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gratitude

It Doesn’t Have To Be Big

Last Monday morning early, my husband was off to work, and I was at home with River, getting him ready for his swim lesson. That hour before swim is a hectic one because I’m getting River ready, getting his bag ready and getting 8,000 dishes in or out of the dishwasher before we set sail for the Landry Center. But, this particular Monday morning, right as the door closed behind my husband, River says, “Mommy, I’m not feeling good. I feel sick in my mouth.” I think, “Oh, great, are we in the throws of step throat, again?” Then, he scurries over to me and says, “Mommy, hold me.” And, before he could tell me he was sick again, he vomited down the right side of my face, hair and body. If this has ever happened to you, you know the drill. First, you stand there freaked completely out. Second, you mentally devise a plan of how to remove the articles of clothing that were effected. Third, you check to see if your child is, in fact, ok.

So, I freaked out, threw my vomit drenched pony tail over my shoulder, pulled both mine and River’s shirts off, and grabbed that sick little cutie to make sure he was ok. Then, I hurdled the vomit on the floor en route to my iPhone so that I could text Riv’s beloved swim coach, Cameron, and tell him we couldn’t make it and why. But, as I picked my phone up, I noticed that someone was at the door on my doorbell/camera/thing-a-ma-jiggy app. Like a ninja (that had been vomited on), I eased toward the door to see if it was someone who needed something. But, it just looked like two young guys who were contracted to do work in the neighborhood and got the wrong address.

So, I go back to caring for my sick child and cleaning up the vomit (let’s see how many times I can say that in one BLOB) when, this time, I actually hear the doorbell ring. I think, “They’re either at the wrong house, or my husband has hired them to do something and didn’t communicate it to me.” So, I grab River, mainly to cover myself, and hide my body behind the wall. Then, I open the door partly and stretch my neck around enough to gently holler, “Guys, can I help you?” They begin walking toward the door and I shriek, “STOP! I’m topless!” With a terrified and somewhat curious look on their faces, they stepped back. And, through the crack of the door I say, “I mean, I’m not topless. I do have on a sports bra. I’m also holding my child to cover me.” They, gently replied, “Ma’am, we’re just here to clean your windows.” I said, “Ok, carry on.” And, as I closed the door, I got so darn tickled. So, I cracked the door open and hollered once again, “Hey, Guys.” They said, “Yes.” I said, “There’s nothing quite like being greeted by a topless mom first thing in the morning, is there?” I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their smiles in their voices as they replied, “No, ma’am.”

Then, up the stairs, River and I go to shower, put clean clothes on and relax. And, as I sat beside my son, all snuggled up on the “heavy” bed (that’s what he calls the bed in the master), a surprising smile stretched across my face. I was both exhausted and elated. Exhausted, of course, after a marathon of mishaps and elated that I- have a son (even when he’s vomiting on my hair), a house with windows that need washing, a husband with the foresight to get things done that would never cross my mind and the kindness and grace that two complete strangers showed me in a moment of chaos. It’s pretty amazing when you start that little mental gratitude list. Because, what looked like a few things becomes a few thousand.

In this season, there’s so much pomp and circumstance. We can’t just put a pair of warm mittens under the tree. No, they have to be Gucci and wrapped to perfection. By the way, if this was anyone’s gift idea for me, please do not return it. I’ll make do, I promise. It can’t just be a simple salad that we bring to the family dinner. No, it better be congealed to perfection, in the rightful Christmas wreath jello mold form with maraschino cherries for the holly. And, your Christmas card can’t be a candid shot from your summer vacay developed at your local CVS. Heck no! Your whole family needs to be photographed in the Swiss Alps, wearing coordinating tartan plaid, smiling like you’ve all just won the lottery, foil stamped and bathed in potpourri before being mailed to two hundred family members and friends. I mean, it has to be BIG, or it’s meaningless. Isn’t that sort of what the world tells us?

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be BIG for it to be a blessing. Let that sink in. We don’t remember the Gucci gloves. We remember the loving intention of the person gifting us. We don’t remember the Christmas wreath congeal salad. We remember the community that comes with gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones. And, we don’t remember what the card looked like. We remember the love we feel toward the person who sent the card and their significance in our lives. What I’m saying here is, it doesn’t have to sparkle to be gold.

This season is about our Savior. And, you know the story. He wasn’t the son of a mother and father of means, born in a private hospital suite and swaddled in bamboo. He was the son of two ordinary people chosen to carry out an extraordinary mission, born in a manger which was used to hold food for livestock. There was no meal train or sip and see. But, there were three wise men who traveled from afar to bestow special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh upon this little baby and, then, his ministry unfolded for all the world to see. And, this unsuspecting child became God’s greatest gift to humanity.

I hope that in this Savior Season and, really, every single day, you’ll make seeing what’s big in the small things a top priority. In doing so, the gift of gratitude is promised to multiply like mosquitoes in the Texas heat. And, if you’re like me, a real rascal at times, I hope you’ll remember that God’s gift to humanity in our Savior isn’t exclusive to the righteous. It’s available to ALL. No age, no color, no gender, no political affiliation, no sexual preference, no debt unpaid, no sentence served- nothing, and, I do mean absolutely nothing can take God’s gift of grace through Christ Jesus away from you. If you believe that Christ is the Son of God, then you receive Him as your Savior. You are saved. Can I get just one AMEN!

