06 December 2013

Of Enjoying Real Life

As I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade last week, my remnant of personal tradition among my husband's family, with children scattered over the room declaring, "We want to watch a kids's show!", I assured them they were lucky they don't get stuck watching Mommy's and Daddy's choices very often, because when I was a girl . . . we sat on the living room floor very quietly watching whatever was on - and while the Flintstones made a regular appearance, so did M.A.S.H. and last night's video recording (you know, the kind actually taped over and over on the same VHS, none of this digital nonsense) of David Letterman, so as far as I'm concerned, my kids are living the life, entertainment-wise. So could Momma just have this one morning of the year, for crying out loud?

Nevertheless, there were the sweet moments, like when the Rockettes - the highlight of the yearly event, the part my mom would run in from the kitchen to see so that we were always watching at least that part together while the turkey took a rest from its morning preparations - donned the screen and my eldest and youngest turned Papaw's living room into their own stage. That girl kicking as high as she could and that little boy twisting in his own best version of dance. Special memories for a momma passing down her own childhood moments.

And then they announced it. Next Thursday evening would be a special live broadcast of an entirely redone Sound of Music.

To those who turn on their TV's regularly, this was probably old news. As it was, I was hit with it for the first time that morning and was already scheming how to tune the children out between the 7pm start time and their 8pm bedtime. Momma was going to need another allowance, and only a week later, to tune the television to her choice - while the kids were awake. It's a risky proposition because we all know, with three children aged five and under scurrying about, one can rarely hear her own thoughts, let alone the TV. Maybe they could go to bed early.

Either way, I spent the week reminding myself and my husband, though the hideous foil-adorned antenna had been stowed in the attic during this house-selling season of our lives, it would need to be pulled out for at least one night. I was watching that TV special - and suddenly I was having 90's flashbacks - who actually tuned in to a live TV special these days? Who doesn't simply watch them the next day, or at least with a delayed start so as to fast forward commercials? Apparently we, of the no cable, no DVR, no Netflix, even. That's who. I didn't even have a blank VHS handy. I was behind the technological times even if it had been 1993.

Then Thursday came and forecasts of ice and snow and a wintry mix of wonderland flooded the forecast and my mind. I was planning chili and Christmas movies and what dessert to prepare as a family while we snuggled in our warm nest. So, it wasn't until after the chili and after the newest VeggieTales Christmas DVD (see? sometimes we at least catch up to 2001 with our entertainment technology), as we stirred puppy chow in the kitchen and pondered what slice of holiday media to enjoy with our chocolately goodness that I declared, "It's Thursday!" "Yes it is," confirmed my confused husband. "We only have 18 minutes!" I cried, glancing at the clock.

Catching on, he dutifully, and reluctantly, hurried to the attic for that blasted antenna and, after the powdered sugar had been shaken over the snack and everyone had their bowls of Chow and cups of milk, we finished our Jesse Tree devotion just in time to tune in.

I hadn't planned to snuggle together as a family with a fire in the fireplace, all eyes on the recreated classic, but it's the way it happened - as it goes with all best memories, the kind that can't be created on purpose. And then my littlest boy started dancing to the chorus of the hills coming alive and my daughter was twirling across the floor while Maria sang of her favorite things. And there we were in that blissful moment, and I didn't care that it would keep the kids up two extra hours, or that I sometimes couldn't see because an excited three-year-old has a knack for sticking his giant noggin in front of the TV, or that the acting was sometimes sub-par, or even the question at every commercial break, "Is it coming back?" (commercials are still a little foreign to them). I didn't care because we were making memories. The same kinds of memories I have from my own childhood, of sitting around the black box as a family, watching that TV special, with the Christmas lights twinkling and the icicles forming outside.

These are the moments real life is enjoyed.

11 November 2013

Of Our Non-Expendable Brood

As we await the long-coming arrival of Baby #4 to our growing flock, I recognize we have crossed a threshold - in fact, we crossed it back in 2011, when our youngest had just turned one, our oldest was still yet two and we learned our third was on the way, the point at which the question on everyone's lips subtly changes to, "So, are you planning to have more?" to "So, do you think you're done?"

And whether real or imagined, there is a definitive sense of judgment in our culture toward those populating the earth with more than the allotted 2.5 children. Sometimes I feel the weight of those questioning eyes, with my burgeoning belly and three little ones scurrying underfoot as we head to the library or the grocery store.

Yet, I watch my children playing, all seated together on the floor engrossed in a book or huddled into the plastic Fisher Price tree house out back, and as I melt in their large brown eyes I ask myself this question, "Which of these would I give up so as to have a socially acceptable amount of off-spring?"

Would it be the fiery strawberry blonde? Maybe it would have been nice to have waited just a little longer before starting our family - more time for my husband and I to have to ourselves as 'just us' before taking the deeper plunge from marriage into family. We could have traveled. We could have indulged in couple time and spare change. But then, where would our boys be without their big sister to lead the way? And who would impress me with the compassion she shows for others or her aptness for learning?

Or maybe it would be that middle one. Perhaps it would have been nice to have that longer gap - breathing room between Micaiah and Joey? But then, what would I do without my sweetly sensitive, yet rough and tumble little boy with that insatiable curiosity? And with whom would Micaiah have "camp-overs" in the living room or play hide-and-seek throughout the house? Joey isn't quite old enough for that, yet.

Well, then there's that, maybe we'd just give up that youngest one. He doesn't do much to contribute to the family, yet. Perhaps we could have enjoyed those first two a little longer if we'd spaced it out a tad. But, then, whose mischievous grin would break my stressful days? Or who would climb in my lap every time I sat on the floor to be with the other two?  Who would stand next to me in the kitchen, waiting to help, as I prepare meals? Who would offer Emmett the joy of having a brother and future games of cowboys and Indians or catch in the yard?

Then again, maybe we should have just been done after three. That's a perfectly acceptable number. But then, what would I do, on those long days, without the refreshing kicks, tiny reminders of life inside and the purpose I hold? Where would be that hope of a baby sister for our eldest - something of which she has long dreamed?

Where would we be, as a family, if any one of us were missing - had never even existed? Perhaps we'd be just fine. But seeing where we are now, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know God has formed our family perfectly, and I have a strong sense he's not finished with us yet. Which is just fine - because he seems to have done a wonderful job of putting just the right tiny souls into our wonderful little mix at just the right times.  Perhaps not every family is meant for this kind of blossoming - their perfect number may be smaller than ours - but I am so grateful for all we have been given, and all that is yet to come.

04 November 2013

Of Joey's New Favorite Celebration

In case you didn't know, last week was Halloween. Having grown up trick-or-treating (yes, I was the teenager knocking on doors through high school with the ever-ready response to the obvious question, "You're never too old for free candy" - and I still stick by that, though I don't carry my own bucket, sadly) with a husband who had never trick-or-treated in his life (apparently the children of preachers and missionaries only celebrate Halloween if it's called "Fall" and it's done at the church - because that's when costumes and candy become holy) we have often debated on how to pass this inevitable evening. And we've taken varied approaches each year.

This year after celebrating at the church's fall festival Sunday night, and spooking the dorm of the local university Tuesday night, I wondered what we would actually do on Halloween night. Because I'm too stingy to pour out money on candy to give to other children (though our daughter does love answering the door, so maybe I should have taken that into consideration) and it's hard to just sit by and miss out on what others are doing.

So I convinced my holy husband to allow our children to haunt the street - just our one little street - for the night.

The kids had no idea what they were in for. Especially Emmett, who continued to whine at the plan, "I don't want to walk up and down our street!" Trust me, kid, I thought, you're gonna love it.

And he did. As we meandered home with full buckets at the slowed pace evoked by an hour or so of knocking and walking, I asked him, "Are you glad we walked up and down the street?" "Yeah."

But the biggest fan of the evening was little Joey. After our two previous costumed bag/bucket carrying events earlier in the week, he knew what was coming. I dress funny, I carry this and people give me candy. He was so ready.

Our Little Lumberjack

It took about two houses before he had the routine and he would wiggle himself out of our arms, dash to the door on which sissy had already politely tapped (shy Emmett always hanging behind the others just a little) and bang his little fist. Mommy would then have to pull him back so the poor candy-giver inside could even open the door and then, if it was in reach, that tiny fist was in the candy bowl, no questions asked.  Sometimes he hollered a courtesy "Or-teet" - which was about all he could muster of the famous phrase - before diving in. Sometimes the occupant was a little more cautious (understandably so) with the loot and would simply hand him a bar or two of chocolately goodness, which he would grasp and then stare as he waited for more. Then, after giving the obligatory, "Tank oo", he would drop it in the bucket hanging from his arm and turn, running, ready for the next stop.

