Thursday, May 5, 2011

6. My Sister

And I'm back... 8 months later... Blah... This is why I'll never write a book - because I'd never actually finish it.

I figured now would be a great time to post about one of my favorite people on this wonderful planet... My Sister!

Amanda and I haven't always gotten along, I have the scars to prove it, but over the years she has become my person. The one I know I can talk to, who will always listen, who will take my side in pretty much any argument (as long as she's not involved). She doesn't let me shut myself off, which has caused some minor issues here and there, but instead forces me to face whatever is going on with the strength and grace we've been taught our whole lives. A line from one of my favorite movies says, "She's my sister. Without her I don't make sense." and that is most certainly true when it comes to Amanda. Not many people get me, but she does.

I love this photo for so many reasons. The first, and most obvious, being how incredibly happy we both look. It also very adequately expresses our very different personalities - my excitement is more subdued and reserved, while Amanda's is written all over her face. I also love our haircuts. We have always given our mom a hard time about how she chose to "style" our hair when we were younger. Mom blames it on the fact that we both have calics all over our heads so she didn't have a lot of options. I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate. (Love you, mom!)  

I have had many proud moments being Amanda's big sister. Watching her play volleyball and basketball. Hearing her sing. Being a part of her journey through high school and college. Even being her Maid of Honor on December 17, 2005 (yep, the 6 year anniversary is right around the corner). Being a part of that day in her life will always be one of my favorite memories. She is such a loving, considerate, and supportive wife - all of which are required when your husband is a football coach, but I believe that even in different circumstances she would be exactly the same. She absolutely adores Clayton. It was difficult wrapping my mind around the fact that she would belong to someone else, that I was placing the life of my baby sister in the hands of someone else, but even if I had thousands to choose from - I'd pick Clayton every single time. Why? Because he cherishes, protects, values, and loves my sister even more than I do - which I never thought was even possible. 

Even more than that though, Amanda is an incredible mom! I am consistently blown away watching her with Kaycin and Madi. I will never forget the day that Kaycin was born, the sense of pride and amount of joy on Amanda's face when she held her for the first time. Ever since that day, she has watched over Kaycin and Madi in a way only a mom can. She's tough and the girls know who's boss, but they laugh and play and sing like no other mother/daughter combination I've ever seen. What a blessing it is to watch them interact on a regular basis. 

Life takes interesting turns sometimes. It's difficult to know what's coming up next, who's going to be where, but there is one thing of which I'm absolutely certain - God placed the two of us together for a very specific purpose. She will never know how much I have learned from watching her as a wife and a mom. Words simply are not adequate enough to express this fact. However, it is my prayer that I will be the big sister that she leans on and draws strength from down the road. That I will be the example I was created to be for her as her big sister. That we will never stop learning from each other, growing in the Lord together, and being each other's support system. 


I love you more than words can say. I'm so incredibly proud of the woman you have become. Thank you for being more than my sister - thank you for being my best friend. 

Love Always, 
Snot Face 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

5. Africa

I'm amending my list for this blog entry. I had originally written 'travel' and planned to write about my journey to Africa within that blog post; however, I think I have enough to say about that place to merit it's own day so here goes...

For me, Africa has always been one of those places that we talked about in church or school. You see stories on the news about AIDS outbreaks, wars, and disease but that's all that it was for me...until 2 years ago. This poor, dirty, foreign part of our world was a distant place I never thought I'd see with my own eyes until January 2009 when I stepped off of a plane into Niamey, the capital city of Niger, and discovered I was wrong - there is so much beauty and wealth in Africa. It's all a matter of perspective and I was desperately needing to change the way I viewed the world around me.

As we walked from the plane to a shuttle bus to drive us to the airport - the drive took maybe 2 seconds as we were merely feet way from the airport, thoughts resembling "I can't believe I'm actually here." "I can't believe there are so many people just hanging out at the airport." "I can't believe how big the guns are that those men are holding." and again "I can't believe I'm actually here." To say it was a surreal feeling would be an incredible understatement - I was excited and ready to get to work. I guess I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that this trip would be life-changing for me, but little did I know that God was getting ready to absolutely rock my world and blow my mind. 

I'm not going to give you a day-to-day play-by-play of this trip, all of those details are tucked away in my journal, but there are a couple of stories I'd like to share along with quite a few pictures that sum up the trip for me. Experiences that even now, two years later, have stayed with me and I can recall as if I returned yesterday. 

