Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Excitement is Building

I can hardly stand it!!! In less than 48 hours, I will be landing in Denver to see Courtney, Chris and Jack! I know that people who reside in areas that are still receiving snow are pretty much sick and tired of the cold, but I'm excited about having some cool weather. It's been nice the past few days here on the Gulf Coast, but just days ago it reached 95. In April.
In case you didn't hear me, I said 95! Degrees!

So, the prospect of being in Denver for 4 days where the estimated average high is about 60 makes me do a little happy dance. I need to pull out the 2 sweaters that I own and perhaps I'll get to wear my wool pea coat for 8th time in 2 years. Sweet.

Of course, the main reason I'm excited is because I get to see Courtney (or Coco, as she is affectionately known to family). She is my double-first cousin, and a year younger than me. When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time with her because we lived in Louisiana, but then we moved to Texas when I was four. Strangely enough, we did not grow apart as you would have expected. I only saw her during holidays and the visits we made home during the summer but no matter how long we had been apart, we just picked up where we had left off.

We were the oldest granddaughters and we stuck together. My poor brother only had girl cousins and his sisters to play with growing up, but I had Courtney. When we left home and went to college, we would visit each other and go out together. She came to see me at Texas A&M and I went to see her at LSU and then Southeastern.

During the time that I was sick with cancer, Courtney was living with my parents in Texas and was with me as I struggled through chemo and therapy school. She would sneak into my notebooks and write things like "Xandra is a three-toed tree sloth" and "Xandra smells like gorilla toe cheese" on random pages that I would find as I was taking notes. I got more than one strange look when I laughed out loud for no apparent reason in the middle of a lecture!

She was there when the boyfriend I thought I was going to marry broke my heart. She was my maid of honor when I married Trevor, and I was her matron of honor when she married Chris. She flew down when Nathan was born and always remembers my birthday. She has always been there for me, and I have always been there for her. She is trustworthy, and I know that I can tell her anything and it will go in the vault. We are so alike but so completely different. When we get tickled about something, you can't tell our laughs apart. It sound like one person is laughing really loud!

She is more like a sister than a cousin, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She's my best friend. So, I am understandably excited about seeing her and her beautiful little family. She's married to the love of her life, and they have an adorable son that I consider to be my nephew. I may or may not get around to posting while I'm gone for this long weekend, but rest assured that I will be having a great time.

An added bonus to this particular trip is that I finally get to meet a blogging friend in person. Karen from Over the Backyard Fence is meeting Courtney and me for lunch on Friday! We are going to a place called The Atlanta Bread Company, and I can barely stand the anticipation of meeting her! I'm sure there will be hugging and laughing and picture taking.

So, in a nutshell, I AM EXCITED! Which is why I'm yelling. And why my face hurts from all the smiling. I suppose I should go pack something......

Monday, April 28, 2008

Isn't It Obvious?

Being a part of this biblical parenting class has been such a blessing to me over the past few weeks. My interactions with the kids are less, "What were you thinking!! Stop doing that!!" and more, "You have a choice and what could you do differently next time?"

To their great relief, I'm sure.

Anyhoo, Nathan had some trouble last night when he was in childcare during our study. He was teasing some girls, and got in a little trouble. I wasn't aware of the problem, but Trevor took him aside in his bedroom to discuss what happened, and to try to apply some of the principles we have learned.

The conversation that follows is a second-hand account that I heard from Trevor later in the evening as we were relaxing in the living room together. They had already discussed his behavior, and Trevor was just following Nathan's thought process and letting him "lead" the discussion. Trevor made the comment to Nathan that the most important thing in the whole world--more than friends, more than family, more that anything--was learning about Jesus and reading his Bible. Here's the conversation that followed:

Nathan: My teacher said that we can't talk about God or pray in school.

Trevor: Well, that's true because we have laws that say teachers can't pray in school, but there is nothing stopping you from talking about God or praying whenever you want to.

Nathan: (after a short pause) So, God made the world, right?

Trevor: Right.

Nathan: And they made the school out of things that God created, right?

Trevor: Yes.

Nathan: So why can't we talk about God if he made the school?

Trevor: Well, like I said, the teachers have to follow those rules.

Nathan: That's dumb.
Out of the mouths of babes! It just seemed so obvious to him how ridiculous that was...too bad it's not so obvious to the lawmakers.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturdays

Come Thou Fount

I have posted the words to this hymn before, because they are so powerful. They speak to me on many levels...praise, worship, my own weakness and God's grace and mercy. The verses are in a sequence that parallels our walk with Christ.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

In verse one, my only response to His gracious mercy is to sing with loudest praise! I am fixed on His goodness and mercy, singing with the Hosts of heaven in praise and adoration.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

Verse two reveals the story of how Jesus "sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood", and gives me more reason to raise my voice in worship to the King. The words, "Here I raise my Ebenezer" refers to I Samuel 7:12, "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." Ebenezer is the Hebrew for "Stone of Help." Israel had suffered defeat because of its sin. But the people had repented of their sin, God had helped them and they were victorious. Samuel placed the stone to remind Israel that God had them, their victory was because of Him.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Verse three is probably my favorite, because it reveals the frailty of the human spirit. We are fallen....we live in a Genesis 3 world. No matter how strong our faith and love for God, we wander away from Him, but praise God we are bound to Him forever and ever. Our sin is covered by His goodness and mercy.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

The final verse speaks to what I long for above all be with Him. One day all the sin and sorrow of this world will be left behind, and I will enter into an eternity of endless day, where God is the light and there is no need of the sun. I will have the joy of singing His praises forever at the foot of the throne!

