Monday, April 30, 2007

Cartoon Character du Jour

It's hard to believe that today is the last day of April. Where is the year going? Wasn't it just Christmas? It seems like Nathan's birthday was just last weekend, and now Gracie's is looming just over the horizon. I need to start planning and ordering things for her party or it will sneak up on me and I will have nothing done.

She wanted (as much as an almost 2 year old can want) a Curious George themed party last year, so that's what we had. Then over the past year she became enamoured with Dora the Explorer. If the television was on, she was watching Dora. She had Dora backpacks, coloring books, dolls, figurines and DVDs. Her little life was Dora. But in recent months the fickle pendulum of childhood has moved back to Curious George. She loves the movie and the PBS series. She doesn't even mention Dora anymore. Poor Dora.....tossed to the side in favor of a monkey.

So, I guess we'll be doing a Curious George party again. I think my children have a defective gene that makes them want the same theme at least 2 years in a row. Nathan had a love affair with Buzz Lightyear that lasted from his 4th to 5th birthday and yes, we had two Buzz Lightyear themed parties. I tried in vain to talk him out of it, but he was adamant. Within a few months of his 5th birthday he had tired of Buzz and retired all of those toys to the closet. His new love was Cars, and he left Buzz in the dust.

I wonder were we will be next year? Will Grace love Dora again (!) or will she want Disney princesses? Will Nathan want Cars or will he have moved on to more mature subject matter like Transformers or Superman? It's funny how I mark the years with the cartoon character du jour, but I'm glad that they are still kids and acting like it. I'm going to be so sad the year that Nathan comes and informs me that he is too old for "baby" parties. That he wants to go do something with his friends (the obvious point being that I am not a part of that group). All I can pray is that God will give me the grace to let him go and spread his wings a little.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Love My Husband

I love my husband. I love being married to a man who has seemingly infinite knowledge regarding all things mechanical. No matter what the problem around the house, Trevor will find a way to fix it and/or make it better than it was to begin with.

He was up early yesterday morning to make a run to Lowe's and Dirt Cheap Mulch Co. to get project materials. The first trip he made was to get a 1/2 yard of dirt to fill in some low spots by the deck. Once he unloaded that and spread it out, he was off again for more supplies. Trevor 1, House 0.

Our driveway becomes a wade pool every time it rains and has been this way since the house was built over 30 years ago. If you have the misfortune of having to park at the end of the driveway, you might as well take your shoes off and wade in. Anyway, Trevor finally got tired of the drainage problem and designed a way to take care of the excess water. He dug a trench along the end of the driveway and then laid perforated pipe in it. He covered it with rocks and when we tested it with the water hose, the water drained into the ditch perfectly leaving the driveway dry and puddle free. Trevor 2, House 0.

With the first two projects under his belt, Trevor decided to tackle the side yard where he had spread the fill dirt earlier. He called me outside so we could discuss what we wanted to do with the space. The problem we have is that the side yard next to the backdoor is low lying and tends to stay pretty muddy. This makes it messy to take the trash out and to get to the front gate. We decided that instead of laying slate or paving stones, it would be faster and asthetically pleasing if we extended the deck out approximately 5 more feet. So Trevor began the hot work of building the addition to the deck, but when he was finished, it looked wonderful and added about 70 square feet to the space. Trevor 3, House 0.

In between the big projects, he fixed the railing on the other side of the deck and moved and adjusted the water nozzles for the misting system. He worked all day long to make our home more beautiful and functional and never complained or stopped working. He takes care of so many things for us and does them with a willing heart.

So this morning when I go out to the deck to enjoy my coffee, I will look around at his handiwork and be thankful all over again. I love my husband.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Deepening Twilight

My daydreams of spending the evening out on the deck eating dinner and enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass came true last night. It was the perfect night for lounging and visiting outside. We invited Chris and Ali over for dinner and we spent all of our time in the backyard.

Trevor grilled ribs and chicken and although the fire got away from him and charred the meat, it was still good. We bribed Nate with the promise of a ride on the 4-wheeler to get him to finish his supper. As promised, Trevor pulled the Rincon out of the shed and took the kids on a ride through the woods behind the house. It was no surprise that they rounded the corner of the house with big smiles plastered on their little faces!

The kids spent some time launching air rockets and then Chris and I took them around the yard a time or two in the red wagon that Uncle Tellius gave the kids last Christmas. I wish I had gotten a picture of that because all three of them were crammed into that wagon together...they were all knees and elbows!

As it got darker, I pulled out some glow necklaces and distributed them as evenly as possible. Nathan, Grace and Nate ran back and forth across the yard with their necklaces making arcs of light in the deepening twilight. The adults sat contentedly on the deck taking turns holding Calvin and enjoying the peaceful evening together. Sitting there with our friends I was overcome with nostalgia. I can vividly remember playing outside well after dark on balmy summer nights with Patrick, swatting the mosquitoes but not caring how many times I was bitten because of the fun I was having. Playing hide-and-seek in the dark with Courtney, Allison and Patrick at Granny and Gramps' house while the grown-ups visited inside.

It made me happy that Trevor and I have been blessed in such a way that we can give that sort of life to our children. Society is geared in this day and age to force our kids to grow up long before they should. I want my children to retain their wonder and innocence for as long as possible. I want them to revel in playing outside and using their imagination to entertain themselves. I don't want them to worry about grown-up things yet....I want them to be children. Thank you Lord. Thank you for friends with whom we can make lasting memories and for our children who keep us young at heart.

As I was sitting on the deck this morning drinking my coffee and studying the book we are currently using for our small group, Nathan wandered out of the house and sat down next to me on the swing. He asked me how ants know how to dig tunnels (he is fascinated by the ant farm we brought home from our trip). I explained that God made them that way and that he gave them instincts. Ants just dig because that is the way God made them...they can't do anything else and don't want to. I was just starting to pat myself on the back for using the opportunity to teach Nathan something of God's relationship with human beings. I said, "God gave all animals instincts including people, but He gave us something even better. He gave us...."

"Shovels," he interjected, with a look that just screamed "duh!".

I laughed out loud and agreed that God did indeed give us shovels, but more importantly He gave us a brain and the will to make tools to do things. I had to sit back and marvel at the simple way kids see the world around them. For all of my lecturing on God and how He is at work in our lives, Nathan saw the obvious. It was just another lesson in child-rearing....don't complicate things with long lectures and boring exposition. Stick with the basic facts and ideas that a child can grasp. The sometimes complicated theology will come with time and maybe a little easier with a lifetime of little moments like the one I had this morning.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Easing the Grip

Whoo hoo! It's Friday!!!! My favorite day of the week is here and I am ready to begin my free time. I still have a few hours left at work, but I intend to spend a large portion of that time daydreaming about the weekend. I like to get home on Friday and mow the lawn before Trevor and the kids get home so that we can enjoy a pleasant evening outside with the smell of fresh cut grass in the air. Maybe I'll stop and get a few steaks on the way home and set up the table outside and we'll eat on the deck tonight.

Last night I eased my grip on Nathan just a little. He asked me if he could ride his bike, and I finally relented after a quick review of the rules. "Do we talk to strangers in cars? No. What do we do if we see a car? Pull over to the side of the road and stop. What do we do if a stranger in a car follows me? Go to Uncle Will's or come home...whichever is closer. Where are we allowed to ride? From my house down to Uncle Will's and back." I guess I was hoping that all of the rules would discourage him from actually wanting to ride his bike, but my ploy did not work and off he went. I watched from the porch as he made his first trip down the street and back and then made myself go in the house.

