Monday, October 31, 2011

Goings on

I don't know what it is called in other parts of the country, but around here things you need to know about and activities are called "goings on" (I think it is actually "goins on" but I don't want to upset anyone by deleting that last "g"). Shockingly enough, I don't have much to say tonight {gasp! the horror!}, but I figured I could share some goings on with you.


Some of you might vaguely remember back in September when I participated in Tamara's What is a Girl Worth? project. (seems like a lifetime ago) It was powerful. It changed some lives. And now, it has turned into something else. Go check out Tamara's news. God is working in a mighty way through her. Go Tamara!


Back at the beginning of September, two sweet sisters from Arkansas started a blog called Set Free From Me. Celeste and Monica are using this blog to chronicle their journey of giving out-of-control eating habits completely over to God. They have issued a challenge for us to make 3 goals for the month of November: 1 spiritual, 1 food-related, and 1 exercise goal. You can read about it here. Ever one to run from a challenge, for some reason I have decided to participate in this one. Having posted my goals in the comments of one of their posts, I figure that was public enough to where I could not back down. So, I'm committed to the hit now. Here is what I actually committed to:

Spiritual: get on my knees (literally) each day to pray. I used to do this years ago and assuming that posture during prayer really did change the experience and I focused more. This is a good time to start doing it again.

Food: Substitute water for at least one soda everyday. This is a small goal, but a very real need. My body will thank me for it.

Exercise: I will do stretches everyday. My atrophied muscles and my RLS will thank me for this.

I want to turn and run just looking at those goals. I don't think it is the goals themselves. It is probably the commitment. But I've put it out there, so I'm going to try it.


Our Quote of the Whole Darn Week comes from a blog-commenter named Della:

"I’m not sure which bible version you use, but in my South Georgia Revised International Living version, we are not allowed the use of b.b. guns. They are deemed ‘unclean’. We ARE however, encouraged to hold our neighbor accountable for his actions by drugging his coon dogs and stealing the couch off of his front porch. Deuterviticus 4:11-17."


And last, but not least, tonight is the Soli Deo Gloria linky party over at Jen's. Go on over and see who might have written something that you need to read.


Now, if'n you know 'bout some other goings on that aren't covered here, please feel free to tell us about them in the comments!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Desde el Monte... - The Beginning

Desde el Monte... Preface is here.


I've been sitting here for awhile now with the cursor patiently blinking at me. I've even had to wake up the screen once because it figured I had dozed off or walked away. I was so excited about telling you all about my mission trip to Uruguay in 1998 that I forgot that how I ended up on that trip started with some very painful events. Having to remember it all now is not pleasant, but I wanted you to know why I went. Nobody extended a personal invitation to me to go on that trip. I was not studying missions in school. So why did I end up in Montivideo, Uruguay at the end of that spring?


I dropped out of college in 1991 and did not go back again until 1995. I transferred from the local junior college in Corpus Christi, TX to Southwest Texas State University (now just Texas State) in 1996 to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Social Work. When I transferred to Lubbock Christian University in 1997, I was a senior and just a few days past my 28th birthday. There were some complicated reasons involved in going to Lubbock. The Social Work program at Southwest was considered the best bachelors-level program in the state at that time. But it was filled with atheists - on the staff and among the students. I didn't just need to know how to be a social worker. I needed to know how to be a Christian social worker. There were schools in San Antonio and Abilene that I could have gone to, but based on church preference, a boyfriend, and some complicated family issues, I ended up in Lubbock. 

At the end of 1997, the boyfriend and I had a nasty, painful break-up. Coming back from Christmas break to start the Spring semester was so hard. I was not going to be able to avoid seeing him sometimes and the memories that there would be no forthcoming wedding were everywhere. I do not remember exactly what prompted me to get in my little truck and drive nine hours away from home to start another semester. I was so good at running away from painful things that running towards a painful thing was out of character. I wish I could remember what compelled me to go, but I don't. All I know is that in January of 1998 I was back in Lubbock and trying to finish my degree.

I do know that I made a conscious decision to get involved in activities that would keep my mind occupied while not in class. I was involved in a tiny prayer ministry (there were 3 of us). I started going to Senior Class meetings (there were 4 that showed up regularly). I went to basketball and baseball games (I'm a football fan). I went to the optional chapel service on Fridays just for the fellowship (most were going to make up an absence at regular chapel services). I worked three student jobs to take up my time. It was working for me, mostly. My gaping wound of heartache had some bandages slapped on it, at least.

Yes, that is me at 28 years old with pigtails in my hair. No real idea why. Sitting down are Josh (a Senior Class officer) and Tara (a fellow Social Work student and prayer partner). Standing next to me is an extremely nice guy whose name I cannot remember (Correction: Amy has reminded me that this is Shaun Markwardt. Now if we could just remember his girlfriend's name. She was taking the picture.) Selling the Alumni polo shirts was our class fundraiser so we could buy the school a gift from our class. I sold the most shirts!

