Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm Famous. Again.

Really. It's the craziest thing.

Our Church does Advent Conspiracy.  Advent Conspiracy is a movement calling us to proclaim Christ in how we celebrate Christmas. It calls us to:

Worship Fully -- It starts with Jesus and ends with Jesus. Entering Advent means entering a season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

Spend Less -- Asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas.

Give More -- Take time to make a gift. Make love visible through relational giving.

Love All -- By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Jesus in giving resources to those who need it most.

We were introduced to Advent Conspiracy last year, our first year at Cy-Fair Christian Church.  I LOVED it.  We "Worshipped Fully" -- the music, especially singing Christmas carols, was incredible. 

I'll be honest and say I haven't mastered the "Spend Less" concept.  Don't know that I'll ever get that part down. 

As for "Give More" -- making candy trays is a tradition for me. But I wanted to do something more.  So I took the time to write about 150 thank you notes to people who had impacted my life -- and who had impacted the success of Team Tiara.

"Love All" -- we helped bring safe, clean drinking water to people who didn't have that resource.  Sure, we "wrote a check." That was the easy part. But the cool part was seeing Kaitlyn go door to door collecting over $100 in change so she could help.

We were blessed.

Fast-Forward to 2012.....

I didn't really have a "Plan" going into The Season this year.  Basically, I was worn out.  It just seemed like this entire year has been a beating.  Last spring the girls were on a total of five softball teams -- at a time. We hopped teams after Abbie's tournament team caved, and that added more stress.  We hit summer -- and the highway -- with a bang.  Our house had a revolving door.  SOMEONE was at a camp SOMEWHERE almost every week -- but never both girls at the same time.  It was a constant battle against laundry and schedules.  And then we were back at it with Abs playing on two softball teams and Kait on two soccer teams.  That meant about 10 possible uniform combinations to keep up with.  It was too much.


Karen Kingsbury's latest book The Bridge came out.  I have every one of Karen's books -- with the exception of the few I've loaned out that never came home -- and the entire Redemption series that burned up in Mary Jean's house fire, along with my American Girl patterns.  MAN.

The Bridge is the sweetest little book -- and has a message for just about everyone.  I loved it. It's an easy read.  It's a book that I was able to share with Abbie. 

One of the underlying themes of the book is that the little things we do for people can have a lasting impact -- THAT is something I know and believe 100%.

Through her Facebook page, Karen encouraged her readers to pass the book along to others, to share it with strangers, to purchase extra copies that would touch hearts. 

And then I came up with this little idea.... A way to spread the sheer joy I feel when I do my Acts of Random Kindness on Fridays. I'd share that feeling of joy with my friends.

I started with eight copies from Wal-Mart.  Then it was 10 ordered at half price on Amazon.  Then I cleaned out the Wal-Mart stock again.  And then cleaned out Sam's Club -- twice.  I'm honestly not sure how many copies of this sweet little book that I've given away.  (In fact, I'm a wee bit afraid to think about it too much.)

But here's the deal.... I've shared them with friends and family and people who have been incredible in the success of Team Tiara. I've shared them with people near and far.  With neighbors. With Kait's teachers at school. With friends who have had a tough go the last few years and who have been blessed by others' random acts of kindness.  With people who have given selflessly to me and to my family.  With people I know and love dearly, who I wanted to give the gift of Christ's love.  If I had all the money in the world, I'd send this out instead of Christmas cards. Really.

In each book, I've written "Live, Love & Pass it On -- Christmas 2012."  And I've included this letter taped inside the front cover:

I've also included a couple of gift cards to Sonic or Subway or Coldstone or Starbucks.  Nothing large -- usually $5-10.  Just something to brighten someone's day.  After I found a cute RACK'd design online, I started including that as well.  Just giving the gift of giving. 

The feedback has been kind of funny.  Some people haven't really "gotten it," I don't think -- but that's okay. Others have been touched. My darling mother-in-law sent me this:  

I passed the cards and the book on to several friends, one who is experiencing especially stressful times right now. She started reading The Bridge and said she was already "moved" by the content. Thanks for giving it to me. You are a precious young woman.

I liked that.  Made my heart happy.  I like a happy heart.

So.... I got this ball rolling.  And about the time I reached 20 books, I emailed Karen Kingsbury to share.  I wanted her to know her book was having an impact.

