Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I Learned in June

So June is almost over and Emily Freeman at has invited us all to share what we've learned in June.  Being as I've spent most of June sitting on my couch and relaxing, as opposed to the cleaning and organizing and painting Caleb's bedroom that I swore I was going to do at the end of the school year (Thanks, Mom and Dad for pitching in and taking over!), this might be slim pickings... but here you go. Eight things I learned in June.

1. Long road trips really are better when 90s on 9 or 80s on 8 is on the radio.  I kind of learned this in May, as Jenna and I missed a turn and almost made it into Tennessee, maybe because I was having a little too much fun rapping Gangsta's Paradise, but the June trip to Bowling Green really did it for me.  Sitting up late for Relay For Life, getting up at 430 in the morning, driving 3.5 hours, sitting through a 2 hour class on electronic health records that discussed firewalls and security, and driving back to Jackson... yes, a little 90s on 9 was called for. 

2. I don't know if this can count as something I actually learned, because I still can't tell you a whole lot about it, but that 2 hour lecture discussed firewalls and the difference between electronic medical records and interoperability and personal health records... and I could go on, and on.  I never really thought about how much goes into setting up technology in healthcare.  To be honest, it had never really interested me until this class, and maybe it still doesn't really, but I'm glad there are people out there who enjoy stuff like that so people like me don't have to deal with it.

3. Tide pods are awesome.  No joke.  I was a little leary about throwing this little bundle of stuff into the washer... but Wallace had used them when he was in Texas and promised me they were the bomb... shhhh. No one tell him he is actually right about something.

4. Benedict Arnold was going to attempt to give West Point to the Redcoats.  Now, I knew that Benedict Arnold was considered a traitor because he had plotted with the British, but I never realized he was Commander of the Fort at West Point, where the United States Military Academy is based.  It's amazing what you learn when you read a 500+ page history book for fun.

5.  Also while reading The Long Gray Line, I learned that Bob Knight, a nemesis for Big Blue Nation and Kentucky basketball known for throwing chairs during ballgames, also coached at Army.  This might explain why he thought he was going to war when he stepped on a ball court.

6. Candy Crush Saga is addictive.  I'm on level 77 and seriously need an intervention.  This is why there should be a warning on facebook games.

7. Snapping turtles are really kind of pretty when they are swimming in the water.  They are a little scary when they are hooked on a fishing noodle.  This is why I should stay on the bank and read instead of getting in the boat and trying to catch them.  And doesn't this just look so much more peaceful than fighting a snapping turtle?
8. Life is better with people.  Good month of spending time with my boys.  Noodling with Wallace, swimming with Caleb, watching movies, campfires... His blessings are not just things, but the best ones are flesh and blood (and books. Lots and lots of books.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

The In-Between

In-between.  Two words, hypenated.  That one hypen can take up a lot of space.

You might be in-between jobs.  In-between semester, like me, enjoying my summer break.

You might be in-between crises. Seems like we're all either going through a crisis or just got through one... and if we're not, chances are, we're getting ready to face one.

That moment in-between...

In-between the first kiss of a married couple and the moment when they are presented to the audience as a couple for the first time.

In-between a harsh word when you wish you could take it back and the other person is sitting there, feeling like they've been stabbed with a knife.

In-between the thunderclaps and the lightning, that calm drip, drip, drip on the rainy roof.

Whether we know it or not, we are all living the in-between of something... and it is what we do with that in-between that is really all that matters. 

I'm reminded of the poem "The Dash".  I think of it when I visit cemetaries, when I gaze at the gravestone of my father-in-law, and two graves over, my childhood best friend's grandpa.  Two lives, with varying amount of years, lived.  Over the hill is the tombstone of a boy that was the same age as me... and I'm now double the years since he met his fate.  His in-between was much too short.

But really, is the in-between ever long enough to do all we want to do, love everyone we want to love, see everyone we want to see?

Most likely not... especially if we don't appreciate the in-between.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Fridays, where we're given a prompt and we spend only five minutes hammering out what we think.  I could have used more than five minutes on this one =)
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, June 27, 2013


The last few days have been pretty good. Busy, but good.  Been running here and there (not yet actually running... that's a post for another day.  But running, as in getting in the car and driving from here to there).

I'm finishing up Stressed Less Living by Tracey Miles with the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies group, led by Melissa Taylor.  We started this book in April.  I needed it.  With Wallace gone, I was lonely and a little insecure.  I was stressed, too, because it was the end of the semester at work and in my classes and I was having to take Caleb to school and find someone to pick him up. 

God knows what we need when we need it. 

The stress-busting scriptures Tracey had at the end of each chapter seemed written just for me.  I can go through my Bible today, two months later, and see notes I had made about how they had spoken to me.

From this book, I learned things that I kind of already knew, but saw them in a new light.  I'm responsible for my own reaction.  I create a lot of my stress through not saying no and how I react.  There are still days when I'm stressed out.  There are still days when I become the screaming Mama (I think I need to read Unglued, again...)

Those days are fewer and far between.

Granted, I know it is summer time which means that I have the liberty of vegging on my couch and reading a little more.  And crushing those small candies is a bit of a stress relief, too...

But I'd like to think that my decreased stress is because I'm talking to God just a little more.  Not like I should be.  I'm the first to admit that my prayer life needs to improve (which is why I'm so excited for the In the Gap study, Cultivating a Heart for Prayer!)

I could ramble on and one, but here you go.  My top 5 things I loved and learned from Stressed-Less Living:
1. I'm responsible for my reaction.  Circumstances happen. Things happen that I don't like.  I can choose to be angry or stressed... or I can choose to cling to the hope of Jesus. 
2. God wants to change me, not my circumstances.  Sometimes it's through those circumstances that I have to be changed.  He's got a bigger plan. 
3. It's essential that if I want to remain stressed-less, I have to know where to turn.  His Word.  Prayer.  Christian friends.
4. Sometimes I get proud of my busyness, of my tight schedule with little white space, buzzing around like Martha, when what I really need to do is just sit... and soak up Jesus like Mary.
5. Online friends can be friends.  I've been blessed to lead an online group on Facebook, and my ladies are wonderful blessings in my life.  Looking forward to continuing in the Word with 8 of them on the next study.  Some of them have lots of things going on with their lives... weddings, kids, jobs, etc., so if you don't care, could you say a little prayer, not just for my group ladies, but for ALL of our facebook groups, and also for all the women who have been touched by this study.

