Sunday, September 23, 2012

technology-free wednesdays

so for 2 weeks now i have been unplugged on wednesdays. i am loving every minute of it! since ken has been deployed 11 months now, i have most definitely abused texting, facebooking and TV. i justified this excess after chasing 2 girls all day long and being in the brain-fried single-parent mode.

i just need to have mindless entertainment via TV and connect with friends via texting and FB'ing. you know, to make it through another day.

most of you probably wouldn't argue with me on that. i get the girls in bed by 7-7:30 and then cortney time. yep, well deserved indeed. nevermind that i picked up 8 new TV shows last fall and spring, found myself not updating my blog for 6 months, and barely wrote anything on my book.

does all this technology really matter?

sure, i blog, reach out to people via facebook, and have some fun back-and-forth banter while texting. but as my friend reminded me last week...

let's pick up the phone sometime. people still do that?

yes. and YES! and it blessed me 7 times to heaven and back.

i think (ok, i KNOW) i started "talking" to people through facebook. hubby deployed--no problem. i can "talk" to people through facebook.

wednesdays--no texting, no TV, no computer, no facebook (actual human contact in person/phone allowed!). i start off the day with early morning PT and then kennedy and i have a date where we attend a mommy and me gym class. then lunch, naps, and play/reading time. while the girls nap, mommy reads her bible, 4 books that are in the hopper, and ... i pray.

and you know what, for someone who talks a lot, A LOT...i spend some time listening to Jesus.

then i do something i've never done before. kennedy and i attend church where we share a meal with others and dive into the word in our respective toddler and adult bible studies. this means i'm going to 2 services at the church in a week and i've never done this before. ken and i have  been a part of a small group for awhile now, in addition to attending sunday morning service, but i didn't join one when i moved to arkansas. joining a couples group felt weird without my plus 1. i traded small group for a women's bible study which i quit when i had back surgery, and instead of starting a new women's study this fall, i replaced it with serving the hungry through our church's food pantry.

going on 2 weeks now...wednesdays have become my favorite day. this past week however, i blew it, totally out of habit, like a dependence on crack cocaine.

i was in PT early morning and while getting my stimulation, i popped open facebook and posted a lengthy comment to an upsurd question my baby-loss mama friend was asked by an insensitive loon. this crazy lady proceeded to know all things about baby loss and told my friend she didn't need to teach her rainbow twin babies on the way about their sister in heaven. it would be too burdensome and overwhelming for her new babies. oh boy, my friend showed grace. my first gut feeling was to go down to dallas and scream at the idiot. i started out writing this in the comment, but in 3.5 years of walking this road, i too, have learned to let some of the dumb things people say when faced with your stain of losing a child, roll off my back.

as i finished the comment, i proceeded to roll through my news feed and.....oh crap.


the end. and bye-bye facebook.

ya'll know i'm reading jen hatmaker's book, 7, an experimental mutiny against excess with the (in courage) bloom book club. one of the areas of excess jen's family identified was media. you will have to read the book to get the details.

but she says something profound about being plugged in and available all the time:

"honestly, my biggest fear going into media month was that the world might stop turning until i was done, but i discovered others didn't need me to be as wired as i thought. most of my media involvement is simply about me (blah)."

yep, self-absorbed ME. and i think i'm a pretty humble person!

nobody missed me and i bet the majority of you didn't even know i was "gone" on wednesday.

but you know who knew i was here?

my Jesus. "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

 my hubby. the more time i spend with my man, the more blessed i am. yeah, yeah, we skyped, which meant opening my laptop. he's in afghanistan and the girls and i will take every second we can get to see daddy on the computer! nobody's gonna object to that, right?

my girls. the joy i give them as a completely engaged mama is priceless to both them and me.

instead of my 2-year-old bringing me my phone as if she had just discovered the best gift ever (yuck!), she brought giggles, books, smiles, puzzles and the like.

i found myself being quiet before Jesus. and actually hearing Him.

i slowed down. i actually breathed a lot. deeply. i think i might of even relaxed.

i'm telling ya, i LOVE wednesdays.

won't you consider unplugging 1 day a week? i think you'll find it will be more of a blessing than a burden!!!

if you are reading jen's book 7, then you know it's a media fast for a month. will i consider doing it? maybe. but definitely not during football season. i just ordered the sports add-on package and my hubby is in afghan. yeah, i LOVE football. so do my girls! (pictured below with their cousin demi on the right.) the arkansas fam is trying to convert them to be hogs, but i think our girls will be confused enough with the red raiders, longhorns and midshipmen, don't you think?

