Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hands down my favorite place in New York City

I love New York.

I love the horns honking and the tall buildings and the theater and the people and really just all of it.  

I especially love Central Park because who wouldn't?  Bill and I have gone running there, rowed around in a row boat, ridden the carousel, eaten breakfast at Tavern on the Green and had lunch from a food vendor (y'all it was SO good) We've watched the ice skaters, ridden in the horse drawn carriages, taken a zillion pictures and spent hours watching people.  

We've done it all.

My absolute favorite place in the park ... and to be honest, my favorite place in all of New York City is just on the edge of the pond.  People don't line up to see it or make reservations to go, but I don't ever miss seeing it.  It's right here:

(It says:  In memory of Jinny and Bob Simons.  They loved this view.)

Isn't that the BEST?!

I have no idea who Jinny and Bob are but I LOVE them because they "loved this view".

They loved it so much that someone bought a plaque and put it on a rock in their memory.

Here is the view:

It is pretty, even in winter.  

It is calming, even in the middle of New York City.

I love thinking about Jinny and Bob enjoying that view.  

I imagine they enjoyed it season after season, year after year.

Here we are enjoying the view (actually we are turned the wrong way but we were trying and it's a selfie so hey ... we did the best we could).  The funny thing is that every time we took a picture in Central Park that day ... EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  .... the snow would start to fall.  When we put the camera down it would stop.  When we would take the camera out, it would start again.  Bill said it felt like we were on a movie set and someone was sprinkling snow out of a box down on us.  

I think Jinny and Bob would have enjoyed seeing that too.
I imagine they enjoyed the view when the leaves were on the trees and when the leaves were off.  Enjoyed it when the sun was shining and when the snow was falling.  Enjoyed it in the quiet of the morning and in the bustle of the afternoons.  Enjoyed seeing the babies in their strollers, the toddlers jump in puddles, the businessman hurrying through the park and the old lady shuffling along.   Enjoyed the tourists and the regulars ... I imagine they enjoyed it all.

And I also imagine that, in their own lives, everything wasn't always as picturesque and beautiful as their view in the park. 

But they had the park.  

And they enjoyed the view.

It's such a reminder to me to pause and look around and ENJOY.  Yes, things may be all messed up in so many areas but there is good and there is beautiful and there is peace to be found.  

Look around.  

Enjoy the view.

Jinny and Bob did.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Word(s) of the Year


Everyone has been busy making goals and resolutions for the new year.  

Well, maybe not everyone, but a lot of people.

Many people have been choosing a theme word for their year.  A word that represents what they are hoping the new year brings.

And don't worry if you haven't made any resolutions or come up with a word yet.  If you are need any grace on not having done that, you will find it with me.  I never start mine until the kids go back to school ... which, by the way, is tomorrow!! 

The other day I asked on my Facebook page what word people were using as their "word" for 2014.  I got lots of responses:  





All good words attached with deep meaning for the person who wrote them.

My funny friend Wendy wrote ... "Word?!?  We are supposed to have a word?  No one tells me anything.  I guess my word would be oblivious".  

Still, while reading their words, I didn't have my own word.

I thought of a few but couldn't settle on one.

Until yesterday.  

I taught a Sunday School lesson on James One.  (As an aside ... read James One.  Lot of good stuff in there. It's kind of like Proverbs.)

And it was while teaching that lesson that I came up with my word ... actually two words.

It will make perfect sense to Bill that I have two words where others only have one.  He has long said it takes me twice as long to tell a story as it needs to take so of course I need TWO words!  :)

My words came from James 1:22 which says:

"Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive          yourselves.  Do what it says".  

Basically it says .... don't just listen to or read God's word and then not act on it.  Do what it says.  

It also says knowing what the word says and not doing it is like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what you look like when you walk away.

In other words ... it makes no sense.

It's like the Nike slogan says ... "Just do it".  

And here's the beauty of it ... the Bible speaks to everything.  It speaks to time management and being healthy and being nicer.

Bible covers it all.

And so my words for 2014 are just this:  DO IT.

Read the Bible and then act on what it says or act the way it says.  

Simple as that.

Now I just have to DO IT.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

An Empty Nativity

Today I am packing up Christmas.  

It's funny how pretty the red and green looks everywhere before Christmas and afterwards it seems to lose it's appeal.  (Is that just me?)  I love the lights and sometimes find that after the tree and the garland comes down and the ornaments are put away the house looks kind of empty.  But then I do like the crispness of January decor.

When I began to pack up our nativity, I realized we never found Jesus.

Not kidding.