Five minutes later I was back out on the porch looking for him, but didn't see his bike anywhere. I could feel the knot forming in my stomach, but willed myself to be calm and to not assume the worst. Sure enough, he had just stopped at Will and Charly's for a minute to chat and I couldn't see him in the driveway. Danger averted.

I went inside after admonishing him to stay on the road where I could see him and sat down again. Five minutes (and an amused look from Trevor) later I got up to check on him. He was still riding and doing just fine. There were no pedophiles or kidnappers in sight so I relaxed a little and went back inside.

I sat for as long as I could stand it (I might have made it to 6 minutes) and then went to check again. My baby was nowhere in sight. No Nathan. The knot tightened and I resisted the urge to scream his name. I forced myself to be reasonable and calm. "Check the gate to the backyard", I reasoned. "Maybe he is finished riding and is putting his bike away." Sure enough, there he was on the deck engaging the kickstand and preparing to go inside. When he looked up and saw me standing there, I pretended like I was just closing the gate for him. As I walked across the driveway I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for his safe return.

When I went back inside, I felt weak in the knees. Trevor saw the look on my face and quickly said, "He just came in the back door!" I told him that I had seen him, then relayed the panicked moments standing in the driveway. I know it sounds like I'm weirdly overprotective but I am actually much better than I used to be. Believing that God is sovereign and that no matter what happens He is in control, has helped me let go a little. He has given me my children for a set time, and only He knows when that stewardship will end. My hope is that they will grow into adulthood but I also know that I have to give Nathan and Grace room to grow and do things on their own. I protect them in every way that I can, but in the end I have to rely on God for the ultimate outcome.

So my prayer is for peace when I want to worry. Turning all the things I worry about (and believe me, it's more than just the kids!) over to God is the only way to obtain true peace and satisfaction. It's a lesson that comes with more than a little difficulty for me, but it's worth learning.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lessons in Social Grace

In my line of work, I get to interact with a wide variety of personalities and am often forced to bite my tongue during those interactions. (The customer is always right...the customer is always right...) But yesterday I had a patient very innocently mention that she was going to the store after her treatment to purchase a baby shower gift. You may be wondering where I am going with this. What a completely normal statement. You would be correct except that she was planning to purchase a gift for the 4 year old sibling of the new baby instead of a gift for the baby.

This sparked a conversation between myself and a co-worker about how our society fosters a sense of entitlement in our children. For example, my son is the first grandchild on both sides the family. For the first few years of his life, my mother-in-law would purchase a separate gift for Nathan regardless of the occasion. He received gifts on Father's Day, everyone else's birthday and several holidays in between. We finally had to explain that Nathan did not need a gift unless it was his birthday. To Trevor and I, the practice of giving a child a gift just because someone else receives one sends a confusing message. Primarily "I deserve a present because I showed up" instead of "I deserve a present because this is a special day celebrating my birth."

I think when parents encourage this sort of behavior it is dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost it lessens the impact of special occasions and those days become more or less run of the mill. Would you really care about birthday presents if you got one every time someone you knew celebrated theirs? There is nothing to look forward to if you get gifts on a regular basis.

Secondly, it stunts the child's ability to be joyful for someone else. I don't know about you, but my natural reaction as a child to someone else receiving a gift was jealousy. We need to allow our children to feel these emotions so we can use the opportunity to teach them the appropriate way to respond. We are by nature self-centered, and joyful giving and rejoicing in other's good fortune has to be taught. How do we teach that lesson if the opportunity is never presented to our children?

Finally, our children need to learn that life is not fair. Sometimes we get the gift, sometimes we don't. The important thing is to teach them to respond gracefully when life throws them a curve ball. I realize that I am talking about material gifts here, but children learn best with concrete ideas and concepts at the beginning. This lesson can be expanded as the years pass to include so many other things that will shape our kids into empathetic, responsible adults.

I know that giving a small child a gift to avoid hurt feelings on a sibling's birthday may seem kind and considerate, but I have to disagree. It is simply delaying the inevitable day when they are excluded at a friend's birthday party and and that self-centered part rears its ugly head. You know what I'm talking about....the screaming child who won't let go of a brightly wrapped present that was never intended for them. The embarrassed look of the parent trying to pry it out of the child's hand without damaging the gift, and trying to gauge how hard they can swat said child without garnering disapproving looks from the other adults.

So, to all the parents out there who think it is harmless to play this game with their children, maybe you should think again. Use the opportunity to teach and nurture rather than ply them with more useless junk that will just accumulate in their bedroom. Wouldn't you rather see an accumulation of social graces that will never fade away and will serve to smooth the way for them in untold situations as they grow?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The God on the Mountain is Still God in the Valley

I was driving to work this morning listening to a CD of praise music and I heard this one by Tree63 and it just touched me all over again. Each time I hear it I am reminded that we need to praise God when it's good and when it's bad. Everything in our lives should be glorifying to God and we have to make a conscious choice to praise Him through our circumstances. Do I do that enough? No...not by a long shot. Am I convicted of it? Yes, and so I keep striving to praise Him every moment of every day.

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name

On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord,
Blessed be your name

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Morning After

I hate the morning after vacation. In spite of my best efforts, the real world had not gone anywhere and the same old routine was waiting for me this morning. Alarm at 6 am, snooze until 6:15, etc, etc. It didn't help that the kids were in rare form with the whining and crying which just drove me to distraction, and made me dread the rest of the day.

I really shouldn't complain since I had Monday off as a "buffer" day so that I could ease back into my life, but since it's my blog I'm going to complain anyway. After getting the kids to where they needed to be yesterday I went back home and stayed on the couch watching TV for several hours. Charly came by to tell me that she is pregnant again, and then I got up and started thinking about the rest of my day.

I went to Wal-Mart for a few items and then to Chili's for lunch. I had a new book to start reading so I had two of my favorite things at the same time: a book and food! After lunch, I went to see Ali's new law office hoping she would be there too. She told me to call Heather, which I did and found out that she is pregnant again! For anyone out there who doesn't know, Heather just gave birth to Carson last October. Yes...that's October of 2006. Poor Heather....what a shock for her and Mike! There must be something in the water...first Charly, now Heather.

After that call, I met up with Kellye for a pedicure and we had a good time visiting. Ali called to find out where we were and met us there for a few minutes to chat. We told Kellye to hold off calling Heather until the news had sunk in a little more....Kellye has a reputation for "lecturing in love" and Heather was a little fearful of what Kellye would say about this turn of events. I think stuff like this offends Kellye's innate sense of order and she has a harder time processing it than the rest of us.

After the relaxing pedicure, I rushed home just in time to get Gracie from FBC and to be at home for Trevor's mom to deliver Nathan to me. For the first time in weeks, I had a hot dinner of steak and gravy, biscuits and green beans on the table when Trevor arrived home from work. We had a pretty relaxing evening together, except for the sporadic bursts of dread every time I would remember that I had to get up and go to work in the morning!

