A blog about finding God's way on the journey with our children, our family, our jobs and our community.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

1.  Random hugs from my daughter.
2.  Tree swings.
3.  One scoop of chocolate chip and one scoop of orange sherbet.
4.  A hot mug of Island Coconut coffee.
5.  Handwritten notes.
6.  Sunday afternoon naps.
7.  A freshly cleaned house.
8.  Planning my next decorating project.
9.  My grandchildren.
10.  A good sermon.
11.  Rainy afternoons.
12.  Helping complete strangers.
13.  My brother's sense of humor.
14.  Surprises.
15.  Old couples in the grocery store.
16.  Flowers in the yard.
17.  Hearing my children laugh together.
18.  Babies.
19.  Silly songs.
20.  Weekends.

What makes you smile? 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Icecream Cake made Easy!

Last evening the Hicks House was full of family - again.  This time we were celebrating my oldest daughter's birthday some 28 years ago.  I remember the day well.  My husband was scheduled to be in a softball tournament in Alabama and was dressed in his uniform and ready to go.  When I stood up to kiss him goodbye, my water broke!  Needless to say, he didn't make it to Alabama that Saturday for the tournament.  We spent the next 12 and 1/2 hours in labor and at 7:24 p.m. on April 24, 1982, Austin Leigh Hicks was born.  I simply can't believe it was 28 years ago (it seems like just last week!) 

So as the Hicks clan gathered 'round to celebrate another year, we enjoyed the following casual menu - a menu of some of Austin's favorite foods:

Italian Garden Salad (similar to Olive Garden)
Baked Spaghetti (recipe follows)
Five Cheese and Garlic Toast
Homemade Ice Cream Cake (recipe follows)

My first attempt at the ice cream cake and I must say, it was a big hit.  At my house, you know something was a home run when the kids wake up in the morning asking, 'is there any more of that ice cream cake left Mom?'  And, why, you might ask, would you make an icecream cake when you know Austin's favorite thing in the whole world is a DQ ice cream cake?   In a city of nearly 400,000 people, CAN YOU BELIEVE there is no REAL DQ?  Sure, there are DQ's attached to gas stations or in Food Courts, but NO REAL DQ offering cakes?  So, I had to resort to making a the closest thing I could.  It did taste great, but next time I make one I will use more pudding and less icing.  I forgot to take a photo of mine, so I am attaching this one I found on the internet.  Austin's actually had real cake icing and "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" written on it (like a REAL DQ icecream cake!!)


30 Mayfield Mini  ice cream sandwiches

1 (16 ounce) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, partially thawed

16 Oreo Cookies, crushed

1 (12 ounce) jar KRAFT chocolate fudge topping, slightly warm

1 small package White Chocolate Instant Jello-O pudding

1 Container (any kind) of White Cake Frosting


Cover a metal quarter sheet cake pan with freezer foil, making sure to form into the corners properly (take your time; this step is important).  Unwrap the mini ice cream sandwiches and layer them in a brick pattern into the pan.  (I saved the small pieces for the end and cut all of my 'chocolate bricks' at the end to fill in)  It's important to use a brick pattern, because stacking them gives the cake no stability when its' time to cut. 
Mix the pudding and the Cool Whip together.  Layer the pudding mixture on top of the icrecream sandwich layer and then top with 1/2 the crushed Oreos.  Heat the hot fudge sauce jar in the microwave for about a minute, or until the sauce is pourable.  Pour half the jar onto the crushed oreos.  Next make another layer of cookies and pudding, ending with hot fudge sauce.  Place in the freezer for 1 hour to harden.  Remove from the freezer.  Remove the foil lining completely from the frosting container and place in the microwave for 1 minute.  It should be melted enough to pour on top of the cake.  Spread it out evenly and put back in the freezer for another hour or so.  You can write Happy Birthday or decorate any way you choose from this step forward - I decorated with "Happy Birtday" in red icing, but you will serve from the pan when ready to serve.
Trust me, it's easy and tastes AMAZINGLY like a DQ cake!  I will definitely be making this one again!!  Maybe next time I will try to remove it from the sheet cake pan and ice the entire cake (I am fairly experienced at icing cakes) - I will just need a cardboard base and room enough the freezer to put the cake back in without it being attacked by frozen vegetable bags! Try it, I think you will love the results. 
Keep the uneaten portion covered and in the freezer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lessons from the Yard

 We had an 80% chance of rain and storm showers for today, but that didn't stop God from giving us a beautiful morning of sunshine, birds singing and flowers blooming this morning.  As I made the stroll up the driveway this morning, I snapped these shots in the front yard.  I stood still with my hot cup of Joe for about five minutes, just soaking in the beautiy of nature and thanking God for another beautiful day. 
Well, the beauty didn't last too long - with clouds forming and rain coming and thunder rolling in.  But these beautiful shots reminded me that God provides blessings in everything - if we will just be still long enough to enjoy what He presents to us each day. 