You see, Bill loves to go to St. Patricks Cathedral when he is in New York City.  He has gone to mass, lit a candle and viewed their nativity several times.  (He has always said he would make a great Catholic ... he loves liturgy and high church kinds of worship.  And he is a saint for going with me to "not so high" church).  :)

At St. Patricks, he was struck by the fact that there is no baby in the nativity.  The nativity is left empty until Christmas Eve signifying Jesus coming to earth.  So Bill decided to leave ours empty too ... in Christmas of 2012.  And on 12/24/12 he couldn't find Jesus.  Then sometime during the summer of 2013 he found the plastic baby Jesus and thought he would remember this year where he left it.

Only he didn't remember.

And so another year came and went without Jesus in our nativity.

And that means we will look for Jesus again all year.

And there is so much beauty in that sentence that I can hardly stand it.

We "get to" look for Jesus everywhere!!

Jesus is everywhere.  

And yet sometimes I think we miss him.

Maybe we miss Him because we aren't looking for Him or maybe we miss Him because we are looking in the wrong places or maybe we are too busy to notice Him.

Certainly He is in His word and we can find Him there.  

We need to find Him there.  


But don't stop looking for him there!  No, he is in the sunshine and the raindrops, the mountains and the valleys.  

He is in all of us who call Him our Savior and Lord.  

That means people should be able to see Jesus in us! 

And during Christmas ... even though we never found the Jesus to go in the Nativity, we found Him in so many other places.  Some trivial, some more monumental ... but we found Him.

Some of my favorite reminders of Jesus from this season:

On Christmas Eve a little girl sang at Second Baptist Church in Kingwood.  She is the niece of one of our friends.  She sang about Jesus being the real gift of Christmas.  She was backed by the full adult choir and it was beautiful.  The song was "Happy Birthday Jesus".  The words say ... "the presents are nice but the real gift is you". And it was beautiful and sweet and precious.  

But here is the amazing part  .... six years ago that same little girl was left on the steps of an orphanage in Beijing.  It was there she was found/rescued and adopted.  Rescued from no telling what kind of life.  And y'all, THAT IS OUR STORY TOO. That is the work of Jesus.  He found us and rescued us and now we can sing for him.  People can see Him in our lives.

Seeing the video of her seeing truly made my Christmas Eve. If you want to see it, click here.

Another moment was a man who was in a wheelchair.  He was cheerfully calling out to all of us who were heading to the ski slopes ... "Isn't this a beautiful day?  Sunny skies!  Life couldn't be better!".

And how fabulous is that?  He was totally content.  And there was Jesus in that moment for me.  The man had legs that didn't work but was proclaiming that things couldn't be better.  So maybe He wants me to focus less on what isn't right and more on what is right.

He is everywhere.  We must look for him.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 says:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

I like the Message version even better:

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.

Here is hoping that you won't be disappointed in 2014.  Because when you seek Him, you will find Him.  

God's honest truth.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"The Story"

Some of you emailed me yesterday and asked if I would post a copy of the "get to" article.  I have written this story before (and told it many times) but I love to be reminded of this time God so graciously taught me the difference between a "have to" and a "get to".  And trust me ... I need reminding of this daily!

My Story:

When I got married I had a very “Norman Rockwell” idea of what my life and family were going to look like.  You know … all seated around a table in a very “Southern Living” looking home.  Children in cute outfits, delicious looking food on the table, an adoring husband smiling as he prayed over the meal. 

However, the reality was much different.  I did have an adoring husband and four cute children … but after that, the expectations that I had were much different from my reality.  Dinner was usually whatever I could throw together, there was ALWAYS laundry on the couch to be folded, the kids …. Well, let’s just say they didn’t sit at the table quite as nicely as the kids in the pictures did.

And as the days and years wore on, I became .... like most (all) moms …. Tired.  Exhausted.  Overwhelmed.  Burned out.  It felt like as much as I did there was always so much more to do.  I would share this with my husband but he didn’t really know what to say or do to bring me out of the state I was in.  He tried.   He offered suggestions and he helped … and yet still … I felt in over my head.

For a couple of years we had heard about “family camp” and how wonderful it was.  My husband suggested we go but honestly I wasn’t sure how fun “camp” sounded.    But we signed up for Week Five and headed to camp.

Our family of six sat around a table at dinner the first night and a counselor I will never forget named Southern Belle joined us.  The children were all hungry and ready to eat and my husband and I were frantically trying to cut everyone’s food up on their plates.  Southern Belle asked if she could help and, like most moms, I said … “no, no … I can do it”.  As the children got louder though, I relented and said “yes, help would be great”. 

