Oct 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, sister

Every girl needs a sister. In fact, if you're a girl and don't have a sister, you can have mine.

I mean that in the nicest way.

I mean that I'll share her with you 'cuz she's pretty special.

Her name is Megan. In the late 1950s, that name was not just uncommon. It was rare. Most people thought my parents were getting in touch with their creative side when they chose that name for their eldest daughter. Today it is more common, although most people pronounce it differently than we do. To us, she is "mee' gan." Which was fun when she called my office once and my coworker came to my office door and said, "Whoever you just spoke to on the phone a minute ago is on line two again." Not having been on the phone for well over an hour, I tilted my head to the side and said, "Huh?" Denise (said coworker) said, "I don't know! She said, 'Hi. It's me again. May I speak with Jennifer please?'" Very confused, I picked up the phone and sheepishly said "hello" only to be greeted by the cheerful voice of my sister.

And I started laughing.

And couldn't stop.

"Me again" was actually, well, you know, "Megan."

I have no idea why that popped into my mind and further why I was compelled to share it, but hey, roll with it. (It did remind me that the pastor of the church where we grew up used to call her "Ma GAN'" every Sunday morning as she would finish playing the offertory.)

Me-Again is a very talented individual. You know, the kind you hate because you wish you could do all those things as well as she does. Except you wouldn't hate Me-Again. She's too cute for that. She sings. Man, you should hear the girl sing. And she plays the piano. Beautifully, I might add. And she's the organist at her church, and she's good at that, too. Oh, and she teaches the choirs and ensembles at the school where she works, right after she's finished instructing sophomores in their requisite World History course.

She's also very smart. So smart, in fact, she doesn't want to know her ACTUAL I.Q. because she's afraid she'll be disappointed in how low it might be. Hello? Valedictorian of her high school with over 1,000 in her class? Check. Summa cum laude graduate from college? Check. Let's just say she's smart. Smarter than me, for sure. And she probably has printed out this post and is sitting at her desk with her red green pen marking my grammatical errors and circling things that aren't complete sentences. (The school where she works doesn't allow teachers to mark papers with red ink as it might cause the students emotional distress. What ev'.) It's a fun game we play. That, and she doesn't see much "blog speak," so she wouldn't necessarily know how totally appropriate this writing style is. (I do have delusions of grandeur, don't I?) (I also like to use parenthetical phrases. Deal.)

She's two and a half years older than me, and in our younger years, that meant I looked up to her. Literally. She was taller than me. Sometimes when we'd fight, she'd place the heel of her hand squarely on my forehead and watch and giggle as I swung at her in vain. My arms were too short to reach her, but I didn't realize that at the time. I just kept trying, hoping I'd get lucky and one day actually hit her.

As I grew older - and taller and stronger and wiser - that began to change. Like the time Dad was traveling on business as he did a fair amount when we were young. Mom (remember her?) always had her hands full with us, especially me. (I was/am the "problem child.") Me-Again and I were sitting in the entry hall playing with our Barbies. (Scandalous! We were allowed to PLAY. WITH. BARBIES.) Mom was busy cleaning when it came time for her to go to the basement and move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. As she'd JUST finished mopping the kitchen floor, she told us to stay off of it while it dried. And then she went down to the basement.

Me-Again (who incidentally is also known as "Gar" in our family - a story for another day) decided she was thirsty. And she wanted milk. (See, it runs in my family.) The problem was two-fold. She had to step on the wet kitchen floor to get to the refrigerator AND she had to get the GLASS PITCHER CONTAINING THE MILK off of a refrigerator shelf that was over.her.head.


The full GLASS pitcher of milk shattered, and glass and milk covered the freshly mopped floor!

"This will never do," I thought to myself. "Daddy is gone. Mommy is downstairs. WHO will discipline the rebellious Me-Again? WHO?"

Why, Jennster, of course.

Somehow I wrestled her to ground, straddled her bony little body and held her arms to the floor. Now I faced a serious dilemma: hands busy holding her arms down = nothing with which to enact discipline. What's a girl to do? I did the only thing any self-respecting five-year-old would do. I used the only instrument of discipline weapon I had, and I bit her nose. Hard. Until blood came out.

