Go Ahead. Ask Her Out.

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I like college students. A lot. They know tons of stuff you probably don’t know. Do you need to know how to download something? Ask a college student. Do you need to know what “download something” even means? Ask a college student. Do you need to know what equipment to buy in order to download something onto another piece of equipment the size of a thimble? Yep! You guessed it. A college student will help you out.

But before you start feeling useless, just know that college students need us seasoned folks too. This was evidenced by my recent conversation with a young male college student.

“Hey! Mrs. Lisa.”

“Hey there, Jimmy (name changed to protect the innocent or guilty). How’s it going?”

“I’m in a dilemma, sort of.”

“I’m great with dilemmas.”

“Well, there’s this girl I really like.”

“Go on.”

“We’ve been hanging out.”

“Hanging out? Like dating?”

“Uh, not really. You know, just hanging out.”

“Okay. What does that mean actually?”

“You know, like, we eat lunch sometimes after class. I see her at meetings and we text each other a lot.”

“Okay. So, what’s the dilemma?”

“Well, I like her. A lot. But she just thinks of me like a friend.”

“When you go to lunch, who pays?”

“We both pay our own way.”

“Right. Right. Yeah, she thinks of you like a friend because you are just a friend. Let me guess. When you go to lunch, you wear shorts and an untucked free t-shirt you got from a blood drive three years ago. Oh, and you probably wear those flip flops you’re wearing now. Am I right?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Fifty-one years of living, friend. Fifty-one years of living.”

“So, Mrs. Lisa, what should I do? I mean, how can I let her know I want to be more than friends?”

“Well, there’s this archaic concept that still works when tried. It’s called a date. A real date. It’s an actual event, not just a square on a calendar. Here’s how it works. You call her on the phone. You don’t text or video chat or send a Facebook message. No. You call. You say something like, ‘I’d like to take you out to dinner and a movie Friday night.’ If she says she’d like that, you say, ‘Great! I’ll pick you up at 6:00.’ When you pick her up, you go to her door. You wear real clothes. Real clothes, friend. That means khaki pants or jeans. It means a button-down shirt tucked in. It means a belt, socks, real shoes, the whole nine yards. No baseball cap.

It means you pay for everything. Everything. Oh, and your cell phone? It never leaves your pocket. In fact, you’re only taking your cell phone in case the movie theater is overtaken by aliens and you need to call 911.”

The handsome young man agreed to give it a try. I felt certain his efforts would be met with success. Why? Because sometimes a woman is just waiting for a guy to man up and take some initiative. Oh, and she’s looking for moral courage and leadership too. In an era of changing technology, trust me. Some things never change.

My Life as the Easter Bunny

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While strolling through the mall, I saw a 3-year-old girl physically assaulting the Easter Bunny. I know. You think a 3-year-old girl doesn’t possess the physical strength to assault the Easter Bunny. You could never be more wrong. Powerful memories flooded my mind. I’m glad I’m alive to tell the tale. The bunny tale.

It was the spring of 1995. My husband and I were happily living in 480 square feet of cinder block heaven, otherwise known as married student housing at Stephen F. Austin State University. We had just gotten approved by our adoption agency and were excitedly making plans for our first child’s arrival, even though we weren’t sure when he or she would arrive.

We were pinching our pennies until they screamed. Family members and friends were even donating toward our adoption costs. That’s when the local mall manager approached us with an offer too good to be true. $1000 cold hard cash. Unless she expected us to rob a bank or scam old ladies, we were in.

The mission was simple. During a three-week period Phil and I would be the Easter Bunny and photographer at the mall. The pictures I take are always blurry, so Phil would take the pictures and I was left, well, with the bunny suit. When it comes to being the Easter Bunny, there are hard and fast rules, friend. The Easter Bunny doesn’t speak. Ever. He doesn’t eat the free chocolate candy (well, not much of it). And above all? Above all, the Easter Bunny is not allowed to assault small children. I mean, how hard could this be?

I learned a lot in the spring of 1995. Not about children. Not about bunnies and not about free chocolate. I learned a lot about parents. The following scenario was repeated over and over again.