Did you take a moment today to find the blessing in the eye of the storm?  Thank God for it - even if you missed it today - and ask Him to show you the beauty in it now.  He will.  He always does.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's How You Make Them Feel

For 27 years I had a solid identity as a business professional in the hospitality industry. I have gone from the ground floor of answering a switchboard in a busy hotel corporate office at the age of 19 to learning just about everything one could learn about the hospitality profession.

Experiences are forever seared into my conscious mind about how to treat the customer in a professional, respectful manner. “The guest signs your paycheck; they are the most important person – hands down – in the business. Without them, we would all be out of a job. Treat each guest as if they were the most important person in the world. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR THEM THAT COUNTS; IT’S HOW YOU MAKE THEM FEEL.” Who said that? Well, me for one.

As I trained a new crop of employees coming into the business for the very first time, I would conduct orientation again and again with enthusiasm and purpose. Time after time, year after year, I would teach that what we “do” and what we “sell” is not tangible; you can’t hold it in your hand. It’s not about the clean and cozy hotel room. It’s not about the great dinner or fantastic breakfast. It’s not about the swimming pool, the tennis court or the complimentary internet service. What we sell is service – and that’s what sets us apart from the competition. IT’S HOW YOU MAKE THEM FEEL that counts.

Now fast-forward 27 years into May of 2008. And here I am, at the crossroads. Back to learning the ropes. Back to the ground floor again. My first two weeks in the ministry at Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) were pretty scary for this seasoned hospitality professional. Learning the ministry. Learning the terminology. Absorbing and taking it all in just like a sponge. Just like I did 27 years ago.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. All of the things I learned about the hotel business have really been preparation for ministry to the homeless and hurting. They ARE our guests. They are looking for something tangible – a hot meal; a shower and a clean, safe place to sleep. But what they really need – what really matters to them is being treated with respect. A handshake. A smile, a hello, an acknowledgement they exist in this world. RESPECT. For someone to tell them “YOU MATTER.” The homeless have very simple needs, desires. Just like my hotel guests for the past 27 years, it comes down to one thing. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR THEM. IT’S HOW YOU MAKE ME FEEL.

Imagine you are a young 26 year old woman. You ran away from home at the age of 16 to get away from an alcoholic mother and a very abusive step father. Your good looks quickly got you a ride 400 miles away from home. But not without sacrifice of your virginity and self-respect. You are drinking more and more to drown out the memories of a little sister you left back in Tucson in that hell-hole called “home.” You start to drink more and more until you finally can’t hold down that minimum wage job at K-Mart that was barely paying the $60 a week rent on the efficiency down the road. A guy comes through your check-out line one evening and tells you that he can give you something later that will really numb the pain. And later that night, your nightmare begins as you smoke crack cocaine for the very first time. The next 6 years are a blur because you spent most of the time trying to find that buzz you got that very first night with a guy you didn’t even know. You have tried to stop, but when you are clean for more than 32 hours the voices in your head and the demons on your back are so strong you start “numbing down” the pain all over again. Eventually you are sleeping on the street because you are spending every penny you make turning “tricks” just to stay high. You’re at the end of your rope. You have thought about calling home many times but that guilty verdict that Satan plays over and over in your mind has kept you from dialing the last digit of the number. You are hungry, you are tired and you just want to wake up from this really, really bad dream.

As bad as it sounds, this is reality for the majority of young women that I see coming into KARM every night. They are so tired of being used and abused and treated like yesterday’s TV dinner - they just need someone to acknowledge them as a human being and treat them with warmth and understanding. They don’t need judgment. They don’t need preaching – heck, most of these street people have heard more sermons than you and I will ever hear in our lifetime. They just need the safety that comes with unconditional, love and human RESPECT. We all need it, even though we don’t deserve it. I have realized in a very short time in working with the homeless that it is this little thing called respect that draws the lost and hurting to Jesus more than any other thing. It’s nothing tangible – you can’t see it, you can’t eat it, you can’t sleep on it. It’s the value of being treated with respect without regard for what you did to get there.

