Happy New Year!

Here we are. The end of 2008 and looking toward a great new year. What a whirlwind! As I woke up with the sunshine beaming through our bedroom window ~ hitting me right there in the eyes as if it was a puppy pulling on my robe to get up, I began thinking of how great life is here in Sunny.

Imagine. We can go to our dear Big Box store and find leg of lamb direct from New Zealand in the best of condition. Or we can choose the rotisserie chicken already cooked for $4.99 any day of the week. And eggs! Although the prices keep going up, when you think about it...wow, what a deal. Gas is going down. Pizza's still cheap in most Italian restaurants. What a hometown.

And then my thoughts drifted to Israel. And I began to cry. God forgive me for ever complaining about anything here in Sunny. Regardless of the stock market situation or not being able to find the right sweater to wear when we go out for dinner tonight, God has blessed us so greatly. Please God ~ forgive us and be with our brothers and sisters who are hurting. Help us to help them more. Help us to care. And thank you for Sunny.


Wear a Crown, Wear a Crown...

I used to know the lyrics to that hymn in Spanish too, but it's been a long time since Sunday School. We didn't really have many Hispanic kids, but learning songs in another language was always cool, wasn't it! There was "Deep and Wide, Deep and Wide" with the fountain flowing deep and wide ~ along with the one about Jesus wanting me as His sunbeam and then of course, we all played "Shoot the Artillery" not comprehending the war in Vietnam, I'm sure... Those were interesting days and the songs in Sunday School were a part of our week that we all loved.

I received word today that dear Sis. Shell (see previous post for clarification as to her title) is in the process of getting her crown fitted today. She passed into Glory yesterday. Can you imagine? Going to sleep as a old woman and waking up in Glory! The crown she will have will be so full of rewards I can't comprehend it. Imagine ~

You see, it was her calling to lead our children's church, her life's calling. We didn't have "Family Sundays" once a month so she could sit in big church. We didn't have alternative services with bands and low lighting on Saturday night. There was just Sunday School and Children's Church. I don't remember other adults as part of her 'ministry team' but I sure remember Sis. Shell. She loved us. She taught us Scripture. She showed us the motions. She asked us if we were sure we had Jesus in our hearts... and now...she's there - in that New Jerusalem.


Christmas Treats

I'd gathered my apron, the new baking pans and loaded the counter with powdered sugar, softened butter and the lot... The only decision to make was picking out my favorite recipe with which to begin. I found these two and simply could not decide. They are from my home church's cookbook printed around 1975 and these recipes are from pages 138 and 139. Both were submitted by "Sis. Phillips." (We never dared call anyone by their given name. It was always "Sister or Brother" and in print...always "Sis." or "Bro." I guess it seemed more like a title when it was abbreviated.)

Here we go:

1 cup margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour

Cream oleo & sugar. Work in flour, vanilla, & nuts. Shape into small balls about the size of small walnuts. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350* for 20 minutes. When cool, roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 5 dozen.

And recipe #2:

1 cup margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Cream margarine and powdered sugar. Work in vanilla, flour and nuts. Shape into small balls about size of walnut. Place on unoiled baking sheet. Bake at 350* 20 minutes. Cool. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes 5 dozen.

They really were wonderful. When DJ came into the kitchen he picked one up and asked, "What do you call these?" Priceless.


Great Plans

We'd been learning about God and his great plans for us all as referenced in Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11. The children had paid close attention and were ready to complete their papers at the end of Sunday School. One assignment was to fill in the blank: God plans to ___________.

Cameron is sure that God plans to give her a DS for Christmas.


Counting Calories

Yes, I felt a little silly at the checkout counter at our nearby grocery store. My cart was full of baking supplies for Christmas cookies. $92.03 to be precise. However - there were two items thrown in as well.... two large 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke...

In the Midst of Arising Clatter

That is the line, eh ~ "There arose such a clatter..." We're all so busy this week and the season is zooming by as quickly as Rudolph's team in training. In the midst of it all, I saw this fabulous new video from an organization that is near and dear to my heart. I hope you'll take the 2:04 to check it out. Oh yes ~ it's about kids, hope, love, kids eating...adult heroes... good stuff.


Simple Beauty

There may be a personality test with these questions on the internet somewhere. It seems they have one for every persuasion possible these days... But I've been wondering ~

Please pick your favorite Christmas event:
  • The Rockettes in concert
  • A big boat parade with Santas on each vessel
  • Dancing the night away to big band music
  • Pondering the birth of Christ to a single guitar playing "Silent Night" in a candle-lit sanctuary

For me - it's the last one, hand's down. I love parades of most any sort. I enjoy the Rockettes and amazed at how they do what they do. I don't really dance (except for that number in "Two From Galilee), but simple beauty at Christmas ~ well, it just can't be topped in my book.

So what does that reveal about me? My Starbucks quiz says I'm easy to please although somewhat particular. My art style quiz says I like to dream up my own civilization or such... I honestly can't recall what either summary of my psyche 'truly' revealed. But this I know ~ To think of the King of Heaven coming to earth to rescue folk like me, as a little baby... wonder and awe seem to be the celebration of choice this year. God becoming man. Watching movies like "Elf" doesn't seem to quite to cut it.


Thanks Martha!

This year is adding up to be an odd one on the holiday-cheer-meter. Maybe it's our unending sunshine combined with no pressure of involvement with a Christmas musical or such... I'm not sure why but it has felt like it should still be August since, well, August. Sunny never becomes a Winter Wonderland, but this year has been full of more than the normal amount of warm days.
Suffice it to say (I'm honestly not sure what that means but I grew up hearing the phrase used by highly intelligent guests in our home) I've been struggling to find the necessary oomph needed to decorate our home, shop for gifts and start baking for Christmas Eve, Day and the week following. Which brings me to expressing joy to that one and only "Miss Martha Stewart." I caught five minutes of her program today and I am ready. Ready to mix up the pecans in spices and fill the teensy-tiny glass jars with them. Ready to go online and download her entire assortment of stencils. Ready to buy the fabric paint to adorn the linen tea towels and create ever-so-simple holly and ivy on the border. I may actually ~ tackle the fleece scarves.

Just you wait ~ if we're friends and we exchange real gifts in the real world...Just you wait. Who wants their pecans "Hot & Spicy" and who wants them "Cinnamon-Sugary" or dare I even suggest it ~ a sinful combination of the two... oh my!

Thanks Martha. I'm not sure what happened in your life before, but I'm really glad you're out of jail now and we're on the same team.

A glimpse at part of my very own tree.


Door #1

I'd rather have made a nice espresso. It's just been that sort of a day. Rush here, rush there, and rush some more. Poor Max had met me at the door and was so excited to go "check those coyotes" (our new term for, you know...). Unfortunately, Mama had to leave right again to make a quick trip to the Post Office.

I'd gathered my forty-two cents from the change holder in the car's console and rushed inside to buy the single stamp needed to mail the important document off to Central Central. Spinning around to drop the letter in the mail drop ~ I stopped. A very distinguished looking lady was putting her Christmas cards in the top slot. Two by Two. One - Two. One - Two. And so on...

As soon as she walked away I opened the large door right there underneath the teensy slot and dropped in my one lone envelope. Just because. And I smiled at no one in particular.

Max has been by my side since the moment I walked back in the door. We're going to have a good night of snuggle-time. It's just been that sort of a day...


Herd ~ We're Part of the Herd

Here's the proposal: When you find yourself leaving the Big Box store or perhaps in line at Target, K-Mart or Walmart....just start a gentle "Moo" and see who joins in with you.

I look forward to some interesting "Thoughtful Remarks."

Happy Holidays!


Just Two Pages

This morning I found myself adjusting the radio dial ~ or the cd track, I'm not quite sure which, as I waited for the red light to change. I glanced to my left... The woman driving the car next to me was entranced with a novel in front of the steering wheel. When the light turned green, she put the bookmark in place and sat it down before speeding up and entering the freeway.

Don't you find yourself wondering what was so interesting? It was only a block after the last light...


Warp Speed

Does life seem to be chugging along at warp speed out there? zoom-zoom-zoom as the commercial says....

