Birthday goals

I started my 35th year on this earth last week.

So far, it’s been an eventful 35 years. I found salvation with Christ, earned three degrees, married the love of my life, birthed two darling girls, and settled down. Along the way, I played tennis (According to USTA, I’m a 3.0 even after over a decade of inactivity — but that’s another blog post at another time), ran some half-marathons, and I found out I’m a bit of a daredevil and like to hang glide, parasail, and jump off cliffs (The Artist gets it honest).

I used to have a sheet of my 30 before 30 – 30 goals I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. Some of them included earning my Ph.D., purchasing a house, and having a child. Check yes on all of those. But there were some goals that I did not get accomplished — for example, learn Spanish (No habla Espanol well) and learn to surf (but I did come THISCLOSE).

When I think about goals for this upcoming year of my life, where I want to see myself when I turn 36 – I think – here. I want to be here, teaching students, loving on my baby girls, and having my husband beside me. I do hope I will have more wisdom when I turn 36, though, and that’s where I focused this year’s objectives: wisdom.

How does one become wise?

Next week, I’ll post some of my favorite prayer journals and Bible studies, but for now, here is my short but essential “Judith Gets Wise” list:

1) Pray. I love how Val Woerner encourages her followers to pray just 10 minutes a day. Just 10 minutes. That’s such a short amount of time during the day, but it’s so good for the soul. My mood is better, my attitude is brighter, and I’m just a nicer person all-around when I have been in communion with God.

2) Study. Whether it’s diving into the Word directly or pouring into a Bible study, I need to see and read God’s Word. I’m one of four Sunday School teachers in our department, and we’re on a once-every-three-month rotation. And when I’m on, I’m on. I research, I study, and I prep for Sunday morning. But when I’m off rotation, my Bible study slacks. I need to be more consistent with Bible study.

3) Read. I love to read. I always have. And, even better, both of my kids are voracious pre-readers. The Artist will always have five or six books in bed with her, and The Engineer has at least two. They want to read. They want to learn. And I do, too. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I am an advocate of reading every day. Sometimes I slack on this, though, whether from lack of time or lack of interest in my current read. So here’s the new goal for achievement: if I like a book, I can finish it in under two weeks. If I don’t, it may be a month or two months before I finish it. So my goal is that if I don’t finish a book in two weeks (due to my disinterest), I put it away. Life’s too short for bad books.

4) Write more. I love to write. I write this blog, don’t I? I like to write long books, though. But I don’t schedule much time to writing – that’s something I need to change. Today.

Four goals. Start slow, finish strong.

#isms, Uncategorized


It’s my birthday today, so to celebrate, here are my most recent #isms from my children.

The Artist: “My friends had to leave and can’t play with me anymore.”
Me: “I literally made you a friend. It’s your sister. She’s your lifelong friend.”
The Artist: “She’s just an experiment.”
Me: “She is not an experiment!!”

The Artist: “I need my vitamin.”
Me: “I gave it to you this morning.”
The Artist: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Yes.”
The Artist: “Hold on, I’m going to check with God.” (Holds up an imaginary phone.) “Hello, God? Is Mommy telling the truth? Okay, thanks.” (Hangs up imaginary phone.) “He said no.”

Kyle: “I’m ready to go to bed.”
The Engineer: “Me, too.”

(to a dog chasing us in the neighborhood while we were riding in a golf cart)
The Artist: “You don’t want to mess with us!”

The Artist: “I can count to 10 in Spanish. Uno, dos….Corinthians…”

The Artist: “Am I taking a lunchbox to church?”
Me: “No, we’re eating dinner here before.”
The Artist: “I don’t want to go then.”
Me: “What? Wait, why?”
The Artist: “I’ll get hungry.”
Me: “NO, YOU WON’T. I’m feeding you before.”
The Artist: “I’ll still be hungry.”

The Artist: “Knock, knock.”
Kyle: “Who’s there?”
The Artist: “Interrupting Saints.”
Kyle: “Interrupting Saints wh–”
The Artist: “WHO DAT!!!”