It’s all about how you make them FEEL. And once they FEEL respected, FEEL clean, FEEL full and FEEL safe, they are more apt to accept what Jesus has for all of us. And that’s forgiveness at the foot of the cross. You know, it happens the same for each of us, no matter the circumstance, no matter the color of our skin, no matter our age and no matter what sins we have committed against others or ourselves. IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW JESUS MAKES US FEEL. He makes us feel accepted. He makes us feel forgiven. He makes us feel clean. He makes us feel safe in His arms. He makes us feel LIKE WE MATTER.

And now I see how God prepared me for work in the ministry over the last 27 years. After all the worrying and fretting I did about “learning the ropes” of a new job, I was taught the lessons of unconditional love and preparing for ministry work through the hospitality service industry! I was transformed and preparing to be a servant for Jesus to the least, the last and the lost. Who but Jesus could do such an amazing thing without ever letting us in on it!

I consider it a true privilege and honor to serve the homeless and hurting– more than I ever thought possible I am enjoying seeing the dirty, unkempt beards of the scraggly old men that shuffle along the sidewalk. I am finding a deep purpose in holding open the door for the prostitutes, drug addicts and street ladies that file inside seeking shelter from the night. Because at the end of the day, I want to serve my Risen Savior who gave His life for me. I want every person I meet to FEEL the same way that He makes me FEEL. Like I MATTER. Like He did it all for me.

(this was re-posted as a special request from a very dear friend.  It was my very first post as Free Indeed back in 2008).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time for a Kitchen Redo -- Again!

Okay, you know that feeling you get when you just know its' time for another kitchen redo?  Well, that wave of crazy has been hanging over my head like a springtime cloudburst for about a month now.  And I know exactly what I want to do:

I am painting the cabinets in a rich black this time - with a rich, hand-rubbed, PB finish.  Currently, my cabinets are a country red.  For a couple of years it was fantastic -- but now, it's time for black.  Here is another inspirational photo (LOVE the floor below):

Okay, stay tuned.  I just about have the plan drawn out.  Need to rip out the pantry that was built about 10 years ago, add a wall of new cabinets (shopping at salvage yard and thrift store for these) and find something unusual to make an island.  There are so many great ideas in blogland - here are a few inspirational photos to whet YOUR appetite for a new kitchen:

Hope these great photos and exciting ideas have inspired you - I will be posting my "before" shots this weekend as well as the 'plan of attack' - hopefully, in two to four weeks, the after will be ready to unveil as well!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Prom Season is Here

As anticipated, today was hectic, crazy, emotional and wonderful all in one!  The day started with manicures, pedicures, make up at Sophora (thanks Shannon) and then hair (Charity you rock!).  Then, friends all converged on the house and Olivia and I did their makeup - that was a blast let me tell you.  It was very similar to all the weddings I have done makeup for, with the exception that everyone had on a dress that was their personality, their choice. 

These girls can all hold their own - they don't need a male (didn't want to say man, and didn't want to offend them by saying boy, so I chose the word 'male') to make their life complete.  I heard a sad story about a young woman who didn't go to her prom because she wasn't dating anyone and didn't want to without a boy.  Looking back, she regrets not going almost everyday of her life.  Isn't that sad?

Well, Olivia and her friends are fiercely independent.  Smart girls.  Sassy girls.  Girls who know who they are and what they want.  Their identity isn't wrapped around being in a relationship with a guy - so, they decided to go as a group to the Hardin Valley Academy prom tonight. 

I wish I had been that smart and that brave when I was 17 - and alot of my friends feel exactly the same way.  So hats off to you Olivia, Sierra, Samantha and Alex....you girls looked absolutely beautiful tonight.

And I suspect you are going to have the time of your life tonight!  Love you Livi!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Olivia

Isn't it funny how the body is willing, but the mind won't cooperate when it's time for sleep?  Today was a hectic day at the ministry - many projects to finish and a few that needed to begin.  My big project this week is writing a feasibility study and business plan for a start-up social enterprise catering business.  You would think that after hours of executive summaries, market research, sales and forecasting, the mind would be ready to follow the body to bed. 

As tired I was physically, I could hardly drag myself into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth.  But I just couldn't turn off my mind.  Thoughts were tumbling around of my 17 year old daughter, Olivia.  In less than one month, she will be graduating from high school.  This weekend is her Senior Prom -- and you know how hectic (and expensive) that is.  My mind was reeling with last-minute "to do's to prepare her -- Saturday will be one of our wildest days this Spring, with all the appointments for nails, makeup, hair and photos before the 'big night" - and let's not forget about that long night of waiting up until the wee hours to hear about all the dances, all the fun, all the memories that she will not soon forget.