A small child would scream, gasp, and kick as a parent approached me. Phil, desiring to protect his young wife, would often say something like, “Well, looks like this might not be the day for a picture, Ma’am. Maybe when she gets a little older she won’t be afraid.”

But no. The parent would fling that horrified toddler in my lap like a shot put. “Here, Suzie. Sit in the bunny’s lap and get your picture made.”

Guess what? Scared toddlers scream at a decibel that would scare Stephen King. Oh, and that free chocolate candy? It was smeared into my pastel bunny tie while chubby toddler claws tried to rip the heart out of my chest. All the while, the parent would be saying, “Suzie, quit! Suzie, straighten up! That bunny’s gonna get you!”

But see, that’s the problem. The Easter bunny wasn’t allowed to “get” Suzie without going to jail. Phil kindly and enthusiastically encouraged Suzie’s mama to “get” Suzie out of my lap so the large bunny wouldn’t commit a felony. What a guy.

Phil and I made $1000 in the spring of 1995. It wasn’t easy. But the beautiful baby boy we adopted the next January? He was more than worth it. Happy Easter!

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No Ranting About “Fifty Shades…”

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” is nothing to write home about. Are you kidding? Your mother would kill you. But it is one of the most popular book series of all time. So now a movie is coming out. I’m not going to give the book series or the movie credence by explaining the plot or the graphic nature of the writing. It’s not worth that.

When the movie comes out, some of you may be tempted to rant. I understand. What happened to real romance in America? What happened to the slow-burning fire of a life-long love? Why would anyone call graphic sexual abuse love?

I’m blessed to speak and interact with a lot of 20-somethings. And I can tell you the tide has definitely turned over the years. I’m concerned. But when it comes to love, the real question isn’t about “Fifty Shades of Grey” or popular culture’s skewed view. No. The world is the world. It’s messed up.

The real question is much more simple. When it comes to love, what do our OWN lives portray? What are we teaching our children? Oh, I don’t mean what we’re saying. No. I’m not talking about the words we’re using when explaining about love or morality or marriage. No. I mean, what are they seeing? Are we affectionate and selfless with our spouses? Are we givers or takers? When it comes to those we love, do we exchange pleasant words or bitter come-backs? Are young people witnessing the daily blessings of a love that doesn’t give up? Do we make love and marriage look good?

The human heart will always cry out for love. Intimacy. Sex. Passion. Oneness with another person. We desperately want to rescue and be rescued. The whole nine yards. It’s a wonderful mysterious longing. A desire to be one with another person. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is attempting to answer that need. But we can do better. Much better. Our lives can point young people to a passionate fulfilling love that lasts. Vows that are worth taking. Commitments worth keeping. Romance. Beauty.

I know. It’s 2015. But I’m not ashamed to say it. Not at all. Sex is a wonderful, exciting, passionate gift designed for a life-long marriage. Designed for a lifetime of blessing, not momentary hurt and exploitation. So instead of ranting about the new movie, let’s do something far more helpful. Let’s love in such a way that people take notice. C’mon, friend. Don’t give up. Let’s give ‘em something worth talking about.
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Valentine Cop-Outs

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Some of our friends have rebelled against Valentine’s Day. “It’s too commercial.” “I don’t need a calendar to tell me to express love and affection.” “My husband knows I love him every day.” “I don’t need flowers or chocolate to prove my love.” “Hallmark doesn’t run my life.” Okay. Is everyone done with the nay saying? Now, let me set the record straight.

Phil and I stand with the full and complete celebration of Valentine’s Day. We do. I’m sorry that a sappy card offends your sensibilities. It doesn’t offend ours. If that heart-shaped box of chocolates makes you feel too commercial, send it to our house. And flowers? I mean, c’mon, what’s not to love about flowers?

If our society has set aside a day to honor love, why wouldn’t we want to jump on board? Of all the things in our current culture that I don’t support, love sweet love is actually something I can heartily get behind. So, if you’re in love, stop with the excuses. Bust a gut, people. Let’s get this done.

Men, if you’re financially strapped, worry not. Write a heartfelt love letter and make cupcakes. 99% of women love cupcakes and love letters. And the other 1%? They’re just pretending they don’t love cupcakes and love letters. I have no idea why.