So here I am, halfway through my first day back and already looking forward to the next long weekend in May for Memorial Day. At least the work week will be a full day shorter for me and I can slip back into that vacation mode on Friday, at least for the few hours before the kids get home!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Reason We Come Home

It feels so good to be home. Yes, I was the thing from which we were escaping this past weekend, but when we are away I miss it. I miss the pleas for watching Curious George and the early morning routine of feeding the kids breakfast. I miss the sound of Grace giggling because Trevor has informed her that she needs her spanking for the day. I miss the noise and mayhem that go along with a house that shelters 2 young children and 2 sometimes adults. I've realized over the last several years that getting away from it all serves two purposes. The first is the reason we get away to begin with....from time to time we need to regroup. Maybe the patience is wearing too thin with the kids, or the marriage needs some alone time. There are a myriad of reasons for getting out of town, and a few days usually does the trick for me. The second purpose is to remind us of what we left behind and how much we would miss it if it was gone when we got home.

The weeks leading up to a trip are filled with anticipation and the thrill of the coming days with no responsibility and no one to care for except myself. I almost enjoy the thrill of waiting for the trip more than the trip itself! But once I am there, I miss the kids....not enough to go home, mind you, but I do miss them. One of the very things that I was running from is the reason I can't wait to get back home. I enjoy my time away and I do all of the things I can't do when I have to worry about babysitters and bedtimes. But when you have children, coming home is one of the sweetest experiences in the world.

We walked in the front door and when Grace heard us come in she came bolting around the corner and streaked into my arms screaming "Mommy!". The moment those little arms encircled my neck and I felt her warm breath on my skin, I knew I was really home. Later that evening, I saw Nathan for the first time at church and although his reaction was not quite as dramatic (his friends were standing right there, after all), he did run to me to give me a hug and fiercely whisper in my ear, "I'm so glad you're home mommy. I really missed you!"

Those are the moments that I hold in my heart year after year. The big ones are important too...first steps, first birthday party, first day of school....but the most precious are the day to day expressions of love that are often unexpected but always treasured. It's so good to be home.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Anniversary Trip Part II

Let's see.....where were we? Oh yeah, just dressed and ready to start the day. We walked down the street to Alamo plaza where there were a few things that we wanted to check out. It turns out that none of it seemed interesting once we were there except for this thing called the Ultimate Mirror Maze Challenge. It was a maze made entirely of mirrors in a dark room with only red lights to guide you. It was so much fun! You put on plastic gloves (so the mirrors don't get smeared) and the object is to find the exit which is harder than you might think. You can go through it as many times as you want and it's an all day ticket in case you decide that you haven't had enough of bumping into mirrors that look like corridors!

After that we went to La Villita but were disappointed to find that most of the stores were closed. We think they were preparing for Fiesta because there were a lot of temporary structures being erected and workmen everywhere. We did find a store that made scented wax chips in a small factory there on site and purchased some for the house. We went back down into the River Walk to just see where we ended up. After walking back to the Rivercenter we decided that we wanted to find a Pappasito's for lunch. I hate to say this, but we don't really like any of the Mexican restaurants on the River Walk or nearby. So we went back to the hotel to get the car and drove to lunch which was fabulous (as usual). We decided over lunch to go to Brackenridge Park to the botanical gardens for the afternoon.

Mama had recommended this to me a few weeks ago, but I didn't think Trevor would be interested. It turns out that he was and it was a beautiful place to stroll around. The weather was perfect and it had incredible landscaping that fit right in with the natural surroundings. We spent several hours there and by the time we left we were pretty tired. We figured that a movie would be the perfect place to rest up so we drove back to the Rivercenter for a movie. We saw "The Reaping" with Hillary Swank and let me just save you $8 plus the cost of snacks. The most I can say is that we had 2 hours to sit and rest before we did more walking.

We went back through the Rivercenter one more time to get a present for Nathan (ant farm....we may live to regret that purchase) and to get back to the car. Once we were back at the hotel we got cleaned up and changed to go out for dinner. We had heard that Texas Land and Cattle had really good steaks, so Trevor checked the yellow pages for a location nearby. He found one and decided that since it was getting dark and it was a good walk from the hotel we should just drive there. So at 7:45 we set out to find the restaurant but discovered that it was no longer there. We knew there was one close to Pappasito's and it meant getting back on the freeway and going further that we had anticipated, but we really wanted to try this place so off we went. On the way, we passed a Benihana's and thought that would be a fun place to try so Trevor tried to exit so we could turn around and go back. Tip for San Antonio travel: their exit and u-turn system is nothing like Houston (or the rest of Texas). We must have driven down I-10 West a good 5 miles before we finally found a place to turn around! So we finally made it to Benihana's, go inside and discover that there is a 1 hour wait for a table. Right.

So as we are pulling into the parking lot of Texas Land and Cattle I realize that we have been driving around for an hour trying to find the perfect place to eat. I have to say that it was worth the wait. It was quite possibly the best steak I've ever had, and the company just made it better.

So today is Sunday and we slept in until 8 am and are planning to head out to make the trip back home. We are going to stop on the way and get some food to go and eat by the Guadelupe river. We really miss the kids and can't wait to see them, and want to get home in time to go to our small group at church tonight. It's been a great trip. We've had time to relax, reconnect and basically just lounge around together and I couldn't have asked for anything more. It's been a perfect getaway with my one and only love....can't wait for next year!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Anniversary Trip Part I

Trevor and I left yesterday morning for San Antonio to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We decided that we would stop on the way and go through the natural bridge caverns since Trevor had never been to one. It's funny that we lived in Carlsbad, New Mexico for a year and never visited the caverns there. Anyway, it turned out to be a great time. The weather was so beautiful....clear, breezy and 75. We walked around outside waiting for the tour to begin and just enjoyed the hill country landscape and being together.

The walk through the caverns was about an hour and we went 180 feet underground. It might not occur to everyone right at first that if you go down 180 feet you at some point have to come up 180 feet. Yes, you are nodding your head and snickering shouldn't be too hard to envision Trevor and I huffing and puffing back up the steep, slippery path to daylight! Actually, it wasn't too bad for me because I do a lot of walking at work, but Trevor realized what his desk job is doing to his endurance. We may have to rethink the concept of a family walk/bike ride in the evenings.

The formations in the caverns were quite beautiful and each vault we entered seemed more amazing than the last. We were glad to get back to the surface after only an hour because although the temperature was about 70 degrees, the relative humidity was 99% with no moving air. Combine that with a constant uphill walk for the last part of the trip, and you are longing to pull in a deep breath of dry, cool air.

After the tour was finished we made our way into San Antonio to check into the hotel and get cleaned up before we went out for the evening. Because this is a PG blog (and because my parents read it!) I will suffice it to say that we are greatly enjoying each other's company and leave it at that. We decided to walk around for a bit before we ate so we went down to the river walk for a stroll. It was really nice to just stop and look leisurely at whatever caught our eye without checking our watches every 10 minutes to make sure we weren't going to be late picking up the kids or getting home to relieve the babysitter. We ended up eating dinner at Hooters (we can't help it...we love the wings!) and then walking around the Rivercenter as we waited for the comedy show we planned to see begin. I've been to better live comedy shows, but we had a good time and we met some people from Lake Charles while we waited. They looked to be in their 40's and were on their honeymoon. It's funny that no matter where you go you can meet people with something in common with yourself....where they are from, religion, job...whatever. There is always something that connects us to the bigger picture around us if we are just willing to open up and make contact.