And it was.  You see, this is our fifth Christmas without my Mom.  And for some reason, I've really struggled this year.  Michael W. Smith's "Place in this World" has been rolling through my head for weeks. The pressure of where to go for Christmas, and how to celebrate and even where to stay was just a LOT this year.  At Christmas, it's just really hard to figure out my "Place."

BUT when you're D'Lupe Biggs, that odd combination of ADD, ADHD, OCD or whatever is SUCH a gift.  As I described it the other day, you want to do everything, and you want to do it all RIGHT NOW.  So... I got busy.  I got busy spreading books and love and my own Acts of Random Kindness. I gave a Subway gift card to a guy on a street corner and one to the girl at Starbucks. I left bags of chocolates in shopping carts at HEB -- all with cute little RACK'd tags. My fave?  The hot cocoa section at HEB had just about been cleaned out by a sale, so I left a cute little thermos mug thingy there with a Starbucks gift card.

I've had a blast with this. Again, nothing huge. Just a lot of little love being spread around the neighborhood. 

Then came last Friday.  While the rest of my friends and neighbors were glued to the TV, I was oblivious.  I was at Wal-Mart buying my candy-making supplies.  I  make at least 14 trays of candy each year to thank teachers, doctors, firemen -- all the people who make our little world go round.  I had FINALLY come up with a plan for Christmas, and I had FINALLY found my Christmas spirit.  I was ready. 

And then I came home. And then I heard the news. And it was rainy here all weekend. Abbie said God was crying -- and she was right.  And I cried. A lot.  And you can read yesterday's post for more on that....

BUT.... I kept going. NO WAY was I going to let that dude in Connecticut steal my joy.  No Way was I going to let him keep me from loving on everyone.  With the rain and humidity I couldn't make divinity or pralines, but still I hammered away. The girls helped.  We laughed and smiled and maybe licked our fingers -- but you'll just have to wonder about that.

Monday was spent delivering the candy trays.  Tuesday night I hosted my annual cookie exchange.  And then yesterday I set out for a day of Random Kindness like no other.  I carried this basket Amber had given me, stuffed to the gills with treats.  And a big smile. 

The smile was perhaps the most important part.  When you live in Houston, you don't just go approaching strangers.  And you're naturally wary when people approach you.  BUT yesterday was different. Yesterday was dedicated to Bryce.  Bryce's parents, Danny and Amanda, were friends of mine at A&M.  They're precious people -- you know, PRECIOUS people.  The kind of people you want to emulate. The kind of people you wish you could grow up to be.  AMAZING people.  They lost Bryce over Labor Day weekend in a car accident -- he was 13.  The strength and peace they have shown the last few months has been remarkable.

They live in Midland; I live in Houston. I couldn't be part of the Casserole Campaign. I can't leave treats on their doorstep.  I'm not there to hug them.  BUT I could dedicate yesterday's Acts of Random Kindness to Bryce -- and I did. And I'm telling you -- I had a BLAST.

Armed with my cute basket, looking every bit like Goldilocks -- okay, the 42-year-old, graying hair version -- I set out to spread Christmas Spirit whether people liked it or not. After filling up my truck with gas at HEB, I passed treats out to all the other customers.  Two turned me down (with 500 mph winds, that graying hair was whipped into a frenzy, so I don't blame them.)  Several looked at me like I was crazy, but for the most part people were receptive. I told them I was spreading Random Acts of Kindness in memory of Bryce --many people said "God Bless You." 

I'd stepped out of my comfort zone and was doing great. I will add that God was really prompting me to buy a tank of gas for someone, but I just didn't get there yet. That's WAY out of my comfort zone, and I'm working up to it.  While I'm all too familiar with what a tank of gas means when you drive an Expedition, you'll understand I was looking around for a Mini Cooper.

So I left the gas station on my way to spread more kindness -- and rather than running over an employee in in the middle of the parking lot, I stopped to hand her a treat as well. I gave her my spiel, and she looked at my with the sweetest look and a huge God Bless You and the tears started pouring. So much for the smile.

I spread some more love around the 'hood, giving candy to construction workers and leaving some for shoppers to find.... I was so blessed.  People appreciate homemade candy.  And I think they appreciated the fact that it was for Bryce.  And I know I was blessed to be able to honor his memory.  I never got to know Bryce, but I can tell you by all accounts he was an incredible kid.  And I think he would have had fun yesterday.

THIS is where the famous part comes in.....

Last night Karen Kingsbury, by far my favorite author ever, shared my story on her Facebook page.  How cool is that????