Monday, September 17, 2012

what's in a name?

people called him texas tuff, shooby, matt, matthew, matty, mattio, husband, son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, navy pilot.

i called him matt, my friend. really, my best friend growing up.

and my husband, same friend and roommate at USNA.

ken and i met at matt's wedding in june 2002 and started dating after his accident. we were so close to matt that when we found out we were having a boy in 2008, the name choice was matthew. we wanted to honor ken's brother, phillip, who passed away at the age of 24 from testical cancer, too. we decided our son's name would be phillip matthew schwalbe but the whole PMS initials might be too traumatic for 8th grade. we settled on matthew phillip and would let our son decide which name he wanted to be called.

bearing a strong name of honor, service, love, sacrifice was the natural choice for our first born child.

when our son was born 3 months early, it never occured to me he wouldn't still be here on earth with our family today. 5 days after he made his entrance into the world, our matthew phillip joined Matt and Phillip in heaven. we were stationed in Greece at the time of matthew's birth. because i was recovering from an emergency c-section in the hospital, and not with ken when he went to register our son's name with the birth certificate office in Chania, Crete, Greece, ken left with a birth cert that read "baby boy schwalbe." (both parents had to be present to name the child.)

when matthew phillip went to Jesus 5 days after his debut, i thought, just for a moment, should his name be something else?

how do you name your child after an older brother who was looked up to and a friend who meant so much to us, who dies?

for a brief moment, i could not get my head around keeping his originally planned name.

just for one moment.

then i remembered the men matthew seth and phillip raymond were...they defined honor, love, service, and sacrifice.

we changed his name from baby matthew phillip. of course.

today would have been "BIG MATT'S" (as Ken and I call him) 37TH BIRTHDAY.

in honor of matt's birthday today, i collaborated with matt's family, his widow, and friends, and we gave a 21-year-old widow/single mom of a 3-year-old girl a good amount of cash, new and gently used household items, and clothes as she picks up the pieces of her life and tries to start over. in july, she lost her husband after only 2 DAYS of marriage. we did this today in honor of matt's birthday, because matt also left behind a wife. only matt's wife (and those young widows out there) know how hard these next days, months, and years will be for her.


we started a FB page ( and blog ( to honor Matt this 10th anniversary of not calling him to say happy birthday and next month, the 10th anniversary of his accident when he died doing what he loved.

we're encouraging everyone to do an ARK...

ACT OF RANDOM KINDNESS. (from Evan Almighty nonetheless.)

do these ARKs today on his birthday, the 10-year anniversary of his accident, Oct 18, 2012, and always.

because that's how matt rolled...always serving and always giving. he had parents who taught him this value and a wife who encouraged him to do it. i know because all of them still do it.

there are no rules here. matt always lived out of the box and he was and wasn't a rule-follower.

post your ARK to the FB page between now and Oct 18, 2012. if you can't do it on 10/18, do it sometime between now and then. or afterwards.

just make sure...


if you feel so inclined, we are also blessing 3 military enlisted families in need with cash and gift cards. check out the FB page, blog page or email for more details.

matt loved we love others.

heavy...i know. i teared up some writing this.

i would be remiss if i didn't leave you with this (what i think is a funny!) story...because matt always knew how to laugh and encouraged others to take themselves less seriously.

matt had a back tat. no, i'm not even kidding. (sorry matt's mom...i know you are dying that i am writing this!)

a back tat like a girl (wonder why i had a guy as my best friend growing up, and no, i'm not saying he was feminine at all.)

when not serving others, matt just did what he wanted and had a good time doing it.

had i been at the tattoo shop when this back tat atrocity occurred, i would have encouraged him to pick an ichthus, or Jesus fish, like i have.

but no, this smart guy...picked a texas longhorn for his back tat.

gosh almighty. don't you know when Jesus met him in heaven and told him he was in...He asked him why the longhorn tat?

matt: "i don't know. i like texas. it seemed like the logical choice."

Jesus: "i knew you texans were a different breed."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

go big or go home - ACT NOW!

Monday, Sept 17 (like in FOUR days) marks the 10th time Ken and I can't call our best friend, our son's namesake, Matt Shubzda (google his name if you want to know the whole story), and tell him happy birthday. Oct 18 of this year will mark the 10th anniversary of Matt's Navy accident when his F/A-18 superhornet collided with another, killing all 4 pilots/NFOs, off the coast of Northern California. ok, i actually just told you the story.

if it's one thing matt taught me, GO BIG, or GO HOME!

Ken and i are proud that we found the perfect way to honor matt's family and his widow. we'll reveal that to them privately in december.

Matt was always helping others; gathering money from fellow midshipman to fly Ken's dad out for USNA graduation, taking up a collection in high school for the mentally-challenged boy's new tennis shoes, and sacrificing his $200 bingo earnings and spending all of it to give a family from the angel tree a Christmas, just to name a few. matt would literally give someone the shirt off his back. he lived a life of love, service, and sacrifice. so we're going to honor him.

as for the 10 year markers this year...we're doing this: blessing a 21-year-old widow/single mom with housewarming gifts and cash on Sept 17; and a helping a military family in need with paying bills/groceries showering them with gift cards and cash on Oct 18. (AND I NEED YOUR show them even more love!)

