Thursday, August 30, 2007

I AM -- Just In Time

I was reading the I AM study about how God intentionally places us where He wants us to be, and that we need to be responsive to the Holy Spirit so that we can be used. All I kept thinking about was a life-changing experience that I had as a young adult. This event was pre-children and pre-marriage. In a way, I gauge milestones (at least in my mind) by their relationship in time to this experience. Was it before or after?

I have forgotten so much since then, although I think some of that is a defense mechanism. But the most important thing about my story is how God worked out His plan in me, so here it goes...

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with cancer. More specifically, Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin's Lymphoma, stage IIA.

I was attending Texas A&M University (whoop!), and it was the fall of my sophomore year. I was a microbiology major, so as you can imagine, I had a backpack crammed full of ridiculously over sized textbooks that I had to haul across campus from class to class. One evening as I was studying in my dorm room, I was rubbing my neck in an attempt to relieve some of the tension caused by all that weight and I stopped mid-rub. There was a mass of lymph nodes in my left neck. I can still remember the sensation under my fingertips as I tried to make sense of what I was feeling.

Looking back, I was abnormally sick that semester. I had never had the flu until that fall, and I was just not myself but I chalked it up to stress and college. I went to the campus quack shack where I was diagnosed with mono and sent back to my dorm with antibiotics.

I don't remember calling Mama and Daddy about the lumps in my neck, or the original appointment with my PCP, but I do remember the trip home for Christmas break knowing that my doctor had recommended a biopsy. It all seemed very surreal until I stepped inside my parent's house, decorated floor to ceiling with all of the familiar Christmas decorations and saw Mama. For the first (and next to last) time, I completely lost it. I sobbed on Mama's shoulder out of fear and the prospect of a completely unknown future.

I spent the days before the biopsy researching what might be causing my illness. Back in 1991, the internet was not at my fingertips, so I scoured our encyclopedias and health books. I had more or less self diagnosed myself with Hodgkin's, and remember reading that surgeons could often tell if it was Hodgkin's by the way the biopsied lymph node looked.

I went in for the biopsy on December 23rd, and remember waking up while being moved from the surgery table to the stretcher and asking the doctor if it was Hodgkin's, and then promptly falling back asleep. We spent our Christmas in Louisiana with family, and I vacillated between enjoying the extra attention, and being annoyed that there was a reason I was being coddled.

On New Year's Eve we received the call from the surgeon: the node was positive for lymphoma and I needed to make an appointment with an oncologist for treatment options. Actually, my mom received the call, and she drove over to Uncle Tellius' house to tell me. I am ashamed to admit that I was so determined to act as though it was no big deal that I was quite brusque with Mama and wouldn't allow myself to be hugged or comforted. Now that I am a mother, I can see that she needed to hold me and feel that I was still there. She needed comfort too.

So, it was decided that I would not return to A&M in the spring. Instead, I would have a staging laparotomy and splenectomy and spend my time receiving radiation treatment. So, a month to the day after my biopsy, I found myself on the oncology ward of the hospital recovering from surgery. I had an incision from mid-sternum to about 3 inches below my naval, and it was a horrific recovery. Remember I mentioned earlier that when I broke down in Mama's arms it was the next to last time I lost it? This was the last time.

I had been extubated, and had been receiving excruciating breathing treatments so prevent me from getting pneumonia (a possible death sentence to the spleenless) but I still wasn't being allowed anything to drink. I had reached my breaking point and I found myself in Mama's arms again, repeating over and over again that I was doing everything they asked and not complaining so why couldn't I have some water?

But, time passed and I slowly healed. I had 55 staples holding me together and when I was strong enough, I was taken down to the Radiation Oncology department to start the planning for my treatment. I had to lay on my recently opened stomach for about 45 minutes (and hold still) as they took films and drew on my skin. I can't even begin to describe the pain, although I am grateful for it now because it gives me a true sense of empathy for my own patients.

Anyway, after a series of admissions to the hospital for post-op infections and complications, I finally started my radiation to the neck, chest and abdomen. I had lost over 20 lbs in a matter of 2 weeks and I was skin and bones, but secretly excited that I was thin. (Forgive me, I was in college!) The radiation was a breeze compared to the surgery and I actually enjoyed the drive to Houston every day. For the first time ever, I had nothing to do. No school, no job; just getting better. Driving to my treatments got me out of the house for a few hours.

As my treatment came to a close, I begin to look to the future. Hodgkin's is very curable in it's early stages, and I needed to start thinking about going back to school and getting on with my life. As the realization that I was really going to get through this sank in I started feeling that I needed to somehow repay all of the kindness that had been shown to me. Not just a thank you card and a cake, but something life changing.

