Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving eve I have so much to be thankful for. I know you do, too. I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving but more than that, that each day will be filled with thanksgiving. Joy automatically follows after a thankful heart.

Blessings, blessings and more blessings to you, my friends!

Singing the joy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Make Me a Servant, Lord?

I was thinking about something that happened when I was a teenager the other day. I had the most glorious time in high school. Most of the kids I hung out with were "Christian" and were really trying in our inept, incomplete way to live like Jesus...much like I'm doing today.

We were a part of Campus Life Youth for Christ and met weekly at a friend's house. I remember one night in particular. I was feeling particularly "Godly" (can I say that?!). I felt I had things just about figured out - - like only a 17 year old can.

We were talking about being slaves to the Lord. I remember discussing this at length with some friends later. Slaves for the Lord? Certainly, the leader didn't mean Slaves. Surely he meant, Servant. Servant sounds much better than a slave.

How many times in my life have I excused something because of a technicality? It wasn't a big sin, God. Hmm.

No, here I am sitting at 50 years old and I think the Campus Life leader had it right. We are slaves. S L A V E S. But, the difference I didn't get at 17 years old is that my master is loving. He's got my back. May I love him enough to willingly be his slave. May I love him enough to wash his feet and others feet. May I love him enough to treat the unlovable and "entitled" with the heart of a slave. Thank you, Lord, for your example.

Chained to you, Lord,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just for Fun

1.Where is your cell phone? in my work bag
2. Where is your significant other? taking a shower
3. Your hair? adorable new cut. :)
4. Your mother? nursing home - b'ham, alabama
5. Your father? heaven
6. Your favorite thing? my home
7. Your dream last night? ??
8. Your favorite drink? Diet Coke with vanilla
9.. Your dream/goal? to support Serge when he lives in Rwanda
10. The room you're in? my office
11. Your fear? snakes
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? wherever God wants me to be
13. Where were you last night? Bunco at the Hanner's
14. What you're not? scientific
15. Muffins? chocolate
16. One of your wish list items? new digital camera
17. Where did you grow up? Birmingham, Alabama
18. The last thing you did? walk around McMurry's track
19. What are you wearing? jogging suit
20. Your TV? yep. got two.
21. Your pet? needy
22. Your computer? lifeline
23. Your life? beautiful
24. Your mood? content
25. Missing someone? my friend, Keithie
26. Your car? Ford Explorer
27. Something you're not wearing? earrings
28. Favorite Store? TJ Maxx
29. Your summer? HOT
30. Favorite Color? turquoise
31. Describe you? quirky
32. Last time you cried? Wednesday
33. Who will/would re-post this? No idea
34. Four places I go over and over? work, Sharky's, Journey's Inn, Red Robin
35. Two people who e-mail me (regularly)? Rita and Holly
36. Four of my favorite foods? chocolate, cheese, raspberries, salsa with cilantro
37. Four places I would rather be right now? paris, rwanda, china, english countryside

What about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Characters of Influence - ALINA ZUNIGA

I love remembering people who have helped shape me. Ninth grade had been my favorite year in school up to that point. It was a year of self-realization, learning more about God and having my best friend, Alina Zuniga.

Alina and her family were from Cuba. They left when Alina was just a baby to get away from Castro's rule. Her father was a dentist and her mother taught Spanish at a local high school. I always loved going to Alina's house because they spoke Spanish to each other (duh) and her mother made wonderful fried plaintains (like large bananas) and her brother Manny was soooo cute.

There was an infinitely more important reason I loved going to Alina's house. It was a time that we would have intense conversations about God. We'd listen to "Bread", get all mellow and talk about all the higher issues of God the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. It was out of those conversations that we started a group in our junior high called J.O.Y. We thought we were being so revolutionary. Of course, you know it stands for Jesus first, Others second and yourself last.

Our little met a few times. I don't really remember doing anything much that made too much of a difference, but I did realize that God's power through me . . . when I'm HIS tool, is a powerful thing.

The next year we went to high school. Alina went to Berry High School where her mom taught and I went to Shades Valley. We didn't see each other much after that, but I'll forever be grateful for Alina and her willingness to share her faith with me. Such beautiful boldness she showed through our friendship. Thank you, Alina.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Vacuum Cleaner Saleslady Called

Another funny thing happened at Decatur Christian Towers one day. We had had an unusually busy week as our receptionist was out sick. We needed larger blocks of time to get our work done. We really needed someone to fill in for our receptionist!

Right when we were about at the end of our rope, one of our residents, Ana, came forward to assist us. We greeted her with open arms (literally) and lots of hugs. Her service was to be invaluable.

Ana hails from Cuba. Though she is fluent in both English and Spanish, words sometimes get mixed up.

