I needed that spider.

I am in a season of walking a tightrope – a balancing act between contentment and disappointment. After an extremely frustrating day of work, which is the source of this discontentment that I’m trying to be okay with, I got home and got dressed in my shorts, t-shirt, and rain boots (always fashionable) to mow my yard. I put my phone down on the table next to my back door, as I always do before mowing, and my hand touched something. I looked around and realized it was the edge of a spider web. Inside the web was a ridiculously large spider. This web was attached to my lawnmower.

When I was roommates with my sister, years ago, we had a spider like this outside our dining room window. Just like today, the spider at Melissa’s house had a huge web with a zigzag design in it. The spider itself is/was also pretty. Melissa named that spider “Artis the artist” due to the fancy web. Our neighbor, Cheryl, would come over but refused to go to the front door because she was terrified of Artis. One day, Melissa noticed Artis was bouncing on the web like a trampoline, so she got close to watch him. I mean, he was calm all other times. He barely moved. But he was playing on a trampoline, so this was something to see. The next thing Melissa knew, Artis launched himself off the trampoline and started marching across the front yard, directly toward Cheryl’s house. I think Melissa then found something to spray Artis with to kill him, because we love Cheryl and we didn’t need him coming after her. RIP Artis.

So here I was this evening after a horrible day with very tall grass and my very own Artis attached to my lawnmower. I didn’t want to kill him, because I’ve become strangely humane toward most creatures, even the many scary ones I don’t like. I’d prefer to not kill them. Plus, my Artis today was big and that would be quite the murder scene. It would be way too messy. I thought of my friend, Valerie. She is a friend to all creatures and lives nearby. In fact Valerie and I had a photography class together in college and she once rescued a huge spider from the hallway and transferred it outside like a weirdo. I texted Valerie a photo of my spider and asked if she was willing and able to humanely relocate him to the woods. She told me she was on her way.

I learned that “he” is actually a “she”. Valerie is such a friend to all creatures that she knows things like this. So she rescued her, capturing her in a container. She told me later that she released her onto a tree in her front yard. Who else does that?

Anyway, after the spider was caught, Valerie and I were in the yard with Sayid and then my neighbor, whom I hadn’t met, walked behind my fence to retrieve his two kittens who were playing in the woods behind my house. Sayid was interested in these kittens. My neighbor, Valerie, and I all introduced ourselves and we visited for probably half an hour while the kittens chased each other up and down trees and Sayid relaxed in the yard and watched them. I finally had to cut our visit short to get my grass cut before the sun went down.

When I finished my yard work, I was making my way inside and I realized how much my mood had improved. I have not had this bad of a day at work in a while. I carried the stress and irritation home with me. But then God used a scary spider as a catalyst to change the course of my day. I got to see a friend of mine for a spur of the moment visit. She even brought me a bag of coffee as a gift. I got rescued from a spider. A spider got rescued from me. Neither of us were traumatized. I met a friendly neighbor. Sayid enjoyed watching the kittens play. (So did I.) My yard looks lovely. I’m feeling grateful. For a spider.

What a strange way God chose to redirect this day. If He can use a spider to improve my day, I can be sure He can do strange and wonderful things to turn this career situation into something good. When the feeling of being stuck takes over and my balance tips off center and leans more toward discontentment and disappointment, I’ll just have to trust that God hears my prayers and remind myself of my spider, as strange as this thought may be.

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The Joy of Mowing

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My sister bought a house not long after I finished college and I became her roommate.  Daddy wasn’t our roommate, so that was when mowing the yard became part of my duties.  Melissa and I took turns mowing.  Initially, I hated it.  It was the most dreaded of tasks.  I hated it so much, I often became a cranky, moody person when I had to do it, I’m ashamed to say.  The blistered hands, the excessive sweating – I just despised it.

After a couple of years of my bad attitude, Sayid came into our lives.  Where my response to mowing the yard was dread, his was unbridled joy.  To this day, if you say to him – “Sayid, you wanna mow the yard?” – he lights up.  He rushes around the house, stalking me until I’m in my mowing clothes, my hair is up, and we’re walking out the back door.  If I take too long, he starts with the high pitched, playful barking, trying his best to lead me to the back door.

As soon as the door is open, he’s out there, pulling out his Jolly Ball.  My boy is a creature of habit.  From the time he got his first Jolly Ball as a puppy, that has been his toy of choice on yard mowing day.  He has one at my house & he has one at Melissa’s house.  My hands touch the mower, the Jolly Ball is in his mouth.  It’s as certain as a sunrise.

While I get the grass under control, Sayid lets that Jolly Ball know who’s boss.  It’s as if he thinks we each have our own important task to conquer and he takes his job very seriously. When he was younger, he’d drag that ball all over the yard, placing it in the path of the mower and barking up at me until I either kicked it out of the way for him to chase or paused in my tracks and told him over & over to “get it” until he finally moved it out of the way.  The high pitched, happy bark is constant the entire time the mower is running.

These days he lies in the grass to rest a lot earlier than he used to, but that happy bark continues and that Jolly Ball can always be found close by.  I’ll catch a glimpse of him while I’m mowing, his head toward the sky, barking joyfully, and it makes me smile.  His joy is contagious.  It makes me feel joyful right along with him.

Sayid’s joy on yard mowing day has helped change my attitude about the chore.  In fact, if it weren’t for my irrational fear of wasps and snakes, I might could even say I kind of enjoy it.  Once I move past the perimeter of the yard and I feel like the threat of a surprise wasp attack or snake sighting has passed, it’s not so bad.  It feels like a good workout, and it is always followed by a refreshing shower, an easy supper, and Netflix & chill.  The fact that yard mowing day is one of Sayid’s most simplest of pleasures makes me look forward to it if for no other reason than to listen to that happy bark and see his smiling face.

