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It’s the night before I begin my first day of work, but my emotions take me back to the first day of school.  At one point in my life I would get my room in order and plan out my clothes for the next week. Once school was in full force, that type of preparation slipped and I was like most everyone else, where I scrambled in the morning to get dressed. But I remember the anticipation well, and fondly.

I’m not quite at that point tonight. In fact, my house is a mess. I’ve deChristmastized my home (a new word…Dr. Seuss would be proud).  Since my house wasn’t quite in order when I started decorating for Christmas, deChristmastizing has returned it to its pre-holiday state. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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I moved some furniture around in my bedroom today because my dresser was covering up a vent. My room is a mess.  I’m not yet done with Christmas cards.

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Yes, I said that out loud. Not only will those receiving my card know how late I am, but now you all do. I tried so hard to let Christmas cards go this year, but it’s a familiar story for me. It’s like putting on my seat belt. I’ve done it so long, late or not, I’m doing it.

So, those are my two objectives tonight. Get the counter cleared and the cards ready for mail, and my room in decent order, and get to bed…I’m shooting for 9pm. I’m wondering what I’ll wear. Insurance school starts at 8am. What do people wear to insurance school??  I’ll play it safe and be fairly conservative, and hope the five pounds I’ve gained in the last couple of weeks doesn’t reduce my clothing options in my closet too much.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited for something. And to think, I’ll be making money tomorrow, within a full time permanent job. No wondering where I’ll go or what I’ll do. It’s predictable bliss and oh so satisfying. I understand if you’re not where I am. But like most things, we appreciate them more when we have lost them. If you haven’t lost your home, your job, or your way, but you find yourself unable to find any type of excitement in your work, this perspective is worth serious consideration.

My guess is that your first Monday of 2015 won’t be like your first day back to school, full of hope and anticipation.  But if you consider that work is a privilege, and recognize the gift that it is, your job can become more than a job, but an opportunity.  We are blessed when we are able bodied and in a position to give and receive. We are blessed when we have the opportunity to execute our skills and be rewarded with the ability to pay our bills that give us food and shelter. That is God’s design. In Matthew 20 I read that the work day in Jesus’ day was 12 hours. That makes an 8 hour day worth celebrating!

May the first Monday of 2015 bring you joy in your ability to give to your employer and receive from your employer.  I plan on doing just that!

Talk soon!

Joni

P.S… I didn’t make my 9pm bed time. Rats!

Dear God, I thank you for this day in Portland, Oregon. The sky is clear; it’s crisp and strikingly beautiful. I thank you for the comfort of my home.

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I embrace this new year with enthusiasm and excitement. In this morning it’s easy to do.  A new 2015 is on the immediate horizon. Even with my enthusiasm for what’s ahead, I am aware that the realities of the new schedule will be different than what I’ve been living. The differences remain to be seen, and in some ways, I welcome what I imagine to be more predictable, even if rigid. I pray that you walk with me this year as I become fully enveloped in my new job, even on those days when it’s ordinary and mundane, strenuous and frustrating.

I pray Lord that I will walk in your will, every day. I recognize the impossibility of that, but it’s my desire, nonetheless. I ask that your Holy Spirit would speak to me when I’m out of your will, and that I would correct before I make mistakes that are difficult to adjust, especially when they affect other people. I pray Lord that my heart for people would be your heart. That I would see them through your eyes, accepting their faults and aware of my own, and that ultimately, I wouldn’t spend any time at all on anyone’s faults. This is why I pray; I know myself well.

I pray Lord that you will give this old mind the ability to learn things that don’t come easy to me. Insurance and numbers have never been easy for me. But you gave me this job, so I trust you know something about me that I do not.  I ask that you would give me clarity and comprehension, and that like a sponge I would absorb information that will help me in being the best I can be in my job.  I pray that my information would be used to improve others’ lives. That it would be helpful and valuable, and that it would all work together for your good, my well being, and financial security.

I pray that my new relationships will be meaningful and that while I’m working full time, my old relationships will remain strong and lifelong.

I pray for my children’s well being while I am gone for a 40 hour work week. That when I am unable to help them, our history will emerge and wisdom will be on their side. That the effort of the past will be fruit for their future, and that they will thrive in your will and your Holy Spirit will be their guide.