From the mountains...

To the desert...

Our plane after we landed in Africa

The village where we worked

Our Bush Taxi

Waiting on the ferry to take us across the Niger River
(We did this every morning and afternoon)
Because they cram as many people inside as they can, all of their cargo goes on top, even animals

Beauty in the middle of very dirty water

My favorite part - the kids!
One thing I realized very quickly is that kids are kids. They desire love and attention. They love to laugh and play games. These kids have nothing but you'd never know it looking at the huge smiles on their faces.

Walking through the village

Beautiful girl in a beautiful dress on market day


Let me tell you a little bit about storying. This is what we did on most of the days were were there. We would walk through the village looking for groups of people gathered to share with them the story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection. The notebook you see in the picture above contained pictures for each part of the "story" we told them. We did this with the help of our translator, Lawali...

Lawali is a follower of Christ from Niger who went out to the village with us each day. He is a precious man who became a dear friend of ours while we were there. And he LOVES beef jerky! It was truly remarkable to see the eyes of the men, women, and children light up as we told them about this man named Jesus. I always knew that there were people in our world who had never heard about Jesus but, never living outside of the Bible belt, that was really hard for me to imagine. Well, they are all over countries like Africa and what a joy and privilege it was to be the one to tell them. To our knowledge, in the village we traveled to each day, there were no believers. Zero. Not one person in the entire village of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people had a personal relationship with Jesus. Mind blowing! And this is where God showed up, showed off, and revealed to us just what He is capable of...

The picture above is of Lawali, Brad (the missionary we served with while we were there), and Moumouni. I first saw Moumouni the second day we arrived in the village. The men were not really eager to hear what we had to say so they pretty much stayed away from what we were doing. They would watch and observe from afar but rarely engaged in our work. This was not the case with Moumouni - he was everywhere we were, always listening to us story, and I knew pretty early on that he might be the one God sent us there to reach. On the very last day that we were in the village, as we were saying our goodbyes and fighting back tears as we looked into the eyes of the kids we had fallen in love with and wanted to stuff into our luggage to bring home with us, I took the picture posted above. Lawali, Brad, and Moumouni moments after Moumouni prayed to receive Christ. Powerful!

In a village where we had witnessed demon possession ceremonies (I'd love to tell you this story), sickness, suffering, hopelessness - God painted a picture for us of how much bigger He is than all of those things. How He is moving and at work in villages in Africa, even when you think He might not be. He's there. He sees. Just like us, they are His creation, His handiwork and He desires a personal relationship with each one of the men, women, and children there. It's hard to put into words the feeling we had knowing, as we drove away, that there is now a believer in that village. Someone who chose to go against the "religions" of his people and begin his faith journey with Jesus. I think we all felt a little bit better leaving knowing that village now has it's own missionary. Life-changing! We serve an amazing God!

If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Africa, GO! I pray every day that God will give me the opportunity to go back. Whether it's West Africa or South Africa, it doesn't matter to me.

If you can't go, there are so many ways to get involved in what He is doing in places like Africa. Below are some organizations that I'd encourage you to look into. Pray about how God would lead you to help. Let God blow your mind, it's the most incredible feeling in the world!

(Also doing a free concert at ETBU tonight at 7pm)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

4. Baseball

I've decided to take a break from the serious family posts and skip down on my list of 'The 50 Things I Love Most' to something that is almost as near and dear to my heart as the most important people in my life...


Since the season has started and that is pretty much how I spend all of my free time, I couldn't resist posting this one any longer. Don't worry remaining family members, I'll be writing about you soon enough! :)

Baseball. Texas Rangers. Josh, Ian, Michael, David, CJ, Elvis, Nellie, Mitch, Chris. My Boys of Summer.

Some might say that this game is boring, too slow, not action packed enough for them. I would argue that there is something magical about baseball. Young boys awaiting a foul ball or home run to be hit directly into the glove they refuse to take off their hand for 9 innings. Dads explaining the game to their son or daughter as they ask question after question. Squeeze plays. Defensive dives and catches. Home runs. Triples. Doubles. Singles. Strikeouts. Stolen bases. Home run robbing catches. Claws. Antlers. Dot Race (Go Blue!). Cheering. Booing. Singing Deep in the Heart of Texas. Fireworks. Being with your summer "family" in the most beautiful place in the world. Magical.

For those of you who still aren't convinced, here are a few clips from some of my favorite baseball movies...