I can hardly sing this hymn without a catch in my throat. It speaks so deeply to my soul of the things that make up the very fiber of my existence. In spite of my sin and helplessness, my soul longs to praise Him and to be near Him. I know that I wander, but I still yearn to be within the sheltering fold of the Shepherd.

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever;
with my mouth will I make known
Your faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 89:1

Friday, April 25, 2008

Worship Interrupted

I realize that I am not the most patient driver. I could never be accused of going too slow, but there is a phenomenon that really irks me and I can't for the life of me figure it out.

I live in Texas, and it is legal to pull over on an improved shoulder to allow traffic to pass you if you choose to go slower than the flow. Most people fall into two categories:

  1. They see you coming up behind them, and refuse to pull over and let you pass strictly on principle. They see no reason why you should need to drive any faster than they are, and of you want to get around them, you are going to have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear so you can pass at your own risk. I can respect that. It irritates me (especially when they aren't even going the speed limit), but I can appreciate it. At least you know what you're dealing with.

  2. They see you coming up behind them, and pull over on the shoulder allowing you to pass without ever having to slow down. I like this category better for obvious reasons.

However, there is a small percentage of the population that does both, and it irritates the ever living snot out of me! They see you coming up behind them and carry on smartly at the speed they have chosen. After about 10 minutes of waiting for oncoming traffic to clear enough so that you can pass, you make your move. You put your blinker on, you pull over to the left and begin to accelerate and lo, and behold, they suddenly decide to be polite and pull over onto the shoulder! To this I ask, "What's the stinkin' point???!!!!!" I've already been driving 55 in a 65 for ten minutes waiting for an opportunity to get around them. Why, all of the sudden, do they feel the urge to pull out of the way?

Are they are mocking me.? They were perfectly capable of pulling over miles back, but just didn't. Why????? Can anyone tell me why???? I don't buy the "excuse" that they probably didn't see me. If you have gone 10 minutes without even glancing in your rear view mirror, then perhaps a driving refresher course is in order.

It also puts a wrinkle in my worship time when I have to stop singing "How Great is Our God" at the top of my lungs to sigh heavily and think mean thoughts about the driver in front of me. I can't seem to help it, and then I feel really guilty about praising God with one breath and cursing (in my head) the driver with the next. It brings to mind James 3:8-10:

But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way.

It shouldn't be this way, but my brain works much faster than my heart. At least I don't utter the thoughts I am having, aside from a frustrated "Oh come on!" I guess I need to turn the music up just a little louder.....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

300th Post and Giveaway Winner!

I realized as I was navigating my blog to create this post, that it is my 300th! I thought it was kind of cool that my 300th missive involved announcing the winner Shepherding a Child's Heart giveaway. I used a random integer generator folded pieces of paper in a bowl, and I am pleased to announce Alana at A Kiss a Hug and a Squeeze as the recipient of this wonderful book!

(Insert wild cheering and applause here)

If you want to know 100 things about me, go here. If you are interested in strange, random facts about me, go here. And if you want even more information about the things I love, go here. I figured that 300 more things about me would be a bit much (for me to write and for you to read), so none of that today. Just a thank you for being interested enough in my writing to keep coming back, leaving comments and encouraging me in my Christian walk. The only thing I ask on the occasion of my 300th post is that if you are a lurker (and you know who you are), please leave a comment this time. I would love to visit your blog and get to know you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Giveaway Reminder

Just a quick reminder to be sure and comment here to be entered in the drawing for the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. I will be randomly choosing a name tomorrow evening.

Getting Back Into the Routine

Let me begin by saying that I am so glad to have Trevor home. I usually spend the Friday afternoon that he returns in a state of anxious expectation, arriving at the airport before I need to be there and then getting worked up because I have to wait for him. But this past Friday, we had a baby shower for my friend Kasi at work, so the time just flew by and it took my mind off the waiting.

He called me just as I was leaving work, so when I pulled up to the terminal he was making his way out of the building. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with joy when I caught sight of him! I don't really relax and believe that he is home until I can actually see his face and feel his strong embrace.