With a few days off this week, it's been wonderful to take time to chat with a friend, pet our dog a bit more and ponder things. I realize this doesn't sound like an amazing way to spend Thanksgiving ~ but it's been good. A laugh here and there with my laughter support group, time to check in with the family, etc... Good times.

As we muddle through this busy time with all the festivities, I hope we can all find time to check in here and there. You're loved ~ Amy, Christelle, Elaine, Faith (of Faith, Hope & Love), Sheri, Beth, Liz, Joy, Cindy Lou, our miracle Elizabeth, and oh dear, I'm sure to leave someone out.... please forgive me if I do and leave me a comment. I'll add your name, because that's what friends do. They just do it. Isn't that "Edit Post" fabulous??


Always On the Job

I've been off to the frequently referred-to big box store again today. Thankfully, I do not have another absurdity of shopping at the big box store story for you. All the chicken packages were priced correctly and I suppose it is time for Christmas items to be on the shelves....

Here's today's news update:
We have a family in the church just over the road who own an amazing pizza place. DJ and I go there frequently and I absolutely love the aroma that hits you in the face and takes your breath away. Oh, I've digressed ~ sorry... Back to the tale --- I was coming around the corner in the big box store and bumped into the Grandma of this Italian family. She had one item in her cart and it was sitting on top of one of their LARGE pizza boxes. Does this make you smile? Does this cause you to wonder if she brought it along just in case someone got hungry or asked for a sample?

Ah...the things to ponder...

Enjoy your weekend. Find some good aroma and breathe deeply. It does wonders for our souls.


Thanks So Much!

Oh what a treat! I've been blessed with this kind award by Cindy at Consider It All Joy. What a delight. I think the rules are to list ten things that make me happy ~ unless I'm mixing this up with another award and if that's the case, please forgive me. I am becoming more blond each month....

Here we go with my list of happy things:

  • Picking up the phone to hear JJ or Honey say, "Hi"
  • Seeing Max run into our arms, or climb on our heads or attack our bouncy limbs under the cozy blanket just to play
  • Hearing the organ lift the hymn with a key change and realizing all the stops are open on Sunday morning
  • Receiving e-mail or a note on facebook from a dear friend or a brand new friend
  • Really, really crisp onion rings that make your mouth water
  • Barbecue aromas
  • Seeing DJ walk in the door with his fabulous smile every single time
  • Every phone call with my laughter-support group (you know who you are)
  • Sunshine
  • Knowing, absolutely, completely ~ that I am forgiven and going to Heaven

So there it is! I'd like to pass this on to:

Amy at Life and Times

Christelle at Beloved Mama

and you. If you're a faithful reader of Grace Today...Please join the fun. Happy things bless each one of us. And it is time to say "Thanks."

Lots of love ~



Our Amazing God

Once again, I've heard from a dear friend. I felt that small tug to keep them close to my heart and whisper prayers for them yesterday. And hearing from them today ~ without knowing any of their appointments yesterday ~ they went through a minor surgical procedure. Coincidence? Hardly. Rather a confirmation from a very big God that He is aware of each and every small detail of our lives. At least that's the way I see it here in this little office at home.

These things happen far more often than any of us remember to write down in our Daytimers. I think I'll start doing that. Purposefully noting the acts of care I become aware of in which I see God assuring me of his amazing love. That may be my theme for 2009. "Yes, Jesus loves me." He really, really does.

I can't think of a better way to start this weekend, or make it through the rest of November or all of the busy Christmas season or.....

Go on ~ give yourself a little hug from Grace in Sunny ~ just because.


How Was Your Day Off?

Tuesday was quite a delightful day ~ We had a group of about 19 children and six or so adults visiting the local animal park. I say "about" and "or so" because I believe my day was spent counting heads. Depending on who was too tired for this thing or that thing, this ride or that ride, wanted ice cream or dippin' dots, frozen lemonade or a meatball sandwich...the count was always just a little different.

We had an amazing day and the most frequent sound was laughter. We saw ring-tailed lemur, okapi, spider's webs and lots of ducks. One girl lost her backpack and we found it ~ an hour later. No one dropped their ice cream all day. We discovered who is afraid of honeybees and who isn't. And I found out that for several of our kids, the ride in the van was the very best part of the day.

My "Day Off" was one of the best so far in Sunny.


What Fun!

Just when you might be tempted to think the world is becoming a horrible place and Thursdays are not much better than Wednesdays, even though you're closer to Fridays... Just at that moment ~ you may come across the most wonderful thing you could imagine...

It's a cupcake lounge. Right near downtown Sunny. You can go there, order your favorite tasty treat and it comes in the perfect two-and-a-half bite size. Ordering a second selection will then be the next best thing you could imagine...


Oh My! II

Really, I agree with Jon over at SCL, Christians will be blogging in abundance over the election ~ but about all I can muster tonight is:

Oh My!

And I seem to be missing a few of the gadget buttons for composing posts. Is anyone else dealing with this?? I can't link or center or left or right things or change the color... Perhaps I'm choosing to focus on the trivial at this moment, because I can't quite process what's just happened...


"Cover the Earth"

We have some dear friends who've made several trips to Thailand over the past few years. JJ was asked to join them twice and I thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of their adventures. Many of you also contributed to his account and we so appreciated your help with their taking the Good News to this country. If you look closely, you'll see JJ on drums once or twice. The sights shown range from the local churches to a terminal cancer ward to a few of the local schools and orphanages.

If you're interested in knowing more about this ministry, please leave a "thoughtful remark" or contact me by e-mail. I hope you enjoy this National Geographic moment...


Come and Worship

It's not a new subject. We've been seeing this sort of thing for many years. Yes, I know musicians need to eat and need to get paid. Yes, we know lights and microphones and publicity cost quite a lot... All this is true.

However. That's such a transition, isn't it? However...receiving an e-mail today from a large church on the other side of Sunny, I felt my skin start crawling. We were invited to a night of worship with a great musical group. They're wonderful. I clicked on the button for more information.

I found a layout of the church's seating chart, color coded to show the price of tickets which ranged from $19.50 to $50.

Do you remember reading about Sister Knizek here at Grace Today? http://grace-gracetoday.blogspot.com/2008/06/loadin-up.html (I couldn't get the link button to work.) The post was titled Loadin' Up...


Time's Up

Today I heard a story that is just too good not to share with you. As you know, or may not until right now...we have a preschool at the church where I work. The children are just adorable. There's not a better way to brighten your day than watching them for a few minutes here and there.

One of our pastors told me about seeing a little guy (age 2) at the end of his recess one morning. The teacher ~ a tall young man ~ had been supervising the children as they 'drove' their cars. Now, obviously, the cars were self propelled by their little legs and feet. It was time for lunch and they needed to go inside. "OK, everybody park your cars now." All the kids put their cars in the parking lot on the side of the courtyard except for one little guy who drove it right to the teacher's feet. He got out and was scampering away. The teacher reminded him, "Hey, buddy, you need to park your car!"

"Aren't you the valet?" he asked in total sincerity.

Happy Tuesday!


So Fun...

It really was the most fun you could have on a trip ever...

We went out west last Thanksgiving and I was able to surprise my dear friend, CCR, live and in person. Her very good son recently posted this video of the big day on You Tube. So now we must be on our way to celebrity status. At least in our little worlds...

Enjoy the fun!


I Promise, I Won't

It seems about once a week I arrive at the merging spot going into the village and find myself behind a school bus at the light. This area takes a few minutes of our time for us to get on our various ways. Yesterday I noticed a warning on the back of the bus. It was in white paint posted on the bumper right below the emergency exit door:

Do Not Lift By Bumper
OK, I promise, I will not do this. Ever.


Nope, I Wasn't Kidding

Nope, Sister Sheri...in response to your comment on my last post...I wasn't joking! This will take you to the site and you can play Christmas music all day!

I think I'll start organizing Santa's workshop in the back room tonight.


Oh for Goodness' Sake!

At 6:15 this morning, I heard an amazing statement on the local radio station here in Sunny. I thought it was the host sharing that unique early-morning humor. But no ~ it's true.

