Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Miss "The Hugger"

One of my favorite meals to eat out is breakfast. It just seems special to linger over an extra cup of coffee and conversation after eating something besides my usual toast and peanut butter.

Cracker Barrel, The Pancake Pantry in Nashville, and the Donut Hole all get a thumbs up from us! But one of my top breakfast places is Grayt Grounds on 30A. I love this little coffee shop located in an old house with funky decorations, lots of twinkling lights, vintage furnishings, and yummy food in this eclectic beach village.

The last breakfast I had there was something the cook concocted for me from ingredients on hand that included scrambled eggs, grits, cheese, and spinach. YUM.

I have even written a blogpost or two from the table in the corner.

Sherry, the owner, is a BIG REASON the place draws us back time and again. (And obviously others since there is always a crowd.) Her nickname is The Hugger. She is very friendly and welcoming to everyone and has a cushion-y bosom. We hadn't been there too many times before she started including a hug for me in her welcome hello.

On a visit last spring, I intentionally watched her when we stopped in to listen to live music on a random Wednesday evening. The small venue was packed and the crowd was very diverse in age-some early 20's all the way to quite a bit older than that.

Brad and I arrived early and I did a lot of people watching while we waited for the show to begin. As the room started to fill, I noticed almost everyone in the place made sure Sherry saw them, and I could tell by the body language they were longing for a hug. Male and female, Sherry embraced each one and was genuinely happy to see them.

Each one walked away from her with a smile on his/ her face.

Did you know there is a lot of scientific evidence to support the importance of a simple hug? I listened to an interesting Ted Talk about stress that sent me on a search of the physical effects of this comforting human contact.

I discovered that when we are hugged, our bodies release the "happiness" hormone, oxytocin. The first time I ever heard about this hormone was when I breastfed our sons, but apparently, a lot more has been learned about it.

Oxytocin does all this:

  • reduces stress and anxiety
  • increases empathy and trust
  • boosts happiness
  • helps bond with others
  • makes us more generous
  • promotes monogamy
  • cements the connection between mom and breastfed child

We are MADE to be touched.

All of this is more evidence to me that we are fearfully and wondrously made by a loving Creator. Since we are made in the image of God, HE must love hugs, too, and seems to have inserted healing powers within them.

Our body is a marvelous thing.

Our breath helps heal the body and spirit.
Our words help heal the body and spirit.
Our touch helps heal the body and spirit.

Of course, medications are also a gift from God, but I think it is so amazing that HE hardwired all these healing modalities into our physical body.

What can we do with this knowledge and the power of our hug?   I plan to look around for those who I know could use a boost....the widow, single women, the stressed out (I guess that includes everyone!)....and give them a big hug.

How about you? Maybe you are the person who can give a hug today, or maybe you could use one yourself.
Let's make a deal. If we ever meet in person, I will hug you and you can hug me!

Sad Sidebar:  I was so disappointed a few weeks ago when I took friends to meet The Hugger and discovered the little coffee shop has closed due to unforeseen circumstance. I may never see Sherry again, but her sweet spirit and warm hug impacted my life, and I will pass it on. 

Whoopsie Sidebar: I wrote this post some time ago and forgot to hit "Publish". No wonder no one read it. It's still very true!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How to Shine Bright

Last week was a special check-something-off-my-bucket list time. I was able to take our oldest granddaughter and her friend for a week in Florida. Karen, my dear sister, was scheduled to go with us, but she opted to stay home and farm, so Debbie, my dear friend, joined us.

We had an absolutely fabulous time.

(I will not even get into the guilt I felt at leaving my farmers during the absolute busiest time of year after an incredibly wet and stressful spring. Let's just say I owe BIG THANK YOU'S to lots of people for stepping in to help in my absence. My husband and sons are ROCK STARS and very kind to their wife and momma. In my defense, when you are trying to schedule a week with VERY BUSY teenagers, you have to grab the gusto and go when they can.)

The weather cooperated beautifully. The girls were fun and giggly and grown-up and willing to try new things and ADORABLE.

Here are some words to describe our Beach Bash 2016:

ocean waves
crab legs
resale shops
Phase 10
horseback riding
famous people
prayer walk
spoken word

We were very busy and blessed and exhausted at the end of the week.  However, I would travel with them again in a second, and I will never forget our time together.

Special relationships were deepened and the special relationship I have with the beach was, too.

God seems to always teach me in a special way when I'm at the beach and this time was no exception. He is so gracious and kind in pointing out errors in my thinking, helping me see others with new eyes. It seems I always need to be reminded to love my neighbor. And those lessons often come as I stare at the vastness of the ocean.

