Joleen, Jesus and Grace

I’m gonna tell you a story I don’t tell often. Many years ago, I lived in a modest, one bedroom apartment in Houston. I had my second job out of college, but the first in my chosen field, Marketing. And I wasn’t living with my parents. Hooray!

I had the cutest neighbor named Joleen.

Joleen was a short, petite blonde with a very large, very scary, very loud dog I affectionately called Kujo. She had a strong east Texas twang and was just as green around the gills as any high school graduate who moved to the big city trying to make something of her life that had as little to do with her small hometown as possible.

She held two jobs, one was a contract job as an administrative assistant at one of the many large companies HQ’d in Houston, the other was at the mall at some place like Bath and Body Works. She and I got along great. I enjoyed having her over or chatting through the fence of our meager little back patios. I loaned her my foot massager after being on her feet for many hours at the mall job and I think we even enjoyed a bite to eat a few times.

She had a boyfriend from back home who would visit some, she didn’t get along great with her mother, and she was extremely close to her brothers. Somehow, even with two jobs, she managed to make it back home quite a bit on weekends.

I remember one Sunday night, though, after returning from a trip back home, I sensed something was very wrong. It was the first of the month and our rent was due. She had gotten paid on Friday, cashed her check (since she didn’t have a checking account) and headed home to East Texas. She kept the money in her glove box, I believe. Now, we could obviously argue the merits of this type of cash management, but that’s not the point of this story. Anyway, one night during the weekend, she went out and her car was broken into. All her money was stolen, among other things.

She came back tearful because she couldn’t pay the rent. And nobody from back home could afford to help her either. I had just paid all my bills and for the first time in a long time, I had extra. I don’t know how or why, but I did. Because, trust me when I tell you I was not rolling in greenbacks.

In spite of finally getting “ahead” financially, for some reason, I felt so very strongly that God was urging me to give her the money for her rent. So I did. I invited her over, told her my plan and that she was in no way obligated to pay me back, and I wrote a second check to our apartment complex in the amount of her rent (which for a smaller apartment was actually more than mine, for some reason.) It was a lot, but it was the excess in my account. After all that I needed was paid for, I still had enough to help a neighbor in need.

Money does strange things to people. Even though I told her not to worry about it, well, as you can imagine, it still put a strain on our relationship. Not from my side, mind you, but hers. Anytime she’d see me, she’d say, “I’m getting your money, I promise.” To which I always replied, “don’t worry about it.” But it didn’t matter. Because she did. She eventually moved out and I don’t know what ever became of Joleen. I hope she pays it forward someday or at least understands how I was really just being obedient to what I felt God urging me to do.

This leads me to today. Here recently, we’ve had our own financial crisis, if you will. Back in December, my husband discovered he had a herniated disk in his back that badly needed repair. When we saw the neurosurgeon on December 20, she actually said it was bad enough for surgery, and oh by the way since you’re a paramedic, there’s no way you can do your job and you can’t go back to work.  Oh, and the recovery time post-surgery is expected to be twelve weeks. So, yeah.

Jaw. On. Floor.

Surgery was scheduled for January 7. So we’re looking at 15 weeks, more or less, without a full paycheck.

To say I was in shock would be an understatement. How on earth would we pay our bills? How are we going to eat? How are we going to live?  And Christmas? Forget about Christmas! Christmas is cancelled. All the presents have to go back. (I didn’t actually do it, but I thought it.)

I was in crisis mode. I might as well have cashed the check and left it in the glove box.

Panicking, I texted my friend and she immediately went into action. With my permission, she let people know. She helped us formulate a plan to raise money and survive this crazy time in our lives.

Marcus’ parents were able to help us cover the medical costs and our bills for January. Then the strangest things started happening.

First we received gift cards to Target.

Then gift cards to Kroger.

Then people would ask me at church when we were planning the garage sale because they had stuff to donate.

Then we got cards of encouragement in the mail. With cash.

Then we got a big fat envelope full of cash from what people gave to my friend to give to us. She wrote on the envelope, “To George Bailey, The richest man in town.”

And I was completely overwhelmed. I even got a little weepy.

Then I opened the mailbox and more gift cards. More cash. In fact, going to the mailbox in January was kinda fun.

