Sunday, January 29, 2012

Amazing Grace

God's grace. I've been thinking about this lately. What is grace? I once wrote a novella in 2004 called "Souls of Grace." The main character's best friend was Grace Ann, but I meant it in a metaphoric tone of "grace." I even looked up the definition after singing "Amazing Grace" at church today. It says something about God's give of salvation. What is salvation then? Being saved, it says. I began to ponder about grace and my life, about others' lives.

I felt tears hit my eyes. Last year this week my life was turned upside down. Pretty much my own doing, but I spent almost the entire year in a very dark place sorting things out within myself. I actually almost thanked God that He put me through that for nearly a year before allowing me to feel alive again. I realized a lot about Julie, I was humbled, I found a backbone, I maybe understood a little about God's grace. We will always go through tough times in life because good things end and bad things end. I almost wondered why God gives ME grace. I thought, Wow, I'm pretty special! We just don't realize it so many times in our lives because it's so easy to focus on the bad things. My stepmother told me Satan is the one who doesn't want us happy. We all know this, but do we really think about it?

I kept thinking back to a few things around me that just inspires me as a person to ask questions. You know we lost our sorority sister, Lindsay at age 28, well, her husband wrote something about how he had been praying to God he would get closer to him and then a few weeks later his wife passed away... Now, he had no idea this is how God would work for him to get closer. I was paralyzed by this thought. I sure didn't want to pray for my walk with God because I didn't want bad things to happen. Do I walk on eggshells when I pray then? What is the real answer? I do know with Gabe that God already knew when he prayed that prayer that everything in his life would change. Even from writing his blogs, I believe Gabe has already changed lives, meaning Lindsay has changed lives, meaning that prayer he prayed has changed lives. I am in no way saying it all makes sense; however, I am saying God's grace is working when we don't even understand it.

Another thing on my mind following these things is that life can unravel at any minute. Well, I know personally I am a product of that... and a product of survival. I had this three person "perfect" family... and we lost Mom and our worlds crumbled and somehow I was back at college in one week and here we sit 11 years later and we built a new book of our lives. There is this family one of our churches (Nick and I go to Lakeside Baptist and The Heights Baptist) we are very close to, the McBrayer family. They are the most perfect people I have ever seen... all beautiful, smart, son in college goes to Baylor, 16 year old sportster, Amanda, the young girl is sweet and adorable... parents are so kind and amazing... Anyway, Matt, the 16 year old thought he had a concussion and turned out he had a brain aneurysm and had brain surgery. He is in ICU and is recovering... quite nicely, but has a long road. My point here is that, of course, we had no idea to see this coming. Our portrait of our lives can change in an instant. They are such a strong Christian family that they look to God for all of their answers. They look for that grace and mercy to hold them up to walk this road.

I began a new adventure in life a few weeks ago. I am now a content writer at a pretty big company. I am enjoying it and truly loving the people surrounding me. It's always scary to start a new journey. I looked for this perfect niche for a while so when it came along I jumped on it. God knew what He was doing. Brenda told me you always have to wait for His timing. I had to wait for the need for me. I had to wait to polish more writing skills. I've been writing my entire life, but reporting and technical and creative writing all go in separate boxes. No one can change our lives without God. There is a verse in James talking about "keep oneself unspotted from the world," - KEEP ONESELF. The rest of the verse might be up to us about not staining ourselves with the world... but, the point the sermon brought is we must not do it ourselves because God is the only one that can help us. This is why I say all of this...

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 -- We find that grace and we find our strength in our hard times. In everything we face our strength is polished. Sometimes I hate being so strong wondering why me as we all do... when I hear of my friend's grandmother turning 100 or a mom helping her daughter try on wedding dresses... and I grit my teeth... but, you know what... I've got so many blessings and God didn't just leave me alone. He surrounded me with so many angelic family members and friends. I'm guessing that is grace. That is mercy. "Twas blind but now I see," is what we shall say as we look back on our lives, our pains of the past, our lights at the end of tunnels... Amazing grace.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Weekend Filled with 30 Candles

Looking back ten years ago I never knew where I would be at 30 years old. Sure, we all have dreams of what we want for our lives. We don't realize life happens and we just live day to day. Some dreams come true and others don't and other dreams come alive that we never knew existed. It all makes sense. One thing I can say about turning 30 is that I see God's hands in everything around me, in everything about my life, in everything I go through and everything I conquer. 30 is a whole new beginning. The 20s are over and we are on a new journey. It's quite exciting!!!