I realized that God puts us in the middle of difficult circumstances in order to prune us and to point us in the right direction. I wasn't meant to be a microbiologist....I was meant to serve God by healing other cancer patients. I asked my therapists for information about school and they procured a package of information from MD Anderson about their radiation therapy program. I applied and was accepted for the fall.

I was so excited about therapy school and couldn't wait for the summer to be over so I could begin the training that would allow me to do what I knew God had planned for me. I begin my classwork and clinical rotations and was more sure than ever that this was the right thing for me to be doing. I loved working with cancer patients and I loved the technical aspect of my job. At the risk of sounding conceited, I was good at it too. Everything came naturally to me and I excelled in my coursework.

Then around October, I began having night sweats. Soaking, drenching, (scary) have to get up and change my clothes night sweats. I was horrified, because this was one of the symptoms of Hodgkin's. With my original diagnosis, I had no classic symptoms of the disease (night sweats, unexplained weight loss, itching). I didn't tell anyone for a good while, because I was hoping that it would just go away. I soon realized that ignoring it wasn't going to work and I finally went to my oncologist for more bone marrow aspirations, CAT scans, bone scans and blood work.

She could not find any obvious disease that would be causing my symptoms, so she referred me to MD Anderson for additional testing. They immediately found a positive lymph node in my pelvis, and recommended chemotherapy for the recurrence. I was devastated. I went to the director of the therapy program with every intention of resigning from the program until my treatment was complete, but he encouraged me to stay in school so I did.

In January of 1993, the week after my 21st birthday I started chemo. By February I had lost all of my hair and decided that I just didn't care and walked around bald. Oh, the impetuousness of youth! I would never in a million years do that now, but I was working in an environment that catered to bald women carrying chemo bags, so I fit right in! I took chemo for 7 months and it was hard.

Hard to get up in the morning and go to class and clinic. Hard to force myself to take the horrid little pills at home, and to drink all of the water I was supposed to. (I couldn't drink bottled water for years after) Hard to watch the chemicals slowly dripping out of the bag into my veins, knowing that I would be throwing up soon, and then unable to eat for days because of the sores in my mouth and throat. Hard to watch all of my friends live normal lives while I was labeled "sick" and "weak". There were so many things that were hard about that time in my life, but the one thing that never changed was my conviction that God had a purpose for me.

Because of that knowledge and conviction, I made it through school, graduated in 1994 and was hired on at Anderson as a therapist. I have spent the years since ministering to my patients through kindness, empathy, and prayer. I love my job. I love it more knowing that God intended it for me. I love it that God has specifically put so many people in my path because He knew that I would be able to comfort them in a way that no one except a cancer survivor can.

So, there is my story. It's not would take too long to record all of the stories and memories associated with those 2 years, but this will suffice. When I let myself get discouraged, I just remind myself that God is in control and that He knows what He is doing. Even when it hurts. Even when we are being pruned for better fruit. Even when it feels as though we've been abandoned, He is achieving His purpose through us. We are always where God intends us to be, we just have to listen to what He is saying and then say, "Yes, Lord. Use me!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Psalm 91 Woman Conference

I am so excited! My fabulous sister-in-law invited me to attend a women's conference with her in October. Noel Piper will be leading it, and she will be speaking on the "Psalm 91 Woman". If you live in the DC area and are interested in attending click here. It will be held at Patrick and Ronna's church, Capitol Hill Baptist. I can hardly wait to fellowship specifically with Ronna and generally with so many other Christian women.

As an added bonus, Trevor and I had enough frequent flyer miles to get 2 plane tickets, so he will be spending the weekend with Patrick so we will both get a little vacation from the craziness that is our life! I am so blessed to be married to a man who loves my family and who enjoys spending time with my brother. I am equally blessed to have a sister-in-law who I love dearly!

If you are interested in attending the conference, I think the registration is closed to the general public until September the 2nd. The church wanted to give their members a chance to sign up before they opened it up to everyone. If you are able to attend, I would love to hear from you so we can actually meet in person! I feel like I know so many of you through our blogs and it would be really cool to meet you face to face and spend some time praising God together.

I am also excited about starting the "I AM" online bible study from The Preacher's Wife today. I just read the first lesson and I am trying to formulate the answers to the questions so that I can begin posting. Thanks to Faraja who got me interested in this study to begin with!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Test Failed....Lesson Learned

I'm pretty sure I failed a test yesterday. Flunked. Bombed. F.

Nathan's first day of 1st grade was yesterday, and I drove him to school and walked him to the classroom. As I left him at his big-boy desk filled with books, I reminded him that he was to ride bus #7 to Miss Heather's house (our sitter) after school and that I would see him at home.

Fast forward to 4:00pm.

Nathan's bus still had not arrived at Heather's house, but I was not overly alarmed because it was the first day of school and things were bound to run a little slow. It was also raining cats and dogs, and that always slows things down.

4:17 bus.

4:32 pm....still no bus.

