Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Same Black Dress... NEW Shoes!

I was there for one reason, but it quickly turned into another when she asked...

What size shoe do you wear?

and my answer,
sufficing her,

sent her running frantically into the next room

Here, try these on..

They look good on you...
I want you to have them...
I've been waiting for the right person to give them to...

and by the time that I walked out of there I had 22 new pairs!

The last time something like this happened was right before a transition when

my cousin brought me several large bags
filled with clothing
given to me by someone whom I had never even met

Even then we laughed and marveled as I declared...

"I may not know where I am going,
but I know what I will be wearing once I get there!"

And so here I am again...


and patiently waiting
to see where He leads me next


I don't mind...

wearing the same dress each week
receiving items previously worn by others
shopping from other people's closets


even though I may not always know

what my next step

will be
should be

I always know that He is ahead of me

those steps

So I'll put on my "new shoes" and my "same black dress"

and walk humbly
and confidently

while still praying...

"Walk with me, Lord"

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snippets... We Bless Your Name

"We Bless Your Name"
by Tondra Denise

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul
for He is holy

All the honor, all the praise
and all the glory

So we bow before you Lord
humbly adore thee

And with one accord
one praise
yes, one refrain

We bless your Name

Click each title below to hear a snippet...

(extended version)
(short version)

Friday, February 21, 2014

"That N-gga"

I took a seat to wait for my lunch order...

I had 25 minutes until my next appointment

A group of young men (whom I presume were college students from the University next door)
walked in and sat at the table next to me

Man #1:  Did that n-gga say what he wanted? 
Man #2:  No, I forgot to ask him
Man #1:  Well I'll just get that n-gga the lunch special

I pulled out my phone and checked the time...

23 minutes

Man #2:  So how did you meet that n-gga?
Man #1:  Man, I've know that n-gga for years, since Jr. High
Man #3:  (laughing)
Man #1:  That n-gga hasn't changed either.  He's always been like that
Man #2:  That n-gga is cool though
Man #1:  Yeah, that's my n-gga!

I lifted my eyes from the phone screen and turned to look at the young men

Man #1 spoke again and I got a closer look at him

He was...

clean cut
nicely dressed

He was obviously...

baby boy

22 minutes

The other two were also young
and I was shocked to realize that Man # 3

who sat

with his back turned to me

was actually white!

I looked down at my phone and sat thinking about how
they sat at lunch counters

black and white alike



so that I could sit here today and not have to hear "that n-gger"

But we've become so desensitized that we make


for our "recreational use" of the word

we've changed the letters
adopted it as our own
and passed it along to our children

And as I sat
barely breathing

I wondered

if I should say something to the young men
how I should say it

There's a rich history here
and I only had

20 minutes and 17 seconds

so I sat...

But they sat at lunch counters to take a stand
I had only 19 minutes remaining until my next appointment

and my order was up

so I quickly grabbed my food and left
without saying a word


I did not know how to
speak up
make a difference

I did not know how to
take a seat
take a stand

Monday, February 17, 2014

"APFLH" Children's Art Studio- The Art of Love

My children were excited when I told them we were hosting a special
Valentine's Crafts and Kid's Movie Night

We moved the couches, brought in tables and chairs from the Children's Art Studio, and
gave the children materials to create cards and crafts to share with the people they love... 

Heart Art 

We watched a movie about believing in the impossible
and just as the movie was ending
my mother called to inform me that my younger cousin was visiting from Texas,
and my aunt was on her way to my house so that she could say "hello"

As I waited for them, I began to think about...

my cousins
my family
my children

and all of the moments we have shared in this house

I remembered that
she was actually one of my first "child care students"

when I babysat her and her older sisters the summer of 1990

and NOW she travels with a company performing stage plays for children 
because she says it combines two of her greatest loves... art and children

It was the perfect full circle moment!

The next day another one of my former students and her mom came by for...

Marble Painting
Plastic Pencil Box w/ lid

Step 1:  Put paper in the box...
Step 2:  Put paint covered marbles in the box...
Step 3:  Shake the box...
and discover a new way to create a "Jackson Pollock" inspired look

The perfect culminating moment to this weekend experience came when
the mom asked her 4 yr. old daughter if she was ready to leave my house 
without looking up
without blinking 
without hesitation
she calmly answered...