Saturday evening we went to the movies. The girls wanted to see Through the Looking Glass, so we bought their tickets for the 3D Imax theater, popcorn and drinks, and got them settled in before we headed down the hall to the film we chose, Money Monsters. 

I won't go into the story-line of our movie, but let's just say it was very intense and NOT a love story. At one point after a tragic event in New York City, we were treated to a glimpse of what was happening at the exact same time in several different places around the world. The scenes went from one dark, evil event to another and it just about made me sick.

And made me realize that the scenes, though fiction, probably accurately represented what happens in this world. Can you imagine what it must be like to be God, to see your dearly loved children making one bad mistake after another, missing out on the life you created them to live?

Left to our own devices, we create one big mess for ourselves after another.

I was really troubled by this until Debbie reminded me that we don't live in THAT world. As Christians, we are part of HIS LIGHT, HIS KINGDOM here on earth.

Lesson noted and received with thanksgiving.

Sidebar: Our movie ended before the girls, and we snuck into their theater to check on them. We had a ball watching our two cuties watch Alice and friends while wearing their 3D glasses, smiling and laughing and reacting to the action on their screen. Precious Grandma-time.

We had milkshakes at Johnny Rockets and headed back to our condo, but I just kept thinking about the evil darkness I had seen in the movie. Why do people find it so attractive?

Sunday morning, we went to church and at the end of the sweet service, the pastor announced there would be a baptism at the beach in 30 minutes. Debbie and I were so excited to witness a new birth on the beach so we all headed down to the water.

Surprise. God showed me part two of the lesson from beach week.

Sidebar: I also learned not to lock my keys in my purse in the trunk. Don't worry. Happy ending.

Walking up to the pavilion to the beach, we began hearing the gentle sounds of a recorder. An elderly man was sitting there playing away, so we walked up to hear a bit of his story. We didn't expect what we saw next-a sign offering to tell our fortunes or give us an "oracle."

Say what?

I could hear my grandma's voice telling me to run as far away as I could from someone who was messing with the dark side.

But before long, Debbie told him we were there to witness a baptism and she had him playing Amazing Grace. She's amazing like that.

Talk about the juxtaposition of good and evil. Of light and dark. Of knowledge and ignorance.

The baptism took place on a packed beach witnessed by those of us who were there by choice and those who randomly were at the right place at the right time. I can't wait to find out in heaven how God used that scene to impact others.

I know it impacted me.

Friends, as believers, we are so very blessed and called to be different than the world. We must be
LIGHT and LOVE and share the GOOD NEWS of the GOSPEL.

It is our "get-to". Our great privilege and purpose.

And the world desperately needs it and doesn't even know it. And they are searching for it through all kinds of evil. They don't know what they don't know.

So we need to show them through the way we live.

Once again, Christ does the work.

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” John 8:12 MSG

Jesus is the light and because He is, we can be. 

Matthew 5: 14-16 
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public aa city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Don't you just love that phrase, "Keep open House; be generous with your lives" ? Don't be stingy and selfish with the wonderfulness of God that He has put within you.

Shine on, friends!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lawn Wars

Do you ever have lawn wars at your house? By that I mean arguments about how high the lawn mower should be set.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that Brad and I have had more than one “discussion” about that and other trivialities of yard work.

I like the grass a little on the taller side even if it means mowing twice a week. Brad, on the other hand, wants the mower set on 2 inches, nice and short.  Admittedly, over the years, at times it has been a struggle to even get the yard mowed at all.

I’m still humiliated about the time Shandi and Chris, who did our patio and sidewalks, came by for an estimate. We were in the midst of spring planting and many evening activities for me and the boys, and our grass was in desperate need of attention. However, no one had time to sit on our little mower for 4+ hours.  The grass must have been over 6 inches tall. And we were showing it to professional landscapers!

Oh my.

And then there are the battles over dandelions. Poor Brad, who tries to make his wife happy, has often put the little sprayer on the 4 wheeler and waited patiently for a very early morning that wasn’t too windy so he could kill the weeds in the grass, but nothing else, before spending another 13 hours farming.

Sometimes I am very hard to please.  And unreasonable.  I’m going to do better, honey.

We have a bigger John Deere now that allows me to zip around and finish the job in around 2 hours, so when I mow, the grass is higher and gets it more often. One day earlier this spring, I was flying back and forth on the mower, lamenting our yard full of dandelions when God prompted me to change my perspective.

I love flowers, so why couldn’t I learn to love dandelions?  

