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Year: 2017

Until the Sun Sets

Until the Sun Sets


I love pictures! Especially vacation pictures. It’s so fun to look back on fun memories of special times. About a month ago I travelled to Cabo with three friends I met at Baylor. All four of us turn 50 this year and we felt like we should commentate the fact that we’ve lived for HALF A CENTURY. That’s a big deal!

I wanted a book for the trip and when I saw one called “beach trip” I bought it.  It had a cute cover and well, I was going on a beach trip so it seemed to fit the bill.  I also wanted to bring a “party favor” for our trip.  While I was out shopping one day I found some cute beach hats.  They weren’t all different colors like the ones on the cover of my book but I still thought we could recreate the book cover picture as a momento of our trip.

I gave my friends the hats at the airport in Dallas and we took pictures in them there. Then we took pictures in them by the side of the pool and in the pool.  We took pictures in them on the beach and in a boat. I’m pretty sure we became known as “the blue hat society”.


Early one morning we decided to try and recreate the “arms in the air” picture from my book cover.  It really shouldn’t have been hard but there were several things to consider … one being that it hurt sitting on those beach rocks. We finally thought we had enough shots and we headed off to the pool. Later in the pool we did an “arms in the air” pic and another afternoon we tried the shot from a different angle on the beach.

The most hysterical thing is that one friend (you can look at the picture and decide for yourself which one you think it is) wasn’t exactly comfortable with putting her arms in the air. I mean she held them up … but it was definitely not her favorite part of the trip. She probably felt we were taking too many pictures and ESPECIALLY ones with our arms on the air.

It wasn’t until I got home and looked back  at the pictures more closely that it hit me just how symbolic it was to have pictures with close friends with our arms held in the air.  You see, we have been “arm holders” for each other for a long time.

There is a story in Exodus 17 where the Israelites were in a battle with the Amalekites. Moses said he was going to go stand on the top of a hill with the staff of God held high during the battle. The next day Joshua went to fight the battle and Moses and two friends went and stood on the top of the hill. As long as Moses held his hands up the Israelites continued to win but when he would put his arms down the Amalekites would begin to win.

Moses’ arms grew tired.  They began to ache. He was weary of holding the staff alone. But he didn’t want the Israelites to lose the battle. So his friends, Aaron and Hur, held his arms up – one on one side and one on the other “so that his hands remained steady until sunset” (Exodlus 17:12).

The Israelites won the battle that day because some friends stood alongside another and held up his hands.

As I looked through the picture from Cabo of us holding up our arms I knew … that is what we had been doing for each other for over twenty years. One of those friends (it’s the one who didn’t love holding up her arms, haha) introduced me to my husband. Another of those friends came over and cooked him dinner and when he arrived to eat she went down the back staircase and let me act like I had made it for him. Another I hugged on the night she got engaged never dreaming that two years later we’d live in the same apartment complex as newlyweds trying to figure marriage out.

We’ve been through boyfriends, weddings, babies, children growing, parents aging … big things and small.  Each year for as long as I can remember we’ve gone away to a place called Hilltop (we call ourselves the  “hilltop honeys”) and we talk.  We really only break to sleep a few hours before we start talking again.  We try and cover all that life has brought us in the past year. We have celebrated and we’ve cried.  We’ve cheered and we’ve comforted.  It’s been a sacred space for each of us.

So, quite literally, we have held up each others arms at various times along the way.  Sometimes texts among us only say “please pray, I’ll tell you why later” … but that’s all they need to say. Because arm holding is what we do. We might not always be able to fix the problem, but we can hold up each other’s  arms for awhile … until sunset if need be.  We truly want each other to win the battles .. or at least survive them. Life can be hard and unfair but knowing there are friends who will come alongside and hold up our arms and say “we’re here as long as you need us” makes us more courageous as we face the day in front of us.

I will forever be grateful for the gift of friendship. The Lord has given me a double portion, I know. I have some hometown arm holders who I know beyond a shadow of a doubt would all pile in a car and head to Houston if I told them I was having trouble holding up my arms. They might even drive all night to get here. One friend sent our group text this picture yesterday … and I love it.

Certainly there are some Houston arm holders too. Some have moved away but if I called them today, they’d hold my arms up for awhile … and I’d do the same for them.  Arm holders don’t have to be people we’ve known forever either.  They might be new friends or friends you only thought were acquaintances … but in the battle they came along side you in an unforgettable way.