Today, October 20th, they are going 24/7 Christmas. Can you imagine! Now, don't misunderstand, I adore Christmas music. I think it's wonderful that the halls, malls, and stalls are brimming with messages of Good Cheer and praise for the birth of our Savior and recalling other holiday memories such as the Grinch growing a heart, Grandma and that silly reindeer, Charlie Brown finding the perfect tree and such...

But on October 20th? Amazing.


A Prop I Tell You...

We've just finished a lovely week-end here with some new friends in Sunny. It was the annual Women's Retreat and we certainly did just that. The sunshine was beautiful, the food was quite tasty and only one friend got stung by a bee.

I was asked to help with a portrayal of great biblical truth at one event. We shared some wonderful views of Christianity as seen through children's eyes. Yes, you've probably read those in one e-mail or another. Kids' statements and confusions over what they hear in church make me chuckle, too ~ but then I usually find myself a bit sad as it shouldn't be so humorous to us. But that's the grown-up in me who wants kids to know just how much God loves them and not see the Bible or Church as such a mystery... I will, however, save that sermon for another day.

I'd brought my prop along and didn't realize I'd be sharing a room at first. Imagine what my roommate must have thought when she walked in and saw this on my bed:

When it was time to go "Night-Night" I did put it over on top of the suitcase...


My New Spot

I've found it.
This is it.
My new spot.
Every Tuesday (pending rain, of course) I plan on taking a little sandwich along with me to the office and walking to the surprisingly comfortable concrete bench here to have lunch. If I see a dolphin, I'll say hi.


Really, It's What They Said

We were at the game yesterday over at the big stadium near Sunny. It's always fun to be there in person and see what happens on the field before it starts. There were balloon people figuring out where to put their balloon sculptures. A group of men came in wearing blue shirts that I assumed must have been a choir ~ but no. They don't have choirs at football games I was told.

And then I heard it. No one else was really listening. After I heard it I laughed really loudly and then the announcer repeated it. Perhaps he heard me laughing and wanted to clarify things...

"Please choose a Designated Driver. Come to elevators 1, 2 or 4 or see us in area B. You'll receive a coupon for a free water."

Yes. We heard this announcement three times while waiting for the game to begin. I wonder if there was a rush on the coupons...


Please Take Three Minutes

My good friend from over at the university has done it again. He sends me such interesting e-mail ~ I don't know whether I'll be on the floor laughing, or crying, or just plain happy after reading them. But this one ~ well ~ it is right up there with the best of his referrals.

I don't intend to promote any particular political persuasion here at Grace Today. That is not my calling. If it is your calling ~ well, good for ya'. But some things just need to be seen and heard and this video is one of them.

I'm not Catholic. My heritage is Assemblies of God which is pretty different as far as church services go. But I claim some Irish blood, I love Maria Shriver and I think potatoes are just the most amazing thing we've received from Ireland. Now that last sentence doesn't have too much to do with this video, but perhaps I've grabbed your attention.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this. (See ~ a statement of faith.) Grins.


Lots of Love

This is my good friend. Nope. Not good friend. He's much more dear than that. He's family~for sure. It's our dear Derek. He lives too far away. But a couple of years ago, he and his lovely daughter, Jayne, came to visit us and we took in a few shows at the Marine Park near Sunny. Jayne was quite concerned about someone falling in the large water tank, but not Derek...He knew all along it was a 'plant.' He's just that sort of gentleman. He gets things.

Life's been a bit difficult for our dear Derek recently and I'm hoping that my amazing friends that stop in here at Grace Today will join me in praying for his speedy recovery and ask God to be with him and bless him as he heals from a recent surgery.

And the next time we make plans to go see the fishes and tour the seaside, we'll have cotton candy together right after a funnel cake with strawberries ~ because we'll just be that incredibly happy. I'll be sure to tell you all about it next Spring. Promise.

This is your hug from all of us, Derek!


How About This

Sometimes, especially on Mondays, you need a little heart-brightener. I received one today from my good friend Carol. Yes, I'm using her actual name and not making up a bloggy acronym like Friend-From-The-West-Moochie-Baby-Gal... It's Carol. And I have a few friends named Carol, so if you know me and have been to my house in Sunny, you'll just have to wonder which Carol it is that I'm mentioning here. (A little mystery is always more fun, eh.)

This is a photo of Carol's cat. Honestly ~ it is really her cat and not just some photo I found on the internet or somebody sent me in a collection of darling cat photos that you just love but really annoy you, because you don't have time to look at all 56 of them...

Do you see it? Is that not the most adorable heart ever on a cat?? awww....



Oh...it is so very beautiful here in Sunny today. To those of you in foreign spots with rain, clouds or thunder...I'm sorry. There's just something amazing about bright sunshine and the crispness of autumn. It makes you want to turn on college football to listen to the band for team's you've never even heard of or intend to watch them play again. And apples ~ you want to buy apples even if you're more of a chocolate pie person.

For me, this season takes me back to childhood days and the Oklahoma State Fair. The Oklahoma City State Fair always happened the last two weeks of September. The Tulsa State Fair was always just a week or so later. And yes ~ even when I was a little girl I would snicker to think about the situation of having two entirely separate State Fairs. Is it the State Fair or not?

1965 at the real State Fair


Old, So Old

Yes, the festivities are over. Now it's just going on with life with one more crinkle (those little baby wrinkles that one doesn't like to acknowledge). My friends took me to a delightful spot for lunch to celebrate the big day. We all had burgers ~ but there were signs all about stating the quality of the grass on which the burgers had well, come from...I really struggle with speaking of these issues. Just let me eat the burger and pretend it just came from the store wrapped nicely in the plastic.

Recently I was reading through information on the Passover. I will never be able to read about that time or the Passion of Christ without complete amazement about the Lamb. Now, of course, Christ was the sacrificial Lamb, but that isn't what I'm referring to precisely. The history of the lambs used for Passover were brought into the homes for at least one year prior to the sacrificial offering for each family. How could you have a little lamb in your home and not fall completely in love with it? How could you then take it out back...or whatever the procedure was...and, well, you know, do what God required?

Seriously, I don't mean to be morbid, but how could you do that? But they knew it was what God required. And we struggle with having to attend Church and Sunday School...


A Beautiful Day

Thank you, thank you! I have received so many really sweet birthday wishes this week. My goodness, that facebook site is certainly changing our lives! Boom, bam in three seconds we can do what it used to take a week to achieve between Hallmark and the Post Office....

JJ & Honey sent me a really fun gift and DJ and I have plans for later in the week with Gramma & Grandpa. Today the crew at church is going to lunch somewhere by the sea and tonight I get to have lots of fun with our 4th and 5th graders. All in all, this is shaping up to be a very nice celebration of one more candle on my cake...


Geared Toward the Youth...

Did 'ja see that last comment by Amy on the last post?? She mentioned that her church has Sunday night services 'geared toward the youth' with dark lighting, etc.... Now, that made me chuckle. DJ and I have been really wonderin' the past few years what the thinking was/is regarding our 'modern' services that remind us more of saloons in West Texas than a church.

But that's just me. I guess I inherited more than I thought from my mother... and if you knew her ~ you're smiling. Aren't you!


On Sunday Night

What happened to "Sunday Night?" Now, if you've always watched 60 minutes, you don't remember having to grab your Bible right when the flying monkeys came out during the annual presentation of "The Wizard of Oz" or you didn't grow up in a church-going home as a kid...well, you can probably skip this post... But for the rest of us...What happened to Sunday Night church?

Growing up in let's say 'unique' times in American Christianity, it seemed that Sunday nights were the services we absolutely had to attend if we were going to be in the right place. Denominational differences didn't matter much ~ my friends went to all sorts of churches. Of course, most people went to church where I grew up, Christian or not...

I can't honestly tell you too many sermon topics from my teenage years. But I do remember that going for pizza or to Denny's or laughing in the best burger spots in town after the Sunday night services were some of the most special times of that era in my life. It wasn't a 'youth' thing. We all went! Riding in your friend's car and chatting with their parents was part of the weekly adventure. And then, families had tables pushed together at these places serving their outstanding cuisine. Laughter and love were mixed in as freely as if they were the best appetizers and desserts on the menu.

