23 June 2021

My Granny Rene

This post just had to happen for a few reasons.  First, the reason that I started this blog was so that when my grandparents were traveling in their motor home either to Alaska or to south Texas my Granny Rene could visit the local library and ask the librarian to pull up my blog address and she could scroll through all of the pictures and stories about our new baby Kirstyn that I had posted that week or in the past few weeks since she had last had a chance to look.  This was all before I knew there was a blogging community or before I even had social media.  The other big reason I wanted to post was to share the words that Pastor Josh Herweck spoke at her memorial so that family and friends that missed the service could read them and enjoy the memories too.  He sat down with several of us a few nights before and did a really great job putting together our memories of her.


Psalm 139 (David)

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.


Irene and her husband bought a chainsaw shop in the late 50s. He fixed the chainsaws, while she did the books. Then they bought the Western Auto Parts Store.

Her husband loved country music, particularly John Denver. He would get up in the morning and crank up the radio in the kitchen, but when she came in she would immediately turn it down.

And then when Paul Harvey came on, everyone had to be quiet so that they could be sure to hear, “the rest of the story.”

She love her flowers and feeding the birds, but she would chase off the squirrels and crows that would try to eat her bird seed.

When she was younger, in high school, she liked photography, since she moved around a lot, it provided memories and stability.

She loved cemeteries and was very interested in how well they were kept up.

She loved history and knew it well, especially the presidents, states, and random facts about each.

She won the “most experienced mother” each Mother’s Day at church, even causing people to question Deborah’s age when it was really Michael who was older.

Being in a small town, she was, also, very interested to know everyone’s business not to be gossipy, but because she genuinely cared about everyone.

Micah 6:8

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

She had a heart-attack in ’87, and the doctor planned to do an angioplasty. So, before the procedure she wrote the grandkids letters about how special they were. After the surgery, she became very serious about a healthier diet. She ate oats with raisins every morning, and when she made hamburgers for everybody else she would make a salad for herself from the fixin’s. She even started taking fish oil before it was odorless.

She, also, began taking some incredibly long walks. On one of her walks she swore that she saw something big and fuzzy, saying even just a few weeks ago, “I don’t know what it was, but I am not going back down there, again.”

Psalm 46:1-3 (Sons of Korah)

1  God is our refuge and strength, 

a very present help in trouble. 

2  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, 

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 

3  though its waters roar and foam, 

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Psalm 55:22a (David)

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,

And he will sustain you

She loved the Lord, and actually came to know the Lord as an adult. She and her husband were living in Texarkana, and someone came to their door inviting them to church at Moore’s Lane. They ended up believing in Jesus and her kids remember watching them both get baptized.

She loved her church. She work with the Sunbeams, which were the younger versions of GA’s and RA’s.

She was the WMU director and would frequently host missionaries in her home who came to town.

She intently studied her Bible and knew it incredibly well. She would quote Proverbs frequently. She taught Adult Sunday School, and the ladies loved her as a teacher.

When asked what her favorite scripture was, she would say, “Oh, I just love it all.”

Ephesians 3:20

(God) is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

She would watch over duck eggs, keeping them from squirrels when the ducks would go down to the pond.

She would wash newspaper and hang it up to dry so that the newsprint wouldn’t get all over her canning jars. She, also, washed and reused foil for baked potatoes. She would wash cereal bags for cooking.

She loved decorating anything that could be decorated, even decorating with fresh tree clippings, like cedar. She would fold, cur, and make boxes and ornaments out of Christmas cards.

She dedicated special time with Meredith and Neida for decorating a doll house.

She had very pretty handwriting.

She enjoyed watching Murder She Wrote and Matlock, but when Golden Girls came on she would send the grandkids to bed, because that was too inappropriate for them.

She made great hummingbird cake. She, also, cooked cookies weekly. She would always cook oatmeal raisin cookies or dishpan cookies. She also cooked peanut patties frequently and peanut brittle at Christmas time.

She would, also, make sun tea. And she made popcorn, because Sunday Supper was for popcorn and ice cream. She made home-made ice cream, vanilla and sometimes butterfinger. She did like her sweets.

After retirement, they would take their motorhome on the road for months all the way up to Alaska visiting friends along the way. And nothing better have gotten in the way of their trip each year. They even left one of their grandkids’ wedding before the bride and groom, so that they could get going on their trip, but they always made sure to mail post cards back while they were gone.

In Alaska, he would fish, and she would can the salmon. One time they decided to ship the fish him, but it didn’t arrive on time and was especially ripe when they opened the package.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8a Love never ends.

She loved her whole family.

She once chased Mark wielding a yard stick like a baseball bat, because he had made Meredith cry.

She kept the grandkids every Friday night and would cook the hamburgers and iron-skillet-prepared smothered fried potatoes on Saturdays.

She made a “worm-bed” from potato skins and coffee grounds for the grandkids to use while fishing.

She let the grandkids turn the furniture upside down and build forts and shoot each other with rubber bands.

She would sit with her grandkids on the second pew in church and would drive them home after church on Wednesday nights. On those Wednesday evenings home they would sometimes stop off at 7-11 for Icees where she would send the kids in to pay for their own treats while she waited in the car.

Some Mondays she would pick up some of the grandkids, make them spaghetti and put them to bed.

She taught grandkids to drive each somewhere around the age of 9. They would have to bring pillows and phonebooks to sit on to see over the dash.

She made this super sweet grape kool-aide, and unbeknownst to her, her husband would come by when she wasn’t looking and dump in another cup of sugar. The grandkids would drink so much that they would end up watering the field with their throw up.

One time, when little baby Jessica McClure fell in that well in Texas, Irene became very concerned about a well that they had. So, she had the grandkids start collecting rock in order to fill in the well. Well, they ended up collecting so many rocks that they were able to build a low water creek bridge out of the leftovers.