Our joy was complete one fine day when we caught the gist of one of Ana's phone messages. Rita had a call that stated that a lady name Joan, a lady selling vacuum cleaners, would call her back.

The next day Rita received a call from her friend, Joan. When Joan asked if Rita had received the message that she had called, it dawned on her what had happened. You see, her friend's name is Joan "Hoover."

Ah, communication,

Update on Stacy

I spoke with Stacy (the young woman who lost her baby to Shaken Baby Syndrome) and told her that some friends and I would like to help her with Christmas this year for her little 2 1/2 year old boy, Jaden. She got great big ole tears in her eyes and was so appreciative. I told her that we also wanted to do something for her. That's when the tears started spilling over.

She said she never bought anything for herself any longer. When I asked her where she liked to shop (keep in mind she is only 24 years old), she didn't even know. She said, "Penney's? Dillard's? I really don't know."

I think in order to give Stacy the opportunity to buy Santa for Jaden, I think I'll just give her a gift card. If you want to donate, please either see me at church or you can mail it to me at work at:

Susan Conwell
Wesley Court office
2617 Antilley Road
Abilene, TX 79606

Thank you so much.

Working to spread the joy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Characters of Influence

I've been considering lately all the people in my life who have helped shape me. It's amazing to think of all the people who come to mind. Of course, at the top of the list would be family and friends. But then there are the "unlikelies" who have been a part in shaping me as well.

It is my goal through this series to bring honor where honor is due. There are so many who have strengthened me by their love or their integrity. Of course, some others have shaped me by being such a bad example that I don't want to be like them! If I choose to write about them, I'll change their names, for sure. Even those people have hidden hurt and disillusionment that begs to be explored.
Today, I'll explore with you Carlene. She has been on my mind so much lately. Carlene was our African American housekeeper when I was a child. Of course, when we were children, we said "colored", not "African American" and "maid" not "housekeeper".

I loved Carlene with all my heart. Our family was not wealthy by any means but my mom worked part time and Carlene would help our family with washing, ironing and my favorite part . . . making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for my brother and me for lunch. She either added milk or cream to the soup to make it extra smooth.

Carlene worked at our house a couple of days a week. I felt such unconditional love from Carlene. She was a large woman and always had an apron on. I felt so secure being in her presence.

One time she was in my parents' bedroom ironing. I can close my eyes and still smell the hot iron and the starch she's put on my dad's shirts. She'd let me iron my daddy's handkerchiefs.

One day a big storm blew up and it was thundering and lightning very badly. As I hid behind Carlene's apron I asked her about the scary lightening and thunder. She told me that God was mad. I said, "Mad at me?" She stooped down and said, "Oh, no, sweetheart. God isn't mad at you. You are precious to him."

Carlene told me of the goodness of God repeatedly. When the day was done, my mother would gather up some clothing and sundry items to give to Carlene and her family. Then she would slip her some money and off we'd go in the car to take Carlene home.

Carlene lived on the other side of the tracks in a green (but mostly just bare wood) house that was up on blocks. She didn't have any grass in her yard and there were always a lot of children running around and playing. My brother, Bobby, and I would beg for Mom to let us out so that we could play with Carlene's children. We knew we loved Carlene so we knew we'd love her kids. You can guess that in Birmingham, Alabama in 1964 that never happened. My parents weren't prejudiced but the society in which we lived . . . oh, yeah.

As Carlene would get out of the car, she'd always say, "Thank you, Mrs. Harris. Bye, Bye, Susan and Bobby. I love you." We'd always say, "Bye, Carlene. We love you, too."

Carlene was a victim of the times and the place we lived. But, Carlene taught me about hard work, integrity, unconditional love and that God loves us so much. I wish I knew where she and/or her kids were today. I'd love to thank them.

I want to live my life looking at the hearts of others, not their life situation. Father, continue to mold this desire in me into your likeness. Thank you.

Fondly remembering Carlene,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Laughter Lifts You Higher

I don't think there is a thing in the world more healing than laughter. This week has been such a sad week with our friends, the Allen's, losing Ben. On Wednesday night when some of the "girls" were with Judy, it was good to see that she was able to laugh. A healing laugh.

The funeral today for Ben wasn't called a funeral, but a "fun" eral. Many stories were told and there was laughter and tears . . . just as Ben would have wanted it. The playing of Ben's playlist at the end was great. Not churchy at all.

I'm reminded of a time when we had the Allen's over for dinner and games. We were playing some silly game where everyone was supposed to write down their answer to a question and then the "guesser" had to guess who said what. The question was to name some fashion statement that girls/ladies do that you just don't get. Ben wrote down "glamour lips." We asked him about it and he cocked his head back and pooched out his lips like a model, pointed to his lips and said, "Glamour lips." We still cackle about that.