I know, I know, we're busy now. The argument against Sunday night services is commonly raised that people are busier in this new generation and need their rest on Sunday evenings. Maybe so. But most of my friends have time and energy to watch Sunday night football (after Sunday afternoon football), Cold Case and perhaps (shhh) Desperate Housewives. And in our PST zone, we don't have that early CST zone with the news on at 10; it comes on at 11 out here...


"Just Until We Get to Know You"

JJ, as you may know, is nearing the end of studies at University. When he was in 2nd grade, we joined our credit union here in Sunny. It's just about clockwork....every Friday morning I go in and get our happy stash to pay for fun stuff for the weekend. Usually at about the same time, even...

Last week, the nice gal at the counter asked to see my ID before finishing things up with me, instead of just asking for my password. "Sure," I said, but felt a little silly as they all call me by name. (JJ can attest to this; he finds it really humorous.)

This morning, the somewhat serious young man asked me for my ID as well. I inquired if this was a new policy. "No, it's just until we get to know you." I laughed a little and he didn't understand that at all. "Well, I've been coming in once a week for around 15 years now, so I guess it's a new policy then." "No Ma'am ~ it's just until we get to know you."



Nope, I'm not going there today.
But it sure looks inviting, eh...


12 Smooshes High

The Red Team was the winner this morning! Well, actually both teams 'won.' How can you pick between two teams full of speed, innocence and effort?? The prize they each got to take home was a cd we're using for our worship in kids church all year...so that's a winner all the way around!

And I found a great way to use two shirts left over from our VBFW (Vacation Bible Fun Week). The "whippers" 'won' those also...

I wonder if long ago, when Jesus was telling those stories by the sea, if he knew that one day we would be finding ways to tell those same beautiful stories and we'd be using pancakes with massive amounts of red, green, yellow or purple food coloring, tons of whipped cream from a squirter (not a cow) and worship songs with bass that rock the floor sometimes... Hmmm... Well, we certainly do know He had an amazing love for children ~ and still does.


Not Quite Ready, But Promises to Be Fantastic!

So here it is...our large boat for the story of Jesus calling Peter. We started the theme last week and will take it a bit further this Sunday. You can see our neighborhood forming in the background, as well. I'll be sure to keep the photos coming as we add the church and school with the small American Flag, of course...

Construction came to a halt with a bit of the rumbly, recently referred to here at Grace Today, extending to our artist this week as well. I think "the rumbly" is my favorite new description for any sort of illness. It's just more polite, don't you think?

Regardless, we're looking forward to a great year looking at life with Jesus. That's about the best open-ended curriculum you could imagine, eh! And perhaps when our theme is finished, we'll blow up the big boat one last time and all go down the hill and climb in at our nearby beach. Wouldn't that be fun?? Can you imagine if we told the people on shore we were celebrating learning about life with Jesus by hitting the waves in our plastic yacht??


A Little Rumbly

It's been a rumbly-tumbly day. Mostly my tummy. Master Max has done a fantastic job of trying to help me feel better, but it is the highlight of his week to snuggle outside in the sunshine too. So he has ulterior motives. As much credit as we'd like to give him, he does still usually think of himself first. Unless of course, we have strangers approaching or those wild creatures in the garden. Then he's all about protecting his house. He has an amazing set of lungs when he decides to use them. I guess it's a good thing that most of the time he just wants to sit in the sun...

I must share a recent adventure from visiting the local Juice Restaurant. It was on Wednesday I believe. We'd stopped in to get a snack and I ordered the Strawberries Wild. It was right up there on the column on the right side of the large menu board behind the cashier wearing the large patriotic hat. (Which seemed a bit odd on a Wednesday well after Labor Day and far too early for the elections...) He asked, "What?" "The strawberries wild." "What's in that?" "Well, according to the menu it is strawberries, banana and some non-fat yogurt." "O.K., we can do that." "Would you like a free boost?" "Sure. Protein." "Would you like that free?" "...Sure."

The machine went grumble, grumble, gurgle and I had my lovely treat ready to go. I spotted some nice pastries in the display and thought I'd give in and have a little sourdough Parmesan twist. "I'd like one of those, too." "No." "No?" "We don't have any." "But there's about a dozen right here." "Oh. Those are fake Ma'am. The only ones we have are completely frozen until tomorrow." "Oh." "Would you like something else from the display case, Ma'am?"

I merely raised my little Strawberries Wild as if toasting the young man and his hat and smiled and quietly left to find my friend at Starbucks next door. They have real things for sale in their stores...


Sometimes You Wonder...

It's been an odd weekend here in Sunny. Not necessarily bad, just odd. Things started off on Friday setting the tone... I needed to blow up a large boat for kids church. I thought the boat was about 3 or 4 feet wide. Unable to find a blower-upper-thingy that would work at the church, I stuck the thing in our little car and brought it home. Later, we realized it was actually the size of an above ground pool and we'd need the air compressor!

DJ is quite the trooper and we let some air out, stuck it back in the car and loaded it up again. The custodians came running when they heard the machine going in our normally deserted part of the church on Saturday night.

We happened to run into one of my new best friends in the kids area. She'd gone in for all day on Saturday to work on our new neighborhood set (and who says society is hopeless). We had some laughs while working together and that just warms your heart. As soon as the set is done, I'll share it. It's amazing!

Then for dinner, we stopped in at a favorite pizza place. I thought DJ was watching someone too, but it turned out he wasn't, so then I felt like a snoopy lady. (Picture big glasses) Well, the situation was I couldn't keep my eyes off of the server for the next table. About 6', with long black braids, I think the question was one of trying to confirm what sex they want to declare but the jury is still out.

I also have this gift, or challenge depending on how you see it, of being able to take in most of the conversations in a restaurant that are happening around us. That really annoys DJ, so I don't mention it much anymore. However, it's a lot like facebook I think ~~~ just keeping tabs on folks, just for fun.

Then Sunday...oh my...did you catch that game?? Poor Max. He's just not used to seeing his papa get so upset. He wasn't at all sure what to do with the touchdown towel. He finally left the room to go sleep under his favorite chair.

So once again, you've got the news from Sunny. It doesn't really impact your world, but I hope you've had a smile or two. Sometimes smiling is the best option ever.


Oh My!

Oh dear goodness...I'll need to know you are all watching out for me. It is regarding my playlist. I just went to click on sign in with central blogging intelligence and the music for Grace Today started. Much to my surprise it was some sort of how does one say, well, a much more vibrant collection of tones and noises than is typically heard here.

I clicked over to the playlist to see what was on (right near the top where I'd put it awhile back after Elaine said it was hard to find...) and it said it was playing "The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi. "No-No, is isn't" I muttered....

I'll take care of the one song, but please, if something has gone awry with our delightful playlist company and you hear "I Love Rock and Roll" well, chances are it's a mistake. I do like to listen to that song when I'm in a mood to remember college days, but that isn't exactly the desired ambiance to portray when speaking of the status of our new kids church environment, concern over friends with issues and God's faithfulness through it all.

I'm off to big adventures this morning --- bringing home a large inflatable boat to use Sunday to tell the story of Jesus calling Peter. And the time has come. I'm picking up a camera too.

Have a great weekend friends!


then on Tuesday...

JJ had recently turned 16. We'd been looking for a car for him and we must admit (easily verified if you know us here in Sunny...) he had found the perfect one! It was an old Porsche, however through much research he found one for sale by the original owner and with very low miles. Wow! We all felt so blessed. He found it on Friday and needed to transfer the money before we could pick it up ~ so we had to wait until Monday. I'm sure it had been the longest weekend of his life so far.

Just the Thursday before, I'd had a bad situation at work. My office had been broken into and lots of personal papers were stolen. That's a hard thing. And even harder was not understanding those who commented, "Well, at least they didn't take anything of value." Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Yes, I was grateful I hadn't been there when the robbery occurred, but was frustrated that the police seemed to minimize this invasion of my privacy as well. How could they not come in to take fingerprints??