The Sandlot

A League of Their Own

For Love of the Game

The Natural

Field of Dreams

And some quotes that I've come across and love...

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. --Rogers Hornsby

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. --Ted Williams

No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games.  It's the other third that makes the difference. --Tommy Lasorda

During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times.  I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times.  You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season.  That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball. --Mickey Mantle

Baseball is not necessarily an obsessive-compulsive disorder, like washing your hands 100 times a day, but it's beginning to seem that way.  We're reaching the point where you can be a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan or you can have a life.  Take your pick. --Thomas Boswell

And finally some of my favorite pictures...

Win or lose.
Rain or shine.
My boys.
My team.
My Rangers.
I love this game!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3. My Dad

(I'm failing miserably on this blog, but here is entry #3, two months later...)

I'll be honest, I've struggled a little bit with writing this one. The main reason is because my dad is a very quiet man, never wants to be in the spotlight in any situation, so it's sometimes difficult to point out what I love most about him. However, I think for a lot of people you can tell so much about their character even in their silence.

One of my favorite things about my dad has always been his extremely protective nature. While this might have been frustrating in high school and even into college, he made it very clear that no one hurts his girls. I love that about him! An example of this came out in a conversation I was having with 2 college girls about relationships they were in/considering beginning last summer. I told them I have a question I like to ask guys - whether friends or potentially something more...

If you and I are leaving the same place headed to the same location and we both know where we are going, do you drive ahead of me or behind me? Why?

We discussed the pros and cons of both and then I told them which I prefer. (I'm not going to post it on here just in case...haha). Like the security blanket that most children carry around from place to place, dragging it across the dirt and dust on the ground, I've always thought of my dad as my security blanket. If I get into a situation and need someone to be on my side, I always call my dad. He is my biggest fan because, even when I know I'm the one in the wrong, he always takes my side.

Here are some of my favorite pictures representing some of my favorite things about my dad:

He is one of the hardest working people I know. I'm serious, he never takes a day off! He loves his job and is extremely loyal to those he works for and with.

He LOVES his grand babies! You will never see my dad smile more or get giddy about anything else other than Kaycin and Madi. Recently he took them out to Eastman to show them where he works. It was such a joy watching him hoist them up into the firetrucks and ambulance. They adore their "Pops" and they have him completely wrapped around their little fingers and don't even know it.

If you ever want to get him talking, mention 4 things : Kaycin, Madi, baseball, or football. He will talk for hours about any of these. I love talking baseball with my dad! I know I get my love for the game from him and I love him for it! He's been a baseball player all of his life so he knows everything there is to know about the game. He spends most of his weekends calling football for high school and semi-pro league games. Below is a picture of him with his crew before a game. He loves to be on the field! 

Things haven't always been easy for our family - we've definitely been through our share of trials and tribulations, but there are a few things I know have never changed about my dad : He loves the Lord. He loves his family. He would do anything for anybody. 

As much as I love watching baseball, talking football, playing with Kaycin and Madi, going to dinner, etc. with my dad - what I absolutely love more than any of these is getting up on a Sunday morning to go to church with him. There's just something about having him stand next to me during worship and then read his Bible along with me during the preaching that fills my heart with joy and pride that he is my dad.


For the numerous oil changes, times you've filled my car up with gas, rescuing me on the side of the road when I have a flat tire, listening to me yell and cry when my world is seemingly falling apart, moving me from East Texas to Fort Worth to New Orleans to Hurst and back to East Texas, being there for every game from little dribblers to high school (giving the refs more than an earful too many times to count), supporting me in my decisions (even when you didn't agree), encouraging me in all aspects of my life, and loving me no matter how many stupid mistakes I've made - Thank you! 

I love you!!

Always and forever, 
Your Little Girl

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2. My Mom

(Many apologies for my tardiness in posting this. I'll try to be better on the rest of my list!)

Here are some adjectives to get us started on this one : athletic. beautiful. caring. determined. educator. friend. gifted. helpful. intelligent. joyous. kindhearted. loving. mama k. nicknamer. oleta's daughter. patient. quality time. realistic. sarcastic. thoughtful. unifying. verbalist. wise. youthful.

(#50 is my mom!)

Beautiful: While my mom is indeed beautiful on the outside, the most beautiful part of who she is lies beneath the surface. Her servant heart, genuine consideration for everyone she meets, and patience with me over the past 30 years makes her truly beautiful.

(We LOVE the Care Bears!)

