Saturday, May 30, 2015

This Man Of Mine

Custom Christmas Party 2013

My 50th Birthday Party 2014

Texas Bowl 2015
 For 34 years now he has been my Best Friend and Closest Confidant.  We have laughed together, cried together, planned together, failed together, and been blessed beyond anything we could ever have asked or imagined.

The family...minus Brian.
On this blog I often refer to him as My Hero...and that is exactly what he is to me.  He has loved me like no one else in this world.  He has encouraged me and helped me to become the woman that I am today.  I was a scared little sixteen year old girl who thought she was a woman and thought she had it all figured out.  My Knight-In-Shining-Armor was going to fulfill my every desire and treat me like a queen for the rest of my life. 

Instead, he taught me how to stand up for myself, how to be brave and strong, and how to give of my real self.  He also encouraged me to look to the One who could fulfill my every need...and prayed me through some rough times.  He held me close as we stood by gravesides and wrapped his arm around me as we watched our girls getting married.  He stood beside me grinning from ear to ear with the birth of each child; five of our own and seven of our grandchildren. 

And, yes...he still treats me like a queen.

He is My Hero...and I cannot imagine a life without him.

Happy 34th Anniversary, Jim! I love you to infinity and beyond.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Why I Drove All The Way To Branson, Missouri

At the end of April, I loaded up my car late one Thursday afternoon with three daughters, three granddaughters and lots (and lots) of luggage to head northeast on a Girls Getaway.  This one was a little different from the Girls Weekends I have attended in the past.  This time we were renting out a huge lodge and filling it with Jenkins Women.
The Rusty Moose Lodge
This place was gorgeous...Sitting above Table Rock Lake in all of its splendor!

Yet it couldn't hold a candle to the beauty that would be inhabiting her walls for the next three days.  It was time to gather with my family.
We had talked of doing something for over a year.  We booked the house the first part of July.  We discussed food and travel arrangements and what we wanted to do while we were in town.  They teased me that the whole reason for this trip was to teach this Jenkins woman how to make biscuits.  (And I did learn, by the way.)

What we didn't know was that my heart would be raw at the loss of my dad...and that I would need those women in the worst kind of way come April of 2015.

And so, it was a touch bittersweet for me to gather with members of my dad's family.  But you know what?  We had fun!  We laughed!  We cried!  We teased!  We cooked!  And we ate.  Boy, did we eat! And we watched as the next two generations of Jenkins women bonded...over Converse tennis shoes and Frozen dolls.

First Cousins Once Removed
I love these girls!

(Some of) The Next Generation of Cousins
Don't judge, they were OVER all the picture taking in about ten minutes.
And my heart was blessed beyond measure!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sometimes You Just Savor The Ending

I love a good book.  The only thing better than a good book is a good book in a series of good books.

I just finished one of those in that previous category.

 I got hooked on the story of Gabriel Allon, an Israeli Intelligence Agent, with the release of 'The English Girl' about two years ago.  I had just finished the Dan Brown series and was looking for something good to listen to during my daily commute. I walked into Barnes and Noble and there it was just inside the front door.

I loved the intrigue and meeting all of the characters.  Finding out that it was #13 in an ongoing series was icing on the cake.  That meant I could go back and read twelve more, if need be, before the next book arrived!

One of the things I love about this series is that you don't have to read them in order.  Yes, there is a little bit of a 'history lesson' in each one as the recurring characters are reintroduced...but even if you start at #13, you get a complete story and do not feel like you have missed out on a thing.  I have listened to seven of the novels on AudioBook and I have read three on my Nook.  (Two of them I read traveling to and from South Africa last May.)

I downloaded "The Rembrandt Affair" on Audible this month even though I had a very hard time with the last book, "The Defector".  (It was my least favorite of the series so far.  Just a bit too brutal for me.)  I'm so glad I didn't give up on this series. 

As a matter of fact, I enjoyed this one so much that I didn't want it to end.  So I waited nearly a week to listen to the last two chapters of the book.  I needed to savor the victory of Gabriel and his team for a bit...especially after the way the last book ended. 

This is "a story of greed, dispossession, and death spanning more than half a century and stretching from Amsterdam to Zurich to Buenos Aires and back to the graceful shores of Lake Geneva. It featured a long-hidden portrait of Rembrandt, a twice-stolen fortune in looted Holocaust assets, and a man known to all the world as Saint Martin who was anything but ... "

And what a story it is! 

I'm suddenly looking forward to the next installment in the series, "Portrait of a Spy".  And I have already pre-ordered his next book which releases in June "The English Spy".  But first, I just want to savor this one for a bit.

Maybe I'll read a comedy next!

Happy reading, everyone.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jenkins Girls' Retreat: 2015

We've talked about it for years.

This year, we finally did something about it.

We reserved a lodge in Branson, MO that would sleep 30 and most of us Jenkins Girls met up for a weekend of sweet fellowship and laughter.
From Left to Right: Dana, Aubree, Jana, Kathy, Brianne, Peyton, Addison,
Kristy, Camille, Kelli, Elliot, Brooke, Debbie, Delayne, Meagan, Janelle and Fonda
There were seventeen of us in all.  Three aunts. Five first cousins & cousin-in-laws.  Five first cousins once removed.  Three first cousins twice removed.

From the very first moments of our stay, the little girls were running and playing, laughing and giggling.  And it wasn't much different for us 'not so little' girls. 

I'll be sharing some of my favorite pictures this week...and maybe a few stories.

Until then, a huge 'thank you' shout out to these lovely ladies who have helped shape me into the woman I am today.  Love you all!

Friday, May 1, 2015

We Have Arrived In Our Promised Land

Yesterday at the office I found myself too busy to take a lunch.  I had brought my lunch to eat at my desk so that I could get outside on such a beautiful day to walk.  But the walk never came.  So, I took my lunch hour at the end of the day to walk.