God rocks!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Love Your Neighbor

Ever watch two toddlers play? Especially two 2 year olds who are only children, doted on by loving grandparents?

It doesn't take long for one word to pop up.  "Mine" 

As in, "It's mine, leave it alone. Don't you dare touch it or I'll bite your fingers off."

Ever hear the statement it's a dog eat dog world?  We live in a society that believes in getting what we deserve... if it's something good.  We don't always think about not getting what we deserve, if it's bad.  That's the difference between grace and mercy.

And the world in which we live not full of grace, nor is it full of mercy. 

I've been stewing all day today about loving your neighbor.  See, on the left hand side of my house is my Mom and Dad. I love those neighbors because they raised me. They loved me and bought me food and my first car, gave me advice when I didn't know where to turn, and basically did so much that I could never repay them.  On the right hand side, my mother-in-law and father-in-law live.  They accepted me as their own, listened to me gripe about their own son, make me gravy and biscuits, and do a multitude of things that mean the world to me.

But this love, this new commandment love, is different.

The Good Samaritan parable tells us that everyone is our neighbor, regardless of where they come from or what religious denomination or political opinion. 

The concept of having everyone as a neighbor is understandable to me, because I live in a small town where if you don't know someone, chances are you know their granny or grandpa. 

There are benefits to this.  If your car ever catches on fire in the middle of a lonely country road at 11 PM, you feel pretty safe going and knocking on someone's door to ask to use a phone.  (Yes, this is personal experience).  You also feel fairly confident sending your kid to the concession stand at a ballgame, and even if you only sent him with $3, he may just come back with $5 worth of goods. (Yes, personal experience again.  Or go to another school as a visitor and have the athletic director/Principal pay for his concessions when you don't have any money.  My Caleb is nothing if not a bum.)

In a small town, we tend to laugh with one another and cry with one another.  In the faces of tragedies like flooding, we've got each other's backs.

But sometimes, that small town life is a hinderance, too... because not only do we tend to have each other's backs, we sometimes talk behind one another's backs.

That is not loving your neighbor, even if you say, "Pray for so and so... did you hear that...?" before you say it. Gossip is still gossip, even if you are trying to get information so you can send up a prayer for someone.

Loving your neighbor as Jesus intended is to be willing to lay your life down for them.  That's right.  Lay down your life.  They may have a differing view of things than how you see it. 

Be willing to listen to their view.  Don't judge until you walk a mile, or two, or even ten or fifteen in their shoes.

True friendship, true neighbors, have no agenda.  They don't keep score or keep track of who owes them favors.  They are happy for their neighbors when good things happen, rejoice when they rejoice, and they aren't jealous. 

True neighbors demonsrate love in the way that God intended... "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears."

I know this verse isn't written in this context, but love is supportive and patient and kind and doesn't look out for itself... and doesn't judge.  It doesn't judge because we never know the whole situation, or what people are going through.... so it is only our place to love. 

This world is hard enough without creating more problems. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up

Lots going on in my head tonight.  We've had a busy but fun weekend.  Lots of family time, and I dared Wallace to complain.  I told him we were making up for nine weeks of no family time. 

Thursday- dinner at Applebees and a movie (The Intern... which wasn't bad, but wasn't as good as I thought it would be.)

Friday- dinner at Coal River Grille with the family, and Monsters Inc. (I loved it. Caleb loved it. Wallace tolerated it.  And does it say something about me that I am really looking forward to Despicable Me 2 and Planes?)

Saturday- Natural Bridge.  We hiked.  I about died.  At one point, I had a vision of me missing one of those narrow steps and pivoting backward, sprawled out with birdies and stars swimming around my head. I kept going.  The view, as always, is amazing... well worth it.  Anything worth having is worth hard work. We ate at the Lodge, and it was good.  I went home and floated in the pool for approximately two hours, soaking up the sun and reading.  We had a campfire complete with Smores (I ate marshmallows) and ghost stories from Caleb.

Sunday- church. Brayton's graduation party. I went up to Papaw's pond with WAllace and watched him pull noodles out... one had a snapping turtle on it, which was surprisingly pretty.  I had never actually see a turtle swim so it was pretty cool... but he lost the turtle before he could get back to the shore. Fun times.  I forced myself to work on my discussion board and enjoyed a nice walk with my mother in law.  I ended the evening by watching some dude walk across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope,praising Jesus and thanking God the whole way. 

My thought was- if he falls, he knows where he's going.  And that's a pretty good feeling to have.

So, what I learned this weekend? 1. Hard work is worth the effort. 2. Ghost stories are the best when told by a dramatic ten year old, who sometimes hesitates to complete the punch line, and makes it up as he goes.  ANd they are even better with a side of marshmallows around a campfire with your Mom and Dad and two sisters.  3. If you're tied to a noodle and keep working hard enough, you just may be able to break the line and frustrate the fisherman. 4. Who needs a safety net when you've got Jesus on your side? 5. I'm going to need a nap to make up for being so busy this weekend...

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Rhythm of our Lives

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker, where we write for five minutes about the prompt, not hesitating, not editing, just filling up that white space on my screen.  Today's word:Rhythm (which I can barely spell when I am thinking about it... so I'm sure it will be misspelled in this post.  I apologize now). 
Five Minute Friday

Next week I'm going to the beach.  I can hardly contain myself.  I've never been to this particular beach before.  Apparently, it's mainly undeveloped, with lots of shoreline and little commercialism.  I can't wait. 

As I'm sitting here right now, I can hear the waves hitting the shore.  There's something about those waves that bring me peace.  In they come, and then pull the sand back out, one after another, establishing a rhythm that soothes my soul.