Here’s the thing … we can all be arm holders and we all need arm holders. Being an arm holder might be sending a text saying you are thinking of someone or calling someone you haven’t heard from in awhile. It might be driving someone to chemo or taking a meal to a friend going through a difficult time. Arm holders come out of the woodwork when big things happen but we should also be mindful to be arm holders in the day to day of life. That daily load can get heavy too.

Maybe thank someone today for being an arm holder for you or if you need an arm holder let someone know.  And for sure go offer to hold up someone’s arms that you think might need some encouragement. Do it today.

Looking back I’m glad we took so many “blue hat, arms up” pictures.  It doesn’t matter to me that people probably thought we were crazy. What matters to me is that I’ve got some arm holders… And we will be there for each other until the sun sets.


What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?


Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1


Several years ago I was flying to meet some friends for a girls trip in Chicago. When I booked my ticket, for some reason (and why do these things always happen to me?!), it placed my name in the record as Darla Do Baerg (instead of Darla D. Baerg). I called the airline right away and they said it shouldn’t be a problem if I had my ID.

I believed them right up until the time they took my ID at security and said it didn’t match my ticket.  (Insert eye roll here). After a trip back to the ticket counter and talking to multiple people I was cleared to fly.

My friend Missy still calls me Darla Do to this day.

Another time I ordered at a restaurant and they kept calling “Delmay Deloney” over the loudspeaker. Since my name at the time was Darla Dillahunty I didn’t think it was my order.  Over and over they said “Delmay”.  “Delmay”. I finally went and asked and, sure enough … it was my order.

This morning I was thinking about names as I read my Bible. The last few years I have been noticing that the words in my Bible were becoming blurrier and smaller. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting older (ahem). I decided I needed a larger print Bible to use when I taught. I stopped by our church bookstore and looked at the “sample” large print Bible. Deciding it was perfect I asked if I could buy one. Unfortunately they no longer carried that particular one so I asked if I could buy the sample. I was told they couldn’t really sell it because the front cover was messed up. They had printed several names on the cover one on top of the another.


I told them I didn’t mind the mess ups because God knows my name so it didn’t really matter what it said on the front.

They laughed but y’all, I was totally serious. I love that it’s all messed up! It’s just like me, a big mess … but the message inside is perfect.

People ask me about it when they see it and I love telling them the same thing. God does know my name. He knows who I am. In fact He knows each of us by name. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He knows all the days of our lives before they ever happen. That’s so cool.

I love the “Cheers” TV show theme song that says … “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”. And God’s word is certainly one of those places. The best place, in fact. He always knows us and in His word communicates peace, joy, comfort, hope … whatever we need. And it’s not just our name He knows, it’s our circumstances … our hurts, trials, joys … He knows it all.

Our lives can be as jumbled and messy as the name on my Bible … but His word meets us in the mess and provides just what we need.

I once read that our favorite word in the human language is our own name. Aren’t you so glad God knows yours?

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name”.  Exodus 33:17  


Apparently February got away from me …

Apparently February got away from me …

I’m sure I meant to blog in February. I started a post for two in my draft folder and I wrote PLENTY of posts in my head … but I never sat down and actually typed the words out like I intended to do. I did take a girls trip, spoke here and there and watched lots of swimming. It was Brittany’s last run at state and I was not missing a moment of it.

Something BIG did happen in February though. Brittany decided (finally!) that she was going to attend Texas A&M in the fall. Everyone but Caroline (who refers to A&M as the “other college down the road”) is excited about it. And actually I think even Caroline is glad Brittany will be in Texas next year.

The way she came to her decision had God’s fingerprints all over it. One of my favorite life verses is Psalm 73:28 that says “But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds”. I put a date by that verse in my Bible to remember to “tell of His deeds” and so when the Lord does something SO OBVIOUS, I feel like I should share.

From the time the college decision process began I have prayed for two specific things for Brittany …. wisdom for her decision and peace with what she decided. I never prayed about a specific school and told her often that I knew wherever she went she would thrive. She just had to decide.

The day that applications opened she began applying and had her eye on two schools the entire time, Texas A&M and Auburn. We flew to  Auburn one week for an official tour (AND WHAT A STORY IT WAS ….. from me telling Brittany Georgia was so dark because it had so many trees and then miles and miles later realizing Georgia was so dark because I didn’t have the car’s headlights on to BARELY, and I mean BARELY making our flight back to Houston because we (I) forgot to factor in the hour time change between Atlanta and Auburn). In spite of all the crazy, we really enjoyed our visit.