(The Engineer earned a trip to Dairy Queen after no accidents all day at school. So after she finished her blizzard, she informed me she needed to go potty. After she did…)
The Engineer: “I potty. I get treat?”

(passing a woman at the doctor’s office with a newborn baby)
The Artist: “That lady is going to have a baby.”
Me: “Shhhhh!”
The Artist: “What? I didn’t say she was OLD.”

And with that, happy birthday to me!!!

Dementia, Jesus, Writing

Happy birthday, Dad

My father passed away in 2016 due to dementia complications. His birthday is the day before mine this week, and in honor of his legacy every year, for his birthday, I share my testimony in Christ.

Me and my dad when I graduated with my master’s degree in 2008

First, let me say this – I believe a testimony should be a constantly evolving process. I want to be able to look back at certain times in my life and say, without a doubt, “Ah, that’s how God moved in my life.” I want to be able to say next year that I am closer to God than I am this year. I never want my testimony to always be about something that happened five or ten years ago. While I do believe it’s beneficial to see how God has moved throughout my life, during these particular writing occasions, in honor of my dad, I want to offer a testimony of how God has moved in my life more recently. I could tell you the story of my salvation, but it is fairly straightforward. One day, I might delve into its depths a little more, but I don’t feel called to that right now. I want to tell you how God has pushed me in the last few months.

When I look back this year, I see a visible change in emerging from my comfort zone. I spent about the first six months in a comfortable lull – everything was going well, everyone I knew was happy, and I just continued on a stagnant path. I didn’t see it as stagnant – my prayer life didn’t generally include anyone who was seriously ill or who had gone through a tragedy, which was a pleasant change from the norm, and I was enjoying the calmness that comes with a lack of overwhelming trials.

That changed in the summer when a dear friend challenged my ideas of stability and normalcy and rocked my perspective on my life and our church. Yes, everything was fine, but was fine the limit I had set for myself in terms of achievement? Did I want to stay fine or did I want to go further? Didn’t I want to be in movement to mirror Jesus more? Why stay in my comfort zone when there was so much need in my community – whether or not I was seeing it?

For a week or two, I fought with these ideas. I was angry, I was confused, and I was unsure of myself. I had been praying and reading my Bible regularly. Why had God not told me these things if I needed to push beyond my comfort zone? Why didn’t He reveal Himself to me?

He did – through my friend.

I rediscovered my walk with Christ as more than something just for me and my family and more for the world around us – neighbors, friends, Sunday School classmates. Suddenly, I saw that my comfort zone had become a clutch – a clutch to keep me from pushing myself.

I do like my comfy life. I’m the girl whose favorite evening includes pjs at 7 p.m., Netflix, and a good, warm drink. And while none of that is bad, I do need to remember that I have been called to stretch myself out of my introverted comfort zone.

If I don’t engage, how am I helping anyone? I’m not even helping my family. My girls need to see me out in the community, serving and leading – and following Jesus.




celebrations, Food, Sweet girls

Halloween food

We moved the summer of 2015 into our new home. We took our outdoor cat, our indoor dog, and our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to a new house in a new neighborhood with new traditions.

One of these was the annual neighborhood Halloween party and trick-or-treating. I was so excited. For the first time, The Artist was old enough to actually trick-or-treat and understand the concept.

I bought her a “My Little Pony” Pinkie Pie costume. She wore her old Anna from “Frozen” costume instead. All the kids in the neighborhood loaded up for a hayride and community trick-or-treating.

The Artist had a blast. A BLAST. She was the youngest trick-or-treater, but she worked so hard to keep up on her short little legs. The moment she was sitting back with me in the trailer she would immediately dive her hands into her candy bag and start sugaring up.

With the other kids being older, sometimes, if the houses were close together, they would go to two houses at one stop, and the trailer would just move up to the next house. The Artist, however, was the youngest and slowest, so I tried to help her by carrying her. She saw the trailer moving away and thought it was leaving us behind. She ran as fast as those short, toddler legs would go, yelling, “No! Wait! Please!” She was channeling her inner Anna (from the scene where Elsa runs away), and I absolutely died out laughing.