I was started to get a little frantic as it was Nathan's first time ever to ride the bus, and even after repeated calls to the bus barn, I could not get a person on the line. I called Heather for updates several times, but the answer was the same.

Then at 5:01 pm Heather called me and the words she spoke made my insides turn to liquid and my heart stop beating.

"He's not on the bus."

"Oh God!! Please let him be okay! Please protect him and let him be okay!!!!" I had visions of abductions, police at the house, and search teams in the fields around our town.

As we were speaking, Trevor pulled up in her driveway, and I let her go so she could fill him in on the details. I was on the way home, sitting in traffic (if they knew how desperately I needed to get home, they would have parted like the Red Sea!) waiting for a call from Trevor. I gave him approximately 3.28 minutes, and when my phone did not ring, I called him.

I asked him what was going on, and he responded with some inane comment about how hard it was raining.


I (rather rudely) interrupted with, "I don't care about the weather!! WHERE IS NATHAN??!!" Trevor was on his way home to see if Nathan had been dropped off there, which is what the driver of bus #7 had told Heather. Apparently, Nathan had gotten on the correct bus, but then through a series of misunderstandings was taken off and put on bus #29 (which goes to our empty house).

So, when Trevor discovered that Nathan was not home, he went back to Heather's to see if he had turned up there. This entire time we were unable to get in touch with the bus barn, but that is a story for another day. I was still on the phone with Trevor when he pulled up to Heather's house, and he said that Nathan was not there.

"Wait....there he is", were the sweetest words my husband has ever uttered to me. I calmly said "Thank you God!" and told Trevor good-bye. Then I promptly pulled over into the nearest parking lot and burst into tears. Tears of relief and joy that I had not lost my baby.

As soon as I recovered, I got back on the road home. I was still crying, but not so badly that I couldn't see the road. I wish I could say that I handled the situation calmly and with the knowledge that God was in control and that I could handle anything because of that knowledge.

Nope. I was a raving lunatic on the inside and my prayers were not prayers for calmness and peace, or even for grace to get me through whatever might happen. They were hastily thrown together words flung at the heavens in fear and confusion. When I should have leaned on God and let His peace and mercy wash over me and control my reactions, I could only scream in the most primal way to NOT TAKE MY SON FROM ME!

I know what the scripture says about worrying and about placing our trust completely in God, even in times of trouble. I don't usually have a problem with this when the situation is normal crazy, if you know what I mean. People who are sick, schedules bearing down on me, difficult times in my marriage, the death of loved ones, etc, etc. Those situations are built for praying and opening myself up to God's guidance and grace...I have the time to think about God's sovereignty and how I should respond as a Christian.

But in an emergency.....that's an entirely different story. I felt so ashamed after it was all over that I had not immediately stopped and prayed, praising God for being in control. I discovered that it's easy to teach Sunday School and bible study and point out these basic truths to others, with a whole fistful of scripture to back it up. It is an entirely different thing to practice it first hand when you feel like your entire world has imploded, leaving you gasping for air in the sudden vacuum.

Maybe that is the lesson I was supposed to glean from this experience. Although I failed to turn to God with complete faith and trust this time, my prayer and desire is that I will respond rightly next time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The First Day of School

1st Day of School

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Marriage Monday--How We Met

I have been dismally lax about participating in the Marriage Monday challenge, although I have been very energetic about reading everyone else's posts!

This week's topic is how we met our husbands and what drew me to him. I am going to follow Melissa's lead and direct you here to read our story. I wrote it around the time of our 10th anniversary, and the best part of the post was the comment that Trevor left for me. I literally cried when I saw it, and anyone who knows me would tell you that I am not a crier.

To see how other women met their husbands, visit Christine at Fruit in Season.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Blessings of Family

I love coming home from a trip. The whole enchilada, if you will. I love unpacking the suitcase and seeing our clothes neatly hung in straight rows or placed in careful piles in the drawers. As much as I dislike doing laundry, there is something gratifying about pulling the clean clothes out of the dryer and feeling the finality that all physical remnants of the trip are washed away. I love sleeping in my own bed with the familiar weight of my quilt and the comforting nighttime sounds associated with our house. Each load of laundry and rustle of the quilt whispers, "We're home, we're home!"

Having said that, we had a wonderful time with my family this past week. I can't remember the last time we able to stay for longer than a long weekend, and the extra days were such a blessing.

If you have seen the photo show from my post Friday, then some of what I blog about will seem familiar because you will have a photo to go along with the story. We left our house at 5 am Saturday, and arrived at Mama and Daddy's house around 10 am. I was amazed at how much Benjamin (my nephew, aka BB) had grown since January!! He was walking (running) around the house and is probably the most obedient child I have ever seen.