By the time we left the club it was 10:30 pm which to parents with young children translates into 2am single time. We went directly to bed and fell into a deep sleep which did not end until this morning when we woke up without the aid of an alarm clock or small child crawling in between us. I have to admit that I miss the small child part a little, but the alarm clock thing is great! We just finished getting dressed and we are ready to start our first full day in San Antonio. Not exactly sure what we are going to do, but it doesn't matter because we have all day and we are together.

Friday, April 20, 2007

If Only......

As the reports began to emerge Monday from Virginia Tech, the country watched in horror as the death toll mounted. First it was thought there were two shooters, and then it was finally determined that it was in fact one disturbed student behind the whole thing. It is impossible to gauge the number of lives this act of violence has destroyed or how long it will take the family and friends of the victims to come to terms with what has happened.

It's been less than a week since those 32 people lost their lives and I have heard so many people make the comment that the campus police should have locked down the campus after the first 2 shootings that happened in a dorm. Why did it take 2 hours to inform the Virginia Tech students? Why didn't they do something more? To that I can only say that hindsight is 20/20, and retrospectively I'm sure that all parties involved wished that they had done things differently. Of course they do....the same way that people who survive horrible car wrecks think and rethink the events leading up to the accident. "If only I had left the house 2 minutes earlier instead of running back inside for that bottle of water. If only I had not stopped to chat with the neighbor for 5 minutes...then I would have completely avoided the accident." If only....if only. Anyone who has been the victim of a random event has had this maddening thought repeating over and over again. We think that if we can rationalize and logic it to death that it will be easier to come to terms with the event.

Sometimes things just happen. It doesn't matter what you do or don't do. You can't plan for it and you can't see the future, and it's not really fair to try and assign blame although that is our first reaction to the unexplainable. The campus police thought the first shooting was a domestic violence situation. They had sent deputies out to find the boyfriend of one of the victims and thought that they were on the right track. They had no reason to believe and no way of knowing that there was a mentally unstable student on his way to the post office to mail his manifesto en route to the building where he would take 30 more lives and then his own. Why would they have notified the entire campus that a jealous boyfriend lost control and shot his girlfriend and the guy he thought she was seeing behind his back? They felt like they had the situation in hand and all the bases covered.

Why does our society try to assign blame where it doesn't belong? We blame childhoods filled with abuse for the actions of pedophiles and child abusers and give them lenient sentences and probation. We blame cigarette companies for causing lung cancer, and gun manufacturers for children being shot in the streets. People need to stop deflecting attention away from their own actions by blaming others and take some responsibility for the things they have done. Yes, you may have had a crappy, abuse-filled childhood but you had the choice to move on and not perpetuate the atrocities you experienced. No one forced you to smoke 2 packs a day for 28 years, so don't act surprised when you get hit with the cancer stick and are given 6 months to live. Guns don't kill people....people kill people.

It's grown to such ridiculous proportions that we don't have any idea how to respond to a crisis except to point fingers. Stupid amounts of tax dollars are going to be spent trying to assign blame in Virginia over the next few months. I could save them a lot of money if they would just ask me whose fault it is. How about the 23 year old killer who methodically shot and murdered 32 people? When all is said and done, it was his fault that this happened. Should the school have made more of an effort to counsel him and get to the bottom of his frightening writings? Probably. Should the police have locked down the campus after the first shooting? Perhaps. But blaming someone other than Cho for what happened is completely irresponsible. It's ridiculous to say that things would have turned out differently if we had done B instead of A. If only the school had just seen the warning signs and taken him seriously. If only his classmates had tried harder to reach out to him. If only. That sort of rationalization begins to turn the victimizer into a victim and that is no way to honor the memory of the dead.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Day I Changed My Name

Ten years ago today, I woke up in my old bedroom in my parent's house. I rolled over and grinned to my cousin Courtney as we shrieked together, "I'm (You're) getting married today!" And that's how it all started. I can't remember what I had for breakfast but I remember the overwhelming feeling of anticipation.

I went to the church early so I could get dressed and Kellye's mom Cheryl met me up there to do my hair. Now, when I say "do" my hair what I mean is that she put it up in a few pins so the headband to which my veil was attached would sit nicely. Nothing like the elaborate updo's I had for Amber's and Courtney's wedding. But she was there and did a beautiful job, and then I waited for my bridesmaids. And waited...and waited..and waited. Finally, I asked Cheryl if she would help me get into my dress on and she obliged. I was starting to get a little nervous...who ever heard of bridesmaids getting cold feet? I wasn't a Bridezilla or anything.

I finally heard them coming down the hall. Apparently the local hairdresser was overwhelmed with all of 4 people to handle, and they ran behind. But at least they had arrived, which was a good thing because I was starting to get a little antsy. Then I experienced what pretty much every bride since time began does: I had to go to the bathroom and my dress was already on. So, with some help I managed the task without dipping anything into the toilet.

As the parade of people started coming into the bridal room, it hit me that this was really happening. My grandmothers were dressed in beautiful dresses and Gramps told me how proud he was of me. Then came the moment when Daddy walked into the room and saw me for the first time in my gown. Years of memories flashed through my mind as I watched him walk towards me with that singular look of pride and love on his face. We cried a little and then laughed about crying because it was going to mess up my makeup.

Soon I was left with Courtney, Amber, Ronna and Pam as everyone else took their places for the ceremony. I remember quoting that line from "Steel Magnolias" when Julia Roberts is about to be escorted down the aisle by her father. He is partially deaf from shooting birds out of the tree in the backyard so that her reception will be perfect, and she has to half yell/half stage whisper to him "It's time, Daddy. It's time!" so that he will come over to take her arm. I guess we were getting a little out of hand with the joking because Mrs. Voytek (the coordinator) had to come back and tell us to keep it down like we were 12 year olds at a slumber party.

I remember taking a big breath before I stepped into the sanctuary and the sensation of my train being arranged one more time before the trip to the altar. I gripped Daddy's arm and off we went. As I rounded the corner to turn down the center aisle I went a little weak in the knees. All my friends and family were there and at the end of that aisle was the man I love waiting for me with a look that made me feel like the most beautiful, desirable woman on the planet. When I finally made it to him and Daddy gave me away, I took his arm and the air around us seemed charged with electricity.

My old youth minister and dear friend Roy Deane Webb officiated for us, and we made it through the ceremony without any mishaps. My veil didn't catch on fire from the unity candle and I didn't trip over my dress and fall which was really a miracle considering my natural state of clumsiness! After the wedding, we went across the street to the reception. When we were ready to go, we ran out to the limo amid a shower of bubbles and birdseed. I have a framed series of four pictures that were taken of us as we left the church that day, and they are my favorite photos from our wedding. We opened the sun roof of the limo and stood up so we could wave goodbye to everyone. It was just starting to drizzle (which is supposed to mean you will be rich if it rains on your wedding day....I may have to challenge that) so we quickly closed the roof and sat down.

As soon as my behind hit the seat, the exhaustion hit me. We were going all the way to Houston, so we had a few minutes to relax. I had Trevor unzip me and I actually fell asleep for a little while. If anyone thought that we were consummating the marriage on the way to the hotel, they could not have been farther from the truth! It was quite sad actually. We were too tired to even have much of a conversation....Trevor had driven in from Virginia just days ago, and I was crashing from all of the wedding planning. We were really looking forward to getting to the hotel and changing into something more comfortable than a wedding dress and rented tux.