Tuft & Needle Mattress Review

After spending my early adulthood sleeping on an old mattress that was probably twenty years old, I decided to upgrade back in 2008.  Following a hurricane with a lot of disaster relief overtime, I used my entire overtime check on a Sealy Posturepedic pillow top mattress.  It was glorious.  I loved that mattress for years.  I can remember two instances where I gave up my bed for friends who were visiting from out of town and they both asked me about my mattress the following morning because they loved it like I did.  I have very high mattress standards.

Fast forward to about six months ago.  As soon as I would lie down at night I would, like always, think to myself – I love my bed – but I’d often wake up with back pain.  I also got to the point that I was waking up a lot at night, rotating from side to stomach to other side to back to side to stomach to other side to back.  It had gotten to the point it was just too soft for me.  It was time to think about mattress shopping again.  My home that I bought about a year ago has a pretty large master bedroom, so I decided I would upgrade to a queen size bed and move my full size bed to my empty guest room.  That’s been something I’ve looked forward to: having an honest to goodness guest room.  This would all work out perfectly.  I just had to find the mattress.

I heard Tuft & Needle advertised on the Dave Ramsey show.  A mattress in a box sounded kind of bizarre, but I started researching different options and reading reviews.  There are actually a lot of “mattress in a box” companies out there now.  Tuft & Needle had great reviews, but there were three things that drew me in:

#1 – $600 for a queen size mattress with free shipping, delivered to my door.

#2 – Made in America!

#3 – They offer a 100 night trial.  If you’re not satisfied, they don’t ask you to vacuum seal a mattress into a box and ship it back.  They have you donate it to a local charity and show your receipt proving the donation and they refund you in full.  (This one was especially appealing, because it’s just incredibly kind.)

So after saving for a few months, I went for it.  I ordered my Tuft & Needle mattress on a Saturday morning.  It was delivered to my door early the following Tuesday.  I was amazed how quickly it arrived.

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Initially, I thought I would keep it in the box until I went to IKEA the following weekend to get a queen bed frame to match my other furniture, but I tossed and turned so much Monday night that I asked my dad to come over & disassemble my old bed and help me move it to the guest room.

When my T&N mattress arrived, Daddy came back over and helped me drag it in the house and set it up in my room.  Most people could probably move it themselves and I’m sure I could have tugged and pulled and pushed and made that happen, but I’m about as strong as I look, so I was happy for Daddy’s help!

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Sayid was very interested in the process.  It was kind of fascinating to watch the mattress expand to full size (10” tall) in about a minute once the plastic was cut away.  I ended up sleeping with this mattress on the floor the first several nights.  Sayid doesn’t have the leg strength to jump onto a bed anymore, but I allowed him to sleep on my bed when it was on the floor.  He can still climb 10”.  He approved.  He spent a lot of time on the mattress.  He even bypassed his last treat of the night so he could get to the mattress quicker one night.

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After three nights on the floor and two nights a little higher up on box springs, I had my new queen bed frame and Daddy came & put it together for me.  (Daddy likes to photobomb.)

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The first couple of weeks on the mattress, I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  There were nights I slept really great and other nights I would toss and turn a bit, having a hard time getting comfortable.  I guess going from a plush pillow top to a mattress this firm was such a big change that I was having a hard time adjusting.  I contacted Tuft & Needle and asked if there was a topper they recommended to soften the mattress a bit.  I was told that they actually make toppers and would be happy to send me a complimentary topper.  I told them I’d give it a few more nights and would request one if needed.  Several nights of mixed results followed, so I asked them to send the topper.

It came in just a few days later.  It adds two inches of height to my bed.  My pillow top was really high and I was kind of disappointed that my bed might not be as high when I switched to a new mattress.  My bed is now even taller than it was.  I now have to lean up and look down to see the time on my alarm clock.  I’m considering moving my alarm clock across the room to make myself get up earlier and not hit snooze as many times!

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I’ve been sleeping on the topper for the past nine nights.  My conclusion is that the topper has made this bed perfect for me.  I’m back to that familiar thought that I’ve had the better part of the last nine years when my head hits the pillow – I love my bed.

I don’t need 100 nights to try this out.  I’m keeping it and sleeping gloriously again.  I’m very happy with my purchase.  Also – now accepting guests and providing a very comfortable, albeit very soft, bed!

This is what is true.

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For nine years, from fourth grade through my senior year of high school, I participated in Bible Drill, which is a program that involves a lot of memorization of scripture.  Today I was given the privilege of helping facilitate a practice drill for some students at my church in preparation for their first competition next Sunday.  (To clarify, they’re competing against a clock, not against each other.)  It was refreshing to see students committing scripture to memory.  It did my heart good and reinforced a recent decision I made.

About three months ago, I decided to start making it a point to memorize scripture again.  At the time, I had come across Psalm 116:7 – Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  That one was short and simple, but I loved it.  It’s a good reminder in life when things get overwhelming. I wanted to commit it to memory, so I wrote it on a note card, tucked it away in my Bible, and reviewed it a few times each morning.  Then I added Lamentations 3:22-24 – Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.

I’ve since added Psalm 138:8, Romans 8:38-39 (this was by far the hardest to memorize), and most recently, Philippians 4:4-7.

Some of the scripture I memorized as a child comes back to me, especially if I hear the start of a familiar passage, but I usually can’t tell you where exactly to find it.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up and a Bible verse comes to mind.  It happens when I drive.  It happens when I mow my yard.  It happens when I’m at work sometimes.  (Usually that’s the one about working with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23, which I have not committed to memory!  I definitely need that reminder sometimes!)

