When we first started talking about downsizing – it was kind of exciting. To be honest, I probably was prideful – I mean, look at us!  We are pretty amazing…we are making this against-the-grain decision to get rid of the excess in our lives. Excess “stuff”, excess medical debt, excess “flashiness”, and more. Really, don’t you wish you were as cool as us? That’s what I thought.

Then came moving day. That’s when the rubber hit the road. We were so blessed – so BLESSED by a multitude of friends who came over and moved us. I’d like to say they helped us move, but the truth is that they did it. Women were all up in my business – packing up my junk drawer, and under my bathroom sink, y’all. I was not packed and they packed me. I was a mess and they cleaned it. I was overwhelmed. So overwhelmed I seriously ugly cried. Like, I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so hard. It was bad. I called a friend in Texas and couldn’t even say anything because I was crying so hard. I couldn’t make eye contact with the precious people who were moving us. The extrovert hid.

The next day, a very precious friend met me at our old house and helped me clean all day. That was a bonus lesson in humility. Not the first. You see, the place where we moved to is not pretty. I described it to my family as something reminiscent of an Eastern European ghetto. Inside, it’s dated (from the 70’s), but clean…but outside? Child, it’s ugly.  As I cleaned the granite countertops and Brazilian Cherry wood floors one last time, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had made the right choice. Would living in ugly make us more beautiful? God asked me how I felt when I thought of our pretty neighborhood. I knew my heart needed work when I answered “proud.” I knew my heart needed even more work when He asked me how I felt when I thought of our new townhouse. Embarrassed.  God, help me.  My heart needed more cleaning than those floors.

We’ve been here for nearly two months. In two months, we’ve existed here. Tiny kitchen, no garage, the fridge freezes all of our produce, and the dishwasher leaves our dishes dirtier than we we loaded them. We’ve been going through the motions, but not really changing. I asked God to help me change. How can I be a friend to anyone that I come in contact with if I think that where I live makes me a better person somehow? Do I believe I am more blessed because my home is prettier? Worse yet, do I believe I am less blessed because my house is not so attractive? Lord, change me!

This week, we had to get everything off of our back deck so they could power wash it and re-stain it. As I type this, I’m sitting in our family room with our grill 4 feet away. Precious. Mr Darcy and the boys moved our patio furniture to the front porch this morning. When I got home at lunchtime, I was heartsick to find that someone had stolen the beautiful patio cushions off of my furniture. I was so angry.  Spitting nails angry.  After I stomped around outside and inside, I sat on the couch and asked God why He let that happen. Those cushions were my birthday present last year. Didn’t He remember that? Furthermore, did He forget that we are doing everything we can to be extra frugal so we can pay down that stupid, idiotic, makes-me-think-cuss-words medical debt? (Just trying to be real, people) And God, you know that buying new patio cushions is not going to be prioritized. Can’t I just have something nice, Lord…something pretty?

He was quiet. Maybe He was waiting for me to finish my tantrum. You can’t listen well when you are too busy throwing a fit. After a while, when the tears were threatening to fall, He spoke.

It doesn’t matter, Janna. It’s cushions. It’s not people. I want you to care more about people. I want you to feel this emotional when it’s a life that’s being stolen.  Stomp around when you realize what’s been taken. That’s what worth it.  We asked Him to help us reduce our load excess. People are never excess. Pretty patio cushions, while there is nothing inherently wrong with them, are excess. They get dirty and ripped and eventually wind up in the dump. People get dirty and ripped and downtrodden and weary and He wants me to notice them with the same acuity as I noticed those cushions missing. I noticed it right away and I started searching. I didn’t stop and debate if I had time to look for them  – or if it mattered. I didn’t think, “someone else will take them time to find them…probably someone who is better than me at finding cushions.” Oh, how I wish I had that same mindset when I thought of our new neighbors. The people who look a little dirty to me. Who are visibly tattered and torn and headed to the dump. The people that I smile and wave at and sometimes even say hello to when I walk past them.