We pulled up to the hotel and as we made our entrance into the lobby, everyone clapped and cheered for us. It was so sweet and we felt so important. I was so proud to be on Trevor's arm as we walked up to the desk and confirmed the reservation for Mr. and Mrs. Newly Married Couple. The wedding had gone beautifully, the reception was great and the day had progressed exactly as I had imagined it. Did I mention that there were no mishaps to mar my perfect day? That is until we tried to check in. Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that I had made reservations at the wrong Marriot. The one at which I thought I was making reservations was across the street from the Galleria. The one at which I actually made the reservations was just down the road! So after our grand entrance into that cavernous lobby, we had to go back outside in full regalia and load up into the courtesy van to be shuttled down the road a mile or two. I can't begin to tell you how mortifying that was, but in the end it really didn't matter. We were finally married and excited to begin our life together.

So here we are 10 years, 2 kids, 8 moves, 11 cars, 1 Bachelors degree and 1 name change later and we are still as in love today as the day we wed. If the truth be told, more in love because the years together just strengthen and renew that deep feeling of belonging to someone else and knowing that whatever comes, he has my back. And not because he was born into a relationship with me, but because he chose me and my life has never been the same. So tonight we will light our unity candle like we have done every year on this day, and remember the vows we took before God 10 years ago.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Five Solas

I had a nice surprise yesterday morning when Kellye called me to see if I wanted to meet for lunch. We decided on Pei Wei (was there really any other option?) and she picked me up. It was good to get away from work and to spend some time with her one on one. Usually we are with the spousal units, all of the kids or other friends so it was an unexpected pleasure to hang out together for a little while. Kate was along for the ride and I had fun just looking at her cherubic little face sitting across the table from me. Of course, looking at someone else's child is always easier than dealing with your own....I think Kellye would debate the point of "one on one" time since she was the one holding (and sporadically struggling with) the Crazy Lady.

The afternoon absolutely dragged by and I spent much of my time reading a book called "Catholicism: East of Eden" by Richard Bennett. This is a book recommended to me by a friend who was raised Catholic but later came to know Jesus in a personal way and began attending a protestant church. It was written by a man who was born into a devout Roman Catholic home in Ireland, went to Jesuit school as a child and then became a priest after attending the Angelicum University of Rome. After fourteen years of contrasting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to Biblical truth, he was convicted by the Gospel message of God's grace alone and after 22 years in the priesthood he formally left the church. The book gives clear scriptural (and historical) references that are often diametrically opposed to what the Catholic church teaches it's members. The overwhelming theme is that the Catholic church values tradition and ritual over the clear teaching in scripture. This book was not written by someone who has no idea what it's like to be devoutly Catholic and to believe heart and soul what the church teaches. It was written by a man who has a deep passion for Catholics and only wants them to see the truth of scripture for themselves and to not blindly follow the teachings of the church simply because that's the way it's always been done.

It's a really fascinating (and eye-opening) read that I have a hard time putting down. I am completely ignorant of the inner workings of the Catholic church because I was raised Baptist. I often hear things said by my Catholic friends with regard to their religion that I do not understand and can't really comment on because I have no point of reference. Trevor's entire family is Catholic...I think they were all a bit scandalized that we were married in a Baptist church and not as a Catholic sacrament. This book is helping me to understand where they are coming from as far as their beliefs are concerned.

What I believe is Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be glory)--pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The grace of Jesus Christ is what saves me from my sins and sure death. My faith in Him and belief that His death on the cross and resurrection paid my debt forever is what makes me a Christian. I cannot lose my salvation if I have truly put my faith in Him and works (good or bad) cannot change that. We are not saved by works, but by grace. I believe that scripture is the final answer to all matters. If the Bible says that it is true, then it is. If the Bible seems to contradict a teaching of a particular religion, then the religious teaching is erroneous--not the scripture. It is the Word of God, and as such, cannot be false. I think that Christians should be associated with a church that teaches expositionally from the bible and that if there are practices within that body of believers that do not mesh with what the scripture says, then they should be challenged. There are traditions in the Baptist church that I do not hold to because they have absolutely no biblical grounds, primarily the idea that the drinking of alcohol is a sin and therefore forbidden. (I'm not even going to go into the whole dancing thing...) I came across a blog by Wade Burleson who is a member of the International Mission Board and represents the Southern Baptist Convention. I agree wholeheartedly with his view on alcohol consumption and I've included a link to an entry in his blog that I found very interesting and biblically accurate:

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will open scripture to me in such a way that I will be able to present the truth to anyone who seeks it, in a way that they will be able to understand and accept. I also pray that the sin in my own life will be revealed to me by reading the Word of God and that I will be convicted of it and seek forgiveness and renewing of the spirit. My desire is to be used as an instrument for the glory of God and that I will be open and receptive to his direction for me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Every Season

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening to a song by Nichole Nordeman called "Every Season". Summer is just around the corner and I was thinking of all the plans we've made and about how life goes on even without those we've lost. We are planning to go to Mama and Daddy's for the 4th of July and Uncle Tellius and Gramps won't be there for the family celebration. But we will and there will be laughter and fun and we will remember them in small and large ways. Every season is a chance for God to change us and make us stronger and sometimes that molding process involves grief and pain to reshape us. God is there in all the seasons of our life to guide us and to hold us. Thank you God, for sending difficult times so that through your grace and power and I can see the important things more clearly.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You in children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and was to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation shivers underneath
And still I notice You when branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You and how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be as You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Nichole Nordeman

Monday, April 16, 2007

But It Was Just Friday!

Once again, there were not nearly enough hours in the weekend. It seemed to stretch endlessly in front of me Friday afternoon as I envisioned how my time would be spent for the next two days. But here I sit Sunday evening (writing the blog for Monday....I'm a bit of a cheat sometimes), wondering where all that time went. Saturday was so cold that it was a bit of a wash as far as getting outside and doing anything, and Sunday was the crazy day that it always turns out to be. Sunday school and worship from 9:30-12:00 and then lunch out with friends. We got home at 1:30 and then spent the afternoon studying for our small group bible study (which I'll address in a moment) and doing busy work in the yard.

We realized that it was already 4:35 and that we needed to get dressed to go back to church, so I went inside to get some clothes out for the kids. As I was throwing clothes and instructions at Nathan with equal abandon, the phone rang. It was Ali letting me know that she and Chris would not be at small group; Chris' grandmother was having emergency surgery and Ali was still sick. Could we run by and pick up the DVD for small group? I checked my watch and agreed....we could get dressed, get the DVD and get there by 5:00. I pushed it into high gear, dressing Grace and myself simultaneously and throwing my hair up into a ponytail.

Trevor had the kids in the car and we sped away to church, agreeing to eat dinner after. We dropped Nathan off at the Family Life Center and then went to our classroom. We noticed as we drove into the parking lot that none of our small group members were there yet. Hmmm. Not as strange as you might think...most of our group is not constrained by time and rarely arrive until 30 minutes after the start time. As Trevor and I sat there waiting for everyone to show up, I decided that maybe I should call around and make sure that someone was actually planning to attend. First I called Kenneth and Kellye, who informed me that they were too busy for God (just kidding, Kellye!). They have the same "Not Enough Hours in the Day" syndrome that Trevor and I have, so they were passing for tonight. Kellye also told me that Jason and Alicia would not be coming either, so when I called Mike and Heather I was not surprised to hear that they weren't going to be there. Actually, I almost laughed out loud when I talked to to Mike because it was already 5:20 and when I asked him if they were coming he turned away and asked Heather if they were planning on coming. That was probably a question that should have been asked at 4:00 or so, but it's Mike and Heather so what are you going to do? (Can you tell who is not constrained by time yet?)