But as I got nearer to the park, I thought to myself, "I'd rather drive on home and walk there so that I don't have to deal with the five o'clock traffic on the way home'.  So, I kept driving and arrived at home just a few minutes past five.  Jim was already home as we had a crew out clearing the place for our barn.  He was on the tractor when I arrived, but got down to show me where they had cleared the trees and how different it was looking out there. 

After we walked around 'oohing' and 'aahing' the great work they had done, Jim asked me to show him where NOT to bush-hog because of the dewberry plants.  As we walked around the property, I noticed that there were areas where the dewberries were already ripening.  I tried picking, but soon ran out of space in my hand.  So, I walked back to the house and grabbed one of my vegetable baskets, changed my shoes for muck boots, (doused myself in Skin So Soft Bug Spray) and headed back out.

About an hour and fifty sore muscles later, I had gathered about a quart of fresh dewberries.  (And I saw only one snake -- and that just a tail.  I left him that patch!)

When I showed our abundance to Jim, he commented "Dewberry pie and ice cream for dinner."  Well, I don't know how to make a dewberry pie...but I can sure whip up a dewberry cobbler.  And so, I did!

It was delicious!  (I had a small piece despite cobbler not being on my Daniel Plan approved diet.  90-10 y'all!) 

As I picked and ate the dewberries last night, I kept thinking of how the Lord was blessing us with food that we didn't cultivate.  We didn't plant them...didn't care for the vines.  They were just a gift!  A sweet reminder of home and family.  I thought of the Israelites as they took the Promised Land and were fed from fields and fruit that they had not planted (Joshua 24:13)...and thanked God for our Promised Land...our Home.

This simple dessert holds so much meaning for me.  My dad just taught me last year that these were not blackberries...but in fact dewberries.  And I used my Grandma Jenkins' peach cobbler recipe.  It was just so unexpected...such a gift.  Thank you, Jesus!

Wanna make a cobbler?  Here's how I do mine.

Grandma Jenkins' Peach Cobbler
1 cup sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 can peaches
1 stick butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place butter in baking dish and place in oven to melt.  Mix together sugar, flour and milk until all lumps are gone.  Pour over melted butter.  Pour peaches over batter.  Place in oven for 30 - 45 minutes or until browned on top.   Serve with delicious Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.
For this dewberry cobbler, I placed two cups of dewberries in a boiler with a cup of sugar and two tablespoons of butter.  I brought it to boil for about three minutes and then turned it off to cool a bit while I made the batter.  I tasted the dewberries to ensure that I had enough sugar in them as they tend to be a bit tart.
Disclaimer: This isn't actually my Grandma Jenkins' recipe.  She didn't use a recipe.  So as she made it one day, I took her handfuls of this and that and measured them out so that I could at least have a starting point.  But it tastes like hers!!!  So, I must have gotten pretty close.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finding Refreshment In The Unexpected Places

Back in March, I went through a spurt of activity that almost did me in.  It wasn't meant to be such a busy time, but you know how sometimes everything just lands on the same week of the calendar?  Well, it was one of those times.

Robin, Stacy and I had planned a trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for shopping and sitting in the Wine Garden to visit.  (We call it 'Sip & Shop' Day.)  The original plan was to go the first week of Rodeo Houston but rain!  And then rain!  And then more rain!!!  Finally on the Wednesday of the week in question, we bit the bullet and went despite the rain.  And it stopped.  And we had a wonderful day filled with shopping and wine and all kinds of fried goodness.

Then on Friday I went back to the Rodeo for Suite Night.  A large group of us went together and bought tickets to a Sky Suite to see The Band Perry.  Jim bailed on me at the last minute for a turkey hunt, but Meagan decided to be my date for the night.  She and I rode over to Robin's together where we caught the party bus for our night out on the town.  It was a grand night and we returned home about 2:30 am.  (At which time I got stuck trying to get down the dirt road to our new place.  Another story for another time.)

Saturday morning I needed to be up early to meet the ladies from church for our monthly outing.  We left the church at 10 am and headed to Brookshire, TX to have lunch at The Cafe at Brookwood followed by shopping at their gift shop and nursery.  It was a lovely morning despite the rain.  The food was delicious (Shrimp and Grits) and the dessert was divine (white chocolate bread pudding).

I dropped the ladies off at the church around 2 and headed to Bri and Josh's for their annual crawfish boil.  What a crowd they had!  It was fun to see everyone and Josh did a great job on the crawfish.  But I was tired and left around 6 pm, taking Delayne and Dayton with me so that Meagan and Derrick could enjoy the party. (At which time they got stuck trying to get down our road to pick up the kids.)

Sunday was our Girls Day at the Rodeo.  The girls had chosen to see Luke Bryan, but at the last minute everyone bailed on me except Meagan.  So she and I picked up Danielle on our way through town and headed out for a little shopping and the show...and maybe a bottle or two of wine.  We had a great time and arrived back home around 9 pm.  I spent a little time with hearing about Jim's weekend on the ranch and went to bed.

BUT I didn't get much sleep.  I was sick y'all.  All night.  All the next day.  Too much of too much!  Too much fried food.  Too much wine.  Too much activity.  My body rejected it all and revolted against me.  Since I had my gall bladder out a few years ago, I've known that I have to watch what I eat...but I had never had the effects of it be so painful.  I spent the whole next day either miserable or sleeping from exhaustion. 

And I swore...'Never Again'. 

Sometimes I think I need to be reminded that this life is not my own.  I have been bought with a price.  Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not a dirty word. 

And so it was that this symbol of 'refresh' used on our computers and such came to mean something deeply personal to me.
It was time for me to 'refresh' my life. 

