t enjoy it. The thin, three-quarter-length-sleeve sweaters are wardrobe staples for me. 

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Now summer doesn’t turn to winter on a dime so there will be a gradual switching of clothes from my closet to the off-season closet.  We Southern Belles have the added challenge of trying to look like October when it feels like July! It will be January before we need wool and we will shiver in our Easter dresses because our weather is unpredictable. I should go ahead and create some fallish outfits that won’t make me sweat.

And now for the finished product. 

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Here are my autumn bottoms! From left to right, I have shorts, capris, pants, and then skirts ranging from casual to dressy. I am already looking sideways at the more summery ones which will soon be switched out for winter pieces. Those elastic bands will be staring at me and I will be staring back giving hard consideration to whether they should really be in my collection. I’m pretty sure I can’t zip several of them; this closet has made some of my garments shrink in the last few years.

Bulky wools and coats take up a lot of closet space so the more real I can be about what I actually wear, the less packed my clothes will be in my closet. Let’s face it: we reach for our favorite pieces over and over anyway so we need far less than we think. I often wish I could snap my fingers and the clothes I will never actually use would disappear. Minimalism and less complication is appealing more and more. I haven’t changed greatly in size over my life so that lends to collecting things from long-gone styles that I can’t see as long-gone. Thus a collection is prone to only inflow unless it is purposely purged. 

I like the idea of thoroughly enjoying what I really like and letting go of the rest.  It seems that it would mean that you can celebrate who you are and that you aren’t still experimenting with multiple styles. My style and maturity have changed over the years and sometimes it is difficult to recognize when it is time to let go of a former era. Fashion is just one tangible way we do this and it should encourage us to be as real with our inner selves. 

Enjoy this lovely time of year!

 

New York City with the Boys

Since many of you were interested in our last trip to New York, I thought I'd share about our most recent trip.

We are fortunate enough to live five minutes from an airport that has a direct flight to New York City which leaves early in the morning and the returning flight arrives late at night. This means that we get a lot out of a day without paying for an extra night in a hotel. This weekend our flight arrived early Friday morning in New York and we got home right on time Sunday night.  Perfect! This was our youngest son’s second flight in his life so he was due according to today’s standards. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed every minute of it.  It was a nice “You’re… (correction) WE’RE finished with the eleventh grade!” kickoff to the summer. Oh, and he enjoyed every second of the weekend and has been so vocally thankful as was his big brother. Our daughter was so very missed on this trip but is having a great time studying abroad in Spain so we didn’t pity her too badly.

New York is not my type of place in general. Crowds, smells, noise, and endless walking are not my cup of tea, but, as I go repeatedly and have seen the popular sights, I am starting to find that I can tailor the trip to be MY trip.  Having a son who lives in NYC and is so knowledgeable about the subway system and the layout of the city makes it much easier to go.  I am slowly learning it myself and look forward to learning of more of MY spots.  I see future trips being a slower pace of revisiting my favorites and discovering one or two more each time. I believe my cup of (high) tea will be had at the Plaza or the Peninsula Hotels. Window shopping down Madison Avenue on the arm of my handsome man under an umbrella was a bit snuggly and romantic.  One day I will find a shop that has my style and make it part of my routine. Anyone know of a shop that carries ladies’ clothing from the late 1800’s? Oh, I guess I will also have to find an alternate universe in which to wear those clothes. 

For such a short trip, Capers was able to pack in a backpack. My husband packed a carry on and we put our cosmetics in my checked bag.  With more effort, we could have made sure we had the required amount of liquids to take on board in a carry on, but then we couldn’t have brought home our Eiffel Tower souvenir Colton had gotten for us in Paris.  I am learning to take a larger bag than you need so you have room to bring home goodies.  I saw one lady who had a soft carry on—a quilted fabric style bag and I thought that it is probably the best way to do it.  It squishes in overheads where a hard case could not have gone, although you would have to carry it and not roll it and I would not want to set it on a bathroom floor! Tough decision. First world problems. I also recommend for ladies to travel with several gentlemen. You never have to carry a thing!

Colton met us at the airport and guided us to our hotel where we stored our luggage since it wasn’t check-in time yet. We stayed at the Residence Inn at 54th and Broadway so that we would be within walking distance of the things we wanted to do. It was too early to go to our lunch reservation so we went to the hotel’s fourth floor lounge which had comfy seating. Just what we needed. Then we were off to a delicious Thai lunch at Topaz Noodle Bar.  Don’t believe them when they say “a little spicy.” Fortunately, combining my mild rice with my husband’s “a little spicy” rice gave us both “still pretty spicy” rice. It was very good, though. We walked through the south end of Central Park for a bit before Jeff and I turned in for our afternoon nap and the boys ran off to see the world. 

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Our room wasted no space but had most everything we needed.  The room darkening curtains worked great.  I am always wishing for more hooks for hanging things but I suppose hotels have their reasons for not providing more. We had a kitchenette that would suffice for an apartment complete with crock pot.  I didn’t happen to use it this trip. Trying to think of a case when I would use it in a hotel. Still thinking. I love anything that is efficient and that usually means it is multi-purpose.  I loved the stool that matched the chair. It could be a stool to sit on, a footstool, a luggage rack, and storage.  The storage was lined in a way that I wondered if it were also a cooler in which you could chill drinks.  A colossal ice bucket?  Someone was thinking. Our 49th floor room had a great view and we enjoyed it in every phase of lighting from early morning to dark. 

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After our early flight, pavement pounding, and Asian-food induced comas, our footmen (aka sons) came for us and for Capers’ backpack and guided us to Brooklyn to see Colton’s apartment.  It’s a 30-minute subway ride from Manhattan and in a nice area of Brooklyn.  He walks past stores and restaurants from the subway and is able to get what he needs on his way home without having to carry it far. His apartment space is two-story and his room is as neat as a pin.  They have done a good job of organizing their small space and it is comfortable and clean.  Colton’s roommate happened to be out of town this weekend so Capers was able to stay with him.  We met two of his apartment mates.  Some of them graduated from the same school he did. I feel better having seen where he lives.  I don’t know why but it is settling for me as a mom. Then we took a bus to Dekalb Market/City Point which is like a gourmet food court.  We bought two $21 pastrami sandwiches to split and we were stuffed.  I have no idea who eats that sandwich by himself. It was fairly late when we ate and I dipped mine in spicy mustard so I had a little heartburn later that night.  I am finding that this ole thing can’t eat just any ole thing any ole time of night anymore. It was so good, though! Cool experience. Of course, there’s always room for ice cream because it just fills in the spaces between as it goes into your stomach. We had walked around the market looking for what we each might want for dinner but then we thought that it is better to experience things together and so we decided to eat whatever Colton was having and I’m glad we did.  Together is better.

The boys took us back to our room and these old people went to bed at 9:00. 

Saturday morning, Jeff and I had the hotel breakfast which was the typical nice hotel hot breakfast buffet. It is served on the third floor which looks just like the fourth floor lounge. We had tickets for 10am to see the Downton Abbey Exhibit.  I had wanted to go months ago and it was supposed to close in April but it has been held over and I was so excited to find that out. It is a self-guided tour though they have headsets to rent. The bottom floor is the servants’ quarters and kitchen.  It looked just like the set.  The cast appear as holograms from time to time to tease you. The library is a room where a multi-media presentation is shown. We should have sat at the back so we didn’t have to look around to see what was happening on each wall.  Very cool. The second floor is the family’s area.  The table was set and the bedroom was on display.  I have a thing about dressing tables so I loved seeing that. Many artifacts were included from the show which were from the time period.  The part that made me weak in the knees though was the costumes.  Pieces were scattered about but the third floor was dedicated to the clothing.  The detail! Designing and making my own clothes again is on my empty-nester list and I am collecting ideas. Learning about a craft or art gives you the capacity to appreciate what others have done. That was true for me this weekend in so many areas: music, acting, sewing, etiquette, health, happiness.  If you do not know how hard or rare something is, you cannot fully enjoy it. Knowledge is power: it gives you the power to enjoy.

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The tour took only an hour. Then we mosied around to kill time until lunch. The weather was perfect and the streets were busy. We met the boys at Junior’s for lunch and then walked around with them.  We went into the Steinway store and Colton played the $97,000 Steinway for us in the humidity-controlled studio. Beautiful talent. Beautiful music. Beautiful piano. So much good. On to Bryant Park and then to our respective theatres.  The boys saw the musical “Spongebob” and we saw “Hello, Dolly!” Very enjoyable. Bernadette Peters was the lead role and 72 years old, Y’all. The worst part of our trip was the woman behind us who sang along and said the punch lines one second ahead of the actors. We heard her talking during intermission about how many more drinks she thought she could handle. It is so difficult to not share some wisdom with people like that but what good would it do? We exercised patience and were reminded that others have to bear with us in our own ignorant rudeness. Still our memories of a great show are not tainted by another GertRUDE sighting.

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After the show, we headed back to Junior’s to get cheesecake to go.  I knew my friend was in New York on a family girl trip but we did not have plans to meet up, but, lo and behold, who is standing next to Junior’s?! We chatted and snapped a groupie and then my husband and I headed back to the hotel for some rest. It was already pretty late so I just rested instead of sleeping so as not to spoil a good night’s sleep. The boys came and visited a bit and then we all went to Little Italy to a cool spot called Piacere. The food was very authentic but the portions were not very large which is kind of nice so you can still handle dessert.  We strolled through Little Italy and Capers ate a cannoli which someone had told him to do while he was in New York. Colton gave us subway instructions to get back to our room and we obeyed perfectly.  It was cheesecake time so we each ate one fourth of the six inch raspberry swirl cheesecake we had bought that afternoon.  They sell it by the slice also but the six inch was cheaper if you were buying two slices.  Mr. Wonderful had suddenly decided my favorite flavor was his favorite flavor and ended up with a kiss on the cheek AND with cheesecake. I highly recommend marrying a nice man. It comes in handy when choosing cheesecake flavors and going to girly things like Downton Abbey Exhibits.  And every other day, too.

After a hard night’s sleep, Jeff went down for breakfast while I polished off all I could eat of the remaining cheesecake. Cheesecake for breakfast as you look at the NYC skyline: life gets very good sometimes. We stored our luggage with the hotel bellman and took the subway as Colton had prescribed. We collected Capers from the coffee shop where Colton had left him moments before.  Then the three of us walked to Redeemer Presbyterian Church where Colton was getting his instructions for what to do in the service.  You see, this is the whole purpose of this trip.  This is the morning that our first child to leave home was joining a church.  When we learned of the date of this event, we wanted to go but then decided that it was bad timing, etc, etc. As the time drew near, we decided that it didn’t matter what kind of timing it was; we needed to be there for this event to support our son in this good decision. The fact that we have a grown son who is willing to join a Bible-believing church is not just something that should go by uncelebrated.  We thank God for His mercy and grace that brought this about and we want our children to know that this is the big stuff.  This is a wonderful decision and a milestone in Colton’s life.  He has been involved already in the church and attends faithfully but he could do both without being a member.  This decision helps to tether him to a family away from home: his church family and God’s family. They will support him and encourage him and look after him. He is making himself a part of a local church and publicly stating who he is and what he believes and making Christian growth a part of his stated intentions. The service was wonderful. I always enjoy attending church on vacation because it makes obvious the bond Christians have. You can feel it immediately. This church is a one-race church: the human race. The hands I shook felt just like mine and our voices blended perfectly. My favorite moment though was when Colton took his vows and answered “I do” to the question of depending solely on the work of Jesus Christ to save his soul. I have heard Colton deliver many lines publicly on stage but none have ever moved me so. Praise be to God.

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His church meets early so he had a favorite brunch place picked out for us called The Smith.  It had an early 1900’s feel with black and white tile.  The food was great and I heard that the bathrooms were worth seeing: each stall was it's own little room.  Next stop was the Flatiron Building. I forget the order of coffee shop visits from Sunday because there were quite a few.  When hotel check-out is early in the day but you do not fly out until late in the day, you have nowhere to take your Sunday afternoon nap. And it was raining.  And we were tired. So the cost of a chair to sit in was the price of a cup of coffee.

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I wanted to see The Frick Collection this trip. I saw the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the last trip.  I say "I saw it", as if one could fully see it. There are New Yorkers who go regularly because you can’t take it all in.  It is massive.  It’s an elephant you eat a bite at a time.  So I should say I did a run through last time.  I will digest more of it in the future, Lord willing.  Without researching it this trip, I remembered that I wanted to see The Frick museum sometime and it turned out to be the perfect choice. Mr. Frick died in 1919 and left his home as a museum to house his art collection. The house is left largely as it was and the downstairs is open for tours. I would have been happy to buy the $22 ticket just to see the house. The mouldings, the drapes, the furniture, the paneling. Sigh. Then there’s the art!  Three Rembrandts, three Vermeers, a Degas, a Manet, and much more. We took a lovely Sunday afternoon stroll in Mr. Frick’s home and it ended by teasing me with a GORGEOUS roped-off staircase. Torture. Actually you know all tours end in the gift shop.  I bought a beautiful tote bag with a floral print taken from a piece of porcelain. It became my carry on.  Easy to please.  That’s me. 

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We navigated police barricades which were there for the Puerto Rican parade after having toured the museum to their music (not the typical museum music) to get to the Peninsula Hotel where we got hot tea and sat in their comfy chairs. We each got our own little teapots and strainers and had a delightful chat while watching others have high tea. The petit fours looked wonderful and are on my list for next trip.

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The boys had gone to Brooklyn to get Capers’ backpack so now we met in Hell’s Kitchen for French food at La Bergamote before our final “au revoir”.  Hell’s Kitchen is an area on the west side just SW of Central Park and Colton explained that the subway doesn’t go out that far so it is not as touristy. We were not able to cross one street because a man was in a rage on the other corner and we weren’t sure what was about to go down.  We scurried across when he went far enough from the corner that we could get by.  We had a wonderful meal and some French pastries to finish off a delightful day.