You can hear it, a symphony of waves and seagulls, of the sun beating down (which doesn't have a sound, really, but as it soaks up into your skin, seems to).  The rhythm lulls me to sleep most of the time, or I become so intoxicated from the sound and the sun and the sand between my toes that I'm lethargic.  Soaking it all in.

Other rhythms in my life include the hustle and bustle of my work, the keyboard click, click, clicking as I type lecture notes, the rhythm at the hospital as the IV pumps beep and the phones ring and I rush up the hallways with my students.  The rhythm of a basketball, bounce, bounce, bounce on the wooden floors, of referee whistles and my husband yelling, "Go!  Go!"

Rhythm, a repetitive motion that keeps time.  That marks our lives, as the seconds and the minutes and the hours go by.  We establish a rhythm, good or bad.

I talked Wednesday about going through the motions. This happens when we are lulled into mediocrity by the rhythms of our lives. 

Instead, I want to strive to meet God's rhythm for my life...


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Going Through the Motions

One of my favorite songs right now is Every Good Thing by the Afters.  The first line really gets to me, "I tend to be busier than I should be... Sometimes I take for granted that it's a beautiful life we live."

Taking life for granted...stuck on the crazy roller coaster of stress and accomplishments and running from here to there and doing, doing, doing...

Until I get to where I'm going through the motions of all the important stuff.

Hurrying through my Bible study... if I even make time to do it.

Not taking time to pray when someone asks me to, like I used to.

Making a to do list in church instead of giving my full attention to the sermon. 

Going through the motions... not listening to Caleb when he tells me about his day or just shaking my head when Wallace says something.

Going through the motions...

But I don't want to go through the motions.  I want to live life to the fullest.  I want to live... every moment. 

In Chapter 11 of her book Stressed Less Living, Tracey Miles crams lots of information into a few pages.  She gives us ways to "reboot" our systems when we realize we are going through the motions. 
As I'm looking through them, I realize that it is all something I need to do... starting today.

  1. Realign your life to God’s word.
In order to do this, we have to know what is in God's Word.  This means getting in there every day, and actively reading it... active being the key word.  Thinking about how it applies to your life.  Thinking about how you can relate it to what you're going through.  Taking that Word from all those years ago and demonstrating that it is true to life today.

2. Recognize your need for God’s help.
Sometimes when we are going through the motions, we start becoming self-dependent.  We go and go and go and forget where our strength comes from... but in truth, we need Him. And until we recognize it, we keep going through the motions.

3. Adjust your focus to God, not your circumstances.
It's easy to look at the looming trials and the battles we are facing and get scared.  Think about Peter walking on the water... until he looked around and saw the storm.  Today I was watching a video session for Priscilla Shirer's Gideon, and she was talking about Gideon being in the winepress, cowering from his enemies.  He was looking at the circumstances, "Who, me, a mighty man of valor?" But God sees our potential, not our present circumstance. And when we focus on Him, and what He can do in us, we don't have to dwell on our circumstances.

4.Be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Remember the one who’s praying on your behalf??)
We're told that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us.  With man, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. We just need to allow Him to empower us...and He'll do the work.

5.Be faithful in your prayer life.
Praying is not just for us.  It's obedience, and God desires obedience. More importantly, He is all about relationship, and that is the only way we can have a true relationship with God.  He already knows what you need, but He is honored when we ask.  He desires our praises, our questions, our petitions.  Prayer changes things.  It doesn't have to be some big formal process.  We can pray without ceasing... that is, pray throughout the day, just like you'd talk to your husband or friend or parent.

6. Believe God is Who He says He is.
This one is pretty much self-explanatory.  Believe.  He is the Great I AM.  The Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End.  The Creator. The Word Made Flesh. My Rock.  My Deliverer.  My Strength.  My Strong Fortress. 

If He's who He says He is, then I'm who He says I am. Chosen. Wonderfully Made.  Put on Earth for a purpose.  Eternally loved.

When I believe who He says He is, and believe who He says I am, I stop going through the motions. As I prayerfully seek Him, choosing to see Him and not my circumstances, and digging into the Word to guide me on my daily life, I start living... being.  Not just doing. 

And His grace is sufficient to keep me moving, without just going through the motions.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Ramblings

I had a busy weekend and to be honest, I'm still recovering, so tonight is going to be kind of light.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that...

Friday night was Relay For Life, which is one of my favorite nights of the year.  My whole family participates, with the exception of a few... and this year there were a few cousins that haven't been able to make it in years past.  Caleb participated in the Survivor ceremony by placing the medallion around Papaw Jr.'s neck.  Mason and Dylan did the same with Mamaw Na.  What a blessing to have these three great grandsons there- four generations.  The luminary ceremony was beautiful, with the sky lanterns an awesome addition, until they started drifting back down. A few scary moments on the stage, but nothing caught on fire...

My favorite part of the night is Name that Tune... but because I had class on Saturday I couldn't stay all night.  I left shortly after the luminary ceremony, just when the fun was starting and the Clemons Clan started roasting the marshmallows.  Apparently, my grandparents stayed out until after 1 AM.  I hated to miss out on the fun..

but 430 came quick and Jenna and I made the trek to Bowling Green. Life is always better with some Cheddars onion rings and Gigis cupcakes and 90s on 9 on the radio.  I got an introductory course to Monsters High dolls, and made it home in time to take a bath and be in bed by 9 PM.

Sunday was Father's Day, so it was church and pretty much taking it easy while Wallace cleaned out his closet.  Not my decision, but his, and if that's how he wanted to spend his special day, more power to him.

And Monday... and I'm still pretty tired, so I pretty much took it easy again today.  I'm so blessed it is summertime and there is nothing like laying on a float with a good book, until it started thundering. The lightning and rain only lasted about 15 minutes, but it was long enough for me to get in the house and out of my bathing suit, so my trip to the pool was cut short.

On my walk tonight, I did part of C25K (not there yet), and walked a total of 3.2 miles.  I'm liking the Nike Run app, which tracks the length of your walk/run and tells how long it took you to do each mile.  I walked a little faster because I was trying to catch three deer grazing in the field on my lap... I scared them off twice but had too many pictures on my phone to take anymore.

