Where I Come From

Tuesday, April 30, 2013  ::   4 important comments

I grew up in a small west Texas town called Kermit. I have some amazing memories and some horrible memories of that little place. I suppose most people could say that about their hometowns. That's just life in general. 

When I was nine, my parents decided to sign my brothers and me up for a program called 4-H. We raised animals, did leather working, took sewing classes, gardening, and other programs to teach us responsibility and commitment. I raised hogs, sheep, and steers. My brothers also raised goats. I spent many hours at the 4-H animal pens caring for and cleaning up after my animals. I may also have been involved in the mischief of practical jokes and dirt clod fights on a few occasions. My brothers and I would ride our bikes over and take our time hurry to get every chore done to the "best" of our ability. 

When we were younger 4-Hers we stuck with our local county stock show. As we got older we went to bigger fairs and shows. One of the most hilarious parts of the local show was a little game we called Grab. My old friends Ricky Holcomb, Andy Fires, and the other older kids would gather all the newer 4-Hers and out of town kids around for the game. 

They would take a cowboy hat, sprinkle coins, count to three, lift the hat, and all the kids would quickly reach in and grab as many coins as they could. Each time the game runners would increase the pot which in turn increased the greed of the players. The key was having the players close their eyes while the game was reset each time. It built excitement and anticipation. 

On the final round, we would all talk up how much money was in the pot. The young players' eyes would grow with determination. We would all chant, "One. Two. Three!" Every kid surged toward the awaiting pot of gold ready to strike it rich! Only this time, a fresh green cow patty squished between their greedy little fingers. Oh the tears! Oh the laughter! The kids that won the favor of the older ones were the ones laughing. The kids who ran crying to their mommies usually didn't make it into the elite group. One of my favorite cryers was my cousin who absolutely drove me batty. My young justice driven self loved every one of his baby tears. By the way, these days this would probably be considered bullying. But in the 1980s, it was considered awesomeness.  And yes, I once grabbed a hand full of warm squishy poo. It was a rite of passage in the Winkler County 4-H Club.  

The following photos are a peek into my childhood. Keep in mind at this time I lived in west Texas and had a very thick accent. We moved to New Mexico my senior year of High School and I was teased about the accent so I worked hard to get rid of it. When I am mad, tired, or fired up while teaching, that Texas twang still sneaks out of my mouth. You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl. 

Oreo was my first hog. Every kid's first black and white hog was, and probably still is, named Oreo. This photo shows when I'm realizing that my beloved Oreo was about to be sold in the auction to become bacon in someone's freezer. 
Ah, the life lessons I learned in the ag world. 

My first little hereford steer. I have vivid memories of halter breaking this guy. In my memory he's much bigger than what the photo indicates. I remember being drug around the arena when I was first working to break him. My dad stood at the fence yelling, "DON'T LET GO, ANGEL! YOU HOLD ON!" while my mom stood at the same fence yelling, "LET GO, BABY! LET GO!" 
I broke that dang steer, and was tougher for it! 

Oh yes. I graduated to this bad boy. I also graduated to wearing pants pulled up to my chest. That zipper has to be at least 12 inches long. The award I'm holding is probably for my awesome outfit, not the well built steer. 

I always loved the toughness it took to raise steers. Halter breaking them and caring for the hugeness of it somehow made me feel significant. Steers seemed determined even though their ultimate greatness would be in the quality of t-bone steak they produced. Sheep on the other hand were not great in my book. They were stupid and smelly, but I loved showing them. When I would show steers they were big enough to hide behind, so I always felt like showing my sheep took more finesse and focus. I'm sure it didn't make a difference, but to a young self-centered teenager, I felt how I showed the animal made a world of difference...good eye contact, setting its legs in the right place, holding its head perfectly. I loved the showmanship aspect. I could never control whether or not my animal had the right muscle and structure to win, but I could control if I won the showmanship award. It was often my goal at the fair. 