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After stopping by the hotel for our luggage, Colton took us to the airport and went half way through the line for security before saying goodbye. A specimen of stamina and resilience. It’s a proud moment when the child you spent your life taking care of takes care of you. Once again, I left part of my heart in New York City and had a safe trip home. Dolly may never go away again, but I plan to. Until next time, New York.

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🎈Happy Birthday to Me!

This fiftieth day of 2018 is my fiftieth birthday.

Wait. What?!  Did I say fifty? How can that be? I truly feel like a twenty-five year old in my head. However, if I’m doing the math right, I WAS born fifty years ago and I CAN account for every one of those years, so I guess I should say that I feel like TWO twenty-five year olds in my head.

But FIFTY?! That used to be so old.

In anticipation of my milestone birthday, I determined last year that I would be at the top of my game at fifty so I toyed with adopting the slogan “Fit at Fifty” or “Fifty and Fabulous” and gave myself several months (plenty of time) to attain this goal.  We joined a gym last June and I finally realized a long-time dream of getting physically fit. We began to think more about our health. I also made strides in being on a spiritual mountaintop when I came to my monumental birthday, studying the Bible and learning things that I could teach others also. I worked to come out of my shell more and be that happy social butterfly that I envy in other personalities. As I approach an empty nest, I could see that I would get more time with my aging mother and be able to do things for her I haven’t had time to do. I planned to have a photo shoot to document my happiness and publish my prettiest picture ON my big day. I would give other women hope that turning fifty was a joyful stage in life!

Well, that’s the paragraph I planned to write, but that’s not how last year went at all.

Forty-nine was not fun, not because it led to fifty, but because it was for me a year filled with many trials. Adjustments are hard. I do not run from change but the truth is that adjusting to a new reality is a shock to the system, even if it is something that is a joyful change. 

We did join the gym, but I literally fell on my knee last Fall (appropriately) and figuratively fell off the workout wagon. I became the mother of an adult child who lives in another state and didn’t need me the way I was accustomed to being needed. My daughter was away at college and beginning to date. My energetic baby boy was left at home with no siblings and two boring parents. I didn’t know how to be who I needed to be in relation to this new reality and wished I had more wisdom to offer them as they faced new challenges themselves. My mother was in pain everyday and I had no way to relieve her. I was falling apart in so many ways and just not able to deal. I wanted to quit everything because I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer that anybody would value and my own imperfections discouraged me. All of these pressures took a toll on my marriage which then caused us to get real. We should really have this thing figured out by now and sometimes it seemed like we hadn’t learned a thing.  My husband has had to find a strength and an understanding and a forgiveness and a patience to meet the challenge which has been revitalizing to our relationship.  I pray I can be there for him the way he has been there for me when he faces his greatest challenge in life.  He has certainly shown me how.

Turning fifty forces you to accept that what you wanted to be by this late date doesn’t match with what you actually are—there should have been more holiday decorations, more garnishes on the food, I should be a beacon of sunshine to the throngs who look to me for help, there should be no junk drawers (or rooms), etc.  There’s a reason perfectionists get depressed—they can never do enough to make things just right and the only place that’s perfect is heaven. Others’ imperfections are annoying, but a perfectionists’ imperfections bring on self-hate which is no picnic for those who have to live with them. Reaching an age like fifty sobers you to realize that it was what it was and there is no going back to make it better.  As a young person you have the joy of dreaming all the things you could do and become in life but older ages humble you as you realize that your story has been mostly written. It’s time to be happy with what your life turned out to be. 

(By the way, those who know me as an acquaintance may be reading this in disbelief. Some seem to think I have it all together. Nope, I am human, too.  It would take a lot of pressure off if I could tell this to the world.)

On January 2, my mother passed away. While I have every reason to be at peace with her passing, I do miss her especially today.  After all, your birthday is about you and your mother, right? She had said every time I saw her last year that I had a special birthday coming so I know she wishes me a happy birthday. It’s nice to know it would have been a special day for her, too. Her departure leaves me as the eldest in my line for my children to look to and that definitely gives me the feel of being handed the baton. If I’m going to be a prayer warrior in my older years, I have got to be becoming that warrior now.  As each of our Christian parents and grandparents pass away, we lose all the prayers they would have prayed for us.  They have set the example and it is time for us to get on our own knees and stop depending on them to do the heavenly work for us. So the next time you are bored in the company of old people, just remember that the boring life they have come to may be what allows them the time to invest in prayer for you.  If you have a prayer warrior who loves you, you are blessed indeed.  No telling how many days those warriors prayed for my children more than I did. This dependence on one another as we depend on God is another life lesson of older age. We are all on a journey and each contributing to the other. 

Last year was the most prolonged time I have ever had of being in a valley. While I would never ask to go through such an extended time of trying, I have to say that my awareness of God is at an all-time high.  I am now very aware that all I have is God and am excited beyond my ability to express it to know Him better. It’s like a colorblind person putting on those glasses that allows him to see colors for the first time in his life or a deaf person being given a device to allow him to hear the sounds that have been undetected until now. The more I know of God, the more depth I see that there is to see. My black and white world is now in technicolor and it is amazing!

I do not presume to live one hundred years or even eighty, but if this birthday can be seen as a midpoint in either my life or my adulthood, I want to focus even more in the second half on knowing God, who has allowed us to have a personal relationship with Him. Incredible! I can already see that the troubles I have come through this past year have brought me to a point of growth where I can make decisions that I now need to make. My thinking is now adjusted to be able to think thoughts that never entered my mind but now I have eyes to see and ears to hear. These are obviously decisions the old me would have gotten wrong.

One of the main things I realized at Christmas was that I do not want to attain any new thing as much as I want to keep the things I already have.  I already have the greatest things I could have asked for in this life.  Above all, I have salvation in Jesus Christ.  Not only is heaven guaranteed for me but I can live a life in amazement of Almighty God and grow more like him as I follow him daily.  This is all because I placed my faith in Him, humbling myself and trusting that it takes His perfect blood to cleanse my sinful soul. I have lived a wonderful life, largely at the hands of my parents and husband.  Yes, they have bought me many gifts and provided for my needs, but I am mainly speaking of the life and love they shared with me. I have three off-the-charts children (I won’t enumerate which charts) and we are all in good health.  Do you know how much my life would change if there were a health problem with any one of them?  We coast along as if this is the way we deserve it to be and the way it will always be but it wouldn’t take much to turn our lives upside down and we would then beg God to please put it back how it was when we didn’t realize how wonderful we had it. Good relationships, having everything we need, celebrations, health, freedom—we are rich, People!

So, now you’re thinking that I had a birthday and invited you to my pity party!  That is where I have lived for far too long, though I realize my problems are small (and are not over).  I have close friends whose children or grandchildren have died this year.  In light of that, I have no problems. But any problem can overtake us if we do not lean hard on God and those He has placed in our lives to be His hands. In my case, I needed to learn what true leaning was and to value the blessings I already enjoy. Let me encourage you to see through “I’m fine” and know that everyone is hurting over things they CANNOT tell you. I have gone to church with great needs inside and wanted to hug everyone who gave me a smile or a brief encouragement. You cannot know how much a thirsty soul needs that love.  Why be stingy with it? It’s free and it’s priceless. A kind gesture makes a huge difference.

Fifty feels like it should be my prime—definitely not in looks or memory skills, but to be young enough to do things yet old enough to have learned a lot. If you’re counting by fifties, my birth was a big celebration of which I was not aware and being one hundred would be a big celebration which I doubt I will see, so this is THE birthday that I am now guaranteed and I celebrate it as a milestone of God’s goodness.  I can never thank God enough for my salvation. Heaven will be beyond description. The family and lifestyle He has given me is more than a person could ask. But my salvation is not just about heaven; it is about God changing me. To walk with Him every day and to trust His wisdom and care and to have new understanding of the world and awe of Him with each passing day is a blessing I constantly enjoy and I will enjoy more and more of it every new day that He gives me.

Today is definitely a turning point in my life.  In many ways, it feels like my old life has died and my new life is beginning. I am thankful for everything God brought me through, every blessing He gave me, and every person that contributed to my life, but I am also thankful for the excitement I feel for a future of exploring how good and holy my God is!

Aiken for a Break

I am just back from two nights at the Willcox Inn in Aiken, South Carolina. Our 27th anniversary was nearly a month ago but it is this week that our youngest is at camp so we waited until now to officially celebrate making it to number 27. My husband, Jeff, was in Aiken on business several weeks back and noted the stately inn and quaint town. We needed somewhere not too far from home for getting away and doing absolutely nothing and the Willcox fit the bill.  It is crazy to think that we paid money to stay there two nights while we left our house empty but we have seen the benefits many times of getting away to other scenery and away from the routine and projects facing us at home.  I got nothing done WITHOUT the guilt, thank you very much.

The Willcox Inn was built during an era when Aiken was seen as a winter colony for the well-to-do.  It boasts a guest list that includes the Vanderbilts, FDR, and Winston Churchill and now Jeff and Theresa Beach! The inn has stately white columns out front and a woodsy lobby complete with stone fireplaces on both ends. My appetite for architecture, interior design, and furnishings was well satisfied with plenty of stimuli around every corner.

We had dropped our son off at camp in Greenville and then drove directly to Aiken. Well, actually you can’t drive directly to Aiken from Greenville so we saw places in our home state that we have never seen before.  There are lots of trees in our home state. We have never been more sure of this. Over two hours later, we arrived at the beautiful inn, checked in, and settled in.  

 This rail hit about mid-thigh. We had to reach down to turn the doorknobs inside the suite.  I felt really tall at times.

This rail hit about mid-thigh. We had to reach down to turn the doorknobs inside the suite.  I felt really tall at times.

 I like the way they dealt with this step and I love drop-leaf tables!

I like the way they dealt with this step and I love drop-leaf tables!

 An adorable way to leave an old-world sewing kit on the mantle for guests

An adorable way to leave an old-world sewing kit on the mantle for guests

After a little rest, we were finally hungry enough for dinner.  While we were still in our church clothes, we decided it would be the best time for our fancy meal of the trip so we went downstairs to the inn’s restaurant and were delighted at every turn.  We got a corner window table and enjoyed the view of each other. The butter for the bread was served on a chilled piece of slate and sprinkled with coarse salt. Jeff’s appetizer of ravioli was beautiful and tasty and something I think I could replicate at home: four ravioli topped with arugula, roasted red peppers, shaved parmesan, and malt vinegar. The colors would be perfect at Christmas. Our filets were spot on and accompanied by a mix of green vegetables. Jeff’s dessert was an espresso mousse sprinkled with what they called “honeycomb” which was like honey brittle. My dessert was a peach and blackberry cardamom sponge cake pudding. We approved.

I like the way this hotel and many others dress their beds.  Our king bed had a fluffy mattress topper and four soft pillows.  The linens were all white and they layer a warm but thin blanket between two flat sheets.  There is a patterned coverlet on top that you can pull up and then a fat duvet which I’m sure comes in handy when it is not July. This bed was quite a bit taller than our bed at home so it took a little getting used to getting out of bed (or I should say getting down from bed) without breaking our necks. There was a little step by the bed but it only complicated matters. 

After a very good night’s rest, Jeff got ready and went to the lobby to drink coffee and read while I enjoyed some self-pampering.  When I finally emerged, we went to the breakfast room in the hotel. They had pastries and menu items that were complimentary; you paid only if you ordered certain items like bacon, so it was nice to have complimentary Mixed Berry French Toast.  I nearly coveted the buffet from which they served the beverages.  It had storage and was plenty long and I have a wall in my dining room waiting for it.  

 A beautiful marriage of modern and old-fashioned. That applies to the bathroom as well.

A beautiful marriage of modern and old-fashioned. That applies to the bathroom as well.

The waitress who served us at breakfast noticed how genteel my husband is and asked, “Is he always so sweet to you?” I replied, "I'm afraid so."  I know how good I have it but every now and again I realize how VERY good I have it.  Our marriage is not without problems, but I am very blessed to be married to a man of integrity who treats me like a queen and more and more as we learn to love each other better.  I guess I made a good bet 27 years ago.

After breakfast we went outside to look at the pool and then for a walk downtown.  Aiken has many one way streets divided by wide medians which create parking spaces on each side or park areas.  It gives a spacious feel to the town and creates a lot of buffer zones. We went into the antique mall and enjoyed commenting on different items to each other. Back on the street, I saw a life-size replica of a horse painted as an American flag and, instantly thinking political party, I said, “Look at that donkey!” My companion got a great laugh out of that and we continued to note the “donkeys” throughout the town, painted with different scenes.

You do not have to be in Aiken long to realize that it is big on horses. There were horse items everywhere although we never saw an actual live horse. The inn and the antique mall were full of horse gear and old pictures of people riding and there are annual events for horse lovers. It’s an equestrian town for sure.

 You know you are in an equestrian town when there is a boot jack in your closet.  It even looks like a horse.

You know you are in an equestrian town when there is a boot jack in your closet.  It even looks like a horse.

 Even their leaves look like horses!

Even their leaves look like horses!

After an afternoon of cooling off and resting, we walked to a mid-afternoon lupper at The Pizza Joint.  Our Greek salad was delicious and, when it was all over, we left about half a pizza on the table.  

We decided to enjoy the room for the rest of the evening so we took another nap and called room service to deliver those same two desserts we had the night before.  It tastes better wearing a bath robe. Then Hubby indulged me and watched "The Coffee Shop” movie with me.  By this point I can’t remember what day it is. It is nice every once in a long while to have a day of not looking at the clock but eating when you are hungry and sleeping when you are tired.  I should put tired in quotation marks; “tired” from being lazy!