Before they could read, she would play read-along records with the grandkids, and then when they were older she would read with them in order to encourage a love of reading.

She would have sugar water tea parties with the grandkids lemonade tea parties with the great grandkids. They would set out dolls and were allowed to use any dish in the house, as was the case with the ice cream, as well, even to the point of using priceless bowls from the great depression. Memories were more important to her than things.

Proverbs 31

10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 

17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 

29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 

Irene was a hard worker, hospitable, loving, selfless, encouraging (encouraging Mark to get back out to drive after a terrible wreck, would have him drive her around), hopeful, proud of her family, kept a nice-tidy house, always made her bed even if she made it to the kitchen and thought she had forgotten to make the bed she would return to the bedroom just to make sure, she was always ready to host, she was compassionate, and would make you feel special, like you were the only one in the room, she didn’t talk about herself much at all, she always wanted to know what you were doing and how you were doing.

A great legacy of faith

John 14:1-6

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

My mom asked Kirstyn and James to sing In the Garden at the service.  It is the same hymn that Granny Rene had chosen many years ago for her mother's funeral so it seemed like a good choice.  They learned it last minute and did a really good job.  She would have been so proud of them.


12 April 2020

Happy Easter

We are praying this Easter you are healthy and surrounded in your home by loved ones as we all continue to wait on Jesus, science, or this virus to run its course. I haven’t mailed out a card or letter in a few years so I thought while I had some time with a completely clear calendar, I would do so now.  I hope you are going to enjoy getting a little snail mail too!

For us 2020 began with some exciting changes.  David purchased and took over the day to day management of what was his mother’s Farmers Insurance Agency.  She has retired, is still in the office some, and hopes to be able to travel more soon!

 As you probably noticed in the picture, I am now officially the shortest member of my family.  James recently passed me and soon he will turn 13, so he hasn’t even hit his real growth spurt yet.  I think even David will probably get to look up to him before too long!  This is the end of his elementary career… he will be starting 7th grade and Junior High in the fall.  This past fall his football team placed second in the city and he played both left tackle and nose tackle.

Kirstyn has already had a busy 2020!  In January as she was getting ready for a musical audition, she hurt her knee and the injury required a rather extensive surgery.  She is still in the process of going through rehabilitation and the virus precautions have limited the amount of care she is able to obtain.  We would covet your prayers for her complete healing as she is anxious to get back to dancing and driving.  She is in her sophomore year in the STEM Academy at Martin High School.

My brain tumor is still in my head and behaving itself.  I go to my oncologist in Dallas every six months to have an MRI to check on things and refill my seizure medications.  I have an appointment scheduled for May and no reason to believe that I will get anything other than good news once again.  Thank you for your continued prayers for my health.  God continues to use my story to minister to other people and for that I am grateful.

While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know exactly who holds the future!  I cling to the words of my favorite Easter hymn year round, but I’m writing them here for you now during this very uncertain time.

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives. 

Happy Easter!  All my love and prayers,

22 January 2018

Your Chair

Are you watching the new television show called SWAT?  One of the characters, Deacon, told one of their newer team members that in order to do a stressful job like the one they do, he needed a chair.  Early in his career he was thankful someone had told him if he wanted to keep his job and his family in tact he needed to find himself a chair.  He went on to explain that your chair could be anything or anywhere that allowed you to decompress after a stressful day as long as it was safe for you and everyone else. His mentors' way of winding down was his favorite chair and a smooth whiskey.  My brain kept spinning... a good book and a soft blanket, going on a long run, a silly game on your phone, playing basketball in your driveway... but he went on to say, the sooner you figure it out, the healthier you and your relationships will be and its up to you to figure it out.  He told his friend he just needed to hurry and find his chair before he found himself in a place where it's hard to come back. 

I personally used to really like to get lost in a good fiction book or even a series of books, but since my first seizures and brain surgery my eyes have not allowed me to read like that anymore.  I've found that I can find that same escape in television and movies and even audio books.  I'm always listening for quotes and conversations among the characters that challenge me or make me think about things differently.  I then try to bring these challenges back to the Word and ultimately see my faith grow.  George R. R. Martin said, "All fiction has to have a certain amount of truth in it to be powerful."

Later in the show we see Deacon in the waiting room of the hospital waiting on his wife to get out of brain surgery and he is beyond stressed.  He tells his friend that after 10 years on the job, he's in a place he doesn't know how to cope because when he comes home every night from work, his "chair" is his wife Annie's embrace.  He is at a loss for how to handle this stressful situation, how to decompress, or even how to re-center himself.  I hurt watching the stress on his face because I have seen a similar look on my own husband's face.  Your spouse's arms should absolutely be your "chair" at times. It should be a safe place to decompress, and a hug from them should be a way to feel the stress of today melt away.  But as I watched him pace around that waiting room, I wanted to read scripture to him.  I wanted him to hear the words of the song... When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging Grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. 

So, I want to ask you, do you have a chair?  More importantly... is that chair sitting on THE ROCK?


10 January 2018

Do You See What I See?

I look at this picture of my little family and I see a mom that was rarely in pictures.  Usually I was taking pictures of the kids because lets face it... they are adorable!  But also. I did not want to be IN any pictures.  I did not like looking at pictures of myself... I still don't!  Even in this picture I am making an effort to hide my fat rolls on my stomach behind my children because no matter how many hours I logged in the gym they just would not go away.  I am also looking at probably the last picture that was taken of the four of us together before that night a few months later that would change everything for us.