We got back on a Wednesday and on Friday Brittany was going to College Station for the weekend.  She had football tickets for the Ole Miss game and was looking forward to comparing the two schools.  The Friday she was leaving to go she checked her portal and saw she was admitted to A&M.  She was thrilled (and by thrilled I mean she was shaking like a leaf and her smile spread across her face so brightly).  I’ll never forget her excitement.

She had a great weekend and then began to ponder her decision. She made a list of pros and cons, talked to others and to us about what she was going to do and truly seemed to grow more confused as the days went on. She wanted to decide by Christmas but that didn’t happen.  The days were dragging to weeks and months.  We asked her if she needed to go for another look and even took a trip back to College Station.

Still no decision.

I knew she wanted to decide and continued to pray my same prayer, wisdom and peace.  I began to wonder how and when she was ever going to make her decision. And I prayed some more.

And God is SO very faithful.

You see, Brittany left a day before we did to head to Austin for the swim meet. I called her and told her we had decided to stay for the weekend so we could go to church with Caroline on Sunday.  She told me what clothes to bring her and we booked a room for two nights.

The morning of the meet we came back up to our room after breakfast and I asked Bill if he thought we should pack up and move to a hotel closer to campus since we’d be spending time with Caroline.  He agreed and we quickly packed up the room.  I was shocked even at the time that Bill was ok taking the extra time to pack up as we were hurrying to the swim meet, but we did it.

After the meet we went to a late lunch and then went to Caroline’s to hang out.  Brittany took a nap, Bill worked and Caroline and I went to the grocery store to fill her empty shelves.  About an hour later we were debating whether we’d be hungry enough for dinner or only dessert.  We decided on dessert and as we were preparing to go Brittany said she was SO tired and asked if we could please go home.  I was initially against it because I so wanted to go to Caroline’s church but after much discussion we decided it was best for us to head on home.

But first dessert. It was SO good!

We got home late but it was good to sleep in our own beds.

After church the next day we went to lunch and talked about all kinds of things. After we had eaten Brittany casually (as is her style) mentioned that her class had not had a Sunday School lesson that day. She said instead they went around the group of girls and shared their favorite verse and what was going on in their lives.

She told about her college decision struggle and said she just wasn’t sure about where to go and said a few reasons why she was struggling.  Her teacher stopped her at this point and said something like this  … “Brittany, there is something I need to say to you.  I’m not being rude but you need to hear this. You are basing your decision on where to go to college based on other people and you need to go where you feel like you are supposed to go and not let other people influence your decision”. (I’m sure it was actually stated much better than I just paraphrased it there). Brittany then stopped her story here and said … “And based on what my teacher said to me today I’ve decided that I am going to go to Texas A&M in the fall”.

We could NOT believe it.  Did we hear her correctly?  I asked …. “did you just announce a college decision?”.  She said “yes” and there were big smiles and maybe even a tear or two from her dad.

And as we sat there celebrating her decision I realized God had answered my prayer.

The WISDOM that her teacher imparted to her gave her the PEACE that she needed to make her final decision.

On the way home from lunch I said to anyone who was listening … “I sure am glad we came home last night”.

I think about how crazy it was that we did.  We could have been in Austin and missed it. We could have stayed in the hotel a second night. Brittany’s Sunday School teacher could have prepared a lesson but instead felt led to ask the girls about what was going on in their lives. I fully believe God orchestrated all of it to give Brittany what she needed.

Wisdom and Peace.

Gig ’em!


It’s not you, it’s me ….

It’s not you, it’s me ….

I really don’t understand why cooking has to be so hard. Take for example the crock pot. Why do you have to plug it in? Is it not enough to just turn it on? I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve smugly thought to myself … “Won’t my family be so happy when they come home tonight and smell the deliciousness of dinner wafting through the air as they walk in the door?”.  And then, as if it wants to bring shame to my name, when I go to take the lid off our dinner, I discover it’s sitting in the pot exactly like I left it, uncooked.

Just last week I tried a new crock pot recipe for Mongolian Beef.  I remembered to buy the ingredients and when I put it in the crock pot I remembered to turn it on AND plug it in.  Miracles abound!  But what I forgot was that I needed to put the food IN the crock pot earlier in the day.  (Again, this is another reason why crock pots are tricky … I don’t think about dinner at 10 am or 2 pm or however many hours before I need dinner. I think about crock pots when I start to realize it’s almost dinner time).  The recipe said to cook for 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.  I realized a little before 5 that I forgot to start it but I thought it would be ok. I’d cook it on high and whisper encouragingly to it … “hurry, hurry” … while it was cooking.