You can read about it HERE.  I want you to know that having traded emails with Karen the last few weeks, she is the REAL DEAL.  If you feel like something's missing in your life, check out her books.  She speaks God's truth in a way that will touch your heart and change your life.

I've shared all this because I DO want all four of you to know I'm Famous. Again. 

But I've also shared it because you, too, can touch lives with small acts that make a lasting impact.  It doesn't have to be big -- it can be something small.  A treat.  A hug.  Helping an elderly couple with their groceries.  Putting back a shopping cart.  Smiling. 

I do believe God calls us to GIVE -- often and with a happy heart.  And I do believe we are to do it anonymously -- not for attention.  I'm not going to share all the fun I've had. BUT I am sharing this in hopes it will give you a little nudge. You WILL be blessed by blessing others.

Go have fun.  Be Blessed.  I love you, and God does, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Write.

I write.

It's what I do. It's what I've always done. It's how I sort through all sorts of stuff.  I've tried to write about Sandy Hook, but I just can't.

Cry?  Oh yeah, I've cried.  I've cried over the pictures of babies taken from this world too soon. I've cried for Mammas and Daddies and sisters and brothers.

I cried through Church Sunday morning.  I LOVE singing Christmas carols in Church, but Sunday morning it just hurt too much.

I cried over the cross that some precious, nameless neighbor stood in front of our school. 

It's not that I'm sitting in front of the TV, immersing myself in the news.  I'm not about to "fall down" again.  I know I can't let that suck me in.  I've continued with my shopping. I hosted my annual cookie exchange last night.  My life continues. 

And I still cry.  I cry because I've spent so much time with 6 and 7 year olds.  I cry because I know what it feels like to hold one in your arms -- until she squirms to get down.  I cry because I can't imagine what it's like to have that ripped away. I don't want to imagine what it's like to have that ripped away.

But here's the deal....

Some of you are driving me nuts.

While I've tried hard to NOT be immersed in this, to keep myself upright -- three things have stood out that I continue to stew over. 

The first is this notion that God isn't in our schools -- that we've run him out of there.  People, God is WAY bigger than that.  God doesn't bend or bow to anyone -- He certainly didn't bow to Madeline Murray O'Hair. God is VERY much in our schools.  He was right there in Dawn Hochsprung when she charged that shooter.  He gave Victoria Soto the courage to hide her students and stand up to that beast.  He was right there giving comfort and strength.  His heart is broken right now -- and I assure you He is crying as well.

The other thing that is driving me insane is this Gun Control debate that is RAGING.  I've got friends on Facebook, concrete in their polar views, yelling at each other. 

Guess what?  None of you are right.  It's not an all or nothing deal. And some of you are being so darn hateful!  Really? Twenty BABIES died on Friday -- tone it down! I read a GREAT article last night that I think you all should read.....  Check it out.    I don't know this writer. She could be the biggest goofball of all time -- but in this, I think she's got some very good points.

The third thing that is driving me nuts is all this talk of Asberger's and autism -- and the fact that media is so freaking clueless it just creates confusion for everyone else.  Asberger's and autism do not create the kind of insanity that brings a guy to plan out an attack like Friday's.  My heart breaks for my friends who are raising kiddos "in the spectrum."  I KNOW you have an incredibly difficult path already -- without hearing autism addressed by clueless dudes on the evening news.  Please know each of you and your kiddos have been in my prayers -- by name -- this week.

So maybe I CAN write after all. 

And it's Christmas.  And if I let this steal our joy, the shooter wins even more. And if for no other reason than the fact that I think we could all use a bit of diversion, I bring to you Jake's annual Christmas letter.  No, I haven't mailed my Christmas cards yet -- they may come around Easter.  But in the meantime, you can enjoy Jake's annual missive.

Kait's teacher labeled it "confusing."  It may be.  Or maybe it's just that this was her first year to get "the letter."  But remember, Jake's about as ADHD as a dog can get.  "Squirrel" is his middle name.

Hope you enjoy.