I dropped him off at the house and then went to get the kids from school and the babysitter's house. I told them that I had a surprise for them at home, and it was fun to listen to them try and guess what it was. When we pulled into the driveway, Nathan bolted out of the Tahoe and I had to rein him in so I could see his reaction when he saw Trevor. He and Gracie made a beeline for the front door and when they realized he was home, there was much hugging and squealing!

We ended up in the backyard when all of the hugging and squealing was over, and it seemed like every time Trevor looked down, Nathan was standing there. Not talking or trying to get his attention, just standing there as close as he could get to Trevor. When Trevor would ruffle his hair or smile at him, Nathan would throw his arms around him and say, "I'm so glad you're home, Daddy!"

We went to the local carnival/BBQ cook-off on Saturday and had a good time, in spite of the heat. I meant to put sunscreen on the kids, but when I went to apply it realized that it was expired. As a result, Gracie sported and pink nose and cheeks, but no serious damage was done. We rode the Ferris wheel, the Zipper and ate some BBQ. Trevor was really dragging towards the end of our excursion due to the jet lag, so we were all glad to walk home and rest for a while.

We spent Sunday afternoon relaxing and then attended the third week of our Shepherding a Child's Heart bible study that evening. Trevor ended up having to go home before it started because he wasn't feeling well, but the study was a great success. The group is starting to loosen up a bit and feel comfortable sharing and asking questions.

Yesterday, Trevor and I took the day off from work so that we could spend some alone time together. Since he was so jet lagged, we didn't do anything for our anniversary Saturday, so we thought we would at least try to catch lunch and a movie on Monday. We ended up spending most of our time at Barnes and Noble (typical) and then having lunch at Pappasito's. We bought Nathan a chapter book that he was very excited about, and then basically headed home. Poor Trevor was still feeling under the weather, so after I dropped him off I went and got a pedicure.

I sat there and read my book while my feet and legs were pampered, and it was wonderful. I have been a little embarrassed to wear my sandals, because it has been so long since I had a pedicure, and now I have no reason to be ashamed. She did a great job, and it felt good to have some alone time after the two weeks of absolutely no privacy!

So there is my weekend in a nutshell. We are so happy to have Trevor home again, and are finally settling back in to our routine. I also had an opportunity to network at little bit with regard to my calligraphy business. I am praying that with some of the additional exposure I am receiving, that I will be getting more business. I love scrapbooking and doing calligraphy and I hope that at some point in the future it will be enough to allow me to stay home with the kids.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Waiting is Over!

After watching this map all morning, and then anxiously waiting for his phone call, we were finally reunited! Trevor is officially home early from China, and we both have Monday off. Tomorrow is our 11th anniversary, so the blogging will be sparse for the next few days.

I wanted to get a picture of Nathan and Grace as they walked in the house and realized that Trevor was home, but my camera is broken. I have no idea what happened, but it won't come on at all. I've tried everything, but nothing seems to work. So, I will just have to remember (without the benefit of a digital record) how excited they were to see him kneeling on the floor in the living room as they walked in the house.

For the first hour or so, Trevor would look down, and Nathan would just be standing there. It was so sweet because he wanted to be close to Trevor, almost as though he couldn't believe that he was really home. Trevor would smile at him or ruffle his hair and Nathan would throw his arms around him and say, "I so glad you're home!"

Amen, brother. Amen!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Six-Word Memoir

I was tagged by Leslie at Do You Weary Like I Do for this meme, and after a bit of searching I discovered where it originated. Bookbabie wrote:

As I read yet another book review of a memoir this weekend, my husband told me that I should write one. I said that my story would be much too short and rather boring so when I ran across the following book I decided it was just my speed. A six word memoir! Written by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, Not Quite What I was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure is a compilation based on the story that Hemingway once bet ten dollars that he could sum up his life in six words. His words were- For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. There’s a video on Amazon with examples from the book, it sounds like a fun read! I’d like to start a six word memoir meme and here are the rules:
1. Write your own Six-Word Memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

I thought this would be hard. I thought that all I would be able to come up with was some lame, ridiculous attempt at either a) humor or b) wit. As it turns out, my six words were right in front of my face. My spiritual growth in the last 2 years has been exponential because of one thing: the realization of what it means that God is sovereign and in control of everything. So my six word memoir would have to be:

I'm called according to His purpose.

I need to tag 5 people now, so Alana, Rhonda, Karen, Buffi and Linda, you're it! Please don't feel pressured to participate and if you are reading this post and weren't tagged but want to participate, I would love to see your responses!

The Praying--it Helps!

I must begin by thanking each and every one of you who have been praying for Trevor's early return to us from his trip to China. I have received so many emails and comments that have encouraged me to persevere while he's been gone, and hope that he will come home soon.

The prayers? Well, they've been answered. I received word yesterday that he will be flying in on Friday. FRIDAY! My window for cleaning the house, changing the sheets and preparing a menu is rapidly closing. Please don't mistake this for complaining....I am overjoyed to be worrying about these things, and having so much to do will keep my evenings busy. Busy is good because the time tends to fly, and I am anxious to see his handsome face again and feel his strong embrace. Did I mention that he will be home for our 11th anniversary now?

