5 lbs. of Clementines

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5 lbs. of Clementines

 The fact is, I go to a big ‘ole church! Ya know the kind.. It’s a great place. Bible-based. Solid. BIG. But we have satellites. And here I am. On what appears to be the smallest of small campuses. Working with the kiddos. Rather, they’re working with me. ❤️ Pics are from our Valentine’s Day party. Enjoy. I’ll write more below…  
  
  

 I have four of my own kids. Boys. On this date, they were with me in Nashville, at our teeny-tiny campus, helping out. Since then, I’ve been asked more than once when they’re coming back. Edward needs someone to play Connect Four with. He’s good. I tried to beat him this past Sunday. He’s really good. This past Sunday, I also took a 5 lb. bag of Halo oranges with me to class. I came home with 2. Not two pounds, but two, the quantity. Precious people from the local community serve breakfast at this Hillcrest campus of Long Hollow, week after week. But sometimes kids come hungry. Maybe hungry for fruit. Maybe hungry for Takis chips. Yes that’s a thing. In fact, it’s a big thing around here. Truth is I love this place. I love the kids. The older youth girls who wander in and sit in the back of our class from time to time. Love them too. The volunteers at this place… Stellar!!!!! So, I got a phone call after the beginning of the year asking me to come serve. I really figured Roy would poo-poo the whole deal. Instead he said, “Go.” Now he and the boys are on time every week to early church!!:) I hop in my ride and head into Nashville. Every time I see the skyline, I feel like I’m on a mini-mission trip. Guess in some ways, I am. The stories the kids tell via their little comments, barbs, tough exteriors, soft hands, hardened hearts, yielded spirits, facial expressions, simple prayers, loud mouths, whiny, obedient, disobedient, you name it…they run the gammett. Hmmm, come to think of it, I do too. Thankful for a gracious Father who loves me anyway. Gonna be a while before I’m back on the main campus. Gonna be a while before I reconnect with my small group, sit through an “all in order” worship service (yeah, teens are on their phones and stuff in worship at this small campus, not all, just a handful), or chit-chat with my besties in the lobby, and fight the fuller-than-one-can-fathom Sunday morning parking lots. BUT, God-willing, I will serve here. Prayerfully, hearts will be touched. And more than anything, these children will know they are loved. Unconditionally. Good & Bad days. We will keep answering the questions of, “Is the front glass bullet proof??” “Are you rich?” (Um NO!) “Can I have another orange??”  Always YES.  Lord Jesus. YES. 

To be present..

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To be present..

 

 
What I’ve begun to notice after being absent from social media trappings for about a month is that I’m present now. If you’re with me, I’m all there. For better or worse. My mind is undistracted. Well mostly.;) Because let’s face it, life can be busy. Busy enough without the insessant pull of “social” media. While checking out at the Verizon store yesterday, I shared with the young man helping me that I’ve taken a huge step back from Facebook and the likes. His eyes portrayed an admiration, and his voice gave himself away with, “I wish I could do that!”… I continued to tell him a little of my struggle with wanting to maintain popularity, etc., while he nodded in agreement. Maybe just maybe, salesman Kenny will think a little harder prior to engaging in the mind-numbing surfing through FB, IG, and stuff. He stated how easy it is to be in the room with his son while the boy plays video games and dad phone plays. Yep, dude. I get it. I may be 43, but I totally get it. A dear friend of mine asked me over the phone last night how the disengagement from social media has been going. All I can say is AMAZING. I’m far from perfect, and my mind is nowhere near as sharp as it was when I was younger, but as I told her, it is nice to “be” where I am. Really “be” there. Today was one of those days. See these cutesy 40-somethings in the pic? Yes, we thoroughly enjoyed eachother’s company with a ruckus of boys in the mix. I’ve had such fulfilling interactions with friends and family in the last month…I love what God is doing in my life. Cleaning up my brain. Decluttering my thoughts. Focusing my vision and plans. *Oh yeah, I didn’t even ask anyone to take that pic. That’s a whole new thing for me.😉 Thanks to Beth, though, because I totally love this captured moment with beautiful friends.❤️ 

My Addiction…bare self in words.

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My Addiction…bare self in words.