I also remember another time after we moved here I was feeling "home sick" for Atlanta. I had a group over for Bunco and was trying to be a decent hostess, all the while feeling blue. While sitting in the living room, Judy Allen, Donna Ware, Lori Wallace and Denise Waldrop all burst into our house wearing orange and green wigs. I don't know how they knew that I needed sisters that night, but I forgot all about being homesick and realized I was home . . . with all the other crazies, just like me. :) I laughed so hard I almost . . . well, you know.

More embarrassing and funny moments to come. I got a million of 'em.

Laughing amid the hurt,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just Being

Today I took a day off to "just be." Sometimes I think we need those days to let our spirits catch up with what is happening in the world around us and our own little world.

This week our little world has been aching with a deep and permeating hurt. Some of our "dearest dears" are hurting ...causing us to hurt and ache, too.

Father, please minister to the Allen's this day, tomorrow and forward as they walk a treacherous path filled with stumbling blocks to keep their eyes off of you. Comfort them in their grief, gather them in your loving lap and assure them of your love for them. Give their family and friends an extra measure of insight to know how to best serve and love on them while they are on this long and winding road. Thank you that you walk beside us and hold our hands during the darkest days. We love you.

Your daughter,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Our Hearts are Breaking

We got the call last night about 11:30 that our friends, Tom and Judy's son, Ben, had died. It was all so sudden. Ben was in Optometry school in Houston, 24 years old and this shouldn't have happened. That was all that kept playing in my head.

Tom and Judy and their daughter, Lori (Ben's sister) had chartered a flight to Houston when they learned that Ben had gone to the ER and were going to be with him. His death was beyond a shock. Ben died before they landed.

Please join me in praying for this broken, shattered and hurting precious family. If only we could all share in some of their hurt and carry it for them for a while . . .


Monday, November 10, 2008

Serge is Going Home!

It's official! Serge is going to get to go to Rwanda for Christmas! I'm so happy for him. It will be great for him to see his family and friends. It's been 3 1/2 years since he's been home. But this time, he returns as a man with a mission. He's going to explore ministry opportunities for himself when he graduates . . . hopefully from grad school.

Serge desires so much to serve the children of Rwanda. He believes that education is so important in teaching the people of his country how to live in unity. I'm so thankful he has this mission in mind, but am fearful of him returning there for good. His country has a long history of turmoil. (Turmoil is such an understatement.)

I'm showing my new blog header in honor of Serge's upcoming homecoming. No worries. Lots more blog headers to come. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pay It Forward - Stacy's Story

I was involved in some staff training last week for Customer Service. We talked about the importance of Paying it Forward and showed a little clip from the movie, Pay it Forward. I gave four employees $10.00 each to find a way to pay it forward this next month and to report back to us at our next inservice. How does this relate to Customer Service? When you are focused on others, you are more attentive to their needs and not so focused on oneself.

While I was explaining the game "rules" I heard a quiet voice in the back of the room utter, "You don't have to have money to pay it forward." I agreed and went on with the "rules."

After the inservice ended, Stacy came up to me. She is new to us and I didn't know much about her. She told me that she was the one who said you didn't need money to "pay it forward". I affirmed her comment.

Stacy went on to tell me that her baby had died in April of this year from Shaken Baby Syndrome and she wants to pay it forward by going into the high schools or any other platform she can find to tell about Shaken Baby Syndrome, the signs and what can be done to stop an abuser. Stacy's little girl was 2 1/2 months old when she died and her husband has been charged. Stacy is left alone to raise her little boy. She lost her husband and her daughter in the same day.

As she told me her story, tears filled her eyes and said she can't give money to anyone but she can tell her story. I also told her that if she wanted a platform to talk about it in our pay it forward update next month she can use the inservice for that.

Stacy is 24 years old. Please join me in praying for Stacy and her little boy. I'm thinking I'd like to help out Stacy and her son this Christmas. If any of you would like to join me in this endeavor, please let me know. Thanks.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great word

See Sarah's post yesterday and today for a really great word. Mugwumping. I used it today in some staff training. I think it's getting traction.

Any of you ever see the movie Mean Girls? Remember the name of the word that Gretchen was trying to catch on? The word was Fetch. She was told it was NOT going to happen.

I don't know. Mugwumping has a definite chance.

I'm thinking about having some buttons made up for work like the one to the left. (Unless Sarah has copyrighted the word. :)

Not Mugwumping,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Not as Nice as I Seem. : }

This busts me up every time! Vann, I wouldn't do that to you...unless. :)

Just jokin'!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's All About the Crown - - - NOT!