I can tell that the kids are really starting to miss him. Nathan came to my bedside in tears at 3 am, retelling a nightmare that he had about a bee hurting Daddy. I let him crawl into Trevor's spot and finish the night out with me since he was so upset. The first thing he said to me when we woke up was, "Do you think Daddy is ok?" He was still worried that his dream was real. I reassured him that Daddy was just fine, and that he would be home soon.

Gracie told me that she dreamed that Daddy came home, and I dreamed of him last night as well. I guess he's really been on our minds in the last few days, and I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they see him Friday. I decided not to tell them he's coming home early, because if I did the next few days would be unbearable. They get so worked up and excited in the days before he comes back, and I figured I would have some peace, and they would get a great surprise. We all win.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Kindred Spirit

I got the nicest surprise in the mail today. Linda from Mocha With Linda sent me a copy of How Sweet the Sound. It is a book written by George Beverly Shea and it contains the stories behind over 50 hymns, as well as reflections by Bev Shea and Billy Graham, among others.

In a word: priceless.

It's no secret that I love hymns. I love the theology, the arrangements and the memories that I associate with them. I love the simple and the complex, the old and the new. Nothing pleases me more than the sound of perfectly blended four part harmony praising God through song.

I believe that the people who write music for the purpose of glorifying God are inspired by Him. How else can you explain the lasting power of Christian music? I feel as though I need to clarify that I feel the same way about contemporary music, although my first love is the traditional hymn. I am just as moved by Praise You in This Storm or Jesus Bring the Rain, as I am by There is a Fountain or The Way That He Loves.

So, I am settling in for a lovely evening of reading and reflecting. I think I might start it off by sitting down at the piano and playing a few hymns. My heart just overflows with joy when I hear my children singing when I play, not even aware that they are doing it. They have heard the melodies so many times that they automatically hum along.

Thank you Linda. You bless me in so many ways, and you made my day. Thank you for my wonderful book that I will always cherish. When we get together in June, I'll have to get you to write an inscription in it!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Odds and Ends

There are several random things that have been rolling around in my brain that are not enough for individual posts, so I'm going to put them all here. I think I might start doing this periodically...

Item One: I got my first calligraphy contract on Friday. I've done calligraphy for my family (wedding invitations, etc) and friends, and was encouraged to start doing it for payment so I created a website. I received a phone call from a wedding planner in Houston who would like to use my services. I'm really excited, because this could open up more business for me in the future if she and the bride are happy with my work!

Item Two: Eleven years ago this weekend, I was at the Strawberry Festival in Louisiana with my cousin (and maid of honor) Courtney. It was the weekend before my wedding, and my mom couldn't believe that I left Houston (and last minute planning) to go home and play! Looking back, she was right, but I had such a good time with Courtney. Every year about this time, I think about that weekend and all the happy memories that go with it.

Item Three: I miss Trevor, but I have hope that he will be able to come home a week early from his trip to China. He told me it was a possibility, and I'm praying that things go well so he can come home to us. I'm obviously not telling the kids, but it would be such a nice surprise.

Item Four: I think I might have to put a hot poker in my eye if I see or hear Alvin and the Chipmunks one more time! I rented it for the kids the other day, and it has played nonstop since then. What is it with kids and the need to watch a new movie 48 times in a row?? I'm not a big fan of the chipmunks to begin with...even as a child I found them to be highly annoying, and don't even get me started on the singing.

Item Five: I haven't cooked a proper meal since Trevor left. We have lived off of pizza, chicken nuggets and Mexican food. And let's not forget these and these. Don't worry, the kids are getting their exercise at the McDonalds playland. Unfortunately, my metabolism isn't that of a hummingbird like my children, and I think I've gained about 14 pounds in the last week.

So, there are my random items for the week. And just in case you thought I was lying about the exercise, here are shots of the kids at the park and playing on the Slip n Slide in the backyard.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bluebonnets 2008

I finally found the time (and energy) to take the kids out for our annual bluebonnet pictures. I was more than a little frustrated with Gracie, because I guess she's at that stage where it's impossible to get a good picture of her. I have to sneak up on her to capture a decent photo.

If I tell her to smile, she either scrunches her nose up and squints her eyes, or she smiles beautifully and looks away from the camera. Without Trevor there to hold her attention and make her smile a real smile, the pickings were slim this year.

Nathan, on the other hand, is a pro at having his picture taken. He's always loved to be in front of the camera, even when he was a baby. He just follows my instructions, and we're done in about 30 seconds. I spent the majority of this photo shoot counting to ten over and over again as I tried in vain to get Gracie to do what I asked.

So, here are the 2008 bluebonnet pictures. Enjoy!