Oh, and women, if you’re on the receiving end, be gracious and appreciative no matter how small the gesture. My husband and I counseled a young married couple years ago who were having marriage problems. She was feeling unloved. He was trying hard to prove his love. Finally, we looked at the young woman and said, “What would make you feel loved? What could your husband do that would make you feel like he had truly made an effort?”

Her reply was remarkable, “You know that scene in a movie where the guy picks up the woman in a private jet and takes her to some place unexpected like Paris or Rome. Yeah. Now that’s real love and romance.”

We were dumb-founded. Her young husband could barely afford gas and a movie ticket. And now she had dangled this horrific expectation in front of him. That’s emotional abuse and it made him want to quit trying.

Defining romance by what you see in movies is never a good idea. Movies have multi-million dollar budgets. And the guy in the movie is not even in love with his co-star. Yes, I saw the scene where her midnight gaze brought a tear to his eye. But it’s all a farce. He’s an actor. He never takes out the trash. He doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night to care for nauseous young ‘uns. A word to the wise: Never take romantic cues from people who don’t do their own laundry.

A world of people are looking for love. If online dating commercials are any indicator, there are thousands upon thousands who are hoping to meet that special someone this year. So, if you’re blessed to have already met the love of your life, stop worrying about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. Show a little heart. Buy the flowers. Write the note. Buy the woman in your life all four of the Doug and Carlie books. (Ooops! Did I actually write that? At least I didn’t say, “Go to Amazon.com and order today.” Oh, shoot. Now I’ve done it).

And if you get the notion, you can even step out on a limb and take the love of your life to Paris. Paris, Tennessee, is less than an hour from our house. Yes, it has an Eiffel Tower as well as a Pizza Hut. That’s called a Valentine’s Day win!

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Two Birthmoms…Our Heroes

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It was Mother’s Day 1995. Another childless year had gone by and another Mother’s Day sought to remind me I was nobody’s mom. I felt invisible in a crowd of corsages and illegibly handwritten cards declaring love for Mommy. I sat in church crying the same tears I had cried every year on this day…and praying the same prayer, “Oh God, if it could be your will, PLEASE just give us a child.”

As the pastor began to speak of the love and admiration we should show to moms, I felt my husband’s arm around me. It was his silent way of saying, “I feel your pain too. I want you to be a mom.” It reminded me of what a sensitive dad he would be. We prayed daily for a baby. But, in the course of six years, every pregnancy test had been negative and every year brought more discouragement. We knew God knew the future and had a plan, but to our human understanding He often seemed silent. Painfully silent. How could I have known that beyond our little world were two women whose love and courage would change our lives forever?

It was the Fall of 1994 when we first contacted an agency in our area to talk about adoption possibilities. The moment we met our counselor, we were impressed. Her enthusiasm lit up the room. She understood our financial situation and decided to trust God with us that if it was His will for us to adopt, He would provide along the way. He did so miraculously and we were approved by February of 1995. Then came the waiting. We had waited so many years. We joked that waiting had become our specialty.

In January of 1996, it appeared the waiting might soon be over. Our counselor told us a birthmom named Karen had chosen our profile page and would be calling us that night. The moment we heard her voice, we liked her. She was articulate and kind. She asked a lot of questions and we could tell she loved this baby intensely. He was two months old now. At the time of his birth, she had been unsure of whether she was going to place for adoption or parent so she placed him in a loving foster home while trying to come to a final decision. She had chosen now to seek an adoptive couple and wanted to meet with us as soon as possible. The meeting we had with her and later with both her and her parents confirmed to us that God had not been silent all those years. No. He had heard every word…responded to every prayer. His timing was flawless.

Karen was 21 and in college. She and her parents had agreed on adoption and had prayed for a Christian couple. She said the moment she saw our picture she knew we were the ones. Only God could cause such an ordinary-looking couple to seem extraordinary to her. As she read our profile, the decision was confirmed. The birthfather was supportive of the adoptive plan though he chose not to meet us.

The moment we first met I reached out to hug her and can still remember thinking, “This is the woman we have prayed for.” We met our son a few days later. Like every set of new parents, we thought he was more glorious than any baby we had previously seen.

In fact, after the first meeting with him, I called a friend and said, “I’d just like to apologize.” With confusion my friend asked, “Apologize? Apologize for what?”