After a crazy couple of days changing lots of account numbers, and worrying about things, life was back to normal. Our hearts were so happy as we took JJ down to get his very own first car. There were the trips here and there for no need at all ~ just because.

DJ gets up quite early and on that Tuesday he was ready to head out the door when I heard the radio announcer say fairly quietly, "There seems to be a plane crash in New York." I bounced up and got the tv on as fast as possible. Fast enough to see crash number two. DJ was leaving and JJ was ready to drive that fabulous car to school when we all realized...our world was broken. We saw the horror unfold over Washington and words just wouldn't come for any of us. We just sat there. All day. Silent.

My sweet little mother was visiting our friends out in the Midwest. Now, words most definitely can not explain how distraught she was that week. She was ready to get on the Amtrak to come home to Sunny. To hear the airports were closed! Now, Mother had often discussed terrorists plots and the likelihood that we were in the middle of such a horrid thing had been at the forefront of her mind immediately.

Our little family was just shell-shocked and speechless. The new car didn't really even get discussed and the lost papers were completely out of our minds.

Yes, when we think back to those days, it is still hard to imagine real people could have conceived such a horrible chain of events. I also think of how packed our church was on that Tuesday evening as we opened it for a time of prayer. I haven't really heard of churches opening up for prayer services tomorrow night. But I'll stop and ask God to be with those families. I'll ask Him to be with the Moms or Dads who miss their kids Dads and Moms or Brothers or Sisters or Grandmas or Grandpas. And I'll ask Him to be with the families who have a part of their soul far away in Iraq or Afghanistan or Fort Bragg... And I'll remember that Tuesday. It seems like yesterday.

Please protect them all, God.


Abuzz, truly abuzz...

It seemed that life here in Sunny had slowed down a bit this week...JJ is back at the university, school is back in session for the little ones in our world, Gramma & Grandpa are set to leave on holiday soon and our friends have returned to their home up north... And then tonight it hit me how much it had slowed down. We, the three of us, were watching a bug. It was buzzing in our living room and we were all three staring at it. The football game was on the big screen and yet...

Master Max had been watching the ceiling and ever since we had our big Eucalyptus trees trimmed he hasn't been too concerned about the leaves falling on the roof. So DJ turned down the football game so we could listen for the bug and help Max find it. Pitiful! Isn't that just pitiful!

We were all in a tither when we realized that the bug he wanted to catch was actually a bee. "DJ!! We can't let him catch that!" So we tried to distract him as much as possible, and then standing there in the middle of the room -- Max started to attack DJ's shirt. The bee had landed on his back. In a blaze of motion, DJ swashed it (I think that's a real word) off and it hit the sofa. DJ captured it in a rag and tossed it -- well, far away -- where Max would remain safe from the horrors of a bee sting.

And then we realized...the towel he'd used was our "Touchdown Towel" and Master Max promptly took the appropriate run around the family room, just as if he was indeed the victor or perhaps he was proud of his papa for conquering the curious creature and saving us all from horrors unknown.


America's Funniest...

Oh, if only they had this on the America's Funniest Video show. The moms might come into some good prize money... After yesterday's post, please enjoy this look at entirely normal darling children.



I came across this video on a website asking the question, Cute or Creepy? My vote is creepy. Some things just make you wonder... how in the world was this child put in this position? What was the context of this video or 'service' and so many more questions.

Feel free to share a comment. I promise not to add an organ background to the blog for this weekend...


How Cool!


DJ was very frustrated on Tuesday night. We'd heard that Pastor Miles McPherson from California was going to speak at the Big Convention. We had two channels recording the time slot, and it seemed the hosts just commentated right over this brief appearance. But thanks to a tv station, we can all see excerpts from his remarks.

I tried to get it to put the little tv screen with the arrow on it to make it easy...but well, I'm sure you understand that sometimes these things are challenging....

We're going to be putting our little neighborhood together the next few days in place of the cave for the kids at church. There's just nothing quite like the smell of fresh paint to give you hope. As soon as possible, I'll show you how it turns out. We're going to make windows for the wall that really open -- how cool!


By the Sea

We could save this photo for our Christmas card ...but then Max would feel left out, eh. We recently had a lovely visit with our dear friends from Up North and our day at the harbor was just fabulous. You may recall I wrote about some of our adventures at the time. This shot was taken in between observing wedding sites three and four... (See this post for clarity.)

As you may know, DJ and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary and I suppose I'm a bit sentimental tonight. (Some times these moods hit and I ponder and ponder things.) We've had a most interesting 25 years. Life has had challenges certainly, and there will most likely be more; but God is good and He is always faithful. There is so much for which to be grateful.

And for friends and family near and far, we pray God will be with each one of you, keeping you safe and in the palm of his hand. That's a very good place to rest.


Bloggy Brunch

Recently I had a most delightful serendipity. Dear Sister Sheri and her family came to Sunny for a few days and we were able to meet for lunch. How absolutely fantastic! I was able to meet young Christopher and handsome Anthony and I can fully verify they are wonderful as she maintains on her blog, the Leaking Window.

We had a lovely time enjoying laughs, sharing stories of blog bits and discussing this crazy world of cyber-friends. We spoke of practical concerns and bloggers who don't have a single photo of them on their sites and the healthy limitations we should put in place when putting our personal information on our blogspots. What's the safest way to go from cyber-hugs to meeting for coffee that first time, for example. It was a delightful time together, for sure.

All too soon we had to say goodbye. I had to get back to tearing down that cave, and Sister Sheri and her handsome guys had to catch their plane for Far Away. Sometimes good things have to end much too quickly. Won't it be nice when we have all the time in the world for our sweet tea? That table by the sea will beat any in Sunny any day...


Helpin' Mama Tonight

Well, Mama is busy, so I'm going to help her with this blog stuff. She says that her friend Elaine will be upset if she don't get somethin' on there soon, so I'll give it my best shot...

It's been quite a week-end here around Sunny and I'm not at all sure I'm going to forgive Mama & Papa anytime soon. They ask'd me if I'd like to go see Gramma & Grandpa and of course I got all excited when they said that because that always means a really long car ride and then Grandpa will usually give me some treats too. They did NOT tell me they were going up to the lake place and leaving me at Gramma & Grandpa's for three nights and four days.

Gramma was nice right off the bat. She got me some water in my bowl and put my food in a place away from that Miss Lexus and the rather snippity-snappity Miss Mercedes. Did I say three days and four nights yet? Yep. Miss Mercedes got in trouble first thing and had to go in her black cage. That was a relief, but the yipping-yapping didn't stop much at all. Miss Lexus wanted to play, but I was wonderin' about my papa and my mama. Big JJ left a few weeks ago and we haven't seen him around at all...

Gramma said my mama and papa went to the lake. She said they called and were having fun and saw lots of puppies up at the lake and missed me horribly, and felt bad that I didn't go to the lake with them. Don't do much good to tell a puppy that when he's trying to stand up for his own against a big puppy who wants all the hugs and a little yipper-yapper who clearly does not want my bowl anywhere near hers....

To fully complete my sleepover experience, I was left to find my own comfort and security outside, yes, outside in the back yard along with Miss Lexus for all three of those three nights. Miss Mercedes got to go upstairs and snuggle. Fine. Just fine. At least she left us alone; that's all I can say.

Two of the four days I did get a special treat and Grandpa took all of us for a run somewhere. I'd tell you, but I don't know the names of the streets up in Grammaandgrandpaville. It's somewhere close to where they have lots of water and sunshine and dirt. The dirt's kind of different and squishier. Grandpa got kind of twisted up with our three ropes. But we adjusted and it all worked out fine. He said I was in the wrong spot, but I was running just exactly where I wanted to run.

This morning, I thought all hope was gone. Gramma and Grandpa got those clothes on like Mama and Papa wear just that one day a week and I figured maybe this was going to be my new house 'cause maybe Mama and Papa had gone to be with Big JJ, and then....could it be true? I thought I might be dreaming... The big ol' fence opened and there was PAPA! It was really him!!! He'd come to rescue me from the struggles of the last three nights and four days. Then right behind him --- there she was too --- it was MAMA! Oh I began jumping and jumping and scooting Miss Lexus away because they were here, they were here, they were here!!! My Mama and Papa! I jumped so high I could give Papa kisses on his ears! Oh the relief. Puppies are rarely this joyful. Words simply fail me.