But my mind kept going back to life with Olivia and how quickly the time has flown by.  I really can't believe she will be in college this Fall.  It seems like just last week she was wearing little pink dresses and big bows and smiling that sweet smile that would melt any Mothers' heart.  I know that many folks think they have the perfect child.  I haven't really ever thought of any of my children as perfect.  But I truly believe that God put Olivia in the center of our family (middle child) as a balance, a peacemaker, a calm in the eye of the storm.  She is darn near perfect in that regard.  She is easy going, logical, caring and tender.  And she cares deeply about things.  Little things that others her age may have missed.

And then I remembered the letter.  The letter that I had begun to write her about life.  The letter that I was going to place in her Senior Yearbook, only later to find out that it would have cost me over $400 to place there.  So I had stopped in mid-sentence and tucked it away on my laptop until I could figure out how to raise that dough only to discover it was near impossible right now.

So, with no sleep in sight for a while, I pulled up the letter on my laptop and I prayed.  "God, please give me the words to say to Olivia.  The words I would say if it was the very last thing I could ever express to this dear, sweet child of mine."  And this is how it flowed:


We have attempted to provide you with insight into the important things in life, and we have been proud to see them take root, firmly planted deep within you;  to be good, always helpful to other people; to be fair, always treating others equally; to have a positive attitude at all times; to always make things right when they are wrong; to know what talents God has given you, and then to use them for His glory. To set goals for yourself and to be not be afraid to work hard to achieve your goals; to choose friends wisely and then to honor those friendships; and to particularly respect and love your elders. To always put God first in all things.

And now begins the harder part of being parents - it is time for you to use those beautiful wings that have been developing all along the way. And so we offer these words of encouragement and advice as you move to the next stage of life;  Know yourself well, listen to your emotions and adhere to your values.  Don’t be afraid to stick to your beliefs, to not follow the majority when the majority is wrong. Enter into a relationship with someone worthy of yourself, and then love this person unconditionally. And always remember to seek God’s will for your life in all you choose to do and to be.

In what we hoped to accomplish in raising you, if any of these slipped by while we were all so busy, we have a deep belief that you somehow know them anyway. One thing we are sure of is that we have loved you every second of your life, we have supported you at all times, and we will continue to love everything about you every moment of every day.

Congratulations, sweet Olivia. We are so very proud to call you our daughter.

Mom and Dad

I think she'll like it.  I think she'll cherish it and pull it out many times over her life to review every word, every thought, and hopefully, she will always, always feel the love with which it was penned.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strangely Quiet Around Here

This week, something has been strange around the Hicks House.  I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong - well, I wouldn't exactly call it wrong - just different.  It was QUIET.  I'm not acquainted with quiet, and it seemed very strange to me.

Sure, I still had the normal hectic mornings - girls up, showers, breakfast, hurry, hurry out the door.  And work was hectic.  We lost two employees in the foodservice department and I filled in where I could.  Meetings, reports due, planning sessions, phone calls - heck, its' even budget season.  Evenings have been full of PTSA meetings, church meetings, work to do, dinner to put on the table.  But something was different - really it was.  It was quiet.

And then I figured it out....Avery was not here!  Avery, our energetic 14 year old ball-of-energy left on Sunday afternoon for TSA State Finals.  Now getting her ready to go, that was a different story altogether.  Saturday night she was at middle school until 11:00 p.m. preparing for finals.  Sunday morning was the usual drama.  Hectic morning, in a rush, 'don't have time to get my clothes out to wash Mom.'  After the final 'amen' at church, she and I rushed out the door to beat everyone out - so we could drive home on two wheels and get her clothes washed.  Okay, clothes washed in record time, pot roast on the table, Avery fed.  "oh my gosh I forgot to wash my shorts Mom" and we washed shorts in record time.  Okay, everything washed and dried, folded and ready to be packed.  "Where's the suitcase Mom?"  she yells from her room.  OH NO.  Oldest daughter, Austin has them ALL at her house!  "Ricky, can you run over to Austin's and get a suitcase honey?"  Okay, suitcase back, packing, packing, packing.   Argument ensues between Olivia and Avery over which flat iron was staying and which one was going to TSA.  Argument settled.  Uh oh.  Argument #2 - but I can't recall if #2 was over makeup or shoes or hair dryer.  No.  Makeup was #4 and hairdryer was #3.  Or was it....oh well.  Then, I hear a blood-curdling yell from her room, "MOM, I have to GO!  I am going to be late."  In her rush to get in the car, we somehow failed to get all her bags.  Halfway to their destination Dad had to turn around and get her bookbag that held everything for Finals.  Oh my!!