Then we had the most beautiful weather week in the history of January’s to prepare and have a garage sale. I’m talking spring time weather, people. Cool, crisp mornings, high’s in the upper 60’s and bright sun with the bluest sky as far as the eye could see.  And while we originally planned on only having the sale on Saturday, we decided around Wednesday night that we were probably ready to open on Friday, too. So even though the ad in the paper was placed as stating “Saturday only” we decided to share on Facebook and a local garage sale website and just hope for the best for Friday.

And people came. Not only did people show up in droves on Friday, but it turns out that the newspaper ad that was supposed to say “Saturday only”, and was approved that way, left that little tidbit out. People came on Friday, just to see if we were open because the paper didn’t say what day it would be, just listed our address.

I’m so not kidding.

Anyway, with the donations of the many and the tireless help of some friends, we had the biggest best garage sale I’ve ever had in the history of ever. We made more than one of Marcus’ paychecks.

All together, the money we received in donations, gift cards and from the garage sale, was basically enough to cover our expenses for another month.

That’s God right there, y’all.

I’m so incredibly blown away by God’s grace and His obvious hand in all this.

By far this has been the most stressful six weeks of my life. It’s hard not knowing if we are going to have enough to make it. But I have to believe God will provide. Marcus has been able to teach some out at the college, and his boss was kind enough to give him some administrative work he can do from home. So it’s not a lot, but every little bit helps. We plan to have another garage sale in the next few weeks, and I’ve already had people offer to donate.

Anyway, I wanted to share what God is doing in our lives. Because it’s been a crazy ride. I am thankful to watch God move in the hearts of His people. And I’m humbled to be a recipient to their obedience.

It reminds me of God’s overarching love story for us. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin. To pay a debt we could never repay. A debt He didn’t even owe.  Just like I didn’t owe Joleen’s rent. And all these people don’t owe us.

It’s our job to just accept it for what it is. God’s unmerited favor. His grace. Poured out onto each of us. Freely given. To not question it. Or feel guilty for accepting it, like Joleen did. How I wish she would have understood that I never wanted or expected to be repaid.

I wonder how often God wishes that of His people.

I can’t even begin to repay what has been given to us. I don’t know the givers. I don’t know the prayers being offered up on our behalf. But I know the One who has a plan and a purpose for it all. As hard as it is. As humbling as it is.

And I can only say thank you.

Thank you to friends and strangers. For opening your hearts in obedience to God. And for allowing us to experience His grace anew.

We’re looking at the end of March before Marcus can return to work full time, unless the doctor suddenly changes her mind. On paper, we don’t have enough to make it.

But God, my God, is the One who fed 5,000 people on the side of a lake with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

I think He’s got us covered.


***ADDENDUM: So I was thinking this morning that it might be helpful to clarify a few things so you can fully understand the gravity of our current situation. 

1. My husband’s job is guaranteed through FMLA, but FMLA does not pay anything. Many employers offer short term disability which, if I understand correctly, would pay a percentage of one’s salary, but his employer does not. 

2. He is still required to pay something to cover the cost of his healthcare premium. Thankfully, his employer was kind enough to allow him to use his personal leave and sick time for this. So he is turning in just enough time to cover that cost on each paycheck. Ironically, the first paycheck he received after doing this was for a grand total of $7.77. Now, if you are a God-fearing, bible-believing Christian, you ought to get a chuckle out of that number. God really does have a sense of humor.

3. You may wonder why I didn’t go get a job. Well, we considered that option. I even submitted my resume to a couple of places. But in the end, we decided that the best thing for his recovery is for me to stay home and deal with the kids. He isn’t even supposed to lift anything over 5 pounds so that leaves a 30-pound two year old and a 46-pound almost four year old completely out of the question. And that would be impossible for him to do alone.

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, God, life, Marcus | Leave a comment

It’s 2014 Already

Wow. It’s already a new year. 2013 happened so fast, it seems. In the last week, I’ve pondered over goals, and resolutions, and themes for the year, and a word for the year, and here’s what I’ve come up with: I hate those things. Not because they are inherently bad, they are quite the opposite actually, but because I have this inherent ability to let them slip. To just sort of fade into the February oblivion.

But I’ve decided to try anyway. So here’s my New Year, New You! (said with all the sarcasm that stupid phrase evokes) list of things I’d like to accomplish for 2014, God willing.