Earlier this week, I was listening to a podcast where Ellie Holcomb had been interviewed.  She spoke about memorizing scripture and she said our work as believers is to remember.  We need to remember what God did, who He is, and what He has promised.  She talked about a scary time a few months ago when her husband was hospitalized and in her rush to leave for the hospital, she didn’t pack her Bible, but these scriptures she had memorized were coming to mind.  It was as if she was reminding herself: this is what is true.  Even when something is scary or upsetting and doesn’t feel true, this is what is true.  It’s a great comfort.

What’s your favorite scripture or passage of scripture?  I’m not sure which one I’ll commit to memory after I get Philippians 4:4-7 permanently stored away inside, but I’m sure another one will grab me before I know it.

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your graciousness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Don’t worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses every thought will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   – Philippians 4:4-7

This is what is true.

Something New

Goodness, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? So here’s something new – I bought a house! It’s an adorable little house and I am very fond of it. It’s perfect for me. It’s roughly 1200 square feet – actually a little less, I think – and it suits me perfectly. I think this house and I are MFEO. (For those who aren’t fans of Sleepless in Seattle, that means we’re made for each other.)

I wasn’t sure if I’d like living alone. Before I bought this house, I’d never lived alone. Sure, I’d have weeks here and there when Melissa and I were roommates and she’d go out of town for vacation and I’d have the house to myself for short periods of time. But truly living alone? I wasn’t sure how I’d like it. It needed to happen because I was ready to buy a house and I am, indeed, solo. I’ve got about five months under my belt at this point and I can conclude that living alone suits me just fine.

Am I a little warm or cold? I can adjust the thermostat to my liking. Do I want peace and quiet? I can have a completely silent home. Do I want to blast an iTunes playlist while I clean or watch an episode of Friends while I cook? Have at it! When I want to go to bed, the house is nice and dark and there’s no light creeping under my bedroom door. There’s no sound of a television when I’m falling asleep – just my fan & Sayid’s snoring, which I love. I like a clean kitchen when I go to bed and the dirty dishes and messes that come about are mine and mine alone. Well, sometimes they’re Sayid’s, but I don’t mind cleaning up after my boy. When I have lots of dirty dishes, that just means I made something really great from scratch or I had company over for a meal and those are both good things. Plus, Netflix can keep me company while I clean up. I have covered parking. I haven’t experienced winter yet in my home, but there won’t be ice on my windshield. My stained concrete floors are a breeze to clean. My living room is adorable. When I sit on my couch and look across the room, it’s nothing but encouragement and words of wisdom on my gallery wall. When it’s time for a Netflix marathon, I pull my chair and foot stool up close, grab a blanket, and spend some quality time with the Reagans or the Taylors or the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

My sweet parents are just a few miles away, so Daddy comes over with his measuring tape, nails, hollow wall anchors, and level and hangs up my wall decorations whenever I find where I want something to be placed. Everything looks so good. I love it. I feel very blessed to have this home. I’m very thankful to have this place. It’s good. It’s a good place to be.

On work mornings, it’s still pretty dark when I get up, but on Saturday mornings, when I exit my bedroom, it makes me smile when I see my living room with the morning sun coming in. There are times I think to myself – I can’t believe I live here. I think this house and I can grow old together.

On days when I mow, I sometimes encounter snakes – I’ve seen six so far! – and I have a pretty good sized hill in my back yard which takes some effort, but even still, I’m thankful. I have a yard to mow. I get to mow a yard.

I could not have an easier commute from my new home. I get to work just as quickly as I ever have, but don’t have to deal with nearly as much traffic getting to the interstate. I am literally five minutes from my church and it still surprises me how quickly I arrive.

My recent DSNAP deployment, which was literally an exhausting 100 hour work week, brought about one of those very rare overtime checks, so I decided to use some of it to splurge on three adorable bar stools. Now all I lack is a guest bed & dresser and a grill. I think this place will feel pretty complete at that point.

At the moment, I’m sitting on my couch with my feet on my foot stool, listening to a great playlist on my iTunes. Sayid is snoozing at my feet. There are two small freezer bags of leftover spaghetti sauce, ready to go in the freezer tonight for those nights I don’t want to put in any more effort than boiling some pasta and shredding some parmesan. (I’m sure Sayid hopes he’s with me when that happens, because the boy can hear a cheese wrapper from a mile away.) The dishwasher is full and running.  Friday night has arrived. Work is over for the week. Sleep is welcome. I have a cute house, which at times felt like it would never be a reality. Life is good.  I’m thankful.

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Finally, an answer

A specific question has come up a few times in life.  I remember it being asked during a board game called Loaded Questions and also it seems like it was a journal topic in school.  The question is this:  If you could share a meal and have a conversation with one famous deceased person, who would it be?

I’ve never had a definitive answer to that.  Not famous?  That’s easy.  My friend, Ashly, or any one of my grandparents.  Famous?  I don’t know.  I’m not that easily starstruck and nobody ever stood out to me.

So here I am, thirty-five years old and I finally have an answer to that question.  It’s not someone who just died recently.  This person died in 1983 when I was three years old, but I just learned of her and she has gained my respect and admiration.

A few weeks ago, in my short morning devotional, I read a few sentences about an experience had in a concentration camp by Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie.  Corrie’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, was referenced.  I like to prop up my Kindle in front of me and read it while I dry my hair every morning, so I checked the Kindle store for The Hiding Place and downloaded a sample.  After reading the sample, I knew it would be worth the $7 or $8 to purchase the book, so I bought it.

I find a lot of books that I’m happy to read for a few minutes in the morning and they make it tolerable to sit under the heat of my hairdryer for a few minutes, but this book was incredible.  It went beyond just a book to read while drying my hair.  When I wasn’t reading, I wanted to be reading.  I read it any chance I got.