Patrick and Ronna approach discipline and correction from a biblical standpoint, and the results are astounding. I am sorry to say that Trevor and I used more secular, mainstream methods with Nathan and Grace until about a year and a half ago when we really started to understand what it meant to raise our children in a biblical way. It's amazing the way a child responds to authority (all authority and not just mom and dad), and to direction when they are taught biblical obedience from the very beginning.

Benjamin has moments like any other almost 2 year old, but the vast majority of the time he is happy, engaging and obedient. Any adult can ask him to "give" whatever he is holding, and he will immediately hand it to them. He responds to verbal instruction immediately, and he is one of the happiest babies I have ever come across.

When BB is asked, "Who loves Xanzie (or Nannie, or Daddy, etc)?" he thrusts his little hand in the air as though he is answering a question in class and yells, "I do!!" It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen and I wish that I had been able to capture it on film.

We spent most of our time lounging around and catching up with one another. The first night, Patrick, Ronna, Trevor and I stayed up until almost midnight discussing and debating theology. This is one of the main reasons that I enjoy my time so much with them...all the questions that I have had about my bible studies and personal reading that I have not been able to find satisfactory answers to, are fodder for discussion and teaching. I know that if I am having an issue with some area of my spiritual life, Patrick and Ronna are willing and able to help me discern the truth and to pray for me. Having a Christian family is quite possibly one the greatest blessings in this life.

The trip was filled with activity: Trevor and Patrick built a potting bench for my grandmother, Ronna and I worked on pages for a scrapbook that contained pictures of our family in Louisiana for BB, so that he would not forget us (they live in DC), and of course all of the cooking that went on. There is always cooking when we go home. I made chicken and dumplings one evening and a pork loin the next. Mix in the baking of cookies and cakes, and you have my mom's kitchen.

I was finally ready to go out the my uncle's house this trip. He passed away in January, and I have been home several times, but physically unable to go out to his house to see my aunt and cousin. It's not just the's the property. It belonged to my great-grandfather and I have been going there my entire life. We climbed trees, played in the garden and had family reunions at Christmas. It seems as though my history as a human being is somehow tied up in that the very cradle of my existence. I don't really know how to express such a feeling in words, but suffice it to say that I have had a serious issue with going back since Uncle Tellius' death.

When we turned down the road, I cried a few preemptive tears but when the house and property came into view, it looked just the same as it always had. I don't know why I was surprised by the normalcy of it all...maybe I was expecting it to look different because it felt different. But when I went inside, it looked just as it always had minus the greeting of "Hey baby!" from Uncle Tellius. I never realized until that moment how much that simple greeting made the experience of visiting them complete.

So, we are home and have just enough time to catch our breath before school starts Monday and our schedules change again. I laughed out loud at Karen's post about the first day of school and I too embrace the change in the fall. I am not a SAHM, but the kids are just more "into" things during the summer, and school brings with it a sense of calm that is not present during high summer! I look forward to the coming evenings at the kitchen table with Nathan, helping him with his homework and being a part of his educational growth.
Gracie in the pool!
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Few of My Favorites

Here are few of my favorite pictures from our trip. There will be more to follow, but I wanted to get something up today...
We told Gracie to give her cousin Benjamin a hug, and this was the first attempt. I'm glad I caught the expression because it was priceless!

We must have taken 50 shots between us to get one good picture of the 3 cousins together...

That's right. This is my daughter being hurled 8 feet in the air by her Uncle Patrick. It was her first time in a regular swimming pool, and the child was fearless!!!

Book Meme

I want to blog all about my vacation, but we have Meet the Teacher night for Nathan later this evening and we just got home from our trip. I saw this meme on Karen's blog and thought it would be fun to participate. If you want to do it, send me a link so I can read your responses!

What are you reading right now? The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve, Elizabeth I by Jasper Ridley and (always) my Bible, specifically the book of Ephesians. I usually have 2-3 books going at one at work, one by the bed and one in the living room.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that? I have an entire stack of books that I bought at a recent garage sale for 25 cents-$1 apiece....everything from Steinbeck to Anna Quindlin. I still haven't decided where to start!

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now? Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics (can you guess who does most of the reading in our bathroom?)

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read? A Tale of Two Cities....the one and only book that I ever purchased Cliff Notes for.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? If it's a woman, The Southern Belle Primer (one of the funniest books I've ever read), but I would recommend the Harry Potter series to anyone. What I recommend really depends on the person I'm talking to. I enjoy a huge range of authors and genres and it's hard to pick one book or series that is my favorite.

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they? Nope. I'm more of a book buyer. I like to keep my books and take them down from time to time and revisit their pages. They are like old friends. If there is a book that I don't want to keep, I sell it at the used bookstore so I can buy more books!

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all? I have a collection of about 30 books concerning Elizabeth I of England. I have mostly non-fiction books, but a fair amount of historical fiction as well. Most people get this glazed over look when I mention any of those books as interesting or fun reading.