So, if that gives you any indication of what life is like with Avery, then you understand why it is strangely quiet around the Hicks House this week....at least until Wednesday night....when she returns.  And I, for one, will be oh-so-glad to have her back.  Our family isn't complete without her around here!  Even though she is hard to live with, a drama queen most of the time, the kid that is never wrong, deeply convicted about political views, and may someday (truly) run the world, I miss her when she's not here.

So I look forward to Wednesday night when that door swings wide open, when all those bags and shoes and 'stuff' gets dropped beside the dining room table and drama begins again.  Thank you Lord, I will say to myself.  Things are back to normal around here!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Transforming Cinderella

Tonight was a special night for one young girl who had a dream of going to her Senior Prom.  Melanie (name was changed to protect her) lives in a homeless women's shelter with her Mother.  Melanie is a Senior in high school and suffers from autism.  She is shy, withdrawn at times, but very smart.  And her dream was to attend her Senior Prom. 

Living in a homeless shetler, her Mother didn't have the means to make this dream a reality for her daughter.  But God intervened, as He often does - and always to my amazement for some strange reason - and tonight Melanie was transformed into a beautiful Cinderella.

Several of us got together and finally found a borrowed dress that fit Melanie - interestingly enough, it was just the color she had dreamed about -- 'Cinderella Blue.'  Isn't God amazing.  Not only that, but God put together some other amazing things tonight ---her hair was transformed into a beautiful 'up do' by my friend and co-worker who is attenting cosmetology school.  I have done makeup for weddings for years, so that skill came in handy.  And another friend and co-worker put together about $150 in donations that paid for beautiful pearl jewelry, pantyhose (her very first pair) pretty silver shoes and a new bra.

Pastor Mychal and his wife, Donna, were kind enough to purchase a beautiful corsage that Melanie couldn't keep her eyes off of when he placed it on her arm.  And then finally, another friend and co-worker volunteered to drive her to and from the prom that was held at the downtown Hilton tonight.  She looked absolutely beautiful tonight - just like Cinderella.  When she stepped into the make-shift dressing room to let everyone see the final results, everyone began to clap and tell her how beautiful she looked.  Then we all formed a circle around Melanie and we prayed for her.  We prayed that God protect her and allow her to experience a truly wonderful night.  And we thanked God for allowing us the privilege of being a part of such a special night in her life.  And I noticed that Melanie seemed to stand a little straighter, head up and shoulders back.  (usually she is shy and hangs her head or slumps her head down toward the ground.)  I believe she felt like Cinderella too.  She felt special.  Like she mattered.  I've said it before, it's how you make them feel that matters. 

Take a look at the shots I snuck in tonight during the transformation -- I plan to make a little scrapbook for Melanie of this very important night in her life.  I hope she will always look back on it with the understanding that while she may not remember our names, she remembers our hearts.  Our hearts that said, "you are important to us and we love you."  I hope that everytime she gazes at the photos of her Cinderella transformation, she feels special.  Like she matters.  And I hope that somehow, it leads her to Jesus each and every time she looks inside her memory bank and sees His hands at work through our service tonight.

Have a wonderful time at the ball tonight, Cinderella.  And know that we are so honored to have been a small part of your wonderful Prom.  I somehow know that God is smiling tonight.  Smiling at his daughter who looked so very beautiful. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter, Easter, Everywhere!

Harper was such a good boy for me.  His big blue eyes kept darting back and forth in anticipation of seeing the design on his cheek.
Older kids are so much easier to paint.  You don't have to contend with moving 'canvas' and your end design is much clearer and more detailed.
Allie is so full of life - both before and after the painting.  I just love this little girl and wish I had 1/4 of her energy!
Well, we had a blast at the Easter Egg Hunt and Craft Day at the church on Saturday.  The kinds loved getting their faces painted, and the edible 'paint' for popcorn and marshmallows was a huge hit.  Check out these photos above and below and maybe you won't feel like you missed any of the fun!
And here are three of my girls prior to Sunday School - Avery, Sarah and Olivia.  Aren't they beautiful teenage girls! 9I'm not proud or anything!)