I was fascinated by the story of this Christian family in Holland who was arrested and imprisoned at a concentration camp because they were helping Jews during World War II.  Corrie ten Boom orchestrated an underground operation to help keep Jews safe and fed and alive.  They were caught and punished for it.  Corrie’s mother had passed away years earlier, her brother and one sister were married with families of their own, but Betsie and Corrie were both single and lived and worked with their father in his watch shop.  Their father, Casper, was such a kind man and was loved by their whole town.  Betsie was so genuinely kind and nurturing.  Corrie was bold and brave but also had her moments of indifference and sarcasm.  She reminded me of myself in some ways.

While reading this book, there were times I wanted to hug them, like when Casper, in his eighties, was going to be released just after his arrest since he was so old, as long as he assured them he wouldn’t cause any more trouble.  His response was, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.”

Or when Corrie was having her hearing and being questioned by a Nazi lieutenant about her activities.  She didn’t want to mention anything about the Jews hiding in her home, so she talked about other “activities” and mentioned her church for mentally retarded people.  The lieutenant responded, “What a waste of time and energy!  If you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world!”  Corrie boldly replied, “The truth, sir, is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours – so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things.  In the Bible I learned that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us.  Who knows, in His eyes, a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker.  Or – a lieutenant.”

There were other times I wanted to come to their defense – like when a prison guard showed such a complete lack of compassion to Corrie when she received the news that her beloved father had died.  The guard’s treatment of her was so disgusting to me that it made me wish I could have done something about it or defended her in some way.

There were several times I laughed while reading this book.  Corrie’s memories of her aunts who lived with them while she was a child were funny.  One of the Jewish men they housed made me laugh.  There were even a few laughs while reading about their time in the concentration camps, believe it or not.

Her story is absolutely remarkable.  Corrie and Betsie risked their own lives and safety in the concentration camps by smuggling in a Bible and telling the other prisoners about Jesus and the love of God.  I was completely blown away and inspired by this book.  I ordered it in paperback after finishing it on my Kindle, because it deserves a spot on a bookshelf next to some other favorite books.  It’s one that needs to be read more than once and I like to have tangible copies of my favorites.

So there’s my answer to the question; I would share a meal and conversation with Corrie ten Boom.  And if we could squeeze a couple of extra chairs up to the table, I’d invite Betsie and Casper.  I want to hug them all.  One day I will.

Warriors by Day, Grandmas by Night!

For a few years, my sister, Melissa, has been running the Warrior Dash. I’ve always thought it looked so fun, you know, for people who actually run and wouldn’t die in the middle of it. It almost made me want to take up running, just so I could do this with my sister and participate in all those Survivor-like challenges. We love Survivor in this family.

Every year, Melissa would participate in the Warrior Dash and then ask me if I wanted to sign up to do it with her next time. My answer was always, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I never did sign up. Then came last winter. I decided to give up laziness for Lent. I decided to accomplish this by downloading the Couch to 5K app and working my way through it.

Surprisingly, I came to somewhat enjoy running and I continued running beyond Easter. One day, back in May, I ran 3.1 miles – the full distance of a 5K – for the first time. To celebrate, Melissa and I signed up for the Warrior Dash in St. Francisville scheduled for October 3rd. I had nearly five months to get it together, right? All I had to do was keep up my running routine. Then came summer in Louisiana. It was hot and sticky and not any fun for running. I slacked to the point of usually running once a week. Every so often I would run twice in a week. I’ve lost my endurance. One mile is standard for me on a regular running day. Two miles just isn’t going to happen. Two miles is too much to ask.

October 3rd came creeping up on me. As it got closer and closer, I got more and more nervous. What was I thinking? I had never even run a 5K race at all, much less one full of obstacles. I had barely run at all throughout the summer. What made me think I could handle 3.24 miles plus 12 obstacles. Really?! Oh, I was going to regret this.

I was having flashbacks to things that were supposed to be fun that I did not find fun. Several years ago, I let Melissa convince me to go snowboarding with her. Snowboarding is fun, right? Wrong. It is not fun. Snowboarding is awful. I did not snowboard. Sure, there was a snowboard strapped to my feet, but no snowboarding was accomplished. I fell down repeatedly. I tried and tried and tried. And I fell and fell and fell. Eventually, I watched a child who was approximately four years old remain upright and snowboard past me and I decided I’d had enough. I took that stupid board off my feet and started walking down the mountain. I didn’t care how long it took to reach the bottom. I could walk, but I could not snowboard, so walking was what I would do. Thankfully someone who worked at the resort told me I could catch a ride back down the mountain via ski-lift type thing and not have to walk, so I did that. But I hated it. HATED it. It was awful and I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t do it.

I also thought about the day in second grade when my mom took Melissa and me out to LSU-Shreveport for a “Jump Rope For Heart” event. A lot of my friends and classmates were there and we jumped rope all day to raise money for some organization, which I can only assume was the American Heart Association. I was roughly seven or eight years old. I kept messing up while trying to do something (double-dutch, maybe) and I started giggling about it. One of the adults leading the event fussed at me for laughing. So, of course, I went from laughing to crying. I was so sad and embarrassed. Jumping rope was supposed to be fun. It was no longer fun. Looking back I find it pretty sad that an adult would berate a child over something like jumping rope, but it happened, and it hurt my little seven year old heart. I still remember sitting up against the cinderblock wall, crying and wishing Mama would show up soon to take us home.

I was so nervous the Warrior Dash would be a similar experience. I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish these challenges. I would fail. History has shown that I’m not a big fan of failure when I fail at things that are supposed to be fun. It just makes me mad and I don’t even want to be around myself at that point. I literally was praying to God that I would keep a good attitude – that even if there was a challenge I couldn’t complete, I would keep a good attitude and not allow this to become a miserable experience. I know myself. I know how I respond to that. I wanted to have fun with this. I really really did.