After a long, far-too-long time, we got in the car and made the long ride home. I've spent the evening fixing my pillows on the sofa, getting treats whenever they look at me and I remind them how much I missed them, and sleeping. I will sleep most contentedly this evening. Alone at the foot of Papa on the big bed. All is right with the world here in Sunny tonight.

And Mama promises she'll be back at Grace Today tomorrow.


And so...

Today we're back to our things. JJ begins classes. I've taken down our fabulous cave and we'll start preparing our new set today. DJ is in a new phase for his latest project. Master Max chased away the biggest coyote of the summer last night.... the list goes on and on.

Days come and go that seem fairly average and routine, pursuing life at its best and working toward accomplishing much...then you hear the news. You may see it in the newspaper, hear it on television or perhaps the phone rings late at night. Tragedy strikes again. It's amazing how often it seems to strike these days. And each time, we're surprised. We think "That couldn't be happening!" Not to my friend. Not to my friend's mother or father or cousin... Doesn't God understand? They have so much more life to do. They have brand new grandbabies ~ or haven't seen their kids marry or grandbabies arrive... "God, they can't handle this pain" we think. We don't understand. But this we know: God is with us and one day all our tears will be wiped away.

Please visit Beloved MaMa today and leave a hug. No matter how average your day is, please take time if you can...


To Have and To Hold

Who would've imagined...twenty-five years ago...

We'd be living in Sunny and have ocean views.

And a barbecue to use on Christmas Day.

With our fabulous grown-up son, JJ.
And our Max, protector of things large and small.

And love to last a lifetime.

Can't wait to see what's next...

"Love and faithfulness meet together." Psalm 85:10



Just a while back dear Liz at Kentucky Bound tagged me... That is always such a compliment. This one is titled, " The 7 Song Tag" and that sounded (sorry) like such fun. I'm supposed to list my seven favorite songs for this summer. The rules didn't include saying why I was enjoying them, but I'm going to go ahead and pontificate on that a bit.

  • Sand on My Feet recorded by Donna Summer on "Crayons" ~ It just makes me feel happy! I'm spending a lot more time at the beach or near it this year. And that's a good thing!
  • Amazing Grace/My Chains Fell Off ~ I love this Chris Tomlin version of the old hymn. It's right up there with the Wintley Phipps version, but that one isn't 'special' for the summer.
  • What a Wonderful World ~ I've always loved this song. It's on a couple cds that I have in the changer presently. (I know, I need an IPod. I'll bring that up with the Birthday Fairy also.)
  • Cuppycake ~ It's just so adorable. I heard it first on Amy's blog (Life and Times of Life at Home) and then my dear friend, CCR, referred it to me as well. So it's a double-hitter!
  • Summertime ~ An old favorite as well. I've got in on my playlist recorded by Scarlett Johansson. Nobody seems to know about 'Porgy & Bess' and I think it's cool that this young actress/singer recorded it.
  • Give Me Jesus ~ I fell in love with these lyrics the first time I heard Fernando Ortega and saw him sing it with the cellist and classical guitarist. Wow ~ That just sums it up.
  • It Is Well ~ as recorded by Selah. If you've read the blog, you'll understand. This is a classic hymn for all time, but given the circumstances of the spring, I hear this and remember God's faithfulness and the Peace He gives regardless of our situations.

So there we have it! I'm supposed to pass this on to seven friends, so here goes:


Oh Look Lindy!

I have slightly rosy cheeks after just moderating a comment from dear Elaine who asked "OK...Where Are You??" I must confess, I am honored to be missed. It's been a crazy week. I've no better answer than that. I could tell you I've been taking our dear friends here from Up North to see the beaches, spending lovely bits of time at SeaWorld, the Zoo and other fun spots here near Sunny... But that would just be bragging on how wonderful things are here in Southern California. Especially if I told you how absolutely beautiful the days have been without a cloud in the sky and completely perfect weather.... You just might end up not wanting to hear my accounts of life in this house any longer.

But ~ I will go ahead and tell you as I do owe dear Elaine an apology. I've also found myself without a camera once again as JJ has taken ours back to University. (My birthday is coming and I promise to ask the Birthday Fairy for a nice new little 8 pixel or mb or such.) Back to the visitors....

We've had a lovely time chatting about where life has taken us as we've not been able to visit face to face for twenty-five years. Seeing your college buddies after years is always a delightful event. There's something unique about seeing that same youthful spirit now enjoying life with grown-up obligations. I think Heaven may be a bit of the reverse... We're going to see our someones with a youthful exuberance and joy without the burdens of a lifetime. Doesn't that sound intriguing??? Oh, dear. I've gotten completely away from explaining to Elaine where I've been lately...

The night before our good friends were to leave to go back to Up North (at 5 am) we found ourselves looking through old crickety-crackety photo albums of a trip I'd taken to visit my friend Lindy at his home back in 1981. They were amazed I could find these photos, and DJ reminded them ~ she keeps everything... These dear friends had found each other years later than when this photo had been taken, (now here's the Paul Harvey-rest-of-the-story section) but in one of the pictures we found, Lindy is standing next to his bedroom dresser right beside the bottle of cologne his future wife had given him as a Christmas present when they were young adults and he was a busy young guy home from college. What a priceless photo!

Lindy with the Jovan Musk Oil.

I have a feeling he may be getting another bottle for Christmas this year...


Looking Ahead...

I need to write more in-depth posts here. I suppose I will "when the Lord leads..." (that's a saying from my childhood.) But I keep finding these great things to pass on, so for now, I'll just take it that it's my calling to be a spot for a smile. How's that! Perhaps when it starts to snow and we're brewing cider I'll have more deep heart-warming posts that move you to ponder truth deeply. In all honesty, usually the smiles I share are designed to do the same thing. But that's just between us, o.k.?

DJ was looking through some material at church this morning. He handed me this paper and commented, "This is absolutely the best advertisement for a Sunday morning class I've ever seen."

Attendance should be outstanding.




Once again...Jon has done it once again...it's a must read. Truly. Especially if you've grown up attending church with a married minister of music. If you've grown up Catholic, you could probably go to another blog and be more appropriately amused, but if you've been raised Baptist, Assemblies of God or maybe even Church of God, you do not want to miss this one. Especially if you had a minister of music who's wife did a lot of solos....


Almost Like Christmas

It seemed like an average Thursday yesterday...off to work, trying to get the phone situated (we have a new hands-free law here) and the sun was shining (I really love living in Sunny) on the drive in to the beach...

Mid-morning a new friend came by to help organize some things at the church and we just had a hoot of a time. We cleaned and cleaned, laughed and laughed and then went for a great little lunch just down the street listening to the seagulls the whole time. Later, and much to my delight, I picked up a box from the main office. It was a nice gift pack of ceramic stuff that came as a freebie! How fun! Then I opened a letter from another dear friend with photos she sent and a card to cheer my heart. Mid-afternoon, JJ phoned to say he'd made it and was unpacking at the University --- safe and sound. And then finally....here's the drum roll...boom, boom, boom, I received a delightful gift book and card from none other than Elaine at Peace for the Journey. I recently 'won' this book on her blog, but the note just made me teary-eyed. I opened up my e-mail later and had such delightful messages from friends near and far --- and thought, just like Pooh does when he thinks aloud --- "This is just like Christmas today."

So today, just because, I'm going to do everything I can to pay it forward so to speak... A little Christmas in August might be just what we all need.


What a Wonderful World

Does anyone out there remember when this is the way we approached every morning? "Well, look-y there! It's a great big wonderful world and we're going to make our place in it!"

JJ and Honey are set to arrive back at the University today. If you're a faithful reader here at Grace Today, you know they are recently engaged. They have so much to plan...the colors, the flowers, the date, the music, the minister, the dinner, the guest list. I'm sure there will be far too many lists. But that is part of the fun --- right? We've already assured JJ that there will be many, many, many conversations about these plans. He'll see magazines he never knew were in existence, we're sure. We pray for them every day, of course. One of our prayers is that the next year will be delightful and full of joy. And we'll let you know the colors they select as soon as possible...
from Lamentations, Chapter 3, 21b - 23:
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.