I’m not going to say that I’m glad the cushions were stolen today. I’d be telling a lie. I still want them to magically reappear on the furniture. I want to be real. I want to admit it when things are hard, or painful, or embarrassing. This is real life. This is what matters. If I place a high value on what really matters, surely my address and all my “stuff” will matter less.

John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.




The Weekend Experience Meeting

Weekend Experience.  That’s what we just had. Once HECK of a weekend experience.  Let me back up a little bit and tell you about it from the beginning. It’s long, but important.

Mr Darcy left last week to attend a conference in Nashville. He left on Wednesday morning, sick and on antibiotics from a virus/bacterial/sinus infection.  We here at home soldiered on in his absence. Work. School. Football. Homework. Laundry. Dinner. Repeat. 

On Thursday, I have a meeting at work called “Weekend Experience.” It’s basically a “What-All-Is-Going-On-This-Weekend-At-Church” meeting. Prior to this meeting, I had been e-mailed the announcement topics as I was the person giving the announcements during all of our services. I love LOVE getting to do announcements. I get a microphone. I get to talk. It’s live. I get to make eye contact with thousands of people. Did I already mention the part about getting to talk? It’s awesome.  Anyhow, at the Weekend Experience meeting, our Creative Arts Head told me to make a segue between the last announcement and the worship song to follow. “Gotcha”, I said.

On Friday night, I sat in front of my announcement notes, waiting for Divine Inspiration. Within a few moments, I could see myself in my minds’ eye saying some things to the congregation for that song segue. I also saw myself saying a few other things to them as it related to one of the announcements. Thanking God for speaking to me in an easy way for me to understand, I wrote them down. I was feeling rather inspired. It had been a not-so-fabulous day and I was thankful for any break I could get.  I decided I would drive to the Krogers and pick up a few things – not ready to commit to the serious grocery shopping I needed to do, but wanting a few treats for the boys on Saturday. At Krogers, I couldn’t stop thinking about red meat. Now, I am a carnivore. I love a great ribeye steak and all, but focused solely on red meat? That was a little weird, even for me!  I pushed my buggy over the meat department and lo and behold! RED MEAT!! As a bonus, many, many packages with the “Reduced” sticker on them as it was nighttime. WooHOO! I was excited! I had $50.00 extra in my budget and I spent nearly all of it on red meat. Roasts, steaks, hamburger. Awesome.

Saturday afternoon, it was time to go to rehearsal. When I arrived, our Creative Arts Head informed me that I would need to cut out a lot of my “extras” as she was worried about time. Just stick to the bare bones, she requested. I had to cut out my great, revelatory stuff. Bummer. I wondered why I had had that inspiration when I wasn’t going to get to use it, but got over it and muddled through rehearsal and then service. 

Later on that evening, it was time to pick up Mr Darcy from the airport. Insert Peaches and Herb song, “Reunited and It Feels So Good!”  He was really not feeling well when I picked him up and said he was having trouble breathing. When we got home, I gave him a breathing treatment, using the nebulizer that belongs to our youngest. His back was bothering him from the long flight so he took a muscle relaxer.

Sunday morning, bright and early, it was time for me to head to church for rehearsal. 7:30 am. My van was STILL in the shop for transmission issues, so Mr Darcy had to give me a ride. We kissed in the parking lot and I told him I would see him later on that morning.