After we moved to New Mexico, my 4-H days ended. However, I then entered the fanciness of the Future Farmers of America club (FFA.) My teacher recruited me for the American Quarter Horse judging team. In 1991, I could easily tell you which horse in a class of four was the "nicest balanced, heaviest muscled horse in the class." In fact, our team won the state competition and went to the world competition in Oklahoma City where I placed ninth overall. That's right, you are reading the blog of the 1991 9th place World Champion American Quarter Horse judger. No autographs please. 

The world of agriculture shaped me in many ways. I learned responsibility, caring for something that was dependent upon me, the life cycle, community living, money management, business, leadership, and had much fun. In the words of one of my favorite country artists, this is "where I come from." 

Where do you come from? Please share something quirky from your childhood with us. Give us a window into your upbringing. 

Merriment Recap Part Two

Friday, April 26, 2013  ::   5 important comments

There were too many great photos to post all in yesterday's blog post. It would be almost wrong for someone to miss a great photo only because too many were grouped together. Chad has been guest speaking at a church in town that is looking for a new pastor. One of his illustrations this past Sunday was the difference between men and women when looking through photo albums. He said women are slow and pour over every picture, and men quickly flip through. He mentioned that when he and I look at photos together it takes me too long and he loses interest and then, right in the middle of his message, he called me out and said it was because I struggle with pride in the form of vanity.  Hahaha! It wasn't actually that blunt, but it was pretty darn funny. I've teased him about it plenty this week in our home and now I'm teasing him publicly on my blog. Who's vain now? (heehee) 

These are some of my favorites from the party. I hope you enjoy them, too. 

Our smallish church is blessed to have several very talented graphic designers. John W. has been part of my family for about 13 years. He gets me and I always love his art. Chad commissioned him to design this lovely invitation. Thanks, John. Great job as always! 

Because I'm a cool and hip 40 year old, we had to have an instagram hash tag. 

My good friend, Jamie, came in all the way from Virginia right in the middle of her semester. And, it's a good thing she did because this photo is awesome! 
jamie's photo (and one of my favorites)
Oh, the cuteness slays me! 

Little Miss L wasn't the youngest attendee, but she was the youngest masked attendee! 
blake's photo
Brad couldn't decide if he was classy or sassy so he just took the whole sign. Or he was helping clean up. I'll let you decide. 

My Morgan looks so mysterious and lovely.
jamie's photo
I think Carah may land in the sassy category, but sassy as in lively and spirited, of course. 

This lovely lady's smile can light up an entire room! 

Erin is what I like to call a "party sustainer." She is theatrical, hilarious, and can entertain like nobody's business. And then, put a mask on her? Watch out! She will captivate you with those eyes. 

Sassy, sassy, and sassy. These girls really know how to ham it up. I think I need some lessons. Fyi, Laura K. Moore is the one in the middle. She's the one who took all these lovely photos. Except this one, of course. Maybe her husband took it? 

Chad and his amazing party planning assistant, Tori, came up with a How Well Do You Know Angel quiz. I've caught a bit of flack about this quiz. Apparently, I don't tell you all enough random factoids about myself. For what it's worth, Chad got number four wrong, too. 

Now is your chance to ask me any random question for which you would like to know the answer. I am an open fact book. Can you think of one? Ask away! 

Thanks again for celebrating my birthday with me, even if it is just through reading these blog posts. I plan to write more on the significance of turning 40 for me very soon. I'm in a wonderful, unknown, and interesting life transition. I'm looking forward to unpacking it with you! 

Merriment Recap Part One

Thursday, April 25, 2013  ::   4 important comments

Several people have asked Chad and me how we came up with the idea of having a masquerade party. The answer is fairly anticlimactic. I told Chad several years ago I wanted to have a big 40th birthday bash. We had a few conversations about how we should celebrate, but the real break through idea happened a few months ago. As we wandered around Pier One we happened upon a rack of beautiful venetian masquerade masks. As we played with them, I casually stated, "Maybe we should have a masquerade ball for my 40th." Chad's eyes widened and I knew he would take the idea and run.

Chad is, shall we say, a bit more extravagant than me. I describe myself as very practical. I buy practical clothes. I make practical meals. Advice I give is usually very practical. I usually don't have room in my life for fluff or grandeur. I'm practical to a fault.

Not so with Chad. 