On our final morning there, we duplicated the previous morning and then headed out to Betsy’s on the Corner, a local diner that was heralded in an article I read of great restaurants in South Carolina.  We had noticed on the website that they serve breakfast on Saturdays until 11am so we figured they must stop serving it earlier on other days. Nope. It meant they serve breakfast ONLY on Saturdays. This town’s business hours were somewhat surprising if not inconvenient. We went just a bit down the road to What’s Cookin’ and had breakfast there.  The grits were substantial and full of herbs.  The rest was so-so and the waitress needed our help to know what to do, bless her heart. But, hey, the local experience is part of the adventure when you travel so we still enjoyed ourselves.

It really seemed like a much longer trip than it was, seeing we were there not even 48 hours. Even a short break can give much refreshment and you will be “chomping at the bit” to get back to your routine with renewed vigor. All those times that I needed a break during the busiest days of my life make me truly thankful for these luxurious getaways. Even at a much more modest price, I am convinced that they are absolutely necessary for the health of a marriage. There is something about removing the usual distractions and cares so that you can be absorbed in one another and interested in every little thought and interest of your spouse. And then there’s THOSE PEOPLE we try not to mention because we are on a MARRIAGE trip and not a PARENT trip…but end up smiling and laughing as we talk about our children anyway. Now we feel all affirmed and relaxed. Time to get back to our lives as we smile and remember a wonderful celebration of our marriage.

Five Days in New York City (Part 2)

Day 3

Mercy. Please. Have mercy on us, Colton! We had seen many of the things we wanted to see already and were glad to have a more sparse itinerary for the rest of the trip.  Colton said that he was going at a slow pace with us and that his usual pace keeps him from spending so much time in the bad smells and heat. Young people these days: so resilient and resourceful.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning with breakfast in the room and had a late morning start to the day.

Our guide came to our room and took us to Brooklyn.  We took some pictures of the bridges and headed to Colton's favorite burger joint Shake Shack.  We hit it just before the rush and managed to get a table.  Yummy!

The Empire State Building in New York framed by the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. This area is called DUMBO: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  Without the Overpass, it would just be DUMB.

My photographer captured the city's reflection in the window behind me.

We took the train to Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown near Rockefeller Center. The architecture is stunning. We sat and took it in. We have a weakness for stained glass and had plenty to look at. The awe and reverence in a church like that is something missing from the structures we meet in today. We have the "relationship" idea down but we would do well to remember that He is GOD.

We walked down 5th Avenue and Colton took us into Ralph Lauren.  I asked him tongue-in-cheek if he wanted to do a little back-to-school shopping.  He looked at the $160 price tag on a pair of sweat pants and said that he didn't need anything today. We took the elevator to the women's section (?) and, tucked in the corner, was a beautiful little pristine coffee shop, little known and hidden from the crowds.  Sit. Air Conditioning. Liquids.

Time to put the adults down for their naps.

Another date night ensued. A little dressier this time.  We took a taxi to Azalea's which proved to be a romantic venue.  The restaurants near Broadway always ask when seating you if you are attending a show.  They have always brought our food promptly and gotten us on our way in plenty of time. 

I had an excellent view. Tip: if you are ever waiting tables and there's a bottle of sparkling water on the table, be aware that one of the diners may be drinking plain water before you top them both off.

We had a short walk around the corner to the Broadway Theatre, one of the few theatres that is actually ON Broadway.  Our show of choice was "Fiddler on the Roof" and it did not disappoint. There were a couple of dance numbers that were all men and they were incredible.  It was so athletic and energetic: it gave me extended moments of childlike delight. One number was of five guys dancing with bottles balanced on their heads.  It was amazing but I was relieved when it was done that no one had dropped his bottle. What a delightful end to a delightful day!

Day 4

Day 4 was Sunday and Colton's church meets in the afternoon.  We met late morning for bacon, egg, and cheese bagels at Brooklyn Bagel and then coffee at Bean and Bean which is on the corner up from the church. Colton instructed us to sit near the only window unit air conditioner at Manor Community Church.  He played the piano for the service which was the most thrilling and moving performance I had heard all week. The people were very friendly. Some come to receive the free food given after the service, meal, and prayer time so there were a variety of social statuses represented. New York is a collection of nationalities and it gives a true sense of being "the church" when you worship with a variety of races.  I was very blessed to sing, worship, and eat with the folks there.  The pastor was sick that day so the interns ran the service and did a fantastic job.  After the song service, Colton had to go change his clothes: he was drenched with sweat.

After church, we had a good chat over some Argo Tea a few blocks away and then parted ways for the day. Time for the old folks to rest again.

It was nearly 8pm when we decided we needed dinner. Jeff looked online for something within walking distance.  I didn't want anything spicy that late so we opted for the steakhouse around the corner.  We decided on Jack's Steakhouse without even looking at the menu. It sounded straightforward enough.  Looking at the menu is always a good idea in NYC because you may not realize that the least expensive item on the menu is $45 and that everything is à la carte.  Once we were there and saw the menu, we decided to stay and make a nice meal of it.  Plus we were too tired to walk anywhere else. Just kidding. The filet mignon was delicious and we followed up with cheesecake and apple strudel, beautifully presented.

Day 5

Our final day had arrived so we ate breakfast in the hotel and packed our bags.  Our flight was not until 8pm (so we thought) so the hotel stored our bags until we came back for them that evening.  We put things we wanted for the flight in the outside pockets of our suitcases so we could get them before checking our bags at the airport.

Jeff used an app to find our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is located on the east side of Central Park.  The subway we took got us to the west side and then we took a bus across the park. This museum is beyond huge and beyond amazing.  I already knew that we would only get a sampling of it this day.  I read a New Yorker's comment that she had been over 30 times and sees new things every time she goes. Jeff wanted most to see the modern art and I the impressionists.  That is a little insight into our personalities.  We each enjoyed all of it.  I saw a few things I wouldn't mind having for the house but I didn't see any price tags. We enjoyed a delightful déjeuner at one of the museum's restaurants.  The corn soup was delicious and the $18 chicken sandwich was plenty for two. 

Monet

Degas

We met Colton and walked to Eclair, a pastry shop. We took our purchase to a coffee shop near Grand Central called Ground Central. It was loud and crowded but a kind young lady gave up her couch so the three of us could sit together in the cozy, dimly lit back room decorated like a private library. I enjoyed my cheesecake eclair there. 

When we came out of the subway, it was raining so we stepped inside the Bank of America building until it subsided.  My husband felt we had the right since he works for the company and apparently owns the building. We finally made it to the NY Public Library and, after doing our thigh-burning stair climbers for the day, enjoyed sitting in a large air-conditioned room to look for dinner options now that we were getting notifications of our delayed flight due to storms in the area. We decided on a barbecue place that Colton liked near our hotel but it was pouring when we tried to leave Penn Station so we just went to their food court in the subway and ate pizza. 

The rain was down to a drizzle now so we enjoyed the cool mist as we walked to our hotel lobby.  We got our bags and hung out for a while in the beautiful lobby while listening to a mom absolutely yelling and swearing at her children.  It obviously was not worth it to take them to Queens from the Bronx at that hour and then have to go back and get them tonight so she wanted to take them tomorrow but they just didn't understand why that was better. This was pleasant. She finally stormed out. I had seen another short-tempered mom on the subway who snapped and jerked from the children when they were doing nothing wrong.  I saw many nannies with children who treated them well.  I know these were isolated incidents but I saw that maybe it is better for a nanny to be with the children all day if there are moms who would treat them cruelly.

Colton walked us down to the taxi stand in front of Penn Station and sent us off to the airport. We saw a complete rainbow beginning to end as we went and got more flight delay notifications along the way.  Our 8pm flight departed at 11:45pm.  Even after seeing how he is thriving there and knowing that he is a 22 year old man, my heart was tugged as we flew out of the city, farther and farther away from our son.  He will be home in three weeks.  That helps.

GertRUDE sat in front of me on the plane, making fun of the flight attendant with her friend. Grow up, Gertrude.

We drove our own van out of the airport garage at 2am on the empty, silent streets. The silence made me feel that my ears were clogged but they weren't.  We wisely had planned for the day after the trip to be a rest day. And it definitely was.

We knew we wanted to experience new things in New York this trip but also knew that there is no way to see it all in one visit. We will take little nibbles of that Big Apple each trip and do it at an enjoyable, unfrenzied pace, seeing new things each time and revisiting our favorites. We had other uses for the money we spent but sometimes it is just TIME TO GO. Travel matures you and opens your eyes and mind.  Things are very different in other places.  This can make you thankful for what you have and give you ideas on how to improve it. It is good to experience other cultures and flavors and sights. It is amazing to see the God-given abilities people have and what they have done with the raw materials God provided in the earth. It all leaves me in more awe of God than before. 


Long before I started blogging, I wrote of our 2010 trip in a Facebook note.  I read it this week and then managed to delete it 😳 but the ending was so poignant.  I wrote that we took Colton on the trip when he was sixteen to expose him to other places, to encourage him to follow his dreams, and to show him that he was big stuff with us and that we wanted to celebrate him in a big way.  I do not know if it is ironic or providential that he now wants to live in NYC. He IS following his dream and pursuing the direction of God's calling on his life. I've been viewing the tapestry from the back all his life and now am getting glimpses of the front.

New York City is an amazing place.  I saw many impressive scenes there but I was most impressed with my two men.  When I look to my left or right, that same man is always by my side wherever life takes me.  He's there with an outstretched hand to help me up and help me out and that hand is constantly reaching for mine so that we can go together. He's there to stand between me and any threat and is clearing the way and bearing the load.  He's mighty handy to have around and I think my identity as a lady comes largely from the fact that I am so well-treated by this true gentleman.  New York City was marvelous but it only served as another backdrop for watching this lifelong marvel that I observe daily in my husband. After the tea and lipstick are gone, he will be the souvenir from my trip that I get to 🐝keep.

The other marvel I observed in New York is a little boy whose legs have now grown long and whose hand no longer needs to reach for mine.  I recognize him simultaneously as child and man and simultaneously shudder and cheer to see him roaming freely around New York. This man's unending energy is a great partner to his unquenchable infatuation with the city that never sleeps.  He has a way of coming to right conclusions and seeing through to the heart of a matter.  He so quickly volunteers to serve, whether it is filling our hotel ice bucket or giving food to the poor. To see him respect and serve all people makes this mom mighty proud. He lives by faith believing that God will guide his steps to work out the purpose for which he was designed and willing to do today whatever the Lord has led him to at this point.

I enjoy many elements of my life including travel. However, nothing I saw in NYC trumps the consistent joy that results from being a Christian, a wife, and a mother. That goes with me everywhere. You may never see New York in person or be a wife or a mother, but we can all have Jesus and that is joy enough for this life and the next.

Five Days in New York City (Part 1)

Our son Colton is spending his second summer in New York City so, when our younger two children decided to go to camp for the same two weeks, we decided to go during that time to visit our eldest.  We wanted to be able to spend time with him and to also have some time as a couple while we were there.  He served as an excellent personal tour guide.  He has learned the subway system and has found lots of wonderful, air-conditioned coffee shops.  

We had taken him to NYC for his sixteenth birthday trip in January of 2010, so now we have been there together through the cold of winter and the heat of summer.  It gets much colder there in the winter than here in the south and nearly as hot in the summer but the great difference in impact is that you are out in it up there walking from place to place.  Here we walk from the car to the building or never even get out in the weather with a garage at home and at work.

We managed to buy my husband's airline ticket with Skymiles and mine with VISA points so our only cost for flying was the $25 baggage fee per checked bag per way.  We got direct flights and were slated to be in NYC by 9:15am. Our returning flight was to leave at 8pm so we would be getting our full money's worth out of the hotel for those days by having a full day on both ends of the trip. Our flight ended up being delayed so we arrived in NYC about noon. This confirmed the lesson I learned the last time we went there and that is to not have firm plans the day of your arrival--nothing you have tickets for or that starts at a certain time.  Between flight delays and travel exhaustion, your plans need to be flexible on arrival day.

First glimpse flying in

We walked to the baggage claim and my suitcase was the first one out and arrived just as we did.  My husband's followed soon after and we were out the door. Jeff had arranged for a driver to take us to our hotel.  Mario was polite to play his music softly but I do need to teach him some driving etiquette. All in all, a smooth trip...for NYC.

View from hotel rooftop

We checked in to the hotel and I became puzzled when Colton called and asked if we were almost to the hotel where he was waiting for us. It didn't take long for us to realize that we booked a different Fairfield Inn than the one we spent much time choosing on TripAdvisor.  Come to find out, there are three Fairfield Inns in midtown.  The front desk was gracious to allow us to spend just the first night there and then switch over to the hotel we had intended to book.  They actually made the arrangements for us.

Colton finally found us and showed us the way to Lemony, a Greek place he likes for their French-fry-laden yeeros (and, yes, that's how they spell it).  On our way there, I saw many flower shops. They put tons of plants and flowers out on the sidewalk every day and create walkways through them.  How I would love to live near such a place and make fresh arrangements with their unusual flowers! There were fabric shop windows that gave me similar longings. No sooner did I get past the wonderful smell of flowers than I saw a homeless couple fast asleep on the sidewalk.  That's how it is in the big city:  something wonderful followed by someone's horrible reality in constant sequence. For the next four days when we were walking the streets, I would breathe in a different smell with each breath: flowers, coffee, urine, laundry soap, B.O., perfume, trash, cinnamon, exhaust, etc. The same with sounds and sights. It trains you to expect anything next.

We then made our way to Stumptown Coffee.  I do not drink coffee but my men said that it was good stuff.  It was a very hipster hangout with a large back room where people were talking and working on laptops.

This may be where we took our first subway ride of the week. We each had a 7-day unlimited ride ticket that cost $32. We used it a lot while there and got our money's worth. Houston Street is pronounced House-ton.  Just so you know.