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know that I did not end up on a mission trip because I was noble and altruistic. I was not burning from the inside out with The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). I was trying to stay very involved in school activities so I could avoid thinking about how I was not getting involved in wedding activities (do NOT underestimate how important that is for a girl raised in the Church of Christ). So when it was announced in chapel one day that there would be a meeting in the Bible building for anyone interested in going on a mission trip that summer, I was in. Most of the students in our Missions program were interested in Africa, so I was surprised that there was a trip going to South America, but who cared? It was a mission trip, which was a very popular thing to do at least once while at LCU. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Don't Wanna Play

I usually participate in the Five Minute Friday linky party over at the Gypsy Mama’s blog. Today, I just did not want to play. The topic for today is “relevant”, which stumped a few people, I can tell. I did a random sampling of the entries and most of those needed to define “relevant” before they could type coherently about it. That took up the better part of their 5 minutes right there. That’s not the reason I didn’t want to participate, though.

I have had a bad week. Just pathetic, really. Most of it I cannot tell you about because it involves other people’s stories as well as mine. And that is fine. I’m not sure I would want to tell you anyway. There needs to be a reason to rehash the yucky things in life, and I don’t have one.

Anyway, I just want to take my toys and go home. I want to yell at imaginary hooligans (I’m not sure we have real ones in my neighborhood) to GET OFF MY LAWN!!! And I don’t want to define or discuss “relevant”. I’ve been discarding irrelevant things all day long, so I’m headed in the opposite direction right now.

One of my now-seven loyal readers might be wondering what I’m doing here then. I’ll tell you. I want to talk about sporks. Well, one spork in particular. Yes, just one spork among sporks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There and Back Again - Wordiness

I have been wanting to try "There and Back Again" with Charity for several weeks now, and this looks like my chance. I cannot promise I will do this every week - to do it correctly takes some work - but hopefully when I do participate, it will be a fruitful endeavor.

Since this is my first "There and Back Again" effort, I will give you the guidelines so you will understand what I'm trying to accomplish. From Charity's blog:

1.) Choose another High Calling Blogger to visit. Or if you are a High Calling blogger, just visit someone else in the blogosphere and encourage them to join THC. It can be someone you have "met" before, or do what I do, and work your way through the "Member Posts" section of to meet someone new.
2.) Visit his blog, digesting the message until it becomes something that you can write about.
3.) Go back to your blog and write about it, being sure to link to the post that gave you the idea so that your readers can visit, too.
4.) Add the button below to your blog so your readers know you are participating in "There and Back Again."
5.) Go back to the your friend's blog and leave a comment so he can feel the link love!
6.) Complete the journey by returning here, to Wide Open Spaces, and enter your link so that we all can benefit from the new High Calling connection you have made.
 Got it? Good. Let's begin.


Unless you count one post in 2008 and five posts in 2009, I really have only been blogging since June of this year. Sometime this week I passed the 100-post mark without any fanfare. Throughout most of those 100 posts, I have been worried. I write what I feel God is leading me to write in the only "voice" that I have. Yet, I want so badly to please others and be liked. So I worry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Chance Wednesdays - Part 9

Welcome back to Second Chance Wednesdays! We have had a couple of weeks off, but it is once again time to turn to the People of the Second Chance's poster series, Never Beyond. If you are new to this campaign, you can read more about it and find links to all of my Never Beyond posts here.

POTSC is keeping us on our toes by coming at the idea of grace from a slightly different angle this week. Instead of giving us a villain, they have given us more of a metaphor. This week's poster is Jaws. Yes, the shark. The POTSC blog says, 
Jaws represents the unprovoked attack. The terrifying unknown, preceded by reputation and worst-case scenarios. 
Common wisdom says to avoid sharks. They’re dangerous. They kill. They are to be avoided. They are to be feared. 
Except, if you seek out the facts, you’ll find that sharks actually kill very few people. DEER kill exponentially more people than sharks. 
Yet the fear persists because of the headlines … the movies … the collective wisdom.
Many of us have met Jaws, even if we’ve never been to the ocean. There’s a Jaws in our past. Our office. Our school. Our home. Our neighborhood.
And as we face the shark – whether in our dreams or in our waking hours – we’re left with a choice.
Do we embrace fear, judgement, hatred, and revenge? Or do we see the human behind the shark? The human … in the shark suit?