Saturday came along. My sister and I packed our bags, loaded up my car, and headed to St. Francisville. On the drive down, we stopped in Natchez for a bathroom break and it was freezing outside. The sun was completely hidden behind the clouds and I was shivering on the walk to and from the car. Also, the first challenge on this Warrior Dash route was called Alcatraz, where you had to swim out to a floating structure, climb over it, and swim back to shore. (In my nervousness, I had studied the course map. I wanted to be prepared for what I was going to encounter.) Shivering while completely dry had me a little worried about how cold I would be after swimming. This was not a good sign. But it’s better than heat, right?! I’d much rather run in the cold weather than the stifling heat. Give me snow any running day over 95 degrees with 100% humidity.

We got to the site of the race an hour later than we were supposed to, which put us an hour behind on running the race. No big deal. We just would run the next heat. As we were checking in, I was feeling pretty excited about it – more excitement than dread. (God was answering my prayer to have a good attitude.) We headed to the starting chute and watched the clock, counting down until 12:15 when we would officially start the race.

We took a few pre-race photos before it started:

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In this next one, Melissa suggested that we try to look fierce, but then she just kept laughing.

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The route was so much fun – it was very hilly and wound through the woods on a (mostly) dirt path. It was mostly shaded since it was in the woods. We had to run a while before we reached the first challenge – Alcatraz. I’m not the strongest swimmer and I saw a sign that the water was 6 to 9 feet deep. I just went for it. It wasn’t a far distance to swim and I can swim well enough to handle what was ahead of me. The water weighed my shoes down a good bit – I’m not used to swimming in Brooks running shoes – so I swam to the side and held on to a rope until the crowd thinned enough that I could climb on the structure and cross to the other side. It felt great to have the first of twelve challenges in the books!

We continued on and reached the next challenge where we had to climb two walls that were probably about five feet high, crawl under a big tarp (boot camp style crawling), and then climb two more walls. It was at this challenge when Melissa saw that I really came to play. I wasn’t going to just walk up to the wall and see what would happen. I ran full speed and scaled them pretty quickly. I mentioned my family loves Survivor, so as we were crawling under the tarp, Melissa jokingly said to me, “For immunity!” I immediately picked up the pace and hustled as fast as I could. We were cracking ourselves up.

At another obstacle, I had climbed over and was making my way down. Melissa had already finished and was waiting on me. Again referencing Survivor, Melissa said, “For love letters from home!” At this, I full on sprinted toward her for a few seconds. I’m sure other people wondered what in the world we were talking about, but again, we cracked ourselves up.

Along the course, there were funny signs. At a wall climbing challenge, a sign said, “Danger – Butts Ahead!” Another sign along the way said, “We wish you had trained for this, too.” Another one, which was probably the first one where you’d really get muddy, read – “You came here to get muddy.” And boy did we get muddy. I felt like a toddler with a loaded diaper at one point. Coming right out of the mud, your feet would slip and slide everywhere until you got to more solid ground. It was fun. It was stinking fun. It really was stinking at some of the mud-centered challenges. And it was so much fun.

When it came time for our fire jump, we were ready. Some people were tired and would simply clear the flames by an inch or two and keep moving. Melissa and I wanted a fun fire picture. We’ve talked about having a fun fire picture ever since she first started trying to talk me into running the Warrior Dash with her. We wanted to be in the air at the same time. Since we planned it out, we allowed the people in front of us enough time to jump over the fire and get several feet ahead. Then on the count of three we ran and jumped. The photographer gave us a thumbs up once our feet were back on the ground so that was a good sign. We got a sequence of three photos and this is my favorite:

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After the fire came the most intimidating challenge of all – Goliath. You had to climb a wall, walk across an elevated balance beam, and then go down a 30 foot slide into a giant pool of muddy water. This one was the hardest for me. I climbed the wall pretty quickly, but the distance between the last foothold and the top of the wall was taller than me. I was having trouble trying to pull myself over. Plus, the lady literally lying on top of the wall in utter exhaustion was not helping, because I felt sure I would kick her in the head. I knew that if I didn’t pull myself over, I would have to go to the bottom and start over because I would need some momentum once I got to the top. I dug deep and pulled myself over. I even inched a little to my left in the process so I didn’t kick the lady in the head. (You’re welcome, lady!) That moment felt like the greatest accomplishment of the whole course to me. The balance beam was the most nerve wracking part and I did not allow myself to look down. My heart was pounding when I made it safely to the other side. Also, apparently there was a photographer around that I didn’t see, because I ended up with this photo:

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At the end of Goliath was the 30 foot slide.

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I’ve heard too many stories about brain eating amoebas in Louisiana waters this year, so I was ready to pinch my nose shut from 30 feet up. Not today, brain eating amoeba. Not today. From the force of the entry into the water at the bottom of the slide, Melissa and I both lost our St. Jude buffs in the process. We both came up with big eyes patting the tops of our heads. One of them floated up, so Melissa grabbed it and let me keep it. It wasn’t even mine to begin with. They were both hers. But she kindly let me keep it as a souvenir of my first Warrior Dash.

The last challenge was Muddy Mayhem, where you’re forced to get as muddy as possible unless you want to encounter some real barbed wire. I prefer mud to blood and scars, so I stayed down. My poor sister ended up with mud in her eye, so she was having problems seeing at the end. This was our photo at the finish line:

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Afterward, Melissa was able to take a shower because she raised a lot of money for St. Jude and it was one of her perks. I hosed off as well as I could. Once Melissa was truly clean and I was moderately clean, we took a photo with our fuzzy Warrior hats.

