Friday, August 31, 2012

Flapjack Friday & Some Saturdays

I was not ready to hear my alarm clock go off this morning.

I have my alarm set to K-Love, hoping that waking up to "Jesus songs" (that's what we call them at the Bray house) will help jump-start my morning engine.  I love those mornings when the first thing I hear is the Good Morning song by Mandisa, or Well Done by Moriah Peters.

Today I woke up to East to West by Casting Crowns.  This is a beautiful song, but not what I would call an uplifting, welcome-to-a-new-day kind of song.  So I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

No good.

Instead, I laid there listening to the sounds of 8a.m.  My boys were very quiet.  No doubt reading a book.  The only thing I could hear was K-Love playing in all three of our bedrooms.  So I forced myself to get out of bed.

I zombie-walked to the kitchen and looked at the menu.  Today is Flapjack Friday, meaning I planned to make either pancakes, waffles or crepes on Fridays.  I don't know why I put crepes on the list.  I will never make crepes. 

My first thought was, "I should change that to Cereal Friday".  But then, I got out the waffle-maker and all the necessary ingredients.  I mixed up the batter and started the first waffle...

Up to this point, I had no intention of blogging today.  Blogging is rarely something I plan to do.  It just hits me.  So I have to write it or lose it.  If I am close to the computer, I write it.  If not, I lose it.  Today I'm writing it.

...I got what I call "the pancake bowl" out of the cupboard, and a smile spread across my face.  I love this bowl.

This bowl is not only the perfect size for holding pancakes or waffles; it also holds for me cherished childhood memories.

I come from a large family ~ three girls, two boys.  We lived in a small three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.  I shared a twin bed with my older sister until I was a freshman in high school.  Needless to say, we were close - in every sense of the word.

When I look at "the pancake bowl", it takes me back to Saturday mornings in the 80s and early 90s...


Most Saturdays our family slept in, skipping breakfast altogether and moving right on to lunch as our first meal.  But some Saturdays my parents would be early risers.  So we'd wake up to the smell of eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, pancakes and syrup...

Can you smell it?


Those were the best mornings.  I'd climb over my sister, who even to this day has the uncanny ability to sleep through anything.

I'd actually scurry out of my room to find Mama and Daddy hunkered down in the kitchen preparing a morning feast fit for royalty.

Mama busied herself making pancake after pancake (it takes a LOT of pancakes to feed seven people), all the while turning bacon and sausage on the griddle.

Daddy asked, "How do you want your eggs, kiddo?"  My reply was always, "Cheese omelet, please!"  My dad makes the BEST cheese omelets.

I loved those mornings.  All seven of us would sit together at the table with our made-to-order eggs on our plates, passing around "the pancake bowl" and syrup.  I felt so loved on those Saturday mornings.

The memory of it still puts a smile on my face, and brings a tear to my eye.


I guess that's why it was so important to me, after forcing myself out of bed this morning, to prepare these special treats for my boys.

I want them to feel so loved.

Maybe someday they'll fill "the pancake bowl" with love for their own children.

Friday, August 17, 2012

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part Three

But then God brought us together in a way we'd always hoped He would...


When I took Bryson to school on his first day of Kindergarten, I literally got chills when I walked in the door to his classroom.  Guess who was in his class...  Michelle's oldest son - Logan.  This shouldn't have even been possible, as Logan is one year older than Bryson.  However, they were both placed in the combination first-grade/Kindergarten class.  He approached Bryson and me, and posed more of a statement than a question, "You know my mom, don't you."

This took me back.  It took me back to that first day of school so long ago, when that blonde-haired girl in the pretty yellow dress came up to me and asked, "Do you remember me?"

I cried on the way home.  Michelle and I had dreamed of this day, when our children would go to school together.  Here it was happening, and all I could do was be joyful.  Thank you God.  

I would visit Bryson often, volunteering in his class, or having lunch with him and his friends.  Michelle worked at the school that year.  So I would see her too.

I was never uncomfortable with her after that.  We had both become mothers.  I had two boys; she had two girls and two boys.  Our boys were each two years apart, stair-stepping in order - her Logan, my Bryson, her Ryan, my Camden.  It was like we'd reached a new understanding.  Even though we were no longer close, perhaps our boys would be.