There was much screaming.

Remember those Barbies a few feet away? Well, who knew a Barbie stand could become lethal weapon #672? She raked that thing down my bare back (I had on a halter top). Hard. Until blood came out.

There was much screaming.

Mom, who by this time had flown up the stairs after hearing all the commotion, took one look at us, grabbed her keys and said, "Kill each other. I don't care."

And she left.

In the car.

With us at home.


She drove around the block and was home in 2.35 minutes, but it just as easily could have been 2.35 years because during that time? Me-Again and the Jennster had become best friends. For life. Because really? Who wouldn't make an ally of a former enemy when it is just the two of you alone against the world?

All these years later, she's still my very best girlfriend. She "gets me," and even though we don't always see eye to eye, we're always family. She laughs at my jokes, and she cries at my sorrows (which sometimes ARE my jokes). She was my matron of honor and the first person I called after getting engaged to Studly. She's my fellow lover-of-purple and my biggest cheerleader. She's a great mom and a thoughtful daughter. She's a loyal friend and a godly woman.

If you need a sister, you can borrow mine. She's the best.

But you have to give her back.

Oct 22, 2008

The Real World - Part Three

And then he said, "Miss, is it wrong to 'not like' someone you're supposed to love?"

I knew at that moment there was a deep, deep struggle going on inside this young man.

"Ryan, there are several people in my life that have fallen into that category over the years. It's kind of how God feels about us when we mess up. He ALWAYS loves us, but sometimes He doesn't like our behavior. Does that make sense?"

Unable to hold it in any longer, Ryan broke down in quiet sobs. One of his peers reached over to touch his shoulder in a gesture of support, but Ryan batted his arm away.

My heart broke. Grandma's too, perhaps even audibly.

I whispered a prayer and asked the Lord to give us SOMETHING with which to comfort this broken and hurting young man. Words came swiftly and flowed out. I have no idea what I said, but heads were nodding in agreement all around the room. The Lord showed up. He spoke. He gave some measure of comfort to Ryan.

Ryan looked up, his eyes and face red from crying. "I LOVE my dad. I idolize him. But he... he keeps messing up. And I'm just like him. That's why I'm in here. I'm like my mom, too. She's locked up. I'm so angry. I'm just so... A.N.G.R.Y. He can't stop doing drugs, and he makes me buy them for him. I'm afraid he's going to... he told me if it wasn't for me, he'd probably...



The pain and feared that gripped Ryan's heart finally completely overwhelmed him. Words failed him. I knew there was much more to the story than Ryan had shared. It didn't matter. The pain was etched on his face.

My mind raced. This is outrageous! What kind of human would put that kind of burden on the shoulders of a teenager? What kind of father could profess his love for his son and care so little about his well-being? What kind of mother gives birth to a child and squanders her own life away and leaves the kid alone? Why doesn't someone rescue this child from his own family?

But I already knew the answer. They're people who are without Jesus.

"Ryan, I'm SO sorry you've had to go through this," I said after a long moment. "I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away. I can't. But I do know of a miraculous salve for your wounded heart." As I talked about Jesus' complete and perfect and peace-filled love for him, tears slipped down his cheeks.

Grandma shared the plan of salvation in a simple yet powerful way. The same friend reached over to touch his shoulder, and this time, Ryan allowed it. His countenance softened. His tears no longer spilled over. He listened intently. So did his peers.

Just then, the day room door opened, and Allen, our resident "Gospel illusionist" walked in. Allen's dad was like Ryan's. Allen became a dad like Ryan's. He was the perfect person to minister to Ryan at that moment. He related to him in a way Grandma and I never could. We sat in awe of God's timing and provision as we listened to Allen share his heart with Ryan and the other boys in the room. He laid out the plan of salvation again. And he led them in the sweetest prayer.

God showed up.

In a big way.

People, young people, are hurting so desperately and so deeply. The best and only thing we have to offer them is Jesus. But He IS the best and only One Who can save them.

Do you know a Ryan? Have you introduced him (her) to Jesus?

He'll show up.

In a big way.