He dresses to impress. He can command the attention of the room if necessary and he can sit back, observe, and relax if necessary. He gives huge gifts and he is willing to spend money on our family just for the sake of having fun (responsibly, of course.) In fact, I just remembered, when we were first married I had a $25 limit on what I would spend on shoes for myself. He talked me into trying on some sweet Nike running shoes that were 75 whole dollars. I freaked out and refused to buy them. One of the things that attracts me most to Chad is he is more strong-willed than me, doesn't let me push him around, and shows great compassion and concern in caring for me. He bought the shoes for me that day. He's been doing crazy stuff like that for me for the last almost 18 years. 

I knew the masquerade party was going to be extravagant as soon as I realized he was serious about making it happen. My imagination couldn't have recreated anything comparable to what he planned and facilitated on a lovely Friday night in April. Naturally, he couldn't have pulled this off alone. He had a detail list maker/errand runner friend, decorators, a food planner, a invitation designer, light stringers, table and chair arrangers, and various other types of helpers. One comment he made to me has come to my mind and heart many times over the last two weeks. He said, "It was easy to recruit help for your party because so many people love you." I truly felt the love from my beautiful friends and amazing husband. I cannot thank you all enough for helping Chad pull off the most amazing, lovely, enchanting birthday party! 

The details of the evening were exquisite.
photo by Blake S.
It was so hard for me to decide which path to take to the party. 
photo by Jamie S.
Beautiful decorations! Sarah and Emily are so very creative, artistic, and classy. 

The food was delicious. We had three separate buffet areas, a taco bar, veggies and hummus, chips and salsa bar, and a fruit and dessert bar. I could have eaten all night, but I was quickly distracted by hugging sweet friends and dancing with my sweet hubby. 

And pretty Trader Joe's beverages. This little detail meant so much to me because these bottles of Italian Soda (TJ's sparkling lemonade not shown) are the opposite of practical. It added a special touch of class. 

Our Disguises 
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Oh my. I think these kids are awesome. They each checked in with me throughout the evening to ask if I was having fun and if I was feeling ok. They see the ins and outs of the effects of my stroke, so they were very concerned that I would overdo it during the party. Allowing them to care for me over the last eight months because of my health has been an interesting learning curve for me. They each show tenderness in very different and beautiful ways. I adore them and I think they adore me. 

Chad and I love to dance together. We both grew up country dancing, so we are fairly proficient. Also, we've been dancing together since 1991. We went to an agriculture university in the early 90s. The school sponsored country dances regularly. To tattle on Chad a little bit, he would only dance with five different girls because "why would I pay $10 to go dance with girls that
don't know how to dance?!" Whew. Glad I made the final cut and beat out the other four ladies. 

We have so much fun together! 

Sadly, there are two photos I did not make sure were taken. One, a full family photo. Chad was very busy being the ultimate host and I was enjoying the party and spaced it. Lame. Two, I didn't take a full length photo of my outfit. Lame. And seriously, when will I ever wear this fanciness again? So this is the closest thing I have to the whole look. Let me just say, those shoes are awesome. 

Everything about him makes me smile. 

Cheesing it up in the photo booth. That's right. We had a photo booth. The very talented Laura K. Moore gifted us this fun party detail. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are her fancy work. 

I think we make a good couple even with our faces masked. 

I shared in this blog post one of the reasons I was excited to have this party. If you were able to come, thank you. I can't express how your hugs, your smiles, your amazing verbalized words, and your beautifully written words filled my heart. I couldn't go to sleep after the party because my mind was playing the enchanting images over and over and over. It was the perfect way to kick off my forties!

Chad, your extravagant love for me humbles me, nourishes me, challenges me. You do such an amazing job serving and leading me and our kids. I'm so glad others were able to witness so tangibly through this party how much you honor me. I don't think most people know how much work and planning went into this because you never complained about how much you were doing or had to do. But, that is true of your whole life. Your integrity to put your hand to the plow and work hard inspires me. I love that others are seeing more and more what an amazing guy you are. Thank you for the best Angel's 40th Masquerade Merriment! If the whole pastor thing doesn't work out, maybe you can be a party planner?

