Five minute Friday – brave

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photo copy 2Why just typing about the subject of bravery is well, brave.

My heartbeat is increasing with each.word.placed.

An idea has been swirling in my head for a while now and I’m afraid. I scarcely allow myself to ponder this and now I’m nearing the moment of revealing it to you.

A sample of the things I used this week. I feel happy in the kitchen.

A sample of the things I used this week. I feel happy in the kitchen.

What if my idea succeeds? What if it’s a total failure? What’s my motivation? Do I have the physical, financial, emotional resources needed to make it work?

Speaking to over 50,000 teenagers about saving sex for marriage was brave. Sharing incredibly personal stories about my past was something I asked the Lord to help me with every time I did it and that was for nearly eight years.

But now the Lord is placing, (I think) an idea which scares me as much as the first time I entered a high school classroom full of very skeptical kids.

My dining room

My dining room

I’m thinking about opening my home to encourage women with cooking and hospitality. Not as a money making idea, not to sell any kitchen gadgets or products, but just to encourage women in the art of domesticity. This is something so very close to my essence as a wife, mother and homemaker.

I think about this idea when I am chopping red cabbage or stirring up a homemade salad dressing in the kitchen. When I’m roasting poblano peppers or making a pretty table setting for my family, I feel this urge to open my home and show others how to do it. I’m so not an expert which is why I’m afraid to try.

When I think about going forward, I bravely ask God, “Is this what you want me to do?” It’s sad that I don’t know any of my neighbors, what if they reject me? So many questions and doubts but yet an eagerness and an unction to try.

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it!

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it!

Should I do it? What is the brave thing you are contemplating?

Check out this word party. This might be the brave thing you need to do!

Blustery heart

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photoA cold morning finds
a mama worried –
about a Soldier,
a ministry-minded middle
and an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot.
Tears flow.
They’re not in trouble or doing anything wrong (or at least not that I, I mean she know/s of!).

Two hours later
she reads Scripture for a weekly Bible study
Gently, unexpectedly
God tucks comfort and assurance into her heart.

“It is good for a man to bear the yoke

while he is young.”

Lamentations, of course, this totally makes sense
This mama can be
a big time lamenter

And just like that
Worries find solace and melt away.

On this January day
She breathes.

Five wonderful adventures with Flat Stanleyette

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Yesterday my niece got my returned package with Flat Stanleyette. I know this because I had the pleasure of talking to my niece for nearly an hour about it! In this crazy, mixed up world we live in, it does an aunt good to know her niece was happy at school all day long.

I promised A. I would share more about our paper friend’s adventures. It was an honor to host both of the Flat Stanley’s we’ve had recently. We did our best to show them some southern hospitality.

Here are a few other things Flat Stanleyette experienced.

"I'm a Flat Stanley fan!"

“I’m a Flat Stanley fan!”

1. Flat Stanleyette went with me to the Raleigh/Durham INTERNATIONAL airport!  We picked up Aaron who is a college student at Moody Bible Institute. Christmas music filled the air even though it was a few days before Thanksgiving. A spirit of cheer and excitement was everywhere as many people waited to greet their loved ones. As I was waiting, I noticed a group of musicians playing Caribbean music by the luggage carousel. That’s when Flat Stanleyette and I looked at each other. Her big blue eyes met mine and I knew I had to do it. I approached the lead musician and asked, “Would you mind taking a picture with Flat Stanleyette?” Without a hint of embarrassment, he heartily agreed! He told me his daughter had also had a FS and she went around with him! How cool is that!

Aaron meets Guinea pig girl Wilma and Flat Stanleyette for the very first time. No words.

Aaron meets Guinea pig girl Wilma and Flat Stanleyette for the very first time. No words.

"Um, um, um, we thought Aunt Cindy was getting facial moles removed! YIKES!"

“Um, um, um, we thought Aunt Cindy was getting facial moles removed! YIKES!”

2. On another note, FS showed great bravery by accompanying me to the plastic surgeon’s office. I decided to get FOUR facial moles removed. There are three words to describe the event

1. ewww

2. ouch

3. scary

Flat Stanleyette and Guinea pig girl Cora kept me company and tried to distract me but it really didn’t work. I will spare you details but we all decided it was something we’d rather not do again.  Glad they’re off my face but not the most fun thing we’ve ever done. Understatement.

