Tuesday, August 1, 2017

End of Summer Brunch

This has been quite an interesting summer. Each of the four of us were mostly separated as we were spread out in various parts of the country. Morgan began the summer in San Diego and Dylan left for an internship in Fort Worth. Bill has been working in Fort Worth since April and is still there, likely til the end of the year. I was able to spend most of the summer with him at the Hilton downtown (side note: that is the last place where JFK slept before his assassination).

This morning, following my run, I came home and made my kids brunch. It's been ages since they have both been under the same roof and I have been able to do this. And I don't know when it will happen again. I felt both happy and sad as I made apple dumplings and egg casseroles (one with sausage and the other meatless because I have a vegetarian daughter).

Although I am excited for my kids and their being all grown up, I feel such an emptiness too. For the past two decades, everything I do is about their safety and well-being. Where we live, what we do, everything- it's with them in mind. In less than a year, my baby boy will be gone. My husband travels a lot. I know good things await us, but I'm already missing being the mom.

About brunch... it was seriously yummy and super easy to make. Here's what I did:

Apple Dumplings:
On the stove, heat one stick of butter, one cup of water, about 3/4 cup sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla.
While it heats, core and cut an apple.
Open canned biscuits and roll each of them out.
Place an apple slice in each and seal them.
Pour the sauce from the stove on top.
Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
Bake for 30-35 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees.

The Egg Casseroles:
Scramble eggs (I add only salt and pepper)
Cook sausage or bacon (whichever is on-hand)
Place eggs, sausage and cheese in baking dish.
Bake til all melted.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Beauty for Ashes

It was March 2014 when my life would forever change. Because of certain legal battles and for the need to protect some people I love, I cannot write about specifics. But here I am more than three years later and instead of seeing justice, instead of seeing God avenge us, the battles have continued. They have been fierce and have left me bleeding on the ground with barely a breath left in me.

Does this sound dramatic? That is only because I have lived through some things I could have never imagined anyone enduring. I have actually laughed about it a few times and said, "my life is a telenovela!" But it's not funny. It's devastating. But, if you continue reading, you will see why I haven't given up and why this blog post isn't a pity party, but a story of hope.

I always believed that God would give beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3), yet I am laying here in smoke and ashes, choking on my pain and exhaustion. I know loss. I know pain. I know destruction. I am intimately acquainted with grief and sorrow. Those outside of this who have witnessed my suffering don't know what to say or what to do. They love me and hate seeing me suffer, but they can't fix it. No one other than my husband knows the extent of this trouble. He has endured most of it right alongside me. I have been in awe as the past few months, he has picked himself up and strengthened his mind, body and spirit. I am in the process of doing this too, but I get knocked down every time I attempt to stand.

Today I have been thinking about the book in the Bible that really tests our hearts- Job. This guy was living a good and decent life and then everything was taken from him. He had no idea why! Sadly, his "friends" tried to figure it all out. They tried to speak for God and tell Job that surely he must have done something wrong to be in this state. The devastation was too intense and there was no way that God would bring such destruction to anyone unless that person deserved it. There was Job, suffering like no one around him could comprehend, and instead of holding him and crying with him, his so-called friends preached. You know what? There is a time to speak and there is a time to shut up.

There will be many lessons I take away from my own suffering. This will end some day and I will look back and thank the Lord God for loving me enough to allow all of this. When that day comes, I would like to remember what it feels like to be in this smoke and ash. I would like to look at others who are suffering and hold them. It may be that they need to hear: "this isn't happening because you did something wrong, but because God is preparing you for something big".

Today I needed that reminder, so I listened to a sermon from Dr. Charles Stanley about God's timing. He mentioned a boy named David. This young man was anointed to be the next king of Israel, but 14 years went by in which he was in danger, fleeing and hiding for fear of his life.  According to Dr. Stanley, "God had a plan. It was a perfect plan. He executed His plan, but not on someone else’s schedule. His timing was perfect. God has a plan for YOUR life and that doesn’t mean that what’s in that plan is yours today. It is yours when God gets you ready. And what was God doing to David in all those years? Getting him ready. Teaching him how to suffer. Teaching him how to forgive. Teaching him to be wise. Teaching him to be loving. Teaching him to be respectful of the king who tried to kill him. Twice he could have killed Saul, but he didn’t do it. That wasn’t God’s timing."

Does God have a plan for your life? Yes. Will it look like my journey? No. It will, however, very likely include some pain and suffering. Everyone likes looking at the end of the story- you know, the one where the cancer patient becomes an Ironman. But the glory of the story isn't the Ironman. It's the pain of the cancer and how God gets the patient through it. True glory comes from God helping us get through darkness. The LIGHT has come and we get to look toward that Light while we grab the sword and fight through the darkness.