Do you read books while doing other things? Let's see....while I'm eating, watching TV, cooking, bathing, and attending boring meetings at work. When I was in school, I would hide my current novel behind my textbook so that I could read all day. I remember being in 8th grade and reading The Grapes of Wrath 2 straight days at school, hiding it so that I could read non-stop.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits? Not until I went to college and my roommate saw me on my bed with a book, and asked me what class I was reading for. I'll never forget the incredulous look she gave me when she learned that I was reading for pleasure....a totally foreign concept for her! From then on she always made snide comments about my being a bookworm, etc. I hope she wasn't trying to insult me, because I took it as a compliment!

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? Well, it wasn't half the night, but I read the last installment in the Harry Potter series in one day. I went and bought the book Saturday morning, and finished it around 6 pm that night. My husband took care of the kids that day and I curled up in my armchair and read to my heart's content! (This is my idea of a great vacation, oh by the way)

Monday, August 20, 2007

You Like Me! You Really, Really Like Me!

I went online this morning to check out all of my friend's blogs, and found this lovely surprise waiting for me at Karen's blog.

This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blogging friends, and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. It is also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world."

I have met so many nice people since I began my blogging experience. What started out as an experiment in journaling turned into an opportunity to meet some incredibly talented, resourceful, funny, Spirit-filled women. I can't tell you how much encouragement I have received from women who would be total strangers were it not for the magical power of the internet.

It's easy to be nice when you are surrounded by it, but I still thank Karen for even thinking of me. I am still building my circle of friends here in the blogosphere, and I am sure that many of them have already received this award, but I would like to pass this on to Faraja, Kate, Melissa, Tammie Fay and Jennifer. Thanks for being nice to me and for exhibiting that quality through the posts on on your blogs!

Friday, August 17, 2007

One Last Getaway

I'm not sure if I will be able (or willing) to blog for the next week or so. We are going home to Louisiana for several days to see the family. My brother, sister-in-law (Patrick and Ronna) and nephew are flying down from Virginia to visit, so we decided to take this opportunity for one last getaway before school and all the craziness associated with it begins.

I have not seen my nephew, Benjamin, since January. He is 20 months old and although Ronna sends me frequent pictures and updates, it's not the same as being right there with him. I can't wait to see him walk in person, and to hear his little voice say, "All done!" and "I do!" when I ask him "Who loves Xanzie?"
"Xanzie?" you ask. "What an unusual (weird) name. Why not Aunt Xandra?"

I chose Xanzie (pronounced "zan-zee") because that is what my cousins called me when I was little. Allison could not pronounce Xandra (pronounced Zandra), so she started calling me Xanzie. She called her sister Coco (Courtney) and we called her Yay-yay. So, 30 years later, we are still calling each other those childhood names, and Allison was the first to use hers instead of "aunt" and Courtney and I followed suit.

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing The Boy, and also for some catch up time with Ronna. God could not have blessed me more when it came to giving me a sister-in-law. She is a godly, spirit-filled woman and she is an encouragement to me. She and I are able to speak plainly to one another and I love her just as though she were a flesh and blood sister. Did I mention that we share an obsession for scrapbooking?

I have to confess that I am often so looking forward to seeing her, that I forget about my own brother! It's always good to see him because he challenges me intellectually and theologically. He's one of those people that not only knows the answer to most biblical questions, but can give you the interesting historical details and background information about it. He's a lawyer and his ability to logically explain and break down theological arguments is a true asset. It's also the very attribute that often drives me nuts because sometimes logic doesn't matter...Ronna and I wholeheartedly agree on this one! He's the kind of brother who gives you John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion for your birthday. He rocks!

We'll be driving back to Texas Thursday which is also Nathan's "Meet the Teacher" night at school. It's hard to believe that it's that time of the year again. Let's hope that Hurricane Dean continues on his westbound track and that the low pressure system coming from the east doesn't push him north towards us.

So, we will enjoy this time with my family singing hymns around the piano, eating great food and telling the same old stories that we tell every time we get together. See ya in a week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Random Pics

This is how Nathan and Trevor would spend most evenings if I would let them!

Gracie was so proud of this drawing...she asked me to take a picture of her!

I love, love, love, this picture of Gracie at the piano. She has a gift for music and I can't wait to see it develop as she gets older. She can match any pitch and she sings spot on.

I did say that these pictures were random. This one was from the 4th of July when we were in Louisiana. Gracie came to the dinner table with chocolate on her hand and she said, "I made a hole!" A hand shaped hole in the sheet cake, that is!

This was taken one Sunday morning before church. Gracie loves this dress and wants to spin around every time that she wears it.