And that little guy raced up and down our street - seriously, those little legs pounded the pavement for a full half-mile without wearing down.

Yeah, I'd say he's discovered his new favorite holiday. Then again, I doubt he remembers last December, so I'm pretty sure he has an even bigger surprise in store.

Happy Fall from our Crazy Crew!

24 October 2013

Of Being Refurbished

That printer of ours had been driving me nuts for years. Often failing to do what it was made to do or just making things difficult. So when a refurbished edition of a shinier, newer model came available for half the original price, I jumped. Finally, something different. My problems will be solved.

But then they weren't.

Then the new one, fresh with refurbished, life, emerged from the box with all the glimmer promised. Except that it didn't work.

Out of desperation, I made a call. To the ones who should know what's wrong. The manufacturers, creators of this machine, who could lead me to a solution, fix my problems.

And they sounded hopeful. Until they learned about the condition of this model. Refurbished. Previously broken. Not purchased from them, so they didn't care.

They didn't care?

Wasn't it their machine? Regardless of the store name on the receipt, isn't it their name printed on my broken device? I'm not looking for replacement or a handout, just a solution. A fix to my problem. But they could offer me nothing. Because I didn't come to them the right way, my machine was in the wrong condition.

Silently I hung up, inwardly I raged.

Thankfully, I praised.

I praised my Creator Who didn't care where I came from or the condition I was in when I called. He recognized His Name, stamped on my heart, and He answered me. He doesn't care what brought us to this point, He only cares that we're calling Him to fix our broken hearts.

We, in Christ, are refurbished, previously broken, but repaired to new life. It doesn't matter how many times we've called out or how we got to where we are. He cares that we are His.

There is no warranty on this life, but there is a manufacturer Who will not abandon us. It is He Who has promised, "When you call out to me and come and pray to me, I'll hear you. " (Jeremiah 29:12). And We can trust in Him.

And praise.

23 October 2013

Of Walking Away

By the time my husband's alarm sounded this morning, I was in shock - there was no way that sleepless night was over already. Surely it was only 2am and his poor clock was just confused.

Unfortunately that was not the case. And my poor brain has been suffering the consequences of its own inability to rest. As evidenced by the fact of my sitting up in bed (entirely too early), rubbing my hand over my swollen belly and thinking, "I sure am getting fat." It was maybe a full two seconds before I remembered there was life growing in that belly, not just a stash of chocolate chip cookies.

Thus, after pouring milk on the cereal of a daughter who loathes milk on her cereal (though loves it in her cup) and dealing with the apocalyptic outcome of that brain-fogged action, as I listened to the chorus of my two eldest arguing over who would be allowed to open the fridge so the boy could put his un-finished cup of milk inside, I sighed. Trying once, unsuccessfully, to supersede the volume of his irrational sobs, to offer some sort of resolution (or, perhaps, a solid, "Stop crying and put your milk in the fridge! Sissy already has it open for you!"), I simply shook my head and walked away.

This was way below my pay-grade.

I recognized this issue was, in fact, one that could be settled by young children, and the value of my sanity was much higher than the fairness of whatever outcome they could manage.

And I left. I entered my room, closed the door, and started to get dressed, feeling slightly guilty over my inability and unwillingness to fix it.

It was only after the door had been opened again, as I straightened my sweater over that bulging belly, that Emmett came dashing into the room, sister close behind.

"Momma! I opened the fridge and 'Caiah held my cup and then she gave me my cup - "

"And then I threw the door closed!" she finished, triumphantly.

Though the slamming of the door isn't exciting to me, the fact that they successfully navigated the field of conflict resolution with a solution that left them both happy and proud of their independence re-assured me of my decision to walk away. Had I not, I would have missed this blessed moment - the one when Momma realizes it's not just her fatigue talking, but her children really can solve their own problems (some of the time, anyway).

And sometimes it takes us just walking away to realize how independent our children can really be.

04 October 2013

Of Our Little Potato-Head

Philip had finished telling me the adorable way Emmett had reacted when Philip asked to check his diaper. As he left the room, I giggled and told Micaiah, who sat next to me, "Your brother is silly."

She laughed, too. "Yeah, he's like a potato-head. Like a potato who says, 'I'm going to jump and turn around when Daddy needs to check my diaper. And I'm going to stick out my toochy [her pronunciation of tushie]!"

Yes, Micaiah. Just like that kind of potato.

01 October 2013

Of Naming the Baby

Conversations out of nowhere:

M: "I think we should name the baby Anna."
E: "I think it should be Emily."
M: "Anna!"
E: "Emily!"
M: "Anna!"
[after multiple rounds of this . . .]
E: "Maybe it could be Anna Emily."
M: "No! . . . . Maybe it could be Emily when she's bad. Like, 'Anna Emily Rowland.'"

First of all, I have no idea how they decided on these names. We have not really discussed naming the baby, especially not with the kids, nor have either of those been mentioned by anyone in our house in such a context (Micaiah's go-to toy name is Sally). Second, the spontaneous middle-name compromise of Emmett was an overall surprise - I would have never expected him to think of combining the two names. Third, I love how Micaiah presents her solution as though she had not just heard that two seconds before.

These children surprise us always.  We kind of like them.

30 September 2013

Of Showing Off

A little over a week ago our new five-year-old - a fact she will tell anyone and everyone with whom she comes into contact - "I'm five!" - ventured out for a sleepover with her doting aunt, a part of a birthday gift from said aunt.

With oversized backpack hanging from her shoulders, filled with all the precious things required for such an adventure (P.J.'s, hairbrush, storybook and dance clothes for the next morning), she bounced to Aunt Dayla's car, ready for an evening of pizza and girl time. 

She's so grown up.

She returned to us the following morning, post dance class, decked out in tights and leotard, sporting fancy new nails. Well, the finger nails weren't new, but the hot pink polish on the fingers and sparkly purple on the toes sure were.

And was this girl proud.

For the next 48 hours, at least, everyone she met was a new audience for her excitement.

"Look!" She would announce, proudly holding out her fancy fingers to anyone who may or may not listen - cashiers, the friendly custodian at church, the operator of the inflatable place, and countless others- "My Dayla did them!" (After the sleepover, Aunt Dayla officially moved away from her more formal title, or even the less formal "Dia" coined when this girl could barely form more than one syllable in a row, into the much more intimate "My Dayla." I think she's kind of loving it.)

And as this girl boldly and eagerly shared her news with all she met, it made me wonder.

Why is this not the way we show Christ to others?

When was the last time we initiated a conversation with a total stranger, let alone used the opening line of, "Look at what My Jesus has done for me!"

Let us move forward with faith like a child. He has created in us something beautiful - should we not be eager to let His handiwork shine?

16 September 2013

Of Dance Lessons

Micaiah began taking dance lessons last week. It was maybe an exciting moment for Mommy because I've always wanted my children to find something they love and have the opportunity to pursue it. And this girl loves to move to music.

We had chosen a program taught by dance students at a local university (some may not realize our town actually boasts two small religious-affiliated universities within its borders, but, in fact, we do). I had spent absolutely zero time in my past eleven years in this region (more than a decade! How is that even possible?!) on said university campus and felt like a freshman all over again as I roamed the small grounds attempting to find the one spot I was supposed to be.

Except I would be the only freshman toting an over-eager near-five-year-old in leotard and tights as I sought the one university student awake on a Saturday morning who might be able to actually help me find where we should be. It was not an easy task as my eyes combed the tree-laden grounds with not a human being in sight. We did finally prevail upon one lone baseball player on his way to breakfast (it would appear the sports players are the only ones alive at that hour) who attempted to aid our quest, but his directions ended us at a locked door.

Finally, after 10-15 minutes of searching (which is a long time when you're standing in a square of about four buildings and, thus, have limited options, really) and some questionable advice from a cafeteria worker who, apparently knows nothing about her workplace beyond the cash register or the tables of the dining hall (and who can blame her - it's not like she's ever needed to find her way to the fine arts building for ballet), and a few tears (the frustration of arriving early and being in the proximity of the desired location but having not a clue how to get there may have worn on Momma's stress level just a tad), we made our way to the right place, just in the nick of time.