1. Blog more. Like once a week or so. Or at least once a month. Last year, I posted 31 new posts, up from 25 in 2012, but still down from a high in 2011 of 90. I feel like once a week might actually be doable. I don’t know. We’ll see. I mean, it’s already Saturday of the first week of 2014 so I’m really pushing it already.

In trying to decide how to accomplish this, I started brainstorming ideas and coming up with all these catchy little blog topics I could cover, like Mommy Mondays, or Toddler Tuesdays or Feel Good Friday, but I decided that as cute as those little organized ideas are, it’s really diverging from the heart of this blog, which is complete and utter randomness from the depths of my brain.

So I’ve decided I want to blog more and continue to cover such topics as Love: my kids and family and relationships and faith; Life: Parenting, motherhood, health, wellness; and Chocolate: the random stuff that doesn’t fit into any other category. I really want to give my kids more space on here, too. It’s such a precious time in their lives and I want to be able to look back and remember. And I really want to discuss the challenges and struggles we are facing as a family, along with the joys and triumphs of life.

2. I want to take off this last 20 – 25 pounds. And I really want people to understand that I lost 80 pounds out of sheer determination. I changed my diet (went vegan) and added exercise to my life. Things that actually work. I would really love it if people would stop questioning me and acting like they don’t believe me when I tell them how I did it. No, I didn’t do Medifast. No, I didn’t do Weight Watchers. And for the love of all that is good and holy, No, I did not have weight loss surgery!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, all those things are not bad, I’m not condemning anyone for using those methods of weight loss. But for goodness sake, if you’re gonna be bold enough to ask me what I did and drill me into describing exactly what and how I eat and feed my family, then please be willing to accept the answer I give you as truth. Don’t look at me like you don’t believe me. That just makes me mad because at the heart of it, it’s rude and condescending. You may think I’m crazy, and that’s fine. But it works, and you asked.

One day back in October of 2012, I decided I was done being fat. Done feeling sick. Done feeling tired. So I made up my mind, changed my diet, read a lot, researched a lot, prayed a lot, cooked a lot, exercised a lot, and it changed my life. The end.

3. Now this one is bold for me, but I’d like to really look into becoming a certified personal trainer. I have no idea exactly what’s involved, but I think it would be challenging and I love a good challenge. It’s something I would mainly do for myself, not necessarily to actually have clients and become a personal trainer to others, just really more of a personal goal.

4. Unplug. Man, that phone of mine takes up so much head space between the Facebook and the games and the emails, and the texts, and, and, and. I know I’m not alone in this desire. I’ve started by instituting a No Phone policy at the dinner table, and that goes for me and my husband.  I just need to get my face outta my phone and talk with my kids more. They’re pretty funny characters these days and sometimes I feel like I’m missing it. I need to take advantage of the time I have with them now, because I may not always have this luxury.

5. Spend time with friends. Deepen relationships and develop new ones.

6. Finally, and most importantly, study the Word. Delve into His presence. Worship and really connect with Jesus. Remember that He is my lifeblood. My sustainer. My provider. Without Him, I am nothing. (John 15:5)

And that about covers it, I think.

So happy new year, friends!

What are some of your goals or resolutions or words or themes for the year and how do you hope to accomplish them? I’d love to hear what others are planning for the new year.


Posted in life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Potty Training…or something?

Okay, so I thought about making this a Facebook status update. But then I thought it’s just too momentous, it really deserves a blog post.

Because Aubin is doing something very strange, y’all. I think she’s potty training herself…Or something. If that’s even possible. I mean, she’s not even two yet.

Let me explain.

For a few months now, I’ve been saying this girl could probably potty train. She’s been telling me for a long time when she has pee or poop in her diaper. And she’s usually right. Lately, she’s been taking naps without any wet diapers, and within just the last few weeks, she’s started taking her diaper off, which on the surface is super annoying, and I figured it was just a phase. But maybe on a deeper level she just wants out of the dirty thing. She usually takes them off when they’re wet or dirty. Which is super gross, but whatever. It’s what mommies deal with.

So this morning, while I was getting her dressed to go to the gym, she took her jeans off and said she had to go to the bathroom. No kidding. She said she had to poop. And I was like, um, okay. So we did the sitting on the potty thing and while she clearly tried, nothing happened. So after fighting with her to get a diaper on, we went to the gym.