Off to Battery Park we went where we saw Lady Liberty in the distance.

We continued on around until we found a shady place to sit and talk.  We then made our way to the 9/11 Memorial where we saw the two fountains memorializing the victims of 9/11.  

They are waterfall fountains built in the footprints of the twin towers.  The sound of the constant water creates a peaceful, serene atmosphere.  People would talk but no one was being loud.  I wasn't prepared for the tears that came.  This was the WHERE. I know the WHAT, the HOW, the WHY, and the WHEN, but it was the overwhelming WHO that was too much to consider: the thousands that died undeservedly and unexpectedly and the families and friends who still mourn them. We all mourn them. It was beautiful to see every name carved in the memorial. Every life matters. The new One World Trade Center tower stands tall and represents resilience but the theme of respect rang loud and clear to me.  

The trees planted on the grounds are from the states that endured the attacks on 9/11 and it was neat to see the survivor tree--the only tree that withstood everything that went on in that place in 2001. 

We then went to see the Oculus, a new subway station still under construction that costs $4 billion.

It is massive.  It connects directly to Brookfield Place. This is a very beautiful, new, expensive mall (unless $1200 shoes is your norm). There is a gourmet food court on the second level where I shared a fantastic barbecue sandwich and Dirty Fries with Colton from Mighty Quinn's Barbecue.  We realized we never bought the phone charger we needed that day so Colton took off to SoHo to get one.  Jeff and I wandered around Le District downstairs, a French market.  There we found many wonderful pastries and chocolates.  I bought a variety box of teas. We enjoyed some of the pastries and graciously left a bite of each for Colton. We wandered outside and rested while watching people walk, jog, skateboard, and ride bikes along the battery. It was a beautiful evening.  

When Colton returned, he showed us the way by subway to go to Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson.  It was dark by then and we sat in the park and gazed at the beautiful city lights of New York. Colton pointed out the areas of town from top to bottom: uptown, midtown, the villages, and FiDi (the Financial District).  Times Square was recognized by how it lit up the sky above it. We made our way back to our hotel and slept hard after a day of over 13,000 steps in temperatures in the upper 90's.

Day 2

I awoke to construction noise and distant honking car horns. Mr. Wonderful got up and got dressed to go get the hotel breakfast for me.  I felt like I could rest a long while more.  Comfortable shoes are a must when pounding the pavement of a big city.  My lack of energy would require a slower pace today. Alternating indoor (air conditioned) and outdoor activities and sitting and standing activities is also a good idea.

Our first item of the day was to switch to the right hotel. We walked it, thankful for suitcases with wheels. The new hotel was a great improvement: beside Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, bigger, nicer, newer.  There was actually space to put our suitcases on the floor of our room!

Next we went to the original Joe's Pizza and ate it in Washington Square Park near the huge arch and watched children play in the fountain and listened to a bluegrass group.  Shade was high in demand. We made the mistake of ordering a smoothie from a food truck without asking the price first.  Our guide clued us in on how to do better next time.

We took the bus (which also used our metro card) to our next destination. It was an overall good experience to travel through town and see the sights seated and in air conditioning.  At one point the driver had to slam on brakes because a vendor's cart got away from him and went into the street.  My husband hurt his arm against the rail in front of him but it did not cause any ongoing problem. We walked through Little Italy and had some refreshing Greek yogurt at Greecologies.  There are lights strung between the buildings and, as in many cases throughout the week, I wish I could have seen it at night although I usually was longing to nest in my bed with a cup of tea in the evenings. Little Italy was quaint and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street! Colton had told me about a coffee shop called Maman he thought I would like. It was French and used blue and white china.  He took us there and he was right:  I loved it!  Their paper cups were printed in the pattern also. I'm going to try to replicate a quinoa dish I saw at a glance there.  

Next up was Grand Central Station.  The architecture is beautiful with thick mouldings and constellations painted on the ceiling.  Colton told us how valuable each of the four faces of the clock are and how amazing it is that they weren't stolen back when the station fell into disrepair. Grand Central is the station that takes trains to Connecticut while Penn Station takes trains to New Jersey.

My men indulged me to look in Sephora on 5th Avenue. I have been watching a small makeup company named Besamé and the Sephora in our mall at home carries only two of their lipsticks.  I was sure this NYC Sephora would carry the whole line but was disappointed to find that they carried the same two shades and nothing more.  I bought the Red Velvet with some of my birthday money. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 💋

Colton had plans with friends for the evening so he took us to our room and gave instructions for taking the subway to our evening plans.  We rested and freshened up, a little nervous to try the subway system without our guide. We learned quickly that it is not enough to know which train to take; you first have to know how to interpret the signs in the subway to FIND the train.  It is important to know that there are layers of trains.  There can be up to five levels of trains, over and below each other under the ground.  This requires taking stairs or elevators or escalators to the other levels.  After thinking hard and sending pictures of the signs to Colton, we finally got a "Yes" and got the right train on the first try. We had chosen a restaurant within walking distance from our event so we now could relax.

Rosa Mexicano had good reviews and turned out to be an excellent choice.  We had reservations and were seated immediately.  The two-story wall beside the stairs had water trickling down it and there must have been 200 little diving men mounted on it in varying stages of their dive. It was a large restaurant with a portable cart used to make guacamole tableside. I learned a new way to peel an avocado. The service was excellent and the food was very good. It was nice to have a little smaller portion so that we had room for dessert: warm churros (Mexican doughnuts) with chocolate and raspberry sauces. Yes, indeed!

Next we headed a few blocks over to the Lincoln Center for a free Mostly Mozart outdoor concert. We walked two sides of the block to get to the end of the line for admission (bag check) but it moved fairly quickly and we were in our seats in plenty of time. It was slightly sweltering but the sun was setting and there was an occasional welcome breeze. The violin concerto was remarkable and "Jupiter" was delightful as always.  A ten-year-old (I'm guessing) ballerina took it upon herself to dance throughout the entire concert up and down the side of our section.  Some of the older folks found her enchanting and some video-taped her. I wondered where her parents were.  We hadn't chosen an evening of amateur ballet but of music.  If everybody did.... That's the drawback of a free concert. Fortunately, I was at an angle to block her out and enjoy the orchestra. Now for the subway.

We did fine and met Colton at his favorite gelato shop called Amorino's.  He has taken many guests there including missions teams so the owner greets him and calls him the Boss when he comes in.  They even put a free macaroon on his gelato. That's good business.  That owner works it and it shows. When you order a cone, they use two flavors and arrange the slabs to make a rose. So pretty and refreshing.

And that is the end of a 15,000 step day. 

[See Part 2]

 

Following Up: A Little Habit that Makes A Big Difference

There are those who do things the way the masses do them, and then there are those who have a quality of excellence about them. We tend to trust and respect them more. One of those excellent qualities is following up. It comes from a sense of friendliness, gratitude, organization,  and respect. Following up sets a person apart.  You get the feeling that someone is professional when they wrap up loose ends after a meeting or conversation. It tells you that you are not "out of sight, out of mind" with them.  

We are so accustomed to hearing "Thank you so much!" that it has nearly lost its meaning.   A follow up message lets the person know that it REALLY WAS good to talk to him and reminds him that you have not forgotten about your conversation. 

My husband and I notice when people are responsive and when people are not.  Some have lost job and other ministry opportunities because they waited so long to respond. Either someone else snatched up the opportunity while he dragged his feet or the decision-maker realized that he would not want to work with someone who took so long to respond.  It is a matter of being considerate.  If someone is nice enough to make you an offer, be nice enough to give them a response.

📍"He's really good about responding quickly.  I sent that email out just an hour ago and he has already replied."

📍"He said he would get back with me by yesterday and I haven't heard from him."

📍"It's obvious why she has risen to where she is.  She is very responsive."

I'm beginning to think that not responding is the most severe form of disrespect. I require an answer from my children when I speak to them.  Imagine if you stood face to face with someone and asked them a question and they just looked at you in silence or walked away without answering.  That is a figurative slap in the face.  It says "You aren't worth wasting my breath. You are invisible to me." 

I have felt this way when greeting people I know and they look the other way. In our country, even a smile should be answered with a smile. An initiated communication requires a response unless it is inappropriate. When you know someone that is considered "the nicest guy you could ever want to meet," it is probably because he esteems every person highly, showing interest in them, and responding to every thing they mention.

Let's consider some common situations that require follow up.


✍🏻Exchange of information
If you have announced information, keep people updated on any changes. It would help if you would let them know when they can expect the update so they do not have to ask.

📍"Thank you for all of the well wishes and prayers for my uncle.  He is doing much better and went home from the hospital today."

📍"I am happy to announce that we reached our goal for the fundraiser!"

📍"She played beautifully! We will not know the results until 4pm."


✍🏻Asked a question or given a task
Update people as to your progress from time to time on projects they have assigned you. Respond to texts or emails so that they know you received them. You may not have a final answer for them but at least they know you received the communication.

If you do not get back with them, they might suspect that you never got the communication or that you forgot about it or that things are going poorly. If it turns out that you did not receive the communication OR that the progress is slow, they may be in a bind on the due date. Remember that many managers answer to others so they need to know how the project is coming along. I would venture to say that the one who keeps a manager updated on progress would be more likely to get the promotion. Communication is key. People do not like to be left wondering.

If the ball is in your court, you should be initiating communication to keep others informed of your progress.  It's like when your child has to ask you "Did you like my picture?" That's when you know you've blown it.  They had to elicit your approval because you were too late with it.  Being mature means taking care of your affairs without others having to make you do it.

📍"I got your email and I will get on this Monday."  

📍"The envelopes are stuffed.  As soon as we get stamps in the morning, we will put them in the mail.".

📍"Got it. Will let you know soon."


✍🏻Responding to invitations

The letters RSVP stand for the French phrase "respondez, s'il vous plait" which means "respond, please". My iPhone is obviously not familiar with the term; it auto-corrects "rsvp" as "taco" because the letters are adjacent to one another. Notice that it does not mean "respond if you CAN come" or "respond if you CANNOT come".  It just says "respond". Either way. 

There are plenty of reasons the host would need a response.  Perhaps she has capacity for only twenty and, if you cannot attend, she could give your spot to someone else.  I have wanted to invite a list of people but had room for only twenty.  I had to save spots for those who did not respond in case they DID show up, but when they did not, I had a low turn-out when I could have invited folks that I would really have liked to invite.  It's rude not to respond to an invitation. 

Other reasons the host could need a response is to avoid foods she may know you are allergic to, in case she is personalizing place cards, to be sure everyone has a fellow guest he knows and is comfortable talking to, to have enough party favors, and to know the party can begin because everyone has arrived. 

Some invitations may ask you to respond with "regrets only".  That means the host is holding a place for you until you let her know otherwise.  I have developed a habit of not giving a reason for regrets.  I personally do not expect my guests to explain why they cannot attend and hope that they are not pressured to come if they do not want to explain.  There are times that the reason is just too personal.  Sometimes folks have been going so hard that they just need an evening at home with family to rest. Sometimes family relations are so stressed that they cannot manage to go out and act jolly.  They may be allergic to your pet and do not want to hurt your feelings by broaching such an emotional subject.  There are so many possible reasons and it is not up to me to approve of a reason. I asked if they could come and all I need to know is yes or no. Let's give one another grace and not pry for an explanation. We can be Christlike in this. Jesus invites us to come to Him and leaves it to us to accept or reject His invitation. He does not force us.

If you said you were going to go and now you cannot, let your host know as soon as possible.  Do not be a no-show.  

📍"Just wanted you to know I haven't forgotten about the banquet.  I'm waiting for a reply from a coworker before I know if I'm able to go." 

📍"I really want to go to your party but am just not feeling better yet.  How late can I respond?"

It's nice to give options for another time if you are unable to go. This lets the inviter know that it's not that you do not like them.

📍"I cannot go to your party but let's make a lunch date soon!"

📍"We cannot come for dinner Friday. Do you have any other night this week available?"


✍🏻After receiving a gift or being a guest
When someone sacrifices their money, time, or a great deal of effort for you, you should thank them with a note.  It is not for every time someone holds a door for you or does some simple act of kindness.  A simple "Thank you" will do for that, but when someone has singled you out and gone out of their way for you, a thank you note is appropriate.  

A thank you note left on my guest bed

Keep thank you notes on hand so that you can respond to them quickly while the sentiment is fresh and you do not have to begin with an apology for being late. Mention the gift, party, or favor and express your gratitude for it. Mention how fitting and enjoyable it is or was and of your hope for future use of the gift or connection with the giver.

📍"Thank you for having us over for dinner last night. It was such a treat to walk in and sit down to a delicious meal. I need your chocolate cake recipe! My family talked about it all the way home. The highlight of the evening was the fellowship and laughter we shared. What a refreshing evening with good friends. Thanks so much! See you at Bible study."

We should feel very honored (because we are) when people invite us to an event they are hosting.  I'm not talking about inviting us to somewhere they can market to us and use us as prospects.  That's well and good IF you have shown interest, but for someone to host a party and include you on the guest list is an honor.  I have given many a gathering and I can tell you that it is a lot of expense and work, even if you have it down to a science. 

In today's age of electronic communication, we have no excuse not to follow up with people.  A text within 24 hours of an act of kindness is very nice and adds sincerity to your spoken thanks.   This works fine in place of a note for something that deserves more than just a spoken word.

📍 "We had a great time at the reception last night. Thanks so much for inviting us and congratulations!"


✍🏻After a meeting or event
A follow-up call or note, whether written or emailed, is impressive after a meeting. Just think of it as an online review after leaving a restaurant. Of course, only the positive comments should be made publicly to a friend.

📍"It was very nice to meet you, Bob. Have a great day."