Our ladies were finishing up the Monday night study of 'Breaking Free' and the next study was already in the works.  'The Daniel Plan'.  And I'm going to be honest with you and tell you that on just that Wednesday mentioned above I had been telling Stacy how I DID NOT want to do it.  I was going to sit this one out.  But by Tuesday, I had a complete change of mind.  I knew that I HAD to do it. 

We are now three weeks into the plan and I am so thankful that the Lord got my attention in such a drastic way.  I needed this refreshment.  I needed this complete turn around.  I needed this intervention. 

What gets me about this refreshment is how closely related it is to repentance.  I remember making this mark for repentance back when I was doing Precepts studies at First Baptist West Houston.  (To truly repent we have to turn from our way back to God's way...hence that mark.)  I had never before realized that true repentance brings a refreshing.  But boy, does it! 

Once again, the Lord has surprised me with the depth to which He takes me with My One Word.  At the beginning of the year, I thought this would be all about peace and freshness.  But He knew that to get to that place there are some things in my life that have to be rooted out.

Thank you, Lord!  And Amen!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sometimes It Just Has To Be For The Fun Of It

After I wrote the last post about Notes From a Blue Bike, I realized how long it has been since I held a REAL book in my hands.  This stirred up in me a desire to read a piece of classic literature.  I can't bring myself to read a classic in any other form than a book that can be held in my hands and that I can feel the paper as I turn the pages.

Since I am also in the midst of teaching a Monday night Bible Study at church, I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands.   Perhaps it is the fact that Jim has been watching a lot of 'Black Sails' while waiting on the return of 'Game of Thrones'...but for whatever reason, I craved a pirate adventure.  So, I picked up "Treasure Island" at Barnes & Noble on my way home that afternoon.
I can't believe I had never read it.  It was an enjoyable escape into another world.  And because it is written as an adventure novel for young boys, it was both easy and quick to read while not taking too many of my brain cells away from the Breaking Free Bible Study.

I found quite a bit of myself in Jim Hawkins.  Jumping without thinking (and thankful that it often works out somehow.) Desirous to be honest even in the worst of circumstances.  And perhaps even a bit too easily swayed from our gut feelings about people at times (but boy do we learn our lesson when the truth comes out).

Bonus points in that now I understand where many of the pirate adventure movies get their premise.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 9, 2015

Books In Real Life

I have been listening to a lot of Audiobooks over the past few years.  You could say that I have a become a bit addicted.  To me there is no better way to use my morning and evening commute than learning something new or getting lost in a fictional world for that hour to hour and a half drive.  The only negative I have found to Audiobooks is finding a place for the CD's once I'm done.  Rarely ever would I listen to an Audiobook more than once (Mended by Angie Smith and Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg, aside)...and I have accumulated a lot of books on CD.  This is the same issue I have with 'Real' books.  I cannot bear to just toss a book.  And though I offer to pass along anything I have so that someone else can get use from it...I rarely get a taker.  One day I will bite the bullet and take it all to Half Price Books or Waller Area Restoration Ministry's thrift shop.  Until then, I have found a great way to listen to books during my commute without having to figure out where to store it once I'm finished.  Audible!

I actually tried Audible's free trial a few years back, but could never figure out how to use it properly.  After hearing about it on one of my favorite podcasts, I decided to sit down and figure it out once and for all.  And it was so much easier than I had made it!  I am limiting myself to using just my monthly subscription selection until I finish listening to the few books on CD that I had already purchased.  The first of February I listened to Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me: A Memoir...of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron (linked to the Audible page on Amazon).  If you remember, I loved his book Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale back in January (linked to my thoughts).  Though the second one is vastly different from the first, it was still pretty good...and very fitting for me as I listened to it on the way to and from my last visit with my own father.  Thinking back over our own childhood, it is good to be reminded that memories can be deceiving at times.  Just because they are our truth does not mean that they are the whole truth or perhaps even true at all, as our perceptions.can be severely distorted by our childish viewpoints. (That was my big take away from the memoir.)

Anyway...all of that to talk about the book that I listened to last week:
Linked to Audible
Honestly, I chose this book because I wanted to hear more about the author's time living abroad in Turkey.  Tsh and her family are currently on a trip around the world that will last close to a year.  I listen to her podcasts and live vicariously through her adventures...all the while wondering if I could actually travel the world.  A part of me would love to (if only my husband would agree to it)...another part of me is not sure that I am brave enough to do it (which makes me grateful for my homebody hubby). {{But don't tell him that, okay?}}

What I got out of the book instead was a confirmation of the truths that the Lord has been whispering in my heart recently. I should have paid more attention to the subtitle: "The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World".  If that doesn't resonate with the heart cries to 'slow down' and to be 'refreshed', I don't know what does.  

Well, well, well...ain't that the truth!  I can't tell you how often lately Jim and I have had conversations about where our time is going.  We feel like there is not a moment extra in our lives, yet we say 'no' to good things all of the time in search of the best things.  (He doesn't think we do, but believe me...we do.)

And so it was that the following quote captured my thoughts:

"We weren't living the way we wanted because we weren't making the choices it required. Like so many in our generation of thirty-something parents, we spoke of a slower, more intentional life, but we expected it to just happen.” 
― Tsh OxenreiderNotes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

We are no longer thirty-something parents.  We are fifty-something grandparents and intentional life is no closer for us now than it was twenty years ago when we lived with the added daily schedules of five children.  This truth began a quite intense conversation between Jim and I.  I don't know if we are any closer to 'making the choices it require(s)', but we are at least asking the questions.  "What does slowing down look like to you?"  "How much activity is too much?"  "Does my activity affect your feeling of going too much?"  "Is it feasible to think that we could really stay home six weekends in a row?" (The magical number I was given as a goal to work toward.)  "Were our parents' schedules really as slow as we remember?" (Or is this one of those things from childhood that our perspective influenced more than reality.)