Revision: For those of you who don't live in Texas, here is a brief history of the bluebonnet:
It is the state flower of Texas. The legend of the bluebonnet says that one summer the land was dry and the buffalo had no food to eat. Soon, the Indians were faced with starvation.

The Great Spirit spoke to the chief in a vision, and said that the rains would come if the tribe sacrificed its most precious possession to the Great Spirit. Fine horses and beautiful bonnets were offered, but no rains came.

One evening, a small girl named She-Who-Is-Alone (because she lost her parents to the drought), sacrificed her favorite corn husk doll that her mother had made her, tearfully laying it upon the coals of the sacrificial fire. With morning came life-giving rain and a miracle -- the dry fields were covered with grass for the starving buffalo. And everywhere that the ashes of the fire had blown grew a carpet of beautiful blue flowers--the bluebonnet.

The song Nathan and Grace were singing is the story in a nutshell:

Bluebonnet, bluebonnet
With your coat so blue
Your bright eyes are shining
Through the silvery dew
I know you're a dolly
Offered for the rain
I know you'll return again
To Texas in the spring.

To Texans, the way we tell that spring has finally arrived is by the carpets of wild bluebonnets in the fields. For bluebonnet ettiquette, go here.

Click to play Bluebonnets 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturday

There has always been music in my life. My earliest memories have a soundtrack, which I think of as The Broadman Hymnal: Greatest Hits. I was four when we moved to Texas, so I must have been 2 or 3 when I laid on my Granny and Gramps' couch listening to Gramps practice with a gospel quartet. Mama played the piano as they belted out Victory in Jesus, He Keeps Me Singing and countless other hymns.

I remember learning the words to these hymns as I listened carefully to the blending of voices, beautiful harmonies and words that would come in later years to mean so much to me. I am a Baptist, which means that Victory in Jesus is pretty much the gold standard as far as hymns go. There are others that I love that are far more poetic, have deeper theological content and have more beautiful arrangements musically, but this one is the one that I find myself humming as I'm doing the laundry or cleaning the kitchen.

This is the one that we always sing around the piano before our voices give out. This is the one that reminds me of my family back home and the legacy of love and faith that has been passed down from generation to generation. This is the one I want my children to know by heart.

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:56-57

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and bro't
To me the victory.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there
The song of victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Friday, April 11, 2008

She's My Best Friend

Nathan and Grace have been really good this evening. They ate their supper with little drama, played nicely together and when it was time for bed, wanted to sleep together. I usually don't allow this because they keep each other up all night with the giggling and the talking, but they had been so good, I decided to let them do it.

So I sent them to bed with a firm admonition to GO TO SLEEP IMMEDIATELY! After about 20 minutes, I decided to go listen at the door and make sure that they were at least settling down. I heard giggling and talking, and I opened the door with my "mommy voice" at the ready should I need it, and this is what I found:

He was reading her a bedtime story. They had made a pallet on the floor (why do kids think it's fun to sleep on the floor?) next to the very comfortable double bed in Gracie's room, and he was reading to her. It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen him do. It reminded me of another time that he read her a story:

He wanted to "read" her a story the day she was born. The first time he held her he said, "She's my best friend!" What a lucky girl!

Sugary, Deep-Fried Goodness

So all the talk about strawberries and Louisiana food made me long for something more, which turned out to be an impromptu beignet fest. Yes, when I got home from work, I made beignets modeled after the Cafe du Monde sugary goodness.

And behold, they were marvelous to look upon and to consume.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Picture for Daddy

The Best of Both Worlds

My mom and dad are both professors at the Southeastern Louisiana University. My dad is also a member of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. As a result, they know many, many college boys. And because my parents are good people with generous spirits, they invite said college boys over several times a year for dinner, and perhaps some singing afterwards. After all , it is a music fraternity, and there's poetic justice in making them sing for their supper.

For some, it's the only home cooked food they get all semester and they all bring their appetites. We're talking an average of 20 college guys...they are like locusts. So Mama and Daddy plan big, usually with several pots of gumbo or chili or maybe a few large pork loins. Whatever the meal, it fulfills two qualifications: large quantities of food and high quality.

This time, they decided to serve the guys Texas BBQ. And let's be honest...if you're going to serve real BBQ, it needs to be from Texas. What this means is brisket....lots and lots of brisket. I have a friend who specializes in smoking briskets, so she and her husband cooked two for my parents. This meant that my dad made a flying trip over here to pick up the meat, which worked out really well for me because he left a flat of strawberries in my refrigerator.

Which I have eaten my way through quite nicely, I might add.

Here is a picture of the fruity goodness I prepared the way I love them best...cut up with sugar sprinkled on top. For you city girls out there, a flat of strawberries is 12 pints. I've eaten 1/2 a flat all by myself in 3 days. You do the math.

It's strawberry season back home. The Strawberry Festival is this weekend, and it's one of my favorite times of the year. A flat of berries goes for about $12, so all of you poor souls paying $3.99 or better for a stinkin' pint are in my prayers.