Life is Good

Aren't these guys handsome? It does seem that JJ has just passed up his dad in height, but they wouldn't do the 'back-to-back' thing and let me measure....

We had the most blessed summer and it was wonderful to have JJ home. He was able to work with DJ out on the site (DJ builds large homes) and they carpooled (or truck-pooled). JJ learned how to use a few new tools and DJ was able to introduce his son all 'round. What summer job could be better than that!

Thankfully we have our friends here from Up North and we're out and about all over Sunny for the next few days --- or we would be very, very sad. We still have some tears inside, but at least we have a good diversion. Master Max moped all around the house yesterday as JJ loaded up his stuff into the car. But then we got out the "Happy Machine" to grill steaks for dinner. Max went to bed quite happy.

And we know JJ made it to the first stop on his journey just fine. We knew he would, but you still like to get that call. We know he'll get there in good shape and have lots of fun on the drive out this week... Just like we know God has all his days planned out and He will be with him always... God even knows who is actually the tallest in our family...


Out to Lunch

We've had a lovely time this weekend visiting with some good friends who are here from Far Away. We're showing them all the sights in Sunny and laughing more than is probably legal. As JJ is loading up this morning to take off for University, it's been a good distraction as we usually get fairly teary-eyed to see him go.

Saturday we drove down to the harbor and amazingly passed by four weddings that were taking place there. Four! We chuckled at the first one and by the time we reached the last one --- well, we were just plain laughing out loud. You see they were all set up with flowers, rented chairs, arches, djs, buffets and all the trappings of formal weddings --- in places like parking lots, grassy areas just off the highway and, ridiculously, the last one we passed was in the middle of a traffic island. (I kept looking around to see where I should be smiling for the camera.)

As we were watching the wedding party having all their photos made in the middle of the traffic island, we heard the rumblings of a large truck. The wedding had obviously just ended. And there it came....Raphael's Party Rentals. They pulled up right behind the Bride & Groom, Moms & Dads and all the kin folk. Next thing we knew, they had carts loading up the flowers and pulling out the chairs from underneath Grandma.

The wedding just across the road on the lawn of the nice restaurant was just starting, so I'm sure they were watching the big truck also. But then again, maybe the two weddings were sharing the flowers....

We had a nice Sunday lunch with our friends yesterday. After I loaded the photos on the computer, I realized how much everyone here in Sunny is getting into the Olympic Spirit....

(DJ and our dear friend from Up North)


Back to Reality

Yes, our weekend was delightful and JJ is now packing up to go back to University out East. Or out West, depending on where you're reading this with your coffee and crumpets. Our dear Aunt Lu is coming over for dinner tonight and I needed to stop in at the Big Box store for a few things for our dinner.

I was searching and searching for something that seems to be moved every month. Not moved just across the aisle or up or down a shelf, but they must have some sort of goal to reach for using man hours to move things in that Big Box store. The stuff I wanted wasn't near the office supplies like they were in the last visit. It wasn't by the sunglasses like they were the previous month, or near the cds wrapped like gold from Fort Knox even. Nope.... when I found an employee after (well, I don't need to share that much of my frustration today) he told me I needed to look in the Christmas section.

Yes, I wrote that correctly. The Big Box store has Christmas goods out. Not a lot. But still, it's August 7th. I suppose out here in California, I should rejoice that he was bold enough to refer to it as the Christmas section. The Christmas cards are always under a sign that says, "Holiday Greetings."

I almost looked for some Christmas ribbon --- just to have on hand, but stopped myself. I'm not giving in. At least not until JJ is back at school, and we're finished with our summer visitors...


A Perfect Weekend

Some things are worth waiting for... We are so happy to share the news that JJ & Honey became engaged this weekend. I told them I would wait for them to post it on their various posting spots and I've tried really hard to be patient the past 48 hours.

The ring is beautiful, almost as beautiful as Honey --- no actually, she outshines it completely. And JJ is standing just a tad taller, I believe. We had a whirlwind for a few days, doing our best to help JJ surprise Honey. I think it worked. We went to a wonderfully romantic event last Friday night and then Saturday was the big day. She, however, thought DJ and I were completely absorbed with our household chores and I'm sure she wondered a time or two why we weren't interested in spending the afternoon with the two of them... I think she's forgiven us now.... DJ and I are so relieved we were able to pull off the surprise of having her parents here (from her home town a few hours away) to greet her as they walked in to 'tell us' the news. Too much fun ~ it's just too much fun!

Dear Honey & JJ,
We're praying God's richest blessings will always be with you.
We love you! Grace & DJ



Is it just me? It seems like the activity in Blog Land is way down. My dear friend who hosts Beloved Mama has actually posted "On Hiatus until August 10th." Where are the pictures of the lil' ones throwing household items into the toilet? Where are the memes? Where are the awards? Where are the Word-Filled/Wordless Wednesday photos??

These are questions I must ponder over the next few days. I can visit Peace for the Journey and Life and Times of Life at Home, or Joy of Desserts, I suppose. They have all been faithful bloggers through the summer. I just hope my wonderful friends who have moved to Kentucky, hosted VBS' and taken trips all across the country with their lil' ones have taken lots of photos and written down all the stories of the humorous adventures with family, and visiting the Corn Palace in South Dakota, because we bloggy friends need our bloggy friends.

"On Hiatus." "Oh, bother." xox, my friend...


Fries or Onion Rings

Just seeing this photo triggers some lovely "smemories." You know, memories of burgers cooking on the open pit barbeque, fries coming out of extremely hot pans of oil, along with some onion rings and barbeque sauce all mixed with the hint of the freshly mowed grass from the lawn outside the car.

This restaurant is in Oklahoma City (where I grew up ~ mostly). It's unique in that it is huge, but only a drive-in. They didn't bring your food out on roller skates, but that's ok. We weren't in that big a hurry when I was little. If you're ever going through Oklahoma, chart your course to stop at 2701 N.W. Expressway right in the middle of the state. You can count on an incredible dining experience.

I've been thinking of Oklahoma memories a bit more than usual this month. My high school had a big reunion there last weekend. We'd considered going, but things are a bit busier than normal these days. Last night I found a lovely e-mail from one of my best buddies in my inbox. We had some really fun adventures from 7th grade to graduation. Found out she's a new mom with a four year old. Wow.

Additionally, she referred me to some photos on the internet of our classmates at the reunion. She must have given me the wrong website. Those people are not the people I knew in school. They couldn't possibly be the same folks I hung out with at the Charcoal Oven. Although the photos on their name tags did look slightly familiar.....



Did ya hear about the streakers at the prestigious polo event?? You just can't help but smile a little bit at that one. Go on --- give in to the temptation...

When I was eight years old, we were dedicating our brand new church facilities out in the wild west. It was an amazing new concept for a church in 1969. The place was packed. Even the mayor came. And right as she was introduced ---- there he came. Fast as lightening --- right through the front of the Sanctuary!

We were all horrified back then, too. And yes, even as a little girl, I had that smile appear. Some things just make you laugh even at the most inopportune times....

Happy Monday!


Summer Fun

In spite of difficulties all around...sometimes you just need to take a break and grin. Recently JJ, Honey and I spent the day at one of those grin-maker spots. It's always nice to be with JJ and Honey and this was an especially nice time.

Next time you're feeling like you need a boost for your soul; I highly recommend taking a trip on the closest blue caterpillar. If you don't have one in your town, just pile your sofa cushions on top of you or around you and imagine...



Sometimes I feel like crying. As you know if you've visited here more than once or twice, I've said goodbye to both Mom and Dad within the past ten years. And I've said enough goodbyes to family members to be done with that.

When I see friends or hear stories of folk in the news who are meeting incredible challenges with grace, dignity and courage, I want to find them and hug them. But that isn't always possible. Sometimes they are across the ocean. Sometimes they want to be alone - for a little bit. And amazingly, they just keep on plugging away regardless of the magnitude of the issue.

