San Antonio Road Trip ~ from Hell to Heaven in 3 Days

Last Saturday I was working at the Round Rock Gymboree, and between classes, checked my phone to read a text from my hubby: “Wanna get away to S.A> And see Mom and Bob? I’ll have the kids all packed up :)” Gotta love a good ol spontaneous 3-day road trip to a favorite city of ours, San Antonio. As I was wiping down the play equipment, I was gettin’ so excited.  Although I did wonder if he’d gotten that annoying noise checked out – the slight thumping noise we’d heard comin’ from the back of the Scion for about 3 days prior.  Well, no matter. In no time, I was off work, zoomed home to pack my own stuff (which as I forewarned him, takes longer than the 10 minutes he alloted – I’M A GIRL! – who he’s been married to for nearly 13 years now – you think you’d know someone’s estimated packing time by 13 yrs!) & a target bag stuffed w/crackers, carrots, chocolate, a cake mix, & nuts and then I grabbed the electronic  putting green (just in case these peoples’ home had no activities!) and a pillow (“and this LAMP, and that’s all I need“).  All to which when I finally sat my tired butt in the front passenger seat, Rick looks at me and says, “who packs a cake mix and a putting green?”

“I DO. Let’s go.”

So we’re a half-hr. out, it’s a perfect 71 degrees with a breeze and we’re cruisin’ down the free-est toll road out of Austin, the 130. We’re laughin’ about dumb stuff and looking forward to the evening ahead,  and we hear this thumping. It’s making me wonder. But I don’t look at him…for two more exits.

Then I have to break the silence, “What is that?” “It’s gotta be the road”, he says.  But these toll roads are pretty new and smooth as a baby’s heiney. Well, it became obvious within 10 more seconds it wasn’t the road.  The road does not get louder & louder &  emit the scent of burnt rubber. Smelled kinda good, actually. Well, we pulled onto the shoulder around 4pm, called Janis & Bob to say we prob. wouldn’t be there for dinner, and hung out there stranded (jack: check. spare: check. lugnut-lock…. lugnut lock….? No D*** lugnut lock!) for a few hours.

Well God brought our way the kindest old cowboy cop who let Braylon explore his vehicle including demo the flashing lights, gave us bottled water when we were thirsty, helped spray Lysol on the front seat when Angel couldn’t hold it any longer so she peed as she sat there (did I mention ON the front passenger seat), and most crucially, he called a tow truck to come for us. Meanwhile, Braylon was keeping himself entertained by the nearby hill’s treasure hunt of trash and sticks. The P.O. stuck with us even after the tow truck arrived and left once it was secured. About 6:30, near sun-down, we were off, w/the kids on our laps (so illegal, but the P.O. ok’d it!) to find the nearest WalMart tire center. Well they couldn’t help us get our flat off & suggested AutoZone a mile away). Even though our driver should’ve dropped us all off there, he refused and got a verbal whippin’ from his boss for it. He said he has a family too – a 1 & a 2 yr old. He would not leave us til he knew we’d be taken care of.  So he taxi’d us to AutoZone for the part, helped Rick jimmy-rig that lugnut right off and taxi’d us back to WalMart… just MINUTES before they closed at 8pm.  By 8:45,we were “on the road again”.

Well, San Antonio, you were worth the wait…and the trouble.  We rolled in to the parking garage of the resort-like apartment units next the the Hilton, around 9:30pm. We were greeted w/the warmest smiles and hugs and spoiled with a most delicious meal, drink & dessert. Janis & Bob’s friends, Mimi & Paul Bulyalert have got the market cornered on hospitality. The next few days were relaxing, encouraging and just fun. The next morning, church was in a movie theater (weird! but cool & was very encouraging) – and that evening, they invited a 3rd (very fun) couple to join us for dinner.