Oct 18, 2008

The Real World - Part Two

Edited to add: I really didn't MEAN to frustrate y'all and leave you hanging with the last post. It was pretty long as it was, and I was struggling with the subject matter. There is probably going to be a Part Three. Just warnin' ya. The story is long... * Begging your forgiveness. *

"Ma'am, I'm a convicted felon. Would you hire me?"

And I said, "Perhaps. Let's talk about that. First and foremost, I'd want to know you have the training, experience, expertise, skill set and/or knowledge needed for the job I'm offering. I'd want to see your employment history and whether or not you've been a "job hopper." Then there would be other things to consider like your credit history if you're going to be handling money for my company."

From the peanut gallery: "What does somebody's credit history have to do with it?"

"Well, let's say the position requires making the daily bank deposit, and I discover from your credit history that you are deeply in debt and are about to lose your home, your car, and other assets. Wouldn't you be a higher risk for stealing from me than another applicant who is current on their bills and is perhaps debt free?"

Heads nodded. One boy said, "I never would have thought of that."

"And back to your original question... 'would I hire a convicted felon.' I'd want to see that there is some time and distance from your crime and evidence that you've turned your life around or are at least trying. We all make mistakes, but we all have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes and make better choices in the future. If there is evidence of good and wise choices being made by you, I'm more inclined to consider you for a position. However, if your felony involved theft, I'd have to think twice before hiring you to handle money. If your felony was a sex crime, I couldn't hire you to work in a day care center where children are present. If your crime was drug related, I'd have to really consider the wisdom in hiring you as a pharmacy tech. Look, recovering alcoholics shouldn't hang out in bars. Recovering thiefs shouldn't be tempted with handling someone else's cash. Recovering drug addicts/dealers shouldn't be around drugs. Common sense, people. Common sense."

Interesting aside: juvenile criminal records are sealed, and I wouldn't be able to discover if one existed. That isn't the point of the discussion. These kids are in the middle of a detour from criminal behavior and need hope. They need to think about making better choices and learn that as a life skill.

The young man who had asked the question said, "So you'd be willing to hire me - a convicted felon - if my crime wasn't related to the type of work and if I could prove I had my life together? That's what you're saying?"

"Yes, that's what I'm saying."

Stunned silence hung over the room. These boys have been told their entire lives they'll never amount to anything, they're destined to be in and out of prison for the rest of their lives, and the world will be against them. They'd just heard they have a chance. Having gotten their attention, I knew the time was right to dive into the deep subjects. Yes, there are deeper subjects, some of which I won't write about here.

Ryan, a 14-year-old blue-eyed blonde, raised his hand. "Miss, I have an anger problem. I don't think I'll be able to keep a job. I'll probably get fired for blowing up at someone." As a group we talked about anger and its perils. We discussed God's awareness of our anger since He created us. We talked about Jesus' anger at the money changers in His Father's house. We talked about how difficult it is to avoid anger when someone is unfair or acts against us. We talked about how we behave when we're angry. And we talked about Ephesians 4, and specifically verse 26.

"Do not sin in your anger. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."

Ryan raised his hand again. "My dad is real angry. He's got a bad temper. He... well, he... he does things that aren't good."

"And that makes YOU angry, doesn't it?" I asked. He nodded.

And then he said, "Miss, is it wrong to 'not like' someone you're supposed to love?"

I knew at that moment there was a deep, deep struggle going on inside this young man.

Part Three coming soon. I'm going to get a Kleenex now as I think about Ryan...

Oct 16, 2008

The Real World - Part One

satan doesn't like it when we get busy working for God's kingdom. (He also doesn't deserve to have his name capitalized.) This past weekend was no exception. Our normally adequate-sized prison ministry team was plucked apart, one by one. While many of our dedicates were there (including "Grandma," the 81-year-old who couldn't go last time because she was recovering from a broken pelvis -not a broken hip as previously reported), many were kept away.

No problem.

God showed up.

When Grandma and I walked into one of the "long term" cell blocks, the TV was on, tuned in for the local news. That surprised me. I've been in this prison 50 times and never, ever has there been a TV on where the kids could see it. Sure, they have movie night once in while if they're well behaved, but the local news? Never.