Unfortunately,  I am completely caught up in fear and revulsion of the shark right now. Two nights ago, I was hit by an "unprovoked attack"... not by a human wearing a shark suit. It felt like it was more of a shark in a human suit - it came from someone who would be least expected to attack.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not A Pew Warmer Anymore

Dan King made me an offer that I almost refused. Well, he didn't make the offer only to me, but you know that I can rarely see beyond the end of my nose to think about what is going on with other people. The offer was for bloggers to receive a free copy of Dan's new e-book, The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty Fighter, if we would review it or otherwise promote it somehow on our blogs. This was problematic for me because I stink at book reviews. Long books, short books, any kind of book - I cannot pick out a central idea and I cannot review it from any kind of objective veiwpoint. I don't summarize. I expand and expound - on what it has to do with me, me, me. Which is not what he asked for and not what you need to read. So I almost just clicked on past his offer without acknowledging that I had seen it.

The thing is, I really wanted to promote Dan (and his book). I have a heart for missions (even though my mission field has been reduced to handing people bottles of water and bags of peanut M&Ms). I enjoy cheering on missionaries of all types and even giving financial support when I can. That is why letting you know about Dan and his book is important to me.

So what did I do? I wrote up some bland interview questions and asked Dan to answer them. He graciously replied to them and even sent me that copy of the book. Which is what brings us to this blog post today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Desde el Monte...

1998 is lifetimes ago for me now... thirteen years, but several lifetimes for me. So much has changed in my life. I wish that I had written more down about the happenings of 1998, but I'm sure that I thought I would remember them forever with crystal clarity. Sadly, that is not true. And now I know if I don't put some of those memories into writing, I will lose them forever...

I went to Uruguay in 1998. I went as part of a mission trip to support the Church of Christ congregation, El Chana, in Montevideo. The theme was Desde el Monte... a Montevideo  (From the mountain... to Montevideo). I think this was based off of some scripture in Matthew, but I cannot find any of my notes that tell me which scripture. It could have been the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe not. The theme could just have been a cultural reference to the fort on a mount outside of the city that was prominent in Uruguayan history.  It could have been a reference to something that happened on the Mount of Olives or any of the other hills that surrounded Jerusalem. I don't know.

For the foreseeable future, I will be posting memories of that trip here on Sundays. Mostly, this is just an exercise for me to get all of those memories down before any more of them fade; but the memories should be shared in case they can be of any help or encouragement to another. I will be contacting a few people that I know from that trip to see if they remember more - or maybe they even have written descriptions of the trip - and would like to share. 

I will also be sharing some photos I took on that trip. The unfortunate truth there is that I was an even worse photographer in 1998 than I am now. It is possible that at times (like today) I will share photos that I have found on the web in order to give you a clearer idea of I was seeing when I was in Uruguay. 

This will be an interesting journey for me (and maybe you?). I pray that when I come back down from the mountain that I am a changed person.

Look into the distance. Across the bay, on the hill, stands 
La Fortaleza General Artigas, the last Spanish fort built in Uruguay. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Word Fun!

Why are we doing word fun? Because we can!!! And because Charity said that we should write a post just for fun and I thought that was an excellent idea! She's a smart lady, that Charity. 

I have to admit that ever since I read the title of Charity's post "What's Fun Got to Do with It?", I have had Tina Turner in my head (how did she fit?!?!) singing, "What's love got to do, got to do with it...". That song came out when I was in high school and ended up being a running joke for several of us. I know it started with me and my boyfriend - though I can't remember exactly who said what. I think it was me that told him, "good luck" and he came back with, "what's luck go to do, go to do with it?". So every time we heard someone say, "good luck!"... you get the idea, right? Anyway, if that song is still stuck in my head in the morning, I will have to try my handy "Ice Ice, Baby" remedy. That song will knock just about any other repetitive song or thought right out of my mind. 


I used to love to use all kinds of words - just because I really do enjoy them and how there are so many ways to say basically the same thing. Sadly, I stopped using many of those words and they became lost to me. The reason I stopped is because my clients got angry at me when they could not understand what I was saying or if they thought I was being uppity. I think that is an occupational hazard in many areas of social work. My clients got mad when I dressed up my wardrobe, so dressing up my vocabulary was just a no-no. I don't resent that, but I do miss my words.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Five Minute Friday - Beyond

If you are popping over from Amy Sullivan's place, welcome! For those of you who here with me regularly, I've got a guest post up on Amy's blog about Anonymous Service if you want to go check it out.

Today is Friday, so we are doing our usual writing exercise. On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.
We write bold and beautiful and free. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.
Won’t you join us? You can play too. It's so easy!
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back to Lisa-Jo's blog and invite others to join in.
    3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:



Beyond... I often say that I need to visit the Land Beyond the End of My Nose. My natural instinct is not to go beyond my own self-interest and selfishness. But when I do visit the Land Beyond the End of My Nose, I often find wonderful things.