In fact, Micaiah was the only student in her class for that first lesson, so I suppose we could have been as late as necessary - but you could not have convinced me of the fact as I desperately sought our destination.

Week Two was bound to be much better. I was toting two extra boys to entertain for that 45-minute span and this fact made me a little nervous, but at least we knew where we were going and that fact alone thrilled my sometimes-nervous soul.

On the way, as Emmett chattered about going to sissy's ballet (pronounced "buh-LAY") class, Micaiah asked me ever so sweetly, "Mommy, did you take ballet class?"

Thinking fondly upon my one year at the city hall in small town Nebraska, clad in tights and little pink ballet shoes, I responded, "When I was very little."

"Did Grandma know how to get there?"

I responded tentatively, unsure where we were headed, "Yes . . . "

"Well, maybe she should have taken me last time."

Thanks, daughter, I love you, too.

29 August 2013

Of Heeding God's Demands

Lately I've been feeling as though it's a difficult time just keeping my feet on the ground, or even as though life has any other purpose besides making it to the end of the day. I could easily blame it on the fact that I've been enduring yet another first trimester with three out-of-womb little ones scurrying underfoot. And, certainly, there is something to that excuse.

But I'd be lying if I blamed it all on the tiny critters over-running our home.

Truly, I've just been disconnected. From life, from my family and, most of all (and most importantly), from God.

I've been doing the basics - attending church (when we've been in town), pulling out the Bible once or twice a week to half-heartedly read a few verses or to get my "fix" so I'd feel better for just a little while. But it wasn't sustaining me, because I wasn't allowing it to. I was trying to get by on my own strength and this nausea, headache, trying-to-eat-right-for-the-baby-when-all-I-want-to-do-is-suck-down-all-the-gross-things-that-will-only-further-the-nausea-and-the-headaches time of my life was not giving me much strength with which to work.

Thus, when it was time to get back in the routine of Wednesday morning Bible Study with my favorite girls, I was very ready to have something specific to study that would encourage me to open the Word every day (because, let's be honest, I'm a rules-follower, and if someone gives me homework, I'm going to do it, because it would hurt my heart not to).

But I really wasn't prepared for Ms. Priscilla Shirer to go messing with my business on Day 1. I was ready for a soft intro before hitting the big guns. But that's just not her way.

We started Gideon's story before Gideon even enters the picture. To set the scene, she shows a little of life in his culture, but before that, even, she takes us back to Deuteronomy 7:1-2, where God is giving the Israelites specific instructions before they move to take their Promised Land - and the most basic of these instructions is that they are to wipe out EVERY people group in their way. It seems harsh, but God has His reasons. He knows that even a little of the enemy is enough to mess with their security and their future.

Fast forward to the beginning of Judges (1:21 and forward, to be exact), when we see the tribes of Israel flat out ignoring God. One after another, we visit the tribes in their new lands, still living with the Canaanites! They didn't wipe them out. Not even close. They're living side-by-side with the enemy. Now, in some territories, they forced the Canaanites into labor. So, of course, we can hear their justifications: "Everyone else is keeping them around. We can just cut them back a little; we'll make them work for us. We don't really need to cut them out altogether. That's just unnecessary - a little drastic, don't we agree?"

And at this point, I don't know about you, but I want to kick the Israelites (as we wanted back when they were whining in the desert and multiple other times in their history) - God told you to do something; so just do it! Don't you get it by now?!

Sigh. Some people.

Ms. Shirer goes on to summarize the effects of their disobedience to God's clear demands,

"Had Israel destroyed Canaan's inhabitants as instructed, the ungodly influence and infiltration of idolatry would have all but evaporated. Had there been no enemies left in their territory, the Israelites could have settled into the enjoyment of God's promised land instead of facing extended struggle and oppression from their neighbors."

Basically, life would have been amazing - as God intended it. But they thought they knew better. And they paid for it for the rest of history.

Stupid Israelites (pardon my frankness).

And then . . . THEN . . . Ms. Shirer has to go get all up in MY business: "Are you facing any battles today due to something you didn't destroy earlier?"

Wait, what?

I thought we were talking about the Israelites.  Those guys are annoying. They're the ones not listening to God. I'm just over here living my life. God doesn't want or need me to wipe out any people groups. Thank you.

But there was something.

There was something he asked me to give up a long time ago. Something that should have been a far easier task than committing genocide. But I didn't. I rationalized it: "Everyone else does it - so it's not like it's really bad, right? And, besides, I know it's taking up a lot of my time, but I can just cut back. I can make it work for me. We don't really need to cut this out altogether. That's just unnecessary - a little drastic."

So I kept it around. To comfort me when I wasn't feeling well, to distract me when I didn't feel like thinking about anything deep. And, more and more, I was turning to outside sources to fill my time, my mind, my heart, rather than filling up on the Word of God and finding my satisfaction in Him.

And hear me, what God was asking me to cut out was not something anyone else, had they heard me struggle over the instructions, would have said was a necessity to get rid of. It's nothing inherently bad, nothing the Bible condemns.

But God had asked me to cut it cleanly out of my life. And I had ignored Him. And my heart was feeling the infiltration from the Enemy. I had been disconnected from God.

So, this time I'm listening. I'm taking a lesson from those stupid Israelites, and I'm cutting this virus out.

Because when God speaks, we need to listen. #LessonsFromGideon

12 August 2013

Of More Milestones

Our home has reached a few milestones in just 24 hours.

The first occurred yesterday evening when we flushed Micaiah's first pet (well the first that belonged to just her). However, lest you be concerned for her overall emotional state, she still hasn't even realized poor Embien's demise. I thought, certainly, our little observant one would be sure to notice a gaping hole on her art table where once her colorful fish sat. But, no. She colored quite happily this morning with no mention of a missing fish. I'm thinking she'll handle the grieving process just fine when his death has finally been uncovered.

It's a sign of maturity (I'm sure). Besides, we ordered her Kindergarten curriculum this morning (she sure is growing up fast!), so, clearly, this big girl can handle saying good-bye to a floating creature to whom she rarely gave more than a passing glance (right?).

And we reached yet another milestone last night in the development of our newest member of the family. We reached the point in the pregnancy when Fred had to make his appearance. Fred is my candy-cane shaped body pillow which eases the transition for this belly-sleeper into the side-sleeping position when the belly starts getting in the way. I really thought I'd be able to last longer without Fred in my bed, but it turns out, just as I'm transitioning out of the first trimester, his time has come.

Philip is really a good sport about this giant interloper in our sleeping/cuddling space (though, let's be honest, I'm not much of a cuddler so Fred isn't much to blame in the lack of pre-sleep snuggle in our home), though as I hugged my sleeping buddy for the first time in over two years, my living/breathing partner had to grumpily declare, "Wipe that silly grin off your face!" Yeah, Fred definitely gets a lot more snuggles than my patient husband. But we all know who I really love, so it's alright.

After all, Fred doesn't change diapers or cook me dinner when the morning sickness settles in.

10 July 2013

Of the Sibling Connection

Gram and Grandy have spirited Micaiah away this week for some quality grand-daughter time (given they'll have quality grand-son time while she is adventuring in Ecuador later this month). They have spent an amazing amount of time tuckering that girl out on one excursion after another - I'm sure she won't even want to come home (I probably wouldn't).

Meanwhile, Philip and I have been doing our best to soak up every minute with these precious boys, particularly with the middle child who is currently enjoying the benefits of being the oldest at home. Thus, last night we took him, just him, on a special date with Mommy and Daddy while Joey enjoyed some quality Aunt Dia time.

We took the little guy first to the library, as we typically go on Tuesday mornings but tiny one slept until noon that morning (no, I'm not complaining about the glorious amount of sleep allotted to me with the early riser out of the house). Emmett was quite happy to meander the library, picking out movies and books and playing with trains. Of course, after selecting the trains to borrow, he went through his ritual of testing their size, a routine established after a particularly sad instance when his chosen vehicle could not pass through the tunnel on the train table. Ever since, that's the first place his trains go, just to be sure. Philip, who rarely gets the pleasure of accompanying us to the library, found this deliberate action quite humorous.

