roosterWhen I was growing up, the only thing I knew about lint was that it got stuck between my toes. One side of my family was General Baptist and the other Pentecostal. Neither observed Lent.

Then I married Jeff. He had attended a bona fide, nuns with rulers, uniform-required Catholic school. Lent was a real thing to his family. Fish on Fridays and giving up things for forty days every Spring. I found the idea fascinating. I was raised with fasting and praying. The concept is similar. But this was a whole new level.

Practiced by Catholics, Methodist, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and others, Lent is observed in remembrance of the forty days Jesus was tempted in the desert. They go without things like a meal per day, coffee, social media, etc. in order to experience, to a very small degree, what Jesus went through while fasting and being tempted for forty days. Some people add a discipline like prayer, daily devotional reading, or almsgiving. Fasting and praying is doing both—taking away one thing to concentrate on another. That works for me. I usually spend the forty days taking time from other activities to give thanks for the large and small blessings in my life. It redefines my prayer time, putting more emphasis on thanking God than whining about the lint in my toes.

36259276_10214680546960461_5767838201729253376_oSo to begin my Gratitude for Lent season, I am thanking God for my little brother! His birthday is today. I talked to him this evening. He was making a deal to buy one hundred roosters. Yes. One hundred roosters. He recently sold one hundred forty roosters. So this is just another Thursday to him. He was born loving animals. There was always a pig, chick, or puppy in our house being nurtured by Virgil. People would bring the runts of litters from all kinds of critters to him when we were growing up. Maybe he did so well with the animals because he was a runt himself. He was amazing at caring for them and breathing life into their little bodies. I think they were too afraid of letting him down to die on his watch.

I was in awe of him. I still am. Who buys and sells roosters one hundred at a time? My awesome brother, that’s who! He may be my half brother, but he is twice the rooster deal-maker than the average Joe. Thank God for little brothers!

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Twice the Character

Sun in a glass shard

Examining my character.

Yesterday someone I have known basically my whole life passed away. Last week he went in for heart surgery, the kind that is performed all the time, and due to complications, today his family is making funeral arrangements. He was in his early sixties.

It is so human of us to wonder how we will face death. Am I ready? Am I square with God? Do I have emotional or spiritual debts to be paid before I go? Who would even show up to my funeral? If it was open mic what would people say? (That is a rhetorical question!) Will my character hold up? Or will my failures and faults prevail? And which friend will be singing “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” under her breath?

Lately I have been taking a closer look my character. Piece by piece I have been holding it up to God’s light, turning it over, examining it from every angle, hoping to understand why it is as it is. I honestly don’t know why God’s truth shines through parts of my character to illuminate the world around me while other shards are cloudy and block God’s light. The dark parts have come from the life I’ve lived and the choices I’ve made. I am pretty sure not even Norwex could shine that stuff up. But I am trying and am trusting God to help me.


I started reading the book, Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof. (Thank you, Stephen!) Talk about examining your character. Nieuwhof understands how easily character can be eroded and the importance of safeguarding it. He outlines seven challenges we all face and offers effective ways to rise above each challenge. I am highlighting passages left and right in this sucker. That character flaw right there? Yeah, I have that. And that one. And, embarrassingly enough, that one too.

Why is it so hard to fix my character? I truly, genuinely, certifiably want to…

But it is so easy to compromise just a little. And then little more. And then more.

I feel like Paul, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it” (Romans 7:15). This could be my life verse!

Nieuwhof writes, “The antidote to compromise is simply this: work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.” I was in school, college, and grad school working on my competency for more years than I’m willing to admit. (I think it was my way of making up for being a high school dropout.) If you count retreats, seminars, conferences, and professional development, we are talking well over twenty years of education. How many years have I worked on my character? Do fractions count? The good news is that if I live long enough to work that hard on character, I might actually be alive for the maiden voyage of the Enterprise!


This brings me to the half and double connection. If I work twice as hard on my character and compromise half as much each day for the rest of my life, maybe mic night at my wake will be filled with hallelujahs! Or maybe a Bee Gees song. Or someone quoting the opening credits to Star Trek! Or someone dressed in a Starfleet uniform singing a Bee Gees song. Or maybe, just maybe, one or two people who will say, “I saw God’s light through her.” That is boldly going to the final frontier.