So, there you have it.  Nothing important, but my Monday thankfuls include: my walk, God's creation, Romans 8, floating in the swimming pool, Wallace folding towels, all the Dads in my life, Gigis cupcakes, Cheddars, and 90s on 9.  I'm almost on 1000.... should be in a couple of days.  He is so good... and His grace is more than enough.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Growing up, I was raised in church, whether I wanted to be or not.  As a teenager, I didn't always read my Bible.  In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that I rarely picked it up, unless I was really going through something.  I did, however, have a favorite verse. 

Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

My Dad and I are perhaps a little too much alike.  I was always a strongwilled and stubborn child.  Beginning at a young age, my Dad (and Mom) would put me in my carseat and drive me around just so they could get me to sleep.  My Dad worked hard to provide me with My Little ponies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls, with books and stuffed animals.  I had two favorites, Honey Bear and Carrie, a doll that by the time I got finished with it, her head had to be sewed back on (from use... I promise I did not decapitate the doll.  At least not on purpose) Anyway, one vacation I took my two favorites to the beach.. .and somehow left them.  Even though we were miles away, my Dad turned around and went back and got them for me.

I can remember many a night pulling up a stool to his desk, where he sat reconciling bank statements and computing figures.  Even though he was working late into the night, he would pull up a pad of paper and give me his adding machine, and we would play.  He was Thomas Matthew, a name I know now he pulled straight from the Bible.  Even in play, he was trying to point me in the right way.

He would go door to door in our community and ask people if they wanted to go to church. He'd often bring me along.  He truly embodies that quote about not looking down on people unless you want to help them up.  My Dad is always there with a helping hand.

In the 4th grade, he chaperoned an overnight field trip with us and was an instant hit when he sang Guns n Roses at the Louisville Children's Museum. I'm still not convinced he knew what he was singing, but all of my friends thought he was really cool.  He always invited my friends to take over the house, and didn't even lose his temper when one of them somehow busted the door of his office (then my bedroom) in two... he just found a couple of boards and nailed it back together. 

That's not to say he was always patient... but usually I gave him a reason to be impatient. I can remember one time when I was probably in middle school. Dad talked to me about the fruits of the Spirit.  He apologized for getting angry- a temper that I inherited, and told me he was doing better, because of God.  I don't know that he would even remember that conversation, but it sunk deep, even when I didn't know what he was talking about.  I can't think about the fruits of the Spirit now without thinking of my Dad.

Not every Dad will take a girl to the mall when she is in high school and turn her loose, but that's kind of what he did.  Patiently, he waited as I went from store to store, and would even offer choices and brag on me as I tried on clothes.  I don't remember why Mom didn't go on that trip, because she was usually responsible for school clothes, but I do remember that time with my Daddy.

He's drove all over the country to take us to the beach and to Disney World and Mammoth Cave.  He's an old pro at rummy and likes to fish.  I can remember going through the drive-thru on Sunday nights after church for Kentucky Fried Chicken or sitting in the kitchen as he fixed his specialty, bacon and canned biscuits.  I spent countless hours watching Walker Texas Ranger.  He laughs- loud- at funny parts in the movies.  He loves me and my sisters more than life itself, and loves my Mom.... now almost for 40 years. 

As a teenager, he exasperated me... because I was a teenager.  And I'd quote that verse when we would fight, usually because of my attitude or because he was cautioning me against gossiping.  Provoke not your children... but I never really thought about the second part of that verse until this morning, as I'm sitting here typing.

All of what I thought was provoking (well, most of it), was just discipline, because he loved me and wanted me to do good.  And he lives that second part of the verse- "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Nurture- to love. Admonition- counsel or guidance.

My Dad brought me up by loving me, even when I was unloveable, and giving me Godly counsel.  He didn't just speak the words, either.  He lived them.. and still does today.

That is the biggest blessing that a Daddy can give his daughter or son. Thank you, Daddy.  I love you. 

Friday, June 14, 2013


Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker, where every Friday she places a prompt on her wall for us to hash out in five minutes, with no editing.  Five minutes, y'all.  Today...

Five Minute Friday
Listen.... Go.

Listen. I've got something to tell you.  Can't you listen? Listen.

Right now I'm listening to silence, as Caleb is at Papaw's and Wallace is at work.  The strokes on the keyboard sound pretty loud as does the hum of the fridge. 

It's amazing what you can hear when you really stop to listen.

This week I've been ruminating on the passage in Deuteronomy where God gives them that one commandment- Hear, O Israel.  Hear.  Open your ears and your hearts and truly soak it in. 

The Lord Your God is one God... love Him with everything.  Love Him through your actions and through your words.  Teach Him to your children, so they will love Him, too.

Sometimes, words aren't enough, and we don't just listen with our ears.  Sometimes, when words don't line up with our actions, we choose to respond to those actions instead of the words, because nonverbal communication tends to be more truthful than verbal.

Our actions can affect other's listening... and others hearing God. 

I love God.  And today, I'm hoping that I can be a light so that others choose to listen...


Wow, that was fast. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Forget Not...

Today I'm linking up with Online Bible Studies at, where we're talking about less stress.  This week, we're studying Chapter 10 of Tracey Miles's book Stressed Less Living, which talks about being broken so that God can use us.  It's a short chapter but packed full of hope for real-life.  

Chapter 10 talks about 1 Kings 17, where Elijah meets a widow at God's command and asks for her help.  Even though she is helpless herself, she pitches in and a miracle occurs, where she is cared for and there is enough for Elijah to boot.

God takes the broken, the helpless, and makes use of it every day, and even today, there are true live miracles.

When I was four years old, my Mom was dropping a card table off at the house of one of her cheerleaders.  It was in September, and it was hot.  She left me in the backseat because she was literally just walking a few feet away.  It was hot.  I was hot.  Even as a four year old, I knew how to solve that problem, so I proceeded to crawl over the seat and attempt to turn on the ignition.  The next thing I knew, I was curled up in a ball on the driver's side floorboard (with the door open, mind you), as the car went bouncing down a hill, hitting trees and careening toward the blacktop road, and the river, below.