Finally, as we had a movie to head to, I suggested Emmett go put the sticker on his summer-reading-program calendar so he could pick out the prize he gets just for coming to the library every week. Philip was surprised, figuring we could squeeze out at least five more minutes before heading out. He doesn't know the process that is picking a prize out of that small bucket. In fact, because of this lengthy process, in which Emmett pulls out every possible toy in every possible color, with varying degrees of enthusiasm which suggests he might actually want a few of them, before putting them back and causing my head to droop with exasperation, we were still ten minutes late to the theater. What he finally walked out of the library with, proudly in his pocket, was an orange pencil sharpener in the shape of a puppy. Because the yellow and blue ones weren't good enough.

After the movie, which included indulging in too much popcorn and too much soda, we headed home to tell Aunt Dia all about his exciting adventures. And even though he had already headed to bed by the time we were talking to her, when he heard his sister's voice on the speakerphone in the living room, he rushed out to say hello.

"Do you want to tell her what you did today?" I encouraged him, knowing he saw the same movie she had seen with Gram a few weeks ago and thinking he might be excited to tell her. Instead, what came out in his slurred and halting three-year-old speech was,

"Caiah, I got a sharpener!"

Now, had this been an adult on the other end of the phone, I probably would have translated, considering they actually care about carrying on a conversation, but I knew it would take longer to explain the entire story to the four-year-old than was necessary for anyone. Besides, she just wanted off the phone, anyway, since she'd already told us all good-bye.

There was a long pause while she processed the sounds he'd made, which I'm sure were even less clear after traversing the airwaves. I waited for an, "Oh, ok" that would have come from any older listener that would indicate, "I have no idea what that meant, but I'll pretend" or even a, "What, Bubba?" because she hasn't yet learned the art of the polite pretending.

After the few moments of silence, what she finally responded with was, "Oh . . . did you get that at the library?"

Philip and I dropped our jaws in shock. She not only understood what he said, but actually followed the thought process back to its source?!

Clearly children truly do have their own language. Or maybe it's just the sibling connection.

Either way, these kids are great.

14 June 2013

Of Our Future Mommy

About a month or longer ago, during one of her infamous "I-don't-want-to-leave-wherever-we-are-because-wherever-we're-going-certainly-won't-be-as-much-fun" breakdowns, Micaiah declared, "I'm going to have a new Mommy and a new Daddy who won't let me go home and won't let me go to sleep!" Apparently she meant this as a threat - it really sounded to me like her new parents were sadistic, but whatever helps her sleep at night - or not.

Clearly, when she began to realize New Mommy and New Daddy weren't coming for her on their white horses, she changed tactics. Her new goal is simply making the world a better place for her own off-spring. This includes consoling herself about the fact that Joey did not come out a baby girl by declaring, "When I'm bigger, I will have a baby girl. When I'm a mommy." She is also already begging to buy baby clothes for this future daughter when we pass the racks at Wal-Mart. "Mommy, can we please buy this for my baby?!" "What baby?" "You know, the one I'm going to have when I'm a mommy."

What can I say? She's a planner (and I have no idea where she got that trait - certainly not from her parents who just got finished throwing together plans for celebrating their soon-to-be-three-year-old's birthday party the night before the festivities are to take place).

But more than settling with God just what these beloved children will look like or be named or even planning their wardrobes, she has already begun taking notes about how she will behave as a mother. Primarily by not doing what I do.

"My kids won't have to go to bed when I'm a mommy!"*

"When I'm a mommy, I won't give my children squash!" (yes, that's a direct quote, as are all of the above).

My feeling on these ground-breaking methods is, "When you're a mommy, I'll try my best not to judge your parenting choices so long as you stop judging mine."

Respect, that's all I gotta say, girl. Respect.

*I felt it crucial to document these declarations for the day when my grandchildren are sobbing over being sent to bed early for not eating their squash. Not that I'll be rubbing her nose in what she said as a four-year-old. I'm way too mature for that.

07 June 2013

Of a Morning at the Movies

A few years ago I started seeing advertisements on various money-saving blogs for a summer movie series that various theaters across the country do - one children's movie a week, during the day, at a wonderfully reduced rate. Yes, they're old releases, but who doesn't love watching a movie on the big screen? Of course, I've come to realize with small(-ish) town living that the terms "regional" or "select theaters" generally rule us out. And such has been the case since I first learned of this summery movie extravaganza.

Not so this year, my friends. Not so this year.

This year our town joins the ranks, screening various children's favorites for only $4 - sure it's not free as others do, but the price of admission includes popcorn, a drink and fruit snacks. You won't hear any complaining about that from our kids (especially since they're not paying for it).

As soon as I caught wind of the excitement to come, I loaded up my calendar - each and every Thursday morning screening is prominently labeled, so I'll know which days we need to be lining up at the ticket counter.

Yesterday was the first of these much-anticipated days.

I loaded up the kids - a little concerned about how Joey would do, but also recognizing I was going to a movie theater at 10am to watch an animated movie everyone probably already owned on DVD - I doubted a squawky toddler would receive much attention. I knew I'd have my hands full, but it's not like I'm completely clueless at this point when it comes to toting around three children under the age of five.

I've got this.

What I forgot to factor in was toting around three children under the age of five (one on my hip) and three kids' boxes filled with popcorn and soda cups to spring-loaded theater seats not equipped for the meager weight of pre-schoolers and the inability to take bathroom breaks with the above mentioned munchkins and their snacks.

Let's just say, I have quite a few mental notes of how to do it better next time. These include not handing Emmett his popcorn tray until he has figured out how not to get scrunched by the chair, not arriving early so as to cut down on the time needed to hold a 15-month-old's attention (well, and just plain hold him - especially when he's using all his squirmy might to escape to the floor) and not having to share my (aka the baby's) popcorn with older brother (which includes a side-note of making sure his doesn't get spilled) - because when the popcorn is gone, so is that fidgety baby boy.

All things considered, we all had a fairly enjoyable morning. Joey finally resolved himself to the fact that Mommy wasn't letting go (no matter how good the popcorn on the floor looked) and, thumb in his mouth, settled his tiny head on my arm. Emmett learned how to hold his seat in place and made sure to point out to me all the parts that were funny. Micaiah leaned over at one point, to snuggle with Momma, and had a great time laughing when the other kids laughed (even if she didn't always get the joke).

The kids and I agreed, a morning at the movies is definitely not a bad way to pass the summer time.

05 May 2013

Of the Glory Hole

A few weeks ago, I attended a retreat for the Baptist ladies of Oklahoma. It was a powerful time for many, including myself.

During our time there, they showed a video (which I had seen previously, thanks to a wonderful friend who had already shared on her blog how God had touched her through the same message - He sure does make beautiful things, regardless of the distance). The video likens the process of blowing glass, particularly the molding of previously broken pieces into a beautiful work of art, redeemed elegance they call it, to our lives in Christ - as pieces broken through the process of life, molded together into something more precious than we could have imagined.

As the artist described the process, he emphasized the name for the heating chamber into which the work-in-progress is placed - the Glory hole. And he says this, "You put a piece of glass inside that glory hole, I promise you this: it's going to change."

We never step away from His Glory unchanged.

What none of us knew as we watched that video in the auditorium on Saturday, speaking of the changing power of this extreme heat, was that before the week was over, we would all be put through the fire.

One week later, after tragedy coursed through our veins, spilled our tears, I found myself physically in a glass-blowing shop, remembering those words and realizing just how differently I was feeling them now.

And as I watched, these artisans took a firm, brittle, immutable stick of solid glass and put it into that Glory hole for one purpose. It wasn't to punish the glass, it was so they could transform it into something new, something use-able. What was once simple and straight and ordinary was shaped by their careful hands, arced into something of beauty and, still burning with the heat of the fire, was attached as the handle to a pitcher. The purpose-less became purposeful. The ordinary became indispensable. And in joining together through the heat, the pitcher and the handle became one - a beautiful, yet functional, piece of art.

What God spoke to me in that moment was this - we must go through the fire if He is going to change us for His purpose.

Where we are unbending, the fires of life make us moldable, they allow Him to shape us. Some of these fires are stoked by God Himself, others are brought on by the darkness of our fallen world, but God can always use the heat to form us, if we allow Him.

If we are to be used by Him, we must be molded by Him.

It is our choice - will we permit the fires of this life to melt us into an inglorious heap, or will we place ourselves into the hands of the master Craftsman, the only One Who can make us into something beautiful - His redeemed elegance?

29 April 2013

Of Loss

I have struggled with whether I should write this post, whether I have "the right." My husband and I both, as we grieve for a man with whom we can count the number of individual conversations we've had on one had, have struggled with the burden of a pain we feel unjustified in having. Not because we have not been impacted, but because we know there are those whose sorrow runs much deeper.