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Double the Museums

We used to live in Springfield, Mo., once upon a time when we could carry our kids on our backs or hips. One of their favorite places to visit was Bass Pro. There were huge fish swimming in extraordinary aquariums, taxidermed animals everywhere, candy, waterfalls, and during the holidays, the best Santa and reindeer in town.

On this visit to Springfield we visited the massive World of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium that are now part of Bass Pro. And, y’all, these museums are worldclass. The Aquarium was voted the best aquarium in the country for 2017 and rightly so.


The Museum entrance.


There is a full size cabin inside. The place is humongous.


This area is about the hunters and record holders.


Piebald Whitetail Deer are rare but beautiful.


The wildlife scenes were amazing. This one really made you feel like you were under the northern lights. We’ve seen them in real life and this display nailed it.


The polar bears were so animated.


African deer with pointy horns. 


The blue light special is an aquarium.


The entry into the aquarium was grand in size and design.


Jasmine was captivated by this very large fish.


This is a full size, real boat. The people onboard are life size. The water and fish looked like they were frozen in time, with flashes of light reflected off both and giving the illusion of a real sea.


Sherri, Larry, and the foot-eating shark.


Spiny fish are supposedly not good to eat. But he was handsome.


One wall was dedicated to photos to presidents on fishing trips. 


This is part of the lake exhibit. But there were fish from rivers, seas, oceans, and goldfish bowls.


Piranha are gorgeous. They look like someone rubbed gold nuggets on their sides. They lure you in with the shiny stuff and then eat you.


Clown fish.


Some of the best fish in the sea.


This little guy was checking us out. I think he smelled something fishy.


Jellyfish! Several species were represented. 


Had to include Hemingway’s boat, Pilar.

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Half the Work, Double the Green Thumbs

Day one of our vacation was spent helping Jasmine move out of her old apartment into a new one. Jeff’s sister, Julie, and her husband, Dave, came to help, as well as Sherri. We cleaned, boxed, loaded, took stuff to the dumpster, and unloaded. With all the help, it took half the time.

That gave us time to go check out Chris and Jasmine’s garden and mini orchard. They have pear, cherry, plum, and several varieties of apple trees. Lots of veggies and flowers. Compact and cute. We loved it. They know how to grow things.


We then had a lovely dinner with my brother Virgil and his wife, Robin, before retiring to the really cool Bass Pro Angler’s Inn where even the door handles and parking lines were fish. It was a great start to the J+M Road Trip.

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Remembering Colorado Day One

I just found photos of our trip to Colorado in 2017. We all flew in to Denver. Albuquerque would have been the better choice. But I didn’t realize that until it was too expensive to switch. Lynn and Rick arrived from St. Louis fifteen minutes before we arrived from Nashville. We went to see mountains, fall foliage, and historical sites. And, of course, to catch up with each other.

We all live hectic lives–work, adult kids, aging parents, friends, life in modern day America. And we live six hours from each other. Phone conversations and texts can only go so far in life-sharing. Every once in a while we need to see each other nosehole to nosehole (as my friend Darla puts it) and push each other to expand ourselves by trying new things and experiencing the world up close and personal. We learn and live and love and are thankful. Very, very thankful.

Our first day in Colorado we mostly just soaked in the new elevations and scouted for yellowing Aspens as we drove the six hours from Denver to Pagosa Springs. It was a subdued but exciting beginning with lots of mountain sightings and glorious clouds and sunset. The trees were just starting to turn in the higher elevations. But we were mesmerized by the landscape as we went from the Denver plateau to the high mesa.

These travelers are the people I trust with my life. They make me laugh, cry, and challenge me to be a better person. They know about every secret I have and some I don’t even admit to myself. They pray for me and cheer me on. And if I was going to fall off a mountain or get lost in the wilderness, I know they would have called out the search dogs (mostly because I had the key to the condo in my pocket).