“I want to apologize for all the times I said your little baby was the sweetest baby on earth. Without even knowing it, I lied. Today we met the sweetest baby on earth.”

Stephen became our son January 23, 1996, the day he turned three months old. The dream had become reality. Phil was a real dad. I was a real mom.

As we watched Stephen blow out the candles on his second birthday cake, we said, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful son…and could you give him a baby brother or sister?” Should we dare to even dream for a SECOND miracle? Trusting God’s timing, we began to pray daily that God would provide a baby, if it was His will.

Less than three months later, the phone rang. My husband’s mom had been showing off pictures of her grandkids, when one of the observers said, “Are Philip and Lisa wanting to adopt again?” Philip’s mom said an enthused, “YES!”

She (my mother-n-law’s friend) worked with a woman who had told her just that week that she had decided to place her soon-to-be-delivered baby for adoption and was looking for a Christian couple. The birthmom called us a few days later to set up a meeting. She lived a few hours away and was 35 years old, a college graduate, single mom of a 12-year-old. We met her at the favorite meeting place for all parents…McDonalds. Cathy would turn out to be God’s next blessing in our lives.

She was pleasant and kind but was obviously tired. Seeing Cathy actually carrying the child in her body helped me realize again what love both these women had for these babies. They nurtured and cared for them for nine long months. Her 12-year-old supported the decision to place for adoption. The birthfather too agreed with the decision though chose not to meet us. She asked lots of questions and even made notes in a spiral notebook. As we were leaving, she told us to drive by the hospital…so we would know where to come when she called. This was her way of saying she liked us. Two days later she called and confirmed her decision to place the child with us.

The next few days were spent getting legal paper work set up and trying to prepare for a new member of the family. Three weeks after our meeting, she called Philip from the hospital only minutes after giving birth to say, “Hey Dad! You should come see this beautiful boy!”

He was indeed beautiful in every way. The time spent with Cathy and her family at the hospital the next 24 hours was precious. We met her parents, son, and brother. I’ll never forget a walk I took with her around the hospital that night. I told her the same thing we had told Karen. We wanted the absolute BEST for her and for her beautiful baby. If she decided to parent, we would understand, love her, and support her decision. We held hands and both had a good cry. She held fast to her original decision and the next day found us crying and hugging as we all prepared to go our separate ways. Jonathan has been a blessing and a JOY to our hearts. We are still amazed that God said, “yes” twice! It is often said, “God moves in mysterious ways.” Our lives have been a testimony of such. On more than one occasion, we have said, “God, thank you. Thank you for the terrible waiting, the wondering, the negative pregnancy tests, the searching…and the provision that has been beyond what we could have ever hoped for.”

We also thank Him for these two loving and courageous women. How could we begin to say thank you to the women who carried and nurtured our sons before we even knew them? How could we begin to say thank you to them for choosing life? For understanding the meaning of the word sacrifice? For loving the boys beyond what most people will ever understand?

Our family tree is now blessed with two fine sons. But always at the roots will be Karen and Cathy…our family heroes.
*The birthmoms’ names have been changed in respect of their privacy.
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Take Down that Christmas Tree, Friend

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Friends, it’s mid-January and it’s time to make a clean break. The party’s over. Hold my hand and read these words very carefully. Take it down. Walk slowly toward the corner of your living room and take the Christmas tree down. Don’t think about it. Don’t stop to watch the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special” on video “just one more time.” No. Put the video away.

Take the lights down. Take the fuzzy Santa door knocker down. Take the dried up poinsettia and deposit it in the trash can outside the laundry room. No. No. Don’t put that poinsettia in the garage. Stop! Don’t do it! I don’t care what your Aunt Ethel said about caring for that dried up poinsettia until next Christmas. No. I promise with all journalistic integrity that next Christmas you will be able to purchase a poinsettia at a reasonable price. IF there are no poinsettias for sale next December, I will come to your home and string popcorn. I’ll make gingerbread cookies. I’ll even sing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” a cappella. I promise.