I pray for the dogs, that they will be happy and find a way to entertain themselves, so that I am not spending my time doing that when I come home. I pray that they learn to use the doggie door and that they use it to go out and relieve themselves, and that in the process they remain in our yard, and safe.

I pray that I’m disciplined and return to good eating habits and that my bad habits don’t linger into Valentine’s Day, or any other excuse I can find to eat a good or bad meal, or snacks, or samples at Costco.

I pray that in the midst of my job, I can continue to build a home where at the end of the day, it’s where I most want to be, and that ultimately, others also enjoy spending time. I pray that I am able to continue the small things that will add to my skill set and professional value, such as Spanish. In that, I include my blog; where that fits, I don’t know, but I ask you Lord that I can continue it, unless I discover I no longer enjoy it.

I ask you Lord that your Holy Spirit will guide me in my schedule. That I will make time for reading your word first thing in the morning, time for prayer, and for exercise.  That my first priority is to feed my soul with your words, and that I will provide for my body what it needs to stay strong and live a long life, God willing.

Lord, as I say this prayer, I am reminded of a million things that I could ask you for.  Time for good meals, my kids’ activities, discipline in getting to bed early, so I can get up early. I praise you every time I get out of bed, because as much as I love the day when I get going, I love my bed when I’m in it. Transitions are hard, and that transition is included.

You are my strength. In you, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.  I understand Lord that I will fall short of my earthly aspirations. I ask Lord that you will keep me grounded and I ask that my perspective will be what is important to you.  My human nature will seek to accomplish it all, but I ask you Lord to bless me with your nature. I pray Lord that my life in 2015 will glorify you.

I am excited for 2015. My hope comes from you. You have been my provider and will continue to provide according to your will for my life. I thank you Lord for 2014. It was hard, good, and I (we) walked it with you. I ask Lord that we continue into 2015 in the same way, and that each step is a step closer to victory, whatever that looks like.

I love you.

Amen

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Merry Christmas.

It’s an honor to share this image with you on Christmas. We believe that God gave Bridgette and me this image in 2011 when we were walking in a hospital hallway on a day when we needed it most.  I had been desperate that morning. I needed God to reveal himself to me. On my knees I begged him to make himself known to me, so I could carry on with the work I had to do to ensure Bridgette’s well being, as well as be the mom I needed to be for both kids.

In a despondent state, I walked briskly down the hall, late for an appointment. The wing of the hospital where we walked was under construction, and the workers had been applying plaster to the walls.  Bridgette stopped suddenly and asked if I’d seen “that?” I didn’t know what “that” was and I told her we needed to hurry for the appointment.  She insisted that I stop and she walked back toward me. She pointed toward the floor and at this image.  Instantly I felt a sense of relief come over me. God was making himself known to me.

I cherish this image and hope to use it every year in some form on our Christmas card (I have to learn Photo Shop, first). As inspirational as it is, I think my friends will tire of the same card every Christmas.  Last year a friend’s daughter designed the card with color, and this year, Bradley taught himself a little Photo Shop and came up with this.

Merry Christmas. May God reveal himself to you in new ways.  Let him reveal himself to you through this image.  I’m certain it was meant to be shared.

Joni

Christmas Eve.

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It’s all drawing to a close. Like the end of summer, I will the season to last longer. Yet, I know what often makes something special is the absence of it. I love the seasons and the fresh perspective that each season brings to my life. I don’t want sunshine 365 days a year, and I don’t want glitter and Christmas melodies 365 days a year. With both sunshine and Christmas, I mourn the loss, yet adjust quickly, and by the time each is in sight again, I find myself gleeful with delight and embracing it all over again. There are aspects of Christmas I dislike. But the sparkle and music are in full force in my life at the holidays. Couple that with the sobering reminder that Jesus is God’s son, and that his birth brought hope to a broken world. There have been times when those two awesome components couldn’t rouse me into merry making. But this year, I enjoyed fun time merry making and my heart overflowed with joy at the thought of Jesus’ birth and his impact on our broken world.

Our Christmas cards aren’t yet finished. They’ll go out between Christmas and New Year’s.  I’ve done something unique with my (our) Christmas cards since I was a young adult. Each year as the mom demands got greater, I would toy with the idea of not doing a card. But old habits die hard. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but I’ve invested enough time into them that I’ll finish them some how, some way…it may have to be minus my printer… we will see.