Look at this beautiful couple on their wedding day! Flat Stanleyette thought you two were sooooooo in <3!

Look at this beautiful couple on their wedding day! Flat Stanleyette thought you two were sooooooo in <3!

3. Uncle Mark and Grandpa Hugh piled Flat Stanleyette into the car and they drove to a wedding in the mountains. Hopefully she kept the two guys under control and they weren’t too crazy! The bride and groom were happy to get a picture of FS!

4. I also took Flat Stanleyette and bestie Erma to my weekly Bible Study. We are studying the book of Psalms in the Bible and FS even had her own seat. She told me afterward that she learned a lot and thought the ladies were all super duper nice and interesting. Flat Stanleyette has noticed how many people smile every time they see her. I noticed the same thing.

A few of the ladies in my Bible Study! They welcomed Flat Stanleyette with open arms and hearts! Such a pretty bunch of women!

A few of the ladies in my Bible Study! They welcomed Flat Stanleyette and Erma with open arms and hearts! Such a pretty bunch of women!

FS at the Farmers' Market. Maybe this is where she lost a few of her fingers. Oops!

FS at the Farmers’ Market. Maybe this is where she lost a few of her fingers. Oops!

5. Another highlight of her time with us was going to the Raleigh Farmers’ Market. Aunt Cindy knows about a special place at the farmers’ market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables for less money. We bought potatoes, persimmons, sweet potatoes and other lovely, healthy foods. Aaron went with us and he’s always a bunch of fun! When they got home, Ike and FS noticed that I put the potatoes in the dishwasher. It was everyone’s first time to see potatoes cleaned that way! Not sure we’ll do it again but YOLO, right?

"Ok, so are we really going to put the potatoes in the dishwasher?" Ike and Flat Stanleyette wonder why.

“Ok, so are we really going to put the potatoes in the dishwasher?” Ike and Flat Stanleyette wonder why.

Being an aunt is a blessed thing.

Adventures with Flat Stanleyette, part two

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"I've never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!"

“I’ve never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!” Flat Stanleyette pictured with dehydrated cauliflower and an undehydrated butternut squash. Huh…

I certainly hope (and pray) that my niece, A., had a good day at school on Friday. Friday would have been a very important day to have a regular, wonderful time as an elementary school student.

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

My niece’s Flat Stanleyette hopefully arrived at school along with a box of surprises. Yesterday would have been a fitting day for happiness to fill a classroom…

Here are a few of the highlights –

1. Flat Stanleyette learned about soap nuts sold by Olive Shoot Institute. This is our family’s small business. This is the way we do laundry! At first FS thought we were crazy even though she appreciated the fact that soap nuts are 100% biodegradable, organic and natural. To think that there are trees in India that produce a berry which clean clothes blew her paper mind. However, when she noticed that our clothes smelled fresh and clean, our towels were fluffy and fresh, she became a true believer. Upon her insistence, I gave her some soap nuts to bring back home.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

2. We kept her busy dehydrating and learning about preparing healthy food. She helped slice the fruit and vegetables, place it on our Excalibur dehydrator trays and spritz some lemon juice on things to keep it from turning gross colors. She helped make vegetable powders with our Vita-Mix and imagined all the ways they could be put into soups, etc.

3. Sometimes FS looked surprised when we told her we eat persimmons, kale, spinach and banana chips. We don’t always eat organic stuff or healthy things but we wanted her to try new things and expand her palate. When Flat Stanleyette returned home, she brought dehydrated banana chips, persimmons and apple slices. She was super excited to share them with the kids. Hope you guys liked them!

4. Our paper friend joined me in learning how to make fabric bowls. “Wow, this takes a lot of skill and patience!” she declared one afternoon. FS went to bed very tired that night with a slight headache.

A collage of fun!

A collage of fun!