I got out my camera and snapped a close-up of one of the hundreds in our front yard. Guess what? It was beautiful!

This began one of my great blessings of the last few weeks. I’ve been on a quest to really NOTICE the beauty and variety of flowers of all shapes and sizes, especially their centers.  Each one is a little miracle and a testament to the creativity of the Great Creator.

And all of these little beauties reminded me that for all the beauty of nature, mankind was God’s ultimate creation.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness……God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1: 26a, 31a

Isn't that something?

Each one of us is created in God’s image. There is something at the center of each of us that points to the Creator.

Let’s consider this…..

Think of:  

the nicest person you know-
                                                God is nicer.

The funniest person you know-
                                                God is funnier.

The best artist-
                                                God is more artistic.

The best singer-
                                                God’s voice is better.

The friendliest person-
                                                God is friendlier.

The most empathetic-
                                                God understands each person completely.

The most beautiful-
                                                God is more beautiful.

The best mathematician-
                                                God invented math.

The smartest scientist-
                                                God invented scientific principles.

The best doctor-
                                                God is the Great Physician.

The most loving person you know-
                                                God IS love.

The most joyful, grace-filled, self-controlled, peaceful, patient, faithful, gentle person we know,
Can’t even come close to the character of God.

And this is just the beginning.

If we could make a composite of the best character traits of all of us, and multiply them by infinity, perhaps we begin to get a glimpse of our Heavenly Father.

When our boot camp here on earth is finished, those of us who are Christ followers will get to spend eternity in relationship with HIM. And we will be transformed into the people we were created to be. 

It is going to be AMAZING!

Let’s change our perspective and take our eyes off the inevitable flaws in those who cross our paths in this fallen world. Instead, let’s look for the beauty in all of God’s creation. 

Including you and me.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Coastal Living Design House and Fixer Uppers

Hello, friends!

When we moved back to Hidalgo after our short stint in a medium sized city, my dear husband tried very hard to find a house that I would want to live in. I was excited to move home, but I wasn't happy about any of our housing options.

The homes that Brad thought I would like, and that I should have liked, just didn't do it for me. At one point I know I cried because I was afraid we would end up in a new-ish house that would never be quite right, but too nice to tear down or move away from. I didn't want to feel trapped in an ugly house on the prairie. (I know. I can be a brat.)

Seagrove is a totally unique area at the beach. It is literally a grove of little trees and is very shaded. The houses are close together on sand roads. So cool!

The first room when you come in from the porch. What do you think? I love the denim slipcovers and the curtains and the way the shelves are arranged!

I really wanted to live in an old house that I could totally make ours, knowing that nothing would be permanent. And then build a new one.

We found the perfect fixer upper for me in Hidalgo, right across the street from the community building and ball diamond and down the street from the elevator, Bob's Hardware, and the little grocery store.  I remember those days and that house very fondly. The house was far from perfect, but I thought it was so darn cute with its wrap around porch and gingerbread trim. And I loved it!

The nicest people lived in the village with us and the boys and I liked to take long walks and drop in (uninvited and unexpected, now that I think about it!) for visits with Fred and Lela, Richard and Kathy, Don and Ilene, Miss Flossie and Edna, to mention just a few.

I loved, loved, loved this room! The space. The light. The everything.

If the weather was nice, we spent lots of time outside and we had lots of company, too. As the boys rode their Big Wheels up and down the sidewalk, I shared glasses of tea and our porch swing with many people who would stop for a quick visit as they drove through town.

I missed those drop in guests once we moved to our new house, built on a very quiet road and less convenient for casual dropping in. Now, I needed to extend invitations if I wanted company and I didn't extend nearly enough of them.

I regret that.


We lived in that old house in "town" for much longer than we originally intended, so I had a lot of time to dream of the new house we were going to build someday. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. I used to have gobs of back issues of Southern Living and Country Living and a big old notebook filled with inspiration pages torn from other magazines and carefully placed in page protectors.

Eventually, we built our new farmhouse, and I got to implement some of those ideas. But I still like decorating and changing things up, so I'm always on the lookout for pretty ideas. I no longer have my old magazines and I emptied up those page protectors and refilled them with other information that interests me. My decorating inspiration is all stored on my Pinterest boards now.

Tiny, tiny bath

Great floors, don't you think?

One magazine that I still enjoy is Coastal Living and I was so tickled to learn that the design house for this year was just down the road from us in Seagrove, Florida. I couldn't wait to see it, and as the pictures prove, I wasn't disappointed!