The season brought our house to a place of home. When the decorations come down, I hope I still like it.  Christmas decorations have a way of camouflaging the flaws in a home.  With the decorations up and the living portions of our home feeling cozy, we had a few friends over.  I got to use my kitchen to cook, not just put together food, and I loved it!  I was just glad it gets dark about 4pm.  No one could see the yard that so desperately needs improvements.

Today was a bit of a scramble as I made Chex Mix goodie bags for neighbors and friends.  I always start that piece of Christmas giving later than I’d like. Ultimately, we made it to our church’s 2pm Christmas Eve candle light service.

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As I sing and listen, I wonder how I can say “Thank You” enough to the producers of this particular service. It’s engaging, entertaining, and edifying in the deepest sense. It brings me to a place of gratitude for this day because of what Jesus means to us. We end it with about 1200 people holding lighted candles, and our Pastor reminds us to be the light of the world, and we all, in that moment, believe that we are the light of the world, and that we will carry our light with us where ever we are throughout the year.  In a world of darkness, that is no easy task, and I appreciate being emboldened for such an endeavor.

A good friend joined us today. She doesn’t attend our church, and to have her beside me and share what Jesus means to me was intimate, and a gift unto itself. It was a shared memory that I will treasure.

Afterward, the kids and I delivered some of the goodie bags I’d scrambled to prepare earlier in the day. Then I took them to the Ringside Fish House for a special dinner to celebrate Christmas eve, and to celebrate my new job. It was a big deal night. We had great food with great atmosphere. I did ask to be moved from a back corner.  I’d been told the extra room that they were seating in was going to be nicely decorated, but when they seated us, my heart sank as I looked at the four bare walls.  I couldn’t stand to spend our Christmas eve night in an atmosphere that didn’t shout Christmas.  The hostess accommodated us, and all was good. Although, I feel badly for whomever got placed where we left.

We came home, opened PJ gifts, and settled in with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and some of the goodies we’ve been getting from friends. We all fell asleep early and decided to get to bed, and that’s where I am right now.  It’s our first year where we didn’t read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Things are changing, but I’m satisfied nonetheless.

I will get up early to fill stockings and then make a new recipe from Yummly called Cinnamon Roll Pizza.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Merry Hour, as defined by Joni Frances (Thurber):

The term used during the Christmas holiday season to define what is typically called “happy hour.”

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Isn’t that cute?  I’m not saying I’m the first person to coin this phrase, but I’ve never heard it before, so I’m going to claim it.

So, I’ve been sick, in bed, since Sunday. I say “in bed” because it gives a whole different level of sick.  Let me clarify.  I think there’s “not feeling well,” which often means we can manage our day to day, but with less energy and gusto than we’re used to, and then there’s “sick.” To me, “sick” usually means, “in bed.”

It started last week with a raspy voice. Friends and family, myself included, laughed and wondered why I got sexy voice for free. I wasn’t sick. I had no symptoms. Each day was productive, holding nothing back, which was a good thing, because it meant I still worked and I had my interview on Friday.

But BAM! After a long Saturday, sexy voice turned to scratchy burning throat that kept me up all night, and the rest is history. So, for the next three days this was my view:

Warning: Don't zoom in.

Warning: Best not to zoom in.

I know I’m sick when I miss:

COFFEE: Three days without it. It doesn’t sound good.

FOOD:  It doesn’t sound AS good, but I still get hungry. And when I get bored, I walk around in the kitchen trying to find something quick. But the pain of swallowing isn’t worth eating. We have a tradition in our family when we’re sick. We make brownies. I know it’s weird. It started because long ago, like before children, living on my own, when I was sick, even with a high fever, I would get bored and make brownies, then go back to bed. This first morning I was sick, I found Bridgette (my wonderful home from college daughter) in the kitchen making brownies, adding walnuts just for me. The walnuts made it harder for me to eat them, which was a good thing. I’m the only person I know that can gain weight when sick, just by eating out of boredom. I have to say, this time around, I didn’t eat my usual sick diet.

SHOWERS AND MAKE UP:  OK, I missed the showers, but I was perfectly fine not donning make up every day and blow drying my hair.