I love traveling. I love exploring new things with curious, adventurous people. The trip to Colorado was chock full of both. We halved the costs by sharing a condo, a car, and food. We doubled the fun by traveling together. Half and double is the way to go!

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Today I am thankful for deodorant.

Plastic cosmetics bottles on white background

I was in very close proximity to several people who had worked a long, hard day or had some sort of sweat gland issue. No judgment. Maybe they ran out of deodorant this morning and had no time to buy more (but we were in Target). Maybe their dog ate their tube or their cat knocked it off the bathroom window ledge and it fell into thorn bushes. Maybe they don’t believe in it or they are from a country where deodorant isn’t used or they are one of those interesting people who can’t smell anything (anosmiac). Wouldn’t that be awful?

Whatever the case, I was thanking my lucky stars for my deodorant today. No one needed my smell added to the cacophony of body aroma this fine March afternoon. Or any day for that matter.

Smells are so much a part of our lives. The good, the bad, the delightful, and the gross. I don’t think we take full advantage of our olfactory sense. We rely on our other senses so much we neglect using our noses. It is a sense of smell that calls forth the deepest buried memories, alerts us to danger often before our other senses detect it, and helps us woo the opposite sex.


I read a study once where new moms were separated from their babies and could only use their sense of smell to identify them. Researches had babies wear T-shirts for several hours and then took them off the babies. They blindfolded the moms and gave them each of the T-shirts to see if the mom would be able to identify the one worn by her child. If I remember correctly, the moms selected their baby’s T-shirt more than 90 percent of the time. The sense of smell is amazing. Although the longer you have those babies, the more you wish you did indeed have anosmia.

I, personally, have issues with smells. Certain chemical smells, including some perfumes and all bleach-enhanced cleaners, have the power to knock me out or give me a powerful headache. I can smell a match when it is struck three stories below me—which came in handy while raising two fire-loving sons. So when I’m in a foreign country (or a Target) where deodorant isn’t in use, my nose knows. And I am grateful that I am the smeller not the one who is emitting the smells.



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Sunset Hills

I live in Sunset Hills. It is aptly named. I am thankful for such a beautiful place to live and for the amazing sunsets we see when we drive home from work on days like today. Isn’t this awesome?


His Spirit made the heavens beautiful.
Job 26: 13 NLT


The heavens are beautiful. But on a regular basis I am so caught up in my life that I don’t stop and appreciate them. The colors: pinks, blues, oranges, purples. The clouds: dark, puffy, angry, skittering. The silhouette of the trees against the majesty of God’s masterpiece….it all adds up to a spectacular view just waiting for me to discover it.


What else am I missing?

Tonight, on this sixth day of Lent, I took the time to stop, breathe, and look around. I noticed my husband’s gorgeous head of silver gray hair (young ladies these days pay big bucks for what he has naturally). There was my son’s beautiful, crooked smile. And the way my soon-to-be daughter-in-law looked at my son like she is the luckiest girl on earth even though he was snorting down a taco like a pig that hasn’t eaten in a month. Love is also beautiful…and possibly quite blind.


I am a blessed woman. I am a grateful woman. I get to live in Sunset Hills with some of the best people on the planet.


The day is done, the sun has set,
Yet light still tints the sky;
My heart stands still
In reverence,
For God is passing by.
–Ruth Alla Wager


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I Don’t Want to Get Up

On day four of Gratitude for Lent, I am thankful for high thread-count sheets. The are soft and cozy and feel so great on my skin…that I don’t want to leave them this morning. It is cold outside but warm and comfy under these sweet threads of Egyptian cotton. Temptresses! If I am late, the blame is on them!

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Day Three: Water

Today, I am grateful for clean, plentiful water.


I have always been a water person. I love to swim, walk in the rain, go to the beach, and I have my white noise machines set to play the sound of waves, rain, or fountains. Sometimes I boil water while I cook just to hear water moving. I have been accused of regularly spending hours in a jetted tub with a good book (which I won’t bother denying).