I’m addicted to Facebook. That sounds absolutely ludicrous. Yet as I tossed and turned in my sleep last night, images flashing, mind racing, I knew the reality of my problem was all too real. Smacked me over the head like a 2X4. I’ve quit before. I started right back. I blogged before. I gave up. Every single time I’ve gone to a complete hiatus or a break for a short time, I’ve picked FB back up with a vengeance. Hmmmm. Sounds a lot like an addiction to me. I’m obsessed with it. I like to be “liked”, be noticed, be applauded. I dislike that some will read this and shake their head and “tsk tsk” with disapproval. Through a series of events, including non-social-media-connected-friendships and a few well-directed comments by my children, I’m walking away. It’s a fine balance being a leader and influencer and taking care of one’s psyche. No coincidence that the loud mouth, people magnet..struggles, really struggles with this. The same girl that will unite a room full of strangers, take center stage in an instant, and talk non-stop to anyone that’ll listen is in a full-on battle for her own soul. The qualities that draw others to me can be a hinderance. Really. And I’ve succomed. To the “likes”, the attention, the accolades. I might shake, probably not physically, like a drug addict walking through withdrawal, but internally, like a woman bent on approval of others. Will my life be less real if it’s not splashed all about for the world to see? On the contrary. I expect to reclaim the “real” life I’ve been designed to live. Since 2008, I’ve been an active part of FB. Building a profile, a business/ministry, a following. Consistently distracted, only worsening as I’ve aged. So today I’m done. My husband, who is all about moderation, agrees. Side by side, eyeball to eyeball, we talked. He listened. First time I’ve heard him agree to an all out detachment from FB, as a good thing for his wife. I want to break out in hives considering my upcoming events, photos to be shared, posts to be made, selfies to snag and edit… I am more than slightly embarrassed to write this admission. I suspect I’m not alone in my struggles. I suspect those of you judging me aren’t wired the same, and would critique anything I might throw out there. The ones who relate might be encouraged. Might follow suit. I’ve been on the other side wondering why on earth my friends would delete their accounts permanently. Now I’m exposing a true, very real, problem in my heart. I know I’ve said it before. I know I’ve done it for a moment in time. I know now that the beast has grown and God wants more for me. I know HE will bless this decision and further our ministry… With or without my mug splashed all over social media. I relinquish the control. The power. The adrenalin rush of checking, re-checking, posting, re-posting, and on and on the addiction thrives. Thanks to a select few friends and a certain brown-eyed 10 year old, I’m out. I’ll be present with you when we eat together, walk together, pray together, laugh, hold hands, take in a movie, talk about life and all the glorious wonders of our mighty God. I’ll be present. My thoughts will clear. My heart and devotion will be real. If you have me, you’ll have all of me. Recovery. I’ve never really fully admitted to needing it, because I’ve never fully admitted to having any sort of real problems. Pretty immature. The vices some face are not my own. Mine don’t come in a bottle or pill box. Mine are silent and mostly hidden. Unless of course, you live with me. So now ya know. Call or write me. I’ll be here. And I betcha I sleep like a baby tonight..

Backwards & Slightly Insane

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How on God’s green earth have I allowed myself to be completely, irrationally, certifiably, NUTS over a stupid number? I count myself as a reasonably intelligent young enough lady, with many years of verifiable education to boot. Yet, when it comes to my weight, I admit…I need help. Not a help that comes from a loving husband, but help that comes from a loving Father. Because Roy, God love him, has said all he knows to say. When your wife is bonkers over a yearly health screen, not much one can do, but push her through the process. His words, “JUST GET UP ON THE SCALE BACKWARDS. HAVE THEM SEND THE REULTS TO ME. YOU’RE A GROWN WOMAN, ACT LIKE IT, BUT THIS HAS TO BE DONE FOR US TO KEEP OUR INSURANCE DISCOUNT.” Yes dear. My head knows it. My sweaty palms, racing heart, and irrational self does not. So, I go. I ask the kind tester to humor my crazy. She obliges, and admits to her own version of scale phobia..
I’ve written on this before. Multiple times in fact. Here’s my newest thoughts. This cycle of crazy must end. I’ve been exercising, eating right, taking supplements for several months. I KNOW that I’m doing right by my body. When will I release myself from whatever standard to which I’ve been holding? It’s me. Nobody else. If I get gut real, it’s as if I believe I’ve failed the test. The skinny beauty test, I suppose. I’m a 43 year old mother of 4 boys, with a doting husband and pretty fabulous life. I pray to grow up. I pray to not look back. I pray to celebrate the great things I’m doing to get healthy. I pray to rest in His image of me, not a fabricated worldly one. I pray to see myself for who God made me to be. I pray to release myself from unnecessary harsh criticisms and unrealistic expectations. I pray for peace in this one recurring monster of my soul. Some will read and judge. Some will read and not relate one iota. Some will read and feel like I’m in their brain. Men will read and not have a clue.;);) Kidding, guys, I just know how MY man thinks. So backwards and no numbers for my restless heart for now. One day soon I’ll embrace it..