I love catching the kids sitting with Trevor when I have the camera close by. He's actually asleep.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Boot Camp for Gracie

It's been a rough evening. Gracie periodically regresses and usually does two things: deliberately disobeys Trevor and I and cries when the least little thing doesn't go her way. Trevor and I don't tolerate either one of these behaviors, and when she does this we have to have a little "Gracie Boot Camp" to get her back in shape.

The battles of wills began at the dinner table (doesn't it always?) and did not end well for Grace. She and Trevor battled through every, single bite and many tears were shed.
SIDE NOTE: Trevor and I don't force the kids to clean their plates. We are trying to teach them to eat until they are full, and the archaic practice of "a clean plate is a happy plate" does not encourage healthy, long term eating habits. Now, we don't let them waste food but we do have a "No thank you rule." They have to try everything on their plate, but they can say no thank you if they don't like something after they've tried it. But I digress.

Tonight, Gracie chose dinner as the battlefield on which to take a stand, and we could not let her get away with deliberate disobedience. I made jambalaya and green beans which are things that Gracie likes. As a matter of fact, she helped to snap the beans before I cooked them. She just decided that she was going to play instead of eat, and when we told her to eat she simply refused. You can imagine the scene that followed, and when all was said and done, Gracie had a clean plate.

In between that drama, Nathan disobeyed us by continuing to swish his spit/milk around in his mouth in true 6 year old fashion and was sent to his room. When I called him to come out and talk to me after dinner was over, we discussed why he was punished. I told him that although he had been punished this evening, that Trevor and I had noticed his good behavior recently and were proud of him. (He is going through a good phase right now....we don't have to remind him to say "yes sir" and "no ma'am", he has been very obedient and he is generally just a great kid).

He sat there for a second and then said, "I was walking down the hall one morning and I said to myself without talking out loud, that if I was doing something and Mommy or Daddy told me to do something , then I should just stop what I'm doing and do it."


I realize that was a total run on sentence, but it was a direct quote. He went on to say that he "decided in his brain" that he was going make a good choice. His choice of words made me want to laugh, but I was so proud of him. It's clear that the values we are trying to instill in him are slowly but surely becoming more and more firmly rooted in his mind and spirit. He is such an intelligent, thoughtful boy and I feel lucky to have him as my son. Everyday he surprises me with some insight or comment on life in general. How did I get along before I had children?

So, boot camp continues for our youngest offspring and we have a season of grace with our eldest. God give us the strength to redirect the energy our strong-willed child!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

She Will....She Still

I was cutting the grass yesterday evening as twilight was descending and the air was beginning to cool (I use this term loosely) without the direct heat from the sunlight. As I plodded along, I looked up and saw Trevor walking through the yard with a pair of long-handled pruning shears on his shoulder. What made this image stick was not my husband striding across the yard (although it was enough to make me a little weak in the knees!) It was the sight of Gracie trailing along behind him taking 3 steps for every one of his, her small form struggling to keep up. When they made it to the tree Trevor was intending to prune, I saw their heads bent down together as Trevor pointed and explained what he was doing.

It was one of those moments that is permanently etched in my memory. As I watched her traipse along, following her daddy, I was reminded once again of how quickly time flies. It won't be too long before she is embarrassed to even be seen with him, much less follow him around. She will prefer the company of her friends, and then her boyfriend in years to come. She will throw off the remnants of childhood and grow lean and tall; she will break our hearts a thousand times over with things that she says and does, but we will love her more each day.

She will leave us for the adventures awaiting her at college and then later return home with the man that we will embrace and call our son. She will marry him and make a home of her own, and one day we will get the news that she is having babies of her own. They will be sturdy and strong and they will follow their daddy around the backyard, struggling to keep up.

But for now, she is three and she is ours to hold close. She still wraps her arms and legs around me when she hugs. She still wants to say her prayers and sing "Bluebonnets" every night with me before she falls asleep. She still thinks that Trevor and I are the sun and the moon and her little life revolves around us. She still climbs into my lap and speaks to me in that little, whispery Grace voice "I love you, Mommy".

She still needs me and I need her too. She reminds me that time is precious and fleeting and that I need to live each moment as though it were my last. I thank God for my babies and for all the lessons that they teach me every day.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Where Are We Going?

I saw this bumper sticker today... ...and it pretty much sums up my feelings about the state of our society.

Getting Rid of the Garbage

So after months and months of teaching Sunday school, attending my adult small group faithfully and teaching a bible study at work, I've finally been convicted. Yes, I am sad to report that it has taken over a year for me to be obedient to God in this particular area of my life, but the Holy Spirit is persistent and I am glad that He did not consider me a lost cause because of my rebelliousness. Praise God that none of us are lost causes!

Let me explain.