Ephesians 2:8 NLT “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And, you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

Something To Celebrate

The week between Christmas and New Years is generally one of getting the house back in order, rest from all the holiday festivities and, of course, making those well intentioned resolutions for 2016. I tickle myself because, generally, I’m making my resolutions (the same ones for the last ten years) and doing so in my favorite pair of sweatpants because everything else I own is a wee bit snug. What can I say, my sister’s iced sugar cookies are hard to turn down. So, it’s not difficult for one to believe that my first resolution generally has something to do with diet (as in, changing it), exercise (as in, doing it) and losing weight (what happens when diet and exercises marry).

Last year, after there was order in my home and I’d caught up on rest, I started reflecting, first, on my business. I’d taken a full year to prepare and launch JL PARISH followed by almost two months of actually being “in” business. So, the list of things I needed to change, better or learn was long. But, I stopped and reminded myself that all businesses are works in progress. Every day is different. And, experience is the ultimate teacher. For those reasons, after the list of goals and changes and so on were made, I turned my attention to creating a list of things that did work- the dialogue that our Sparrow Project started about domestic violence, the beautiful JL PARISH treasures that we made by hand right here in Dallas, Texas, the hearts filled with love upon receiving one of our treasures and the list went on. That sort of positive reflection turned gratitude list made my “goals, changes and so on” way more palatable.

So, for the first time last year, instead of focusing on all my well intentioned resolutions for myself, I, instead, focused on the things that worked- I was more forthright with my fond feelings for family and friends, I said “thank you” a lot, I found forgiveness in myself for not getting it all right and on and on.

You see, our reflections should be less about what we didn’t get done and more about what we did get done. It can be anything from earning a degree to taking a well needed nap. Spending more time with family or planting a tree. Forgiving others and ourselves. These are the things that add to our lives, enriching the day to day joy of our lives. And, isn’t life worth living JOYOUSLY!

As we move into the New Year, I hope you’re reflection time will be more about what you did and less about what needs to be done or changed or etc. You’ve accomplished a lot in the last 365 days, and that’s something to celebrate!

Happy New Year, Friends!

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

WHAT GIVES YOU LIFE?

The stomach flu really has a way of putting things into perspective. You’re forced to rest, but you’re restless. You need to eat, but, in this rare instance, you’re not hungry. A normal part of your daily routine suddenly feels like you’re climbing Mt. Everest. And, you need to talk to someone or something because you feel so isolated, but you just don’t have any words and listening hurts your ears and ankles, and well, everything. You stand in solidarity with the toilet and trashcan, ever so grateful they exist.

Today, I’m wearily humming, “What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours.” And, though I feel one million times better, my energy level is still not quite up to par. Nevertheless, every single thing in my home is being disinfected by my trusty diffuser that methodically dispenses Thieves, a natural disinfectant, into each room leaving everything free of my stomach flu funk. Friends, listen closely, if you’re going to bring the funk, don’t bring the stomach flu funk. Pinky swear right now that you will never ever do that.

My Mamaw Lide used to say to me, “Be grateful for the days when everything goes as it normally would. Because, some day, it won’t be that way.” I know it’s been a few weeks since I touched on this, but normal is good. Normal is sacred. Normal keeps us grounded. When we’re healthy and able to do the things we would “normally do,” it’s a gift- rarer and more precious than we realize.

Last week, the Wild & Woolies and I discussed the things in our lives that are “life giving.” You know, the things we do for ourselves that are good for us deep, deep in our souls. And, interestingly enough, the majority of those “life giving” things discussed were all normal, everyday things like being outside, serving, spin class, reading a good book, fellowship, spending time with family, cooking, enjoying the company of friends, playing with our animals and so on. Nobody said, “travel all the continents or run an ultra marathon or attend New York Fashion Week. No, they shared simple, attainable, normal pleasures in life.

Today, one of those normal pleasures was the piece of toast I ate as it popped out of the toaster, hot and crisped to perfection. It made me think of my Mamaw again. When I was a little girl, I would stay overnight with her. Although there were many rooms I could have slept in at her home, I chose to sleep with her in her feather bed. It was so soft and cozy, and I always felt so safe and loved next to her. Though she would wake up ahead of me to enjoy her coffee and toast, when I did open my eyes, she wrapped me tightly in a blanket and put me on the couch to watch the cartoons I loved so much. And, before I knew it, she served me perfectly toasted, buttered and jellied toast and juice (jelly and juice from her wild plum and grape vines, of course), because this little princesses “life giving” stuff was unfolding, and my precious Mamaw wouldn’t allow anything to interrupt that. You see, part of what gave her life was giving it to others. Isn’t that a precious legacy. I could never fill her boots but maybe a ballet flat (someday, hopefully).

Today would have been my Mamaw’s 103rd birthday. She lived until she was almost 99 years of age independently. She was a marvel of a human being, lived a life fully surrendered to Christ, put her family first, served, took in people who had no place to go or nobody to turn to, loved her in-laws like they were her blood, offered kindness everywhere she went and was the first female in the state of Texas to be named “Best Beef Producer” (twice, by the way). Friends, here in Texas, we take our beef seriously. This award was like Viola Davis’s Emmy. A female winning such an award was a major breakthrough.  Mamaw was very much a trailblazer. I remember her saying once, “I just don’t understand all this women’s lib talk.” I said, “Mamaw, you’re at the forefront of that. No woman does what you do in the cattle industry.” She replied with conviction, “Well, I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I was just trying to keep it all together and survive.” See what I’m saying, she as a human and the time I spent with her and the memories I have with her continue to give me life to this very day.

Lastly, when she had something to impart, it was thoughtful and simple. Today, friends, “Be grateful for for the days when everything goes as it normally would. Because, someday it won’t be that way.” The normal, simple pleasures in life are what give us life. Look at things from that perspective and see how full your cup really is.

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

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