Ok. For those of you gagging over my mushiness, you can breathe now. Also, the whole Pastor Chad thing is working out just fine. No worries there.

Fantastic Photos You Probably Want to See

Wednesday, April 17, 2013  ::   9 important comments

Last year when I turned 39, I wrote a post titled Reflecting on the Nines. As I re-read it I got a little choked up. I wrote, "As I've thought about age and reflected through the years of my life, I realized the nines have each ushered in significant seasons of difficulty, change, and growth." Whoa. If you have read anything on this blog in the last year, you know that age 39 completely lived up to that prophetic sentence. 

Interestingly enough, the year began with me being healthier than I had been in my adult life. I was insanely strong from my Insanity workouts. I was eating healthier than I had ever eaten in my life. I had lost a significant amount of weight. Higher than a kite, I thought I would enter my 40s on the tallest parade float with a noisy brass band leading the way. 

But then you know what happened. I went from the healthiest time in my life to a major health change just moments before teaching my spin class. 

Well, guess what! I'm still going to kick 40 in the derriere! I've learned beautiful, profound, life changing, character refining lessons that I trust God will use to guide me along the parade route. I've always said I didn't want to coast through life on puffed up head knowledge, so I figure God is simply providing ways for me to put my money where my mouth is!  

Now for a little fun. Walk with me down memory lane... 

One year old. It doesn't look like I'm interested in getting myself all up in that cake. I've always been so proper. 

See! I told you! A proper little first grade beauty queen. I still have this sweet little dress hanging in my closet. My mom made it for me. I thought it was the most lovely twirly dress in the world.

Oh yeah. I know you are digging that hair! This is one thing I would change. No, not the hair. That is fabulous 1989 hair. I would ditch the cheerleader gig and do something less controversial and enemy causing like play volleyball or study for Algebra. But, no regrets. If I hadn't been a cheerleader how would I have ever learn to clap my hands and move my arms in sync with a group of girls? 

My red shorts outfit is almost as awesome as my mom's 70s hair! 

But my dad wins the award for best hair in this blog post. I seriously love that he is hunting while carrying me in a back pack. 

I love this photo so much. My parents were pretty hip. 

Doesn't my dad look happy to be awake? 

Most of you know it is an understatement to say I'm not an animal lover. The three monsters in this picture are a huge part of my disdain towards pets. Those dogs were obnoxious. I stepped in their poop more than any teenage girl should have ever had to bear. That cat? From Satan. (Sorry, Mom.) 

My cutie brother Joe. He would stand and yell, "JAN-GEL! COME PLAY WITH ME!" 

My cutie brother Tom. I'm rocking a very spectacular outfit. That is a gen-u-ine Guess t-shirt and my army green pants are tight rolled to perfection. My red Swatch is a nice little pop of color. You can tell I'm awesome because Tom looks so jealous that he isn't as cool as me! 

My dad took this picture. We were in our favorite town (San Angelo, Texas) at our favorite park. Happy, happy times. 

That's all for today, folks. I've got a few more embarrassing photos to post tomorrow. I do enjoy letting you have a glimpse into my back story. It helps give context and perspective, don't ya think?

Also, thanks for letting me get all sappy about turning 40. You guys really are making it a lot more fun for me.

So, what was your favorite picture? Which one made you laugh the most? Which one do you think I shouldn't have posted?

Celebrating YOU

Tuesday, April 16, 2013  ::   2 important comments

Many people continue to ask how I'm feeling during this time of recovery. Thank you for wondering. Thank you for asking. Thank you for supporting me.

Tomorrow I turn the big 4-0. People who are over 40 often give me sweet pep talks about how great it is to be 40.

Turning 40 doesn't sit heavy on me because I'm afraid of being old. Forty seems to be arriving with a weight of responsibility.

Am I doing enough?

Am I learning enough?

Am I reading enough?

Am I investing enough?

Am I exercising enough?

Am I taking care of my family enough?

Am I loving my friends enough?

Am I prepared enough?

Don't worry. I don't think about all of these questions all at once. I ponder them all (and more) at different times in different ways.