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Then we got in line for some food. Melissa also had some food vouchers as part of her St. Jude perks. We had our hearts set on turkey legs, but they were out, so we snacked on french fries & corn on the cob. A drunk guy came to our picnic table and chatted up my sister. He offered her a sip of his oversized beer and assured her he didn’t have any diseases. (That’s what they all say, Meat Head!) She declined. She and I texted back and forth a little bit about Meat Head as he talked about how he had gained thirty pounds by going to the gym so much. He looked down and admired his defined chest. I kept my eyes averted and didn’t look directly at my sister until he finally walked away because my face would have told it all. However, if my sister had taken a sip of Meat Head’s beer, I wouldn’t have been able to control my face. No worries. She’s too smart for that.

Once we left, we headed to the Airbnb we were staying for the night in St. Francisville. I took one of the most glorious showers of my life. I never obey bath product labels that instruct me to “lather, rinse, repeat”. I just lather and rinse. On this day, I obeyed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat was necessary. Also, once we had finished the race, my clothes were wet and it was a cool day, so I stayed cold to the point of occasionally shivering. I was so happy to be taking a hot shower. I actually hung my head in sadness once I finally decided I’d used enough hot water and shut it off.

Melissa and I went into St. Francisville – wearing our Warrior Dash medals with pride, of course – and ate supper at the Magnolia Cafe. (Melissa even put on her Warrior hat to order her food but didn’t get a reaction at the moment. Tough crowd.) One of the restaurant managers went to Tech, so we talked Tech football with him and showed him highlight videos our dad was sending us during the game. When we left, we realized it was still pretty early – probably around 7:00 or 7:30 – and there’s really not much to do in St. Francisville once the sun goes down. Also, there was no TV in the Airbnb where we stayed. We had a conversation that went something like this:

Me – “I wish we had thought to bring some decks of cards or something.”
Melissa – “Yeah, me too. OH! I have an idea!”
Me – “What?!”
Melissa – “We can go back to our room and do crossword puzzles!!!!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles?! That doesn’t sound fun!”
Melissa – “No, it’s this fun app on my iPad!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles are boring.”
Melissa – “Oh wait! Not CROSSWORD puzzles. JIGSAW puzzles! With our own pictures!”
Me – “OOOH! That does sound fun! Let’s put on pajamas first!”
Melissa – “Okay! Pajamas and jigsaw puzzles!”

Me – “Yes!”
Melissa – “Wow, we sound like grandmas.”
Me – “What?! We are not grandmas! We ran the Warrior Dash!”

Well, let me just say we did at least two hours worth of Warrior Dash photo jigsaw puzzles as well as a precious Sayid jigsaw puzzle and now I officially want an iPad. Something has finally come along to make me want an iPad. Jigsaw puzzles.

The next morning we woke up – yes, I was sore especially across the arms and shoulders – and our Airbnb host served us breakfast on her patio before we headed home.

This was fun. It was just as fun as Melissa always made it out to be. No, it was even more fun. I absolutely loved it. I left St. Francisville with sore muscles, multiple bruises, and a few battle wounds on my arms and legs. It was totally worth it. These grandmas are getting ready to sign up for Warrior Dash 2016.

Es and Is

Last month was our annual beach trip. Goodness, I love the beach, especially at night. One of my favorite things in life is to sit out on a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at night, listening to the waves and taking in the cool breeze. I don’t even mind when a gust of wind is so cold it makes me shiver, because it’s just perfect to me. I love it. I love a cool breeze in August. It doesn’t happen much in the south! I love late night beach balcony sessions so much that I had to convince myself to go inside the first night and go to bed. It was closing in on 2:00 AM, I had been awake for over 21 hours, and everyone else was asleep. I had to remind myself I had all week to do this and I needed to go to bed. (I have to say the last two nights of our trip there was hardly any breeze which really bummed me out, so next year I’ll stay out there until I can’t hold my eyes open if the weather is perfect. Lesson learned. It is truly one of the highlights of my vacation, so if I sleep super late while everyone else is out soaking up the sun, so be it. Night time is my time in Perdido, Florida.)

On the day we started our vacation, we traveled throughout the day and got to the beach with a couple of hours of daylight left. That night, a few of us went to Walmart to buy our groceries for the week, returned and put everything away at the condo, and got settled in. I retreated to the balcony. My sister, Ashley, and my friend, Joe, came out, too, so the three of us were getting in the first bit of relaxation for our trip.

Me – “You know what I want to do? One day, during the fall or the spring – not during peak summer – I want to just rent a one bedroom condo here for myself. I just want to come down here alone for a few days and just think and read and relax all by myself.”
Joe – “Oh, I would hate that!”
Me – “Really?! I think it sounds great! I would love it!”
Joe – “No way. I would hate it. I would be so bored! It wouldn’t be fun for me at all.”

Joe went on to say how he’s an extrovert, so he always wants to be around a group of people. Ashley and I are introverts. We like people, of course, but we feel energized and recharged after having some time alone. Joe is the opposite.

My nephews, Caleb and Jacob, also came on this trip. Caleb is a pretty quiet guy and Jacob is very chatty. Jacob, who is twelve, was sticking close to Joe to the extent that Ashley and I told Joe that it would be okay if he wanted to take a break from Jacob. Joe told us he loved having my chatty little nephew around and that he wasn’t bothered by him at all. He assured us that if he wanted some time alone, he knew how to get it. Jacob was so attached to Joe that Ashley and I began joking about it. Jacob would often send Joe on errands for him, so Ashley and I started referring to Joe as “Jeeves”.

“JEEVES, fetch me my boogie board!”
“Jeeves! Go ask them if they want to get in the hot tub with us.”
“Jeeves! Can you bring me my towel?”
“Jeeves, whip up some chicken salad!”