So, we loaded the kids back up and ran a few errands which ended with us sitting in the automatic car wash. My phone rang and it was Kellye wanting to know if we had eaten dinner yet. Kenneth had been out checking his lines and had 7 fresh catfish that he was offering to fry up for us. We have had Kenneth's fish before and were not about to turn it down, so plans were made for them to come over and eat. We ran to the store for a few items and then back home to get the side dishes prepared for dinner.

It had been a beautiful day and it ended with a cool, clear evening. The kids played happily on the swing set as we fried the fish and fries out on the deck and set up a table so we could eat outside. The food was wonderful, and as I sat there and watched my family and friends enjoying each other's company I felt a deep sense of contentment and peace come over me. This was not forced conversation and uncomfortable silences that sometimes comes with people you are getting to know. This was the easy banter and joking of friends who have nothing to hide and so much to gain by learning more and more about each other. These are people that I can depend on....people who matter to me. People that I love.

So, although the weekend flew by in a blur and I didn't get as much accomplished as I would have liked, it ended on a perfect note. I can't think of a more beautiful sound than the song of Christian fellowship.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Does the Weather Need an Intervention?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the weather is on crack? First we had the bizarre cold snap last weekend for Easter. At the Easter egg hunt Saturday morning, the kids were running around in jeans, sweaters and jackets with their breath suspended in the air as they held the newly discovered pastel colored eggs. We had a roaring fire going all day in the fireplace, and the Easter morning pictures of Grace in her sleeveless linen dress and Nathan in his blazer and khaki pants looked like a digitally altered photos with the flickering fire in the background!
Last week we had a bit of a warming trend and I thought that all the craziness was over. The tender (though slightly frostbitten perhaps) plants started to stretch out to the warm sun again and put out more growth. I left work several evenings to beautifully mild temperatures and the promise of a long evening on the deck with Trevor and the kids. And then came Friday.

It rained pretty much all day Friday, ruining my plans for cutting the grass when I got home. The longer it rained, the cooler it became and it continued to storm all night. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was about 70 and very comfortable outside. I enjoyed my morning coffee on the swing outside and listened to the birds sing as the world woke up around me. It looked as though it was going to be a temperate (although cloudy) day. As the day progressed, the sun came out but the temperature dropped to an unseasonable 60 with really high winds. By yesterday evening it was 55 and we had another fire going in the fireplace. Granted, 55 isn't technically fire building weather, but we do live in Southeast Texas and any excuse to have a fire is a good one!

So, we'll see what the weather does today. Can I wear strappy pink heels to church today or do I need to wear something that will cover my legs? Sleeveless or jacket? Will it be good kite flying weather for Nathan, or will the wind send us running inside looking for refuge from it's bite? I am hoping for a beautiful, sunny day filled with worship and family time. But like so many things in my life, I can't control the weather and will have to make the best of whatever comes my way. I'm just praying for normal weather soon so that out poor plants will stop being so confused about whether to lose their leaves or grow them!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Morning Coffee Run

Up until February the same person kept both of my children in her home. Nathan had been there since he was a year old and Gracie since she was born. For unknown reasons, the sitter blew up at me and basically accused Trevor and I of being bad parents. As a result, Trevor's mom now takes Nathan to school and drives him home in the afternoons and Gracie goes to daycare at our church. This arrangement has worked out beautifully for us and I have seen so many improvements in their attitudes, behaviors and development. Nathan stopped having such a discipline problem at school and Gracie's vocabulary and verbal skills skyrocketed.

The only thing that changed for me as far as taking Gracie to daycare was the hour at which I could drop her off. Before the change, I was able to drop her off as early as 6:30 am and that changed to no earlier than 7:15 am. So now instead of dropping Gracie off and then going to Exxon to get my 20 oz Community coffee, I take her with me to get the morning octane. I only mention this because of her growing relationship with the owner of the Exxon station and because her little routine in the morning is so cute and predictable. The owner is a very nice middle-eastern man who is very friendly and always has a smile for us.

Now that Gracie has met him, they are fast friends. She dances into the store each morning calling out "Good morning!" to whoever will listen. He answers her with a smile and hello in return as she moves on to the ice cream display. "Ice cream!" she chirps happily. "I love ice cream! Hello, ice cream." As I pour my coffee and add cream and sugar, she moves over to the candy display. "Hello, candy! What's this, Mommy?" I inform her that those brown things are peanuts (I do this every morning) and she tries to remove the bag from the display, after calling them coconuts. I tell her to stop touching everything and she obeys, happy to move on to the next rack filled with largish bags of gummy worms, bears and discs. I finish getting my coffee and we walk to the counter. On the way we have to pass large pictures (at Gracie's eye level) of fried chicken and pizza. "That's pizza! Hello, pizza! That's chicken! Hello, chicken! Can I have pizza please?" So once more we have the discussion about breakfast appropriate foods, and continue on to the counter. Once there, she tells the owner hello again for good measure and he grins at her. She points to the same items every morning (the lighters, the gum, the incense) and asks, "what's that?" I finish paying for the coffee and we make our way out the door as she yells, "See ya later, alligator! Bye bye!"

I know it may seem strange, but I have come to look forward to our morning run to Exxon. She is so sweet and friendly. She has that honest curiosity that comes naturally to 2 year olds and it is so endearing. I was telling a friend at work about our morning routine and it made me realize that these are the moments I need to record and etch into my memory. My 20 minutes alone with my daughter each morning are precious, even if we share them with the owner of the Exxon station and several total strangers. We have a routine that is all our own and it is sweet and beautiful in its own way.

Gracie is my baby....the last one I'll have and she holds a special place in my heart. She is tough as nails and reminds me so much of me that it's a little scary. One look from those big, blue eyes and my insides just turn to goo (unless, of course she's in trouble and then I have to steel myself against the goo). That little face is irresistible and I love nothing better than the feel of her tiny arms wrapped tightly around my neck and her small voice whispering "I love you" in my ear. My deepest hope and desire is that she will still want to wrap her arms around my neck and whisper those words to me when she is out on her own and living her own life. That will mean that I didn't mess up too badly....that the things I did (or didn't do) were not permanently damaging to her emotional health. That in spite of my mistakes and shortcomings as a mother, I did most of it right and my reward is a beautiful, assertive, successful daughter who is also my friend.

"A daughter is a mother's gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters' role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships." ~Victoria Secunda

Friday, April 13, 2007

I Am My Beloved's

A week from today, Trevor and I will be driving to San Antonio for the weekend to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Ten years. It doesn't seem that long, but I can't deny the facts. At this time 10 years ago, I was tying up loose ends regarding the wedding and Trevor was making plans to drive home from Virginia with his best friend Phil.

Trevor and I have known each other for almost 22 years. We met in Jr. High band in 1985 and have been friends (with a few bumps in the road) ever since. We went through high school together and then I went to college and Trevor joined the Navy. Over the years, we still remained friends and even tried dating a time or two but it never seemed to work out. He would come home on leave for Christmas or some other holiday, and we would get together for a dinner and a movie, or I would go out to his parents house for a visit.