One of the biggest learned truths that has come out of my 39th year is Jesus is my Sure Foundation. Honestly, there are times when I'm not pressing into Him enough. But, His sweet kindness leads me to repentance to remind me that His love is unfailing even if my attention wanes. He reminds me that His plans are for good to make me more like Himself. He reminds me that as life is completely unpredictable through sunshine, rain, snow, hail He is my Sure Foundation.

This Friday night my sweet husband is throwing me a giant Masquerade Merriment party. Several of my friends have expressed that they are excited to celebrate me during this fun event. But here is my secret: I'm excited to celebrate the community God has given me.

The last eight months would have been so much more difficult had it not been for my friends.

People who sent me packages, organized yard sales, gave financially, brought us meals, raised funds for us, gave us gift certificates for restaurants, took our kids out, picked them up from school, ran silly errands, wrote beautiful words of encouragement, asked Chad about me, protected my schedule, watched out for me in loud environments, told me to go home when the look on my face showed stroke, vacuumed my floor, washed my dishes, sent sweet texts, picked up the slack in my Second Mile responsibilities, exuded patience when I've struggled, asked how Chad was doing and how you could help him practically, and prayed and prayed and prayed.

These generous people live in other cities and states, live in Tucson, attend Second Mile, do not attend Second Mile. You are my friends. You are my community. Some of you won't be able to attend Friday night's festivities, but please know as I look around the room at the faces of those I so deeply love you are also in my mind's eye. You all have loved my family and me so well. Thank you! I plan to celebrate your friendships with joy, love, tears, silliness, dancing, food all while wearing a fancy dress and mask.

A year after I turned 30 we moved to Tucson, Arizona to start a community of faith in Christ called Second Mile. I would have never guessed the crazy adventures my 30s would hold...church planting, women's ministry, foster care, health issues just to name a few. As I enter my 40s I wonder what in the world does God have in store. Although it may bring some heaviness, it is out of reverence, awe, and gratitude for the future because I know that Jesus is my Sure Foundation.

Avoiding Being the Fool :: A Guest Post

Monday, April 01, 2013  ::   18 important comments

I met Tia in Emporia, KS when she was an 18 year old college freshman. That was over 13 years ago. Since that time she and her family have been an integral part of my family. Tia is loyal, dependable, trustworthy, compassionate, kind, and gentle. If something needs to be accomplished, she will work diligently to get it done. When a gift needs to be given, she creates the most beautiful, thoughtful baskets. If encouragement needs to be shared, she can find just the right scripture and words to lift a person's heart. 

However, one of my favorite qualities of my dear friend Tia is her heart for prayer. If she says she will pray for you, you can be absolutely certain she will be praying. The Spirit of God continues to teach her deep and beautiful ways to pray with scripture, insight, and discernment. She has blessed my family and me so very much through the way she prays for us. 

I'm happy she is sharing on the blog today. She also happens to be a mom who is intentionally working to invest in her kids. You will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged by her words! 
Photo by the lovely Laura K. Moore
Confession: When I was a 4 year old, my mother would often catch me standing in front of the mirror practicing my smile (and my best cry, too!)  And although I don't stand in front of the mirror striking a pose as a 30 year old, I still have a tendency to practice my “I have it all together” face.  It's not that I have any big ugly secrets to hide. It's just that I don't like to look like a fool or let people down.  If I am responsible for it, I want it to be done well. 

Nothing has challenged my “I have it all together” face like motherhood.  After almost eight years as a mom, I have found that parenting has held up a mirror to my heart more than anything I have ever experienced.  Without a doubt, parenting is rewarding, wonderful, and joy-filled but it is also full of hard work. It can be chaotic and unpredictable; I can look like a fool; I too often let my kids down; and I do not always uphold my responsibility as a mom well.  As much as my tendency is to put on the smile and look like I have it all together, I am consistently and graciously reminded that I cannot do this motherhood thing on my own or I am a fool!