You know what I've learned since then?  It's so important to be in pictures even when there are so many fat rolls that they can't possibly be hidden.  When we were gathering pictures for our dad's funerals and you could tell that they were up 20 pounds or down those same 20 pounds, not one person mentioned their weight!  We were all too busy discussing where the picture was taken and what we were talking about before or after the shot was snapped or even what we were laughing about or what he could have been saying when the shutter closed and his mouth was open instead of smiling!  Pictures are just that, tools to help us remember.  I want my kids and future generations to have glimpses of the messy and not just the filtered perfection.  Are you IN pictures?  Are you filtering too much?

"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still." -Dorothea Lange


23 December 2017

Merry Christmas

I must admit that, this year, my reflection letter is more difficult to write than ever before, when it really should be one of the simplest to type up and send out.  I’ve looked at my computer screen for days with nothing but my closing quote picked out and notes with a few of Kirstyn’s and James’ major accomplishments to share.  You have done what Romans 12:9-16 asks.  You have been faithful in prayer.  You have mourned with us.  So now that I have nothing but good things to share, I have no idea why I hesitate to allow you to also rejoice with us.

Matthew 11:28 tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This year we have had some time together to res t, rebuild, and reconnect.   We asked for rest in Him and our prayers were answered.  We did not have to take our children to a single funeral or explain to them any more terrible illnesses.  While the flu went through our house, none of us had to go to the hospital.  As a family, we were able to travel to Hawaii and Port Aransas for vacations during the summer.

I had two positive oncologist visits this year.  This summer we made the decision for me to not drive for a month, so I could try a new seizure medication.  The results of that change have been fantastic.  My energy level is up and I am able to think much more clearly now.  We believe I am also having fewer night time mini-seizures now, as I am having less eye issues.  We just increased my night dose again in December and I am experiencing very few side effects with this medication and for that we are so very thankful.  My favorite day each week is Wednesday, when I study the Word at BSF.  We finished the book of John last semester and this fall we are studying Romans.

David is still enjoying his job with Pearson Air.  He was able to coach James’ basketball team last winter and then this past fall helped coach the defensive line for his 4th grade tackle football team.  We still do not take for granted the blessing of having him home for dinner every night and here with us every Saturday.

Kirstyn finished 7th grade with numerous awards and straight A’s in all Pre-AP classes and is doing the same this year in the 8th grade.  She made Show Choir this year, was in the spring musical and the fall play, she plays keyboard twice per month for our KidsRock praise team, and occasionally sings in church. It seems we are often watching her on a stage, and I am constantly impressed by her talent and confidence. 

James is in the 4th grade.  He has been in advanced classes, and has been in the Gifted and Talented program.  He recently read 8 books and tested the highest.  This allowed him to be his school’s team captain for a district Battle of the Books.  He has also been invited to be on a 4th – 6th grade UIL Number Sense team that will also compete this spring at District.  He played basketball and football.  He says football is the most fun because “he is big and he gets to tackle and because he is pretty good at it, too.”  He did find his hustle this season and even with 22 boys on his team, he got to play both ways the entire game and he got at least one sack every game!

The kids got brave and spent a week totally off the grid at Brookhill Ranch Camp in Hot Springs.  Their faith in the Lord was deepened and their relationship with each other was strengthened.

Both kids have played golf and taken lessons all year!  In the junior league they play in, they have started playing on the same team.  Kirstyn has started using my dad’s driver, fitted with a new pink grip, and James has gotten very good at reading the greens and putting.  One very hot summer night we watched them eagle a hole when Kirstyn drove the green and James sank a very long putt!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the book ‘Wonder’ that James’ class read this year and a movie we really enjoyed as a family.  “The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average – though those things are important, to be sure.  It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year.  That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.” R. J. Palacio, Wonder


12 August 2017

A New Muscle

She thought she was strong but she had no idea yet...
Photo credit Paul Knudsen Portfolio Studios 2011

When you are pulled back you are being set up just like a slingshot for a major launch to do great things, to go far.  The further you are pulled back, the further you have the potential to go.  Turn your setbacks into comebacks.  That's my paraphrase of what I heard Michael Jr. say this week when he was speaking at the Global Leadership Summit.

Resilience is a muscle.  That muscle in my life was very weak.  I had not yet had much opportunity to even try to use it.  Of course, now it feels like we have been training it hard as a family for the past six years.  I'm starting to feel ready to train others... I should be on the mic!  Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Option B, "In my experience, survivors want the opportunity to teach and not be shunned because they went through something unknowable, still people hesitate to ask questions out of concern that probing will dredge up trauma."

But now my question is what and where?  I hear people say to me that I inspire them.  I am still teaching at the gym.  As much to make myself keep going and some so that I continue to have a platform to share my "no excuses" story.  But lately that isn't enough.  Maybe because I haven't been writing.  I actually have 5 saved drafts but the most recent one is from June 2016 so I'm not really writing anymore like I was.  I've been frustrated.  Frustrated with my weight and my illness and my limitations that my illness puts on me.  When I'm not asked to speak or help with something I wonder, do people not want to bother me or do that think I'm not up to the challenge?

I want to share my "no excuses" story that includes more of my faith and how that faith has helped me tell my fears to shut up.  For 5 long years I stared at my expiration date and did not allow myself to dream.  Gary Haugen said, "Fear is the silent destroyer of dreams!"  Jesus reminds us in John 15:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  I have to change my thinking from defense to offense.  What can and will go right instead of focusing on the alternative.  Today I will do something I love because I don't know how long I have left, none of us do.  Today is a gift.  If I'm still here next year, I will attend the Global Leadership Summit again...it gave me lots to think about and a little to write down!