He came home in December of 1996 and we met for our usual dinner and catch up time. We were both involved with other people, but both of those relationships were coming to an end for various reasons. I vividly remember sitting across from him at The Black-Eyed Pea and feeling like I had been struck by lightning. I realized at that moment that I had been so blind to the fact that he was my soul mate and I felt a rush of regret that I had not seen it sooner. Retrospectively, we would have never made it if we had married sooner. We we were both too selfish and immature to even consider the covenant relationship of marriage. God knew the right time and place for the two of us to come to together and it happened exactly as He intended it.

Over the next few weeks we spent obscene amounts of time on the phone with each other and we gave the US Postal Service a run for their money with all of the letter writing that we did! By mid-January we were engaged and Trevor was flying home from Virginia every two weeks to spend the weekend with me. I had a little apartment in the Medical Center and we spent those weekends together remembering the times that we had spent together and planning for our future. I look back on those hastily snatched days together as some of the best memories of my life. I remember asking Mama how she kept the intense feeling of love and attraction alive in her marriage over the years. She told me that every marriage goes through highs and lows, but to remember one important thing. She told me to always remember how I felt when I saw Trevor walking towards me down the concourse at the airport as I eagerly awaited the feeling of his embrace. She said that no matter how bad things may get from time to time that if I could recall that feeling of total love and devotion, it would help me get through those difficult times.

I can say with complete honesty that her advice was some of the best she has ever given me. After 10 years together, there have been times when we were simply living from day to day with no real passion. During those times, all I had to do was see him through my minds eye walking towards me with his arms open and that beautiful smile of love and desire on his face. It wasn't a magical cure for our difficult times, but it gave me hope that those intense feelings would resurface and that our marriage would be that much stronger for the challenges we faced together.

Trevor is my best friend. He is the person I want to talk to when I have good news or bad. I turn to him for comfort, support, guidance and unconditional love. We have a mutual respect for each other and a relationship built on complete trust and honesty. When I ask Trevor if I look fat in a dress, I know that he is going to tell me the truth. We don't play those games with each's counterproductive and only causes hurt feelings. I can tell him anything....even my deep, dark secrets that only God has heard.

I thank God on a daily basis for my husband. He is my best friend and the love of my life. I look forward to remaining years that God has given us. Whether it's 1 more year or 30 more years with him, I will love him as much at the end as I did at the beginning.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's All Relative

Trevor told me the other night that he is not going to China at the end of April as planned. He's been trying to get back over there to complete a project since his first trip of the year was aborted in February. One problem after another has surfaced and so he's still here and the project is still incomplete. I'm sorry that he has work that he can't finish, but I am really glad that he is here with us instead of halfway across the planet.

This postponement of his trip also means that I don't have to switch call at work with anyone and now I will be off for Memorial Day weekend. I want to go home to Louisiana this year and visit the graves of Gramps and Uncle Tellius. I have always been overwhelmed by the sacrifice and heroism of these two men. Gramps was a paratrooper in World War II and Uncle Tellius served in Vietnam and I tried to let them know each year on Veteran's Day how much their service meant to me. This is the first Memorial Day since we lost them, and I want to do something special. I'm not sure what I'm going to put on the graves, but hopefully it will be something that they would have appreciated when they were alive.

This trip home will also be my first since Uncle Tellius' funeral. It's funny how we begin to mark things in relationship to the deaths of people we love. Thanksgiving was the first holiday after Gramps died. Christmas was the last holiday that we had with Uncle Tellius. Even the days of the month take on different meaning. The 16th will be the 8 month anniversary of Gramp's death and the 19th will be 3 months for Uncle Tellius. I don't write this to be's just my reality now. I can't see how I'll ever write those numbers again without thinking of the loss my family has suffered.

Still, I find comfort in the thought that one day I will see them both again. There will be no more pain, suffering or tears when we all reunite in heaven. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have died already, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are dead. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Can you think of a more glorious thing than the rapture? Every time I read this passage I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I am promised a reunion with those that I love who died as believers in Christ. "And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend; even so, it is well with my soul"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another Milestone

Nathan lost his first tooth yesterday. He came into my bedroom as I was dressing and showed me (for about the 439 time since he realized that it was loose) how loose it was. His exact words were, "It came up on one side!" The other side was leaning on another tooth and I told him if he pulled the loose one away from the other one, he would probably have a visit from the Tooth Fairy that night or the next. He reached in and then with some surprise pulled the tooth completely out!

There really aren't words to describe how excited he was. He jumped up and down (never mind the bleeding gum) and ran around in circles. We called Daddy to tell him the good news and then jumped around some more. He insisted that he bring it to school so he could wear it around his neck in some sort of tooth receptacle that the nurse has devised for such an occasion. He began to plot and plan how he was going to spend the money left under his pillow by that nocturnal sprite we know and love.

He was so excited about this milestone, and although I was excited for him I unexpectedly felt a little sad. Nathan was my first baby. I learned how to be a mother with him. I made many mistakes with him that I did not repeat with Grace. I carefully recorded each sigh, step and bite of food. I anxiously looked through my development books to make sure that he was right on track with all of his milestones. I cheered him on and probably pushed him harder than I should have to do all of the "firsts" instead of just letting it happen.

In spite of my mistakes and sometimes overzealous encouragement, he grew straight and tall over the years. He evolved from that chunky little red-headed baby into a precocious toddler and then to a preschooler with an insatiable curiosity. Now he is at the end of his Kindergarten year and is beginning to read, can jump off the top of the fort in the backyard, and is an accomplished bike rider. He's growing so fast and it's almost more than I can bear. The loss of that first tooth just brought it into sharp focus yesterday.

I think what saddens me about Nathan growing up is the fact that I am getting closer and closer to the day that he won't need me anymore. I know that we never lose the visceral feeling of needing our mothers....I feel like I need mine all of the time. But we we don't literally need them the way that we did when we were children. To Nathan, I am the center of the universe; his world revolves around me. He needs my nurturing and comfort. He needs the special way that I take care of him when he is sick. I occupy a place in his world that no one else could ever inhabit, and that is one of the things I love most about being a mother. I am replaceable in almost all other areas in my life, but never as a mom. His unconditional, pure love is something that I drink in like clear cold water every time I look into his green-gold eyes.

So, I am beginning to prepare myself for all of those little deaths that I will have to die as a mother. The first time he is embarrassed by my affection in public. The first time I give him the keys to the car to go out with his friends. The first time I begin to see him as a man. The first time I see that his love is directed at another woman. We sometimes think that those "firsts" are limited to babyhood and childhood, but they are not. There are so many firsts in his life and the older he gets the slower I want them to come. I pushed him to take that first step, but now I am beginning to dig my heels in a little as each new milestone appears. I think there might be deep ruts behind me by the time he leaves home!

It seemed like such a simple, ordinary thing when he told me he had a loose tooth a few weeks ago. I guess that nothing is simple or ordinary when it comes to the lives of our children, especially when we see their childhood slipping by like so many grains of sand in an hourglass.

Lord, thank you for Nathan. Thank you for a beautiful, intelligent child who never ceases to amaze (and humor) me with his wit and his commentary on life in general. I have been blessed beyond measure and I pray that I will have the grace to guide him on the path that leads to You. There is no greater gift that I can give him than the means and knowledge to come to know You and to give his life over to Your service. I pray for early salvation and a life well lived for your glory. Amen.

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD."