Once everyone was eating and peaceful I turned to thank Southern Belle and she replied , “Oh, thank you for letting me do that for you. It was a blessing for me to get to do that for you”. 

Tears stung my eyes as I thought of how beautiful her words were to me.  And you better believe I asked her to join us at every meal.  J

We enjoyed camp so much and I loved that I didn’t have to think of what to fix my family to eat (and the food was good!), they brought us clean towels and swept the dining room floor after we ate.  It was awesome. 

But the truth was I was dreading going back home.  I knew ALL those responsibilities awaited me and I dreaded it.  DREADED it.

Wednesdays at family camp are “free days”.   They children have activities until 3:00 and the adults are on their own.  My husband went to play golf and so I decided to go to the ladies Bible study.  We read some scriptures and then we each went around and shared a prayer request.  They started at the other side of the room and people around the room shared big things.  Like REALLY big things.  Financial problems and marital problems and health problems.  So many big problems that it made my problems feel silly.  I almost didn’t share but I knew that if it mattered to me it mattered to God and so I told the ladies in that room that I was tired.  That I wasn’t finding the joy I thought I was supposed to find in being a wife and a mom because there were so many things … like the laundry!!! … that kept me from ever feeling like I could enjoy my family or be the person I was supposed to be.  And I told them I just didn’t know how to get it all done.

And as we left … I have to admit, I felt a little stupid.  Because I was sure that they all wondered how that prayer request could be answered.  Seriously … unless the Lord sent Merry Maids on Monday morning to my house, I didn’t see how He could answer my request either.

But here’s the thing.

He did.

And mightily.

And if I could tell that no situation is too big or too small for God and that He wants us to bring our requests to Him, I would.  Because He so is faithful.

My prayer was answered just a few hours later … I mean God was ON IT.

At 3:00 I went and picked up my son from his class.  He had been with his sweet teachers for almost 6 hours.  SIX.  I thanked the counselor, whose camp name was Hollywood, and said I was going to put sunscreen on my son and take him to the lagoon to meet the rest of our family.

After I got his suit and sunscreen on I put him in his stroller and went down to the lagoon.  When I got there, unbelieveably, I saw that same counselor … Hollywood …. on the lifeguard stand. 

I called up to her and said … “Hollywood, what are you doing?!”.

She said … “I’ve got life guard duty today”.  (This same girl who had 2 year old duty for six hours just before).

I asked her … “Do you not get a break?”.

And this is what she said:

“This is my get to … I 'get to'  do this”.

And so I asked her .. “but do you 'HAVE to'?".

And this is what she said:

“Yes, we are assigned these jobs but we call them "get tos” because we look at them as opportunities where we “get to” serve the families that are here.  Because I am watching your family, you “get to” enjoy them so it’s a blessing to me”.

And right there … on the side of the lagoon, through a camp counselor named Hollywood, God spoke to me.  Tears were streaming down my face (I figured I really freaked her out!)  J  because I knew that God had answered my prayer from a few hours earlier and He was saying to me … “Darla, you are looking at everything in your life like a “have to”.  Those aren’t “have tos” … those are opportunities to serve your family.  And when you are serving them, you are serving me.  I gave you that husband and I gave you those children … they are your “get tos”.

And in that moment, God used Pine Cove and that precious counselor to change my heart forever.

I went home with a new heart … one committed to having a “get to” attitude.

Now trust me … laundry and cooking and cleaning …. It still gets old.  But I do it with a different attitude now and truly not a day goes by that I don’t look around … chaos and all …. And think … “I get to”.

Back to the "Get to's"

Yesterday I received a copy of "Transformed" magazine in my mailbox.  It is a publication by Pine Cove camp and goes out to about 10,000 homes.  They asked me to write an article for them and so it was exciting to see it right there in print.

At the end of the article it said ... "follow Darla at" which is the new host name for this blog (either blog address works but this one will be easier to remember).  Anyway ... I kind of panicked because there hasn't been ANYTHING to follow in ten months.  As in zero posts.  Nothing, nada.

I have no idea why.  

One reason is because I RARELY sit down at my computer anymore.  When I am on the Internet I am usually scrolling through facebook on my phone in a carpool line somewhere or on my ipad playing candy crush.  :)  I am a terrible at keeping up with email and currently have over 20,000 unread messages.  My voicemail box is also full.

When I can't keep up I shut down ... and only keep up with the most important things to keep up with .... which means my family.  

But .... seeing something I've written in print is kind of inspiring to do more of that.  And it's going to take some pretty big doings ... as in I have to get a LOT of things done .... but my goal is to write more.  