03 January 2017

2016 Reflection Letter

            We pray that this letter finds you facing the start of 2017 with renewed energy and a deepened faith as you have seen prayers answered and joy renewed.  We continue to fight for our faith to be bigger than our fears.   We studied Ephesians 6 this year and have been finding ways to apply it.  One way we have been able to do this was after reading “The Prince Warriors” by Pricilla Shirer:  “That is why you must always follow the Way of the Armor, because sometimes your worst enemy…is yourself.”
This year we had the privilege to see prayers that we have prayed for several years answered.  With those answered prayers came big changes for our little family.  At the end of February, David was hired as Financial Manager for Pearson Air here in Arlington, and, in leaving the car business, he was able to start spending his Saturdays with us.  He says he could not have imagined a better position for himself and looks forward to a long career there.  In 2016, I had 2 more stable MRIs and my brain cancer continues to behave itself.  We have made several medication changes and I am feeling some better.  In June 2016, I crossed a major milestone with 5 years survival. Then in October after almost a year of searching, we found and purchased our forever home.  God’s hands were all in the details of that process and our home of 15 years sold in one day.  We moved in on November 17th and are still getting settled.
We’ve been learning.  David and I attended the Global Leadership Summit where David’s leadership skills were challenged and built, and I walked away determined to be present more than perfect.  Kirstyn started junior high and took on all advanced placement classes, and continues to work very hard to make all A’s.  James spent countless hours studying Albert Einstein and learning the beginnings of how to write computer code.  He was designated as Gifted and Talented and is currently watching YouTube for “life hacks” and “science experiments”.  Both kids have taken up golf and have been playing in Jr. PGA leagues.  We’ve even been able to play as a family… it’s only slightly humbling to have the kids giving me advice and pointers.
Kirstyn (13) continues to amaze us with her music talent and bravery.  She went from singing on the KidsRock praise team to the Youth Praise team.  She has had opportunities to sing solos in the 6th grade musical, talent show, summer camp, and in “big church” in our Christmas kickoff called Hanging of the Green.  She also made All Region Honors Choir through school and is still playing piano and collecting blue ribbons and trophies. 
James (9) is our left brained child.  His math skills impress us all.  He really started to enjoy golf when his coach taught him how to read the greens.  He went from holding the club to lying down with a level and a sheet full of mathematical formulas and like the rest of us is practicing getting his body to do what he knows needs to happen to sink the putt.  He played basketball and football, and really found a love for the game (and his hustle) when he put on a helmet and pads for the first time this fall. 
We have traveled to visit family and for adventure.  David and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on our first cruise.  In July we went to the beach and built sandcastles.  And in December we went to Disney with our kids and our moms. We shared in so much joy when we attended weddings and birthday parties.  We mourned the loss of my Uncle Johnny, Great Uncle Frank, and Great Uncle CA, and continue to be reminded of the importance of family and living out our faith in Jesus.  We celebrated Thanksgiving in Arkansas on the farm and then Christmas in our new home with both of our moms and my grandmother here.
We wish you many blessings in 2017, and I want to leave you with James’ takeaway from Harvest America, “Stuff you do might be good, but that’s all just doo-doo.  All that really matters is what Jesus did for us.”  So go forth, and share the Gospel and the love of Jesus in your own way and we will too!  Our prayer going into 2017 was said best by Oswald Chambers, “Beware of spending too much time looking back at what you once were when God wants you to become something you have never been.”


24 December 2015

Use Me

Not "Why me?" but "Use Me?"  Through the many tears I have shed in the past few months my prayer has been for God to use me so that this pain that we are in isn't for nothing.  I feel like I asked my fair share of "Why me?" when I was diagnosed with cancer.  The truth is that just by asking that question it reveals the selfishness that remains in me.  Why not me?  Why am I not constantly just praying even pleading with God to use me in spite of me?  So, this Christmas season will you join me in asking HIM to "Use us?"

So, right now our circumstances are hard.  We lost both of our Dads in just two months.  I feel like I haven't even started to mourn my Dad's death and now we are faced with David's Dad passing away.  I wish I knew why.  I would love to know now how God will use this.  Meanwhile I am selfishly praying that God is not preparing my family for worse, but will give us opportunities to minister more effectively in our community and world.

As I try to look back over our 2015 I see so many joys and blessings, but I am still focused on the losses and the hurts. We took our kids to 3 funerals for 3 great men that we all miss.  My sister's father in law that my kids also called Papa (he loved so big he made my kids think they were kin to him too!), My Daddy 10/14 (Pappy) and David's Dad 12/14 (Grandpa).  I am forcing myself to reflect on the good so I can make sure to not miss how God worked in our lives this past year.  The kids are growing and learning and tackling new challenges on a regular basis.  They are excelling in school (6th and 2nd now!) and devouring books like crazy!  They are memorizing math facts and scriptures.  They are singing and playing sports with a focus on praise and sportsmanship.  They gave up birthday presents from their friends to collect for charity.  We made memories!  We laughed and cried.  We asked questions and are learning to trust His plan.  Psalm 105:4 says, "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."

We went to Disney World, Nasa, several 5K's, our first Relay for Life, the Beach (our 10th summer to vacation with my parents in Port A), and Six Flags.  James' flag football team took 2nd in the Arlington City Finals and Kirstyn won more blue ribbons than I can count for playing piano.  She sings every chance she gets and is in 2 choirs and on our church KidsRock praise team!  She even talked her music teacher into putting in extra work to enter the Macy's acapella challenge.  James is in advanced placement classes and constantly has us in awe of random facts that he has learned.  David has worked way too many hours and has been honored as his dealership's "Hardest Charger".  I'm still fighting Brain Cancer (stable!), teaching Body Pump, and selling insurance.  I had the opportunity to share some of my cancer story for a video and a professional did my makeup!  I'm praying for more opportunities to speak and share my heart.  I am in BSF.  Last year we studied the life of Moses and this year we are in Revelation.  David and I are leading a young marrieds connection group at our church again this year... we are learning more than they are!