5. It was her first time at a high school men’s basketball game and as expected, FS drew a lot of attention. Thankfully, her new best friend Erma helped her deal with all the looks and stares. Erma is a Guinea pig girl doll and proud of it! They both agreed everybody was probably jealous of their beauty. It was a fast-paced game and she is now the biggest fan of #21 whom she began calling “Lebron” even though he is an orange hair, freckle face teenager. The coach really wanted to get a picture with FS following their big win.

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

Fun with Flat Stanleyette

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"Hi, I'm Flat Stanleyette and I'm here for a good time!"

“Hi, I’m Flat Stanleyette and I’m here for a good time!”

For the second time this year, our family has hosted a Flat Stanley. I think the first Flat Stanley told the second one that our house was THE vacation destination. I can imagine more interesting places than our house but we swung wide the door of hospitality! Have you ever sent or received a Flat Stanley? I’ve never felt so much pressure to please a paper doll in my life!

My niece, A. sent me her adorably colored Flat Stanleyette. This FS is a super fancy girl with earrings, freckles, polished finger nails and some very interesting eye brows! Suddenly I was scrambling around making sure our life looked happy and interesting. FS had just missed participating in a craft fair and that was probably for the best. They are absolutely exhausting!

Taking a moment to pause, Flat Stanleyette enjoys being around this strapping young Soldier!

Taking a moment to pause, Flat Stanleyette enjoys being around this strapping young Soldier!

Thankfully she arrived on a weekend when my Soldier was in town. As soon as I tore open the envelope and saw her inside, I took her out to play basketball with the orange hair, freckle face OS and Nate.  FS admired Nate’s big muscles and Ike’s serious basketball skills. Based on all of their faces, I think they had fun together!

Even though you can't tell by her facial expression, Flat Stanleyette sat patiently at church and seemed interested in learning about God's Word.

Even though you can’t tell by her facial expression, Flat Stanleyette sat patiently at church and seemed interested in learning about God’s Word.

That evening, we took Ike out to the Melting Pot to celebrate his 16th birthday. Of course, we piled our new guest with us to the restaurant. She was polite and ate very little which was a good thing because the Melting Pot is $$$.

"You preached an excellent sermon!" "I know. Thanks for visiting." "You're welcome."

“You preached an excellent sermon!” “I know. Thanks for visiting.” “You’re welcome.”

FS went to church with us the following day. Pastor Rob wasn’t sure what to do when she insisted and I mean insisted on taking a picture with him. Sometimes it feels weird going to church if you haven’t been there for a while, I remember that feeling but we all made her feel welcome and at ease. She sat patiently next to me and looked on as I read the Bible. It was a new experience for FS and I think she got a lot out of it.

There was more fun and I can’t wait to share!

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and BFFs!

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and BFFs!

For the losers, 5 lessons learned in junior high about running for political office

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Don’t let this picture fool you, I was a serious candidate, btw.

I know something about running for political office. I ran for Treasurer back in junior high. This is my advice for all the losers in today’s elections. It’s the least I can do for democracy.

Please feel free to pass this blog post along to the losers of today’s elections. I sure do hope it helps them move forward.

1. Be gracious – When I was running for Treasurer back at Jefferson Junior High in the 1970s, I learned to hold my head high as I walked past those who did not vote for me. And I did so in bell bottom jeans no less. Yes, I wanted to burst into tears upon the news of my failure. Sure, in addition, I was dealing with hormonal issues, what 12-13 year old girl isn’t? Yes, I had body issues, poor posture and pimples but did I seek vengeance on my opponents? NO! It probably crossed my mind but I chose higher ground. Dear losers, be nice even when you lose.

2. Work on your public speaking – I found speaking into the intercom during school announcements absolutely terrifying. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I lost. Not sure. My fellow classmates probably detected the quiver in my voice when I spoke into the microphone. So what did I do about it? Did that stop me from ever speaking again? NO, my friends. After college, I had a career teaching executives public speaking across the country and in three countries. Later, I spoke to over 50,000 kids about super private stuff like waiting to have sex. If you work on your presentation skills, you can channel that skill set into other endeavors. If I can do it, so can you.

3. Stand for something – With nearly three decades to ponder the reason for my unsuccessful bid as junior high treasurer, I think my platform might have been weak. I should have outlined clearer goals and strategies.