Fast forward to lunch. When we got back from the gym and were at the table eating lunch, she suddenly got down from her chair and said she had to poop on the potty and started taking her jeans off again. So I helped her get her diaper off and she ran to the bathroom. By the time I finished my bite of food and made it to the bathroom behind her, she had already climbed onto the toilet and peed. Next thing I know, she’s doing her business.

There was poop in the toilet people.

Then she said she was done and after I wiped her, she flushed the toilet and we washed her hands. Then we repeated this little exercise about ten more times over the next twenty minutes until she finished pooping. Which would have been funny if it wasn’t so annoying.

But seriously. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It took so much effort with her brother that even though she has shown the signs that she wanted to toilet train, I’ve just ignored it because I really didn’t think she was ready. Heck, I wasn’t ready. It’s a heck of a lot of work and I just haven’t wanted to deal with it. Diapers are easy. Dirty panties and messy, wet floors are not.

But now I’m thinking I just need to go with it. Especially since she basically fights me when I put a diaper on her anymore anyway. So when she gets up from her nap today, I think I’ll put panties on her.

So, yeah, maybe we’re potty training now.

Or something.


Posted in Aubin, Holy Cow!, life, Motherhood | Tagged | Leave a comment

Random Musings

Considering the fact that Thanksgiving is a couple of days away, you might think this is a post about all that I’m thankful for. But it’s not. Instead, this is a post of completely unrelated randomness. I could flood my facebook wall with these thoughts, but I decided to just throw it all into one stupid, weird post. So please forgive me, it’s just where my brain is right now.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I cut and chop and measure and pour and boil and steam and bake. Every single day. I’ve got three sets of measuring cups and spoons in addition to my Pyrex glass measuring tools. And even then, sometimes it’s not enough. Because my brain has to work properly, too. The other day, I was measuring stuff into my food processor for a totally decadent healthy chocolate chip cookie dough dip and the recipe called for 1/8 tsp of baking soda. So I pulled out the 1/4 tsp and proceeded to measure out two of those and dump it in. Because 1/4 plus 1/4 equals 1/8 when you’re in a hurry. It’s okay, you can laugh at my expense.

I often listen to 24/7 Comedy on my iHeart Radio app when I’m at the gym. So I laugh out loud. A lot. The other day, my husband was there and he said every time I laughed, it kinda gave him a complex because he kept thinking I was laughing at him.  I bet he’s not the only one.  So if you see me in the gym with a big smile on my face or I’m absolutely guffawing, check my ears. If I’m wearing the ear buds, I’m not laughing at you. I’m probably laughing at Louis C.K. or Gabriel Iglesias.  If I’m not wearing the ear buds, well, draw your own conclusion.

I’m addicted to apple and peanut butter. Smucker’s natural peanut butter with Honeycrisp apples to be exact.

I think in the last two years, I’ve made no less than 2,347 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s their favorite.

My daughter is becoming a bully. She pushes kids that are littler than her just to watch them fall. If I weren’t slightly horrified, I might actually think it’s funny. Actually, I do kinda think it’s funny. No, I don’t. Yes, I do. That’s terrible.

My son has taken imaginary play to a whole new level. It’s getting really fun to watch. Plus it keeps him occupied which is kind of a bonus when I need to get stuff done.

I really want to see Mary Poppins again.

I have no desire to see Carrie Underwood in a live version of The Sound of Music. I mean seriously, why mess with a classic?  One year for my birthday, my whole family went to see The Sound of Music Sing a long at the Grand in Galveston. It was quite a fun experience.

I’m also addicted to watching episodes of Chopped on Amazon Prime.

We finally made it to Austin for our anniversary trip and had a great time and ate lots of yummy vegan food.  The best part, though, was my husband telling me that he likes my cooking better. Swoon. 🙂 While the hotel was really nice, the bed was rock hard. So I didn’t sleep very well and we drank lots of coffee.

Speaking of cooking…this is officially our second plant-based Thanksgiving in a row. On the menu is a lot of really yummy goodness that I’m looking forward to making and then devouring.

My daughter is almost two. And she is acting like it already. She’s strong willed and stubborn and can rock a time out all in a cute tiny little pudgy package. And I feel like I’m starting all over again on the discipline. What worked for her brother doesn’t necessarily work for her. So we’re figuring this out together.