Though we may not be any closer in making these choices together (we still have a lot of expectations to wade through and sort out), I am trying to live more intentionally in my choices.

I had a conversation with a close friend at the end of 2014 and told her that I would be unable to attend many of the events in 2015 that I had normally said 'yes' to in the past.  It's not that I didn't have fun or want to do those things, but in the end they were not the best way to spend my time with her.  On more than one occasion, she and I had to schedule a dinner date after our night out to catch up because in the hustle and bustle of activity we weren't actually spending time communicating.  I desire depth with my friends, not just activity.  Now, don't get me wrong...I still enjoy traveling with my friends and attending special night's out.  I just don't want those to be the bulk of our time together.

I am also trying to be more intentional about the commitments I make to ministry.  I have missed both of the 2015 Women's Ministry events this year due to last minute scheduling conflicts. (One was the surprise 40th birthday party of our most senior employee.  The other was my Daddy's funeral service.)  Both things took the priority over a fun night out...but I am hoping that I will not have to miss any more because I truly enjoy those events and the opportunity to get to know the women in my community better.  Spiritual fellowship is important to me.  Thankfully, I am in the middle of teaching a Monday Night Ladies Bible Study and through our weekly mealtime I was able to enjoy some fellowship.  I am feeling a pull toward VBS and ministering to the young women, but I am prayerfully considering whether or not that is part of my calling.  I've done the busyness for busyness sake in ministry before and all it leads to is burnout.

I am also trying to make a better effort at staying in touch with family and friends.  At the loss of a parent it hits you that having family to call and visit is not a right but a blessing that not everyone gets to enjoy.  Nor is having so many dear friends that you have to guard your calendar so you don't overdo it.  I am a very lucky girl in that aspect.

Another quote from the book that has me thinking is this:

I've cooked more 'slow food' in the week since listening to this book than I have in months.  I have taken more time to sit at the table and enjoy my food instead of the television dining that had become our routine.  Sometimes Jim joins me and other times he doesn't.  And that is okay.  Just because I feel the pull to slow dining doesn't mean that he has to also (nor does it mean I can never eat in front of the television again).  As my 'busy' quotient and his are different, so are our dining preferences.  I would love to buy more local produce and meats as Tsh encourages in her book, but until I figure out how to do that, we will settle with starting our new garden spot and hope that we have fresh veggies to share again this year.  

I love it when a book affects my 'real life'!  And this book certainly did.  Bonus points for not having to store it or donate it when I was finished!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Days of Refreshing Preceded the Grief

If you read the blog in February, you know that I enjoyed a fun filled trip to New Orleans with friends and family just before the loss of my dad.  I am thankful for the days of refreshing -- though if I am honest with myself, I sometimes wonder if I should have made a different decision for the use of that time.  I'm sure I will keep wrestling with that in the days to come.  But here is what I know for sure:

  • Daddy did not want us to watch him fade away.  He worried more about the effect his cancer was having on his family as they took care of him than he did about his illness.
  • If I had been there, nothing would have changed.  There would have been no words exchanged that would have made it better or easier for him, for Donna or for me.
  • He and I said our goodbyes back in January, and I truly believe that we both knew it at the time.  That is why it was so difficult for me to walk out the door that Sunday afternoon...and why I drowned my emotions in an audiobook for the drive home, waiting to fall apart the next day when I was home alone.
  • If I am especially honest, I have to admit that I worry more about what other people think I should have done.  And that is just silly!  I discussed my travel plans with my husband first, and everyone knew that I would be out on the next flight if I received the word to do so. 
  • It was good to laugh...and to enjoy an experience I had always dreamed of with people that I love.  Those small joys bring a smile to my face even as the tears flow.
  • The Lord was very tender with me during the moments preceding me finding out that Daddy was with Him.  It was a rare moment of silence as Rita and I drove through NE Texas and my cries to Him were both brutally honest and filled with deep conviction that He had everything in His hands.  I let go of my expectations mere minutes before the news reached me.  Jesus can be so tender with me like that sometimes.  He has done it numerous times during this journey.
And so it is that the Lord has used My One Word to minister to my deeper needs this new year.  He does provide those moments of refreshing that we need...even before we knew we needed them.

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Jeremiah 31:25

He is doing a marvelous work indeed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy

Donald Jenkins, 69, of Crossett, died Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at his residence.  Mr. Jenkins was a native and life long resident of Crossett and Ashley County.  He worked for Steve Bolin Logging for 23 years and he operated the NAPA Parts Store in Parkdale for many years.  He was an avid outdoors man, fisherman, turkey and deer hunter and a board member of the Pine Lodge Inn Hunting Club. 

He is preceded in death by a great-granddaughter, Desi Rodgers and his parents, Arlee & Lurlene Maxwell Jenkins. 

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Donna Doyon Jenkins of Crossett; three daughters, Fonda Goode and husband, Jim, of Waller, Texas, Rosa Bolin and husband, Steve, of New Albany, Mississippi and Cecily Jenkins of Crossett; three brothers, Bobby Jenkins and wife, Kathy, of Crossett, James Jenkins and wife, Glenda, of Benton and Glen Jenkins and wife, Debbie, of Crossett; two sisters, Camille Brookings and husband, Dale, of McGehee and Carolyn Morin and husband, Fred, of Kalamazoo, Michigan; 8 grandchildren, Meagan Goode Rodgers and husband, Derrick, Kelli Goode Ham and husband, Matt, Brianne Goode Allen and husband, Josh, Naiz Bolin, Brian Goode, Jana Bolin, Stevi Bolin and William Goode; seven great-grandchildren, Davin, Delayne & Dayton Rodgers, Brooke, Maddux, Elliot & Weston Ham and a host of nieces and nephews. 