Once I've had my fill of berries (oh, I kid), I take the rest and slice them, add sugar and freeze them in big gallon bags to defrost at a later date and pour over Blue Bell ice cream. Seriously people, I am blessed. I come from Louisiana with her gumbos, etouffees and creoles, but I am blessed to live in Texas with her BBQ, Tex-Mex and Blue Bell ice cream. It is truly a gift, yea, verily verily.

But I digress. Mama called me after the dinner was over and I had to laugh at the Louisiana boys who had never seen real BBQ. When Mama set the brisket down in front of them, they were confused, bless their hearts.

"What's this?" they asked.

Poor, deprived children. It's sad really. They've gone 18-20 years without experiencing the heaven that is a piece of perfectly smoked, beef brisket.

After a few tentative bites, my understanding was that there was a veritable stampede to get to the buffet for more of this strange, tasty meat. Mama had to convince them to take pickle slices and onions along with the meat to complete the experience. In spite of their initial hesitancy, nary a scrap was left after the hoard descended. Mama and Aunt Gail had to secretly whisk away a few bites so they would have something to eat.

So, in conclusion, I have the very best of both worlds. I need to get back to my bowl of strawberries now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Speaking of Giveaways

I came across this great giveaway being hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. Go check it out...even if you don't need any more toys, there are always birthdays and showers to attend.

Two Weeks of Toys - Giveaway Event

Shepherding a Child's Heart

I mentioned in a previous post that my small group at church was hosting a Bible study about biblical parenting, and are using the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. My brother actually recommended this book to me about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. I shared it with my friends Chris and Ali (who are in my small group), and they loved it too.

Chris (who is also our education pastor), wanted to present the book to a larger group of people, and so the Bible study was born. We started it last Sunday, and have 14 more weeks to go. We are really excited about this study and equipping the parents in our church with the biblical tools they need to raise their children.

The book is amazing, and because I found the book to be so helpful I want to give a copy away. I have been encouraged and driven by the example of many of my bloggy friends to host a giveaway of my own, but I wasn't sure what to use as the gift. I realized that two of the main things I have in common with you guys is a love for Christ, and a desire to see my children raised in a way that would be pleasing to God. This book rolls these two things up in one neat package, and I wanted to share it with you.

So, if you are interested in owning a copy of this wonderful book, just leave a comment on this post. Pass the word on to everyone, and I will randomly draw a name on Wednesday, April 23rd.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Refiner's Fire

I was cleaning out some of my email folders, and came across something that Ronna sent to me about a year ago, and I wanted to put it here...

Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dear Dad

This is what Nathan made for Trevor tonight. He wanted to mail it to China, but I explained that Daddy would be home before it ever made it to him....

Meme Time

I was tagged by Andrea at Lifesong for this meme, and since I haven't done one in a while I thought it would be fun to play along.

1. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
2. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves a comment letting them know they've been tagged and to ask them to play along and to read your blog.

What I was doing 10 years ago:

I was still in the first year of my marriage to the love of my life. We were living in Carlsbad, NM where Trevor had found a job with the DOE. I was working part time as an office administrator and loving my new role as a wife. I had dinner on the table for Trevor when he arrived home at night, and proudly cleaned our little rent house. That was probably one of the best years of my life. We learned a lot about being married and about each other.

Five things on my to-do list today:
  1. Get the kids up, dressed and out the door for 7am.
  2. Pick Trevor's clothes up from the cleaners.
  3. Play catch with Nathan.
  4. Make dinner for the kids.
  5. Laundry.

Five snacks I enjoy:

  1. Chips and queso.
  2. Fresh strawberries with sugar for dipping.
  3. A big, warm slice of homemade bread with butter.
  4. Peanuts.
  5. Chocolate...particularly dark chocolate.

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  1. Pay off my debt and all the debt of my family.
  2. Move home to Louisiana, and purchase as much of the family land that is available.
  3. Give a huge donation to our church.
  4. Set up trust funds for my children, nieces and nephews.
  5. Give a huge donation to the Foreign and Home Mission Boards.

Five of my bad habits:

  1. Eating too much
  2. Speaking before I think.
  3. Driving too fast.
  4. Being generally impatient.
  5. Reading in bed until midnight.

Five places I have lived:

  1. Houston, Texas
  2. Portsmouth, Virginia
  3. Pumpkin Center, Louisiana
  4. Carlsbad, New Mexico
  5. Albany, Louisiana

Five jobs I have had:

  1. Babysitter--convinced me that children's ministry was not my calling!
  2. Waitress--quite possibly invented by Satan himself.
  3. Office Administrator
  4. Stool sample tester--oh yes, I needed the money in school!
  5. Radiation Therapist

I'm supposed to tag 5 people to participate, but I'm going to leave it open for anyone who would like to take it and run! It physically pains me to not follow the rules, but this way there is no pressure....