GET READY TO TAKE ACTION! email me at and let me know you're in!

Sept 17 - Matt's Birthday

There is a 21-year-old girl here in Arkansas who works at my PT office where I go 2-3x/wk for my back/shoulder. She has a 3-year-old daughter and she was married in July. TWO DAYS later, again, 2 days, her husband was texting HER while driving and was killed in a head-on collision. I've been talking to her for almost 2 months now about counseling and grieving and heartache and lost dreams. though we don't have similar grief stories, tragic loss has some recurrent themes. mostly I've been in prayer for this sweet girl and her family.


She said she was moving into her own place next week (she's been cramped into a 2bdrm townhouse with her mom, sister, and daughter). We talked about how it would be hard to do this emotionally as it's a place she is not moving into with her husband. I could go on and on...but I won't.

The lights started FLASHING--this is who the Sept 17 donation is going to help. No, she's not military, but she is a widow, starting over. This will honor Matt. Because he left behind a beautiful wife of 4-MONTHS. i'm blessed to be friends with her dating back to 7th grade.

I just need y'all to help me give this girl a fresh start and show her the love of Jesus.

Matt didn't just teach the concept, GO BIG OR GO HOME, he may have invented it. he made me run for class treasurer in high school. he wrote my speech and created my campaign slogan, "bo knows treasury." (he gave me the nickname 'bo' for my maiden name bowen.) come to think of it, he may have thought he WAS bo jackson as they played the same sports. anyway, i was so disappointed for HIM that i didn't win...he worked so hard. (but april was much better qualified for the job!)

i'm not gonna disappoint now. our family is giving a monetary donation and a bunch of our crap to this sweet girl. a drop in the bucket. but i know...

Y'ALL can do so much MORE!! collectively we can.

we can help a widow and single mom try and start a new life.

blame jen hatmaker. she wrote a book about a experimental mutiny against excess. 7 is my new favorite number. and i'm throwing will davis under the bus too. he wrote enough, and yep, we've got enough. do i really need 14 bath towels?

obviously my procrastinating nature is working against me here, but if people pledge they're going to send me a check, i'm gonna count on it. if you say your box of crap you don't need to bless her new home is in the mail, i'll look for it.

and if you're local, i'll be here all day tomorrow and Saturday. i'm gonna give this stuff to her on Sunday in THREE DAYS, (as I cleverly invited her to my church, bribing her with lunch afterwards and letting our wild girls run amuck).

it will be a day before what would have been Matt's 37th birthday.


October 18, 2012 - Anniversary of Matt's accident

did you know that some military enlisted personnel actually qualify for food stamp/WIC assistance because of how little they earn?

we'll be remembering the 10-year anniversary of losing matt, oct 18, 2012, by blessing a local military family here in arkansas. matt always made fun of me for originally being from arkansas before i moved to texas when i was 8 and he became my first friend. it's appropriate we'll be blessing a arkansas military family. :)

hey i know, how about my texas friends get their junk together and maybe we can bless a military family down there in the dallas area (where Matt grew up) on the same date?! better yet, how about you austin folks kick in too and we'll find a military family in need at ft. hood!?!

look for a future blog post with the details to come. i'm not sure of all those details yet ... because God hasn't revealed them. i'm working with some folks who know some folks to identify the family.

if you can't get on board with helping this sweet 21-year-old girl here in Arkansas because it's like in 2 days, i get it. maybe instead you find another widow and/or single mom where you are and bless her. tell me about it, so i can tell matt's family!

do something. like telling me you're sending $20 and actually send it. i'll cover you until it arrives.

do something. like telling me you're putting together boxes of 4T, 5T, 6 and so on clothes to bless her daughter with future wardrobes and actually box it up and ship it. i'll tell her its on the way.

do something. like buying a gift card and actually dropping it in the mail. i'll tell her to start making a shopping list for that store.

i'm so tired of the church saying they are going to do something and just sit there in their chair/pew/theater seat saying "oh, isn't that nice." after church they go back to their christian-in-a-box life.

i'm so tired of the way that I sit in a christian conference and say, oh wow, yeah...that's a great idea...mark that one for later.

then i put that little idea up on a shelf, sit on my ass, and do nothing with it.

yuck. it makes me sick to my stomach.

i wanna jump when Jesus says to. even if it means functioning in the realm of chaos and short deadlines.

can you imagine standing before Jesus and him asking why you didn't get your act together to help so-and-so and your answer being--

i was too rushed! it didn't fit into our busy schedule that weekend! i didn't want to let go of my stuff!

no thanks.

let's be a church of Jesus that identifies a need and ...


and let me know how you're going to help today!!