Funeral services are 10 a.m., Saturday, February 21, 2015 at Wallers Chapel United Methodist Church with Rev. James Morris and Rev. Toby Austin officiating.  Burial will be in the Crossroad Cemetery.  Pallbearers are Brian Goode, William Goode, Casy Jenkins, Justin Jenkins, Jerry Don Clark and Jimmy Chalk.  Memorials may be made to Ashley County Cares, PO Box 366, Hamburg, AR  71646. 

Visitation is 6-8 p.m., Friday at the church. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mardi Gras: Day 4

The Monday before Ash Wednesday is known as Lundi Gras around here. On this day the festivities include the arrival of Rex and Zulu where the Mayor of New Orleans turns over symbolic control of the city for the following day. This year Rex was to arrive by train instead of boat...but we saw none of that because we spent Lundi Gras rather low key.

We began our day slowly. After being in the crowds for days, we decided to sleep in a bit and then visit until time for our brunch reservations at The Court of Two Sisters. This was a charming little restaurant that reminded me a lot of Tavern on the Green.

We were seated in the courtyard under the large expanse of what may have been either a willow tree or a wisteria strung with twinkle lights. Though it dropped fuzzy seeds all during our meal, it was a thoroughly pleasant experience. Even though brunch was served buffet style, the staff was very attentive.

As we left, Rita noticed the 'Charmed' gates hanging at the front entrance. Supposedly Queen Isabella had them blessed before they were shipped from Spain so that their charm would pass to anyone who touched them. As Rita said, the people here certainly are quite charming.

After brunch, we decided to spend our day wandering the shops and enjoying
ourselves. We bought souvenirs and keepsakes as we strolled the streets off of Boubon. We stopped at Pat O'Brien's for a Hurricane to The Royal Oyster House for appetizers...and then dropped our packages at the hotel before dinner.

The temperature dropped twenty degrees in the thirty minutes it took us to get to our rooms and freshen up. The rain was moving in so we decided to run into Walgreens for umbrellas and a poncho.

Now let me preface this part of the story by saying that I am just not an umbrella girl anyway...but especially not in a large crowd. That is the real reason why I walked out in a poncho and the other three grandmas were carrying umbrellas when our "You Tube" moment of the trip occurred.

While we were in Walgreens choosing our rain apparatus, one member of our party was advising us all on the proper rain well as anyone else who would listen. As the doors slid open and the umbrellas popped open, they promptly flipped ALL THE WAY OPEN. The umbrella of the EXPERT ended up on the Walgreens floor like this:

Let's just say a lot of people got a big laugh out of it.

Since the temperature was still dropping and the rain was getting heavier, we decided to totally skip the parades and go to dinner at Mr. B's Bistro across the street from the hotel.

And this is where I'll let Robin take over the story....which she has repeated at least fifty times already. It's time for me to head to bed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mardi Gras: Day 3

We awoke to a beautiful Sunday morning in the French Quarter. So we decided to walk over to Cafe Du Monde for beignets. Did I mention it was a beautiful day in the French Quarter? Everyone and their mother were at Cafe Du Monde. The line was L.O.N.G.

Thankfully we had a secret weapon in our pocket. Rita works with a salesman here in the New Orleans area who was able to give us great suggestions on where to go instead.

So after walking around Jackson Square admiring the artwork, we headed down St. Peter to The Old Coffee Pot.

This was an adorable little place with a history! It reminded me a lot of a few of the really old places where Robin and I ate in Boston.

I had an omelette with shrimp that was to die for!

After breakfast, we did a little shopping, dropped the bags at the hotel and headed to the parades.

Okeanos rolled out first with the "Parade of Kings". Can you guess their titles?

That would be King of the Jungle and King Cake!

We took a short break and then went back for Mid City (short) and Thoth (a strange crowd).

We didn't stick around for Bacchus though because we had balcony tickets to throw our own beads on Bourbon Street.

What a mass of humanity it was! And can I just say, people are crazy!!!

It was an experience, and I'm glad we did it. I just wouldn't do it again. At least not like that!

We were supposed to be there until midnight, but when the rains came around 10:30 we scooped up our beads and headed back to the hotel for a slice of King Cake and bed!

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mardi Gras 2015: Day 2

Saturday morning turned out sunny and beautiful in the French Quarter. Robin and I took time to visit before getting dressed to head out for the day.

Once we had nursed a cup of coffee (or two) over conversation, we decided to head out and get a lay of the land in daylight hours. First we located our grandstand seats for the Krewe of Endymion parade later in the day. Then we strolled down Bourbon Street to locate our balcony for later in the trip. Since neither of the cousins had arrived in New Orleans yet, we decided to take in our first parade...the Krewe of Iris.

We had front row spots and were fortunate to be next to some well prepared locals. Oh my goodness, what a blast we had. We weren't able to stay through the whole thing but we walked away with some major swag!

Lonnie was the first to make it to the hotel. Not long after, as we were carrying our loot to the room, Rita called to say that she was pulling in to the train station. She had quite a day. Her first train trip. Her first taxi ride. Her first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It was time for the party to begin!

After getting the cousins unpacked, we headed to the grandstands for the next parade. Now, we should have caught a clue when we met the tail end of a parade that was supposed to have started at noon taking the turn on Canal at nearly 5...but, no. Our tickets said five o'clock for the Endymion parade and by golly we were in our seats at five o'clock.

And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And wondered if we should go get food.

And waited.

And thought again about food, but now the grandstands are getting full.

And waited.

Until the parade finally rounded the corner about 7:15.

I will say the floats were prettier. The krewe was beautifully garbed. But the swag wasn't nearly as plenteous. This was due to a combination of factors including the prominence of tall, older gentlemen standing in front of us and catching just out of our hands, their wives sitting and picking up the swag that hit the stands, and the fact that swag missed (if not scooped up by the wives) would fall through the grandstands just out of reach.