I smiled
realizing that my life's


is still
and will always be
right here

(Next month we say... "Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss")

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Lesson in Love... Don't Miss the Bus

He ran with a limp

It looked
quite painful to be honest
quite odd

until I actually saw the object of his affection...

the city bus

And he would have to cross two lanes of traffic to get there
with no guarantee that the bus driver would even wait for him

but he was

willing to risk it
willing to run

with arms waving and a noticeable limp, not caring who saw his desperation because...

his purpose was greater than his pride

And amazingly enough the world around him stopped moving
as drivers and street pedestrians alike paused

silently cheering

"C'mon, you can make it.  You can make it"

and when he finally did
there was a collective sigh of relief because

he had conquered what so many of us often


and that is allowing others to see

our limp
our vulnerability
our weakness

We would much rather just wait for the next bus
than to put ourselves out there like that

But in life we must be willing to... 

say it
show it
give it
live it


we cannot truly live, unless we are willing to love, and
we cannot truly love, unless we are willing to run

across lanes of traffic during the middle of the day

arms waving
limping awkwardly toward our goal

eyes filled with desperation...

and hope

as others stop to


(or maybe even laugh and point)

We cannot truly celebrate love
unless we are willing to put ourselves out there like that, but

today I was reminded by a total stranger that...

It is okay to run with a limp
as long as you also run with a purpose!

Click to read...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

About Love... It's Our Anniversary

If you've been reading along, then you already know that in our home we celebrate love by...

10.  Remembering the good, the bad, and the in-between
 9.  Using our hands
 8.  Being our best selves
 7.  Seeing the best in others
 6.  Singing and laughing together

We're halfway through the countdown and we've just come to my favorite way to celebrate!

5.  Spending Time Together
As a couple...
We traveled to Bali, Indonesia the summer of the year we were married

and even though we traveled with 14 other married couples
we still managed to find time to get away...

as a quiet walk along a path
led down 182 steps
to a private beach

where we

sat and observed
talked and listened

to sounds of the crashing ocean waves

The attendant (the only other person there)
played soft music and burned incense as an offering...

It was just the two of us spending time together and it was absolutely beautiful

But now that we have two children...
(getting away is not always an option)

so last year my hubby surprised me with special time together right at home! 

I arrived from work to find all of the lights out and as I struggled to unlock the door it suddenly opened from the inside.  My children stood at the door, greeting me, dressed in their Sunday Best

The girl took my things and put them away
The boy took my arm and led me into the kitchen

where the table was set for a candlelit dinner complete with

freshly prepared food
sparkling grape and apple cider
and our favorite songs playing quietly in the background

After I was seated...

my hubby stepped in quietly from the other room
dressed in his Sunday best
with flowers

and a "Happy Anniversary" that took my breath away!

Click here for the countdown finale!

Monday, February 10, 2014

About Love... We Sing Together

They were bickering like nobody's business and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why

But then just moments later, a song sprang forth

He started
she joined in

and as they sang together
the mood in the room changed

and before I knew it
they were laughing

I think that's the first time that I realized that...

"When you sing together, you agree"

which now occurs to me as the reason the church elders use to warn us as young people...

"Be careful who/what you

listen to
sing along with
let entertain you"

because they too realized that if you

sing together
laugh together

you will begin to agree
(its called "harmony" for a reason)

and to agree
is to become one

I was singing in the choir on the day my hubby

walked into our church
headed down the middle aisle
was water baptized into the Name of the Lord

He joined the choir not long after that
sat next to me

and from that day forward we've been learning how to

sing together
laugh together

(or something like that)

And this week as we celebrate our 14th wedding Anniversary
I can't help but smile as I look back at how things have unfolded


I am so glad
that God is teaching us how to become one as we...

6. Sing Together, Laugh Together

A gift from my Baby Girl...
because she knows that her momma loves music!
Click here to continue with the countdown

Saturday, February 8, 2014

About Love... When Life is Puzzling

Sometimes life is puzzling

Why do things work this way?
Why do they act like that?
How should I handle this?

Yes, life can be downright confusing at times
 and doesn't always make sense because
we do not see the entire picture

But I'm learning that people see what they want to see...

You go looking for trouble?
You will find it...

You want mess?
You want confusion?
It's all right there waiting for you...