On my actual birthday I got my closest friends together at Saint Ann's in Dallas. We started on the patio then went inside to eat and hang out. We had the best time. We ate and laughed and laughed some more. They were the best gift. After Saint Ann's, Anna, Max, Jenna, Sarah, Nick and I all went to the Loon to end the night. It was very low key and I just loved it. I didn't want the night to end. Truly wonderful.

Nick's Parents

My dear friend, Sarah Michele Cohen

Wonderful friends Anna, Kacie, Andrea & Jana

Cody and I grew up next door to one another playing GI Joes and Barbies. Only fitting. I was so happy he and Kristy could join us!!!

I think this is the worst picture I've ever seen of me! But, it tasted good!

Others in attendance I didn't get great photos of: Geoff, Tony, Jenna, Kristy, Max, Jason & Michele

Nick planned a weekend of surprises. I had NO CLUE. I was scared to death! I'm a big time planner of each hour!!! We started off late because we were so tired from Thursday night! Nick planned a big breakfast, but he was nice enough to let me sleep a bit! Our first stop was the Dallas Zoo! He wanted me to feel young at heart. It was AMAZING!!!!!! My favorites were the penguins, goats and giraffes. The gorilla was asleep and he was so adorable. I totally understand how children love the zoo.

We then went out to Alla's Historical Bed and Breakfast. It was beyond a dream. The owners, Rick and Alla were so much fun. The home is about 100 years old. The things inside are so neat to look at. Alla is from Ukraine so she has so many stories. First off when we arrived they gave us a tour of the house and we sat down to talk a bit. I'll let the pictures tell the story of the home. Alla was such an interesting lady. First off, when you arrive you get a glass of wine. She sure fills that thing up! And you better not allow it to get low or she fills it up more. It made me giggle. She makes everything from scratch and organic so she has a lot of wisdeom about that. She and Rick sat with us for hours just telling stories. I could have sat there the entire night! Before we watched a movie and after we had our glass of wine with Rick and Alla, Nick surprised me with a hike at a nearby preserve. It was almost dark, but we got in a bit of a hike!!! At breakfast they ring the dinner bell and we all come! We had such a great breakfast. Rick and Alla again sat with us and talked. The food was very yummy, but the conversation was just as good! We will for sure be going back and sending friends to them! They have won many awards... in true reporter fashion I asked what made them different... Alla said hospitality. I believe her because they treated us like family!


Saturday the first destination was the JFK Museum. I had wanted to go there forever. It was so interesting!!! We were wiped out so I went home for a nap before Nick surprised me with a night out at Terillis. It is a restaurant on Lower Greenville. Such a neat and nice atmosphere. We ate then came home for leftover birthday cake.

What a perfect weekend!!! I was surrounded with laughter and love the entire time. That is the best present of a 30th birthday weekend. Those not in attendance were surely there in heart. My Dad, Stepmommy, Tiffany, Chandra, Paige, Ashley & my nieces, Teffy... all even gave me a call since they were far away in distance!!! How wonderful to get to talk to your favorite people on the phone when they are not there!!! Here's a toast to another decade. It was a tremendous weekend. I thank God for each and every blessing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekend Before 30

I found the quotes below online. I don't like turning 30 because I don't like getting older and I don't like feeling like I am on this clock racing forward and I am falling behind! On the other hand I like turning 30 because I have more wisdom and life keeps getting better. I swear if I see a wrinkle I will kill it with Botox and if I see a gray hair I will pull it out!!! Oh dear oh dear...

Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty. - Robert Frost

When you turn thirty, a whole new thing happens: you see yourself acting like your parents. - Blair Sabol

Everything I know I learned after I was thirty. - Georges Clemenceau

The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits. - Hervey Allen

I flew home this weekend to celebrate with family. On Friday night D'Layna and Donna came to meet us for dinner. It was such a great present to me. They are two of my favorite people. We ate with them and then went back to the house to catch up. Layna is growing up... She is such a good little girl. I am so proud of her.

Brenda made this apron for me. Hey, even the best chefs don't follow recipes. It tastes more eccentric this way!!!

Saturday Dad and I went shopping and watched football. We had a great time just enjoying each other. That night we all went to the theater to see "Steel Magnolias." I think I could stand up and join the play since I know most of the quotes!!! I loved every minute of it.

Sunday Brenda made us an elegant lunch of seafood. Yummo!!! It was so great. She also made me these special cake balls. We had such a good time. I keep saying that, don't I? Dad got me new running shoes so I took a stroll in the nice weather. It was a great great great weekend. I LOVE to go home and see my family!!! They make me laugh and keep me in line. I don't think they think 30 is old either!!!