The parade ended around 9:30. We dropped our loot and began looking for a place to eat (finally). After missing the last seating of several places around the hotel, we ended up at Hard Rock on Bourbon Street...devoured a plate of appetizers...gulped down burgers...and then the table grew very quiet. It was after midnight. We were full. And it was time for bed.

Goodnight from The Big Easy!

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mardi Gras 2015: Day 1

I know it is the time of year when you are all sitting on the edge of your seats to find out where the grandmas have gone wild this time. But this year you will have to wait until the fall for that secret.

So Robin and I decided to knock a little something off our Bucket Lists during our normal Grandmas time slot.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

Her first. My second, but my first time to actually stay in the French Quarter.

As with all great adventures, this one began with smiling faces and happy expectations. We waited for Houston's rush hour traffic to die down and then off we went hoping to be safely ensconced in our hotel room by the time of Friday's first parade.

Knowing I10 to be a tad tricky for travelers, we gave ourselves plenty of time. Or so we thought!

4 hours into our trip we hit this just west of Baton Rouge.

It took us nearly two hours to go less than 20 miles. No wrecks. No construction. Just sudden stops in the middle of nowhere. Then everyone would seemingly disappear and we would be moving again. Over and over it went. Five and a half hours later we made it to our hotel.

We were so exhausted that we skipped the parades and went to Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse for a wonderful and relaxing meal instead!

We are staying at the Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the French Quarter. It is beautifully old and elegant at the same time.

According to Historic Hotels of America it was once a frequent stop for the likes of Earnest Hemingway, Truman Capote and the like.

Today 'the cousins' arrive for the festivities. Robin's cousin, Lonnie, will arrive from Florida and soon after Rita will be making her way down from Monroe. It's going to be a great girls weekend!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Happy birthday, Maddux!

Happy birthday, Mad Dog! You have grown into such an amazing person. Nonna and Pappaw wish you the best in the coming year. We can hardly wait to see you next weekend for the birthday party.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Could I Ask You For Prayers Today?

Cecily, Rosa, Daddy and I on January 4, 2015
My sweet Daddy has had a rough week and a half.  He physically grows weaker and the medications aren't doing what they used to.  He is experiencing a bit of pain and his irritation levels are rising along with his feelings of discomfort. This is a rough journey for all of us...especially for him, Donna and Cecily who live it 24/7.  Please, if you have a moment or when the Lord brings us to mind, would you pray for the Lord's presence to fill their home, for His peace to settle over their hearts and for Donna's strength in these tough times.

With tears of grief mixed with joy,

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Meagan!

She's a diehard Razorback fan (maybe even worse than her mother).
She's a trusted confidant to her sisters and friends alike.
She's 'Mrs. Clean'.
She's a homeschooling mother of three.
She's a devoted wife to Derrick.
But she will always be our baby...even in her thirties!

Happy Birthday, Meagan!
Mom & Dad

Monday, February 2, 2015

My One Word for 2015


1: to restore strength and animation to: REVIVE

2: to freshen up: RENOVATE

3 a: to restore or maintain by renewing supply: REPLENISH

4: to run water over or restore water to

5: to update or renew (as an image, a display screen, or the contents of a computer memory) especially by sending a new signal.

This year's One Word didn't come as easily as in years past. I have heard that the longer a person participates in My One Word, the longer the list of potential words can become.

That may be part of the reason for my need to wrestle this year's word out...but then again, I think I was having a harder time with my expectations verses my feelings.  Let me explain.

Jim has been telling me since early last fall that in 2015 he was SLOWING DOWN!  At first, he joked that he wasn't leaving home for anything.  He has since recanted that statement and changed it to: he is not leaving home for anything other than grandchildren's birthdays and our niece's wedding.  We'll see how that turns out for him.

All of that to say that my first inclination was to choose the word: Rest.  But it didn't seem to fit.  I knew that 2015 would includes several trips to Arkansas to see my dad and help Donna when I could.  Add to that the fact that I already have two trips planned for early 2015 (Mardi Gras with Robin, Rita and Lonnie; Jenkins Girls' Weekend in Branson) and REST just didn't fit.

As I considered my calendar, this stage in life and the mission I have for our new home, a new word began to pop up: Respite.  That is truly what I want our home to be: a place of respite.  And I want to both provide respite for Donna and receive it myself when I come back home after a trip to see Daddy.  I felt like I was almost there.  'Respite' was closer to my heart than 'Rest'...but still not quite the right word.

During my early January devotional reading the temptation was to choose the most often repeated word: Freedom.  It kind of fit since our Spring Women's Bible Study is Breaking Free.  And I am a July 5th baby!  But, no, still not it.

Finally, I was writing in my prayer journal about the word 'respite' being so close but just not quite it, when I looked down to discover I had used the word 'Refreshed'.  When I looked up the meaning and searched it's use in Scripture, I just knew that I finally had My One Word.  I'm not sure which tense it will take over the course of this year...Refresh, Refreshed or Refreshing...I've tried them all on for size and decided that I just don't have to know everything from the beginning.  I will begin with the singular and see where God moves in the 332 remaining days of 2015.

How about you?  Have you chosen a word for 2015? Set a goal?  Made a resolution?  I would love to hear how you reached your decision and how things are going for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Popcorn and Pajamas at FFS

Our Women's Ministry Team has been hostessing a social once a month. Until now, I haven't even thought to post about it.  But since I am trying to get better at all things pertaining to blog posting...I will attempt to record the fun that we have each month.

Since the DVD for 'Mom's Night Out' recently released, we decided to gather for movie night in our comfy pajamas and pass the bucket of popcorn.