As the guard guard turned off the TV, he instructed the 11 boys to be seated around the hard-steel-bolted-to-the-floor tables with hard-steel-bolted-to-the-table seats attached. They complied. Always looking for the ice breaker, I asked them if they'd been watching news about our upcoming election. They had. I asked if they understood what is at stake. Some did. I asked if they realized history is about to made, one way or the other. They did.

Feeling led by the Spirit, I asked the guys to think about what they'd studied in history regarding the founding of this great country, why the early settlers left England and what they hoped to build here in the New World. They were quiet.


I asked them to name things that have contributed to the declining state we find ourselves in today.

"The war!"

"George Bush!"

"Bill Clinton!"





"Families falling apart!"



The shouts came from all over the room. They continued to list those things they feel have contributed to where we find ourselves today. I nodded occasionally in agreement.

And then it was quiet.

One young man sitting at the back said, "Miss, what do YOU think got us here?"

I smiled. I glanced over at Grandma.

She winked at me and said, "I know. Can I answer?"

I nodded.

She said, "We are a nation who has gotten away from God. We've turned our backs on Him. We've done whatever we've wanted, whenever we've wanted, and we don't care who we've hurt... including Him."

I nodded again as I looked at the sea of sad and downtrodden faces and watched as the wheels turned in their young minds. An almost eerie quiet fell over the room as they thought about what Grandma had said. Finally one young man had a question.

"Well, if we're so bad - we're the worst of the worst in here - WHY are you HERE?"

"I'm glad you asked," I said. "We're here because we need to make sure that you know how much God loves you. We need to make sure you know how much WE love you."

Most of these kids have rarely - if ever - heard from any adult that they are loved. Their eyes searched for more... more details, an explanation, a punchline to what must surely be a joke. Grandma and I spent the next while sharing God's Word with these boys and telling many of them for the first time that God has a plan for their lives. And it's a GOOD plan full of hope and a bright future and not the calamity they have known previously. We talked about finishing high school or taking the GED and going to college or finding a trade. We talked about surrounding ourselves with God's people who love Him above all else and encourage us to do the same. We talked about disassociating ourselves from those who seek their own way and those who don't acknowledge God's principles for living.

We talked about being careful when choosing our friends and how their influence can lead us down wrong paths. We talked about not doing things that "everybody else is doing." We even talked about MySpace and Facebook and how those "social networking sites" telegraph all kinds of information to the world about who we REALLY are. I shared with them about two potential candidates who recently submitted resumes to me for an open position in my office and how the information on their MySpace and/or Facebook pages prevents them from ever having an interview with me.

That was just an aside, but it sparked some lively discussion! Most of them had never considered the possibility that future employers would see those "funny" pictures of them passed out drunk or the foul language they use or the violent music they choose for their page. Most of them were shocked that an old lady like me even knows what MySpace and Facebook even are.

One young man said, "Ma'am, I'm a convicted felon. Would you hire me?"

And I said...

(Stay tuned for Part Two)

Oct 15, 2008

Half written post

There's a post half written about our experience in the juvenile prison on Saturday. It was a tough day, and I'm having a hard time finishing the post. But I will. I promise! Check back for the update.

Thanks for your prayers for the kids. They are hurting so much, and they need a Saviour...

Oct 9, 2008

Dow Jones Falls; I Won't Panic

Breaking News: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 679 points, after hitting its lowest point since May 27, 2003 during the session.

I'm not afraid. The Word of God says in Philippians 4:19:

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Oct 7, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Miracle in a Tube

I love Wednesdays. Well, not really. Wednesdays are hard days in our office, so I don't TOTALLY love Wednesdays. But I do love me some "Works-for-Me Wednesday" ideas over at Rocks in My Dryer.