4. Campaign ads don’t always work – Trust me. I spent HOURS working on stenciling my campaign slogan on poster board. I bought neon poster paper plus I used brand new, smelly magic markers. WIN with WINTER was my catchy phrase, how perfect but guess what? I lost, people! You can pour yourself into your campaign, develop the slickest designs out there and still not rock the vote. It’s going to be ok.

5. Pursue other dreams. Try other things. If you would have told me as junior high Cindy and that in just two short years, I would make history, I wouldn’t have believed you. But sitting in front of me as I type, I hold the title for being Gala West’s MOST IMPROVED BOWLER – 1974-1975. The trophy sits proudly in my office next to my computer. I’m looking at it right now. Dear losers, may my story inspire you. My dreams were not dashed only diverted.

The coveted Most Improved Bowler trophy, yeah, I got insurance on this.

My Soldier, myself and my trophy. Btw, You can order your own doll at http://stores.oliveshootinstitute.com/-strse-26/Guinea-Pig-Girl-Doll/Detail.bok

Interesting side note – two of my three olive shoots have also run for student body political offices. I’m the mother of two former class senators (Nate and Aaron) and the mother of the student body President (Aaron). Furthermore, as the mama of a West Point grad (Nate), a comparative politics major no less, my public service aspirations or that of my olive shoots will not be revealed but here’s a hint. We will not rule out a future run for office. Stay tuned and be encouraged all you winners and losers out there!

Do you have any suggestions for the losers based on your junior or high school government days? I’d love to hear them! Check out http://stores.oliveshootinstitute.com/-strse-26/Guinea-Pig-Girl-Doll/Detail.bok if you’d like a super cool homemade gift for the holidays!

Five Minute Friday – Wide

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I will cherish this moment always

I think most of us have had a few bad church experiences. Some are worse than others. Some people never set a foot in a place of worship again until they’re dead. This must really anguish the Lord. One of my sayings is, “We’ve got to be better than the bar.” I mean, I have got to find more support, love and encouragement in church than if I wore a too short mini-skirt and a too-tight tank top and bellied up to the bar with all my troubles and woes. It’s one of my finest sayings! 🙂 I never hung out much at bars and no one ever came up to give me a drink when I did but getting back to the point, it is so sad when people mess up God’s plans.

So I contemplate the word “wide” on Five Minute Fridays with a sense of trepidation. The word “wide” feels sad to me right now. Deep fissures have erupted in places that mean a lot to me. I don’t want to be too specific but if you know me and there is a pang in your heart as you read this, you have correctly identified one of the “wide” areas in my life. I pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Without the Lord, I’m sure to botch things and sadly still stumble even though Christ lives in my heart. I love the idea of how God’s forgiveness is “wide.” I even accidentally made a Guinea Pig Girl Doll to unintentionally demonstrate that. But I prefer closeness in most other aspects of my spiritual, emotional and physical life.

This world is not my home

Many years ago, before I came to know Jesus, Mark and I were attending a church. Mark was on the “Board” at the church and they had monthly meetings. We got a new pastor and he said something one day in a sermon that offended me so much, I told Mark, probably during the service, I had it. I’m never going back to that church again. I didn’t care if he went or if he was on the board, Nate and I would never enter that church again. I meant it. I never did go back though I think I let Mark take our toddler with him a few times. Obviously, this created a lot of strife between the two of us and I never had closure. Eventually Mark left the church. It was awkward, I can’t remember if the pastor wanted to talk to us/me before the final departure. Regardless it never happened. Honestly I’m not sure if the pastor said the same thing now if it would tick me off given where I am with the Lord. I don’t think I made the right decision, I created the rift in a sense.  The Hubs and I needed to be of one accord and we weren’t.

Tabitha who is now living in Nepal reminds me about Psalm 103 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

So this is what I pray, “Heavenly Father, could you fill this wide gap over here and the chasm over in this other place? You never disappoint and your ways are always true. Not with the spiritual equivalent of a gin and tonic but with something good and real and true? I pray this not only for myself but for the many I know and love who are also hurting. Amen.”

Thoughts?