Last night... I felt awful, physically and otherwise. But I had been given FREE tickets to a one-woman play about Molly Ivins, a liberal Texas firecracker if there ever was one. And I knew my very liberal husband - though being a Yankee by birth - would so enjoy it. I wanted to be home, but I decided to think about him for a little bit.

HE LOVED IT!!! It was awesome! I loved it! It was so funny and really caught the spirit of that amazing woman. I didn't have to dip into our meager budget or make a lot of plans. I just accepted what was given and my husband - who is so overworked (and underpaid in my opinion) just laughed and laughed.

And boy did he need the laughter. He woke up this morning refreshed. Because I looked beyond myself long enough to find something that he would like. How easy is that?

I have a feeling that the cross I am to bear through life has much to do with getting BEYOND my own self... dying to self, as Jesus said... most who meet me at first think I am loving and giving, which might be true to a point. Those who live in this house with me know that I am very self-centered. But as I trust my God to complete a good work in me, I am able to see beyond...


Now wasn't that easy? (Not really - writing without self-editing as I go along is still hard for me, which is why I love participating in this exercise!)

Come join us over at Lisa-Jo's place if you want to see what other people have to say about Beyond

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Books and Stuff

I  wanted so desperately to participate in Charity's "There and Back Again" linky party, but I just did not have the energy to do all of the required steps (read, digest message, write, go back, then link up - or something to that effect). It would make me right happy, though, if you would go over to Charity's place at Wide Open Spaces and check out the people who did have the energy. Oh, and if they have snacks, can you bring me something?

One reason I am so tired is that the depression is chasing me hard these days. There's a little anxiety mixed in and some serious life stressors to boot. (what does that MEAN? to boot?) I was thinking that it was getting the best of me until I met with Jen for lunch. You remember Jen, right? She has a blog and she hosts the Soli Deo Gloria linky party that starts on Monday nights? No? The winner of my FIRST EVER book giveaway? There. I knew you would remember. Jen and I met face-to-face for the very first time at lunch yesterday. In the midst of all kinds of things we were saying (including how the wrong haircut can make a guy look so UN-cute), it occurred to me that one thing is different about the depression this time. It is only one thing, but anyTHING that is different is a small victory, yes? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Here are a few things that might be of interest to you today.


For the past nine weeks I've been writing my column called Second Chances Wednesdays as part of the Never Beyond project. Don't worry. We are not through with Never Beyond, but People of the Second Chance took a break this week to show off a new project called "Labels Lie". You can check out some information about it and even watch a video of Mike Foster's inaugural Labels Lie speech by clicking here.  Next week we will be back with another bright red poster and more questions about never being beyond the reach of grace.


Some of you might remember that I recently took part in a Community Writing Project called Word Portraits. I wrote about my Granny. Today some of the stories that were submitted for the project are being featured over at The High Calling. You can check them out here. You can also find links to all thirty-two submissions here. I really did enjoy this project. It made me wish that we had recorded more of our family's stories before so many of our relatives were gone. It also showed me what rich histories we all have. I think anyone who thinks life is boring just needs to spend more time with family!


The Community Writing Project has also inspired me to write down some of my stories - my memories - before I forget important and interesting details. With inspiration from Dan King, also known as the Bible Dude, I have decided to start with stories about the mission trip to Uruguay that I went on in 1998. I'm thinking I will start a Sunday series on that and see how far it goes. In the meantime, I would urge you to start reading Dan's e-book The Unlikely Missionary. Follow that link and go to the bottom of the page where you can buy the book in Kindle, Nook, or PDF versions for only $4.99. (In the interest of disclosure, Dan might give me a free copy if I write a whole post about the book, but I am pumping it up right now just because I feel it is worth the effort.) Maybe you will find that you are a missionary right in your hometown. I would love to hear what you think of it.


In other news, there are two blog posts that came out today that I think you might benefit from or enjoy. Tamara posted over at A Deeper Story about going to the theater vs. going to a woman's conference. You can read that here. Sarah Markley post on her own blog about not being embarrassed of yourself. You can check that out here.


Those are your samplings for today. I hope you enjoy them. And in the words of Bartles and Jaymes, "Thank you for your support!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not "Wounded" Anymore

"Still Life With Wounded Adoptee and Cow"
American Adoption Congress International Conference
Carolyn Evaine (Shaw) Counterman and Damzelle Plum
Seattle, WA 1998

I realize that a photo with people in it is not actually a "still life" picture, but that is what we named it, for better or worse. It's possible that you just had to be there. The photo was too good not to share, though.