Big Hugs,

Merry Christmas from Jake!
Howdy, Y’all! This is Jake. I’m kind of in the dog house. Yesterday I ate Mom’s Vera Bradley purse. It was tasty.
Abbie Grayce was baptized on Christmas Day 2011! In 2012, Kait got braces. Team Tiara’s goal is raising $100,000 for Breast Cancer Metastasis Research. “Keep calm and _____.” Biggs to D’Lyn: You know, I wonder what you do sometimes. Godspeed, Uncle Don. Be Sweet. Jones cousins taught us Chinese. Abbie’s DI Team, The Nerd Herd, won the Da Vinci Award and 1st at Regionals, qualifying for the State contest in Corpus! Have a Very Nerdy Christmas! “It’s a Tiara! A Tiara! I’m a Princess, and I have a Tiara!” Abbie & Kait played on FSA’s Rice Owls softball teams. Biggs coached. The garage freezer died while Biggs was in Asia. We lost Bellville sausage, Omaha steaks and Matagorda redfish. Abbie got contacts. I am a cancer Survivor thanks to my new vet in Navasota! My family went skiing with the Long family in Park City. I went to the spa – again. Kait learned to snowboard. D’Lyn got run down and slid 50 yards down the mountain on her tummy, spread-eagle, picking up speed. Nertz! Abbie played with the Sandlot Sox and CFGAA Angels. The new boathouse at the Creek is The Bomb. The jet-ski dock is SWEET! Abbie was a frog in the 5th grade play, Eleanor Roosevelt for wax museum and graduated from Keith Elementary with a clap-out. The Kid-Pitch Rice Owls won the Championship! Abbie & Kait made All-Stars. Kait got her ears pierced. Cy-Ranch State Baseball Champs! Pie Sampler at Royers’. Kait went to Tanglewood, and Jesus touched her heart. Vacation at the Creek. 6,352,218,354:1 – The mosquito to human ratio in Sargent. Fishing with Captain Gene! Nertz! Abbie & D’Lyn went to Jr. High camp at Tanglewood and spent time with church family from The Branch. “Wouldn’t it be cool if pants were made out of cheese?” Kait went to ACU Leadership Camp and now wants to go to college at Rice, A&M and ACU. Bluebell Red Velvet Ice Cream. Abbie got a Phone! Road Trip! Storms, Scurry County Rodeo, the Mule in Muleshoe, Old Fort Sumner & Billy the Kid’s Grave. Abbie spent two weeks at Camp Blue Haven chasing bears – again. ”Pine trees tall, waterfall. Blue skies canopied o’er me!” Kait & D’Lyn went to the lake with the Taylors. Kait learned to surf. D’Lyn wake boarded! Call Me Maybe? We ate at Chick fil A. D’Lyn met Katie Stanko. For real. “If your bladder is the size of a peanut, does that mean the actual peanut? Or the shell?” Splashway! Rooster’s and Orange Leaf! Kait’s 4th grade teachers are Mrs. Loving and Mrs. Loveless – no joke. Mimi made sure Abbie’s middle school locker was all decked out. It’s a Good Morning! A&M joined the SEC. Opening Weekend is the best! Abbie, Kenlee, Stephanie & D’Lyn never want to see wallpaper again. Kait played soccer for Team USA (Biggs coached) and Challenge. See You at the Pole had the best turn-out ever. Cypress City Snow – butterscotch with cream and caramel. Shiner Prickly Pear. Not all Pinterest recipes are created equal. Kait turned 10 and celebrated with a skating party. Abbie played for the Houston Havoc and CFGAA Bandits. The Bandits were undefeated in CFGAA and were the Season Champs! Biggs and D’Lyn celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. Abs & Kait brought two pet lizards home from Splendora. “Get your lizards out of the kitchen.” Pink with a Purpose. Team Tiara gave $25,000 to Dr. Jenny Chang with Methodist Hospital in Houston for Mets research and $5,000 to The Rose to help women who don’t have health insurance. Kait was baptized! Biggsy turned 40! Happy Happy Happy. Team Tiara raised over $100,000 for the DFW 3-Day for the CURE. The team has raised over $700,000 in seven years. Biggs got a speeding ticket in Louisiana. D’Lyn got her first speeding ticket in 20 years. Fuzzy’s Tacos! Kait got her braces off! Abbie turned 12! The Fairfield HEB opened! A&M beat Bama. Abbie joined Bayou City Crossfire Softball. Forevermore, D’Lyn’s birthday will be the week after Thanksgiving. We “Elf’d it up” to celebrate Abbie’s Birthday. The girls raided Pa’s Oreo & ice cream stash. Rice is going bowling.
And Johnny Football Won the Heisman!!!
We hope you had a great 2012 and are wishing you a Fantabulous 2013! May God Bless You!

Love, Jake & Co.