You want peace, love, joy?
Open your eyes and see it...

When I was younger my mother taught me how to put a puzzle together

She said...
"Find the corner and edge pieces first"
(a lesson that I'm sharing with my children)

So first I printed the photographs...

Glued foam squares onto the backs of the pictures...

Covered the front with contact paper
and ran them through the die cut machine...

to make a puzzle for each of my kiddos!

I'll use this to remind them that sometimes life is puzzling

and you will need to sit down
find a corner
start with the edges and slowly reconnect the pieces
until the picture has become clear again

I'll remind them that when they are trying to put the pieces
of life together they must first start with the corner
(Ephesians 2:20)

and learn to focus on the entire picture because it says...

If you're looking for a reason to doubt...
you will find it

If you're looking for a reason to believe...
you will (with great contentment)
have all the proof you need

-Tondra Denise

So I'll teach them that as much as it is within their power
they should always try to first

7.  See the Best in Others

Friday, February 7, 2014

About Love... Trading in My Coffee Mug?

"Where's my COFFEE??"

I began to scream from the inside out
until what was silently spoken began to leak out...

I can't function without my coffee

I need coffee

You promised coffee

How do you expect me to work on a SATURDAY...
with no COFFEEEEE?

and moments later

my manager
and then next
my supervisor

each brought me a cup of the stuff that I was craving

and I was happy but wondering...

Is this what addiction feels like?

And my mind drifted back to the days when I used to drink
homemade fruit and veggie creations like...
"Morning Surprise"
Cucumber, Celery, Parsley, Pear, and a Pink Lady Apple (not pictured)

"My Breakfast Medley"
Spinach, Carrot, Strawberry, Orange

"Berry Blast"
Strawberries, Blueberries, Grapes, Carrot
"Pink Lady Delight"
Spinach, Tomato, Grapes, and 2 Pink Lady Apples
And if I remember correctly during those days
I also felt
(and I certainly wasn't screaming belligerently for coffee)
And so, I've decided that maybe a few days a week
I will trade in my coffee mug for...

"A Cup of Green Goodness"
Spinach, Kiwi, Banana, Pear, Pineapple

Because after all, you cannot truly celebrate love unless you are living at your best!

8. Be the Best You

(Click here to continue with the rest of the countdown...)

Monday, February 3, 2014

About Love... Somewhere Over the Rainbow Loom

I had never heard of it until recently, but apparently it is the "it thing" right now...

and my children have found such delight in


these Rainbow Loom bracelets for everyone in our family!

I watch...

and marvel at the level of

attention to detail
and the amount of time

they are willing to spend on this

I smile...

and consider the amount of

satisfaction and joy
they appear to be

receiving in the giving of these creations

Gratitude and Grace has shown up right here

with my kiddos as I realize that

they've found more than just a hobby
they've found a demonstration of love!

Because another way we celebrate love is by taking the time to...

9. Use Our Hands

And then...

I see the nail scarred hands of Christ, and
I am reminded that the greatest way to 

to show love is

right there...
right here...

as it becomes

our life's purpose
our offering
our prayer

"Lord, use our hands"

Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might... Eccl 9:10a

(Click here to continue with the countdown)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Remembering the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

February is the "Month of Love"

and in addition to Valentine's Day in our home we also celebrate...

my hubby's birthday
my mother's birthday
our wedding anniversary

all within a matter of two weeks!


we take pictures
we document
we talk about

and revisit

the moments that have made us


and everything else in-between because

We celebrate by remembering...

that our greatest lessons in love
have come from learning to see the beauty within these everyday moments

My hubby created this chocolate surprise for our anniversary a few years ago and we loved it so much that the following year I decided to bring out the fountain again for his birthday...

Only problem?

I didn't watch the fountain


the chocolate exploded


splattered all over

the table
the tray
the floor

the curtains
the wall
the door

(no, this isn't Dr. Seuss)

But then...

as we were cleaning "the mess", the children pointed out the design that had been created

so we decided to set the tray out as it was,
and some of the guests thought that the chocolate drizzle was intentional...

a "Jackson Pollock" art inspired dessert tray!

their reaction taught me that sometimes mistakes can be beautiful

that we

honor our love
celebrate our love
share our love

when we remember

the true story...
the full story...
the entire story...

which includes

the good
the bad

and even
everything else