📍"Your lecture really struck a chord with me. I have been wrestling with that very issue and you gave some real help. Thank you for all the work you put into it."

📍"That meeting was well organized and efficient! Thanks for not wasting my time."


You can see how follow up is a very practical way to be an encourager. We all need encouragement and, if you have ever put work into writing or teaching or cooking or ANYTHING, you know that a little appreciation goes a long way and changes the whole experience for you. We Christians do all we do to please God but nice comments from others can keep us encouraged on life's journey. If we know to do this good thing, it would be wrong not to do it. Gratitude is good for the giver and the recipient.


When in doubt, follow up. 

 

A Long Weekend in Charlotte, NC

My family recently went on a short vacation to Charlotte, NC.  We have taken different types of vacations over the years with the commonality of fitting it to our budget, interests, and ages. This one was certainly based on those qualifications. Hopefully you can gain some ideas by reading this travelogue. I'm sorry it is so long. Feel free to skim for the parts that grab your interest.

Our eldest child plans to spend the summer in New York so the four days that his spring break overlapped our other children's spring break turned out to be our only chance to do something as a family this year.  Even with that, he was going to spend two of those days in New York and needed to fly out of Charlotte, NC, so we decided to spend the weekend there.  Since our time was so short, we splurged a little to make things nice.  We decided to use part of our vacation money for a shopping spree so that we all had things to show for the weekend after it was over.  It would have been close to the amount we would have spent on inexpensive flights. That would have been fun but we met some clothing needs with that amount and had fun doing it.

We left home Friday morning and went straight to Concord Mills Mall in the northern part of Charlotte.  The natural division turned out to be the girls (my daughter Evy and me), the boys (my two sons Colton and Capers who are different shapes but wear the same size), and Dad (aka my husband Jeff).  We all had the same amount to spend and our budgeting and wardrobe skills were put to use. The three groups went our own ways and met at the food court for lunch.  We all arrived at slightly different times and ended up all choosing the same restaurant.  If we had known beforehand that the Japanese place had a punch card for a free meal after four punches, one of us could have eaten for free.  It worked fine anyway since I have learned that it doesn't take much to fill me up and the kids usually have leftover food.  I just took a little from a couple of them and was fine.

Something I have learned from being on previous vacations is that I have a hard time being hungry enough to eat when it is time to eat again.  This vacation we ate just two meals per day and it worked great.  By the time some sleep in, you have a later breakfast than usual and then you're not ready for lunch at lunchtime.  That puts you ready for a meal mid to late afternoon which also helps you beat the crowd.  You could have a snack in the afternoon and push dinner later or have the afternoon lupper and have the snack in the evening.  Vacation meals are usually bigger than  typical meals so you stay full longer and you aren't working off the food. The food was one of the most enjoyable parts of our trip so it was good that we set ourselves up to be hungry enough to enjoy it.  We spent about one-fifth of our money on food.  There are usually sweet treats you allow yourself to partake of on vacation, too, so the two-meal per day plan allows for that.

After lunch at the mall and sending our packages out to the van, we divided back up to shop for about three more hours before we met at the mall's movie theatre.  It was great to sit in comfortable chairs after doing all that walking.  We saw "Miracles From Heaven" and there were few if any dry eyes among us.  It was a great film that left us all thankful for our health, for each other, and for our faithful God.

Throughout the shopping experience, I was thrilled to see my children make decisions based on price, quality, and usefulness. Our eldest doesn't shop often but knew what he needed, shopped the mall for the best deals, and then went back to purchase his items at the winning stores.  He managed to get a lot for his money. Evy is hard core when it comes to spending money.  She knows what she needs and will not spend a lot for it. Capers is learning but was allowed to buy some fads since he is nearly fifteen and still growing.  I won't have to look at them long.  I let him wear the hula girl socks twice before I threw them away. No.

After a few more purchases, we checked into the Ballentyne Hotel on the south side of Charlotte.  It turned out to be a great choice and left me wanting to go back.  It is conveniently located just off 485 so we were in and out very quickly each time we went somewhere.  The whole area there is new and has plenty of nice shops, restaurants, and housing.  I loved the colorful art by Thomas Vieth of Charlotte venues including the Ballentyne Hotel.

One doesn't just get a hotel room for a family of five.  One must have two rooms.  Ca-ching ca-ching. Fortunately they were able to give us adjoining rooms which worked beautifully for our three-night stay.

We rested and freshened up a bit and then took off for the Cheesecake Factory at SouthPark Mall.  They said the wait was one and a half to two hours.  I doubted that and ended up being right.  It was fifty minutes.  We old people waited outside on their comfy sectionals while the kids explored the mall.  Walking in a mall didn't appeal to me at that moment for some reason.  It was getting on to nine o'clock by the time we were seated and I was beginning to turn into a pumpkin.  The food was very good but I think I filled up too much on strawberry lemonade and mashed potatoes to finish my delicious salmon.  Such a shame.  The combo of being full and tired made me not feel so well so I was ready to hit the hay.  The rest of the family ordered cheesecake to go and we headed back to the hotel. 

The next morning, we all headed to the hotel dining room for a wonderful breakfast.  Capers said that his pancakes were so good that he wanted to cry.  My Crab Cakes Benedict was out of this world also.  The decor in the dining room was mostly modern but definitely eclectic.  The moulding was spotlighted and so unusual. The floors were photo-worthy and will show up as a background on this blog one day no doubt.

We roamed around the hotel for photo-ops after breakfast. 

We then headed downtown to roam around there.  I'm not much for roaming so I was working hard to be a team player.  We did go straight to the Levine Museum of the New South which I had researched so I was fine with that. It was very interesting with lots of hands-on exhibits.  It depicted the changes that have taken place in the South since the Civil War.  I take my history with a grain of salt so I was a little skeptical but I think they tried to be truthful.  I hesitate to believe that all of the facts have been preserved without a slant or that things were as wide-spread as whatever was documented.  I also know that the public is not privy to all the confidential information that leaders have when forced to make decisions. There were many issues represented and they prompted opportunities for discussion within our family. That is as close to political as you will ever see me get. I do not enjoy conflict, especially handled wrongly.

We ducked in for some beverages at the 7th Street Public Market which was at the north end of the line for the LYNX train. It was a large open room that housed several counters from different businesses.  There were also aisles of groceries.  This was a neat place.  Most of us ordered hot drinks and managed to find a table big enough in the back corner.  All of the drinks were very good but my hot tea press was the envy of all.  I had Turmeric Ginger hot tea and it was perfect on that chilly, rainy day.

The kids wanted to ride the train so we bought tickets and rode all the way to the other end of Charlotte and back.  It was a neat way to see the city. 

Then the wanderlust continued but it was thankfully short-lived.  "Just wandering around to see what we find" ended up being finding a bathroom and our van.  After a quick refresh at the hotel, we went just five minutes down the road to Midwood Smokehouse.  This turned out to be everyone's favorite meal of the trip.  We walked around in the nearby shopping area while we waited for our table. It was worth the wait.  The barbecue was excellent and the sides were, too.  I recommend the baked beans.  They were the most flavorful I have ever had.  Capers ordered ribs and said that all the meat came off each rib with the first bite.  Needless to say, we will be back first chance.

Back at the hotel, the two younger kids took a dip in the indoor pool while my husband and I chatted with Colton.  He was headed out to NYC the next morning for a quick two-day trip to finish up his spring break.  He got there just in time to practice thirty minutes and then play for the church service at New York Gospel Mission where he interned last summer.  Then he was off to two Broadway plays.  He spent the night with a gracious friend and then auditioned Broadway performers with his dean for his senior Theatre Arts project coming up in November.

The rest of us got up Sunday morning and went down for another beautiful breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  I had the pancakes this time and Capers was right: excellence with honey butter on top. We headed off to Matthews, NC, nearby for the Easter service at Bible Baptist Church.  We saw several people we knew and enjoyed the service very much.

We were so full from that big, late breakfast that we had no interest in lunch.  We went to the Mint Museum only to find an empty parking lot and a sign that said they were closed on major holidays. We used the beautiful lawn for some family pictures and then went back to the hotel.  We lounged in our hotel rooms for the afternoon and then headed out to a restaurant called 131 Main.  Here we introduced our children to prime rib.  It was served with a gentle horseradish sauce that was just perfect.  Evy and I also had the clam chowder.  That turned out to be one of my food favorites from the trip.  We laughed a lot at that meal, partly at the kids making up lame jokes and partly at the fact that it seemed that a different person came to our table for every different thing.  They must have a huge wait staff.  One seated us, one got our drink order, one brought the drinks, one took our order, another brought the appetizers, and on and on.  We added a brownie a la mode at the end and we paid more for that meal than any other of the weekend and there were only four of us instead of five.  It was very good and I'd go back just for the clam chowder. It would also be nice to sit around the fire pit on a non-rainy day.

image.jpeg

Obviously tired of coming up with poses. "Capers, put your knee up."

Jeff and Evy went out for a date after dropping Capers and me off at the hotel.  I watched some HGTV while Capers enjoyed the gym (as he did each day we were there) and flirted with the spa staff. He and Evy were back in the pool before bed.

Monday morning we ordered room service for breakfast.  It was nice to eat in the room and be able to sample many different things.  The grits were so creamy.  I must learn how.  This is another benefit of vacationing in the South.  After I ate, I took off to my favorite store, the Talbots Outlet.  There is a new outlet mall on the west side of town.  I had spent only one-third of my spree money on Friday so I was prepared to finish my task. If you want to know my style, it is Talbots.  100%.  I didn't know until I got back and did some math that I managed to spend the exact amount to the dollar I had remaining without even knowing what it was. I went back to the hotel, and we packed up and headed out to enjoy our last, and only beautiful day, in Charlotte.

For the afternoon, we went to the Carolinas Aviation Museum at the airport.  They have quite a few old planes.  You can sit in one of them and have a conversation with a very knowledgeable tour guide.  The centerpiece of the museum is the plane that landed in the Hudson River in 2009 as it left New York City headed for Charlotte, NC.  The plane is sitting right there in the indoor museum with artifacts, pictures, and narrative all around it.  The NYC skyline is projected onto the wall and there are waves projected onto the floor. Very nicely done.  They have an area to watch the short documentary movie "Miracle on the Hudson" so we sat and watched it.  Just what a mother wants to see just a few hours before her son leaves NYC for Charlotte. I found it interesting that the movie is called "Miracle on the Hudson" but one place on the narrative said that it wasn't a miracle at all but the genius of the pilots and a bit of luck.  The pilots were smart and experienced but they needed more than luck for everything to happen as it did. Some people just won't give God the credit He deserves.

Before leaving town, we went to a restaurant called Mac's Speed Shop.  We had been here once before and enjoyed it very much.  They have barbecue and sides plus burgers and other things.  It has a bike shop decor.  The music was not my cup of tea and I don't think I would like the atmosphere it probably has at night, but it was good each time we have gone.  The menu said that there are three NC locations and one in Greenville, SC.

Southern Loop Burger and Creamed Corn 

We arrived safely at home at a decent hour and our son flew into Charlotte and drove safely to school that night.  A four-day vacation was long enough without being too long.  It wasn't a tropical island, a trip to Europe, or a week on the slopes, but we had a fun time doing things we enjoy without spending a lot of time traveling.  Best of all, we showed our family that spending time together is a priority.

We never felt rushed or like we were not cramming enough in.  Our goal was to be together and do things at a relaxed pace.  We hate coming home from a vacation tired so we have come to accept that we will not be able to do and see all that is there.  We did and saw plenty but never got worked up about it.

You can know that I have added to my must see, must eat, must stay list for Charlotte.  I did not manage to take afternoon tea at the hotel this trip, nor did I visit the spa.  But if the opportunity arises, I know where to go.

Now, back to reality, which isn't half bad either. 

10 Tips for Documenting Your Life in Pictures

Photographs are some of our most precious possessions.  If our house were to catch fire, the first thing I would be concerned about saving (besides my family, of course) would be our pictures. They are all precious reminders of the blessed lives we have lived.

Seeing that photographs are so important, we should work to be the best photographers we can be. I can't teach you a thing about lighting or making technical adjustments on your camera, but I would like to challenge you to think about the subjects of your photographs.

As we go through life snapping pictures here and there, we do not always realize the overall effect. What we are actually doing is recording history--a history we may want to relive through pictures some day or a history we may want to hand down to future generations. There are sometimes too many pictures of people who were not a big part of our lives and too few pictures of those who were.   I'm talking about documenting someone's life rather than just recording what someone looks like. With a little thought, we can record a more accurate version of history that will be greatly appreciated many years from now.

Here are some suggestions for recording your life in pictures.

1. Do not make your subjects look into the sun.
I realize you need light on their faces, but it is very difficult to hold your eyes open while looking directly into the sun. They end up looking like chipmunks. I have a picture of our extended family looking into the sun on my wedding day--a whole family of well-dressed chipmunks.

2. Be sure everyone gets documented at a gathering.
Have you ever seen pictures from a party and realized there were no pictures of so-and-so?  They managed to purposely or accidentally get out of the shot every time.  If they were there, it should show in the pictures. There is usually a family member who is very good about taking pictures.  Unfortunately, there are usually very few pictures of that person who is always behind the camera. It would be tragically ironic if the very one so astute about recording others' happy moments did not have his own happy moments recorded.

3. Take pictures of people doing their thing.
It seems only right to have a picture of someone doing their signature thing. Can brother stand on his head? Better document that. Grandma spent countless hours ironing for the family? Need a picture of that. Dad loved his car. Get his picture with it. Gramps had a little dog that he loved? Be sure to get their picture together.  I have a picture of my Daddy laughing.  When he would get tickled (as we say in the South) he would laugh so hard that he had to bend down to catch his breath.  I can hear him laughing when I see that picture.  It's only a memory now.  Memories are strengthened when you have a picture of them. 