Determined: One of my favorite things about my mom is her determination to help me see situations in life from every possible angle. Her determination to teach me how to solve my own problems, resolve my own conflicts, and live out what I claim to believe. While I know she is always there to help me up when the crutches of life are being kicked out from under me, she has helped me develop a strength that I never knew I'd need, the ability to think for myself, and how to look at life with open eyes and an open heart knowing everything happens for a reason.

(So true, especially in the eyes of a 9th grade English teacher! I don't know how she does it!)

Friend: In my life I have realized that not many people can consider their mom to be one of their best friends. What a blessing it is to be able to say that about the most influential, strongest, faithful prayer warrior that I know. I love that even when I don't know what to say, she knows what I'm thinking. I love that as soon as I walk in the room, she knows if something is wrong. I love that she sees far more potential in me than I have ever seen in myself. I love that I have been called a carbon copy of the most important woman in my life. My mom. My friend.

(One of my favorite things to do is listen to her play the piano!)

Helpful: From helping me with projects when I was young, to editing papers for me through high school and college, to refining resumes for me as an adult I certainly would not be where I am today without her help!

(I get my love for books and reading from my mom!)

Joyful: The house is clean. The fridge and pantry are full. All of the beds have clean sheets. Why? The kids and grand kids are coming home. This is the time I see my mom with the biggest smile on her face. Nothing feels better than pulling up to the house and seeing her on the front step waiting. Big hug. Bags carried into the house. Let the conversations begin. Pure joy.

(Friendly and generous by nature!)

Lucky: For one very obvious reason... I'm her daughter! :)

Mama K:
(She loves her Kaycin and Madilyn!)

Nicknamer: I love hearing stories about students in my mom's classes. Teaching English for the past 30 years means she has some pretty good ones to share. One of my favorite things that she does when a new school year begins is she makes up nicknames for some of her kids. I remember her telling me one time that she remembers what it was like to be the shy, quiet kid in the classroom that never really got noticed because she wasn't a troublemaker. I can definitely relate to this. So she makes up nicknames for the ones who seem like outcasts or that no one seems to notice. The reason is because she wants them to know that she sees them, she notices them, and she cares enough about them to make up a silly nickname. I can't even imagine how it makes those students feel, even if they won't admit it. They are teenagers, after all.

Oleta's Daughter:
(Two beautiful, amazing, women of God - my mom and my Gran!)

Prayerful: No one on this earth prays for me more than my mom does. She has helped me see that there is power in prayer and reminds me that the Bible tells us that we should pray about everything, pray without ceasing. I know that I have made it through countless, seemingly hopeless situations in my life because my mom was praying for me. Nothing means more than knowing that.

Quality Time:
(She loves her grand babies!)

Realistic: Over the past 5 or so years I have become a dreamer, a visionary. I love that I have developed the ability to see beyond my current situations and dream of what things could be like or envision life done this way or that. While I wouldn't say that my mom lacks the ability to dream or visualize, she is oftentimes the little dose of reality I need before I jump too far into the "what if" category. She brings me back to earth. Never hindering me from being a visionary, but helping me keep things right where they need to be. Focused.

(Definitely got my sarcasm from my mom. Oh, and we love Friends!)

Thoughtful: From birthdays to Christmas to exam weeks to Valentine's Day. For as long as I can remember my mom has always thought to send a card or a box of goodies to me whether in college or to my office at work. She doesn't forget anything! My first day at work at ETBU, she sent me a plant. The plant didn't last very long, as I don't think I ever watered it, but it's the thought that counts. Always thinking ahead. Always thinking about others more than herself.

(She's the glue that holds us all together!)

Verbalist: One skilled in the use of words. I love having conversations with my mom because I feel like I learn new words each time we talk. She is great with words - perhaps being an English teacher for 30 years is the reason why - and I know that I get my love for words from her. We both love to read and write, which is something I am so glad we share.

(Growing up, this hung on the wall in my bathroom. I used to read it every morning and now, as an adult, it's something that comes to mind often. The wisdom that pours out of my mom's mouth astounds me. I pray I have even a fraction of her wisdom to share with my children.)

Youthful: Teaching 9th grade Engligh. Teaching 4th grade Sunday School. Getting on the floor, playground, or in and out of bounce houses with Kaycin and Madi. Helping with youth activities. Faithfully serving at Vacation Bible School every summer. Always willing to do whatever she can for the success of the program or organization. Always focused on reaching kids, students, adults with the love and grace of Christ.