It was just beautiful and made me smile from the minute I walked in the front door. I was so inspired and gobsmacked by the designer's creativity. I especially loved the warm and welcoming kitchen/family room combo. I just know the owners of that home will entertain many friends and family there after long days spent at the beach.

Master Bedroom with a map of Seaside, which is very nearby

extra bedroom

studio space

This year has me thinking a lot about hospitality. I've dined (and I mean "dined")  in the fanciest places I could imagine on our trip to Italy, eaten dishes I can't even remember the names of because they were so complicated. And I've eaten simple food in a house with a dirt floor in Mexico.

The food was delicious in both places.

the back porch

wine garden

Here's what I learned.... 

It doesn't matter if you live in a million dollar mansion, a cottage at the beach, a modest typical family home, or a house made from pallets and cardboard.

It doesn't matter if you prepare food from recipes that are pages long and garnish with flowers and elaborate sauces, or the food is served family style in big old unmatched serving dishes, or you bought a bucket at Kentucky Fried chicken and eat it on paper plates with sporks.

If the food is served with love and enjoyed with people you want to know better, it will taste good.

So, throw open your doors and have company. Invite people in. We are all just looking for a place at the table.

You can read about our visit to the Southern Living Design House a few years ago Southern Living Design House, and my visit to Italy Farm Girls Go to Italy, and our mission trip to Mexico Grateful on Mission.

I would love, love, love to hear what you know for certain about hospitality. Please share in the comments!

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Love Where I Live

Hello, friends!

You know the old saying "Bloom Where You are Planted?" I'm trying and I hope you are, too.

Like many teenagers, I never intended to live in my hometown when I grew up. I've written about it before, so I won't go over it again, but at one time, I really thought I was born to live in a city and somehow ended up on a farm in the country by mistake.

And I NEVER intended to fall in love with a farmer who worried about the weather and worked 24/7.


Now, I know I was born to live in the country on a farm with my farmer who worries about the weather and indeed does work almost 24/7. I'm very proud to be a farmer's wife and a farmer's daughter and farmers' mother.

It is a good life and I am very, very grateful.

And we go to Florida a lot, so there is that. Yeah!

I am so thankful to live where I live.

I LOVE our little community. It is filled with salt of the earth people who would literally give you the shirt off their back and often do. I've heard that in some parts of our country, it's common for many people to have "big hats and no cattle", living above their means and worried about keeping up with the Joneses. Here, it is much more normal for people to have "many cattle and a small hat."

I like that about them.

But, if there is a need, our people are quick to help. They volunteer. They share. They give. They support great causes. They really care about others. They notice what is happening around them.

They buy raffle tickets. And girl scout cookies. And animals at the 4-H livestock auction. And purses. And cookie dough. And pork loins. And "stuff" they don't really need when their little people ask them to.

They eat a lot, too. Porkburgers and more porkburgers. (Have you ever had one? They are delicious!) Pancakes. Sausage breakfasts. Hog roasts. Strawberry Ice Cream.

They play basket bingo and trivia and dodge ball to raise funds for various projects. They hold special spin classes to contribute money for adoptions for people they will never meet in a state across the country.

They give to missionaries across the world. And to the ministry down the street.

And those are just a few things that quickly pop into my head.

Who wouldn't want to live here?

Not only are these people givers, they are super interesting, too. I love learning about what makes a person "light up"!

I want to learn more about their......

tapping maple trees and making syrup the old fashioned way, for the sheer fun of it

taking farm "junk" and welding it into art

making furniture

creating a home music recording studio and then using it to help promote our very own American Idol contestant, Cheyenne Goss

crocheting like it is a job


meeting on Thursday nights with mandolins, banjos, and guitars to make music that only they will hear

running marathons, half marathons, or just around town, spinning, doing holy yoga, Insanity, Girl Fit, Cize

making museum quality quilts

studying stars and history

books being written

fishing our lakes, hunting our woods and catching the big ones

getting cattle ready for big shows all over the Midwest

growing huge gardens, picking mushrooms, wild blackberries, raspberries and ginseng

book clubs and essential oil clubs and bridge clubs

day lily collectors, daffodil collectors, antique tractor collectors

racing dirtbikes and cars and competing in talent shows and being really good at it, too

camping, glamping, motorcycling. cruising, exotic traveling

bird-watching, arrowhead hunting, eagle sightings

poetry writing and a newsletter published several times a year describing the events that happen in imaginary Happyville

Uninformed people might overlook our small community or wonder what we do for fun. Those of us who call this home, look around at all our wide open spaces, count our blessings and get busy living!

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