Labor Day weekend we took the kids to see the movie War Room and saw how Miss Clara had a prominent place in her home where she wrote down answered prayers.  She kept a constant reminder of how God really does hear us.  We came home and cleaned out our hall closet and made our very own War Room.  We challenged each other to stop giving God our status updates and start really praying with strategy.  It warms my heart to see the kids writing names of their friends on the whiteboard and checking off answered prayers.  We are constantly looking as a family to find a need to meet rather than a battle to fight.  As we enter 2016 with heavy hearts I am praying Psalm 4 over my family.

Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.  Praying you can find JOY in Him this season no matter your current circumstances!
*Photo credit to our waitress at Campo Verde in Arlington and our awesome shirts by my friend Eric over at www.TheShirtPrinter.com

I'm crossing my fingers and pushing publish.  It is hard to proofread through tears and my grammar and spell check guy is at work today (on Christmas Eve)... some people are getting a new Infiniti tied with a big red bow!


26 October 2015

Hope and Rain

Growing up my dad frequently talked to us about the overuse of the word love and how that watered down the meaning of it when we said it.  Even more importantly how we should be careful who we believed when they said it to us (especially in those teen years!).  Several years later when my nephew was about 4, he and Dad walked into the McDonald's bathroom and my nephew declared, "I just love these kinds of toilets!"  He was referring to the line of urinals.  After that moment my Dad starting using that story as his example when someone else overused love or used it incorrectly.  David and I have worked hard to teach our kids that we love people and we like or enjoy things like brownies, burgers, visits to the beach, and even public urinals!  It's very important to us that one day when someone else tells one of our children that they love them, we want them to verify that its true and not just something they are saying because its easy and normalized.

A few weeks ago at BSF, the teaching leader talked about how we don't use the word hope the way God intended for it to be used.  We shouldn't hope to win the lottery or hope it doesn't rain.  Biblical hope is NOT wishful thinking, it is realistic, it realizes that we are broken in a broken world.  Hope is certain and unwavering based on His ability alone.  It is unshakeable when centered on His character and if I despair it is a clear symptom of my misplaced hope.  Hope in God and His promises should propel and sustain me.  My toes were stomped on or like our pastor says, I think she was a little too much like Mr. Rogers and all up in my neighborhood.  It was time for David and I to evaluate our use of the word HOPE.

Do you see an endless Hope or a hopeless future?  (Just let that sit with you a moment.  I think your thoughts or worries of the right now will give you the answer.  Know that faith doesn't erase doubt, insecurity, confusion, or hurt... it will overcome them.) 

My endless hope is found in Jesus Christ and I hope the way I live shows that in my day to day.  I have to give myself the permission to trust God to use me as I hope in the eternal future He has promised me.  God knows.  I got this card in the mail a month or so ago when I had hurt my back and had another blown blood vessel in my eye and I was struggling in my day to day.  I took a picture of it so I could use it when I wrote my next post... I wasn't sure what that needed to look like yet.  I put quite a lot of prayer into these posts.  I also had no idea how much the saying would mean to me now since we lost my Dad.

When we were planning my Dad's memorial service we knew that we wanted it to be evangelical.  We wanted everyone that attended to know the same Jesus that we know and follow that gives us hope in these very grim days.  The pastor said, "Well, I keep a message of hope prepared that I would like to share since I've talked with your Dad and know that he had his hope for a future rested in his relationship with Jesus."  That's exactly what we wanted.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 The Message (MSG) says, "And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus."  So we have a hope that promises that we will see my Dad again in heaven.  We can grieve.  As a matter of fact, we wouldn't grieve his going on to heaven before us if we didn't love him so deeply and miss him so very much.  Grief isn't wrong, its normal and natural and it hurts!  Give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances is what we are taught later in 1 Thess. 5:18.

I'm trying not to be ashamed of my sheer exhaustion and my endless tears.  I need to see it as an opportunity for Him to take charge and give me real rest and peace.  I'm trying to follow the instruction in Psalm 42:11 to "put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."   If you are praying for me will you please pray Romans 15:13 that says, "May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Kirstyn sang this song by MercyMe at camp this summer and then decided on the way to Arkansas that she wanted to sing it at her Pappy's memorial service.  When she started crying and couldn't get the second verse out, our sweet James (that never sings!) sang every word from the front pew at the top of his lungs until she collected herself and finished the song.  We are so proud of the young woman she is as she matures in her relationship with Christ.  So we will continue to pray... Jesus, Bring the Rain!

Here is the link to Kirstyn singing this summer!


14 September 2015


I was recently challenged to look at my life and I hope that you will take a quick look at yours.

In his book A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer relates a story about farmers in the Midwest who would prepare for blizzards by tying a rope from the back door of their house to the barn as a guide to ensure they could return safely home.  These blizzards came quickly and fiercely and were highly dangerous.  When their full force was blowing, a farmer could not see the end of his hand.  Many froze to death in those blizzards, disoriented by their inability to see.  They wandered in circles, lost sometimes in their own backyards.  If they lost their grip on the rope, it became impossible for them to find their way home.  Some froze within feet of their own back door, never realizing how close they were to safety.

I don't know about you, but many days my life feels like a blizzard and on other days, the sun is out.  Sometimes I just stay in the house refusing to face the storm or deal with the cold.  Other days I step out a few steps and go right back into the house because I don't trust the rope that I have in my hand to make sure I can get back safely.  There is probably a really fun party taking place out in the barn, but I'm just too cautious to even risk getting over there.  It really is too bad that I can't control the blizzards that hit my life. 

When I studied the life of Moses last year, I learned that each day when I wake up I have a simple choice to make: 
Will I choose to be like Moses and follow God?
Will I choose to be like Pharaoh and try to be God?
Will I choose to be like the people of Israel and focus primarily on my circumstances?