About 13 years and 70 pounds feels like a lifetime ago. Damzelle (and maybe some others? I've forgotten) had made it possible for me to be at the conference. She's good like that. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Having a Writing Routine

I really enjoy how the internet lets me follow a link to a link to a link to find something unexpected but interesting or useful. I also enjoy the fact that even though I don't put down a trail of breadcrumbs so that I can trace my way back, I still end up safe and sound in front of my computer where I started. I was on one of those bunny trails this morning and ended up reading about the routines that writers follow when they are working. The last site I ended up on had compiled the routines of authors such C.S. Lewis, John Grisham, and Stephen King. This subject of writing practices has come to my attention several times in the last few weeks, so of course I thought this was an opportune moment to add my thoughts on it to the blogosphere.

Throughout my elementary, junior high, and high school career, the idea was hammered into me that to write anything well (except maybe a poem), one must first put together a numbered outline before sitting down to compose an essay, research paper, or novel. Deviation from writing ideas down in the exact order of the outline was discouraged. Opening paragraphs and closing paragraphs (tell them what you are going to tell them,  tell them, and then tell them what you told them) were the bane of my existence. Counting the number of simple, compound, and complex sentences in each essay to make sure it was "balanced" was a chore. My writing style was often praised by my teachers, but the writing process they had us follow was excruciating to me. If I had something to say, I wanted to just be able to say it. These rules and regimens did not exactly inspire a longing for "author" status in me. 

When the time came for me to take English Composition as a foundation class in college, I thought that it would be more of the same. Students would need to be reading, thinking, and writing on a higher level, but the process would not change. I was right and I was wrong. In the English classes I had taken previously, we had read works of several great authors. We had talked about the events in their lives that might have influenced their ideas. However, I don't remember us discussing the authors' personal quirks and eccentricities in general or specifically applied to how they set about writing. I'm sure I really believed that Shakespeare, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Rand, and Dr. Seuss all started with a numbered outline and did not deviate from the order without first consulting their editor, twelfth-grade English teacher, or the Elizabethan equivalent. They probably sat upright (with excellent posture) at a desk that had the essentials laid out in perfect order but without any frilly extras. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Minute Friday - Catch

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.
We write bold and beautiful and free. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.
Won’t you join us?
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:



Life seems to be catching up to the Countermans and demanding that we pay attention. It really isn't that fun. We are praying about some hard decisions right now.

And I saw today's prompt - "catch" and I felt that was what I am trying to do. I feel like there is an answer - a piece of Scripture, a wise word that I have forgotten - that is just being elusive and if I could just "catch" it, then I would know what to do and all this worrying would be over. I don't know if there is really anything out there to catch or if I am just being hopeful.

What I do know is that God is still with us. I do not feel abandoned in any way. I know He will walk us through this - He won't let us go through any dark valley alone. And if we fall, He will "catch" us. I'm learning that does not always look like I would want it to, but He does not leave me. 

I wish I could catch my loved ones like that - just prevent them from hitting the bottom. I know I can't - at least not always. But I'm sure you understand that when you love someone, you want to catch them when they fall. I will have to trust God to catch all of them too. 

I suppose today's prompt was timely, wasn't it? 


Now let's go over to Lisa-Jo's place and see what other people are "catching"!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monkey Business

There is just no telling what is going to be on my mind when I wake up in the middle of the night. Often there are weighty, serious matters that are occupying my mental space. Believe me when I say that there are some pretty weighty, serious matters going on in the Counterman household right now. However, I'm thinking that what is jangling around in my head at this moment might not qualify as weighty or serious. Right now, there is just a lot of silliness and monkey business floating around up there. One of my blogger friends says, "sharing is what friends do," so here we are!


While I'm thinking about monkey business, let me share with you some management tips I heard a few years ago. I wish I could remember where I heard this, but I never wrote down the source. Just know that I am not claiming this as original.

Monkey Management
1. Do not take on the care and feeding of other people's monkeys. 
2. Do not let other people leave their monkeys in your office.

Monkey in this context refers to a problem or issue. However, at my job, there are also other kinds of monkeys. I have been known to slingshot a small, stuffed flying monkey (that screams loudly when launched) at my boss. Good thing he has a since of humor. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Second Chance Wednesdays - Part 8

Here we are at another Wednesday. Time to turn to the People of the Second Chance's poster series, Never Beyond. If you are new to this campaign, you can read more about it and find links to all of my Never Beyond posts here.

Our "bad guy" this week is Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois who was convicted of federal crimes related to trying to "sell" the Senate seat that was vacated when Barack Obama became President of the United States. He was impeached and removed from office by the Illinois House and Senate. The charges that he was impeached upon were abuse of power and corruption. Blagojevich has been banned from ever again holding any public office in Illinois. It is clear that the Illinois legislature does not intend to give Rod Blagojevich any second chances. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is He Still Chasing You?

In my email this morning was a link to Amber Haines' most recent post. At the end of it is a video of her oldest son getting baptized. I'll admit to getting a little teary-eyed when I watched it. The angels rejoiced and I cried. 