WORKING OUT:  Yes, I missed a few days of preparing this body for battle. Not a battle as defined by most, but there are many days this body feels like it’s in a battle, with consistent aches in various parts. Doing physical therapy several times a week, and getting in some cardio is essential for my over all well being. It’s what I do to ensure I will be around and in good shape for my children, and my children’s children.  I’m hoping I can help Bridgette and Bradley take care of their children, creating a stronger family support than what they’ve experienced. It starts here. It’s okay that I missed though. That also meant I didn’t have to make hard decisions about getting up at 4:30 or 5:00am. Another battle.

EVENTS:

Dinner with a dear friend.

A friend with whom I hate to miss anything. Someone recently called her a “kid whisperer.” She deserves that title. But she could also be called the “friend whisperer.” She’s got a way with all people, bringing out the best in everyone she meets. Last Christmas we met for lunch and she gave me this Christmas Mickey hand. I wear it and send her pictures occasionally and she sends them back to me with her hand.

This is my Christmas Mickey hand driving to OSU to pick up Bridgette.

This is my Christmas Mickey hand driving to OSU to pick up Bridgette.

I couldn’t go to dinner, but my good friend took the kids to dinner without me. As much as I missed out, my kids were blessed, which trumps my loss. My friend was her usual jolly elf, bringing her assortment of Christmas accessories. If I were to ask Bradley to take a photo with reindeer antlers, I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t happen. But I have a picture with both kids in antlers and Mickey hands. I decided not to post, but please imagine it, because it’s really really cute. The kids came home having spent time with an awesome friend and a full sized pizza, for me. I wasn’t able to consume the whole thing like my reputation would lead her to believe, but what I’ve eaten in the last couple of days, excluding two pieces of brownie, was her pizza.

Bradley singing in Les Miserables.

WAHHHHH! For months, the Sunset Choir has been preparing for the Les Mis Christmas performance, which is one of my all time favorite stories, along with It’s a Wonderful Life. I love to see Bradley’s musical side, as well as all the other kids I’ve watched grow up in music. Plus, I’d emailed about twenty families, inviting them to watch the show, because there was no cost, other than a donation. And, I was scheduled to do concessions.  Missing out on last night’s event was heartbreaking. I shed about two minutes of tears over it.

By the way, speaking of two favorite stories… I think I mentioned this before, but it’s timely to mention it again. There is an author named Bob Welch who has written books based on our favorite classic stories, like It’s a Wonderful Life. He gives us 52 messages we can all learn from these stories. I think anyone who watches Les Mis and It’s a Wonderful Life (thus far, my son may disagree when it comes to It’s a Wonderful Life… I have hope) leaves feeling hopeful about life. But then we forget what we learned and what we felt.  These books are good to keep on our bedside table to be reminded of the goodness in the face of desperate and dark. I’ve never met Bob Welch, but he’s a friend of a friend, which is cool!

Working.

I had picked up a sub job that isn’t easy. It’s manual labor that requires attention to detail. I got a friend to do the job with me. We both sub for the district and I decided it would be much better to do a job like that with a friend by my side. It was much better last week when we got to do it together. But when I was sick, the friend I recruited worked the job while her friend (me) lay in bed. Ugh. I felt bad for that. She’s a workhorse and handled it like a trooper, but I still wished I could have been a workhorse next to her. Not to mention, I didn’t pick up any other jobs.

Merry Hour.

I’m scheduled to host Merry Hour at my house tomorrow night. I believe it’s going to happen. I don’t mean for it to be a big deal. But I’ve had to adjust to not having people over like I once did. So many factors have gotten in the way of that. Our house is feeling like a home. I want to take advantage while people are taking time out for friends and when the Christmas decorations are up. A group of moms (but not myself… I couldn’t do the movie) were scheduled to go see WILD, but it’s not playing tomorrow after all (except at one theater in NW PDX). Instead of canceling altogether, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have that same group over.

So, if I had had to cancel that due to sickness, I would have been beside myself with grief! Once I post this blog, I’m taking a shower and cleaning house…

The good thing that happened while I was sick in bed? I got offered the job for which I interviewed on Friday! I will post about the whole experience soon. The clarity wasn’t just on my end. The interviewers and interviewee clicked. After I go in on Friday and receive the welcome and compensation package, I’ll consider myself hired. I’m scheduled to start January 5th. It’s a new world for the Thurber Threesome. Oops. Fivesome. The dogs (darn it) are very much a part of this life, and I’ve still got to figure out how to manage them when we’re gone all day!