I know I skipped 2 letters but they are "x" and "z" so I'm going to ask you to go ahead and get over that. Haha.

There are so many things I could say about my mom. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Teacher. Friend. Pages and pages of paragraph after paragraph, but I tried to go with a format that might be a little bit more pleasing to the reader. My mom and I have definitely been through our ups and downs, as all moms and daughters do, but I love the fact that I can adequately describe her as the strongest person I know, the woman with more wisdom than anyone else I know, and one of my very best friends.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1. Jesus

Let me start this one by saying that Jesus falls under a completely different category of "love" than other items you will read about later such as baseball, music, or sleep. The love I have for Papacita's salsa cannot in any way, shape or form be even remotely compared to the love I have for the One who died for my sins, accepts me completely as I am, and knows everything there is to know about me and yet loves me with an undying love that I can't even begin to comprehend. No, that's not the kind of love I'm talking about here. This is what I mean...

The Greek word agape is often translated "love" in the New Testament. How is "agape love" different from other types of love? The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. Unlike our English word “love,” agape is not used in the Bible to refer to romantic love. Nor does it refer to close friendship or brotherly love, for which the Greek word philia is used. Agape love is unique and is distinguished by its nature and character.

Agape is love which is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself. The Apostle John affirms this in 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” God does not merely love; He is love itself. Everything God does flows from His love. But it is important to remember that God’s love is not a sappy, sentimental love such as we often hear portrayed. God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. He loves the unlovable and the unlovely (us!), not because we deserve to be loved, but because it is His nature to do so, and He must be true to His nature and character.

It all starts here. It all starts with Him. Nothing else in life matters unless we get this right and understand that there is NOTHING we can do to escape the love of Christ. (Romans 8:38-39)

God’s love is displayed most clearly at the Cross, where Christ died for the unworthy creatures who were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), not because we did anything to deserve it, “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). The object of agape love never does anything to merit His love. We are the undeserving recipients upon whom He lavishes that love. His love was demonstrated when He sent His Son into the world to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and to provide eternal life to those He sought and saved. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for those He loves.

In the same way, we are to love others sacrificially. Sacrificial love is not based on a feeling, but a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. If we are to love as God loves, that love—that agape—can only come from its true Source. This is the love which “has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us” when we became His children (Romans 5:5). Because that love is now in our hearts, we can obey Jesus who said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should also love one another” (John 13:34). This new commandment involves loving one another as He loved us sacrificially, even to the point of death. But again, it is clear that only God can generate within us the kind of self-sacrificing love which is the proof that we are His children. “By this we have known the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Because of God’s love toward us, we are now able to love one another.

With that said, let me say this...nothing else I say today, tomorrow, or 10 weeks from now matters unless you grasp this. If you don't read anything else I write, I hope you understand that there is a God who is bigger than you, more than capable of handling life's ups and downs, and who longs for a relationship with you that resembles an "agape" type of love.

If you have questions or want to know more, I would be truly honored to dive deeper into this with you. Making the decision to follow Christ will be the most important decision you will ever make and I'd be thrilled to help you get there.

Teaser for tomorrow : "Be good. Be sweet. I love you." -- My mom

The 50 Things I Love Most Challenge...

Although I am calling this a challenge, it is actually more of an exercise to get me writing again. I came up with an idea to blog about the 50 things I love most in the whole world. The 50 things that, today, I think it would be difficult to eliminate from my life. While some have to do with people and others are more "luxuries" that I am able to enjoy, they still fall under this category.

I read one time that you know your true passions, your true loves, by what you spend your time doing and how you spend your money. I took this into consideration while making my list of 50 items. Some are quite silly, others are quite obvious, while some might be a little surprising to those who know me. This is all in fun, with a little serious mixed in, but a challenge/exercise I am excited to begin.

The plan is to write about one thing each weekday. I'm not typically around a computer over the weekend so I won't set myself up to fail by requiring a post on Saturday and Sunday. Monday through Friday, for the next 10 weeks, I will blog about the next item on my list. With the exception of the first 8 (my family members), they are in no particular order.

So hopefully you will find this interesting enough to keep reading. Oh, and I will mix in some pictures for those of you who find it daunting to read a wordy blog. Feel free to comment if you feel so inclined. The first post will be published tomorrow... Aren't you so excited?!? Stay tuned!

Below is a teaser picture for one of the items on my list - this is no surprise to anyone...