I get that way at baptisms sometimes - either teary or just all tingly. It is harder when attending mass baptisms because everything is going so fast - people in the water then out of the water. Next! But I know that they are having their own teary/tingly experiences and it is good. 

While watching that video this morning, I remembered the photo I carry in one of my Bibles. It sits on the page that has Acts 2:38 on it.
Then Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (KJV)
We didn't have camcorders in every hand back in 1979, so you will have to be satisfied with a photo of my big event. It happened in the Medina River while I was at church camp that summer. David Cudd dunked me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and my life changed forever.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Acknowledgement

It is the middle of the night. I've been trying for hours to think of something profound or maybe lyrical to say about what is on my mind. How arrogant of me - that I'm worried about making sure you read this and say, "what an excellent piece of writing". How arrogant that I am thinking in any way of myself right this minute. The situation itself is profound. It does not need my words to sanction that. 

I did not give much of myself to either one of the people who are on my mind at this moment. Now I will at least give them the dignity of acknowledgement. 

Terri is gone. I always thought I would see her again. That will never happen now. Her addiction won the battle. She will be buried today, I think.

I don't know what the official cause of death will be on the certificate. Accidental overdose? Suicide? It does not really matter. The addiction overpowered her and now she is gone.

Freddy is in prison. His addiction took him away from his wife. I am not by any means saying that Terri's addiction would not have taken her if Freddy had been with her. I think things would have turned out much the same. Being locked up might be the only reason that Freddy has not died from this affliction.

I was not very close to either Terri or Freddy. By the time I came along, they had pretty much worn out their welcome in our mutual group of friends. I think they knew that I was not willing to participate in the madness that comes with addiction - lying to your friends, lying to yourself, chasing your tail in ever-smaller circles trying to keep that "high". But we had moments. Moments where we prayed together, laughed together, cried together, helped one another. I think both Terri and Freddy would be amazing people to be around if it weren't for the addiction.

Addiction is ugly. It does ugly things to beautiful people. The thing is - addiction wears a mask. It is a smooth operator that can reel in the best of people and then they are hooked. Living inside a body that has become so dependent on drugs that it does not know how to function without them is a prison in itself. The cravings that taunt you when you can't get a "fix" are physically painful. What happens to the mind during this process is just complete insanity. Things that you would not do otherwise begin to make perfect sense. Hurting yourself or others suddenly becomes completely justifiable because you NEED that drug and you will do whatever it takes to get it. Whatever it takes. 

To overcome addiction, you have to do whatever it takes. This side of heaven I will never understand why some people are able to grasp that and others are not. I know God could have delivered Terri if she had held onto Him. Whenever I think of her from now on, there will be that question of "why?" connected to her. She knew who He was. Why did she not throw herself at His feet and hang on for dear life? That is always the question. Why do some addicts learn to hang on and others don't? I have absolutely no answer.

What I know right this minute is that a child of God - a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend - has lost this battle. I know that another child of God - a husband, father, son, and friend - is grieving and closed off from his loved ones.  This is my acknowledgement that their lives, addiction and all, matter.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Stalker Poem For Amy

Thanks to that lovely writers' retreat that I went to, I have started to remember things about my past. It seems that my life as a "writer" did not start a few months ago when I began posting regularly on this blog. I had not thought about my other written pieces in years. They were just random blips on my radar and I had buried their existence deep in my mental library. There are some essays and published Letters to the Editor here and there. And then there are the poems...

Truth be told, I had a fling with poetry in my youth. There is a ring binder somewhere in the garage that has some really bad - really bad - poems about being emotional. Those were composed over the course of my high school years. I don't remember if I kept the composition book that I had to turn in for the poetry unit (all six long weeks of it) in Senior English. Mrs. Apple handed that back to me with a note in it that said, "get a publisher". I laughed at that. I was sure those poems were complete rot - especially the rhyming one about my tree. That was awful. 

There were another four poetry-filled months in the Fall of 1987. I was at college in Worcester, MA (nobody is sure why) and I ended up doing grunt work on the student newspaper. I also ended up with a crush on the poetry editor. So I dutifully turned in poems each week for his consideration. The weeks when I had a poem published in the two-page spread of verse and art were full of romantic daydreams. The week that the poetry editor let me know what he really thought of me was followed by a page-long poem entitled "Death of a Nice Kid". Two or three of my poems ended up in the staple-bound anthology the college published every year. I don't know why. Then I went home to attend the local junior college and my affair with poetry was over. 

Unlike many of my other relationships, there was no horrible, angry breakup to be burned into my memory. My affair with poetry just sort of faded away as I discovered young men from the Friendliest Cotton Pickin' Town In Texas. I definitely should have written about some of those experiences, but I must have dropped my pen when I picked up my lipstick and mascara.  