A couple years later, I started homeschooling.  It seemed this would sever any possibility of our boys growing up together. I was sad about that, but God had called me to homeschool.  So this was the way it had to be.


If you follow my blogging, you've heard me say before...  That first year of homeschooling is like an emotional roller coaster.  I was not only taking full responsibility for my children's education, I was also working from home.  Needless to say, I was constantly overwhelmed and extremely stressed out.

I don't remember the exact moment, but I had run into Michelle, and she offered to watch the boys for me if I ever needed time to myself so I could get my work done.  While her kids were at school, Michelle ran an in-home day care.

Now, I am very picky about who I allow to watch my children, as my youngest son has food allergies.  But I didn't think twice about leaving them with Michelle.  I know her well enough to know that she has a gift when it comes to children.  Her patience level is at the "sainthood" mark.  She is loving, caring, dependable and godly.  What more could I ask for?

One day, as I was dropping my boys off at her house, she mentioned perhaps she and I could do breakfast. Her husband was kind enough to watch my boys, along with the other kids.  So Michelle and I escaped to a local restaurant for breakfast.

Our time together that morning was magical.  It was like we'd been transported back to our childhood days. We talked non-stop, laughing and even crying along the way.  Before we knew, three hours had passed.

We decided to make this a weekly excursion - a breakfast date that we both looked forward to, happily anticipating what secrets our conversations would reveal.  We learned about what we had missed during our years apart.  We missed special occasions.  We missed parental health concerns.  We missed misguided love.  We missed early motherhood struggles.  We missed a lot of things.  We were both sad about that.  But we were so grateful to have found our way back to each other.

Michelle would tell me about her walk with God, which I found fascinating in comparison to the curious little girl I remembered.  I learned more about exactly how she'd found her way to Him, how He'd led her to her soulmate, and how He had called her to be a preacher's wife.

I would tell Michelle about homeschooling.  How heavy the burden of educating my children is, but how rewarding it is to watch them learn.

In turn, I wanted what she had - a closer relationship with God.  And she wanted what I had - the confidence to homeschool.

That's why God brought us back together - to satisfy our needs, and to fulfill His purpose.

I have never walked closer to God than I walk today.  I can honestly say that He has used Michelle to spark my hunger for Him and to show me how to know Him more.

Michelle will soon be starting her second year of homeschooling.  Together, we are coordinating a support group for local homeschooling families.

Once again, our lives are intertwined.

Once again, we want to go the same places, to do the same things, to be the same people.

And just as those two little blonde-haired Daddy's girls imagined, we're raising our children and growing old together.

Praise be to God.

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part Two

We thought we were done with each other.
But God wasn't done with us yet...    :)


I was having lunch with my mom one day, and she informed me that my dad had run into Michelle, and "she was wearing one of those long skirts".  Mama and Daddy were confused by it, but I knew exactly what it meant.  Michelle was back in church...


Even when we were little, she always had a hunger for God, which I did not understand.

My parents insisted on attending the 8:00 mass on Sunday mornings.    Do you remember me saying I am NOT a morning person?  Michelle looked forward to getting up early and going to church with us.  And she was always genuinely interested in the message delivered, while I was counting down the minutes until we could go to the fellowship hall and have hot chocolate and cookies.

She would ask me questions about God that baffled me.  I didn't know, and I didn't really care.  So she would talk to my dad about them.  I remember wondering why she was so curious about God.  He's God.  We go to church because He told us to.  What more is there to it?

Michelle found answers at her aunt's church.  I will never forget the first time I went with her as a child.  Keep in mind I was a little girl who had only ever been to Catholic masses.  We walked into a Pentecostal church, and all the women were wearing long dresses or skirts.  Thank God Michelle told me to wear a dress.  They all had beautiful long hair.  I was in awe.  Then the service started.  People were singing really loud, throwing their hands in the air.  I'm sure my eyes revealed my shock.  I'd never seen anything like it.  Then someone began babbling (that's what it seemed like to me at the time) and sobbing, and Michelle told me she was speaking in tongues.  I had no idea what that meant, but I was scared.  This was all so weird to me.  And then they started running around the church in a circle.  I asked Michelle if they were playing chase.  She laughed and said they were filled with the Spirit.  This totally freaked me out, and all I wanted to do was go home.