God gently reminded me of all of these things in the hallowed halls of Ross the other day. :)  Norah and I were shopping for a new water bottle.  As we were narrowing down her choices, she pointed to a tumbler on the shelf and declared that it was “Perrrrfect!” Yes, it was bright pink and bedazzled but it also had a very large and famous bunny head logo on it.  I explained to my four year old that this tumbler wasn't a choice. It represented something that didn't reflect Jesus.  And it was in that moment that God stirred a lot of reminders into this momma's heart.

I was reminded of the enormous responsibility that Nate and I have to guide and direct our kids toward Jesus- even in moments when they don't know what their choices represent. I was reminded that I am not in control of every influence in my kids' lives and that I have and will continue to mess up as I parent my kids (not on purpose but because I am a sinner saved by grace).  This led me to be reminded that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness which reminded me that we don't have to do this parenting thing on our own; God has sent us a Helper.  Every time the Holy Spirit brought one of these reminders to my heart, it came in the form of scripture I had memorized. 

It was an “ah ha” moment for me.  The best tool I can equip my children with is the Word!  In times when I am feeling uncertain, the Spirit uses Scripture to speak to my heart.  He does and will do the same for my kids! It was a powerful motivator for me in being diligent with memorizing Scripture with Jack and Norah.  He has been faithful in using His Word in the life of our family.  This was another nudge to keep going!    

One of the best experiences in my parenting journey has been watching the Word of God be rooted in my kids hearts and then grow to produce fruit.  It is my go-to for parenting.  For quite awhile, Jackson was struggling with being afraid when he went to bed at night so we sought out what the Bible had to say about fear.  Isaiah 41:10 and 2 Timothy 1:7 were key for him as he was dealing with his fear.  

Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

And any time that feeling of fear starts to creep in, these verses come pouring out. We can now literally say them in our sleep!  

I say “we” because that has been the best blessing of memorizing scripture with my kids---it is an entire family process.  Because my kiddos are still young, we walk through this process almost completely together.  We find verses together. We talk about what they mean together.  We practice them together. We sing them together. We pray them together.  So although we looked up Isaiah 41:10 and 2 Timothy 1:7 with Jackson in mind, the Holy Spirit has used those scriptures in all of our lives.  A beautiful by product!  

The thing that is so encouraging for me is that it isn't just Nate and I who see the fruit of Truth at work.  Our kids see how the Holy Spirit uses the Word in their lives too.  This past week Jack was struggling with a particular issue at school.  After much conversation one evening, he and I sat down to look up some verses that would point him to the Truth in his struggle.  We landed on Philippians 4:8, 9 and set out a plan to begin memorizing it.  Before he went to bed that night, he asked, “Mom, can we make some sort of craft that I can wear with those verses on them so I can see them all the time?”  I couldn't stop smiling.  He gets it!  Not only does he see the value in memorizing the Word of God but he also wants to constantly surround himself in it!   

Now, pause for a minute and remember that 4 year old little girl practicing her smile in the mirror?  Yep, that can still be my tendency---to make it look like I have it all together.  So let me be the first to say: I AM IN NO WAY PERFECT (in this area or any other!)  I am not as diligent with memorizing scripture with my family as I would like to be.  We don't sit down and find new verses or review old ones every night before bed.  And my kids are not always excited to review Scripture nor are they constantly showing that they are understanding the Truth they are hearing and reading.  

But God... has graciously reminded me of how much fruit has come from the half a dozen verses we have been diligent with this year.  He has reminded me through my own Scripture memory that His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that His Word will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11).

I am so thankful for his gracious and tender love- for the mirror that parenting holds up to my heart.   I am so thankful that God reminds me of His perfect strength and the Truth of His Word in the middle of Ross.  I am beyond grateful that he doesn't leave me on my own to parent.  And I cannot express the joy that it is to see the fruit of Scripture in the life of my family!

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 

This is no joke! If we believe scripture has power to change our lives, wouldn't we want that for our kids, too? I sure do. In case you missed it and thought this was just a post for parents, did you catch how Tia shared how scripture has changed her heart as well? Thanks for the challenge and vulnerability, Tia. 

Post your verses, friends. Remember that Galatians 6:9 tells us not to get tired from doing good, that we will bring a harvest if we don't give up. Don't give up, even though the temptation is great!