The Freedom of Obedience

Those of us who have children understand the need for obedience. Most of the time we are able to explain to them why obedience is important for a particular situation, and it makes it easier for them to comply. (I need you to hold my hand in the parking lot so you don't get run over) But sometimes, we expect obedience without the benefit of conversation or discussion. (Stop!)

Our children may not see the car coming around the corner, or know that the cookie sheet just came out of the oven, but we expect them to respond to our command immediately. We understand that it's for their good and protection, and if they obey, danger is averted and all is well. But what if they disobey?

Not only will we be sorrowful and pained if they were to be hit by a car or burned by a hot cookie sheet, but they will also have to live with the consequences of their actions. When they have been hurt, it makes it easier to understand why obedience is so important the next time around.

I have been in a season of rebellion and pride. There has been someone that I work with that has wounded my pride, handled me roughly and generally made me very angry. My solution to the problem was to make his life as miserable as possible. I pointedly ignored him at every opportunity. I was sure to avoid him, going as far as leaving the room when he entered it. Basically, my heart was unforgiving, rebellious and hard towards this man and I was not interested in making any sort of change in my behavior.

To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed making him squirm. I reveled in the fact that I had power over him, and that I was making him pay for what he did to me. But the cost of my hardened heart was high. My prayer life has been non-existent, because that sin kept rearing it's ugly head and I was ashamed to even be talking to God. I would confess and repent of other sin, all the while trying to hide this one behind my back, like a child.

The Holy Spirit kept saying, "What's behind your back?", and I finally got tired of saying "Nothing" and just quit talking at all. With the lack of prayer life, my daily life got all out of whack. My patience is thin, I have used language I'm not proud of and my actions have been far from Christ-like. Going to church just made me feel like a hypocrite, and I was unable to truly worship or fellowship with this sin sitting like a rock in my soul.

Then last night, my small group started a Bible study on biblical parenting. The book is called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp, and we are doing a 15 week DVD series. As I sat there and listened to Dr. Tripp explain that our children's behavior is rooted in a heart attitude, I was so convicted. Convicted of my "hidden" sin, and the fact that I could look great on the outside and do all the right things, but until I dealt with my heart issues and attitudes, I was simply like the Pharisees.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:25-28

I prayed right there that I would have the strength to face my sin and repent of it. I knew that the only way to make it right was to confess it first to God, and then to make amends with this man. So I confessed. And confessed. And confessed. And then I confessed some more. And then I repented. And can I just tell you how good that felt? A burden was lifted and I felt as though I had wings.

This morning, on the way to work I called Ronna to ask her to pray for me as I finished the last part of my journey. I still did not want to humble my pride and admit how wrong I had been for my behavior. Satan filled my head with excuses and reasons why it would be okay if I didn't mend this relationship. I could just start being nice, and not say anything. I could pretend like nothing had ever happened.

But that is not what the Holy Spirit made it clear I should do. I had to ask for forgiveness and repair what I had broken. That was the consequence of my sin. I was not obedient to the Word of God from the beginning, and the mess I made of this relationship was up to me to clean up and make new. It meant swallowing my pride and being humble, and ready for whatever he might have to say to me.

So I went to his office, closed the door and made amends. I took full responsibility for my actions, and asked him for his forgiveness. And you know what? He gave it with tears streaming down his face, and he asked mine in return. The relationship that I thought would never be whole was healed by the power of the Holy Spirit, because I obeyed God.

When we let go of our excuses and sad little agendas, we are freed by the power of the one true and living God. There is freedom in obedience.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Making a Joyful Noise?

I think it might be time for some piano lessons for the boy. They wanted to make some "music" yesterday, so Gracie pulled out the drum, and Nathan played guitar and piano, all the while "dancing". It was quite entertaining.....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mashed Potatoes

Grace: I'm making mashed potatoes....
Looks like a crime scene to me......I'm just sayin'.

Keeping Busy

In an effort to keep the offspring from thinking too hard about the missing parental unit, I have kept them running all day. We started with cinnamon french toast for breakfast, after snuggling with Gracie (who climbed up into Trevor's spot and woke me up) for a good long time.

After breakfast, we got dressed and cleaned the playroom. OK, that's not really true. I blogged for about 30 minutes and shamefully ignored my children, and then we got dressed and cleaned the playroom. And cleaning the playroom was more like me yelling at Grace to get her behind in there and help Nathan, for the love of Pete! But I digress.

Trevor and I decided that this would be a good time to get Nathan doing chores on a regular basis. Our plan was two-fold. First, it would keep him busy during Trevor's absence. An idle boy is just asking for trouble. Secondly, it would give him more responsibility and we have been shamefully lax about assigning chores to the kids. Nathan should be doing something on a daily basis besides clearing the table.

So, Nathan vacuumed the living area this morning after the playroom was cleaned. He did it with gusto, although we need to work on his precision and technique.