On the way back to her house, Michelle told me that she really wanted to speak in tongues.  I had no response.  This girl was like a sister to me.  I knew her better than anyone else in the world, but I just could not wrap my brain around her obsession with all things God.  I just didn't get it.


The first time I saw Michelle after she'd gotten back in church, I was shocked at the difference that was so evident in her.  She not only looked completely different - no makeup, no hair color, no jeans.  She seemed lighter, happier, free.  Those words probably sound cheesy here, but as I look back on that day, and the change in her, those are the words that describe my impression.  And much to my surprise, she had gotten married.

I remember being so relieved to meet the Michelle standing before me on that day.  She was no longer carrying the burden of a young girl who'd suddenly lost her father so many years ago.  She no longer had questions.  She had found God.  He'd given her the life she'd been hoping for, and I was so happy for her.

We got together a few times after that, but the minutes dragged by in unspoken emotions and awkward pauses.  Michelle talked a lot about God, her lifestyle and her church.  While I too had found God, I hadn't been led to serve Him in the way Michelle felt called to live.  I could tell she wanted to share her passion with me.  I felt like she wanted me to follow in her footsteps, and this made me very uncomfortable.

So, while I was always happy to run into Michelle, I was also always quick to scurry on.


But then God brought us together in a way we'd always hoped He would...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

B.B.F.F.E. ~ Part One

I met Michelle the summer after my first grade year.  I was at the YMCA in Thomasville with a friend, and Michelle was there with her cousin.  They introduced themselves to us, and we played together for the next hour while we waited for my friend's mother to take us home.  We waved good-bye when we left, explaining to my friend's mom that the girls were our new friends.  I didn't expect to ever see them again.

A few months later, on the first day of school, I noticed a new girl with long blonde hair.  I noticed her right away because she had on a pretty yellow dress.  She asked me if I remembered her, and as soon as she spoke, I knew she was the girl I had met over the summer at the YMCA.  We sat together at lunch that day.  And so our friendship began.

Michelle was the oldest of three kids;  I was the middle of five.  We both had blonde hair.  We both loved to sing.  And we were both Daddy's girls.

We soon became inseparable.  We did everything together from basketball and Girl Scouts, to softball and clogging.  We had so much fun together.  We sang songs together.  We wrote songs together.  We watched movies together.  We made movies together.  We took pictures together.  We picked out clothes together.  We played together.  We laughed together.  We spent most every weekend at each other's house, to the point our parents joked that we were joined at the hip.

Most of the time when we were together, we played some version of house.  We pretended we were grown-up and married (She was married to Donnie Wahlberg;  I was married to Joey McIntyre), with lots of children, and we raised our children together.  That's how we figured our lives would turn out, and we could not wait to grow up!

I have very few childhood memories without Michelle in them.  She was my B.B.F.F.E. (best best friend for ever).  I was her B.B.F.F.E.  And as little girls always imagine, I thought we'd be friends forever.

Unfortunately, life sometimes throws curve balls.  Sometimes those curve balls hit a window, shattering the glass.  Sometimes what breaks is beyond repair, and you just have to throw it away.

That's what happened with Michelle and me.  Life threw a curve ball that hit Michelle's family causing irreparable damage.  Michelle's father died the summer after our seventh grade year.  And Michelle was never the same.

I will never forget the day her father died.  My mom picked Michelle up and brought her back to our house. As they were pulling in the driveway, I remember telling my sister, "I don't know what to say.  What am I supposed to say?"

It turns out, I didn't have to say anything.  Michelle got out of the car.  We ran to each other and held onto each other for dear life.  We cried together.  Actually, we sobbed together.  We both felt her loss, and neither one of us knew why it happened or what to do now.  I cry even as I sit here remembering.  It was an awful day.

You'd think surviving her father's death together would bond us for life.  In fact, it did the opposite.  Rather than strengthen our friendship, the time we spent together after that seemed to magnify our differences.  I became the smart one, and Michelle became the pretty one.  Our wants, our needs, our interests and our families led us in completely opposite directions.