The challenge I was presented with is this:  What threads join together to make up the rope that will guide me back home when an unexpected blizzard hits?  I think its obvious what the answer should be... fantastic family, close friends, my faith, time in scripture, prayer and praises... but do I have all that?  I think the answer is yes, I have those people and times in place.  BUT I don't think they would know when the storm actually hits!  In this last four years, I have started to perfect the art of appearances.  I can make it look like all is well, even to the people that live with me!  If I decide to unleash the storm in my head would it make the people around me anxious, worried, or just stressed.  Where is the good in that?  Would I prevent everyone else from being productive... even if it is just for a moment.  In reading this story and being asked this question, I found myself thinking... do I even have a rope?  Do I even need a rope?  If I have a rope, will it even hold me if I fall down? (Everyone with extra weight worries if the rope will really hold? right?!?! #PlumpProb )  If the storm gets worse, do I even care if I freeze right on the back porch?  OR maybe I'm trying to be optimistic like everyone says I should... It'll get better, I will be fine.  I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud. I'm trying to get to a place where I'm not scared to dream and be optimistic although deep inside I'm still basically a sarcastic pessimist!  

So my current challenge is this, hold on to the rope and make sure it is stronger before the storm knocks me off of my feet and tests its strength.  The biggest challenge, I can't strengthen the rope without being vulnerable!  In Matthew 18, Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children"... no one is more vulnerable than a small child.  What am I really willing to do?  You?


01 June 2015

Bucket List

In the young adult cancer community I've heard the term "Bucket List" many many times.  Even on the first season of the show Chasing Life one of the characters (Leo with Brain Cancer) acts like the Robin Hood of last wishes for his friends in his cancer support group.  It is so emotional to watch these young adults experience their last wish.  The entire movie The Fault in Our Stars is a final bucket list wish being granted. Granting wishes looks like so much fun, but on this side of my diagnosis wishes can be very intimidating!

Bucket List is defined as a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.  It comes from the term "kick the bucket".  So do I have a bucket list?  NO.  Did I think for a while that I should make one?  Absolutely.  Making one feels so.... so final.  I like the idea of dreaming and I honestly need to be encouraged to dream and escape my day to day stressful details.  Yet at the same time I can't stand the thought of leaving this earth with an unfinished list for my family and friends to see.  I don't plan to have regrets when I die so I also don't want anyone looking at a list wishing they had help me do something or visit somewhere.   So for now I will just try to dream and accomplish those dreams one tiny plan at a time.  I want to continue to realize my destiny knowing that everything God does for me, to me, and through me will help me determine what that looks like.

While I'm on the subject, I'm looking back at the past 4 years.  Just 4 years ago was our last day as a family where cancer was not part of the story.  Tonight is the anniversary of the night that changed so much for us and helped us really take note of what's important.  I came very close to death and I didn't have a bucket list... if I had, I know that this list of adventures from the past 4 years should have been the bulk of it:
  1. See Kirstyn get baptized.
  2. See James ask Jesus to be his Lord and be baptized.
  3. Go to James' kindergarten graduation.
  4. Strengthen my marriage (I think we are ready for a lot less of the negative half of the marriage vows of worse, sickness, and poorer!).
  5. Go away for a weekend with David (We had not gone anywhere alone since our honeymoon in over 10 years of marriage except for one business trip and a couple of weddings if those count!!!  Actually I guess we still haven't but we are at least planning a getaway for our 15th.)
  6. Sponsor a child somewhere (We now have loved on 3 kids in Haiti).
  7. Go to Haiti and see how God is working there!
  8. Build a real sandcastle!  (Sandcastle building lessons are fun!)
  9. Be given a nickname... My week as Moonshine was amazing.
  10. Go kayaking!
  11. Make new friends (close ones!)
  12. Teach the kids to love GIVING as much as getting.
  13. Learn to Hula Hoop!
  14. Go to Disney World with my family.
  15. See kids learn to love reading.
  16. Watch Kirstyn find such joy in music (piano and singing).
  17. Get to know family!  (I have developed close friendships with family members that I am sure I had never spoken to or known before I got sick.)
  18. Start a business that we believe in!  (Ask us about Genesis Pure.)
  19. RELAX (translated: learn what's really important)
  20. Focus on the little moments and enjoy the day to day!

I look forward to our future and I hope to have many more years of adventures to report, but for this week I have school award ceremonies and parties to attend...

In case you are wondering David and I are trying to decide where we want to go in January for our 15th anniversary and how much money we can spend on that.  I personally want to go to CancerCon (Stupid Cancer's event) in Denver next spring and I want to figure out how to raise lots of money for First Descents so maybe just maybe I can go on another one of their adventure trips that also allows caregivers so David could get away too!  This year they offered a trip hiking in Iceland (WOW) so maybe one day.  While I'm dreaming we should probably take the kids to the Grand Canyon or the Smithsonian.

No matter what, I want to make sure I am living life in spite of this diagnosis! So since the month of May has come to a close.... please remember that Grey Matters year round!


29 May 2015

Why Blog?

Why am I blogging?  That is a question that I've asked myself more times than I care to admit.

In all honesty, I started this blog for the sole reason to share pictures of us with my grandmother.  She and my grandpa were traveling all of the time but she really wanted a way to see pictures more often than every 6 months so I set up this blog.  It was a way for me to post random stories and pictures (mostly of Miss Kirstyn) and my grandmother could walk into any public library and hand the librarian my URL and she could sit and scroll through pictures and feel connected to us from as far away as Alaska.