So, what's with the new blog header? Oh, come on. I can hear you thinking it. Tee hee! Well, I think you deserve an explanation and I have one for you.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been enamored with being a princess. (I'll bet many of you have as well.) When I was a wee one, my favorite special television night (even more so than when the Wizard of Oz showed) was when Leslie Ann Warren was on Cinderella. She was the most beautiful princess e-ver! I loved her rags to riches story and how the prince on the shining horse chose her. She was the fairest one in the kingdom.

When our girls were young teens that version of Cinderella (with Leslie Ann Warren) was coming on the television. I built it up and told them we were having a very special "girls' night." We got our blankets, our pillows, dimmed the lights, lit candles. fixed popcorn, got sodas and prepared to watch the Cinderella show that I had told them about their whole lives! When it finally aired, we began watching with great anticipation. Katie Lea and Caroline kept looking at me ...saying with their eyes, "Is this what you've been talking about so long?" I reiterated that it was going to get better. We kept waiting. It didn't get better. We were all disappointed. Leslie Ann Warren was pretty, but not nearly as pretty as I remembered. The prince was hokey looking and the acting was just plain bad.

I think that's the way it is. So often I (we?) dream of something that is going to be so glorious, fantasy filled and "happily ever after" and then it happens and BAM! It's not anything like we imagined. Oh, no. It's so much worse!

Vann and I married two months before Princess Di and Charles married. The media buzz that was created about their union was phenomenal. We all know how that "happily ever after" story ended.

Princess Grace of Monocco was first a movie star and then had the beautiful fairy tale wedding. I read her biography and her life was so much "smoke." She lived her life trying to please her earthly father, all the while living a pretty immoral lifestyle and then thought her father would finally approve if she married a prince. Then, that wasn't happily ever after either.

As I've matured I've come to realize that I really am a princess. I'm a daughter of the king. Thank you, Father. I don't have a castle (yet :) but will one day. I think it will be a mansion that looks like a castle.

My father came and rescued me...not on a white horse, but by sending his son to die for me. That requires so much more sacrifice than just riding up on a white horse. Thank you.

I don't have to "be" anything other than what my father created me to be. Princess Di was so burdened with the way she was supposed to "be" to be a suitable princess. My father's yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I'm so thankful my father is a king and I'm a princess. Not the kind with the crown but a princess, loved by her heavenly father all the same. He gave everything for me. I'm living my "happily ever after" because of my dad. I hope you are, too. If not, he so wants to love on you, scoop you up in his arms and let you know you are his daughter (or son), too.

That is my prayer for you,
Princess Lila

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I'm Baaa-aaack!

I enjoyed the blogging sabbatical, but missed all of you. I confess, I checked in just a wee bit from time to time.

My husband will testify, that whatever I undertake, I do so with all my heart. (Translation: Whatever I enjoy doing, I'll do so much that I'll neglect anything and everything else.)

Take quilting. Cheryl and I took a quilting class. Operative word here --"A". Well, I loved it. no time, I'd made not one quilt, "oh, no, my fine friends," but FOUR quilts! Everywhere I went I was looking for fabric - - clothing fabric, tablecloth fabric, vintage fabric, you get the idea.

Another time when our girls were small my obsession was cross-stitching. Every night I cross-stitched and cross-stitched...and cross-stitched some more. Well, you guessed it, I'm done with that!

Yep. That's me. All or none. I guess that's why I didn't just start one blog. Oh, no, Nellie! I started THREE blogs. All good ideas...(for three people, maybe.) The "When I'm 64" blog is gone for now...until further notice. The "Escape the Ordinary" Blog will have something on it when there is something worth posting. Maybe a lot, maybe not.

Why am I like this? Oh, I could take the easy way out and be like Forrest Gump and say, "Momma always said, "If you can't do it perfectly (i.e. all the way to excellence squared--or at least that was my internal translation), it's not worth doing at all."

Or, I could come clean to you and tell you the truth. I can have addictive behaviors that I need to constantly submit to God. Too much of anything is just... too much. It's simply not God honoring.

So, I re-enter the blogosphere submitting my desire to read, write, Flickr (and make new blog headers) to God.

I had a friend once who when asked what she knew about balance quipped, "Oh sure! I know a lot about balance. I recognize it every time I swing past it."

I don't want to be like that. I want to be open to be the balanced, creative spirit and God honoring soul God created me to be.

At Praise team practice the other night we sang a song called "I'm Yours Lord". It goes like this.

I'm yours, Lord
Everything I've got
Everything I Am
Everything I'm not

I'm yours, Lord
Try me now and see
Cause I want to be
Completely yours.

That's my prayer,