Just before the first service began, I saw him enter.  Feet shuffling, hand on his back. I was sure his back was worse. Ugh. After I gave the announcements, I headed downstairs to his office. If you didn’t already know, we work at the same church. He’s one of the pastors and I oversee volunteers and assimilation. He works downstairs in the basement (sounds worse than it is) and I am on the main floor. (I have a window office, which is just as awesome as it sounds.)  When I arrived in his office, he looked awful. I asked him about his back and he told me his back was fine but that he was so dizzy he could barely walk. His head was throbbing and he couldn’t catch his breath. He said he was pretty sure he was going to need to go to the doctor that afternoon – maybe after church? We made a plan that I would check on him in a little bit and I headed upstairs. Within a half hour, our youngest came upstairs and told me that “Daddy needs you downstairs, he is not okay.” I quickly walked downstairs to his office to find him pale, laboring for air and curled up on his loveseat. Now, my man is six foot eight. Curled on his loveseat is not a normal way to find him. He told me that he was worse and couldn’t get off of the loveseat at all. He thought I’d better take him to the doctor right after I did the next set of announcements. I asked him if maybe one of our first responder volunteers could take a look at him. He agreed. Our first responder volunteers are trained medical professionals who volunteer during a service as need arises. Need just arose. A coworker grabbed the first responder bag and I asked a nurse who just “happened” to be down the hall from my guy to take a look at him as we waited for first response to get there. Within minutes, life shifted a little.

The method we use to contact our first response team is walkie-talkies. This means that anyone with a walkie-talkie knows when the alert goes out. On this day, the alert was to go to Mr Darcy’s office.  First responder and my nurse assessed that Mr Darcy was most certainly NOT ok and 911 was called. By now, my man was a color of pale I had never seen before. Before I knew it, the EMT crew was there and hooking my giant husband up to wires, leads, oxygen and more. The hallway was quiet as we watched, everyone with a walkie-talkie watching, anxiously.  A pastor made me take off my mic and give it to him. I’ll have to admit, I put up a fight on that one. I was sure all was fine and I’d be able to do the announcements (which were about to begin in approximately 10 minutes) and join everyone at the hospital, everything hunky-dory. What does hunky-dory mean, I wonder?

So, to recap: My man is being loaded on a stretcher, he looks like he’s about to meet Jesus face-to-face, AND I have just had to give up my microphone. That’s where I was. I should have been crying. I should have been panic-stricken. But I wasn’t. I had peace. I had so much peace that I didn’t even realize I was supposed to NOT have peace at all. Crazy peaceful peace. My friend tells me she’ll get the boys home and I follow the ambulance that’s carrying my sweet husband.

All the way to the hospital, I was still rocking in that same peace. I was singing the songs in my mind that I had heard 4 times already that weekend. As we arrived, someone ushered me to a chair in the waiting room, telling me they’d get me later. I sat there, alone and quiet in that sterile room, waiting for them to call my name. I could hear them asking Mr Darcy questions. Questions like “when did this start?” “Are you usually this pale?” and more. I sat in that stillness – an extroverts’ nightmare – and felt peace. They finally called me back and asked me if he was usually that color of pale and some other questions. Doctors, nurses, and techs all rushed in and out. I heard one of them gasp as they said 3.9. I didn’t know what that meant. What is 3.9? More people in scrubs and lab coats, hurriedly moving around him. Touching, examining, asking. Finally, someone told us that they had done a test to determine what his red blood cell count was. Aha! That was 3.9! Well, 3.9 is apparently not so great when you are supposed to have 14-15. Anything under 7 means a blood transfusion, they say. They do another test, more accurate, they tell us. Now 3.9 has become 4.5. Higher, but not really better. They tell us he’s bleeding somewhere. Before I know it, hours have passed. They are trying to find a match for his blood and antibodies. More hours pass. More tests run. 8:30 pm and finally the nurse tells us they have found a match for his blood. I feel like I can leave and go home and hold my children. They need comfort. They need to see me and hear that Dad is going to be okay. Quite frankly, I need them. It’s not the same over the telephone lines. I wait until the nurse says the blood is there and I leave. Mr Darcy has been so weak, but they assure me he’ll be okay. I drive home, still filled with peace. I don’t sleep much, but I sleep a dreamless few hours and start our morning routine as normally as possible.

The next day and a half are filled with test results that give us no answers and hours sitting in a hospital recliner, looking at Pinterest on my iPad. As I sat there on that plastic recliner, I was recalling the weekend. The Weekend Experience. Did I do a good job on the announcements? What kind of outfit will make me look skinnier? Can I work these Pinterest fashion looks I keep pinning? Will I ever get that microphone again? Then finally…I wonder why I had that moment with God where I saw myself saying those things to the people sitting in the auditorium. Remember them, I will myself. Remember what you wrote on that paper, Janna.