Joe told us it was fun to have Jacob around because he was a fellow “E”. (We began just saying “E” for extrovert and “I” for introvert.)

One late afternoon, I took my book and went down to the pool where Caleb, Jacob, and Joe were hanging out. Caleb headed back up to the condo shortly after I got down there.

Jacob – “Aunt Lindsay, are you gonna go back up soon?”
Me – “No, I’m going to read for a while, but you can go up whenever you want.”
Jacob – “I don’t want to go by myself. I want to go with someone.”
Me – “Well, if you hurry, you can probably catch up to Caleb pretty quickly.”
Jacob – “No, I want to go with an adult.”
Me – “Oh, okay, well I’m not going up for a while.”

Joe was watching a Big Brother episode on his phone a few chairs down from us. Jacob turned to Joe.

Jacob – “Hey Joe, are you going up soon?”
Joe – “Well, in a little while, but I want to finish this episode first.”
Jacob – “Okay.”
*** Jacob settles into the chair next to Joe. About five minutes lapse with Jacob occasionally asking, “Is your episode almost done?” or “Are you almost finished?” Joe finishes his episode and the two of them get up to leave. ***
Joe (to me) – “Welcome to the world of Es. We will wait thirty minutes just to have someone to walk down the hall with.”

Jacob is such an E. So is Joe. For sure. No doubt. Ashley and I are Is. So is Caleb. In fact, when we retold this story, Caleb said, “Welcome to the world of Is. We will wait thirty minutes just to walk down the hall alone.” Ha!

There was so much talk of Es vs. Is that we decided to take personality tests. Caleb, Ashley, and I are all ISFJs – also known as “The Defender – very dedicated and warm protectors, always ready to defend their loved ones.” Yep, I would say that is accurate! Jacob is indeed an extrovert – ENTP – also known as “The Debater – smart and curious thinkers who cannot resist an intellectual challenge.” Yep! His big brother says that is accurate for Jacob. (I found it funny that he is the complete opposite of Caleb.) Joe is ESFJ – also known as “The Consul – extraordinarily caring, social, and popular people, always eager to help.” We had Melissa to take the test after we got home and she strongly believes she’s an introvert, but we all know better. She got ENTJ – “The Commander – bold, imaginative, and strong-willed leaders, always finding a way – or making one.” As her trusty sidekick throughout life I can wholeheartedly agree that that description is accurate of my sister.

If anyone wants to take the test, go to http://www.16personalities.com. It’s a fun test to take and it tells you all about your personality type when you’re finished. Then tell me what you are! I want to know so I can read all about you and tell you if I agree.

I’ll wrap this up with a few photos of some of my favorite Es and Is.
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Searching

Lately Switchfoot has been singing the soundtrack of my life. Some of these songs are fifteen years old and some are pretty recent, but it’s like Jon Foreman is reading my mind and just saying things more eloquently than I could.

I feel like I’m quickly approaching a crossroads and I’m praying God will show me the right direction to take and that I’ll have the guts to follow through even if it’s to walk down an uncomfortable path. Comfort zones are overrated, I know, but I get awfully settled into mine.

I’m reading a book called Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. I just came across this book the other day in the Kindle Monthly Deals section and it was $2.99, so I bought it. I’m halfway through it now. This gal is so much like me, except she’s been brave where I have not, but the book shows me it didn’t come naturally, so that helps a little. Also, her sense of humor is very similar to my friend, Janie’s, so it just makes me like her even more. There have been moments reading this book where I’ve thought – Bingo. I could have written this exactly. It’s like she’s reading my mind.

I’m one week into an eight week Bible study called Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen.

Next up on my Must Read List: Do Over by Jon Acuff and another older Bible study by Jennie Allen called Restless: Because You Were Made For More.

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Is it obvious to anyone else that I’m itching for a change or is it just me?

It seems every time I have attempted to make a plan in this town, it has failed. (Not a plan like going to garage sales with my sister or going to see a movie with someone, but bigger things.) Ah, and there goes Switchfoot:

All attempts have failed, all my heads are tails
I’ve got teary eyes, I’ve got reasons why
I’m losing ground and gaining speed
I’ve lost myself or most of me
I’m heading for the final precipice
But You haven’t lost me yet

Then there’s this:

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

So, for that reason, for that wisdom, I have to be thankful that none of my plans are working out. I’d rather the Lord determine my steps than me, because He’s a whole lot wiser than I am, but I sure wish something would come together. A girl can only hang out in the bedroom she slept in the night she graduated high school in a dead end job in a lonely town for so long before something’s gotta give.

Again, Switchfoot –

I swore it would never come to this
the average, the obvious
I’m still discontented down here
I’m still discontented

If we’ve only got one try
If we’ve only got one life
If time was never on our side
Then before I die, I want to burn out bright

The future is a question mark
of kerosene and electric sparks
There’s still fire in you yet
Yeah, there’s still fire in you

I’m thankful for a God who reminds me of the good stuff even in a frustrating season of searching and trying to figure things out.

About four or five months ago, I took up running. Up until the month of June, it was pretty enjoyable because the weather was bearable. Now it’s just hot. The excessive sweating (and probably stress to an extent) have caused me to have the complexion of a fourteen year old, so that’s not fun. It’s so humid outside, it’s ridiculous. One morning last week, I happened to wake up on my own around 5:20 so I considered getting up to run. I checked my weather app and it was currently 100% humidity. One hundred percent. Needless to say, I decided not to run that morning. Louisiana summer has made running less fun, but I’m not giving up entirely. After several miserable runs, I recently went on one where there was a light breeze (for the first time in a while) and a light rain. It was still hot and sticky, but also refreshing in comparison to recent weeks. As I was finishing my cool-down walk on my way back to the house, I was walking right into the wind and it was such a welcome feeling, it was overwhelming. Then this came to mind:

Because of the Lord’s faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! – Lamentations 3:22-23

God gives me reminders like this at the perfect time. It was perfect for the moment – a much needed cool breeze on a hot, sticky morning – and it was perfect for this unsettled season of life.