Yet, justified or not, there are two scenes running a constant loop in my mind. The first being the moment on Wednesday night, when I stood in the hall of our church and heard the words I would never have imagined in my entire life. From the tone of the voice in the question, "Have you heard?" I knew I was facing something serious. The name that came next flooded me with dread - not this, not one of ours - and the rest of the sentence, the means by which his life ended much too soon, were unthinkable. And though I stood strong at the time, painted on the face of ignorance for those who did not yet know and carried on, I have since fallen to my knees at reliving that one moment.

Almost immediately after, my brain brings to mind the image, for some reason, of his boots. The cowboy boots that were his Sunday best, peeking out under his jeans as he casually crossed his ankle over his knee in the second row of  our Sunday School class less than three days before. A semi-photographic memory clings to the strangest images at times and this is one of them. I see those crossed legs, the arm wrapped around the back of his wife's chair, his easy laugh as he shares his plans for the week. A week that was never finished.

And though I know our personal interaction had been limited, I also know we were family, in a way I would never have thought possible until I entered this Sunday School class - a class with whom we live our daily struggles and celebrate our joys, where the word "Unspoken" is rarely spoken and transparency is par for the course. We share our flaws, we praise the Lord for our successes. Though introverts like Philip and I are rarely known for actively participating in discussion, we are there. When we speak we are heard, but more often, we are listening. We know each and every person that has come to share life in our circle.

This "class" isn't confined to four walls or a certain time on Sunday mornings. We have traveled together from first years of marriage to first pregnancies, through losses and gains, joining together at that precious time in our lives when we are learning who we are, both as adults and, more importantly, as followers of Christ. Rarely are we all in one place at one time, but always our hearts are together.

So how could we lose one of our own? And how can we continue to rejoice with one another when this is where living life together has carried us? How can the overwhelming joy at his announcement at the class Christmas party over their coming blessing turn to such sorrow before we've even welcomed the baby into our arms?

And, most of all, how could anyone who hasn't met him even begin to understand what we have lost? We have lost a passion that ignites us, a motivating force to action when many of us only ask, "What can we do?", a contagious love for life and for people. All of this contained in the spirit of one person. One person who has left us.

This is how two people, who rarely spoke with such a man one-on-one, find ourselves grieving - tears on the floor, prayers lifted up, sorrow poured out - grieving. Because he was one of our own and his presence will always be felt.

22 April 2013

Of Taking Steps

I previously mentioned God has been gloriously messing up all my preconceived notions of what our life would be in just the past couple of weeks.

That may not be completely true. While I've only recently (like, very recently) realized just how drastically he is re-arranging my priorities and centering my focus back to Him, if I were going to be honest, I'd point you back another month or so to the starting point of my current inner revival, the point when I really wasn't feeling it, exactly, but I was taking a step of obedience anyway - and one step is all He needs.

It was back when a group from our church returned from a journey to the Holy Land, and my heart started to yearn.  My heart that has spent many months overseas, but has not stepped foot out of the midwest, let alone our country, in six years. I longed to go - anywhere. But just because I longed for it, didn't mean it was where I needed to be. Yet, as luck (wink wink) would have it, the very same morning, I noticed an announcement calling for all interested in mission trips for the year to attend an informational meeting.

I still didn't know if I was called to get on a plane, but I knew, without a doubt, God wanted me at that meeting.

So I took a step.

Despite his misgivings of whether we really needed to be there, my husband joined me while we received information about all the upcoming plans our church had for reaching the lost with the name of Jesus. And I tried, believe me I tried, to feel a calling. I tried to feel the nudge to go on a medical trip to Quito, Ecuador - we'd done it before and I definitely had the vernacular down for pharmaceutical translating. But my heart wasn't really in it this time. I thought it would be great to join a group going to Colorado - I mean, we have friends there and I'd really been wanting to go. But I wasn't really sure that was meant for us, either. In fact, if anything, the only trip that even vaguely stuck in my mind was a mission to visit orphans, and other children in need, in Ecuador. But I ignored that thought, because I don't work well with children and I have never felt inclined toward orphanage work. It's not my thing.

So I shoved it away.

The only clear thought I had was how neat it would be to take our children on one of these trips someday. But surely not now. Surely. They're too young, right? As our coordinator of missions continued his spiel, I meandered the "policies and procedures" just to put my mind at ease. Yet it's only stipulation was children under 16 must be accompanied by a parent.

"Are there any questions?"

"Yes, what's the minimum age for a trip like this?" That was the question burning in my mind. But everyone there knew my oldest child was only four. And clearly they would think me an idiot for even asking.

So I shoved it away.

And Philip and I later both agreed. Nothing stuck out to us. We weren't meant for an overseas mission at this time.

Yet, one week later, the thought bubbled again. What would it be like to take my pre-schooler to Ecuador? I pondered how I would entertain her on the plane, or a van, or all the boring lulls trips like these can have when there are scheduling issues or changes in plans. And for every "difficult-for-a-four-year-old" scenario I could drum up, a response immediately popped into my head.

And then He spoke it to me. What I would call my life verse, if I had ever been pushed to claim one, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:21) In that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I was hearing that voice. 

Dang it.

But I still didn't want to believe it. I needed someone to tell me I was wrong. I knew, surely, my husband would think me insane and that would the end of this crazy mental talk.

So I told him my thought. The one about packing up our four-year-old, taking her on a plane and flying to a city in the mountains of Ecuador. I assured him I knew he must think me crazy.

"Actually," he said, quietly, "I don't think you're crazy. I think it would actually be really good for her."


We knew, though, there was still one more step. Because surely someone at the church would see the insanity of even presenting such a thought for consideration. Surely there was a bylaw or something that would put an end to the nonsense. Surely. But deep down I knew. I knew my daughter and I were going to Quito in July.

And that night, when I spoke to the leader of this particular trip, her enthusiasm was genuine when she stated, "She would do so great! The kids we're working with are so much more willing to open up when they have a child their own age to play with."

And that's when the reality struck me. I was out of people to tell me no.

The only bridge left to cross was me turning in that application. It was me saying, "Yes, Lord, we will do this.  We will go."

So I took a step.

And this is how I find myself realizing my children can now pick out Ecuador on a map. They know what language is spoken (though their training in it is not quite the success story for which I'd hoped) and they know it'll take a long time on the plane to get there. Micaiah talks about going "on an adventure - like when we go to Ecuador" and Emmett will ask, "Is that Ecuador?" when looking at prayer cards.

My heart is overwhelmed with excitement at introducing my daughter to this South American culture which has so easily become a part of my own. I smile at the thought of her playing side-by-side with the children of Quito - playing house through the language barrier and begging to invite her friends home. And I feel humbled to think she will see Jesus at work, whether she grasps it all or not.

This trip is a life-changer. For both of us.

21 April 2013

Of a Natural Beauty

Just the other day, I pinned my hair up quickly before heading out the door. While hurrying to catch a glimpse of the back, just to be sure all was in place, I snatched an old compact, opened to view the reflection of my reflection and noticed the flesh-colored powder pressed in the bottom, suddenly remembering the feeling of swiping this material over the skin of my face.  It's been two years this month since I first stepped past that drawer, forever cutting the task from my daily routine.

I didn't realize, at the time, my simple motion of rebellion against the lies of my culture, the lies that God's beauty was not enough, would forever change how I saw myself.  

It was just a step.

And sometimes that's all it takes.

At the time I took that small step, made the small decision once a day to not open that drawer and defile my face, it was strange. I looked in the mirror and saw a girl not quite up to par. I didn't match the beautiful pictures I'd previously seen of myself. My lashes were too light, my pores too noticeable, my skin too marred by the past. I didn't feel this unpainted face was the best version of myself, it wasn't normal to be simply me.

Yet, this past week, as I recalled the sensation of powder on my skin, this is now what felt strange. It was almost unimaginable to consider picking up that compact to coat my face with a foreign substance again. It wasn't normal. The walking past of my drawer is no longer a conscious thought - it simply doesn't even register.

Two years later, I see beauty in the mirror - a beauty that comes from no effort of my own, a recognition of God's handiwork. My old way of life has gone and feels strange to myself.

And if He can do this on the outside, how much more can He do this on the inside. 

I long for the day when an angry word feels foreign on my tongue. The thought of lashing out will seem so abnormal. The drawers holding jealousy, bitterness and fear will remain closed as I march past, choosing, instead, the true beauty of a character of Christ.