Later, I discovered this amazing community of mommy bloggers.  I could read their stories and I even made a few great friends that I've never actually met in person, but will one day hopefully sooner than later!  I finally didn't feel so alone in my day to day tasks and we were able to share stories of our lives and relate to one another.  (This was WAY before I even joined any social media sites like Facebook or even Myspace!)  We have even exchanged gifts and cards and sometimes they feel closer than the people I greet in passing almost daily!

Then, I made up my mind that I wanted to drop some of this weight that I have carried my entire life.  Once again I found a community of support and I was able to type feelings that I wasn't able to articulate in person.  I read others struggles and triumphs.  I found recipes and was encouraged to attempt exercise.  I shared my struggles with the scale and my victories in the gym.  I was even featured in the Dallas paper after an author had followed my progress.

And just when I was coming to what I thought was then end of my weight loss saga, I had a seizure in my sleep and a week later learned that I had ...dun dun dun... CANCER.  Not just any cancer, brain cancer... one of the most deadly cancers that most people know nothing about and many seem scared to ask.  I have shared some of my raw emotions and we have been as open as we know how with this path that we were thrown on to walk.  (pssst... and you have probably watched me gain back close to 50 of the 100 pounds I lost.  Steroids, cancer emotions, church people food, exhaustion, and crazy hormones are mean to the body!)  My self esteem has been on a roller coaster that I don't remember volunteering to board!  Today, the kind older man tuning our piano asked about the family in a photo on my wall... I was taken back when I realized he was asking about a picture of me with David and Kirstyn.  I have been really hard on myself lately about my weight and his innocent comment made me realize how far I've come... physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Still, it doesn't change the fact that I long to feel as good as I did exactly 4 years ago in that picture on the right.  There was 50 pounds less of me, but I was so na├»ve to all life could teach me in just a few so very short years.  And that girl on the left holding that happy little girl 11 years ago...  I'm not sure I even recognize her.

It makes me laugh that I named this blog Normal to Natalie long before I knew what my real platform even looked like... I guess I'm still not sure.  I do know one thing.  I want to update my website to be more than just a blog (I'm probably going to need to hire help!  Suggestions?).  I want you to get to know me better.  Meet the me that sells insurance and that has continued to educate myself and change my family's eating habits.  The me that did endless hours of research and decided we would use Genesis Pure to deliver so many essentials to our door every month.  It's easy, I trust them, and I dread shopping... oh and their products keep me going at a pace that helps me keep up with my crazy family.  And my kids, they are the best and in so many ways have been forced to mature and learn some really hard lessons.  I need/want/have been asked to share more about that and how we are all working through our day to day "extras" together.  (A blog about our commission system is in the works... promise!)

I at one time described myself as a busy wife and mom on a mission to get healthy inside and out through clean eating, Bible study, and exercise.  That's still very true and I hope you will join me as I continue to take this journey called life and share it as openly and honestly as I know how with you on this blog.  Maybe one day my platform will grow and I will be invited to speak and share my heart with a group that needs to hear from me.


01 May 2015

Moses and May

Did you know that the entire book of Deuteronomy was likely recorded during the last 37 days of Moses' life.  So, Moses was able to share so much wisdom and knowledge and blessings with the people he had been mentoring and leading in 37 days yet here I sit with a journal for Kirstyn that I have been working on for 18 months.  The journal is even designed to be completed in just one year, but hers is only about half finished and James' isn't even started.  Maybe I should be thankful that I don't have that same sense of urgency that Moses had or maybe I need to spend more time on the mountain learning from God before I try to share my thoughts.  Either way, I pray that they are learning that when faced with adversity and challenges we didn't expect that we will not run in fear but face them but only after seeking wisdom through prayer knowing that "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you".

The book of Deuteronomy ends with Moses praising God as he blessed the people and God praised Moses. Wow, what a legacy he left that we are still studying today.  I want to be remembered as someone who praised my God and I desperately want my people (Kirstyn and James) to be blessed.  I'm praying for all of us to have unshakable faith in the most unstable circumstances!

May is Brain Cancer Awareness month.  In May of 2011 we were seeing subtle symptoms that something was wrong but we had no idea what was about to happen and change everything for us.  Even looking back, the symptoms were never something that pointed to a brain tumor.  Actually, I've met many people that were just in their day to day when a first seizure changed everything.  Many weren't even having headaches.... me included!  I recently installed the timehop app and have been looking back on my facebook memories from that year leading up to my first seizure.  I wasn't sleeping well, I was stressed, I was frustrated, and nothing I said reflected that I was seeking God first.  I was just trying to survive in the day to day.  Honestly, I don't remember much and after looking back and after these 4 years of conversations, David and I have concluded that at least 2 years of my memories were taken.  I have rebuilt some with pictures and social media history and listening to stories, but there are still gaps.  I've stopped crying when I realize I've just spent an hour watching a movie that I've already seen and something triggered the memory so now I know the ending.

Next week on May 5th, I have a brain MRI and oncologist visit.  We will learn if this monster in my head is remaining stable.  Then, I 'get' to face my newest challenge (why isn't there a sarcasm font?!?!).  I found a "mass" in my right shoulder a few weeks ago.  Since then, I have seen a couple of doctors and had an MRI on my shoulder.  (I swear I'm going to stick to my refrigerator at some point!!!)  My oncologist then scheduled me an appointment with an orthopedic specialist so I see him next Tuesday too and find out what's next for my shoulder.  I'm doing my best to give my fears to God but that hasn't been easy...  I'm praying for a simple and fast solution to the pain in my shoulder and arm that is being caused by this cyst.  Cinco de Mayo for us will be a long day of doctors and evaluations for me and we desperately need your prayers.