I remember being so heartbroken as I realized what was happening to us.  I remember feeling hurt because I felt like Michelle was growing up and I was being left behind.  I remember feeling guilty because she was growing up, and I wasn't ready to.  I remember feeling angry at her father for doing this to us.  I remember feeling sad because our future didn't hold for us the conjoined lives we'd always imagined  - a lifelong friendship - being in each other's wedding - being pregnant at the same time - our kids playing together - growing old together.

We no longer wanted to go the same places, to do the same things or to be the same people.  We weren't together anymore.

The rope of friendship that had once joined us at the hip became unraveled, until we both just let it go...


Michelle and I saw each other sporadically after that.  We'd run into each other every now and then.  But we never felt compelled to speak for more than a few minutes.  She didn't come to my wedding.  I didn't go to her baby shower.  We didn't call each other, or even send Christmas cards.

Our childhood selves would be shocked and disappointed at just how separate our lives had become.


But that's not the end of our story.

We thought we were done with each other.
But God wasn't done with us yet...    :)


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seasonal Friendship

I entered college as a freshman at High Point University in the fall of 1995.  I can't believe it's been seventeen years since then.

My goodness, that sounds like forever ago. 

That is when I was first introduced to email.  

I remember going to the basement of the university library and signing onto the computer. 

The emails I most looked forward to reading were from my high school friends, seven girls who had served as my lifeline during the years preceding my college life.  

They had gone to other colleges in North Carolina.  Though they were only minutes away, it was such a larger distance between us than we'd ever experienced.  For me, it was devastating.  I felt as though a part of me was missing.  Those daily emails brought me joy, making me feel complete again.

At that time, we passed around a lot of copied emails that revolved around the topic of friendship.  One message that particularly struck me discussed friendship as a seasonal event, describing individuals that come in and out of our lives for various periods of time and different reasons.  (

I didn't like this particular email.  

I could not imagine ever drifting away from the high school friends who I had recently left behind.  Yes, we were physically miles apart, but we would always be close at heart.  

I was so naive.

I thought that about the friendships I developed in college as well.  I lived with these girls, sharing everything from rooms, meals, Jesus, trials, triumphs, secrets and more.  In those moments of closeness and camaraderie, I could not imagine my life ever without them in it.

Of course, now - seventeen years later, I see the truth in that email message I read so long ago.  

Other than my husband, I have only one friend from high school with whom I still share an unbreakable connection.  She is my very best friend in the whole world.  I don't know what I would do without her.  Love you Wendy!  

I have only one friend from college who I must see once a month before I go into withdrawal.  Had fun yesterday Molly!

Perhaps because I am older, more experienced, less naive...  I now understand that the majority of friendships do last only for a season.  God brings people into our lives for many purposes, but mostly because we need each other during that time.  And then, for whatever reason, we don't need each other anymore.

I look back at the people who at one time played such a vital role in my life.  Whether it be during high school and college, or during my "preschooling mommy" years...  We're not close friends anymore.  

Sometimes this makes me sad.  

Yet I realize those friendships did serve a purpose.  

God brought Heather, Crystal, Melissa, Wendy, Melissa, Beth and Kim to me in high school to love me unconditionally during those confusing teenage years when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go.

God brought April, Melissa, Amy, Molly, Tonia, Hala, Beth, Jamie, Maida, Rachel, Nicole, Daviana, Heather, Wendy, and so many others, to help me know God in a way I'd never known Him before, and to keep me safe during my  adventuresome college years.

God brought me Marina, Karen, Julie, Jennifer, Beth, Christy, Erin, JoAnna, Wendy, Bethany, Danielle, Sabena, Cathy and many others, to support me, encourage me and help me maintain my sanity during my early motherhood years. 

To all these people who I have had the privilege of calling my friend...
God brought you into my life for a reason.  For this I am truly grateful.  

Thank you for being my friend.


In nature, seasons end.  But we find comfort in knowing that season will come around again next year.  Sometimes, this happens in friendship as well.  A friend who had floated out of your life years ago, may some day float back in.  

I'd like to tell you more about the friend God gave back to me in my next blog...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Meal Plan

If you know me at all, you know I have been dubbed the Queen of Organization.  

I love being organized.  And, as I say to those who have come into my home and marveled at my organized chaos, This is both a blessing and a curse.

I willingly admit, not only do I like to organize, but I also like to have things organized. 

Yes, there is a difference.  Let me explain...