Because there is beauty in there, a beauty I have too long ignored and covered over.  Lord, let the clothing of myself in your love be the most important part of my daily routine until it's not even a conscious thought, it will simply be me becoming who You have made me to be.

20 April 2013

Of My Plans

"In just the past two weeks, my view of what our future looks like has shifted completely.  God is messing with my life!" 

These are the words I spoke to my husband just a half hour ago. And it's so true and so beautiful all at the same time. I teased He was messing with it, when really what I'm seeing is a complete mess taking shape into something so potentially beautiful - potentially difficult, crazy and/or painful, yes, but the beauty in every work of God's hands is undeniable.

This weekend, as I learned of the process of glass-blowing and it's spiritual applications, I stepped back for a moment to realize all of what our eyes perceive as truly beautiful is born of difficulty. A rainbow arcs after the rain.  An Oklahoma sunset is most gorgeous when blazed across the cloudy remnants of a stormy day. A diamond is birthed from pressure, pearls from irritation. Glass and precious metals must endure the shaping and refining of intense flame.

The truest beauty comes after the truest difficulties of life.

Avoiding these trials will a) cause me to miss the exquisite nature of a life lived for Him while b) not guaranteeing safety. Because safety is never guaranteed, anywhere.

So, no guts no glory, right?  Is it not better to take the risk of following the Leader, when I know Who the leader is, seeking His glory, than to live my days to their bitter end on the sidelines - playing it safe and wondering why I'm still suffering the turmoil of a hollow life?

This is the place I find myself. Messed up, "planning" a life that is not what I would have planned. And I couldn't be more excited.

10 April 2013

Of Breaking My Heart

Last night, in one of my "I won't be able to sleep until I can stop thinking about this one inane thing" rampages, I found myself, in the darkness of midnight, snuggled under my covers, clicking link after link while my husband slumbered soundly beside me.  And after satiating one curiosity, I found another and another until I was here.

And then I couldn't stop.  As the night wore on and I knew I needed sleep, I could not tear myself away.

Photo after photo of real humans in the middle of real lives giving real answers to a guy on the street.

It struck me at one point, looking into the faces of these humans of New York, the vast majority of these individuals (based not on appearance, alone, but on sheer numbers and statistics) are living without hope.  They will continue to live their lives - whatever those may hold - and will meet their end without ever knowing Christ.

And for the first time in my life (which is a considerable fact, knowing I, myself, have been a "Christian" for the vast majority of that span), I felt a real, actual, true burden for the lost.  I felt sick to my stomach - literally  nauseated.

They're dying.  These real people.  With real lives and real answers.  Are dying.  Without hope.

How could I have ignored it this long?  How could I have traveled to another portion of our globe, multiple times, and not felt this?  I've shared my faith - quietly, hesitantly, barely - without the real, honest desire that the listener comprehend and embrace the message of HOPE, of LIFE.  I shared it because it was my task for the day - a day I hoped would end soon so it would be someone else's job.

How could that be?!

If I truly believe what I believe, how could I not be devastated at the thought of others not believing, knowing, hoping?

And, yet, it's how I have lived.  Every day of my nearly 29 years.

A common thread among these images of these real people in their real lives is the desire to be noticed.  Some go so far as to say it - to say they desire a presence in this bustling world, in a city so overflowing with humans you have to be almost crazy to be seen at all.

And yet they don't know.

El Roi.

The God who sees.

He sees them.  He sees you.  He sees me.  And He knows us all.  And He longs that we would know Him, too.

God, break my heart for what breaks yours.  Burden me for these without hope - in another city, in another country, on another street, in another house.  Down the block and across the sea.  Burden me.

28 March 2013

Of Bedtime Kisses

It was a night to remember.

Not for anything glamorous.

It was a spaghetti-stains-making night.  A snuggle on the couch watching our favorite 90's TV show night.  A giggling with dinner guests night.  An "I don't like green beans!" night.  A put the baby to bed early because he's just plain grumpy night.

And none of these by themselves would necessarily be memories in the making.

But when it all culminates with bedtime stories on Mommy and Daddy's bed, passing kisses from left to right and right to left - with that oldest boy pulling his daddy's head down by his hair so he can kiss it just right, right on the top.  And head kisses turned to elbow kisses and elbow kisses were shoulder kisses and shoulder kisses were cheek kisses.  Sloppy kisses, giggling kisses, don't-want-to-send-them-to-bed kisses.

And who would want to forget a night like that.

Because it's how the day ends that makes all the rest of it make sense.

1,000 Gifts:
1117.  All. of. it.

17 March 2013

Of a Child-Like Faith

In flipping through a board book recently, Micaiah did as she typically does, recalls what she remembers of the story and makes up the rest based on the pictures.  As I fluttered about doing various things, preparing to head out the door to meet someone, I heard her declare, "And then Jesus died on the cross."

Looking over, I noticed this particular book was one about Easter.  She had turned to the illustration of three crosses on a hill and knew their significance.  She continued, "Jesus died on the cross, because . . . I don't know why.  Mommy, why did Jesus die on the cross?"

I love the beautiful curiosity God built in children that can turn a board book into an opening for the gospel.  Recognizing this wasn't an issue to be glossed over and had infinite importance, especially when compared with a simple meeting, I stopped in my flurry and embraced the moment.

"Do you know how we sometimes disobey God?"


"And when we disobey God, we need to be punished, right?"


"Well, God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take our punishment for us."

"But Jesus is God."

And with the simplicity only a four-year-old can muster, she speaks the truth of a King.

"Yes, Jesus is God. God became a man so He could take our punishment."

Oh, how precious the beauty of Easter and the vastly important job we, as parents, have to impress this knowledge on our children.  Knowledge with which they will someday wrestle to make it their own, but now, at this very young age, they accept as truth, without question, because we have told them it is true.

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" - Matthew 18:1-4

Let us not waste these precious opportunities to speak Truth to our children, but let us also embrace this Truth as a child, ourselves.  Our faith is to worked out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), yes, but at a certain point we will have to acknowledge it as faith and faith alone - we must accept it as True, because our Father has told us it is True.  And He alone is trustworthy.

13 March 2013

Of His Thumbs Up

"Look, Emmett," I said, pointing to his tokens on the Sequence for Kids board, "if you play Camille the Camel here, you'll have how many?  See, one, two, three.  And then you can use your Unicorn to get this spot and you'll win."

He grinned.  And in a brief flash, I noticed his left thumb go up while his right eye, no joke, winked at me.

When did this kid get so fly?

12 March 2013

Of Facing their Fears

While most children would jump up and down (pun so entirely intended) at Mommy and Daddy's surprise of spending the morning leaping on inflatable mazes and slides (albeit, not quite as exciting as Paris or the zoo, which were Micaiah's guesses), our children tend to be a little more anxious than most.  

In Emmett's defense, Saturday morning's excursion was his first experience with a bouncy house, so some trepidation is understandable.  But when a kid only the day before announced, "Look, Mommy!  I'm standing on the moon!" while perched on the arm of the loveseat, and proceeded with, "I'm jumping on the moon!" while flailing himself on the cushions, one might reasonably assume he'd more thrilled to be able to perform such actions with permission this time.  Apparently one would be wrong.

His sister took some warming up, as well, but by the time she discovered new "friends" (some legit, from church, and some brand new to her, but everyone is always welcome), she was running through the maze with the best of them.

The slides were an issue, which was sad because it was a large part of the experience overall.  So, the second time I accompanied our daughter down, I pointed to the warning sticker at the top of the hill, indicating tandem sliding as a taboo.  "See," I told her, "You're supposed to go all by yourself."

"Yeah.  But let's go anyway."

That's my little rule-breaker.

After that, it was all about the law - only because it gave her leverage over her brother. 

"See, Bubba?  It says to go by yourself."

And that was all it took to convince the little guy we had to push and pull onto the inflatable in the first place (the one who had spent the majority of the past hour stepping gingerly toward a bounce-house before hurrying away before we could talk him into it) to declare, "I have to do it all by myself!"  And off he went, scurrying up the rubber-covered ladder/stairs to throw himself down the nearest slide (nevermind the fact he had never even been interested in the activity with accompaniment, let alone by himself).

Before we knew it, we had a sliding fool and a social butterfly scurrying hither and yon among the growing crowd.  

Oh, and their little brother? It was all we could do to keep that guy from climbing the ballooned sides himself from moment one. This little man knows no fear. "They don't want to play?" he seemed to say, "Don't worry, I've got this!"