They talked about how they love their church and their connection group (or small group) w/the Bulyalerts & 4 other families. To hear about how they make an effort to gather every Friday, make crazy big meals together, let their kids play as they talk about what the Lord’s doing & teaching them – and about the previous Sunday’s sermon – this really spoke to us. It gave us hope. Hope that we will one day find a church w/small groups that function similar to those of the early church in Acts.  I think God really had a hand in how this evening panned out. The 8 of us just sat around the dinner table and talked and told stories and laughed our butts off and grubbed on Rudy’s barbecued beef brisket and creamed corn, then pineapple upsidedown cake and ice cream and cookies and brownies til we ’bout keeled over in a sleepy, happy stuper. As Angel would say, by the night’s end, we were quite “satisfive”.

By the end of the weekend road trip, I felt re-energized & re-connected. Grateful for a fully-functional car, for a super loving family and for our new friends. ( BTW, not once did I need to pull out my handy dandy putting green or cake mix).

I was reminded that God speaks in the gentlest sweetest ways to his children. I truly hope to do this weekend all over again soon.


What Matters in your Church Search?

It’s one of the topics the Russ fam is thinking about a lot lately. What’s the church supposed to be like? look like? act like?  What should be high on your priority list when looking for a church home?
Well, I’m not sure how attainable it is in this age & culture, but all we gotta do is look to Acts for a great example. My husband was given this article from his step-mom…and I thought it was too good to not pass along, even if it’s just for my future reference:
One of the most perplexing issues of living the Christian life in twenty-first century America is where to go to church. New believers seeking their first church home, long-time Christians relocating to an unfamiliar place, and even those well entrenched in a particular church must face this issue head on. That’s because so much of what passes for “church” today isn’t really church, at least, not as the New Testament presents it to us. Therefore, if you are seeking a church home, the only place to discover what really matters is in the Bible. The Book of Acts offers us a blueprint for church life:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, pleasing God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
The first thing we discover about this early church is a commitment to the teaching of the apostles. These early believers heard Continue reading

Hillsong’s “Healer” – Born from deceit, but thrives in churches still

This last weekend, one of the songs we sang at church was “Healer” by Hillsong…no, by Planet Shakers…actually, by Mike Guglielmucci! I hadn’tthis-is-our-god-3 heard the song since Hillsong’s newest CD came out like 5 months ago. So I’m up there on stage, singing away, reading the words line by line, and the Spirit was just movin’ like a smooth wave over our church!  The words are full of power and truth. Half way through the song, I remembered the circumstances of how/why the author wrote it…the “tragedy” and all the deception that was exposed about his alleged terminal cancer. But that didn’t keep the tears away. Judgement and anger may have quenched the fire, but when my focus remained on those words, those words were all that mattered.

Deception and sin are no match for the power of the Holy Spirit at Work in the hearts of His people. When we worship in spirit & truth, then His Spirit & His Truth dwells in us. And when that happens, there’s no room for dissention or lies…so our enemy is kicked…to…the…curb.

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You (x2)

I believe You’re my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my Portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus You’re all I need
My Healer, You’re my Healer

Nothing is impossible for You (x3)
You hold my world in Your hands

i’ll have religion with a side of guilt, please

last night was good. ricky & i talked and messed around and laughed til like 1am. i got to know him better. i love it when that happens. the next morning’s usually another story, but never told with regret.

we were talking about how God wants to engage with us, in a way. a way foreign to most people. and how people, espec. those like us who grew up in church w/the flanelboard Jesus stories, we don’t really get it. but i think i got a sliver more of it yesterday, if i could share: God isn’t cool with the whole pyramid analogy ~ Jesus 1st, others 2nd, & you last (“J.O.Y.”), a concept i always thought was so noble & humble & tried to achieve, but never could.

He’s not impressed when i goal myself to spend the 1st 20 minutes with him every day for the next week, before anything else. he may smile, but what he really wants Continue reading


i was just thinking and thanking today – about how God wants to have a “down to earth” relationship with me. He created each of us to have a one-on-one intimate friendship, where we talk, back and forth. where we appreciate each others’ abilities and what sets us apart from everyone else. where our closeness leaves no room for pretense. where trust is the ripe fruit born of the tree of unconditional love.