In that tub, I usually have a tall class of sweet tea. I love fresh iced tea. (My favorite is made with water from the crystal clear, pure water found in Black, Missouri.) Since iced tea is made fresh daily with local water, the better the water, the better the tea. Water makes all the difference. If you are ever in a place where the water smells like sulfur, forgo the fresh tea and get something bottled.

In many areas of the world there is very little clean water. They don’t have the option to have tea or bathe regularly. Their water is muddy, carries disease, or is located miles away from where people live. Millions of women, men, and children walk miles every day to bring a container of water back to their homes. According to statistics, more than 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. And here I sit in about sixty gallons of fresh water listening to an audiobook drinking sweet tea made from fresh, clean water. I feel like I need to give more money to clean water ministries! I want to share this amazing gift.


I met with a ministry several years ago that financed trips to dig wells that provided clean drinking water to people in remote South American villages. I loved the mission of the ministry and the hearts and the genuine compassion displayed by the men on the board. During the first meeting I called the ministry Aqua Viva. Continually. It is in fact Agua Viva. Life water not blue water. And they never corrected me. (We won’t go into how I messed up my words when I met with Fuzzy Duck Media.) My mix up did not damage our working relationship. It really was a honor to work with that ministry. It made me appreciate water even more.

There are many excellent ministries dedicated to bringing fresh water to people in need, to building wells, refining water, or researching ways to help people find and store fresh water. Look them up when you have time and donate if you have the funds. Or think about going on a missions trip to help dig wells for people who need them. Water is precious.

The ministry I worked with and many others go beyond digging wells to introduce villagers to the Living Water—Jesus Christ. Water for the body, water for the soul. Maybe that is why I like water so much, it is a physical symbol of my dependence on God. He quenches my spiritual thirst and washes me clean. I was baptized in creek full of crystal clear water in Black, Missouri. Where the tea is excellent.

Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.
John 4:14 NLT



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Listen Up

On the second day of Lent I find myself grateful for audiobooks.


I fell asleep last night listening to a novel set in WWII Berlin involving British spies, Churchill, the German resistance, and a whole host of Nazi bad guys. I love books of any kind—paperbacks, hardcovers, kindle editions, first round manuscripts. But with audiobooks, I can take a book to bed, turn on the sound and turn out the lights. The storytelling helps me escape the stress of an abundant life or sparks my curiosity or puts me to sleep. Sometimes the book runs all night. (Or until I determine that four hours of sleep is essential before editing can commence on the morrow, and turn it off.) The downside of letting it run unchecked is that I have to go backward in the audio the next day to find the last thing I remember. Bother!

My hubby is a quiet man. I just love road trips with him.
“Whatcha thinking about over there?”
“How are you doing, sweetie?”
“What do you think about thermal nuclear fission?”
“I’m thinking we should remodel the house, add a fireplace to the bedroom, update the bathroom, install a pool, maybe a sauna, and cover the deck. What do you think?”
“Chimpanzees or orangutans? If we adopted one, which would you prefer? Both are apes. Both are smart. Both probably shed hair as bad as the cat. Chimps are smaller. But orangutans are funnier. We could makeover Jackie’s room when he gets married and make it a primate room. Wouldn’t that be fun? Do you think they use a toilet or wear diapers? That could be weird. If you were sitting down to breakfast and were going to share a banana with one, which would you prefer?”
“Orangutans.” *


And so it went before we discovered audiobooks. Now I can borrow them from the library, download them to my kindle, plug in an adapter, and, voilà, instant conversation for the long trips to Missouri, Wisconsin, or Minnesota. It keeps him awake while he drives and keeps me entertained without having to dig words out of him.

The hard part is finding a book we both like to listen to. We like a little mystery, a bit of romance, a dose of intrigue, a villain to loathe, and, if possible, someone whose antics make us laugh. And if the person reading the book has an accent, all the better. We are very cosmopolitan after all. Surprisingly, we have found several that fit the bill. Road trips are now more exciting and go by faster than ever.

I am grateful for audiobooks. What are your favorites?

*Disclaimer: Actual road trip conversations vary and occasionally last long into the journey with both parties contributing exciting and relevant dialogue.

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