However, if you choose not to take my advice concerning the poinsettias, I can’t protect you from the mild depression you will experience when you look in the garage in mid-April and see 4 or 5 dried up poinsettias piled in a corner next to a dusty Bowflex machine. That just has “failure” written all over it. It’s the New Year. You don’t need the stress. I have full confidence in your tenacity and ability. I am cheering you on. Go get that Christmas box. It’s time to fill it to the brim.

Even after reading my first paragraph, some of you may STILL be experiencing a lack of motivation in taking down your Christmas items. For you, let me provide this very solemn warning. I realize there are people who leave their icicle lights up year round. I know. There are people who leave their tree up until July. Some people leave the dusty Santa stocking on the mantel for months and months. It happens. To some of you, this may seem perfectly “normal.” Let me illustrate how quickly “normal” can take a terrible turn. Take notes.

You see, it all starts with leaving up the tree and the lights. Pretty soon there are 26 stray cats living inside the house. Next comes an addiction to the shopping channel. Pretty soon you’re eating dry cat food late at night and stalking David Letterman. You may even start selling “Elvis memorabilia” on-line. I’m serious. A year-round Christmas tree can severely blur your reasoning. You start to believe that the Hawaiian shirt from your high school graduation party is the EXACT one Elvis wore in “Blue Hawaii.”

What’s that? Yeah, I know. You’re putting down your phone or computer and getting the Christmas box out of the attic, aren’t you? Good for you. And don’t forget about the poinsettia. While you’re at the trash can, why don’t you go ahead and toss that “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” CD? Go ahead. Make the world a more beautiful place.
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Weird Christmas Stuff

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I admit it. I’m a traditionalist. I like to celebrate Christmas the way we celebrated it last year. I like to celebrate Christmas the way we celebrated it ten years ago. Yes, I even like Christmas the way it was in 1973 when I got an Easy-Bake Oven and a Barbie camper.

Let’s start with the food. Unless I live on an island in the South Pacific, I don’t want to eat coconut shrimp for Christmas dinner. I love coconut shrimp. Everyone loves coconut shrimp, but coconut shrimp cannot take the place of ham or turkey. This information is in the traditional Christmas rule book in a chapter entitled, “You Should Just Know Better.”

Let’s take rye bread, for instance. I like rye bread just fine if it’s a Thursday in February and I’m eating a Reuben sandwich. But Christmas dinner requires rolls. Hot, white, carb-laden rolls. Yes, I know. I know that white rolls are not “nutrient dense.” Let me fill you in on something, friend. People who talk about nutrition at Christmas dinner will find coal in their stockings. How’s that for density?

Let’s talk holiday home décor. Again, why are we messing with stuff that doesn’t need to be messed with? Everyone needs to take a page from my parents’ Christmas decorating guide. When our family celebrates Christmas with my folks, I have the full assurance of how things will be. There will be a red rickety little sled on the fireplace mantle. I think my parents acquired that sled when John F. Kennedy was president.

My dad will have picked out a “less than ideal” live tree from a tree lot because he felt sorry for the tree with the crooked base or the big bare spot. He and my mom will decorate the tree with the decorations given to them during 56 years of marriage. There’ll be all those little apple ornaments from their years in teaching. The homemade ornaments collected down through the years will be placed on the tree with great care. And when the ornaments are all on, they’ll say in unison, “It’s the prettiest tree we’ve ever had.”

If I walked into my parents’ home to find a 10 ft. artificial tree flocked in expensive fake snow and covered in new matching shiny balls, I would feel grave disappointment. At that point, they might as well just serve lobster bisque for Christmas dinner with whole wheat pita bread and hummus.

I’ve written about this subject before, but it’s worth repeating. Red and green are the Christmas colors, people. They have always been the Christmas colors. They shall remain the Christmas colors. Pink, lavender, and salmon are not Christmas colors…nor shall they ever be. Refer to the traditional Christmas rule book under the chapter entitled, “Frosty the Snowman Should Never Wear Bermuda Shorts.”

I realize that some of you love to experiment with your Christmas celebrations. You love to change things up, introduce new foods, and decorate in new ways. I can appreciate that as long as you know why we celebrate Christmas. God sent His son to a fallen world to bring hope and redemption. So whether you eat turkey and dressing or caviar on crackers, join in the song of the ages. The Messiah has come.
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