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I’ll celebrate where I am and where I’m going. God will provide that strength, and I intend to seek Him on this issue like never before.

An open letter to my offspring.

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An open letter to my offspring.

Dear precious boys of ours, 

I’ve failed. And not because I’m a horrible Mom. Nope. But because I’ve succumbed to the societal norm for phone technology. That probably sounds weird. Dorky. Off the wall. Uh huh. Probably. Yet, I’m openly writing this, so hopefully one day in the future, you’ll see my heart on the matter and forgive me. Maybe even thank me a little. 

In a five year time span, I’ve gone from a cute red and white Samsung slider phone (nonsmart, because I don’t think there was such a thing five years ago) to every person in my household owning an Apple product. It’s been a gradual decline, conforming to the norm. For years, we were that family who held out on keeping our boys entertained 24/7. You know that’s what the phones perpetuate, right? Constant stimulation. Bike Race. Crossy Road. Minecraft. Etc. In watching the recent detachment of interaction between the 6 of us, (and seeing the latest phone bill), I have made the insane decision to return to life in a “pre-app” world. We are gonna be so weird. Not dropping off the grid, per say. But honestly it almost feels like it. You know, I’m a pretty well known chick. I have what I would consider a lot of friends. But do you know how many times per day my phone actually rings? Maybe once. Truth. Maybe one time that someone decided that they want to hear my voice verses read my life in texts. And quite frankly that’s sad. I’m over it. It’s celebratory in that I know many don’t have even a once a day phone ring nor a phone, period. I don’t take that for granted. However, it’s true that the ones who call are whom I’d consider my “real” friends. And ya know what?! The ones I’m closest with are virtually disengaged from the Internet, or their phone. They are not attached to the device in hand. No. They are engaged in the people around them, and their surroundings. I used to be that girl, and I’m going back. My kids are too. Oh how the complaining has begun! It is certainly going to be different without the world at our fingertips. Yet, as I watched our four boys play shadow figures and hide and seek with their friends over the weekend, my mind was further eased. I do believe we will all survive. Mommy is taking the plunge, as well. I have led the way into this lifestyle, and I intend to instigate change. 

So my sweet boys, get ready. Board games need to be dusted. Phone numbers need to be saved in order to humanly speak to folks. Handwritten letters will be mailed. Cable remains off, and we will survive. In addition to being homeschooled, we’re going to be even a bit more different than the norm. Embrace it. Be a leader through it. Who knows how God will use us when we’re “us” again? No the “us” with our faces “stuck in a game”, as y’all say, or infatuated with posting a photo to Facebook, or taking the 18th selfie of the day. It’s going to be good, and you’ll thank me for it. One day. Probably not anytime soon. In fact, I’m having a slight freak out moment trying to wrap my 43-year-old mind around it all. 

Pre-App living…this should be quite interesting. Fun even. Anyone wanna buy three iPhones and an iPad?!?!

Love you forever. Like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be, 

 

~Mom

Cheap car wash and an epiphany..