Hopefully a lot more.

Because I like to put words on paper.  Or a screen as is the case...  :)

And since the article is about my "get tos" .... I've made a short list of some I've been reminding myself of lately:

1.  Two weekends ago it was FREEZING.  I mean really, really cold.  And I was cozy and warm inside my house and really, really didn't want to leave.   The problem was .... Bill's fancy office party at a swanky hotel in the Galleria was that night.  And I was so cuddly and warm in my yoga pants and sweatshirt that I didn't really want to go.

Then I remembered that my husband has a job (for which I am thankful) and so I "got to" go to his party.   Ended up having a good time and making a new friend.  

2.  I sometimes get overwhelmed with carpools.  So many carpools for so many kids so many days of the week.  But carpooling allows me to visit with my children and their friends.  I can't wait until I "get to" visit with them again.  Gives me some sense of what's going on in their world....and some of those kids are REALLY funny.

3.  I signed up to make Christmas cookies for a fundraiser for a mission trip for Brittany next summer.  Dreaded going because hello, it's December and there is so much to do.  Ended up having a total blast "getting to" decorate cookies.  I dubbed myself "sprinkle person extraordinaire" as I sprinkled all kinds of sugary things on those cookies.  It was so fun working with some people I don't get to see very often and I was reminded that doing things like that really bonds you with people.  

4.  Was lamenting the other day that we had something every single night.  School play, basketball game, volleyball banquet, church choir performance, etc.  Then I remembered we "get to" do those things because we have healthy children who can live very full lives.  For that I am very grateful.

5.  Had lots and lots of poinsettias to deliver the other day for  Brittany's swim team fundraiser.  Knew it was going to take a significant portion of my day to do it.  Was wishing maybe I didn't have quite so many to deliver.  Dropped one off at a friends house who has cancer and told her there was "no charge".  She then told me that she had prayed that very day on the way home from chemo for something, anything Christmassy in her house to cheer her mood.   And so when she pulled up at her house and saw the poinsettia she was thrilled to have an answer to her prayer.  It reminded me that "have tos" can become "get tos" in a very quick second.  That item on my "to do" list became a blessing to her. It was my joy to "get to" deliver that poinsettia on that day.  And guess what?!  Others came and added lights on the outside of her house and another helped with her tree.  And my friend is celebrating Christmas!

The list could go on for me ... but I'll stop here and ask you ... what are your "get to's" this holiday season?

Come on, I know you have some.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mother Malfuntion

Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone.

But many of the images remain.

I'm not talking about the confetti streaming down on the winning team, the commercials or the halftime performance.

I'm talking about this:


Our church hosted a "Middle School Bowl" on Sunday.  Football, fun ... it was great.

But look more carefully at this picture ... you will see that one of these things is not like the other.

Number 14 on the end ... she's mine.

YEP.... all the "other" moms .... and by "other" I mean the "together, with it, knowing what they are doing" moms ironed their daughters numbers on the BACK of their jerseys.

I put Savannah's on the FRONT.

Talk about a "wardrobe malfunction"!

It's a "mother malfunction", really.

Savannah asked me several times during the week to iron the numbers on her shirt and, she claims, she also said the words ... "on the BACK".

I didn't hear that last part.

I also didn't know if she was "14" or "41" and since I had waited until late Saturday night to iron it (yes,  the last minute!). I couldn't ask Savannah so I took a gamble and guessed  "14".
In retrospect, it's funny that it was that particular part of the project I thought I might mess up.

I looked for the iron for awhile (because really, how am I supposed to remember where we keep the THAT?!?) ... and once I found it I ironed the "14" .... right on the FRONT.

The number four didn't peel off very well but I am resourceful and clever and I got a Sharpie pen and colored in the part that didn't transfer.  It was still a little lopsided ... but it looked much better.

I hung it up for my girl to wake up and see her "red hot" jersey ready to go.

I was getting ready downstairs when I heard "MMMMOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM" yelled in such a way I knew it was not good.  And then I heard ... "THEY DON'T GO ON THE FRONT!!!!!" and I thought "OH NO .... NOT AGAIN".  

I mean really, how many things can a single person get wrong?!?

She told me to "Peel the numbers off and start over".

Two problems with that.

1.  The numbers came from Hobby Lobby and they aren't open on Sundays.

2.  Remember how I "resourcefully and cleverly" outlined the four in Sharpie?  

The numbers were there to stay.

At this point Savannah was not going to church, not going to the Middle School Bowl, not speaking to me ever again .... you get the idea (ESPECIALLY if you have a middle school daughter!).