There are few things I can't live without, but here is one:

Aquaphor is THE best invention EVA'! It has the look and feel of Vaseline, but it is way better. I use it for everything. I never leave home without it!
I put it on my lips every night before I go to bed or on those rare "no make-up" Saturdays. I use it as lotion when my hands are really dry. I use it as a "night cream" by putting a little dab under each eye at bedtime. It helps keep that fragile skin supple and less-wrinkly. Concealer goes on better, too. It's great on skin abrasions and helps them heal more quickly. I even used it in place of Preparation H once! Aquaphor is also used in treatment of skin following laser resurfacing.
It is inexpensive, lasts forever, and comes in small purse-sized tubes or big ole tubs. There is a "baby formula" made for diaper rash and chafed skin, but as far as I can tell, the ingredients are the same.
Simply put, Aquaphor is a miracle in a tube, and it works for me!

Oct 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daniel

This little guy? He turns 17 today! He's funny and sweet and scary-smart. He loves the Lord and is a leader among his peers. He's very loving and is the joy of his family. We're SO proud of him!

Hope your day is AWESOME, RedHeadDanMan. We love you!

Aunt Jenn & Uncle Studly

Oct 1, 2008

Dave Ramsey on the Financial Crisis

I'm a big fan of Dave Ramsey. "Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice." His financial principles have root in Scripture, and they work. "The borrower is slave to the lender." Proverbs 22:7 "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another." Romans 13:8b.

Below is what he has been talking about on the radio and on TV over the last week or so. He makes sense!

Over the past month, we’ve witnessed the largest bankruptcy in history, the stock market dropping like a rock, and the talking heads on TV freaking out that the world is coming to an end. I’m here to tell you the truth—we’re going to make it. We’re going to be fine. Take a chill pill.
This month I’ve compiled some of the most-asked questions I’ve gotten recently from you:

Are we okay, Dave?
Definitely. Remember Enron and WorldCom in the recent years? We survived that. But much worse than all this was the financial crisis of the ‘80s – S&L collapse and 1,000 bank failures in 2 years. We’re nowhere near this type of thing; that was probably 50 to 100 times worse than all of this.

What does all of this come back to?
Greedy banks financing homes to broke people. It all seemed to work okay in their minds when the economy was booming, but when the economy slowed a little bit broke people quit paying on their subprime mortgages. DUH. No wonder they went out of business. Stupid decisions.

Is there anything we can do to fix this bailout mess?
YES! Here's a quick summary: Companies that had billions in subprime loans were feeling the effects of their stupid decision to make those loans in the first place, and practically gave them away for pennies on the dollar. But since no one wants these loans, and they've had to mark them down to market value, it has frozen the market. If we temporarily change the rule that forces companies to do that, that will free the market up.

This is an absolutely huge deal, and it involves everyone getting in touch with their congressperson before we spend hundreds of billions of dollars that we don't need to! Learn more

Will the collapse of businesses and banks affect me?
No, not unless you work there. Thousands of stock brokers on Wall Street have lost their jobs in the past few weeks, but that happens in other industries across the country in good and bad times. This time it just happened in NYC where all the national news media is so they made a big deal of it.

If I have 401(k) money in a Merrill Lynch or AIG trading account, should I move the money elsewhere?
No. Your money isn’t with them; your 401(k) money is in the stocks. These big companies are just managers (unless you directly own stock in their company). The only thing that may be an issue is if they crash later, you may have some customer service issues, but your money is still safe. This is a good reminder to not have all of your money in one stock—that’s stupid. Always spread out your money in various growth stock mutual funds.

With these acquisitions, will my 401(k) account and entire portfolio with Merrill Lynch be lost?
No. They just own the company Merrill Lynch. Look at it this way—if I owned 6 rental properties and hired a management company that eventually failed, I would still own the properties; I just wouldn’t have a manager. Your broker doesn’t have title to your stuff. Your 401(k) is not a company asset; that’s the beauty of it.

Should I sell my US stocks to buy gold and foreign stocks?
Absolutely not! Why would you think foreign stocks are any better than US stocks? Again, diversify your money in good growth stock mutual funds instead.

What practical lessons should small business owners learn from these bank difficulties?
When you have no cash, you freakin’ go broke. You must keep some cash on hand, no matter what kind of business you have. Give yourself some wiggle room where you can take a hit and still be standing.

Remain calm, America. We’re in a slow time, but just pay your bills and you’re going to be fine.

Contact your congressperson
More from Dave about the economy
Discuss this and more with other Dave Ramsey fans