4. Be sure to photograph the important elements of your life.
You should have a picture of every house where you lived, every church where you were a member, every pet you had, your favorite teachers, every car you owned, and every place you worked. Before my parents moved out of the house where I grew up, I went around and photographed every room.  I wanted to be able to see those familiar places and be able to go back in my mind to those days. There is value in photographing empty rooms.  One day you may want to show your daughter the wallpaper you and your mother put up in your room or to show that you had that cedar chest when you were her age.

5. On trips, take pictures of people, not just things.
I have seen pictures from vacations that had no people in them. I'm sure there are identical photo albums in homes all over the country of prominent monuments. I could have pulled up stock images of the monuments and architecture but what made it a special trip was the people who were there. 

6. Don't be silly in every picture.
Yes, it is fun to be the drama queen, but you need some pictures that are just of you looking like you look. Plus, you wouldn't want history to record the impression that you did not know how to be serious.

7. Be sure to get Mom's picture when she looks nice.
Especially when the children are little, the camera seems to come out when Mom is not prepared to be photographed. I have pictures of me holding sick babies in my pajamas, breakfast in bed on Mother's Day, and looking like a drowned rat at the lake. Take it upon yourself to snap a picture of your family members right after they get dressed, while they are fresh and put together. You will be Mom's favorite.

8. Capture sweet moments.
This needs to happen when your subjects do not realize they are being photographed. Don't get their attention and ask them to look at you. Capture life as it happens. Now that I am old enough to look back to long ago, I realize how very special those pictures are that captured everyday moments of our lives.  Yes, I love all the selfies and the formal family portraits, the school pictures and the smile-for-the-camera shots; but I really enjoy those that let me relive things that happened in our lives and to see people interacting with each other.

"I'm proud of you."

If I had said, "Hey, Guys, look at me and smile," these moments would have been lost forever.

9. Be sensitive to some people's self-consciousness.
Some people never show their teeth when they smile for pictures.  Those people tend to cover their mouths when they laugh, too.  There can also be a coming-to-terms with reality for people as they age or gain weight.  For someone to photograph what you look like means coming face to face with the truth. Facing a camera means facing reality when we imagine our 18-year-old selves and then see the 48-year-old truth.  For me, taking a selfie is not an act of pride but of humility. It says, "This is the current me. It is what it is" but that's the beauty of every age: accepting where you are in life. There are people with scars, a lazy eye, a bald spot, a hearing aid--things they do not want showcased.  All that to say that not everyone is happy about having his picture made.  It needs to happen occasionally to record history but remember that some may have issues that may need some compassion on the part of the photographer.

10. Gussy up your subjects before taking the picture.
We have had our family picture made years ago by several professional photographers who snapped the pictures without telling us what to do. Our positioning was out of balance, my son was in the process of putting his hand in his pocket, I had to ask what to do with my hands. It seems to me that, if they wanted me to buy the picture, they would see to it that it looked good.  Be sure the lady's necklace is centered, there's not a lock of hair hanging on a forehead, that his collar is not tucked in on one side, and that everyone is looking at the same spot.  Whatever is obviously out of place will be the place the eye goes first.  With all the work it takes to schedule and prepare for formal portraits, it does not make sense to be haphazard with the details when it is time to take the picture.

In this digital age, we have a lot more pictures than anyone in the past. Selfies are great but let's be sure to capture moments. We can forget what happy lives we have lived unless we record them. The joy those pictures will bring in our old age will be immeasurable.


The 🐝BeKeeper's Original Chicken Salad

I haven't created many of my own recipes, but the first one I created was a keeper🐝 for sure.  It started when I had chicken salad at a local restaurant.  Their chicken salad was so good! I ordered it each time I visited and finally decided that I wanted to make it at home.  I did my best to examine it and figure out all the ingredients.  I saw golden raisins and nuts in there. (I can't remember now which nut.  Pecans, I'm thinking, but several types work well in this recipe.) I jotted down what I thought was in there and have tweaked the amounts over time.  The result is a delicious combination that I have been making for years.  

Interestingly, when I went back and had the restaurant's chicken salad again after tasting mine, I found that they were not very similar. Not even recognizably close. But, hey, it inspired me to create a great recipe so it's all good.

The BeKeeper's Original Chicken Salad
Makes 3 cups

Combine and chill:
2 chicken breasts, cooked, deboned, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 oz sour cream
2 Tbsp minced red onion (optional)


I like recipes that include the instructions in the ingredient list instead of having you go back and forth from the ingredient list to the instruction paragraph, trying to find your place over and over. The initial command of "combine and chill" frees you to go to town putting the ingredients in as you work your way down the list.  Of course, you can take the word "chill" as a recipe instruction AND a personal invitation to relax after you get your cooking done. 😊 I suggest using a larger bowl to combine the ingredients so that you have room to stir them together, and then move the mixture to a smaller bowl to store and serve the finished product.

Chicken salad is great as a sandwich or on crackers.  It can be served as an entree (the main dish of a meal) by spooning it onto a lettuce leaf that has curly edges.  Very pretty presentation. Chicken salad on mini-croissants are staples at a party or reception.

You can cheat with the chicken. (That sounds quotable.) This is a great way to use leftover chicken from some other recipe or meal.  Grilled, baked, roasted, boiled, even canned chicken will work in this recipe.  Just make sure you use enough to make a thick chicken salad and not cold, runny chicken soup. 😝

Instead of "golden raisins" I could have said "any dried fruit".  My favorite is actually dried cranberries.  It adds flavor and color.  I have used dried cherries, also, but they require some chopping since they are a little bigger and tend to "bleed" into the salad if not used up quickly.  You could experiment with other fruits such as dried blueberries or apricots, or even chopped grapes.  Some friends at church have doctored (that's Southern for "messed with" 😊) my recipe by adding a little pineapple juice or even pineapple tidbits. I must admit it was a good idea.  Very yummy!

Almonds are great in this but so are pecans and walnuts.  Some of my people do not like "rocks" in their food so I often leave the nuts out.  You could always take out their portion and then add the good stuff to yours.  Just be sure you label the containers appropriately.

I list the mayonnaise before the sour cream to allow for the possibility of using one spatula or spoon for both.  If you have an 8 ounce container of sour cream OR if you are using the last 8 ounces of a larger container of sour cream, you can scrape it out with the same spatula you used in the mayonnaise jar.  Otherwise, if you had used the spatula in the sour cream first, you wouldn't want to then put it in the mayonnaise and leave bits of sour cream in the mayonnaise.  Hey, when you are the dishwasher, you look for opportunities to use fewer kitchen tools. And, remember, light sour cream works equally as well as the regular stuff. 

And why did I list the mayonnaise in cups and the sour cream in ounces? Why, how clever of you to notice! That's because mayonnaise comes in a jar from which you will need to measure the small amount and sour cream comes in an 8 ounce container so it is already measured for you. It also comes in 16 ounce containers, in which case you can either eyeball half of it or measure it out.

And, unless you enjoy tasting and smelling like red onion for the rest of the day, skip the red onion. A momentary pleasure is rarely worth a lasting displeasure.

So that's the scoop on my chicken salad!

Now, I could have just given you the recipe and kept all these details to myself. However, if you want to learn to cook, you need to read the details and understand how you can change things and get tips on smarter ways to do things. You can learn a lot just from reading detailed recipes. If you print or copy this recipe, you may want to go back and make notes about these suggestions.

Oh, and one more thing.  Just replace the chicken with shrimp and adjust a few of the measurements and you have my delicious shrimp salad.  It's good on crackers or, my favorite, a fork!

The BeKeeper's Original Shrimp Salad
Makes 3 cups

Combine and chill:
12 oz bag small frozen shrimp, thawed, rinsed, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp minced red onion (optional)

 

This post is featured on Christy Jordan's Southern Plate, Meal Plan #4.


Mixing Nurture and Admonition: Parenting (Part 2)

[Continued from Part 1.]

👦🏻 You are not your child's friend.  Since you are responsible to make choices for his welfare, you have to be the bad guy sometimes.  My heart has longed for my children to "love me" but I have had to make decisions that were in their best interest which sometimes made them upset with me.  My job is not to win their love but to do what is best for them.  Place your happiness in God's hands, not your children's.

👦🏻 The goal of rearing children is their independence...from you. Independence FROM YOU. This is one that gets forgotten because we enjoy that close relationship we have with our children and it is hard to give it up. I guess the really scary part is to put the choice for a close relationship in their hands and fearing that they do not want to be as involved with you as you want to be with them. I see parents becoming dependent on the children's affection and company and not wanting them to leave.  I also see parents not teaching independence, making the child unable to function without them.  A baby is fully dependent on his parent for everything: food, warmth, even holding up his head.  From birth on, we are teachers, training that child to do things on his own.  We have approximately eighteen years to get them to full independence. We clap and rejoice when they learn to walk on their own, but are we as happy when they are eighteen and the training is done and they do not need our help?  I use the phrase "Be your own mother" with my students.  You should not need a mother (in the sense of needing a manager and caretaker) as much today as you did yesterday.  You should be able to tell yourself what to do. 

Getting that gradual timing right takes a lot of wisdom. Even with the little taste I've had of my oldest child going to college and interning far away in the summers, I can tell you that it is satisfying to the parent and the child for the child to have the wherewithal to be on his own.  Going away to Christian college has proven to be a good transitional environment between living at home and living independently, for my husband, for me and for our son. 

Sending our children into the world without having trained them with our point of view on how to handle things may leave them vulnerable.  We decided to allow our children to get a Facebook account on their fifteenth birthdays so that we had a few years to train them in how to use it.  We had many limitations on it at first but gradually weaned them off of those to see if they made right decisions.  When they did not, we backed up a step.  This is training.  I would hate to think of the trouble a young adult could get in on the internet by facing those issues on his own.  At least we were there to guide him through it and he knew our reasoning behind what we taught him.

👦🏻 Be real.  My children watch me mess up regularly.  It's embarrassing but would be more embarrassing and damaging if I did not own up to it.  There's no need to pretend I'm someone else to my children.  They see me every day, good days and bad days, or I should say when I do right and when I do wrong.  Your children will learn to face reality and take responsibility for themselves if they see you do it. I also want them exposed at the appropriate ages to problems they will eventually face. Seeing their parents deal with problems will give them the tools to deal with those problems when it is their turn.  My prayer has always been for God to use my successes AND my failures to benefit my children.  I just have to trust that He will turn my mistakes into lessons for them. 

👦🏻 Keep talking.  Talk about everything and anything. Your listening to her talk about her doll when she is four will pave the way for her to talk about boys when she is fourteen. Our goal has always been that our children feel free to talk to us about anything.  To make that happen, you cannot blow up when they drop bombs on you.  Expect them.  They will know about and wonder about things way before you wanted them to. No question was off limits--always in private but anything was fair game. When those bombs come, you should whisper "Thank You, God, that they are coming to ME with this." If there's a problem, they are seeking your wisdom.  If they are curious, give them just as much age-appropriate information as they need to satisfy that curiosity.  

I've heard it said that your parents are your lifelong friends--womb to tomb, birth to earth. Well, parents are friends to children in that they do good things for them but hopefully you really can be mutual friends as adults. You spend all of their childhood setting a foundation for this potential future friendship.  Keep the airways open and give the advice when asked. Then let the child make his decision about what to do and let him enjoy the reward or pay the consequences himself. This is a good formula for being the parent of an adult.

👦🏻 Respect your children. I have always acknowledged the fact that my baby was just an adult in his early phase.  I look at adults as former children.  I see a boy as a future grandfather. We are all our own people.  We just intersect each other's lives at different ages and life deserves respect.  

I have always said "Would you please" when I have TOLD my child what to do.  "Thank you", "I'm sorry", "Please", even "Yes, Sir" and "Yes, Ma'am" were phrases I used consistently in speaking to my children. Your children will not respect you if you do not respect them, and there is a difference in respecting your position and respecting YOU.  I wonder if the same people who openly mock political leaders are the same ones who are shaking their heads about "these disrespectful kids these days". You teach respect by showing respect.

I am horrified to see children humiliated in public by "adults".  You know, the ones who read a student the riot act in front of the class, the one that posts a picture of his child wearing a sign about what he did wrong, or the very loud mom in the store showing us all how to keep children in their places. That gets you nowhere with a child except to prove to him that you are not respectable.  Humiliation is not a tactic we used with our children, which made it obvious to them whenever some other adult tried it on them.  If they committed an offense, we handled it privately. (Remember, keep private things private.). And, yes, even if they committed the offense publicly, we handled it privately.  Any apologies were made face to face that were necessary, but embarrassment does not pave the way for a child (or anyone else) to soften his heart. Committing a public offense is childish.  Handling it with wisdom is adultish. 

Also, respect the child's dignity. Bathtub and potty training pictures are vault-type pictures. When you are in the baby days and your life is about bodily functions and issues, you are accustomed to discussing that daily. Some of the rest of us are not.  Those details are your child's most confidential information. Be trustworthy with it. Guard his dignity, even as a baby.

👦🏻 All children are different.  Even children who have the same two parents learn at different rates and in different ways. They have different interests. Do not compare one child to another.  My children are all gifted in obviously different areas and have their own niches, but even so, I could get an instant tearful reaction if I ever mentioned how one child got it right and this child got it wrong.  You just don't go there.  It really isn't fair. They are different people.  Do not hold one up to the yardstick of another, but speak in terms of doing right or wrong.  And do not forget that they all will not end up living identical lives when they are adults.  They are not who they are because of who you are. They are individuals with a common starting point.

 

Being a parent can feel like a terrifying responsibility but God never asks us to do something that He does not equip us to do.  Make "Lord, I need Your wisdom" your daily prayer.  There will be times that you have no idea what to do.  Stay close to God and He will guide you through this most important task of your life, and you will be the object of His help in rearing the children He has given to you.