Being 30 I hope Mom is proud of what I've become. I've made some wrong turns professionally in trying to find my niche, but I do believe the quote you somehow become your parents. I hope I become even a quarter of who they are. Last time Mom saw me I was a 19 year old young lady... so much to learn, so much to face, so much to walk. She must be proud because she taught me so much about living and loving every day of her short life!!! Dad is proud even when I do stupid things and act like a child... like letting water flow onto the floor of a guest's home while in the shower!!! We can't grow up all the way ever ;)... I learn from him every single day no matter what age. And my Stepmommy teaches me humility, grace and love along the way. She is proud of all of us in different ways. I hope I continue to climb a ladder to happiness giving them accolades along the way. Of course, it's all God, He sent these people to me so it's all HIM...

Here we go. Three more days. Grin and bear it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

29 Celebrations

29 years of birthdays and parties. One week from today I am 30. We are having a big dinner with friends at St. Ann's downtown then Nick is whisking me away on a surprise adventure!!! I love birthdays!!!

1. I am pretty adorable. Here starts the Pink Panther cake. I loved him.

2. We would have big gatherings with neighbors and family friends. I was the only child, grandchild and niece so I didn't have cousins, but I had a lot of extended family members!!!

3. I sure did love Pink Panther.

4. We held another party at the house. This was the first party, I think, that the Stewarts were at as I know Stephanie and I have been friends since we were three and four years old!

5. We had a lot of parties at the church skating. We would skate and play basketball. Vicki always made me an amazing cake.

6. We were at Skateland! I was so excited because my cousin made her daughter and I matching shirts! We were all so young in this picture. Six years old seems like a million years ago. I'm still friends with many people in this picture.

7. Is that a Pink Panther cake? Ah how I love him.

8. Alf. Enough said.

9. I love this picture because it is my two very best friends, Chandra and Stephanie with me. I had a Bart cake! Jordan was my boyfriend back then, too, and they kept telling me he was there, but he wasn't!

10. It snowed us out and we couldn't go skating so we moved the party to my house. We lived it up. I love the Michael Jordan cake! We all played in the snow and played board games. What a great age!

11. We had a cupcake fight at Skateland. I loved every minute of it! My little boyfriend, Jordan and I got to couple skate!

12. I guess I wanted to wear a blazer and look like a business lady! 12 seems so young now. We had a big party where four of us hosted all wearing our jean outfits and we invited almost our whole class. We danced... but, far away from one another!

13. We had a big slumber party at my house. My poor parents of a 13 year old! That was the time when you prank called and toilet papered houses. Man, we had fun!!!

14. I must say 14 was not my "prettiest" year... bangs, braces, brows... I rock, I know.

15. I don't remember much about that birthday. I guess I was a freshman. My life revolved around basketball. I probably had a game on my actual birthday. I did many years! I remember having a get together, but we didn't take any pictures!!!

16. My mom tried to throw me a surprise party, but you can never surprise me! Even in high school I had too many different friends in different groups to figure out who I wanted there! We had everyone over for cake and ice cream! I got a green Mustang as my first car and I proudly drove it to Student Council on my actual birthday!


17. In this picture I had gotten home and Heddy had decorated my door. I had one of the best birthdays that year, but I don't know why. It was just so much fun and I got so many neat things. My mom sent me that stuffed animal to school. I named him T.C. for TCBY because we went there that night!

18. We were seniors in high school... I just remember not really caring as much about 18 when I had always heard it was this amazing birthday. We all went over to celebrate in Midland at Chilis then went to a movie.


19. My first year in college. Oh man. We had a big party at a sorority sister's house and the cops came and made everyone leave! I wore this crazy pink shirt that made me look like a vinyl Barbie doll. I thought I was pretty cool.

20. We had a pre party so these were three of my friends from Big Spring that came! It was Boys Bid Night so we hit Greek Circle that night.

21. The infamous 21st birthday. Cohen came down to surprise me!

22. Last year in college. We had a party at the house after Jana, Stephi, me and Andrea went to Cafe J for dinner.

23. I think for my birthday we all went to Chilis. This is my very best friend, Chandra. She missed my 21st birthday to go skiing and knows she will never live it down.

24. Abilene, Texas. We went out after work to a little place by KTAB. I was dating some new guy and he was there, too. We went bowling for another part of the party!

25. Tyler, Texas. I had my reporter friends and church friends in one place. It was great!

26. I had just moved to Dallas so I went back to Tyler for my birthday party. I was so sick that I could hardly speak!!!

27. Blackfinn in Dallas. I invited too many people, but we had such a fun time dancing and singing!!!

28. We had a Korean Karaoke Party. It was so much fun and wildly insane!

29. Each year in Dallas we try to get the Big Springers with January birthdays together on one day for one big celebration. Tara & Lauren both share January with me.