I know I'm not perfect, but I also know that my current situation is not due to some anger or judgment from God. He has a plan for my life and He's bringing me to my "promised land" in His own timing and His own way. That way happens to be very painful. If you hear me cry or scream, don't judge me. Don't be like Job's friends. Just let me cry. Let me scream. It's part of my journey. It doesn't mean I don't love God or that I don't trust Him. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself both cried and screamed. He even screamed out "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Then He died and went to Hell before He rose from the grave.

I will rise from the smoke and ashes too. I will have beauty for ashes.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bye to 2016

Every year is filled with good times and bad. That's just a fact of life. For our family, the past two years have been incredibly difficult. We have faced challenges we could have never imagined. Yet, when I look back, I can honestly say that these painful years have a purpose. Not that I fully comprehend that purpose, but I choose to believe that every good and every bad thing that happens is shaping me into the thing God is making for Himself.

I will say, however, that I do not believe that some of the horrible things that we endured were things that God liked. If He is a Father, there is no way He was ok with some of what has happened to our family. That's why I'm trusting that at some point (and I hope that's soon), He will do something to help us and get rid of the stuff that's causing us so much pain.

Meanwhile, there are some moments from 2016 that I truly loved and appreciated. I will remember these moments as much as I will remember the bad ones. I will make a choice to remember both the bad and good. I may not type out the bad stuff here, but I will remember it all on purpose. I never want to forget the way I have felt this year. I want to use the fear and the pain to motivate me in my love and compassion for people who hurt.

Although I'm not writing the list of bad stuff here, I'm remembering it forever. But I'm thankful for the good stuff and will honor it all by saying "thank you Lord for giving us good things" and here are 16 of my favorite memories of 2016...

  1. The birth of my amazing nephew Cash Wilson Allen!
  2. My daughter starting at SHSU, my alma mater
  3. My son getting his driver's license and a super amazing sports car
  4. My husband leaving his career to start a new and exciting one
  5. My job at Fusion Academy (worth the low pay for the happiness it brings)
  6. Getting to hear a donkey scream "HEE HAW" (I seriously did not realize they outright say that, but they do!!!)
  7. The Dallas Cowboys
  8. Our family underwater photo shoot in January (that was actually my favorite day of 2016)
  9. Running the Houston Marathon for Team Christopher while wearing the names of more than 100 cancer patients and raising funds for the LLS. Go Team!
  10. Watching "Teresa" with Morgan. So happy my girl watches telenovelas with me!
  11. Going to Nashville with my mom
  12. Another trip to Walt Disney World
  13. Seeing my son swim Varsity and get his letter jacket
  14. Celebrating 20 years of marriage
  15. Viewing Christmas lights in Prestonwood with my hubby and kids
  16. Ending the year in Colorado in the snowy mountains.

Dear Lord, thank You for being with us in the good times and the bad. Thank You for loving us in sickness and in health and in poverty and wealth. You always remain true to Your promise - You never leave us or forsake us. Thank you. Although I felt abandoned and unloved and often like a piece of trash on the side of the road, You were with me all along. You gave me strength to continue breathing when I wanted to stop. You gave me grace to get up in the mornings and put one foot in front of the other to keep on moving forward. I believe in You and trust You as I pray for justice. I will hope for justice for my family til I take my final breath. If I never see it, I will trust in Your plan. As John said in the final book of the Bible, "come quickly". Now, 2017... bring it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back To School 2016

My sweet girl in her new "home"

I think her daddy is about to cry

Well, our daughter was safely moved into her dorm on August 20. Although she isn't far from home, it was still hard to drive away leaving her all alone on that big campus. The first few days were rough for her which meant they were horrible for me, but now she's happy. She really loves her education courses and I'm so excited to hear more about what all she's learning.

The next hurdle for me was last Monday when my baby boy drove away to the high school. I know that traffic well and found myself on my knees praying for his safety. Will I ever stop worrying about that?

So his schedule is crazy, but when he comes home, I like to greet him with a snack and a smile and get him to tell me anything at all about his day. That's not easy since he doesn't like to talk as much as Morgan, but whatever he shares makes my heart happy.

My house smells like chocolate chip cookies and I look forward to his return home from swim practice later. There are many ups and down in this new season, but I'm so very grateful for my wonderful kids and pray that they will continue to thrive.

After school chocolate chip cookies!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Goodbye to Carlines

My baby boy turned 16 on July 11. For his birthday, we bought him a sports car, a black Camaro with black leather seats. This thing is absolutely beautiful (just like my son). A couple weeks later, he got his drivers license and as he took off on his first drive all by himself, I had a mini break down.

It hit me that I don't know exactly the date or time, but very recently I had experienced my last ever car line! I've been doing car lines for many years now- school, sports and various camps, etc. I have sat in my big SUV waiting on kids in car lines in the cold, in the heat, in the rain, in the morning, in the night. I have learned to bring a book or a lap top or an iPad. I have played games or watched Netflix or talked on the phone and waited and waited and waited. How did I miss that the last time was the last time?