I told her that since she couldn't play anyway (did I mention she broke two fingers?) ...

Yep, they were slammed in a door while she was doing her Saturday job as scorekeeper for basketball.  The doctor told her it was the players that were supposed to get hurt, NOT the scorekeepers! 

So anyway ... I tried to convince her that the captain needed to "stand out" .. "be a little different" and therefore have the numbers on the front.

She didn't buy it.


But when it came time to go, she came down the stairs with the "numbers on the front" shirt on and left without another complaint.  She was even smiling at the game.  :)

Thankfully her teammates are very sweet girls and I'm sure laughed along with Savannah about her mothers "ironing issues".

One of my favorite parts of the whole story was the mom who commented ... "you know, I almost offered to iron Savannah's last week when they were painting the jerseys because ... well, you know ...".

That still makes me laugh.

And, GET THIS ....

Their team, the Red Hots, ended up winning "best jerseys".

Savannah, I imagine, stood in the back during the judging.    

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An update on my cooking skills ...

Earlier this week my friend Lucinda posted this on facebook ...

So proud of my friend Grace Anne!! She won BEST HOME COOK in Dallas on the Bobby Flay's Dinner Battle on Food Network!! Proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone, AND for winning!

I wanted to respond ... "does she know you are friends with the cooking likes of me?".

And seriously .. her friend Grace Anne stepped "out of her comfort zone and WON" which would mean she stepped "in to her kitchen and COOKED".

Which has always been part of my problem.

But things are looking up.  

I think, in fact, that you might be a little surprised.

Shocked, perhaps.

Now, no one has asked me to write a cookbook or anything .. but there has been progress.  (Anyone remember the time I was kicked out of the elementary school cookbook only to be re-instated without my knowing because they said my recipe wasn't really a recipe!?).

I'm also not claiming any Pioneer Woman victories.  (Anyone remember the time I tripled her cinnamon roll recipe because I wanted to make more than one pan ... but didn't realize the recipe made SEVEN pans so I ended up with TWENTY ONE pans of cinnamon rolls?).

I'm not saying I'm the next Giada or Rachel Ray or anything like that.

I'm just saying that I've had a few things happen lately that .... in my very unofficial "this is a great mom moment" book that I keep in my head ... were was counted as a victories.

You see ... Jacob came home from basketball the other night and said that his friend told him "your mom makes the best quasadillas in the world".

Did you catch that?  In the WORLD?!?  The world includes Mexico where they invented them so I think I get extra credit for mastering a "foreign dish".  

And yes, because I know what you are wondering, it was only cheese and a tortilla.  

It just must have been very good cheese and a very good tortilla ... which translates to "whatever was on sale at HEB". 

As an aside ... I had to google the correct spelling of quesadilla.  And it was then that I realized it is a ques-a-DILLA.... which will crack all of my friends who know me by my maiden name, (Dillahunty) and always called me "Dilla" for short, VERY HAPPY.  So, although I have changed the pronunciation of the word ... from here to fore I will be making quas-a-DILLA's!!!  

So fun.

Then, AS IF that wasn't enough good news on the cooking front ... Brittany came downstairs the other night and said ... "Maddie wants to know if you'll make more of your chocolate chip banana muffins and send it in my lunch to school so she can eat them".

And friends ... that was the fastest batch of muffins I've ever made! 

Last, but not least Brittany had a friend over Friday night.  In my usual ... "oh no, it's time for dinner and I forgot to remember than I'm in charge of dinner" routine I had a moment of panic.  Then I remembered a "too easy to believe it's true" recipe a friend had told me about.  I rolled out a can of Grands biscuits.  I cooked them and melted cheese on top.  I quickly grilled some chicken on my (ever so handy and dandy) George Foreman grill, sliced it up and put it on the Grands and topped it with some barbeque sauce.

You want to know what Brittany's friend said?!?

She said ... "Mrs. Baerg ... this is SOOO good.  My mom just opens up packages and puts them in the microwave for us to eat".  

If Caroline had been home she would have chocked on her chicken while laughing since she calls me the "queen of whatever they are selling on the prepackaged aisle". 

So rude.  :)

And you may be thinking to yourself ... those are the lamest cooking celebration reasons ever.  But what you may not understand is that I had some friends over for lunch this fall and one friend asked me ... "are you really as bad of a cook as you say you are?".

The only answer for that was "yes".

But things are looking up friends ... even if ever so slightly.

Bobby Flay isn't ever going to name me "best home cook in Houston" but I do make a good quesadilla!

Or so I've been told.