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I didn’t plan to run to the dirt cheap car wash after our trip to Sams Club, but it was so much needed that I might’ve driven across town for it.  Two dollars. Scrub brush. 15 year old vehicle. Like new. Yes, it was THAT DIRTY. Whilst splattering soap in my eyes (do y’all do that too?), and running around the vehicle with the sprayer wand, I ferociously began to peel the faded Devoted Fitness sticker off my back window. Even used my fingernails to remove all sticky smudgy remains. I have to tell ya, I didn’t even flinch. I’m fact, it felt good. After I rinsed and drove away, the truth of the matter settled in. In the name of our Lord, I built a business with “me” at the center. In fact, I can remember being stopped in public on occasion and folks asking me if I taught Devoted Fitness. I would quickly correct, and say…I AM DEVOTED FITNESS. Roy and I argued and power-played for five years over the growth of the ministry, how to split the duties, how we should each manage our time better, finances, and on and on. About the only thing we agreed on was that we had a fabulous idea, and God would bless…

So here I am. I’m a mom. A homeschooling hero. A sideline cheerleader. A middle-aged, minivan driving, mom. And that’s simply enough. Someone asked me last night what had happened to DF, and I stuttered around to, “Um! I’m a full-time homeschool mom now. I couldn’t do it all well. But I’m peaceful.”

That’s it. It is true. God has taught me a lot, and I can be quite the stubborn learner. He’s brought amazing women into my life, and I wouldn’t rewind the clock and forego chasing the dream. I wouldn’t trade the spousal conflict, foreclosure, public school/homeschool disagreements and experiences, the bodily injuries from overuse, the hard hard stuff! Because I’ve learned. I have a network of sisters across the country who are carrying on the vision. I know to some, I’ve failed on the big picture. I know it, because I’ve heard it spoken. Even implied in my own home from time to time. Yet, I also know that I’m called to a new thing. This thing called mothering ain’t no joke, nor for the faint at heart. Add in being solely responsible for educating four amazing sons, and I’m all full up. Believing Jesus is the ultimate peace giver, and that this contentment surpasses my understanding because of Him. Took me a while, but I’m finally starting to see and believe, it IS truly more blessed to give than receive. I want my boys to know their mom never gave up on the hard things, while knowing what “things” were most important. Eternal perspective is what I crave. And I, for one, think I got a little tiny glimpse of humility and my future role as I scraped, sprayed, and cleaned that back windshield crystal clear. For some, stepping into the spotlight might be out of their comfort zone. For me, it was backing out of that limelight that has tested me in uncomfortable ways I’ve not known. Goodness knows I’m still a work in progress as I busted a move in church youth group the other night, and watched my 13-year-old son’s face go beet red with embarrassment. It’s ok son, I’ll get it. Grant me a little grace. This mom’s gotta dance. I’ll just keep it on the down low in this season of life. My heart is dancing still. With a joy that can’t be found round here. Clean car. Clean start. Vroom. Vroom. 

Monsters, Inc. at 3:00…AM!

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One sweet boy is asleep in my bed. He’s got a bit of a stuffed up nose. When Roy travels, sometimes the youngest sleeps with me. On this night, my eyes flew open at 3:00. I hopped out of bed. I am drinking coffee and watching Monsters, Inc., one of my all-time favorites. Kids are sleeping soundly. Just me, my iPad, my eyeglasses:), cozied up with a fat dog and a yearning to write. It’s been a while since I poured out on paper. Or screen, in this case. I know why I’m up. You see, my dad moved to the Philippines last Fall. That’s a long dang way from TN. He returned to the States three weeks ago. He stayed with us a week. He went back to AR. Then he called me to say he’s leaving again. My heart sank. My kids responded. Less stoic than before. More confusion and sadness. Yep, Dad’s journey began at 3:00 this morning, so I know why I’m awake. This is not my plan. In fact, I am not even slightly ok with it. My complete and utter lack of control here could be maddening. But I won’t let it. He’s grown. I’m grown. But what is it, that no matter our age, being a child is still a very grown-up job?!? It’s mature to have healthy boundaries. It’s mature to love unconditionally. It’s mature to pray continually and beg for different circumstances.:):)  So no matter the kicking, screaming, only-child raring up in me, I’m going to try an adult child approach to letting him go. I want to run. To escape. I want to scream and cry. I’ve done my share. I’m going to run to the gym. I’m going to cry in private. I’ll grieve and I’ll be angry. I could pretend I won’t be angry, but that’s not being true to myself. But I will not allow my feelings to rule. I believe I’ll turn to God for that. It’s His job not mine. How about I let Him be Holy and Loving and Gracious and Forgiving? And let the Holy Spirit have His way in my soul. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Lord, mold me. Refine my childlike tendencies to a more mature version of me. May I love more completely, healthily, and sometimes, as in this instance…from afar. 9000 miles is a long way. But not for the Creator of our Universe. Me and Sully and Wizowski will kick back and chill for a bit. Monsters, Inc. is cheap therapy. Laughter is a gift straight from the Lord. Heal my heart, Jesus. Give me Mommy wisdom from You alone. Touch my mouth to say right words to my boys. Protect Grandaddy as he travels. Shower us with grace abundant. Sleep in peace, my little boys. In my bed or out, God holds us tight. Now where on earth is my remote? Gotta turn up the volume. This is getting good! From screams to laughter… (Watch the movie.:))

Peace out. Peace in.