To tell the truth, I don't really remember that day much; after all, it's been almost 30 years ago.  My Mom remembers it perfectly, though.  As soon as she heard the car start crashing through the tree line, she took off running behind it... down the steep hill.  Through the woods.  She broke off a heel on her shoes.  She had on a skirt and briars and tree limbs cut her legs.  All the while she could hear the car bouncing off trees and occasionally see a flash of metal as it continued.

And then there was a tree... no more than about four foot high.  Somehow, the car lodged against that tree.  I know how... because the Bible says that His angels are camped all around us.  And while I'm not sure if I actually remember this or if I am making it up in my mind, I'm pretty sure there was an angel hovering right over me in that floorboard. 

By the time Mom got to me, I was crawling out the busted back windshield.  My glasses were broken, and I had a small knot on my head, but Mom looked worse than I did. We painstakingly made our way back up the hill, Mom pushing me up by my bottom and then pulling herself up.  I don't know how long it took us to get back to the top.  Mom went back to the house where she had been dropping off that card table and knocked on the door.  The man who lived there had been taking a nap and never even knew we had been there, but as Mom recounted the story, the first question he asked was, "And where do you go to church?"

Miracles do happen. That's just one example.  He protects His people.  He loves us and is our defender and our strength.  Some things, we just have to accept.

And remember.  Everytime I recount that story, I'm reminded that God has a purpose for my life. There's something He's intending me to do.  Everyday, as I live and learn and love... He's working behind the scenes.

These miracles sometimes may not even be too obvious. It may be the miracle of forgiveness where a heart was stony, or the miracle of you feeling better when just a few minutes before you had a headache.  I don't know how many times I've prayed for God to help me find my keys when I was in a hurry, only to see them laying right there.

We just have to keep looking, and keep giving Him glory.  And remember... tell our children.  Deuteronomy 6 talks about telling our children the words of the Lord... His testimony and His commandments.  Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "And thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is He that giveth thee power." Psalm 103:2 says, "Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits."

Big or small, those benefits and miracles increase our faith.  And they show us that above all, His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Whoever said exercise is fun, well... they lied.

But I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Namely, because it is summer time, and if there's ever a time you wish you were an exercise guru, it's when you are getting ready to head to the beach.  Also, whenever you live with someone training for a marathon, and that's kind of all he talks about...

I drag myself outside on sunny days and not so sunny days to walk. My mother-in-law goes with me most evenings.  On rainy days, I sometimes force myself to get on the treadmill and pray that I don't die from boredom. My only salvation is Dance Moms DVRd. I'm so thankful a new season just started.

Anyway, I digress.  Another reason why exercise is on my mind lately is because I have to do a research project for my doctorate... and the topic I picked is physical activity in women.  Why I chose this topic, I really don't know.. other than the fact that I am a woman and I really don't like physical activity.  I was hoping that in all of the hours of pulling up research articles and going through them with a fine-tooth comb I'd find some magical answer.  I don't like to sweat, which is a major problem.  And I don't like to be tired.  And I kind of like to veg out on the couch...

which brings me to my issue.  This time next year, I'm going to be presenting some kind of project to an IRB board, and convincing them that I should be allowed to do research on a group of people.  I've been formulating my ideas.  I've kind of even got a rough plan, after talking to my faculty advisor.  I'm going to motivate these women to exercise...

which means I should be motivated myself.  Hello.  And I'm afraid that doing my laundry does not count for adequate physical activity, even though Wallace can attest to the fact that by the time I actually get around to putting up clothes, I have to make multiple trips from the laundry room to the bedrooms. 

Back to running...

I like the idea of running.  I am kind of jealous of people who run, especially women runners who glow as they pound the pavement. Then I remind myself that it really isn't a glow... to put it in an attractive light, it's a sheen... because they are dripping in sweat... which I don't like, right?

Wallace assures me that if I could ever get over the hurtle, I'd like it.  (And I know hurdle is spelled with a d... but for me, it truly is a "hurt"le. Full of lots of hurt and whining and complaining.) He's a little addicted.  I'm not to that point yet... I like to actually get enough  oxygen to my brain when I breathe so that I don't pass out, and you can't hardly do that when you're gasping for breath... but today I did run.  Like two tenths of a mile, a couple of different times.  And maybe I did feel a little better after I got done. I'll never admit that to him, though.   Like a little less stressed.  Maybe tomorrow I'll try to run a little bit more. 

Baby steps, right? 

The point is to just. keep.  moving.  That's what my trouble has always been... giving up.  And that might be another problem with this whole running thing.  If I'm not good at something, I don't want to try it. Ouch... it really, really hurt to admit that.  Fact is, I will not be one of those pretty runners with a healthy sheen.  There's nothing pretty about gasping for breath and holding your side and feeling like you are going to die... and maybe even looking like you are going to die.

Anyway, the point of this whole long drawn out story is not to make you feel sorry for me.  Today I read Chapter 6 of John Maxwell's book 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  He talks about changing your environment in chapter 6, of stepping out of your comfort zone.  If running isn't doing just that, I don't know what is.  He also talks about making your goals public.  So there you go.  This time next year, I'm going to have at least ran a 5K.  Now my first thought was my marathon runnin' husband will not think that is a big deal, and for some reason, I feel like even after 17 years of being together, I have to impress him... which is totally bogus. And may put just a little bit of pressure on him, and cause undue expectations.

But as I thought of it, I think he will be impressed... because he knows I hate sweat and I hate being out of my comfort zone and I hate looking stupid.  I can't help but think maybe he might be just a tad bit proud, as proud maybe as I will be in September when he crosses that marathon finish line. 
To tell the truth, though, that doesn't matter, because I'll have done it.

And I'll be able to talk about it when I get up in front of that IRB board.  Somehow, I don't think that motivation to impress your husband is quite the factor they will be looking for to improve patient health outcomes.

Lord, help me.  Your grace is sufficient, even to help me run and to get through this doctorate program.  =)

Monday, June 10, 2013

These Gifts

This Monday the sky burst open and angry rain drops pounded the tin roof on my house.  The bed felt good, and my to do list didn't seem all that important... but I made myself get up and get going.