As I have studied the Word and allowed myself to really dig in and try to understand God's will through scripture, I have become hyper-aware of the trash that goes into my brain on a daily basis. TV programming, books, commercials, newspapers and the Internet are filled with images and language that I have no business watching or listening to. My favorite TV program glorifies a lifestyle filled with adultery, promiscuity, homosexuality and lies. When I put it like that, I'm embarrassed that I enjoy the program so much, but I love watching this show! It's entertaining and I love the story lines and the characters.

But (and this is a big but), it's clear in scripture that we should fill our minds with things that are edifying and pure. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8 It most certainly does not tell us to watch Grey's Anatomy every week and see what kind of trouble Meredith is getting into.

We have been studying Ephesians in Sunday school and as I was preparing the lesson last week I was particularly struck by these verses. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them." Ephesians 5:1-7

How many times have I laughed at a double entendre or created one of my own? How many times have I allowed a vulgar word to come out of my mouth? How many times have I laughed at a dirty joke? Too many times to count over the course of my life, I'm ashamed to admit. Our society is inundated with coarse humor, impurity and sexual immorality.

When I was a child, a movie that contained even one mild (by today's standards) curse word was immediately banned from the house. My children watch cartoons that reference bathroom functions, sexuality, drugs and cursing. We have become oblivious to it. We have children's books that promote homosexuality as an "alternate lifestyle". The traditional family with a father and a mother is becoming less and less common. The world is falling further and further into the pit of sin that destroys families and churches.

We have become so desensitized to sin, that we no longer recognize it for what it is. That is the danger for Christians. I am not going to cheat on my husband just because I see someone on TV doing it. I'm not going to develop a penchant for cursing simply because I hear it in a movie. But we too often fall into the "it's just entertainment, I would never do that in real life, God knows my heart" line of reasoning that we stumble into sin in spite of our excuses. I become so desensitized to it that I don't always teach my children what is truly right and wrong. I am oblivious to the language in movies when my spirit should be grieved.

So does this mean that we should hop up on our soapboxes and start pointing judgemental fingers at the world around us? Certainly not. We are still called to love and serve for the cause of Christ. We are responsible not just for spreading the gospel to a lost world, but to let Christ shine through us by example. What says more about your faith? That you can have a lengthy conversation around the water cooler about the most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy, or that you have the strength of conviction about what you believe to choose not to watch it?

I realize that we have to live in the world, but we should always strive to not be of the world. We should pray for purity of thought, heart and mind so that we can be effective witnesses. The only way to grow spiritually is to slowly throw off our sinful nature little by little.

So, I am diligently working to remove the
plank from my own eye. I have decided that I am going to end my relationship with Grey's Anatomy in the fall. On one level, I am very sad that I will never know what happens to Meredith and McDreamy. Will Burke and Christina ever work things out? Will Izzie and George hook up or will he honor his wedding vows to Callie? Will Alex ever commit and settle down? (Do you see how ridiculously addicted I am to this show?)

On the other hand, it feels good to be obedient. It's a baby step, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a little help from my friends, I feel confident that I can purge all the smut from my life short of becoming a hermit. So, who's with me? Who wants to join the challenge to be actively aware of what you are allowing into your brain? We can't avoid everything, or else we would all be living a more simple life in the Pennsylvania countryside. But we can filter everything that we watch, read and hear through the unfailing truth and purity of God's Word. Do this with me and see how good it feels to be obedient to Him...I promise you will end up with a song of thanksgiving in your heart and praising Him for being so good.


Just as I was finishing up an hour of typing out this entry, and was putting the finishing touches on it, I closed it in edit mode, and the computer went nuts and erased the last 2/3 of my post. This was one of those posts that I had written so well that I was very proud of it. When I saw that all I had left was the first few paragraphs, I was briefly nauseous and then very angry. I looked at my husband with wild eyes of rage and helplessness and said, "I lost all of my work" (an exaggeration, I know) and then "I just spend over an hour typing!" To this he responded, "I know" as in "I noticed that you were ignoring the kids and me while you were happily typing away at your laptop"

Here's the clencher....after all the talk about purity of mind and thought and being led by the Holy Spirit, I called him a name that I will not repeat here. I was so mad that I needed to blame someone, and he was the closest. I slammed the laptop down, and stormed off in a huff ignoring his confused look and attempts to figure out what was wrong.

Come to find out, he didn't mean it like I took it (this happens more than I like to admit) and went as far as to apologize to me because I misinterpreted what he said. As I lay there in bed, I just looked at him instead of instantly begging forgiveness for being such a pain in his behind. Even as he stood there I could see that he was struggling to be a man of God and not put me in my place too harshly. What he came up with was, "You don't need to get so angry and talk like that." I can't tell you how much I loved him in that moment.

Anyway, I hope it is an encouragement to you that even though I can't even practice what I preach for 20 seconds after I type it, I'm not going to give up! This is proof positive that even the best intentions and motives will fall flat if we try to rely on our own strength.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Good Night's Sleep

I slept well last night. All of the things that contribute to a good night's sleep were there: the bed was particularly soft and comfy, the temperature was just right, the covers stayed in exactly the right spot all night and I didn't have to get up even once to use the bathroom. All in all, a perfect night of rest.