Mixing Nurture and Admonition: Parenting (Part 1)

This is one of those posts that I hesitate to publish. I do not pretend to be an authority on child-rearing and frequently think of things I wish I had done differently along the way. I have three children who all have some great attitudes, but Jeff and I cannot take credit for that. Sure we are pleased with the good things we consistently modeled for them, but they each have to decide for themselves if they will adopt those beliefs and behaviors. 

Every child has a mind of his own. We can make him behave in a certain way but it is his choice as to whether he submits his heart to wisdom. My father-in-law preached a sermon entitled "No Credit, No Blame" which emphasized the inconsistency of taking credit for your child's good decisions but not blame for his bad ones. We should take neither one. We are certainly accountable for how we rear our children, but we cannot control what they do with that upbringing.

Parenting does not produce the person. The person is “produced” by his own free will, the choices he makes. A child can be raised well, by good people, and turn out badly. Contrarily, a child can be raised badly and turn out well. I call this the Paradoxical Parenting Principle. Parenting and the child/person is not a cause/effect relationship. Parenting is an influence and one’s job, certainly, is to maximize the positive aspects of the influence, but even the most positive parenting does not guarantee a positive outcome.
— John Rosemond

If you set your sights on your child turning out to be a certain way, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You've heard the phrase "little me". Your child is not a little you.  He is a little him. He may have many similarities to you but be assured that he is his own person.  God designed him to be able to do certain things easily.  He has strengths you do not possess and that you did not teach him. Parents need to remember that we are simply channels and guardians.  While they do belong to us, we are their way of passage into this world and we nurture them until they are able to stand alone.  

Having children makes parents permanently vulnerable. Our children's choices in life have the ability to break our hearts or to make our hearts glad. I've heard it said that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child. The reality is that their adult lives are theirs, just as yours is yours.  It always helps me to remember myself at their ages and how immature, unsure, and unknowing I was, yet eager to tackle life and to make the best of it. They will learn the same way we did--by experience.

With those thoughts in mind, let's consider some specific attitudes we as parents need as we strive to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. These are good for teachers to remember as well.

👦🏻 Be consistent. Your walk HAS to match your talk.  Children can spot the difference instantly and nobody respects a hypocrite. Also remember that repetition aids in learning. Be prepared to teach the same lesson over and over.  One child may learn after being taught 20 times.  Another may take 2000 times.  Don't give up. Don't give in.  If it's right, you should keep insisting on it.

👦🏻 Set the foundation before kindergarten.  The parent of a small child needs to be on the job in a big way.  The child is figuring out how things work and you had better make yourself clear.  Set aside involvement in your other interests. The time will come later for those but you have a much more important job right now--training that child.  Just the physical work alone is enough to make you exhausted so trying to have other ministries or hobbies will just frustrate you, though you will have to be careful that the child is not convinced that he is the center of your universe. To everything there is a season. You have to be able to be on that job and still have time to maintain your own body and sanity with scheduled breaks. I think if parents were fully focused on the importance of teaching their babies and toddlers, their parenting work would be mostly done by kindergarten.  There have been many times in correcting my older children that I thought "I didn't conquer this when they were little so I am still having to work on it."  You need to be very convincing to your toddler so you do not have to keep trying to convince them for years to come. 

To see a well-behaved, happy child is jaw-dropping to me.  I am in awe like some would be of fancy cars or huge muscles.  It shows that a lot of effort has been expended to make that child so secure in his parents' authority and not fighting for his own way. Of course, the increase is not of us but of the Lord.

👦🏻 Mean what you say and say what you mean. I learned early not to make an empty threat. If you are not willing to carry it through to the end, do not say it.  You'd better speak carefully when you say what you will or will not do.  Sometimes I even have to write it down so I remember what I said.  I promise you that they will remember. Many is the time that I have immediately said "No. You are not going to do that" and then wanted to soften my statement after I've heard the whole story but hesitant to go back on my word.  I didn't have to put myself in that position if I would just be slower to speak.  Threats and bribes are not the way to go.  Think more in terms of consequences and rewards.  We are not their bullies or their beggars. They should know that there will be consequences, and rewards are something I have often kept to myself until it was earned.  They have no idea how many rewards they forfeited.  Keep them guessing with the rewards, not the consequences. 

On the flip side, say what you mean. Do not assume they know what you expect. Say it clearly, whether it is a curfew or "I love you." Speaking your heart to someone, looking them in the eye, is difficult for some people. Some would rather praise someone in a prayer or correct someone online than to say it to his face. We should be able to own up to what we say, and children need steady doses of "I love you" and "I'm proud of you," especially from their fathers. 

👦🏻 You represent God to your child. You are the justice system in your home. This hearkens back to being consistent.  You must make decisions based on what is right and wrong.  Punishment for a teenager breaking a lamp should be different based on whether they accidentally backed into it or if they knocked it off in anger.  We punish according to the offense (accident or anger), not according to how we feel about it (That was my favorite lamp!).  They shouldn't be punished worse if the lamp broke (though they would need to replace it) than if it just fell over.  You are punishing the loss of control, not how upset it made you. How we handle punishment and reward gives children an understanding of the character of God. 

👦🏻 In justice remember mercy.  Remember that thing about representing God?  He is fully just yet always falls on the side of mercy.  There are times that you show love to your child by not punishing to the full extent.  If you show mercy in every instance then there is no justice.  It must be obviously unusual.  They should know what they deserve but we should sometimes let up a bit, particularly when they have had a tough time lately.  There have been a few times when my daughter was covered up with school, basketball, flute practice, youth group, not feeling well, and deadlines that she arrived home to find that I cleaned her room.  Sometimes you just need a little sunshine to help you make it through. It is the goodness of God that brings you to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Being good to a child softens his heart and paves the way for repentance.

👦🏻 Just because they did not do it on purpose does not mean they should not be punished.  Children need to learn that they are responsible for what they do.  If they pinch brother's finger in the door accidentally, they are still the one who pinched the finger.  They should apologize and possibly be punished for carelessness. You will hear many times "But I didn't do it on purpose!"  This is a clue that they have not learned to be responsible for their actions. They should feel sad that the hurt was because of them. 

 

[Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.]

How to Put Someone in Her Place

Sometimes people get out of line and I simply must do my part in putting them right back where they belong! Where other people belong is in line ahead of me.

From birth we are naturally self-centered. We want what we want and we want it now! However, that is not God's way. He says that the way to true fulfillment is to put others ahead of yourself. 

Philippians 2:3b
...in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

To exercise this principle is to exercise faith. God can help create in us a heart like His if we will trust Him on this one. In Matthew chapters five through seven, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It is chock-full of wisdom from God. In chapter seven, He gives us what is known as the Golden Rule.

Some have joked that the Golden Rule is "He who has the gold makes the rules."  Well, I agree.  God owns the gold in every mine. He makes the rules.

So how specifically do we put others first? There are rules of etiquette that have been the conclusions of many people over time. Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt are authorities on the subject. Understanding the rules of etiquette will give you a good feel for what is tactful and what is not. However, every etiquette tip comes from the Golden Rule. The fact is that once we decide to hold other people's needs higher than our own, the right thing to do becomes obvious to us and we enjoy life in the way God intended.  He is the ultimate example of living for others. He gave His only Son for us.  I cannot imagine loving someone that much. When we show sacrificial love to others in our feeble, human ways, we bless them as well as ourselves. 

There are countless ways to put others first. Here are just a few examples.


Do not call attention to yourself.  
Your liberties end where other’s space begins.  You are free to swing your fist anywhere up to the place where my nose begins. Being a distraction is rude because you are forcing attention from people who did not choose to give it. There are many levels of this ranging from loud music coming from a car to wearing strong perfume. Other ways of taking someone's attention are cracking knuckles, chewing ice, biting nails, and smacking food at a dinner table. It is distracting because of the sound and because of how crude and out of place it is.  A polite person is given attention by someone's own free will. An impolite person demands attention.

Social media is replete with those calling attention to themselves. Does your selfie accomplish a purpose (like showing friends and family your new haircut or that you are on a trip) or do you just want everyone to know how pretty you think you look today? Are you praising God for what He has done for you or do you just want to let everyone know how great you are?  A lot of this has to do with motivation so let's be sure to have unselfish reasons for our posts. 

Do not take care of private things in public. 
This one is closely related to the previous point but takes a disgusting turn. Scratching, cleaning out your nose, and clipping your nails are all things we don't care to witness. Use your private time at home or in a restroom to take care of your bodily needs. Even combing your hair, putting on make-up, tucking in your shirt or adjusting your clothes is "vulgar" to the keen eye of propriety. You shouldn't feel as though the world is your dressing room. Remember to keep private things private.

This is a constant challenge to those on social media. We can feel like the world is our audience as we have the ability to post pictures of whatever is happening in our lives. Do we need to know every detail? If I had a dollar for every time I wanted to comment "TMI"... Potty-training progress and stomach problems are disgusting, embarrassing, and private! We can pray for you just the same if you say "I'm not feeling well." 

Do not bring up subjects that are painful or embarrassing to the people present.
Someone who has gone through a painful or embarrassing trial is doing well to even show up and hold themselves together.  They need support and time. Leave it to them to bring up the subject when they are ready to discuss it, and it is doubtful that it will be in a group setting, risking a public breakdown. This is an area where you can accidentally (as if you do it purposely sometimes) put your proverbial foot in your mouth. We don't remember that someone just lost a loved one until we make a joke about death, and then trying to make it better only makes it worse.  It will inevitably happen, but let's think before we speak.  The more we purposely choose our words, the better chance we have of blessing others rather than hurting them. 

Choosing our words carefully is even easier on social media than in a verbal conversation because we have a chance to write a post and then think "Is there any way this will hurt someone?" before we post it. A laugh is not worth bringing someone pain.

Do not be nosy about the private lives of others.
In all Christian love, it is none of your business where they were last night or how much money they make. We can show interest in people but it is up to them how much personal information they share, and consider that information confidential unless they give you permission to share it. Money matters, contact information, relationship statuses, pregnancy--these are just a few things that are personal and take care in discussing. Let the owner of that information decide if they want to share it. If they do not then we should respect that. If Person A asks me for Person B's phone number, I ask Person B first if they mind if I give it to Person A. Just because someone shared information with you does not mean you have permission to share it with others. If someone is not involved in a situation, they do not need to know about it. That only gives temptation for them to draw conclusions when they have insufficient information.

We should never share information or photos on social media that would reveal more about a person than they wish to reveal. If there is any doubt, you are always safer to ask their permission first. Using your power to decide for them only shows that you are not a loyal friend and should not be trusted. Also, do not ask about private matters publicly. I saw someone ask recently on social media if a couple decided to take a position which was a change in employment. That was sensitive information and no doubt put the recipient in the position of having to make the decision to remove the comment or to answer before they were ready to make it public knowledge. At the very least, they stole the couple's thunder. There are ways to privately message people if your post might not be for everyone to see.

Do not compliment one person to the exclusion of others.
I see this happen all the time in person and online and usually without the perpetrator even realizing that they are doing more harm than good.  "Mr. Sunday School Teacher, you are the godliest man I know." She just hurt her dad, grandfather, pastor, and every other man she knows. "Mrs. Friendsmom, you are the world's best cook!" Well, that rules your mom and grandmother out--you know, those two women who have cooked for you your entire life? "Muffy, your dress is so gorgeous!" Biffy and Tiffy are suddenly self-conscious about their dresses.  There are ways to compliment and honor people without making it a slam to everyone else.  Your teacher can be ONE of the godliest men you know. Your friend's mom can be a great cook.  You can tell Muffy when you are alone with her that you like her dress, or say "Look at all these lovely girls in their beautiful dresses!" Of course, if someone has something obviously new such as a new hairstyle, it is fine to comment on it in a group, but if someone is "the best" at something, be sure it is the one who rightly deserves that title.

Strive to make everyone feel welcome and valued.
You know that "left out" feeling, like when someone tells a private joke without explaining it to those who were not a part of it. I felt completely unimportant when I greeted a graduate at her reception and she ditched me when she saw who was in line behind me and demanded to have her picture made with them. I wanted to say, "Okey dokey then. I see how it is. I'll just disappear now." We should never make someone feel that way. 

Do not mention parties or gifts you’ve shared. It is much easier when those invited were all of a group but much more difficult when people were singled out. If the whole class was invited to the party, we can see how they chose who to invite.  However, when there are Facebook pictures of your close group of friends going out to dinner together and you were not invited, that's much tougher to take. Mentioning something someone invited you to or gave to you just announces that they did not do the same for others. Everything does not need to be announced. 

Think twice before declaring your personal opinion.
You can obviously get into embarrassing situations by saying something negative about someone who overhears it. You should be embarrassed saying something negative about someone else at all, but even saying that you don't like things such as institutions, music groups, songs, and fashions can be hurtful. When you mock something that someone likes, that is easily taken as disregard for their opinion. If your opinion must be stated, acknowledge respect for others' choices if it is not a matter of right and wrong. Developing a habit of saying positive things will help eliminate this problem. It is better to voice what you like than what you do not like.

 

On the receiving end of unfortunate situations, we need to give grace and try not to be sensitive. Sometimes that is difficult when there is no other way the comment can be taken and someone's true feelings have been revealed. These suggestions are not meant to make us walk on eggshells but to reduce any hurt we might cause one another. A truly gracious spirit toward everyone will eliminate a lot of these problems. If we use our common sense, we can stop committing these common sins.

Being kind is all about showing honor to another person. It is hurtful to let someone know that their feelings are not being considered. A truly considerate person is a delight to be around and it all comes from showing respect to our fellow man.

🐝Be kind.

Happy 🐝Be Keepers Day!