Oh how different children can be.

05 March 2013

Of Saying Good-Bye

"Guys, come here, I need to talk to you."

Micaiah started inching her way toward me, a sly grin on her face.  She's right, usually when I bring her and her brothers close to talk to them I'm telling them about something exciting that's going to happen - we're leaving that afternoon to go to Nenaw & Papaw's, we're going to pick up the toys so we can paint, we're going to the store (it doesn't take much, when you're four or less, to garner excitement).  It broke my heart knowing how out of place her current grin of anticipation was.

"Annie won't be coming home."

It was the sad news I had hoped not to have to share when we found the lump in our cat's abdomen on Sunday.  I had hoped making them say good-bye to her yesterday, while she moaned in her cage just before being shuttled off to the vet, was just a silly precautionary measure - more like a, "Have fun at the doctor; we'll see you soon!" kind of good-bye.

But it wasn't so.

At first the pronouncement that Annie wouldn't be returning from the doctor was a little bit of a shock to the two older ones and I debated whether to leave it at just that.  These are the tough calls a Mommy has to make when Daddy is at work and real life is unfolding before us.  So I decided to push through and be honest (well, as honest as a four-year-old and a two-year-old need).

"She's very sick and she's going to die."

At this my tears broke forth, indicating to Micaiah this was the proper response.  Thus, imitating me, she, too, wept for Annie.

For about ten full seconds.

And then, through the sobs, "Mommy, maybe we can do an activity."

"What kind of activity, Baby?" Was her soul more sensitive than I had anticipated? Was she already planning some sort of memorial?  Or was it simply-

"You know, an activity from The Box?"  Yep, just as I suspected. "The Box" being a cardboard box in which I keep craft kits for she and her brother to do on occasion.  Nothing cat or funeral-related there.  Just a fun thing to do now that we're done crying.

"Okay, Baby, sure."

Apparently these kinds of things are just easier on the young.

To be fair, they did ask a few more questions intermittently as the morning progressed and I did overhear this sweet conversation:

Emmett: "Why is Annie going to die, Sissy?"
Micaiah [in her most sweet, heartfelt voice]: "Because she's sick. Sometimes people, and animals, get sick."
Emmett: "But they don't die."
Micaiah: "Sometimes they do."

I know we'll still be answering questions in the most unexpected moments, as kids are known to have, but for now I'm glad this early brush with death was slightly less traumatic than we'd feared.  If only I could promise them this would be the last time we'd ever have this conversation.

Sometimes life gets hard.  And sometimes it's even harder than that.

Here's to the girl who wore her heart on her fur.

1,000 Gifts:
1110. A chance to say good-bye
1111. Simple understandings of not-so-simple things
1112. Understanding care-takers
1113. The way Joey's head rests in my lap as he sucks his thumb, tired from playing 
1114. Singing lullabies
1115. Learning to play the piano as I teach her
1116. Listening to her read

28 February 2013

Of the Need to Cry

He's our "sensitive one", as we often put it.  The boy who cries for anything.

The boy who cries this morning because his portion of the cartoon-splattered newspaper pages has been ripped - torn nearly in two.  The boy whose low, forced wails only wear on my Momma ears.

"Emmett, please stop crying.  I know you're sad, but it will be ok."  I'm weary from it, the crying, the noise, the chatter.

"It's broken and so I need to cry!" comes his response.

And the truth of it echos.

It's broken, and thus we cry - because we need to.

This world around us, it is broken.  And, yet, do we cry?  Does the brokenness alone break our hearts?  Or are we de-sensitized? Does the chatter, the noise, deaden our ears to the pain?

Am I moved to tears when I see evidence of a child, a herd of children, the un-important ones, digging through garbage in Ethiopia? When I hear of daughters, sisters, being sold like cattle, only for a much more vile purpose, in places on the other side of the world - do these facts paralyze me in sadness?  Or are they just numbers? A fairy-tale of injustice? Someone else's life, someone else's problem?

Jesus wept.

Jesus weeps.

This world is broken and so He has to cry.

This world is broken and His people are unmoved. And He must cry.

Oh, Lord, break my heart over this broken world. And then show me where to move, to heal. To be part of the solution to someone else's problem.  The problem of humanity.

26 February 2013

Of Taking New Steps

On January 15 Joey took his first two steps while he and I played in the living room.  A little more than a month later, we finally pulled out the video camera to capture our new little toddler.  He still has trouble making it more than the distance from one couch to the other on his own two feet, but he sure does love to try.

This act of becoming a walker has truly shown us how independent our little guy is.  While we spent weeks trying to encourage him - standing the little man up and holding out our hands to him - he constantly plopped down on his rear to begin his crawl - every time.  I finally decided he has his whole life to walk, so he might as well take advantage of the hands and knees approach as long as his knees are still padded enough to handle it.  Because goodness knows that goes away all too quickly.

As with all things in life, it was at the moment of our surrender that he finally decided it was his time to shine.  Within days he began to toddle the four steps between Mommy and Daddy (as captured in the below video) all on his own and only days after that he now regularly pushes himself to his own two feet, taking the halting steps in whichever direction he chooses.  True, he still often gets over excited and quickly loses balance, and crawling his still his preferred method of transport, but let it be known our little guy can walk.

Which brings us to my big milestone - our youngest child can walk and I'm NOT currently incubating another.  Such a big step for us all!

(Note: My favorite thing about this video, other than the evidence of his newest ability, is how encouraging his wonderful siblings are. These kids are my greatest gift.)

1,000 Steps:
1101. What once was a curse now is a blessing
1102. A sign I was made for this
1103. First (and second and third) steps
1104. Giving away and still having plenty to give
1105. Quiet times with kids
1106. Her enjoying the music
1107. A little boy offering to help (and doing it well)
1108. Fat flakes in our hair as we get groceries
1109. Grocery shopping with one kid at a time

15 February 2013

Of Asking the Question

As an early teen, I became swept up, as did many others, in the movement among our Christian culture motivating all of us to spread out into the world sporting our many-colored woven bracelets with four bold letters stamped across them: "WWJD?"  Yes, I did.  I had the bracelets.  I had t-shirts, necklaces, keychains.  I, along with many others, felt the daily reminders would keep me in line, following in the footsteps of my Savior.

The funny thing is, only today, two decades after the phrase was coined, do I feel I truly understand what those letters actually meant.  

I asked myself, "What would Jesus do?" as an external motivator.  As if Jesus were just a good standard to live up to.  Jesus did good, therefore I, too, should do good.  It logically follows, then, if I ask myself the question and live by its answer, I will be doing good.

The end.

Yet, is that all He is to me?  A good moral leader?  One whose example is to be admired and followed, as best I can, or is comfortable for me?  Someone whose name adorns my wrist, clothing and other personal effects so they may speak where my words constantly fail to proclaim Him directly?

Of course, we realized long ago that a token bracelet was not the key to living this Christian life and, as with all fads, the movement died down and we went back to our daily lives - living them just the way we'd want to, because the question simply became too bland, too common-place, lost in the shuffle.

How is it I have only just now discovered what it means to ask, "What would Jesus do?" not because I want to be like Him, but because, as one baptized in His name, He is truly to be living through me.  The question, then, is not, "What should I do so I can be like Jesus?" but "What should I do as one through whom Jesus is actually living?"  It's a daily putting aside of my own desires and recognizing, He is in me - therefore my reaction is to be His.  My caring for others is to be His caring for others.  My body is to be daily living out His actions.  I am not my own.  I am His.  What, then, if I were truly giving myself over to Him, would I be doing?  What would He be doing through me?

15 years ago, it was my striving to fulfill that question to the best of my ability.  Today it is my allowing Jesus to answer it through me, to the best of His infinite ability.

So I'm asking myself the question again today.  What will I allow Him to accomplish in me and through me?  What would Jesus do?  What will He do?

1097. Dead flowers that still speak, "I love you."
1098. The comfort of a compassionate daughter, "Don't cry, Mommy, don't cry."
1099. First world problems in perspective
1100. A decision that my life is over; His must begin

12 February 2013

Of Our Penguin's First Year

Joey completed his first year of life at 7:59 this morning.  As of 8am we have a one-year-old in this house again.