This month I want to raise awareness.  I want to accomplish something new.  I want to give thanks for all of the opportunities that even my struggles bring.  I want to see my faith overcome my fears.  I don't want to be what's happened to me, I want my hope to be contagious!  Help me show that the grey ribbon is important too!  You can buy this year's shirt and you can post on social media using the hashtags #normal2natalie and #greymatters

Because MyGreyMatters!
Deut 31:6

18 February 2015


Don't get so caught up in manufactured drama that you forget to enjoy actual reality.  If you don't control your media then the media will control you.  Thoughts like this are running around in my head right now. 

David and I are taking a Re-Think Parenting class at church where we are hearing staggering statistics like the porn industry made 96 billion dollars last year while the NFL made a mere 9 billion.  In addition to that if you watch close you will see that every tv show, book, and movie has some kind of agenda.  Sometimes the agenda is hidden and sometimes it is more than obvious.  Is this going to be a lecture.... NO.  I just started thinking about the influence that things like books and movies have had on me and my character.  We are also thinking about what we are allowing into our home to influence our children.

So like every good researcher (ha!), I turned to Facebook where I asked my friends the following question:  What movie would you say had an influence on you (good or bad) as a child, teen, or adult?  In many cases the same movie was named several times.  Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption, or The Sound of Music... anyone?

Then last night ABC aired a special countdown to the Oscars show called "15 Movies that Changed American Cinema"  We enjoyed the way they organized the movies by their impact on the big screen and our culture.  How many have you seen?
Here is our summary version of the countdown:
15.  Toy Story (computer animation)
14.  16 Candles (teens playing teens)
13.  A Hard Day's Night (music video/Beatles)
12.  Jaws (musical score/scary/changed the movie calendar)
11.  Lilies Of The Field (Sidney Poitier/black actors)
10.  Godfather part 2 (sequels)
9.  I'm No Angel (Mae West/sex symbols/woman in charge of sex life)
8.  Easy Rider (indie films/Jack Nicholson/movie for a generation/rock n roll/drugs/challenged movie studios)
7.  Birth Of A Nation (first full feature length blockbuster/showed at White House/first film to make us feel things that were wrong)
6.  A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando/leading man/method acting/emotions while acting/first to win 3 out of 4 acting oscars)
5.  2001: A Space Odyssey (birth of a sci-Fi genre)
4.  Psycho (violence to a shocking new level/scary/reinvented horror/first toilet flush in a movie)
3.  Snow White And the Seven Dwarfs (started the animation craze/hundreds of artists and animators/changed view of animation)
2.  Gone With The Wind (epic love story/everything was big/changed how we view of romance in movies/won 10 academy awards/first black woman to win an Oscar)
1.  Star Wars (original stretch of the imagination/great characters/influence/1st movie to extend the movie experience beyond the theater/merchandise)

I have movies that helped shape me and my opinions in several stages of life.  Yes, cinema has shaped not only my culture, but some of MY thinking.

Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows both taught me about loyalty and love even when it comes to a pet.

Lion King showed me another angle of the love and redemption story offered in the Bible by Jesus.

The Goonies made me want to go on adventures... even dangerous ones.

The Cowboys with John Wayne taught me about death.  I remember crying and crying when he died just like he was a member of my family.  This quote from the movie speaks volumes, "Death can come for ya any place, any time. It's never welcomed. But if you've done all you can do, and it's your best, in a way I guess you're ready for it."  I also remember how mad my mom was at my dad for letting us watch that movie as she had to watch us morn John Wayne for days!

Steel Magnolias taught me about the importance of friendship!  Everyone needs someone like Clairee that will say, "I love ya more than my luggage!"

Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, The Help, The Butler, Braveheart, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Passion of the Christ all taught me things about history that I had read all about, but seeing it on the screen personalized it even more.  There are so many different profound lessons and emotions in all those movies.

Now that I've been forced into this world of cancer and raising young kids at the same time I have found myself more careful about the stories we watch on the big screen.  Until you are living with cancer or watching a loved one walk that, I think we miss some of those loud messages.  Sometimes the mom dying of cancer theme shows up in places you weren't expecting it.  For example, I was shocked when it was in Rise of the Guardians.  I mean I was expecting an action movie!  I blogged before about the movie God's Not Dead and its cancer story.  Read that one here!

Movies also trigger conversation that we need to have but haven't been able to articulate.  The timing of our family watching We Bought a Zoo was perfect.  Our emotions were all very raw but at the same time I needed a way to talk to Kirstyn about what she was feeling and how she was acting.  She was really struggling with walking a fine line of fear and anger while dealing with my grim diagnosis.  That movie and the boy's attitude toward his dad after loosing his mom helped us both be able to better articulate what she was feeling and correct how she was acting toward me.  It was emotional and raw around here, but after we worked trough much of that together and while clinging to each other and scripture we were able to watch it again and enjoy it a little more.

Then later, David and I rented Safe Haven.  We knew it was a movie that was designed to bring emotion out but we thought it was more about abuse.  When that movie ended I spent hours on the kitchen floor sobbing so hard I could barely breath.  It was a long time before he gathered himself so that he could sit in the floor with me and hold me tight.  I own that movie now and have re-watched it once....  I will again.  It motivates me to journal and write to the kids.

So, I'll ask again... Are you controlling your media?  More importantly what do you filter your media against?  For me, I want to make sure that what I am seeing and feeling is filtered against the Promises that God has made me in His Word.  Like they kept saying that the IF: Gathering I attended.  Even if I feel like a grasshopper facing giants, I want to be willing to step forward in faith knowing I am ultimately SAFE in Him.  What changes Fear to Faith is the position of God in my life.  In Numbers 13 and 14, Joshua and Caleb were saying the same thing as Benjamin in We Bought a Zoo, "insane courage will lead to something great"!  I want to continue to have faith bigger than my fears...  Sometimes God even uses movies to teach me.

I know this blog was all over the place but I want to hear from you too.  Tell me what movies have influenced you.... I might need to add it to my watch list!