My son had his tonsils and adenoids removed this summer after a sleep study showed he had obstructive sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils. In other words, he stopped breathing when he slept. Completely. Stopped. Breathing. Up to 37 times an hour. He also coughed a lot during his sleep before his surgery and the doctor’s said it was likely due to the tonsils being so big and surgery should solve the problem. But it didn’t. I felt so awful. Like I was a bad mom that couldn’t help my baby get a decent night’s sleep. And I put him through major surgery that didn’t help the cough. Although, it did help the snoring disappear, which also helped his apnea disappear, so it wasn’t for nothing.  Anyways, my husband was sharing this with his partner one day at work and she said the same thing happened to her nephew and it turned out that after a battery of tests, they discovered he had reflux that was causing the cough. So thinking this was a good possibility for my own kid, I called his pedi and he called out a script for liquid Zantac just to see if it would help. And I am amazed at the difference. Since the very first dose, he hasn’t coughed nearly like he had been. It’s crazy to me that just two weeks ago, he would start coughing the moment his head hit the pillow. And now, nothing. And when he does cough, it’s not the same hacking cough. I’m so excited that I think we finally figured it out.

That’s parenting though, isn’t it? A lot of on the job training. It’s good to have a plan in place and be intentional, but goodness, if you can’t think on your feet and call an audible, then you have no business being a parent. It’s by far the hardest job I’ve ever had. Some days I love it. Some days I don’t. And then snuggles come and erase a day of frustration. So I’ll take it. Struggles and all.

I love my babies. I adore my husband. They are my world.

And I think that’s it. My brain is purged. Well, almost. I can’t give all my secrets away. 😉

Time for an apple and pb snack with an episode of Chopped.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


Posted in Aubin, Complete Randomness, Eli, Family, life, Marcus, Motherhood | 2 Comments

The Halloween Post

This year for Halloween, well, we kinda skipped the whole trick or treating thing. But it’s okay, because we had parties to go to the week before, so nobody missed a thing and most importantly, everyone got to bed on time which made mama happy. So without further ado, I give you…

Halloween 2013, Finney Style.

2013-10-25 17.31.47

Seriously. Is there a better couples costume for a family of vegans? I think not. Besides, we go together like peas and carrots. Har-har

And I must give credit to my amazing husband who sewed these bad boys with his own two hands. And his surging machine. Surger? Whatever it’s called, it sews. And he can use it. Like a BOSS.  See…

2013-10-24 21.52.04 2013-10-24 22.48.10

2013-10-24 22.48.19

I’m the BOSS of that there glue gun. On the floor. Mm, hm.

2013-10-24 22.48.42

The only picture I managed to get with the kiddos was at the second party we attended, the annual Halloween parade at the Danes. My peas was at work, so I went incognito and figured the kids could take the attention at this one. 😉

2013-10-27 18.13.18

That, my friends, is Dusty Crophopper (from the movie Planes), and the cutest little ladybug you ever did see.  Did you know that ladybugs love bananas? Well, now you do.

The Pumpkin Patch

The day before Halloween was beautiful so we headed on down to the pumpkin patch to get the requisite pictures with these cuties. Who of course, couldn’t care less about pictures. Or, you know, pumpkins. But whatever.

2013-10-29 17.39.40

Oh my word, y’all. Her expressions…

2013-10-29 17.41.21

…crack me up.

2013-10-29 17.42.37

Here’s a little pumpkin patch tip: when they’ve taken the time to set up a bench in front of the cute display, sit on the bench, not the hay. You might just sit on a metal stake and rip your pants. You’re welcome.

2013-10-29 17.45.55

Getting so big!

2013-10-29 17.45.35

Seriously, mom. I’m standing here. Why do you keep insisting I look at you?

2013-10-29 17.47.27

Someone found her happy place. La la la la la laaaaa….

2013-10-29 17.47.41

Again with the fidgeting and the pictures and the pumpkins. When will it end?

2013-10-29 17.49.19 2013-10-29 17.48.24

Aaannndd, that’s as good as it gets, folks. But it’s better than last year. So at least there’s that.

Happy Fall, Y’all!


Posted in Aubin, Eli, Family, life, Marcus | Tagged , , | 2 Comments