Vacation is just under three weeks away, and as the rain beat the roof and I folded clothes and scrubbed the toilet I thought of digging my toes in the hot sand, the waves washing over my feet. 

The past few years we've been to the beach and it has always been my favorite place on earth.  I feel at peace.  I feel God.  Those large waves hitting the shore, the sand that could have been washed from the other side of the world, the wide expanse of blue and green that stretches on forever...

how can you not feel Him there?

There are days when He is right there and seasons when you don't know where He is, but even in those times, He is there.  He's not always loud and roaring or pounding like the rain on the roof.

Sometimes, its in the hint of sun through the clouds, like I'm seeing right now out my living room window.  The trees are green and the sunlight burns golden off of them, in the small patch I'm seeing on my front porch.

And sometimes you see Him in the glimpse of a smile on someone's face, or in the whisper of someone's voice when they reach over and grab your hand to pray for you. It's in the breath of the wind blowing softly through the trees, or the drip of ice cream on his chin. 

It's in your guy saying he's the happiest he's been in he doesn't know when... and knowing that in itself is an answered prayer.

He's in these gifts we're given. I've been counting all year, and last year, and on those hard days when I'm not sure where He is, I keep counting... keep looking.  And then I see...

Gifts found in Christ- the Light of the World, Living water, Redemption.  Birds chirping outside my window, my preschoolers at VBS giving me hope for the future, peace in Kami being pronounced the best VBS crew leader ever by Caleb, our fearless leader, Beulah, who always has a smile on her face and in her heart.  New friends and infectious laughter.  Relaxation with my books and a good walk.  Dance Moms on DVR and making it through an hour long walk... not to running, yet =) Candy crush saga and Caleb making me laugh when he asked me if I knew Mamaw Karen, as if I hadn't spent 9 months in her belly.  The history of D-Day this past week and our military still serving today.  Gifts I'm reading- no condemnation in Christ and freedom in His truth and victory through His Word, my only offensive weapon.

Took my pen and jotted down number 973.  Linking up with Ann today at, a small piece of Heaven on earth as we join in counting our thankfuls.  He's here... just look around.  And in His gifts, His grace is more than sufficient. It's more than I could ever imagine, and more than I could ever deserve.  All I have to offer back is my thanks... and amazingly, to Him, it's enough. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Camp Caleb

Friday I picked up the living room a bit.  I had books and papers and clothing hangers and shoes piled up all over the place.  I had actually forced myself to get into my closet and pull some winter clothes out, and had plans to work on laundry Saturday, and the piles were even getting on my nerves. 

And then Caleb came home from Nana's.

The kitchen chairs were pulled into the living room, and the comforter from my bed was stretched out over top of them.  A portable cooler was filled with ice and Diet Coke for Mommy and Coke and Capri Suns for Caleb.  A snack table offered some Skinny cow candy bars and cheese crackers with peanut butter.  An electric lantern was placed underneath the "tent", along with a Gotta Have God devotional book and a leather portfolio.

The camp director had painstakingly planned an agenda for the night. After my hour walk, I was given ten minutes to bath and change clothes... no relaxing with a good book. Papaw Mike had a campfire complete with smores. 

Then, we went back in, where we did devotions and watched a movie (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and did some lessons Caleb had typed up and talked.  We took pictures and laughed. 

Camp Caleb lasted all weekend.  Saturday was full of swimming during the day, some optional free time where I indulged on my Candy Crush addiction and read a little.  Saturday night was more devotion time and more giggling and laughing.

My living room floor is still a mess.  I did drag the chairs back into the kitchen, but the lantern and snack table are still right where Caleb left them.  My laundry is piled up worse than ever and I'm pretty sure the dust bunnies in this house could carry us off.

But we laughed, and made memories, and the lesson I learned on that hard floor underneath my comforter tent about taking time to live in the moment, enjoying those giggles while he's still little enough to sit under the tent made the messy room worth it.

After all, at least now I have an excuse ;-)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Five Minute Friday- Fall

Linking up with others at Lisa Jo Baker's blog, where for five minutes on Friday we take whatever prompt she gives us and write, unedited, for five minutes to let... it... all... out. 

Five Minute Friday

This week- Fall.  Ready? Go...

When I first saw this word, I immediately thought of football and pumpkins and orange and red leaves.  Of Halloween and cool, crisp night air and of bobbing for apples... which I'm really not sure why I thought of bobbing for apples, because it is not something I do on a regular basis, even in the fall.  Football, yes, and looking at leaves, but bobbing for apples...  no.

And I'm also surprised that this was my first connotation because I saw the picture Lisa Jo posted of someone falling... and I am a clutz so this is not that uncommon of an occurence for me...

And I think of the difference between failing and falling, which really isn't much, because failure is nothing more than a fall from the top, even when you may not have yet reached the top yet.

I've fallen a lot.  Like when Caleb was a baby and I tripped over his toy football in the living room and fractured my foot.  I received a lot of chiding over that one, as I tried to explain why I was unable to work because I was dancing in my living room.

And also the time I fell at the college while walking, and felt like I had broke my foot all over again.  And the time last summer when I fell in the parking lot of the hotel that we were staying in at the beach as I started my morning walk.  I may or may have been trying to post something to Facebook as I walked.

Falling unhindered is one thing.  There are many times we fall because we trip over something, or maybe we're going to fast, or we aren't paying attention and are trying to do too many things at once.

Then, there's the good kind of falling... falling in love.  You may or may not know what that is like.  I fell... hard... as a senior in high school, and even thirteen years later I can remember those first few dates.  Falling in love feels like your stomach is dropping out, like it does on a roller coaster, like there are a million butterflies that can't wait to escape.  You kind of lose your mind and forget other things and stop paying attention to other things.

Adam and Eve had the great fall, a fall from grace... one that we each are born into.  We were fallen before we were even born...

But He is there to pick us up.  He heals our wounds and puts bandaids on our scrapes.  He loves on us and sets us on two feet, points us in the right direction (because sometimes when you fall you just sprawl out... and if you fall long enough and far enough you forget where you started). 