Aren't these invitations the cutest things?
And they make me want to go pop a bag of popcorn right now!

This was the first draft.  The final invitation was even cuter...but you get the gist of what we were going for.  

One of our ladies offered to host us in her home for the evening.  We prepared a popcorn bar with M&M's, Resse's Pieces and honey roasted peanuts for add-ins, along with differing flavors of popcorn salt.  Of course what would a movie night be without movie theater candy to choose from as well.  And just to bring some balance to the night, a large Fiesta Salad for dinner.

Due to a last minute addition to our calendar (the 40th birthday party of a friend), I didn't get to attend.  But from the picture that they sent me Saturday night, I would say they had a good time.
Our beautiful ladies posing for a text message to me.
I love, love, LOVE seeing all the young women in that group.  Sometimes it is hard to find an activity that all ages will appreciate.  I heard that there was lots of laughter too.

I joked with them on Sunday morning that we seem to have a larger turn out when I have to miss the party!  Next month....well, you will have to come back to find out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

His Kind of Party

Due to an unforeseen stomach virus hitting our house weekend before last...we had to reschedule Will's birthday lunch with the family to this past Sunday.  It was a great, sunny afternoon.  Nearly the whole family made it.  (Josh is currently offshore, so we don't count it against him since he doesn't have his own personal helicopter.  LOL!)  The guys gathered on the back deck to fry fish, French fries and boudin balls while watching the playoff games. (Jim is loving that Joey from Dish that allows him to watch television anywhere!) Us girls met in the kitchen as I cooked up a big batch of seafood gumbo with French bread and coleslaw.  Brian and Deborah even made it in for the day.

Happy 20th birthday Will!

William and Taylor
Hope you had a great birthday lunch, Will!  We love you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rest In Peace, Pib

While we were moving in back in late November, I walked out on the back porch to find our 18+ year old Chinese pug curled up in a galvanized tub with silk flowers. He looked so cute that I went back inside to get my phone and snap this picture.

A little over two weeks ago he disappeared.

We assume that after surviving being run over twice and mauled by a pack of dogs, old age got to him. He had arthritis, could barely see or hear...but come feeding time, he was as spry as the puppies.

We will all cherish many fond memories of our Pug In Black.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Country Music Should Come With A Warning Label

The majority of our family loves country music. With the exception of our oldest son, Brian, who says it's too sad and boring. He is kind of like those folks who used refer to it as 'I broke my toe, lost my woman and my dog just died' music. I have to admit he might just have a point.

Like most people, I like to listen to music as I exercise. So the other night I climbed on the elliptical and hit a new playlist on my phone titled '90's Hits'. I should have known something was a little off when Grand Funk Railroad's hit We're An American Band came on. Not exactly 90's music (1974 actually) but I thought that maybe it was from a movie soundtrack and kept going.

A few songs later I hear George Jones' He Stopped Loving Her Today. As soon as he started on the first chorus I knew it was too late. Tears began streaming down my face. And I continued to cry through the rest of the song as I pushed on, one step at a time.

It's a good thing I was on the back porch with only the puppies staring at the crazy woman bawling her eyes out and not in the middle of a gym.

Music speaks to my soul in a special way. And though I normally enjoy my country music, when I am in a season of sadness, grief or loss it can catch me unaware and overwhelm me with emotion.

Just before Christmas they made the decision to put Daddy under home hospice care. He is now on oxygen 24/7. It has caused some of the color to come back in his face and he is eating better. But we know it is only on the surface that he seems to be doing better. Even though I knew this would probably be part of our journey, it was still hard to hear when the time came.

Please continue to lift him and Donna in prayer. Pain has not been an issue yet, but he is anxious. I do not have the words to express how much I respect and admire Donna for the weight that she is carrying with such grace. Please pray that she remains healthy and strong in the battle that lies ahead.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy 20th Birthday, William!

Dearest William,
I'm sorry we are missing your birthday party today. This stomach virus is kicking my rear. But know that we love you and are praying God's absolute best for you in the year to come. Sweet potato pie to follow as soon as I'm feeling better. Hope you are having a wonderful day!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale

I should have known from the teaser on the front of the book that this was not going to be my normal read.
"Reading this book may cause a total overhaul of the way you think about what it means to be a follower or Christ."  Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author

Honestly, this book has been on my nightstand for a bit.  I first heard of it through Angie Smith.  I can't remember if it was her book Chasing God or the audiobook, Mended, that I first heard of this book...but I knew that I wanted to read it.

So when we were packing up our bedroom for the move into the new house, I threw this book into my bag instead of in the 'book' box.  I knew that I would have a little more time to read over the holidays and I didn't want to lose this one.  I began reading it a few days after Christmas and I finished it last night.

From the book jacket:
What happens when the pastor of a megachurch loses his faith?
Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith in God, the Bible, evangelical Christianity, and his super-sized megachurch.  When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible.
Join Chase on his life-changing journey to Italy where, with a curious group of Franciscan friars, he struggles to resolve his crisis of faith by retracing the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, a saint whose simple way of loving Jesus changed the history of the world.
Though Chase had begun questioning his faith months before the 'fatal Sunday sermon' that sent him into Sabbatical, it was the death of a 9 year old girl from his congregation that pushed him over the edge. I know that feeling.  I've lived those dark questions...and, like Chase, I came out on the other side a changed person.

For Chase it was a two month Sabbatical in Italy with his uncle, a former Baptist who converted to Catholicism after the death of his wife years earlier.  As Chase learns more about Saint Francis of Assisi, he finds that he hasn't so much lost his faith as that the Lord has ripped off the facade of misplaced faith.

I loved the story, and I learned a lot about Saint Francis in the process.