Turns out the “hurry, hurry” command is really more of an insta pot thing. Much to my dismay, 2 1/2 hours later (which was the absolute very longest I could stave off my family before mutiny ensued), I called them to the table.  It looked ok and smelled pretty good.  As they scooped the meat out we realized the pieces which had cooked on the outside of the crock pot had cooked but were pretty tough. Poor Brittany got a piece from the middle that was not thoroughly cooked and when she screamed “THERE IS COW’S BLOOD ON MY PLATE!!!”  … well let’s just say I knew who was going to be having a bowl of cereal for dinner.

Anyway, a few days after the cows blood debacle I decided I could use some help from professionals so I ordered up a “Hello Fresh” delivery.  I had a $30 coupon and a friend had told me she really liked it for her family.  She showed me her box and how “Hello Fresh” sent the meat and spices and just everything you could possibly need for your meal.  Plus they included step by step instructions for exactly how to make your dinner. (One thing I’ve realized about myself since I started seeing recipe videos online and cookbooks with pictures in them is that I am clearly a visual learner.  Maybe things would have turned out differently in my kitchen if, when I got married, all the recipes in cookbooks had come with beautiful step by step pictures to guide me).

So I thought … “well, my goodness, Hello Fresh buys the food, delivers the food and shows you how to make it!”.  What could possibly go wrong?

And well, the first thing to go wrong was that I placed my order to be delivered on 1/17.  I thought that meant it would arrive on 1/17 in the afternoon and when my family saw my cooking WITH SPICES and OLIVE OIL and ALL KINDS OF THINGS that I don’t normally cook with they would rise up and call me blessed.  I knew Bill would praise my name at the city gate. There would be great rejoicing.

But it didn’t happen that way because the food was delivered at 6:30 pm.

Here’s the deal … Bill calls home pretty regularly late in the afternoon and says “What’s for dinner?”.  (Sometimes I feel badly about the hopeful optimism I hear in his voice). Because he loves me and God loves me when I (fairly regularly) say … “I don’t know, I meant to go to the store …  do you just want to go out” he usually says “sure”.  (Step back ladies, he’s taken).

But this day, well I thought this day was going to be different.

I thought he would call and I would tell him the name of a very fancy recipe (which means it had more than three ingredients). I thought all would be well. All manner of things would be well. But when he called and asked what we were having for dinner I had to reply “well, what we were supposed to have” … and that’s as far as I got before he started to laugh.  I’m telling you, he’s lived with this for a long time.  (Have I ever mentioned the time when we were first married and I thought it would be fun to cook manicotti together?  The recipe called for a clove of garlic and did you know a clove is only ONE of those little pod things?  We reeked of garlic FOR DAYS and had to throw the manicotti out and go to Wendy’s.  Like I said, Bill is used to me starting sentences about cooking with “Well, it was supposed to be … “).

Anyway, I had to tell him that I was throwing together plan B which always means pasta.  All the while I could not believe that even when I brought in professional help I still didn’t have a meal to serve.

So just as the timer for the pasta went off the doorbell rang and there was my big “Hello Fresh” box.

Well Hello Fresh.

The box had such high expectations. It said we were going on a delicious adventure. I thought that might be a stretch.

I was super excited to try the first recipe so I read the brochure and studied the pictures.  The recipe was for “Juicy Apple Pork Burgers”.  I have to be honest here and tell you that I didn’t even know a pork burger was a thing.  I knew of hamburgers and turkey burgers but now I know … pork burgers want a place at the table too.

The box contained everything.  I sliced the potatoes, peeled the rosemary off the stalk and tossed it with olive oil and put them in the oven.  And isn’t this the cutest bottle of balsamic vinegar you’ve ever seen?

Step two was to core an apple which did not go well so I ended up with apple slices.  Then it said to grate the apple and THERE WERE NO PICTURES OF THIS STEP.  Not that I really needed them but that just seemed weird to grate an apple … I mean who does this?  But I tried it and followed the directions when it said to wring out all the excess moisture over the sink … and I added those grated apples and a little more rosemary to the pork and we were set.

The recipe said to add a little olive oil to the pan and heat it and then cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side.

I made it about two and a half minutes before the smoke alarm started going off.

Of course that doesn’t scare anyone in my house because basically it just means “mom’s cooking” … but still, it’s so loud.

I tried adding more oil to the pan while I fanned the smoke detector and turned on the vent over the stove.  (Why is cooking so hard?! This step was not in the pictures!).