And we can get those butterflies in our stomach falling in love with Him.

And I may or may not have accidentally set my timer for 15 minutes.  Woops! 

His grace is sufficient, though, for five or ten or fifteen minutes- for a lifetime.

Thanks for stopping by =)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fear Not... I AM.

This week in Stressed Less Living on the Melissa Taylor Online Bible Study page, our memory verse is Isaiah 43:1-3a, "But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee, when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you.  For I am the Lord they God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior."

What a powerful verse!

There's a Casting Crowns song that I really like- Who Am I.  It says, "a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind."

Temporary.  Not lasting. 

Then the refrain- Not because of who I am, but because of what You've done.  Not because of what I've done, but because of Who You Are.

You are- The I Am.  I Am He- no God before or after.  I, even I, am the Lord.  The Savior. The
Redeemer. The Creator.

In Isaiah 43, God tells us that He is all of this.  He is our creator... He knew me from the beginning.  He is our Redeemer- I'm bought back with a price.  He has called me by name- Lauren- and He knows not just my name but everything about me.  When you call someone by name, it means you're thinking of them, personally.  You've sought them out, chosen them to highlight or focus on.  I am chosen. 

He never leaves us.  In the water, He's with us- He gave Jonah a whale to save Him and He was there to catch Peter when He started drifting down... after they both took their eyes off of God's plans for them. In the fire, He was the 4th man- and the 3 Hebrew children came out and didn't even smell like smoke- even though the fire was so hot that it consumed the men that threw them in. He is the Lord- the I Am. 

Chapter 43 goes on to say, "I have loved thee." This means that God was in their past.  As the Creator of the universe, He still loves us individually.  We were created for His glory. 

"I have declared.  I have saved.  I have showed... There is none that can deliver out of my hand."

He was there... He said it would be so... He delivered.  He showed them through His marvelous works.  He's shown me through His marvelous works... He makes a way.  He blots out transgressions- whew, I'm so glad for that... but get this.  He forgives us, but it is for His sake.  Say what? In verse 25, He says, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember my sin." He forgives us because He wants to...

Because He loves us. He created us.  He called us. 

In the past, loving us now, in the present.  He is... I AM.   

I.  AM.  Present tense- says that "am" is the first person present tense, significant of be.

I am... because He is who spoke me into being.

I can be who I am... because He is who He is.

And His grace is sufficient for all of it. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thankful for Lazy Mondays

The towels are piled up on my couch and the dryer has finally stopped and still the clothes spill over the laundry basket.  The webinar I'm listening to for clinical hours is playing in the background and the sun is shining, just a hint.  And I'll fold one more towel and hang up one more shirt and tomorrow it will all be there again.  I don't see how women with three or more kids do it... but they do.  And we all have our own challenges.

But today I've been granted a lazy day.  My husband is just glad to be home and isn't really worried that the laundry is spilling over, again. 

Off he went to work this morning, followed by an exuberant Caleb, headed to summer school activities, just for fun.  It's a summer camp at school and he was ready by 7 AM.  I only wish he could be as excited during the school year... maybe he's already bored, but I can't help but think it's because he gets to ride with his Daddy again...

As I walk to the fridge, there's strawberry jelly on the floor... again. 

And I bend over and wipe it up, thankful that the one eating that PBJ sandwich is here, because it's not too far in my memory of the ten weeks when he wasn't, when there were no PBJ sandwiches to make and one case of Diet Coke was enough.

I settle down on the couch and keep listening to the woman talking about electronic health record, and breathe in deep the sunshine outside my window. 

Today, this day, the jelly and the laundry and the treadmill and the sunshine...

It's the gift.  The present.  Not living in yesterday, or even those ten hard weeks, anymore.  And not worrying about tomorrow, but breathing in today...

Counting His blessings today.  I love yous in conversations and hacked Facebook accounts with selfie pics from that boy with the crooked smile as he throws the deuces at his Momma.  Towels and clothes and laundry detergent and washers and dryers, because goodness gracious it could be so much worse.  I could not have these clothes... or I could have to wash them by hand. Thanking Him for funny moments with Wallace and Caleb and walks and Dance Moms and good books and Candy Crush on facebook friends and His Holy Word, John 7 and 8, no condemnation and living water, that I never have to thirst again. Blue skies with music blasting and blue ink pens and front porches and family. 

I'm on number 939, and each day I look closely at the birds outside my window and the clouds in the sky and the smiles on the faces of those I love... and see the gift. The present. Join me, in this Joy Dare that will make all the difference, at

Linking up with Ann and others who are gratefully hanging on in this thing called life. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What I'm Reading- June edition

If you read this blog any at all, you know that this is my favorite post of the month to write.  I'm all about reading... and even though my wish list is a mile long, I love to keep adding to it, so if you have any awesome books you've read lately, please comment and let me know.  So... here's what's on my goodreads list right about now.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm reading Stressed Less Living by Tracey Miles.  We're getting ready to start Chapter 9... and should finish up the book by the next time I write one of these posts.  Our next study begins at the end of July, What Happens when Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst.  To join the next OBS, visit

I'm also getting ready to read Anything by Jenny Allen with my Good Morning Girl group.  We usually go through a book in the Bible, but this summer they are doing something differently and I'm excited.  I'll start reading this tonight.

I'm reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  I've been reading a chapter a month, so I'm getting ready to start Chapter 6... and I'll probably read a couple of chapters this month to stay on track to finish out in a year. It's been a good self-reflection piece.

Another book I just started is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martian.  I'm on Day 2, because I started the book yesterday.  The book gives you topics each day to pray about.  It's well written and also includes power verses at the end, which have been really good.

On my Kindle, I'm reading Code Blue, a medical thriller that I am really enjoying.  It was one of those free books I downloaded, but I really like the author and medical books always interest me, so I might see what else he has written.  I'm finishing up the Perfect Trilogy by Julie Ortolon, reading the third one, Too Perfect.  It's a little shallow, and a little racy in places, but the characters are likeable and it is an easy read.  Don't know that I'll read anything else by this author, though.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third of this series, is one of my paperbacks I'm reading.  It is a fast paced book and I'm actually liking it better than I did the first two... maybe because I understand the storyline. 