Years and years went by... fast-forward to 2011.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Granny actually out of the kitchen and me in need of some color coordination assistance.

My Granny – Myrtle Copus Shaw – raised nine children (including my father) with my Grandpa Ben. I hear stories about Grandpa Ben being a harsh man. I was not yet two when he passed on and I’ve only seen one photo of him – he was smiling – so I have to take everyone else’s word for it. He and Granny made what life they could out of being tenant farmers, surviving the Great Depression, living in a three-sided barn, and moving from one end of Texas to the other, if all the stories are to be believed. Granny never seemed sad or bitter, so all that hard living must have settled well enough inside of her.

I've always wondered if Granny had been taller when she was younger. I only remember her short and somewhat stooped over. I've been trying to summon other memories of her, but all I can recall is a short, white-haired woman bustling around in the kitchen. Surely she left that room often, but other than the parks we visited for family reunions, the only setting I remember her in was the kitchen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Five Minute Friday - Ordinary

Want to join me in the fun of just writing and not worrying if it’s just right (or on time) or not?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. Go all out encouraging the writer who linked up before you.

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes:

On ordinary…

I'm not sure I know exactly what is supposed to be ordinary in my life. Most women my age got married much earlier than I did (age 37) and have kids of their own (I have "steps" that I claim as mine). Even so, most of those women don't have grandchildren yet - maybe one or two, if they do. 

I wake up thinking about our fifteen grandchildren and worrying about how life is treating them. There are more than fifteen now, I guess, because we have "adopted" many of their half-siblings (no ordinary stories there either). There are several teenagers in this bunch and nothing that they are experiencing is "ordinary" in my mind. Most of the stuff they deal with was not imaginable when I was that age. So maybe we are getting a new "ordinary".

It probably isn't that ordinary to have an 81-year-old father living with you or to have five little yappy dogs running the household, but that is what I've got. Wouldn't have it differently. That is part of my ordinary, I guess. The dogs love Pawpaw and Pawpaw loves the dogs, so it works.

I think I've read too many ladies' magazines. I think I have some pre-conceived idea of what "normal" and "ordinary" is supposed to look like in life. Time to get rid of those ideas, I think. This is my normal and ordinary. It is filled with God's blessings in unusual but very evident ways. So once again I am redefining what things are "supposed" to look like in life. I'm getting used to that process now. 

"Redefining" is becoming ordinary to me. :)


Wow. It is still hard to just write without over-thinking or backtracking, but I'm glad for the practice. Come join us over at the Gypsy Mama! Try a Five Minute Friday of your own and link up!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Not only do we have a winner for my First Giveaway Ever, but I have been having way too much fun with free clip-art! Oh, and we have formed a little community of sorts.

Our contestants were:
1. Radical Believer (who is coming to us from overseas, if I'm not mistaken)
2. Denise (an amazing friend whose AOL account didn't mesh well with Blogger)
3. Julie Gillies (who prays and prays for so many of us bloggin' women)
4. Brother Dave (the man who trapped Charles and me into that crazy wedding vow)
5. Amy (who is so brilliant that words cannot describe her)
6. John (whose book that he co-wrote with Brennan Manning just came out this week; please order your copy at Amazon today; no, I was not paid to say that)
7. Jen (the awesome host of the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood)
8. Karenee (who is previously unknown to me but evidently is an artist and we need to get to know her)

I would like to point out that the Lovely Lyla Lindquist (how is that for some alliteration?) stopped by to say hello, but opted out of the contest because she already has the book (which she recommends).

Second Chance Wednesday on Thursday

So, um...yeah. Second Chance Wednesday got moved to Thursday this week. I got a little caught up in other stuff [READ: making David Dark more famous - he totally should be] and lost track of what day it was. 

In defense of my forgetfulness, People of the Second Chance threw us a little curve ball this week. No bright red Never Beyond poster to burn an image into our mind this week. No, you will have to use your imagination even more this time.

This week POTSC has given us a video to start our conversation about radical grace. Which is all fine and good, but I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to start a discussion about radical grace after I saw it. (I think I have officially become one of those I-don't-know-much-about-art-I-just-know-what-I-like people.) My first thought while watching the video was "Jeremy Cowart sure can draw fast." Not exactly profound, eh? Gotta think a little harder now.

After watching the video again, it occurred to me that I had experienced some of what I think Jeremy is telling us this past weekend. On a much smaller scale, of course. The full human experience...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why David Dark Should Be Even More Famous

So I have set myself up to somehow convince you that a man you may never have heard of should be famous, more famous than he might be in circles where he is already known. I am fairly sure that I do not yet have the kind of credibility that would just let me say, "because I said so" and you would automatically agree. I might actually have to do a little bit of a sales job here.