Then came 5:45 am.

The motion sensor light in the hallway came on, indicating to me that Gracie was prowling about the house. I rolled over and ignored it, hoping that she would get the hint when she came sneaking into the bedroom and saw my back to the door. At 6:00 am my alarm went off, which was like the gunshot that starts a race in my house. Gracie's door immediately slammed open and she bolted around the corner to my room. Nathan followed at a close second with tales of a nightmare where a witch had taken all of his toys away (horror of horrors!), but that he was particularly upset that she took Ralph. Ralph is the stuffed dog that he has been sleeping with since Gracie was born. Mama and Daddy gave it to him in the hospital to help him adjust to the new baby.

So, there I am....grasping at the quickly diappearing remnants of sleep, but realizing that my love affair with my pillow and perfectly warmed bed was over (at least for another day). They both crawled into bed with me and I breathed in the scent of their hair and skin (and tried to avoid face to face was first thing in the morning, after all!). I realized how much my babies have grown over the past summer. Their warm, sturdy bodies pressed against both my sides caused me to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that my children are healthy, happy and blessed with intelligence. Not to mention that they are the most beautiful children on the planet....

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for all the small moments that make me stop and give you thanks for all you have done for me and my family. You are awesome and I can never thank you enough.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What Season Are You?

I love these things....completely random and not a lick of truth to them, but they are fun to do. This time, it totally pegged me as far as which season I love the most. The acrid smell of burning leaves on a crisp, cold fall day is one of the most wonderful things on the planet as far as I am concerned. I only wish that the trees looked like this down here on the Gulf Coast!

So tell me.....what season are you?

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Rhythm of Our Days

I must take this opportunity to say that our time away from the kids was, well....strange. The first morning without the responsibility of getting them up and dressed was bizarre. I was dressed and ready to walk out the door in 15 minutes flat. (I am very makeup and I wear scrubs to work) I arrived at work long before I intended to, so Tuesday morning I slept later and took my sweet time getting dressed and driving to work. I still got there a little early, but better than Monday.

Monday evening after work, Trevor and I met for dinner and then found ourselves at Barnes and Noble going our separate ways. I found a few new books and enjoyed the leisurely browsing without constantly checking my watch. Tuesday night we met for a movie (Transformers...great special effects/way too long) and then wandered around Best Buy afterwards. We decided to get some coffee and as we were sitting there sipping our lattes, Trevor announced that he was hungry, so we went across the street to Chili's and had a late dinner.

We got home around 10 pm (which might as well be 2 am as far as we are concerned!) and didn't go to bed until around 11. We were a bit horrified when we rolled out of bed around 9 am because we knew that we would have a terrible time getting up Thursday morning for work, but it was still sort of nice to sleep for as long as we wanted to. Even on days off, I still have the kids there to wake me up if I dare sleep past 7 am, so it was a nice change!

When spent a good portion of the morning cleaning Nathan's room and the playroom. "Cleaning" those rooms really means throwing out all of the crap they have accumulated since the last "cleaning". We emptied out all of the toy bins and threw away all of the McDonald's/Burger King/Sonic toys as well as old papers, broken toys and toys that we have always hated, but been unable to pry away from them. We separated baby toys out and put them in several bins to pull out when we have guests with really little kids. The others we put aside to donate to the church.

We rearranged Nathan's room and added some Lightening McQueen/Mater decorating accents for good measure. The tactic worked, because Nathan was so enamoured with his new room that he didn't even notice all the things that were missing.

We spent the early afternoon shopping together and then I rented a few movies and we curled up for a long afternoon of movies and relaxation. It was great to just sit around without getting up every 10 minutes to check and see if that piercing scream was from a severed limb or from run of the mill teasing. No baths to take, no hair to wash and dry, no bedtime prayers to say.

It was terrible.

Strangely enough, this was the bizarre portion of the time without the kids. I missed rhythm of our days and nights together, although I didn't miss the day to day grind of discipline and feeling like all I ever do is fuss at them. The break made me realize that I do so much more than fuss and correct Nathan and Grace. All of the little moments that we spend talking, playing and praying are precious and I spend more time than I realized doing those things with my kids. It made me feel better about my mothering skills (and who hasn't had those thoughts run through their head from time to time?) and about the kind of life my children have in general.

All in all, Trevor and I hold our own in the "raising kids" department. There is always room for improvement and God-willing we will always strive to become better parents, but on the whole, we're not doing too badly. For now, I'm just glad to have my beautiful children back home where they belong. I have to go....I think I hear Grace splashing around in the bathroom. Is that splashing coming from the sink or the toil........Grace!!!!!!!!!