We trick-or-treated for hours that evening, and close to our house, The Artist was feeling the effects of being up late and eating too much candy. Kyle took her to a house very close to ours. She apparently had a wet pull-up that was uncomfortable, so she decided to strip it off, throw it in our neighbor’s yard, and continue on trick-or-treating.

Kyle carried her and the wet pull-up two houses down to our house and to her bed.

The next year, I had a newborn, so she and Kyle went solo trick-or-treating, and last year we just walked up and down the hills on our street in the very appropriate misty fog. The Engineer was old enough to trick-or-treat this time, and she loved it. She couldn’t believe she could just walk up to people, hold out her little pumpkin, and people would give her candy. Frankly, I’m generally surprised with this concept, too.

We all love the Halloween season. Every time The Engineer sees a pumpkin, she yells out, “Pumpkin! Happy Halloween!” It is precious. The Artist has drawn about a hundred Halloween pictures – she very much wants to go trick-or-treating dressed as a witch. And because we love celebrating the end of the week during the fall season, this last Friday we had a Halloween dinner consisting of ghosts bananas, pumpkin oranges, kitty cat cheese, and spider donuts. You know, super healthy stuff.

For the ghosts, I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth. I peeled cutie oranges and used celery for the stem of the “pumpkins.” And the cheese was the easiest – in fact, for The Artist’s birthday this year, a friend gave us 101 cookie cutters, so we can do pumpkins, cats, bats, and ghosts like this (Because The Engineer has a love for cats and pumpkins, I am sending her to school this week with cheese quesadillas shaped like pumpkins and cats.).

The spiders were easy, too, but instead of trying to push the M&Ms into the chocolate, I would suggest adding a little chocolate icing for the eyes.

And, even though the dinner wasn’t full of all the food groups, it sure was colorful and fun.





Celebrating the matriarch

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday.

NINETY. Ninety years old.

Ninety Christmases. Ninety New Year’s Eves. Ninety Thanksgivings. Ninety summers and winters, falls and springs. Ninety birthdays.

She was born in 1928, the same year Mickey Mouse was born, the same year the first trans-Pacific Flight was completed, the same year Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. She lived through the Great Depression, through World War II, through Vietnam, through 14 presidents. She remembers when Kennedy was shot, when man landed on the moon.

She gave birth to seven children, four of whom were alive to attend her celebration earlier this month. She has buried three of them and a husband.

She’s fought and beaten cancer three times. THREE times. There’s a reason my daughter is named after her – she’s a fighter. This world is a hard, ugly place sometimes, and you’ve got to be a fighter. But she is so kind as well, most of the time with a smile. She is so social and loves to see new places and meet new people. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger.

She’s fashionable. I remember being at her apartment in Little Rock one time and seeing all of her shoes. She had a pair of shoes to go with each outfit, I am sure. Even in her everyday wear, she is fancy.

My daughters love her – and it’s a good thing they’re small, because every time they see her, they are so excited, they barrel into her like wrestlers. The Artist will kindly sit and cuddle with her; even at five years old, she wants to be in someone’s lap. The Engineer comes when there’s food.

Her family gathered together to celebrate her and her amazing life she’s had and what more there is to come. There were her four children, of course, but so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there, too. We were all there to celebrate this one woman who has such a legacy emphasizing the importance of family.

My kids and I are so lucky to have her living so close to us. She didn’t grow up close to me, but now she lives next door to my mom. She and my aunt, who always lived either in the same house or in the same town, would come over every Christmas and spend Christmas with us. I remember one Christmas in particular when they couldn’t come because the weather was too bad. It just didn’t seem like Christmas without them there.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Granny! Celebrate your birth month all month! I am so thankful for you and the life that you have lived so far and cannot wait to celebrate more birthdays and Christmases with you! Imagine where we will be in 10 years at your 100th!