One thing I want to add here is that I was a little disappointed that the meal they sent me was burgers because I was hoping for something a little fancier, more elegant maybe.  But perhaps they did a little research and felt that burgers fit my cooking capabilities and picked it for me.

We sat down and it was moment of truth time.  Would they like the pork burgers?  Would anyone notice they were pork?  What if I grated the apple wrong?  Turns out I had nothing to fear.  They weren’t bad at all.  Good actually.  Bill did say he would have rather had a hamburger instead of pork but I reminded him that pork is the “other white meat” and he let it go.

And then today I got the survey wondering how we liked it, how things went … and I just didn’t have it in my heart to tell them about the smoke alarm.  But should Hello Fresh happen to see this, please know … it’s me, not you.

And one last “I couldn’t make this up if I tried” thing to note.  The other recipe they sent me? It’s for MONGOLIAN BEEF. (hahaha!)

Of all the recipes in the world!! They want me to stir fry it so fingers crossed it goes better than the Crock Pot.

If not there is always a bowl of cereal.



What about her?

What about her?

Today was my first speaking engagement of 2017. I was super excited about it and loved having the opportunity to share with a group of mothers of preschoolers. As I was waiting to turn into the parking lot I watched wistfully as the mothers crossed the street taking their young children into the school. Some were pushing strollers, some had their sweet ones perched on their hips and many were squeezing tightly on to chubby little hands. Some moms were dressed for the gym and others for work.  I’m sure many had their errands planned for their next few hours of precious freedom.

As I looked at them I thought back to when I was in their shoes. For me it was usually a mad dash to get my kids to school on time with their nap mats and lunch bags in hand. Often we would remember on the way to school that it was show and tell day and I’d tell them to look around the car for a “treasure” … and more times than not we found one. (McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys for the win … don’t judge).

There were always mothers dressed in the cutest and most current outfits with their hair looking salon perfect. I would wonder how they did it. I mean, truth be told, part of the reason my kids were going to school was so I could go home and actually shower in peace.

Walking in this morning, nine years since my last preschool drop off,  was no different. The first woman I saw had on the most fabulous pink sweater I think I have ever seen. Everything about her seemed perfect … and that same question/feeling swept over me … “Why can’t I be like her?”.

What it comes down to really is a comparison game. I was comparing myself to her. And as much as I have read about how much social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are contributing to the rise of the comparison trap …the game is not new. In fact it’s a “tale as old as time” as Disney would say.

Perhaps it started in the Garden of Eden. Eve was told she could enjoy everything in the garden “except” the forbidden fruit. But Eve wanted what she couldn’t have … and when the serpent convinced her that eating it would make her like God, she believed him. In verse five the serpent says … “For God knows when you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

She wasn’t content in her situation. She wanted something more. She wanted to be the girl who could have ALL the fruit.

Later in the New Testament Peter and John were walking along the beach. Peter was talking with Jesus and stopped and pointed to John and said … “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21) . How often do we feel that exact same way? We want to point to someone else’s situation and say .. “well what about her?”. Why does her life seem so perfect? Why do her kids obey?  Why does she get to go on that trip? The list can go on and on.

C.S. Lewis famously said … “Comparison is the thief of joy” … and yet over and over we allow ourselves to get robbed of our  joy and peace. Because we want what another has or we want to be like someone we aren’t or have what they have … we miss resting in the contentment that Christ alone provides.

I love Philippians 4:11 where Paul (who was sitting in jail at the time!) said … “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”. And then … drumroll please, he states the secret of being content in verse 13 when he says… “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.

That’s is, that’s the secret. Christ . He alone can give us strength to be content in our circumstances. And when we are content we don’t have to compare.  God created us, He knows our situations and our circumstances and He wants us to keep our eyes on Him, not others.

So back to my morning … I began to laugh as I continued to watch the moms file into the building with their babies. This sweet group of moms asked me to come share … not about how to get everything done, how to get their children to obey or the best and newest ideas in parenting … no, they asked me to come and share my real life mishaps and mess-ups. The longer I thought about it, the funnier it became. It is hilarious really that God can use even our imperfections for His glory. The things I used to compare myself about all those years ago now He is using to encourage others.

Things are never going to be perfect.  We are never going to be perfect. But  we know the perfect one and He  knows everything about us and our situations.

I have a sign on my desk that says “Live imperfectly with great delight”.  I love that thought. Despite the fact that things may not be as we wish… we can live with delight.

Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.