It’s an uncomfortable prayer to pray when you ask God to keep you discontent and uncomfortable until you’re actually heading in the right direction, but that’s where I am. That’s the prayer I’ve prayed and that I’m still praying. Complacency comes naturally to me and digging in my heels is pretty bad habit of mine, so I’m praying for direction and for a clue and for bravery, and counting the blessings I have, because I have lots of them. I realize this sounds so contradictory unless you’ve been there. I’m thankful that even with this underlying unsettled, discontentedness that has been sticking with me, I notice all the simple pleasures like a great homemade iced mocha, puppy kisses, laughing around the table with family on Thursday nights, Grey’s Anatomy marathons at my sister’s house, and a ridiculously comfortable bed to sleep in at night. There’s a lot of good mixed in and that leaves me with a sense of gratitude.

So here’s praying for a clue and some guts.

Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You. Reveal to me the way I should go, because I long for You. – Psalm 143:8

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Bo Leporati is as good a father as you will find on this earth.

As a ten year employee at the child support office – which I didn’t even know existed until I interviewed for a job there – it has been made abundantly clear to me how blessed I am to have the dad I have. I see that there are a lot of biological fathers who did nothing more than participate in the creation of their child and otherwise have nothing to do with them. (This certainly isn’t the case all the time, but it is very common.)

Then there’s my dad.

My sisters and I never went without clothes or shoes that fit as we grew up.

We never missed a meal except for the time we were driving to Florida for vacation and nobody was hungry and I was asleep. I woke up the next day angry that I hadn’t had supper and tried to demand four meals that day to make up for the one I missed. What can I say – I’ve always loved food.

My dad took off work early for every one of my middle school basketball games, just to sit in the bleachers and watch me warm the bench. I wasn’t a star player and only even got put in the game if we were ahead by 20 points with a minute or two remaining, but Daddy was always there.

My dad picked me up one night at the high school after a marching band competition and gave me no choice but to drive us home in his new truck when I had no interest in learning to drive. The death of a friend in a car accident resulted in an aversion to driving, but Daddy knew I needed to do it, so I found him firmly planted in the passenger’s seat when I got to the truck. That’s one way to do it. Then shortly thereafter, once I had my license, he sold that same beloved new truck so he could buy me a used car and then he drove a company vehicle for years.

My dad would go out in the driveway at night and play basketball with Melissa and me. We spent a lot of time out there.

My dad would drive to the Calhoun ballpark on summer nights when Melissa, Craig, Greg, and I had ridden our bikes out there earlier in the day and we were too tired and it was too dark for us to ride back home safely. Daddy would load our bikes and the four of us up in his truck and drive us home without complaint.

My dad was kind to friends of his children and would treat them as well as he treated us. A lot of my childhood friends called him (and some still call him) “Daddy Bo”. He took in a few of our friends over the years and allowed them to live under his roof for a while when they needed it. At the moment, I’m living under his roof again.

When Mama called Daddy two years in a row to announce she had agreed to host a foreign exchange student, he took it all in stride. He was a wonderful host father to Jana and Sharon. I remember he taught Jana how to drive when she lived with us.

As a young child, after I counted my change all week long in anticipation of buying from the ice cream man and the ice cream man ripped me off and made me cry, Daddy got in his truck and chased him down to have a word with him. Then as a college student when I bought my first digital camera and UPS delivered an empty box to the front door, Daddy went back and forth between UPS and Sony, who were both blaming each other, and finally called Sony and told them, “Let me tell you how this is going to work. By next Friday, you are going to deposit. $___.__ into my daughter’s bank account.” Sony obliged. Daddy is such a kind and patient man, but when someone is messing with one of his children, he’ll step right up and work things out if necessary.

To this day, Daddy insists on changing the oil in my car because he knows he’ll do it right. When my car needs anything – new tires, new inspection sticker, new windshield – he runs those errands for me so I don’t have to take off work for it.

A few years ago, Daddy drove me to IKEA in Frisco, Texas, was patient as Mama and I spent hours roaming the store, then he loaded up all my purchases on his trailer and drove us back home. He spent the next few days putting together a bed frame, a dresser, a book case, a night stand, and a linen cabinet. He has helped paint many bedrooms, bathrooms, and pieces of furniture over the years.

When I was in college, Daddy once forced me to go to a Dave Ramsey seminar on a Friday night. It was the last place I wanted to be. My friends were having fun in Ruston that night and I was reluctantly sitting in a four hour financial seminar against my will. Since this seminar, I’ve become a Dave Ramsey fan and actually was finding it interesting by the time hour four was wrapping up, but I didn’t tell Daddy this until later. I wanted to keep up appearances of being mad that he made me go.

My dad will do anything he can to help anyone out. Acts of service are his thing. As his daughter, I’ve seen him serving people and treating others with respect and kindness my entire life. I know what a good man looks like, because I was raised by one. I think I can speak for all his girls when I say we could not love him more.

I’ve asked Daddy before if he was disappointed he never had any sons and only had daughters. His reply was, “I wouldn’t trade my girls for any boys in the world.” We wouldn’t trade him either. We couldn’t have dreamed up a better dad than the one God gave us.

For any friends who may read this who are fathers, know this – you matter. Even in the times when culture makes dads seem irrelevant, you matter. Your kids are paying attention. There are things your kids won’t understand or appreciate until years later sometimes, but keep being a good dad. You are incredibly special and important in your childrens’ lives and they are blessed to have you.