i’m so glad that i don’t have to fake it with Him. even if i tried, he’d see right through my facade & call my bluff. i was worshiping today and i couldn’t stop the tears from dripping down my cheeks, darkening my satin blouse. i knew my mascara was messed up, my head felt like the woman’s from that nyquil commercial (trying to get over a cold) & i looked like i lacked 5 hrs of sleep, despite my hurried efforts to ‘paint the barn’. but when i got in the car with family waiting, at least my braylon said, “mommy, you look beautiful! your face does, but i like your hair when it’s down …and your shirt is so pretty. the sleeves go poofy out and then in & then out again like a princess.”  i don’t know if he was prompted to say any of that by another thoughtful guy…but i don’t care. it got the job done.

not long ago i messed up by not censoring (or even praying before i wrote & sent) an email to someone who barely knows me. how stupid was i. now this man’s judgment is clouded by my brutal unsolicited honesty and i’m sure he thinks of me as this or that…but you know, after apologizing, i just had to resign to the fact that i am who i am.

i look like this. i act like that. God, you deal with it, the good, bad & ugly. it doesn’t matter! look at me, naked in the noonday sun. i was made by you & for you…so give it to me straight. what needs changin’. what i think of myself means so little. what others think about me means even less. what solomon wrote in ecclesiastes is true…oh, and in the song, bohemian rhapsody…nothing really matters.

nothing… except a real relationship with my Creator. what he thinks of me is what matters. i can walk with him and talk with him and he tells me i am his own. Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day:” oh, to be back in the Garden.

…but what so astounds me is that i can have closeness with him right here & right now… he wants it, like a loving father wants closeness with his child, interested in every aspect & accepting regardless of flaws.

i am amazed and humbled.

worship to a new song…from hillsong: “HEALER”

UPDATED 8/21: what i’ve learned about this song’s writer is disappointing…but it doesn’t change the fact that God doesn’t change. the lyrics still ring true. the most impacting way to glorify God is through our lifestyles. and the most impacting time? when we are in our most broken state.

i’m praying that through this controversy, the essence of true grace be realized in churches & Christians worldwide. for more on this story, i’ll just “ping” you over to chris from canada who’s posted some really great thoughts & discussion…and has more time than myself, to write on this.

how ’bout this week, let’s think about what God’s Word says: pray for those who hurt you.

7/9: how can we not worship HIM!? every time we do, truth rings in our hearts & our faith is strengthened.

music, song-writing, singing, guitar and the kitchen sink

i have this urge to write more songs, sing ’em, & learn chords to them on my black shiny 6-string. the urge to act on the art within won’t go away…not that i want it to. it fades from the front of my mind to the sides, & some days sinks to the bottom pleading with me all the while to let it out. what i struggle with is who i’m supposed to let it out to.

i’m writing, maybe posting it on my songs, poems or lyrics page. i’m singing it to my family (but usually to myself trying to perfect it in my mind – love those shower acoustics!). i may find chords to it, play it as best i can, & then wait. on what? i don’t know! i used to be able to bring a selection (cover or original) up to a song leader i knew & could collaborate with on it. i have no one like that here. i tried craigslist ads, but two ads that i responded to so far didn’t work out. i tried my church’s 2 bands, but one’s not open to recruiting & the other i’m meeting with in a few weeks…so we’ll see. i think they’re lookin’ to keep doing all covers w/the david crowder band pop worship theme & may need one more bgv (background vocalist).

my heart is open to whatever God wants. it really is. but it burns for outreach. i may try connecting w/other artists thru above grounds, but there are so many in austin, it can be overwhelming. it’s not that i need an audience. God has been my main audience for, goin’ on 3 yrs now. i just dont want to miss an opportunity to bless anyone he puts in my path…or to grow in my potential by working w/other talented artists.

for now… i’m waiting with as much patience as i can muster, i’m writng, i’m changing poopy diapers, i’m singing & dancing around the house, i’m doing dishes, i’m playing the same old chord progressions over & over while the laundry pile seems to reproduce before my eyes (ew, that was a strangely vulgar image), i’m making chicken spaghetti, i’m writing and singing lullabies. i’m running out of gas.

it makes my heart slow & my eyes fill when i think about it long. i so want to learn more, create more music & serve a lot more ~ with all i have. you’d think since he put ’em all in me, he’d show me how to get them out…these gifts he’s given. maybe someday soon.

i’m listening.