David, if this effort to increase your popularity fails in any way, please know that the cause is purely my lack of persuasion skills and not any lack of worthiness on your part.

I think we need to start with the fact that David Dark is already an author of consequence and stature. The Wikipedia article about him qualifies itself as a stub, which is true - it is too short. One of David's loyal fans needs to go edit and enlarge the article. (Somebody get on that, okay?) The Amazon author page that bears his name does not give much more information, but at least they offer you the chance to buy his three books. A quick Google search will lead you to an article he has written and some YouTube videos of David expounding on several topics. I'm sure there is more to be found if you but take the time.

I will admit that I have watched only one of the videos and have not read the article or any of the books (I have one on order right now). Why, then, would I be concerned with multiplying the reach of David's fame? Didn't I only just meet him this past weekend at the Writers' Retreat? I was not even aware of his existence prior to this event, so isn't it curious that I am already prepared to lobby my small constituency to fancy him?

Monday, October 3, 2011

On Going to a Writers' Retreat - Part 2

I'm sitting here trying to keep the puppies from feeling ignored (they make me pay when I leave them for a few days). Getting coherent thoughts is a little hard. The question everyone has been asking me is, "how was the Writers' Retreat?" I'm trying to keep all those thoughts together in one place before moving on to the next thing in life, but it is hard. Hubby and I are supposed to be having dinner tonight with a friend who is in from New York. The pauses are just not long enough sometimes.

There isn't enough space on this blog to tell you about the whole event. I could write a post just about Laity Lodge and the wonderful staff there. I could write another post just about my roommate and the things we have in common. Another essay could cover the way Kathy Hastings made artists out of a group of non-artists. I think I could go on and on about how wonderful it was to see water - the Frio River - while the rest of my life is affected by horrible drought, burn bans, and huge fires. I could produce a good five paragraphs about the way we all worshiped together every morning. And even more... I think you will have to email me your questions if I don't cover what you want to know about. There is just so much... let me see what I can give you now.

Photos From The Writers' Retreat at Laity Lodge

I promise! The post on my experience at the Writers' Retreat is coming! But it is going to be about four pages long as it is, so I thought I would show you the photos in a separate post. There will be some links in this post, so definitely follow them and "meet" some of the amazing people that were part of my weekend. I think I could write a small book about the whole experience just because it was so FULL. A full human experience. What more can you ask for?

First a little scenery...

Many of us ended up taking pictures in front of that amazing fountain. I caught a photo of others participating in the ritual.

I was waiting for somebody and I ended up messing around with the camera. This is my only "still life" photo of the scenery that made the cut. 

This is some of the dabbling I was doing at the fully stocked art studio. The artist in residence for our retreat, Kathy Hastings, made everything so easy to learn and play with. I wish I could just go to an art workshop with her for a weekend. That statement comes from someone who does not identify as a visual artist in any way, so take it for what it is worth!

Claire, Amy, Cyn, Cathy, and Lily working on new watercolor techniques. THAT was fun!

Now let's "meet" some people...

My First Giveaway

Yes, I am having a giveaway! Despite what you see in the cheesy-but-cute picture above, I will not be giving away a bouquet and hatbox. I just could not resist that 1950s-looking girl. It's possible that I might have watched too much Happy Days when I was growing up.

So what am I giving away? A book, of course!

One of the many lovely people that I was privileged to meet at The High Calling's Writers' Retreat this past weekend was author and Managing Editor at THC, L.L. Barkat. To learn more about her, you can find her herehere, and here, among other places.

I found one of her books in the lovely little bookstore that Laity Lodge has onsite, and she was generous enough to sign it for me - or you, really. I did have her sign it in pink ink, which seemed appropriate for my first giveaway.

The book is called Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places. You can read a review of it here.

stone crossings.jpg 

How does one go about entering my first little giveaway contest? I thought about giving the book to the first reader who mails me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; but then I realized that with those tiny communal mailboxes we have in our neighborhood that could be a problem. My neighbors probably don't want jelly dripping down into their mail (even though that might improve the quality of some of the mail they get).

So it looks like we might have to use a more boring method of choosing a winner. Therefore, to enter to win the book, please leave a comment on this post. If you are one of our "lurkers", we would be pleased to have you introduce yourself. And if any of you would like to add a short joke to your comment (not necessarily a joke about being short), that would inject some fun into the process. Oh, and no matter how many comments you leave, it will just be one entry per person.

The deadline for entry comments will be midnight CST on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. On Thursday I will count the number of entries and then using the True Random Number Generator from a winner will be chosen!

I will be writing more about my experience at the Writers' Retreat later this week, so stay tuned for details.

Happy commenting!

* I am not receiving any compensation for promoting L.L. Barkat's book beyond a smile and a "thank you".