I'm reading The Long Gray Line.  Wallace had it lying around (I think he has to read it as an assignment for the Reserves), and it looked good, and it is.  It's about the class of 1966 at West Point, and so far has been very interesting.  The author writes about military history and has a trilogy on WWII that I added to my wish list.

I'm finishing up the Sherryl Woods series with the third book, Where Azaleas Bloom.  I love her books because they are light in nature, have real-life characters, and make you think about pertinent problems... and they are just fun to read.  Nothing like reading something fun in the summertime.

I'm also reading The Homecoming by Dan Walsh.  It's set in WWII, and is about a soldier whose wife is killed in a car accident while he is off fighting, their little boy, and the social worker who steps in to help care for him.  I'm only on page 20, but it's good. 

Lots of books that I'm reading... I have one in the car, one in the bathroom, one in the living room... you get the point.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for a more serious book, sometimes for a more fun book, so depending on what my mood is, that's how I determine what I'll read that day.  It's funny that a lot of the time the books I am reading have similiar themes. 

Summertime... I'm hoping it will bring with it lots of time for reading.  What's on my to read list?  Lots of things!!! I have over 100 unread books on my Kindle (I get them when they are free and read them as I can).  And then there's this bookshelf...

Wicked Business, Time Traveler's Wife, The Drowning Tree, The Kite Runner, As I Lay Dying, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Summer Rental, Summer Affair The Red TEnt, Redeeming Love... and yes, there are books behind those... and also some in the bookshelf on top of it.

Any suggestions?

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go read....

Saturday, June 1, 2013

May in Review

Yesterday was my last day of work until August.  I spent it sitting at my desk listening to webinars for my clinical hours for my technology course.  There might have also been a few games of Candy Crush saga and bejeweled played as well, if we are honest.  After spending most of the semester at a rush, it's nice just to sit... review advisee folders at my leisure... get a little organized, only so I can come back after the summer and forget where I put everything.

May also brought the homecoming of my soldier, and boy, were we all glad.  Last night he said, "It's like it never even happened," to which I replied, "Um... no." Ten weeks was a long time, but it was a good time, too.  It made the strawberry jelly sticking to the floor in the living room this morning not look nearly so bad, and while I did get mad hot when I looked in the office that I had REALLY clean and discovered clothes all over the floor AGAIN ( I swear, he's worse than a two year old, sometimes), I actually talked myself right  out of the temper tantrum... because at least he's here to drop the strawberry jelly and leave the clothes laying.

So that there gives you some idea of my progress of 2013.  There's no measuring some of my goals, just comparing them to how I used to be, and giving grace, my word for the year, has definitely seen some improvements.  And when it boils down to it, that one is the most important one, anyway, because it deals with loving other people...

So here's the long version of the rest of my goals, such as they are.

As I mentioned before, I may have gained just a little weight writing that stressful systematic review (or at least that's what we'll blame it on..) so I've been in denial and have not wanted to look at a scale.  It doesn't help matters that my husband comes home looking like a million bucks... but I guess he kind of earned it.  I have been exercising, though, at least 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, five days a week... and it's June, people.  Guess I'll have to step it up a notch.  No running for this ol' girl, still... but I can keep dreaming.  Except next year I'll be 35... did I really just type that?  Wow! Ok... I digress...

I'm still behind on my Bible reading... by about two months.  Read in 1 Samuel today, and some in Psalms.  I know that what I'm reading is right on time, so I'm not stressing out. Memorizing scripture- today's verse is Proverbs 3: 34, "He mocks those who mock, but gives grace to the humble." I'm ashamed to say that I've not memorized any more of Matthew.  But... I've been reading His Word most days, and as my word of the year is grace... that's what I'm giving myself.  Hopefully I'll pick it back up in June.

As for pictures and blogging, I've kind of slacked on that, too.  I really slacked on the blog for a couple of weeks in May, but I left my computer at home when we went to Texas, and it is too hard to try to type it out on the phone.  I've discovered some good blogs to link up with; Ann Voskamp on most Mondays with 1,000 gifts, Melissa Taylor's OBS on Thursdays, and then Lisa Jo Baker's Five Minute Fridays, which I've really enjoyed... she gives you a word and you set a timer and write for five minutes. 

I've worked through Lisa Harper's Malachi and am on week 7of Beth Moore's Daniel (again) with a group of friends on Facebook (goal of 4 in depth Bible studies).... yes, week 7.  It's divided into two parts, and I'm halfway through. Part one is historical, part two is eschatological... so I'm going to shelf it for a while.  Monday we're starting David: A Heart Like His, and I thought I'd concentrate on it and then go back once I'm finished.  I am also hoping to study Priscilla Shirer's Gideon on Beth Moore's blog, starting June 11th. I'm reading Tracie Miles's Stress Lessed Living with Melissa Taylor's Online Bible Studies on Facebook, leading a group of amazing ladies. It's hitting right at home... in this stressful time, it's been some good reading.  Chapter 7, on Defeating Your Giants,and Chapter 8, Addicted to Adrenaline were awesome.  I read 8 books in May, for a total of 43 out of my 80 books; 37 to go. . More on what I'm reading now later... and on what I'm looking forward to reading this summer.  I am thoroughlly enjoying propping my feet up on my porch rails in the evening, the birds chirping and the bees buzzing, while I'm soaking up some good words. 

Participating in the Joy Dare and counting 1000 gifts... counted a total of 929 through May. Some of them have been hard to be thankful for... some are easy, obvious. He is so good! It's not too late for you to join in... visit

Sleep is once again an issue, since I don't necessarily have to get up early every morning.  I've been sitting up watching movies and reading books, and on those days when I've had to get up it has been a struggle... but I'm at least getting around 7 hours of sleep. 

I'm looking forward to what June has to offer... May was a busy month that flew by!  Overall, I'm seeing some changes for the better, and I'm crossing my fingers that this summer will be the best one yet.  It's all about perspective =)