Suddenly it feels like my role as a mom has vastly changed. There were days when I got really tired of being the "taxi". I even laughed when I saw bumper stickers on the back of mini vans that said, "swim taxi" and thought about getting one. But I am no longer the taxi driver for my kids. They are both licensed drivers who do not need me to get them where they're going. Who knew that might make me sad? Who knew that deep inside I actually cherished those times in the car at 5:00 a.m. as I took them to swim practice. Tired and barely functioning, it was time together even if we weren't talking. And speaking of talking, my son is so busy all the time that the only time we ever talked was the afternoons when I picked him up from swim practice to race home for dinner. The first thing he always asked as soon as he got in the car was, "what's for dinner?" Then if I was lucky, he would open up and tell me a little about his day.

Now that he's driving will he ever tell me about his day again? Boys are so different than girls. My daughter texts and calls and we go to movies together or lunch. Will my son be so grown up now that I never see him again? Goodness, I'm missing CARLINE!!!

OK, I'll be fine. School starts in a couple of weeks and I'll be nervous but happy to send him off to Junior year in his own car. Thankfully I believe in prayer or I'd go crazy with worry. I'll miss sitting in the hot car in car line at the high school, but as I enter the new season of my life as a mom, I'll be grateful. I have amazing kids who have grown into young adults. So, goodbye carlines and hello to my new season in life as the luckiest mom on the planet.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Move

Moving is never easy and the move we just made was the hardest of my life. Downsizing by 1,000 square feet was part of the difficulty. The stress surrounding our move was overwhelming. But, I can happily say we are finally moved in and things are shaping up.

What I know to be true is that the first thing you must do is unpack and make the new house feel like home quickly. It wasn't easy to do this because I left town a few days after the move and returned to many boxes still unpacked.

But, today I can finally say we are done with the boxes. Most of the photos and art work have been hung. The new Casa Crews is beginning to feel more like home.

It won't last long of course. We only intend to live here for a couple of years. But making it home is important for us all. That includes Morgan who is in college because on her trips home we want her to feel like this is her home too.

So, the first thing I did on the first night here was open up a bottle of wine. I needed one after that crazy move!

Estancia is one of my favorite wine brands

On the first night, things were too messy and boxed up for me to start cooking so we continued the take out system we'd been on for almost two weeks. That gets old fast so as soon as I could, I got the kitchen organized so I could cook. Amongst my first meals at the new place were Greek chicken with rice pilaf and salad. The comforts of the old house's kitchen right here in the new house. Awww, nice.

The new kitchen is smaller than my old house, but very pretty

The Greek girl in me just had to have homemade Greek food!

I made the bathrooms my next priority and the bedrooms after that. In this new house, the master bedroom is upstairs which is very different for us after 20 years of sleeping downstairs. Morgan's room is now the downstairs room. She needs that because it's fairly private with her own bathroom and I think a college student needs to have their own space. I'll load photos of the bedrooms next time. The one positive is that our new master is much larger than our last one. I really do love the master suite.

The dining room and living room are all opened up and I wanted to create a cozy atmosphere in those. I think I achieved my goal and I do feel pretty warm and safe there. The dog likes it there too.

The dining room looks a lot like our other house but I think we'll use it more here.

Our living room, filled with comforts of home.

For the next two years, this is our home. I'll do everything to make it feel that way for us all and if my life calms down ever, I may add more recipes and sports/recreation stories to this blog.

Cheers from Casa Crews!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My Mom

No one on Earth is like my mom. She's truly the greatest lady I know. It's hard to believe that four of us popped out of that tiny body of hers! I was the first.

As a mom, she's always been kind, compassionate and very wise. All four of us go to her with our troubles and she listens without judgment and gives us counsel when we ask. I've seen moms who criticize their kids or try to manipulate them. Thankfully, my mom has encouraged us to live our own lives and be who God has called us to be. 

Her calm, quiet peacefulness might fool you into thinking she's all sugar and no spice, but the truth is, she knows how to stand up and fight for what's right. And her warrior spirit is something I'm deeply grateful to have on my side in life.

You might not know how talented she is when you hang out with her because she's too humble to boast about herself. She prefers to listen to others, but my mom can write stories and songs, she's a gifted teacher, she can sew, she's an amazing cook and much more. She's highly intelligent and super healthy too. In fact, she looks like she's my age with beautiful Greek skin, long thick hair and bright hazel eyes. She's the one who taught me to love physical fitness and eating healthy foods.

My mom loves my dad too. And not just the emotional romantic kind of love, but the kind of love that counts the most- she takes care of him when he's sick and travels the world with him on all kinds of adventures. They are best friends.

But the best thing about my mom is her faith. No matter what's happening, she's strong in her faith. She prays for us all. All the time. She never gives up. I wish I were more like her.

If we were paid according to what we deserve, she would be the richest woman on planet Earth. Today is her birthday and I wish I could give her a big hug. But I'll just send her a virtual hug til I can see her again. How lucky am I that Linda is my mom.

Happy birthday MOM!!!