Today is February 5 or 2/5 which makes it Be Keepers Day because the name Be Keepers comes from Titus 2:5 which tells older women to teach younger women to be keepers at home.  The word "keepers" is often translated "workers" which fits right in with my corny bee--we are to be worker bees! 🐝 Titus 2 is rich with admonitions for older women and what they are to be and what they are to teach.  They should be teachers of good things.  

Titus 2:3-8
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 

Whether you are single or married, young or old, a stay-at-home mom or an outside-the-home employee, you have work to do at home. I hope my Facebook page and blog posts will remind you of all the Bible tells us to BE and KEEP.

Loren Crisp

I'd like to give you some background on how this blog came to be. This is my personal story but it no doubt parallels your story--the challenge God has issued to you to take who He has made you to be and use it to build your faith in Him.


In 1990, I completed my degree in Home Economics at Bob Jones University, got married, and began teaching private piano at a Christian school. During that year, plans were made to offer Home Economics to 11th-12th grade girls and I taught that class daily for the next three school years.  

The cooking portion of the class was done in an old house on campus that had a small kitchen.  Since the class was only 50 minutes long, I had some prep to do for the girls before they arrived.  You should have seen that little kitchen full of girls, squealing, running, panicking for 50 minutes—not long enough to prepare and cook a recipe, and then clean up after it, much less eat it!  Therefore, I was left with one torn up kitchen. Similar story with sewing, just add machines that needed constant repair and an insufficient teacher to student ratio for such a task. Not ideal but we managed. I stopped teaching in 1994 to stay home with my first baby.

Fast forward two more babies and eleven years. I missed teaching and thought I could handle just two hours per week, so in 2005 I taught 7th-8th grade girls a class that we called Life Skills.  Knowing that it didn't work to teach cooking during a class period, necessity was once again the mother of invention and it was decided that I would video myself cooking at home, show the video in class, and have the girls make the food at their own homes for their families to eat. (This also forced Mom to get involved which was part of my scheme.) They would then fill out a short questionnaire to turn in to the teacher.  This worked like a charm, and I used the same idea for teaching other things such as sewing on a button, where it is difficult to show close-up detail to a large class in person but very easy with the zoom on a video camera.  I used the same videos to teach the 7th-8th grade boys the following year.  

My drive to do my best drove me right out of business as I gave all my energies to the class and was too exhausted to minister to my family at home.  Pretty ironic—teaching Home Ec but neglecting my home (Home neglEc?).  This was a lesson in prioritizing.  Family is first.  Anything that gets in the way of that should be dropped like a hot potato.  There come times when we have to ask ourselves "Is anything standing in my way of doing my best at what I'm supposed to be doing?". Something was and I had to give it up.

In 2007, our church called a new Pastor. His wife also had a Home Ec degree from Bob Jones University. I told her of my struggle and she told me of having a once-a-month girls' activity at her former church where they would spend a few minutes teaching homemaking skills and then have popcorn and a movie or some other activity.  I liked the idea but did not want to string it out so long or add any more busyness to our church calendar. We toyed with the idea of making and loaning out DVD's but that would have become a logistical nightmare.  After much consideration and prayer, I decided that I would start a blog.  Though the concept began as talks of church involvement, it is not a ministry of my church but is done completely on my own.  And thus is born Be Keepers!

I'm going to be transparent with you right from the start:  I'm scared. It has taken ten years for me to start this because I could not find the time to do it and I have been afraid to put myself out there.  It's scary to be transparent—to give people reason to criticize you.  I'm a private person—a recluse at times.  I like my world to be perfect and it takes a lot for me to deal with the reality of my imperfection.  However, I am now 47. (As I edit this rough draft, I just had to change that from 42. I told you it has taken a while.)  There's something about being in your 40's that makes you finally comfortable with who you are as you give up on becoming the idealized you. I accept myself for who I am—designed by God with strengths AND weaknesses; imperfect, but always striving to be more like Christ.  

What people think of me has always been important to me—too important.  I now realize that I cannot control or even know what people think about me. What really matters is what God KNOWS about me. I'm having to depend on God's grace to help me carry through with this and I will give it my best, short of neglecting my family. It will take a lot of encouragement from my "team" because Satan will be on my heels if this is something God can use, but greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

I am pleased and frankly surprised that I haven't had any "attacks" over my effort or content in this first month. I still fully expect them. No worries though because I am my own worst enemy. The ten years leading up to this were grueling.  I had ideas left and right and then the doubts would come and I would let God know that He had the wrong person or that this would be just a public display of my failure. I got so tired of this blog idea plaguing me constantly that I would just decide to let it die.  I wanted it to GO AWAY so I could stop thinking about it. 

It wouldn't go away.  

It's like that irritating song continuously looping in your head that makes you scream "STOP IT!" 

It wouldn't stop.  

I finally decided that I just had to do it to make it stop. Whether it lasted a month or a year, I had to go through that phase to get to the other side of it. I told God that I wanted to wait until I could really do it right. He told me to do what I can right now. I told God that other bloggers were writing the things I would have written and doing it very well. He told me that I could join them and be counted as one more voice for His cause and that there are those I could reach that the other bloggers would not reach. It had proven to be God's idea and not mine. So here I am.  

That was quite an excruciating ten years, but this last month has been that in concentrated form.  I have been through every emotion at extreme levels. It has made me really come to terms with WHY I am doing this. The final answer is that I have to. God wants me to. If no one else gets anything from it, at least my momma enjoys reading it, I get my thoughts out of my head and send them off to outer space, and I can be sure my children and their children will know my point of view. 

The things I am learning as a result of this experience are incredible! It's as if God has granted me a new level of light in exchange for putting myself out there.  Here are a few things I am learning:

🔹It takes a lot of humility to serve others in a public way.  You are working for a cause while risking your reputation.
🔹God gives you enough light to see only the next step.  I don't know where this is going or how long it will last but I am content that I am doing what I should do today.
🔹This empowers me to work hand in hand with God.  He's not far away when you live by faith but right beside you filling in the gaps. He gave me eyes to see an answer this week to something I have wrestled with all my adult life and I just cried and praised Him! I'm looking forward to a lot more of these experiences.
🔹I have never been so alive.  I know this is a tempest in a teapot (my head being the teapot), but it is my act of faith--trusting and obeying--and God is using it as my schoolroom.


Bottom line:  God designed each one of us to contribute to His kingdom and He proves Himself real to us when we exercise faith in Him.

I hope my testimony encourages you to take your next step of faith. When you are fully convinced that it is of the Lord, He will give you everything you need to accomplish it.

 


 
I'd like to thank those who have encouraged me to do this project.  


Jeff—there is no way this can happen without your picking me back up, brushing me off again, and encouraging me to live out who I am. You are my lifelong blessing.

Colton, Evy, & Capers--you have been my students and my teachers. You are the reason I was put on this earth.

Momma & Mom—I just hope I can help to perpetuate the likes of you.

My Pastor's wife, JoAnna, Kim H, Dennae, Rebekah, Dawn, Mary Ellen, Becka, and many others—you've given me nothing but encouragement for this project.  Thanks for the vote of confidence!

My Home Ec and Life Skills girls and boys (currently totaling 93) have always held a special place in my heart.  Watching you grow up has been a delight.  Those of you who have thanked me years later for what we learned together have kept that fire burning in me to teach others also.


To God alone 🐝Be the glory!

 

I've Been Talking About You!

Hey, Facebook Be Keepers Followers.  I have a secret to confess: I've been praying for you behind your back.

I launched Be Keepers one month ago today and I have prayed through the list of 350 followers since that time. I do not take it lightly that we know each other or that you "liked" Be Keepers.  God has a purpose in bringing us together. I want there to be a benefit to knowing me so I lay our acquaintance at Jesus' feet and allow Him to work it for our good. There's a gospel song called "Make Me a Blessing".  It doesn't mean it in the sense of "make me a sandwich" but in the sense of make me TO BE a blessing to someone. A life lived to bless others is the most satisfying life there is and the greatest way I can be a blessing to you is to pray.

I get along well with most everyone, but there are those with whom I have had differences.  I haven't grabbed anybody's hair in a throw down, but we have disagreed, probably without your knowing or possibly without my knowing. If I ever loved you, I still do. No doubt we all are trying our best to do what is right and I mess that up and you do too. The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies. Hopefully no one considers someone an enemy who simply disagrees with him, but if that were all it took then I suppose we would all be enemies. If we all agreed on everything, this world would be pretty lopsided. All that to say I wish the best for everyone and watching your life is a testimony of God's working.  It's a slow-playing miniseries that I catch glimpses of every now and then.  It's fascinating and I am eager to see good things come to you.

I do have an organized prayer life, but I also switch things up sometimes so I do not burn out. For the last month, I prayed for at least ten followers per day. I knew the first hundred so I was able to pray according to what I knew about them, but after that I had to go to your Facebook page to learn about you--children, relationships, interests. Fewer than half of the followers are listed by name.  I suppose some have your Facebook set to hide your name when you like a page.  That is perfectly fine.  I prayed for you anyway.

I learned that it is easier to pray for someone that you know. What made it easy to pray for people I do not know is that we all need the same things: safety, health, relationship and financial help, wisdom, and most of all Jesus.

As I called each one of your names out to God, I became excited to see you and to see you thrive and prosper. I saw your Facebook posts and wanted to say "I prayed for you today!" I hope I had some part in your success. It was neat to see things that happened. I prayed for a lady and her family and found out a few hours later that her daughter had her baby that day. A couple of times I prayed for people and then found that it was their birthday. Several other times I saw that the ones for whom I prayed that day were going through a difficult time. I've said before that I do not fully understand prayer from a human perspective, but it is easy to see the benefits to the pray-er and the pray-ee when I obey God's command to pray.

Loren Crisp

Prayer is just talking to God. He already knows everything you know, but a relationship is developed through communication, and if you do not have a relationship with Almighty God, you are missing out on the most amazing experience life has to offer.

The development of my prayer life usually comes from desperation. When you are at the end of your rope, you end up uttering a humble, childlike prayer to God--and that is prayer at it's best! When you make a habit of just admitting to God where you have gone wrong, laying out your burdens to Him, and thanking Him for what He has done for you, a sweet understanding of your dependence on God enters your constant awareness and you have a Friend with you at all times, and an all-powerful Friend at that! I wouldn't want to live any other way. If you have never begun a relationship with God, you can begin that with a prayer of turning away from a life of sin and accepting Jesus' sacrifice of His perfect life to pay for your sins to be forgiven. After making Jesus the Lord of your life, God will hear your prayers as His child.

I jotted down some of the things I prayed for you.  If you want to learn to pray, you could use these prayers as a starting point. I use "her" since most of my followers are women, but I prayed these same prayers for the men.

Lord, help her to maximize her opportunities for serving others as a single woman.

Keep her pure.

Give her wisdom as she rears those children.

Encourage her in the work You have given her to do.

Help her to draw near to You.

Comfort her heart as she misses her loved one who has died.

Thank You for the encouragement and example she has been to me.

Help her as she studies.

Thank you for her faithfulness to church.

Help her have the time to practice her instrument and have opportunities to use her ability.

Thank you for the time I got to spend with her.

Give her strength to meet the needs of her special needs child.

Help her to keep her vows to her husband.

Allow her business to prosper.

Raise her and her husband up to be leaders in our church.

Thank You for giving her that husband. OR Thank You for NOT giving her the husband she thought she wanted.

Thank You for all she taught my child.

Help her to flourish spiritually. Give her a taste of what could be. 

Give her joy.

Be with her as her child is in college/the military.

Help her as she teaches. Help her message to get through.

Keep her healthy.

Give her wisdom, courage, discretion.

Mend the broken relationships in that home.

Help me to be more like her.

Protect her from accident, crime, illness, disease.

Give her an excitement about her relationship with You.

Thank you for her upbringing.

Heal her husband of cancer.

Help her to show Christ to her coworkers.

Thank you for her influence on my daughter.

Give her wisdom in making decisions about her parents.

Help her and her husband to make a priority of their marriage while they rear their children.

Give her wisdom to know if she should marry the young man she is dating.

Help her to take the next step spiritually.

Thank you for her spunky spirit that encourages others.

Help her as she adjusts to being the mother of an adult.

Give her a ministry where her gifts can shine.

Please don't allow her cancer to come back.

Let her children be a blessing to her.

Help her relationship with her husband reach a new level of unity.

Help her leadership qualities to be used for Your glory.

Please give her children if it be Your will.

Please help my joy to be obvious like hers.

Let her minister to body and spirit as she works as a nurse.

Thank You for her beautiful voice.

Thank You for helping them through their child's surgery and recovery.

Thank you for allowing her to serve faithfully in our church.

Help her not to be lonely.

Help her with the challenges of being a military wife.

Increase his desire to know You more.

Keep their marriage strong.

Bring salvation to this home, whether it's for the parents or the children. 

Draw them to you.

Heal the heartache.

Stabilize the emotions she is facing today and help her to be calm and at peace.

Help her to turn to You and Your word for the answers to her problems.

Show her the emptiness of sin.

Allow one of Your children to reach out and show Your love to her today.

Help her heart to be tender.

Make her marriage what you want it to be.

Give her patience with her children.

Help her to thirst after righteousness.

Help her to be disgusted with sin and turn to You.

Let her know how much You love her and that her value comes from You.


As I prayed through the list, I realized that I am in the company of some incredible people! You may think you are just living your life unnoticed, but you are an encouragement to me. You are a survivor. I know some of your trials whether they are family issues, disease, or death of a loved one. Even if you haven't had some life-shaking challenge, you have relationship and financial problems, and you need wisdom and emotional strength. Just living life is a challenge. It's hard to be a person, but you are making it with help from the Lord. We need as much of Him as we can get.

May we seek and trust God to make the most of our lives. God bless you all and thank you for following Be Keepers. I will continue to keep you in my prayers.