Sometimes I feel like asking others, "Have you ever gone through anything hard, really hard?" Sometimes, I want to give people a little nudge and remind them that life can be amazingly difficult. Sometimes when I see people who are extremely concerned with the trivial and see them giving those things the importance of things that matter, I just want "to slap 'em." I know, it's isn't a very Christian sort of response...But still.

Maybe, just maybe, that's what happened when Jesus went through the temple that day. (Matthew 21:12) Perhaps He was thinking of what really mattered and couldn't believe what He found there.


Hints from Heloise's Helper

Let's say from recent observation...

It's best to stay in the kitchen whilst broiling garlic toast.


No Cake for You

Saturday I found myself laughing at the big box store again. I'd stopped in to get a few things for the house as well as a cake for a baby shower I was hostessing with a friend. There were a couple of people in line at the bakery window, so I went straight to the pre-ordered refrigerator to find my cake. Alas, it wasn't there, so I had to stand in the line. (I'd sent JJ off to get more of his favorite energy drink - Dr. Pepper - as he hates waiting almost as much as his dad....)

The man in the white hat came out and helped the gals in front of me ever so happily. Then the lady right in front of me upset his procedure and asked for something that seemed quite logical to me: "Do you have any blank cakes with decorations, but no words? These all say 'Happy Birthday' but I need it for something else. I'm happy to take it home and add my own greeting."

"Ma'am, these all have to be pre-ordered. No, we do not sell blank cakes. If you want a blank cake you need to allow 24 hours for it to be decorated blankly." Honest. That's what he said. She was nice enough, but I'm sure the folks over at the nearby grocery store were happy to help her. They probably even added her "Happy 50th Anniversary" or "Go USA." They might not have even charged her for it.

Some of my best stories come from that big box store. But I must confess; sometimes I think of my good friends who live in a small town in England and go to market everyday and their grocer knows them by name and what kind of steak, bangers or sweets they like best. And no one is chomping at the bit to claim their parking spot. But that's another story for another day. I need to go get milk...


A Little Linguini

If you're young, let's say under 30, you may not remember this... But for those of you who attended VBS in the 60's or perhaps the 70's, do you remember those little cups of ice cream we'd get for treats? Here's an even older version:

Well, just in case you've noticed --- things are a little different here in Sunny these days. We have this Snack Specialist. Oh my goodness! I just have to share yesterday's mid-morning buffet with you.

In addition to obtaining it all through donations (wow) each day there is a printed menu for the children. Yesterday's pasta bar included wagon wheel organic pasta, organic tomato sauce, shredded parmesan cheese (not the Kraft kind), chicken chunks and topped off with edamame beans.

No macaroni crafts either...


Feelin' Artsy...

Some days you just feel like putting some paint on something. I'm not sure how many coats of paint this little VW has on it, but it is sure to get quite a few more!

This was our family fun last week-end. I plan on spending a lot more time at this lovely children's museum here in downtown Sunny. I'm even thinking of asking some new friends to come along. Maybe we'll venture into the room with the chalkboard walls next time, though. That doesn't require a change of clothes....

Happy Summer! Go make a fresh pitcher of somethin' to celebrate (lemonade, I mean, of course...).


Teaching Children To Sing - Imitation

We here at Grace Today want to be a full-service enterprise. Perhaps you've been asking, "How can I teach my child to sing?" Well, here you go....

(Remember to pause the music first! I moved it up higher for your convenience.)

If you make your own video using these vocal techniques, please pass them on. We would love to see your new skills...


Tree of Happiness

Oh what fun! Joy at Joy of Desserts recently blessed me with this sweet award. She amazes me with her blog. Have you checked it out recently?? Wouldn't it be fun to have a Joy of Desserts party sometime and everyone could make something from her blog on the same day! hmmm...

So the rules for this award are to list 6 things that bring you happiness and then to pass it on to 6 other bloggers for the happiness they share. Here we go!

  • Definitely my amazing DJ and JJ. Regardless of my struggles with frothing, they seem to love me...

  • Of course, my Max and all the critters in my life before little Max.

  • Knowing how much love I experienced with my parents, and the 'missing them' is due to the great love. And knowing I will see them again one day.

  • Lifelong friends as well as new friends. True friends - not the shallow ones. There is a difference.

  • Great music. Anything from Josh Groban to Louis Armstrong to DJ on our piano at home... The list of favorites would be a novel.

  • And most certainly - Jesus knows me, this I love...

Now, to pass it on. Miss Amy at Life and Times of Life at Home makes me laugh 99% of the time. Christelle at Beloved Mama and I have way too much fun. Liz at Kentucky Bound says she didn't name her new stray puppy after me, but I have adopted it as my dogdaughter. Elaine at Peace for the Journey always reminds me of our Hope. Faith Hope Love Mama at Faith Hope Love shows how great a gift our families are and the joy they bring. And finally, that silly Jon at Stuff Christians Like. It's clearly obvious here at Grace Today how much laughter I find on his blog. I appreciate his gift of laughing with Christianity and seeing how deep his dedication is to God. Or else he's a really, really good writer.... (just a little chuckle, of course)

Hope your day is fabulous regardless of where you find your happiness. I'm off to re-create the old west for about 125 kids next week. Now that will bring a few grins, most certainly!!


Next Year

Oh dear....our Fourth of July celebration scored a bit high on the frustration-o-meter this year. We had some lil' munchkins visiting from Chiquita-Viejo-Sonora-By-The-Sea and we promised them a lovely time. We did have a wonderful dinner and it made my heart happy to see the girls, Kit and Samantha, eating corn and green beans. (Somehow, I wondered if that day would ever arrive...) JJ and DJ did a fantastic job with the items on the grill and Max was a good host to his cousin, Erika Joy. She's half his size, so he felt more in control than when Miss Lexie was here recently.

Then we loaded up in the truck (doesn't that sound Southern) and headed for the lake. We found a great parking spot after trying out the lot of a good friend's church nearby and then scooted out when we realized he actually was having a church event to watch the fireworks... DJ had our beach chair but didn't feel he needed to carry it like a back-pack and reminded me he thought that was a quite silly feature, and then the munchkins' mama said, "All the soccer Moms carry them that way." But DJ didn't hear her. We all had something - a blanket, a chair, sweatshirts or such....

Soon we were settled in for the lights fantastic. JJ was encouraging me to pass the time by asking other guests a) Have you asked Jesus into your heart? b) How have you spent your week this week? If you died tonight; where would you go? c) Do you think that fourth guy in the furnace was really Jesus? d) Is there a literal Hell? e) was Judas destined to betray Christ? and so on.... and after asking each new friend the question, he thought we should be sure to wish them a "Happy July 4th!" Now don't misunderstand, I'm all for sharing Jesus' love, but we were in hysterics as the questions came out.... and I've forgotten many of them. Just picture it ~~~ Prodigal Jon would have been coming up with good ones, too if he'd been with us here in Sunny.

We began to hear fireworks far away. Hmmm. Finally, our show started a full half hour later. A very long half hour later, I might add. Our munchkins had been a tad restless! Then BOOM! the show began in all its glory. And the children behind us began to scream. The folks in front of us began to take pictures - flash pictures. And the children behind us began to scream. The children began "naming" the fireworks as they hit the sky --- and then they scream. Not from fright. Just for the sake of screaming! To complete the scenario, the folks who had seen the fireworks on the other side of the lake began leaving. Driving their cars with their lights on through our gathered masses.... And the children behind us began to scream. We realized the adults with said children were laughing as the screams occurred. To finish off our experience, the gathered masses began "Booooooing" the cars as they were leaving. And all the while, each "Boom" was completed with that tell-tale flash. Ten minutes was all we could take. We gathered up our blanket, chairs and clutter and found a quiet tree to lean against nearby to watch the finale. Even Kit and Samantha were ready to bolt. Wow.

So today ~ We made plans with some good friends who've just moved to a new place in a highrise downtown. Next year we're going to take our plate of celery, some carrot sticks with a spicy cream cheese spread, some watermelon, a keg of Root Beer, and a bag of chips over to their party. It will be just like going over to see Uncle Bill, Buffy, Jody, Sissy and Mr. French...