OR you can go to my FB page and let me know you're in!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

broken shells


what is this and where can i get some?

i've spent so much of my life trying to mend from one disaster to another. when the lies creep into my brain of whether i can be used to do anything good, i fall into the trap again.

yes,, ummm....yes, well...definitely, decidedly...NO!

you. can't. be. used.

too much bad history.

too much weighty baggage.

too much vulnerable sharing.

y'all know i recently had the privilege of meeting Angie Smith to tell her thank you for saving my life by sharing her precious heavenly daughter's story. i bought a sneak-peak copy of mended and she signed it for me. it's NOW ON one here or here.  it's her 3rd, brand new, shiny book (after 'i will carry you' and 'what women fear.') it's pretty. i can't wait to read it.

i'm sure it will change your life.

for the friends/solitude/writing beach getaway i have the privilege of being on right now, i had to narrow it down to 2 books i was already reading: (jen hatmaker's '7, an experimental mutiny against excess' and meg meeker's '10 habits of happy mothers,' one bible, and my 'Jesus calling' devo for my carry on. i am 4 months postop from back surgery and i have a 1985 HEAVY laptop that makes my backpack sag down to my booty.

not to be confused with my now sagging booty. that's a whole different post for a different day.

so, no room for mended this trip. :( Jesus speaks to me through Angie's writing like no other author i've read. i really wanted to bring it as my 3rd book...

but...and this is FOR REAL.

i did NOT want to repeat the tragic grand canyon fiasco where i packed 7 books and a makeup bag that all had to be divided up amongst 10 other backpackers when i "hurt" my ankle. don't judge. i was 21 and all my friends climbed mountains. i desperately wanted to be loved and to fit into their grungy, twisted, badass-hiking or whatever-you-call-it world.

BUT the reality?

i was the girl who couldn't part with makeup to go on a 6-day hike of the GC. i packed 7 books because the expert hiker in our group did. (she's still my best friend even though we took a couple year hiatus from our friendship after this trip!)

i tried so hard to fit in with them.

for the love of all backpacking atrocities. seriously.

yes, i fully agree with you, after all that drama, it's AMAZING that THOSE friends are STILL my friends. :)

i digress.

this whole mended thing is complicated to me.

i'm a tragic people pleaser.

i am the girl who can't say no.

i am the mama who became so unraveled with burying a child she almost took her own life and missed all the blessings of the past 3+ years...and all those yet to come.

recently i came unraveled again at Ken's long (so far) 10.5 month deployment, the single mom-ness of it all. feeling sorry for myself and angry with God.

missing my son so desperately again and ready to dive back into that pit of self-sorriness and self-centeredness that sometimes comes with grief.

allowing fear to creep back in that i'd be a modern-day Job losing my whole family literally kept me up at night. i had to stop watching the news.

unraveled at my 2-year-old who captures my heart and the very next second makes me want to cut chunks out of my hair while leaving some very long parts, so i can look like a 4-year-old who experimented with scissors for the first time.

why the hair you ask? i have no idea. i am weird.

i gave myself permisssive entitlement to whatever i felt like thinking, saying, and matter how much i hurt others close to me. after all, this single mom, 14 month deployment gig was tough.

do whatever it takes to survive.

a lie that almost pulled me down into a pit.

i desperately want ... be mended.

from Angie's 'mended' back cover, she writes about Jesus speaking to her:

"My dearest Angie. How do you think the world has seen me? If it wasn’t for the cracks, I couldn’t seep out the way I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you, just as you are."

you'll have to read mended (and/or i will carry you) to find out about the pitcher.

yes, there are holes in my life. HUGE, LARGE, GAPING ones.

i want Him to cover them up, fill them in, and forget about them.

HE ALREADY HAS. on the cross, all those years ago.

did you read that...and get it?

let me remind myself again...


and i don't want anybody, especially you reading this, to see those holes.

but He whispers:

"if they can't see the holes, then they won't be able to see Me working in your big, fat, messy life."

i gave you that life. now go share it.

but so often I, I, I...try to do His job.

like a million times a day.

the good thing about constant conversation with Jesus is you're always checking yourself, your motives, and your thoughts with the only One who can give answers.

the bad thing about constant verbal conversation with Jesus is people might think you're schizophrenic.

so what?

my mending is a leary road of letting go of what others think.

my mending is a finite grasp of the overwhelming love God has for me and others, and what my responsibility is with that kind of love.

my mending is a glimpse understanding of what giving myself Jesus grace looks like.

my mending is an imperfect realization that there have been a lot of broken shells washed ashore.

He's touched every single one of them.


there will ALWAYS be broken shells until we are made perfect.

if not for ALL the broken shells, I would not recognize the joy and beauty of finding the Perfect One...