A fact that makes me smile is that, for a brief time in the middle of this celebratory day, it was snowing, much like it did the day he was born - and if you know Oklahoma winters (particularly these past two), you'll know having snow on the exact same day two years in a row (especially when they represent only half of the occasions it has snowed in our area over the entirety these two years), you'll know it's a downright miracle.  I like to think it's due to the nickname his sister gave him before he was born.  Because a Penguin needs his snow.

At this point in his life, he is already a talker - his most common words are "ball" (definitely his favorite toy), "thank you," and "bye-bye" (though some of us swear we heard him say, "Hi, Aunt Dayla" just the other day).  He doesn't walk yet, but he sure can cruise along any object, toddle while holding a hand and take his own steps while pushing an object.  The only thing standing between him and full-out running is a lack of confidence in his ability to balance himself.

He loves to climb.  Of all our children, he is the climbing-est.  He can tackle a full set of stairs with no reservations (despite the cries of his parents who are slightly more aware of his inability to successfully descend those same steps).  He regularly climbs the step-stool in front of the toy kitchen to tinker in the plastic sink.  He has taken his fair share of tumbles from this same stool, resulting, already, in many bruises and one teeth-cut lip, but he is determined and tough - one spill (or two or three) will not keep him from doing what he loves.  Likewise with discipline.  A swatted hand is a small price to pay for playing with those buttons (whether on the phone or any remote he can get in his hands), a cost he most willingly pays over and over again.  Persistence and perseverance are his defining attributes.

Cooking for Momma

While typically rather serious and slow to show anything other than a blank stare to someone new, he can be such a little ham - he loves the camera.  Most children stop what they're doing when the camera is pulled out, and so does this guy, but only to grin as wide as he can, showing off his only four teeth, declaring, "Eeee!"

Cheesing for the camera while riding Horsey Gram

He is most happy when he is involved with others.  He enjoys being around his brother and sister most - they bring the giggles (and, yes, the tears) out of this otherwise-rather-stoic little man - and he regularly chases them from room to room just to be with them (he also clambers onto Sissy's bed quite eagerly whenever possible - but this might have more to do with his love of climbing).

Sharing the giant cardboard box with Emmett

He is also quite helpful, putting things away when asked (well, about half the time) and even helped Mommy with the laundry for the first time yesterday (well, other than just scattering previously-folded clothing) - first taking things from the dryer to put them in the basket and then hugging the small items of clothing she gave him to toss into the dryer.  He was quite happy to help.

All of these developments in just one year - we can only imagine what his vast future holds.

1,000 Gifts:
1093. A year full of life
1094. Fluffy white flakes falling to the earth
1095. Offering a listening ear
1096. A weekend with the grandparents

09 February 2013

Of 52 Weeks

52 weeks ago tonight, I was headed to bed, a little sad and a little anxious.

This baby inside me had been due nine days before and, what concerned me most was the idea that the closer I got to Thursday without a baby meant the closer I came to facing an induction - the one thing I had wanted so badly to avoid with this baby.  A Pitocin-free birth in the comfort of my home is what I had looked forward to since before this little being was even formed in my womb.

Going to bed that Saturday night without a baby in my arms meant waking up that Sunday morning to another crowd of friendly, sympathetic faces, with their looks of pity and surprise upon seeing my continually swelling belly.  Another round of, "No, still no baby, yet!" with a false smile to hide the growing frustration.

What I was not expecting was to be sending my two oldest children to church the following morning as I snuggled my fresh-from-the-womb son in those very arms I had so lamented for being empty the night before.

I had not expected the early morning pains, the ones that made my toes curl and my words stop.  The ones that were so sporadically spaced I could not determine if the call to the midwife should be made or if I needed to hold off.  I had not anticipated the hour of longing to push while forcing myself to wait, trusting I could do all things through the strength of my Savior, knowing my panicked, yet re-assuring, husband was not at all ready to welcome a tiny life to this world on his own.

I hadn't even considered I might be pushing this baby into the waiting arms of an assistant I had met only once or twice before, whose baby-delivering skills were the most valuable asset in that room.  Or that the midwife would be walking into a room newly calmed from the preceding chaos and a baby boy only five minutes old.

All before the other children even woke up.

I didn't know I wouldn't be the one dressing them up in their pre-Valentine's best or ushering them out the door.

More than anything else, I had no idea how my heart could swell to love another human being with the same intensity I felt for those other two who had previously passed from my womb.

Oh how pregnant with anticipation and surprise was that one Saturday night.

Fifty-two weeks ago.

1,000 Gifts:
1087. A not-even-one-year-old face smiling, "Cheese!"
1088. Birthday cake
1089. Siblings, bringing gifts to their brother, eager to help
1090. A birthday celebration covered with the love of family
1091. Precious conversations with my little ones.
1092. A precocious exclamation: "I feel like a woman hurting everywhere!" 

07 February 2013

Of Sweet Conversations

[While his sister colors at the table]:
Emmett: "Mommy, can I color?"
Me: "Yes."
Emmett [not hearing me]: "Can I color?  Can I color?  Can I color?  Can I color?"
Micaiah: "Emmett!  If she doesn't answer, it just means 'yes'!"
I do not recall implementing that rule.

[Talking about the Science Museum]:
Me: "Well, baby, I don't know if we can go back to the one in Oklahoma soon, because that one costs money."
Micaiah: "Daddy has money."
Me: "This is true."
Emmett: "Mommy has money!"
Micaiah: "No, Mommy doesn't have money.  Mommy only has cards!"
Let it be known, Mommy actually uses cash much more frequently than plastic, but I do most of my grocery shopping solo, so apparently she does not know this fact.

[Talking about our neighbors' beautiful baby girl, Micaiah was sad over the fact she still has no sister]:
Micaiah: "I wanted a baby girl."
Emmett: "When you get bigger and be a Momma, you can have a baby girl!"
Micaiah: "Not if God gives me a boy; and I don't have anyone to be my husband."
Emmett: "I'll be your husband!"
Micaiah: "No, Momma says you can't be my husband; you can only be the uncle!"
Love how encouraging he is.

[While discussing why she no longer plays with her imaginary dog, Bolt, and, instead, prefers the imaginary cat, Mittens]
Micaiah: "Mommy, I changed my mind.  I like cats better than puppies.  I still like puppies, but I just like cats."
At least, in the case she doesn't find a husband, she has a future as the cat lady.

[While getting ready for bed]:
Emmett: "I can't put on my pajamas!"
Me: "Does Mommy help you put on your pajamas?"
Emmett: "No!"
Me: "Well, if you can't do it, and Mommy doesn't help you, how do your pajamas get on you?  Is it magic?"
Micaiah: "God does it!  God is the Magic Man."
Me: "God is the Magic Man?"
Micaiah: "Yeah, He is so powerful He can tell the waves, 'Stop!' and they do."
She speaks truth.

1,000 Gifts:
1080. Truth from the mouths of Babes
1081. He's not yet one and already climbing up the stool to play at the kitchen
1082. All three of them, snuggled up for story time
1083. Wizard of Oz, for the first time
1084. Family Time at Wal-Mart
1085. Game time with my man
1086. OETA Movie Club

31 January 2013

Of Stuff My Daughter Says

"Hugantis" [pronounced "huge-antis"] - It's her new word for something extremely large (to her) - it's the next "ginormous." You heard it hear first.

[On why Emmett should wear his new-to-him leather bomber jacket]: "It's a man's jacket.  It's a rock-and-roll jacket!" - Where does she learn these things?!

"When Joey grows up, he's going to be strong like a girl!" - You go, girl!

[After I asked if it's nice to be home playing with her own toys, after all our travels]: "Yeah, but I like when we go on adventures, too."  "Adventures?"  "Yeah, like when we go see other people . . . and when we go to Paris . . ." - Note, this has not happened yet, but she has been convinced, since she learned that's where her Great Aunt and Uncle live, we will be visiting Paris when she turns six.  She has no idea where that is or why anyone else would want to visit, except to visit Uncle Gary and Aunt Becky.  

"When I was getting eaten by a dinosaur, a snake came out, because the dinosaur ate it, too.  And it was scary and I said, 'Stop, you snake!' [insert Heisman pose here].  And then we played together inside the dinosaur.  And we lived happily ever after." - Mark my words, this girl will be a writer someday.

Every day is a new adventure with this one.

1,000 Gifts:
1074. Late-night girl talk
1075. Getting our Vitamin D the natural way
1076. Fistfuls of cat fur (still attached to the cat), and a patient feline
1077. Friendship, new and old
1078. Long awaited prayers answered
1079. Newborn babies