First of all, I absolutely look forward to completing projects that require boxes, baskets, labels, etc...  One of my favorite possessions is my label maker.  I have labeled bins identifying the toys in my boys' rooms.  I have labeled baskets explaining what type of books are inside.  I have labeled almost every area, every cubby, every drawer, and every shelf in our homeschool room.  I have even labeled my boys' dresser drawers to help them in putting their clothes away.  These are examples of how I like to organize.  Each of these organizing projects have reaped blessings upon me in the form of declutter.

Now, I also like to have things organized.  This is where the curse comes in.  When things are not organized, and it is beyond my control to organize them, this completely stresses me out.  When we've had lots of events on our calendar, and I have been unable to keep up with the housework, I come completely unglued. When we are part of a group, and the leader suffers from attention-deficit-disorder, I want to throw a temper tantrum.  When I listen to a message, and there is no obvious flow or train-of-thought, I simply cannot focus.

So, to summarize, disorganization makes me crazy.  Organization keeps me in my happy place.

I know.  I'm a freak.

Perhaps my freakish organizational OCD can be helpful to you.


I was so embarrassed after yesterday's blog post about my day of unhealthy food choices, I decided to attempt an organized meal plan.  I am hoping that by organizing our food choices ahead of time, I will be more conscious of what I what I put on the table at meal times .  (Also, hopefully this will make us less likely to eat out three meals in one day.)

So here it is...

Morning Snack = Cereal
My boys LOVE cereal.  I don't to deprive them of this. Still, we will make healthier cereal choices.

Afternoon Snack = Pick a Stick from Snack Attack Jar
My plan is to write a lot of healthy snack options on popsicle sticks.  Put those stick in a decorated jar.  Let the boys pick a stick.  That's what our snack will be that day.

LUNCH - Sweet Saturday @ Gail's
Gail is my mother-in-law.  She is a saint.  She makes lunch for my family every Saturday.  Isn't that sweet?  Hence the "Sweet Saturday".  I love her.  :)

As you can see, I've tried to be realistic by not limiting us to 100% healthy meals.  However, I can guarantee, if I am able to stick to this menu plan, I will feel much better about what I am feeding my family.  

Please feel free to duplicate our meal plan and adapt it to your family's likes.

God bless!

Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Focus on the Positive

I ate out for every meal today.  This is so embarrassing.  I can't believe I'm telling you this.

Hardee's for breakfast - a chicken biscuit and a large Dr. Pepper.  My kids wanted Bojangles, but this Bojangles does not have Dr. Pepper, so we had to go to Hardee's.

Sam's Club for lunch - a huge slice of three-meat pizza and a large Coke.  They didn't have Dr. Pepper.  What?!

Los Tres Jinetes for supper - half a chile relleno (I would have eaten the whole thing, but this one was on the spicy side), one crunchy taco, rice and water.  Only because Keith was there; otherwise I would have probably ordered a Dr. Pepper.  And the chips and cheese dip don't count, right?

I know this looks bad.  It does.

I am truly embarrassed.

Honestly I didn't even think before I ordered or while I ate.  I just hurried my meals along with the rest of my day.

In fact, the only reason I am telling you this is because just a few minutes ago I received a text from a friend  - a fellow passenger in the same boat as me, traveling on a sea of seemingly impossible tasks (quiet time, diet, exercise, etc.) in hopes of reaching the land of self-improvement.

She admitted her imperfections of the day.  So I in turn admitted mine.

At the end of each of our confessions, we chose to add something positive, hoping to make us feel less like today was a complete failure.

And you know what?  It worked.  Focus on the positive.


I am choosing to ignore the fat, carbs, high fructose corn syrup, and everything else I put into my body that is so not good for me today.

I choose to focus on the positive.

Breakfast - I did not order hash browns.  This is a good thing.

Lunch - It cost us less than $7 to eat.  So I'm saving money, which is also on my to-do list.

Supper - I drank water.  It's a good thing Keith was there.  And tacos have vegetables.  Woohoo!  Go me!

So, while today's menu is not something I am proud of.  I am not going to berate myself for my lack of self-control.  Instead I'm going to pat myself on the back for the good things I did.

And tomorrow, I'll actually try to make better choices.  :)

Phil 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.