My favorite quote:
"'...the radically unprotected life, a life that's cruciform in shape', he said, opening his arms to mimic the posture of Jesus on the cross. 'It's to live dangerously open, revealing all that we genuinely are, and receiving all the pain and sorrow the world will give back in return.  It's to be real because we know the Real.  maybe living the unprotected life is what it means to be a Christian?'"          Page 71
I actually have four pages of quotes in my reading journal, if that tells you anything about how much I enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

There's No Place Like Home

Jim and I pulled into the driveway around nine last night. We had spent four days in Pocahontas with his mom and dad. After celebrating Christmas with them, Paul and the kids, we drove south to see my dad. We only had a night to spend there, but I have plans to go back with Meagan in a few weeks.

We are still adjusting to our new home. It feels a little weird turning left when we've been turning right for seven years. But as soon as we opened the car doors and were greeted by our fur babies, we knew we were home. And, boy, did our bed ever feel good!

We still have some work to do. Driveways. Car ports. Stonework. Barn. Landscaping. But it already feels like home.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Texas Bowl, Baby!

On Monday evening we headed into the city for a football game. The kids had gifted Jim and I with tickets to the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium where our beloved Arkansas Razorbacks would face off against the Texas Longhorns.

Take a good, long look at that picture. When Derrick first came into the family he was a wearer of the burnt orange. He now prefers the cardinal and white. WPS! And Josh, who still insisted on wearing his Texas A&M cap, made the exception to sport the colors since it was against the 'Horns. Hey, it's a start!

My Hero is not a big fan of crowds. His last bowl game was a few years back when the whole family went to the Liberty Bowl to watch Arkansas versus East Carolina. It was a night game and the temperature was 29 when we were walking in to the stadium.

So the girls called him up and said, "this game is in a stadium with a retractable roof, so we will not freeze; and we are getting club level seats so you don't have to fight the crowds to get in or out". He relented...and hired us a car so we wouldn't have to deal with traffic. We had a great time.

Our Hogs were victorious, beating the Longhorns 31-7.

I'm glad for the win, especially since our tickets were on the Texas side! For the most part, we were surrounded by great people...and there were several other Hog fans around. Of course as the game went on, the burnt orange became more and more scarce.

But, after the game, as Meagan and I waited for the rest of the crew to make their way to the concourse, a grown man walked past and told us to go back to Arkansas.

I have attended three Razorback games within the borders of Texas. The Southwest Classic in Dallas before Texas A&M joined the SEC, a regular season game at Kyle Field and this Texas Bowl. In the first and last games the Hogs were the victors...and after both games I was told to 'go back to Arkansas'. As I said in my Facebook post, I could sort of understand it coming from the A&M frat boy...but a grown man at Reliant (NRG) Stadium? I mean, Houston is a great multi-cultural city...and that extends to college football. All you have to do is read the bumper stickers during your daily commute to see that not everyone who lives here is a Texas or A&M fan. We can live in Texas and root for non-Texas teams.

Oh well, sore losers. And I did enlighten him to the fact that I lived in Texas, loved Texas but was still a Razorback fan. He just looked at me strange and walked away. I guess he learned something new on Monday night.

Woo Pig, Soiee!

I can hardly wait until next season!

And thanks again for the tickets, kids. We had a most excellent time.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: A Year of Wholehearted Living

Happy New Year!

Jim and I are enjoying a few days visiting with his parents here in Pocahontus, Arkansas. The weather is a bit cooler than back home, but it is not too bad. We have spent most of today watching college football. Though a quick trip to Walmart was needed earlier this morning. Tomorrow we will finish our Christmas shopping and then open gifts with Paul, Sharon and family in the evening. We have two new nieces who are in desperate need of some spoiling. Saturday will be a kickback day and then we will leave Sunday morning to visit Daddy and Donna.

I have been thinking a lot about my One Word these past few weeks.

If you recall, back in January I chose the word 'wholehearted' to be my touchstone for 2014. As I have considered its effect on my life, I have come to realize that 'wholehearted' living is a process that will probably continue for the rest of my life. Yeah, yeah...I know I said that in my post on January 6, 2014, but now I am really beginning to understand.

It's been a year since I began considering what a wholehearted life looked like. First God showed me what it does not look like. It is not hollow but hallowed. Then He sent me to attend Beth Moore's last Tuesday night Bible study series at Houston's First Baptist, Breath. I was reminded anew that He wanted me to walk by and be filled with His Spirit. (The study should be out soon -- I highly recommend it!). The second thing He showed me was how selfish I had become of my time. Then He gave me the opportunity to begin regularly serving the women of our church through leading a midweek Women's Bible Study. We had eight ladies show up for dinner and to study Kelly Minter's Nehemiah. Finally, He began showing how little I ask Him for. When the reality of Daddy's health issues hit me, The Lord gently whispered 'what do you want?' It was then (in a deer stand of all the holy places in the world) that I realized how I had been guarding my heart...not living wholehearted. I poured out the desires of my heart to Him. I asked for big numbers and great details. Then, a still small voice asked, 'do you trust me?' The next day, when we received news from the oncologist that there was to be no new treatments because they wouldn't bring more time or remission...there was peace. Sadness too, but I knew that I could trust the God who had written all of my Daddy's days in a book when as yet there was not one of them. I had shared my whole heart with Him and accepted that His ways are not my ways....but they are good. He is good.

And so, I share with you a quote from my devotional reading yesterday that summarizes my year of Wholehearted Living from Come Let Us Adore Him by Jean Wise:

God heals the shattered pieces of our hopes and dreams. He fashions peace from the ruins of our battles. He repairs our individual fractures, thus healing the entire world...After all, He is the expert in moving pieces to peace and holes to wholeness.

Yes, I will always have pieces and holes on this side of eternity. May they grow fewer though as He replaces them with peace and One Words for 2013 & 2014. Coincidence? I think not.

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