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It’s just an ordinary day. To whom will I turn? What will I accomplish? Will my life, this day, reflect mayhem and havoc, or peace and contentment, or none of the above. We choose each day whom we will serve. As Corrie Ten Boom said so eloquently… “Look outward, you’ll be distressed. Look inward, you’ll be depressed. Look to God, you’ll be refreshed.” As I begin to fully take stock of my life, spoken like a true 41-year-old wife and mother of four, I see such poignant truth in this quote. My boys and I were studying Corrie Ten Boom for school the other day, and I was greatly inspired. Who wouldn’t be?! She was a true hero of faith. I desire for my life to leave a mark. Will it be the mark of LaRae? Or will it be the legacy of our Lord? Father, keep me looking to you and not inward. Remove the old patterns of “stinkin’ thinkin'”, and wash me anew. Then again tomorrow and the next day, and the next, as long as I have breath. Worry less. Serve more. Dance often. Jesus, You are everything. I think if we could just wrap our mind, heart, very being, around that, we’d be on a road to healing, hope, joy, and true grace. I believe in His mighty power to heal, restore, and give peace that surpasses all understanding. I receive it as Truth. Will you?

She told me “no”.

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So lately I’ve been a little “off”. I have a dear friend/Christian counselor who has offered to counsel me as needed. What a blessing! She now comes alongside several other fabulous ladies of God have been placed in my path most recently. Women who are highly trained medical professionals, and so forth, working to help set me free from the pain of anxiety and most likely a mild depression. Well, this one friend offered to counsel me, then bumped into me in public several days later. Letting me know real quick I looked “off”, and was losing weight, etc. As we hammered out some possibilities of when to begin counseling, she reminded me that “Celebrate Recovery” 12 step program would be the best way to go. Quickly, I said, “But you’ll meet with me just to counsel without CR, right?” Uh, her response… NO. Ok then. So be it. After a little more thought on the matter, I realized I am not accustomed to most anyone telling me NO. In this instance, I am grateful. You know, I need more peers and mentors in my life who are just gonna get real with me, not stroke my ego or agree with what I said just because I said it. Hmmmm. This might just be a new road for me. Maybe even the first step toward real healing & recovery. Hi. I’m LaRae, and I struggle with control, anxiety, depression, and panic. Never had a problem with substance abuse, yet that’s sheerly the grace of God. Proud me would’ve never said I am a candidate for Celebrate Recovery. Thanks to a good friend, several good friends, in fact, I’m gonna say it in print and in public… I’m a prime candidate for CR. Lord, use this journey to help me know me better. I’m willing to get honest with myself and others. Thanking God that she told me NO. Ready to move forward to a place where I’m me and imperfection is acceptable. Ready to embrace a supernatural healing, along with some appropriate meds if necessary. Ready to tell anyone who will listen I’ve done a real good job for a long time of looking like I’ve got it all together. I do have many things to celebrate! Healthy marriage. Four incredible boys. Devoted Fitness. The list goes on and on. Now I add celebration of Recovery to this list. Let’s roll.

Bottle it up.

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Grandaddy’s in town! Duck Dynasty fest with the kids. Walking the scenic trail in the woods. Burger King Whoppers and soft serve ice cream for lunch. Joke-telling and “useless” information spewing. (He calls it useless. I say he’s the smartest man I know.) Homegrown produce shopping at the market. Meeting and visiting with our local friends. BBQ and more BBQ. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Blasting the classic rock tunes and of course, singing along! Driving the rolling hills of TN, admiring the landscape & architecture. Winding down now. Trying to shove this day in a bottle. Not working, so I guess writing about it will do. Wonder what we shall delve into tomorrow? Thankful for my Daddy. Proud to be his Princess…