After the house was in order, we went to Lowe's to get some weed and feed/fire ant killer for the lawn. After we purchased what we needed, I took the kids to that wondrous world of the McDonald's Playland. People, you would have thought that I gave them tickets to Disneyworld.
We don't usually frequent the inside of McDonald's because, well, we want fast food. We certainly eat our share of Happy Meals, but if we wanted slow food, we would go to a real restaurant. As a result, my kids think of McDonald's Playland as something exotic and out of the ordinary, which was good because we needed special today.

I let them play for about 30 minutes (note to self: bring a book next time), and then we had to leave so that we could finish our shopping. As I was driving through the adjacent parking lot to get to Walmart, I noticed an indoor miniature golf place. Since we had already established a pattern of fun and games, I decided to give it a whirl. When we opened the door, I realized that it was one of those black light places. The entire 18 holes was in the dark with only black lights to show the way. The kids had so much fun!
They loved seeing the way their clothes glowed and the course was painted in these really great fluorescent colors. Gracie got tired of playing after about, oh, hole 3, but Nathan played all the way through.
When we were finished, we had to run the gauntlet of video games and sure-to-take-your-money claw machines. I was weak, and got $5 in change so they could play a little longer. We now have a collection of candy machine bracelets, frogs, balls and erasers as a tangible reminder of our day at the miniature golf place.

On to Walmart for a few things (I'll be so glad when the Super Target opens up across the street!!) and then home. On the way I stopped at Dairy Queen and bought a round of milkshakes for the kids and a Kit Kat Blizzard for myself. As the kids sat in the back contentedly slurping their treats, I reflected on how well they had behaved. God was so gracious to me by answering my prayers and blessing us with this beautiful day together.
God is good.

Saying Goodbye

I love routine. I'm all about knowing what comes next and what to expect, so it's not surprising that we have a routine surrounding each trip that Trevor takes to China. He always leaves on a Friday morning, so I arrange to go into work late in order to take him to the airport.

We stay up later than usual Thursday night, and then once we go to bed we randomly jump from subject to subject, trying to remember everything that we need to communicate before we are separated. The topics range from how to read the electric meter to encouragement to be patient with Nathan and Grace. I've established that patience is not one of my strengths, and it's good to know that he is praying for me and the kids while he's away.

I always take a few pictures of them together before we leave our house. I guess it's the not so deeply buried fear that it might be the last, and I want it to be as recent as possible. We take the kids to the babysitter's house where Trevor gives them last minute instructions, hugs and kisses, and then it's off to IHOP for breakfast.

We allow plenty of time to sit over coffee and breakfast, so we can enjoy our last few minutes together. There is something comforting about that time together. We are alone and able to say whatever might need to be said without the kids sitting there hanging on every word. Mostly it's just light conversation and the strange feeling of letting go. I often have the odd sensation of detachment from the situation, as though he is already gone. Maybe it's my heart's way of saying good-bye slowly so it doesn't hurt so much when he finally walks away from me.

After breakfast, we complete the drive to the airport (Bush Intercontinental), and pull into the international departures lanes. We get out for one final goodbye as he unloads his suitcase, carry on and pillow. I hug him tightly, trying to memorize the length of his body against mine and the feel of his strong arms around me. One more kiss, and then he's walking away. As the police officers eye me as a potential terrorist, I pull away from the curb as slow as humanly possible so I can keep him in my sight for as long as I can. He finally disappears from my view, and that's usually when I lose it.

I cried torrents of tears the first time we went through this ritual, and each time it seems that I cry less, and recover faster. I go on to work, and right before I think he is about to board the plane, I give him one more call on his cell. One last goodbye, one more time to hear his voice. I won't hear from him for the next 24 hours, because he will be in the air for a huge portion of that time and the few hours he lays over in Tokyo, it's the middle of the night here.

After I speak to him, I get on the computer and pull up his flight so I can track it online. I periodically check all day long as I watch the computer generated plane progress over Texas, Colorado and all the way up through Alaska. I feel a sense of relief for him when I see it leave US territory and begin to hug the eastern coast of Russia, because the trip will be over sooner than later.

When I pick the kids up in the afternoon, I try to make the evening fun and give them all of my attention. They pick what's for dinner, we have special dessert, and I let them stay up later than usual. We do a lot of snuggling and hanging out in an effort to ignore the big, empty chair in the living room. When it's time for bed, we all pray for his safety and for God to take care of him while he is away.

No matter how late I stay up Friday night, I always wake early the next day in anticipation of the call that will set my mind at ease. The one where I hear his voice again, and all is well with the world. I received that call about 30 minutes ago, and when the phone rang both kids yelled out, "It's Daddy!" Nathan spoke to him, but Gracie refused to say anything. I guess we all deal with separation in different ways.

Lord, please keep Trevor safe. Keep him focused and attentive as he works, and bring him home to us. Thank you for your mercies and love, and for blessing me with the joys of children. I pray for patience and kindness as I deal with Nathan and Grace in the next few weeks. Amen.