Psalm 34:8-11

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sibling Dynamics

The other day there was a commotion in the playroom. Not that this is a rare occurrence in our house, but bear with me. I could hear Nathan pleading with Grace to get off of him. "Come on Grace! Please get off!" and a moment later, "Grace! Leave me alone!" and yet again, "Please get off me, Grace!" I was sitting there wondering why Nathan (who outweighs Grace by about 25 lbs) didn't just move or get up. When I went to investigate, I realized his dilemma: Gracie was following him around. Wherever he sat, she got right next to him and put her feet in his face. Not just on him, but in his face. He would sit up and she was right there. He would move across the room and she was as tight as his shadow. Let me tell you from experience: Gracie's feet are no picnic to have in your face. She may be 2, but her feet smell about 7.

I had a hard time holding in the laughter as I made her quit harassing her brother. It was a mighty effort, but I did it. I realized in that moment that Grace is the instigator in their relationship. That is not to say that Nathan never bothers her just for the sake of being obnoxious, but he would really rather just play and not fight. Gracie is always ready (and willing) for a fight. She will sit there and poke him in the arm with her finger until he practically comes apart at the seams. The traditional roles of older and younger siblings (or more specifically big brothers and little sisters) have been reversed with my children it seems.

Patrick lived to push my buttons and to get me in as much trouble as humanly possible when we were children. I always seemed to be the one who got caught carrying out his harebrained schemes as he sat smugly by and watched it all unfold before his eyes. His 2 additional years of experience put him in a position of power over me and he used it to his advantage. I fully expected this sort of dynamic between my own children who are right at 3 years apart, but have slowly come to see that their relationship (at least for now) is completely different from the one I had with their uncle.

Grace will do anything to get a rise out of Nathan. She is at the age where she does things repetitiously anyway, and add to that her propensity (and glee) for bothering the snot out of Nathan and you have a recipe for disaster! I can't decide if I like this part of her personality or not. On one hand, I want her to be assertive with high self-esteem when she grows up. I don't want her to be a doormat for other people....I want her to stand up for herself and be proud of who she is. No problems there. But (and there is always a but) I also want her to be empathetic to the needs and emotions of others and to not think only of herself. I want her to be nurturing and caring. I don't think those characteristics come as easily to her as they do Nathan and it's something that Trevor and I need to encourage and help her develop over time.

But for now, she is 2 (very soon to be 3) and she is all over the place. I just pray every morning that today won't be the day that she causes Nathan to snap....that extra 25 lbs could do some real damage!

Monday, April 9, 2007


Since this is my own personal corner of cyberspace, I can rant and rave about any topic of my choosing. I have dedicated entire blogs to the personal driving skills (or lack thereof) of my fellow commuters and to the concept of choosing the number of children you want instead of trying indefinitely for a particular gender. I have made my opinions known in subtle and "in your face" ways alike. Today I am choosing to complain and rant about the way people dress for church.....specifically Easter Sunday.

For as long as I can remember, I have dressed up for church. As a child, that meant a slip, ruffly panties, starched dress, frilly lace socks and seasonally appropriate shoes. Let's all say it together for any Yankees out there (or Southerners who ought to know better but don't) white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. As a teenager and adult, it meant panty hose, heels or dressy flats, a slip and a nice dress.

Now I realize that times have changed. Panty hose are not particularly popular and I have actually embraced that particular fashion change rather readily, unless I am wearing close-toed shoes. Women do not feel compelled to wear dresses but wear pants and men (and some women) wear jeans and tennis shoes to Sunday morning worship. I have become accustomed to this type of dress when I attend church.

Having said that, I draw the line when I see teenagers in tight pants, halter tops, t-shirts with holes and short shorts. I cringe when I see adults in in shorts and flip-flops. Is this really what the modern day Christian finds appropriate for worship these days? I know that many would argue that it doesn't matter what you wear as long as you show up, and I can understand that to a certain degree. Not having the means for dressy clothing or for any clothing beyond work clothes should not be a deterrent for attending church. I am not suggesting that we should all go into debt to be able to purchase expensive, showy clothes for church. All should feel welcome in the house of God no matter how they are dressed, but there is a difference between not being able to dress up and choosing not to because you are too lazy to put a little effort into your appearance on Sunday morning. How many people out there would go to a job interview in shorts and flip-flops or hot pants unless you were applying for a life guard position or cocktail waitress? Not many, because you want to make a good impression...put your best foot forward. You are showing respect for the people that you are going to see.

Why do we treat the weekly opportunity to come together as a body of believers with less respect than we would a job interview? It's not that God expects us to dress a certain way, but I do believe that outward appearance should be a reflection of your inner heart. My inner heart wants to stand before God the Father in a respectful, modest way. He's the "person" I'm going to church to see. Tight pants that say "Bootylicious" across the bottom are not respectful or modest. Shorts and flip-flops scream, "I was too lazy to iron my pants and shirt this morning. I had other things on my mind". I think that it is a sign of respect, not vanity, to wear your best when you are coming to church to worship the Maker of the universe.

Now I realize that I am stomping all over the feet of many of my friends and fellow believers, but I am entitled to my opinion. If you are entitled to come to church like you are ready to go to the beach, I am allowed to vent about it on my blog. And please don't post and quote James 2:1-4 to me. I'm not suggesting that people who wear expensive clothing should be venerated and people who can't should be outcast and made to feel inadequate.

So, now we come to Easter Sunday morning. The Queen Mother of all worship services. The one day out of the entire year that you expect to see most people in new dresses or coats and ties. The day when we can pull out those white shoes and wear them proudly with no fear of being talked about over dinner. When I arrived at church yesterday morning in my new dress with children in tow wearing freshly ironed and starched dresses and sports coats, I was feeling all Eastery. I was struck (for the millionth time) how handsome my husband looks in a suit. Then I went inside. I saw only a handful of people that looked like they had even taken a second look in the mirror before they left the house. No sea of pretty spring dresses; no starched white shirts with ties and jackets. I saw a female member of the choir in an old button down shirt and jeans, the music minister was in a wrinkled button down shirt, and even the pastor didn't bother to wear a tie. IT'S EASTER SUNDAY!!!!!!!!! What are you people thinking????????? Are you from an alternate universe? Is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord so unimportant that you would take no care with your appearance?

I love this quote by Phil Johnson: "To a certain extent, our attire in church reflects our attitude toward the significance of corporate worship and the holiness of the One whom we worship, and we ought to give some thought to that fact when we decide what to wear. The tendency toward making Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, sandals, bare midriffs, and gold chains the standard attire for corporate worship is related to the very same mentality that is cheapening and trivializing every other aspect of our worship."

I know that sounds like I'm being shallow and that I should be more focused on the reason we come to church and less on what everyone around me is wearing. Like I said's my blog and I can say whatever I want. I think that the way we are progressively dressing further and further down for worship is an indicator of our respect for God. We are commanded to keep the Sabbath holy....why doesn't that extend to our dress? If you truly believe that it doesn't matter what you wear as long as you show up, then why doesn't that extend to other areas of our lives? Would you attend a wedding in shorts and flip-flops? Would you attend a funeral dressed that way? Why not? Because you have respect for the bride and groom and you have respect for the dead. Do you not have respect for God? Do you really think it doesn't matter how we present ourselves to Him?

I think it matters a great deal (if you're still reading along, this should be clear by now). I think that it would do a lot of people good to start dressing like they care on Sunday morning. Dress like you are going somewhere special, because going to a place of worship is special. It's not to impress the people sitting in the pew next to you or to impress God. It's to show respect for the awesome God that we serve.