Here’s what I wrote: 

            As you stand with me and continue to worship, I want you to be thinking about some phrases from our next song…I Trust: You can trust in the Almighty God who loves you.  I Believe: You can believe everything He says and in His Word, the Bible.  You Are All I Need: God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He is faithful! Nothing is Impossible: The God we are singing about spoke the Universe into existence. He breathed His breath into man and man became a touchable reality. If God can breathe and do that, we can believe He can meet us exactly where we are right now!

Oh. My. Goodness. It was for me. It was for ME. God had that moment with me because He knew what was to come. He knew I would need those words to coat my mind and my heart . He wrote me a most intimate love letter. He loves me so much that he prepared my flawed mind with these precious words that would repeat over and over again during the time in the hospital. He is so good to me. He loves me. He loves me.

Yesterday, Mr. Darcy was discharged from the hospital. He’s not out of the woods yet. His 4.5 has turned into a 7.7. Better, but not where it needs to be. Oh, and that red meat bonanza from the Krogers? Guess who has to eat LOTS of red meat and other iron-rich foods? Yep, you guessed it. We trust that he is going to make a full recovery. We don’t know why this happened. We might not ever know. All I know is that God knows and He is all about the Weekend Experience.




Football Fever

Around this house, we care about football. A lot. Our two oldest boys are playing for their high school and the youngest says he’s going to once he gets there. We have practice every day but Sunday and games on Friday and Monday nights. Right now, as I type this, we have college football on and we are a family of Alabama and Dallas Cowboys fans!

Here’s a secret: Football makes me hungry.

Well, I am always hungry (especially on steroids), but after watching a live game, we are a hungry bunch. Last night, I planned ahead and had something waiting for us in the slow cooker. I had purchased a large package of carne picada at the grocers’ on Sunday. It was cheap. It’s basically shredded beef. Yesterday morning, I popped that entire frozen package of meat in the slow cooker and added spices: oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, and cumin. I am sure garlic would have been lovely, but I can’t have that. 🙂 No liquid. Turned it on low at 7:45 am and stirred it once at 4:15pm. We ate at about 7:00pm.

As soon as we walked in the door, the two football guys had to shower, which bought me a smidge of time. I put basmati rice in the saucepan (my favorite rice) and added some salt and about a tablespoon of Olive Oil that Mr Darcy brought me from Israel a couple of months ago. It is delicious Olive Oil. After the rice was pretty much cooked, I added about 1.5 tablespoons of dried cilantro (I buy it in the produce section of Krogers) and about 1 tablespoon (more or less) of lime juice. I always have those items in the house because I heart them.  I sliced up an avocado for me and some tomatoes for our oldest. A co-worker has a prolific garden and shared the tomatoes and some cukes. The guys all had cukes. I miss tomatoes terribly, and hope I get those back in my “allowed” list someday. Cucumbers are not something I miss so much. I would have thought I’d miss them, but I don’t.  Now you know.

As the rice was cooking, I heated up the cast iron skillet and added about 2 teaspoons of oil. I heated up corn tortillas to make them pliable for the wheat allergy boy and me. (others ate them, too – because they are YUM!) I wound up heating the flour tortillas after the corn because Mr Darcy gave me “the look.” He knows he has me with that look! Cheese and salsa were on the table for the guys. We had four slices of leftover vegan Texas sheet cake (the best I have ever made)  and one gluten-free bakery cupcake leftover for dessert.

Verdict? Delicioso! Everyone loved it. We had an allergy free meal for everyone without it being a pain in the behind to do so. It was so nice to come home to that yummy smell in the slow cooker and the knowledge that the bulk of the cooking was done.

What’s your favorite football food? Is it something that can go in the slow cooker? I’d love to hear about it!