Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The latest happenings...

So here's a quick run-through of the latest happenings in the Blair household...

Madalyn has learned to ride her bike without training wheels. Her buddy next door (who is eight days her junior) learned one night last week, and she was dying to learn. So Sunday, her daddy took off the training wheels and we took her over to the parking lot of the elementary school behind our house. And there she went. That's one of my favorite things about Madalyn - she will not be outdone. And just like that another milestone of childhood is crossed off the list. I stood there watching her ride on only two wheels in amazement, as though watching her walk for the first time. She's growing up all too fast.

Madalyn has also picked up this incredibly strange accent. It's a little British, but not quite. And it's equally annoying as it is cute (but so is Madalyn). She is only doing it with the "r" sound. I wish I could better explain it, but I just can't put it into words. She is such a character. Literally - she recreates herself everyday, and I never really know what to expect in the morning. Keeps life interesting.

David got mad at me for buying his sister an ice cream from the truck that comes to our neighborhood last night. You know - WHATEVER. He was gone to practice, and Madalyn and I were out in the front yard (she was practicing on her bike - you have to practice everyday, you know, or you will fall - her words, not mine). And, you know what, that's all beside the point. David truly has NO IDEA how much time, energy, and money we invest into him and his baseball adventures. Of course, he's a kid, and elements of time and money are still foreign concepts to him. In his mind, he was honestly upset that he didn't get an ice cream and his sister did. Even though he was off at baseball practice with those $40 cleats, won't even say how much money worth of bats in his $50 bat bag, a $35 glove, with a brand new $65 uniform hanging in the closet next to the $75 one we bought last year that I have soaked in at least $100 worth of Biz / Tide with Bleach / Shout stain spray. I think I've listed enough... I am getting nauseated. He had a talking to from his mama and his daddy about this one. And though I'd like to say it will never happen again and that he understands how fortunate he is to do all he gets to do, I feel certain if I stopped at the gas station today and bought Madalyn a Ring Pop and didn't get him one, he'd probably never speak to me again.

I think I have a mild UTI. You know, this may be too much info for some people, but I haven't had one in so very long. And, to be honest, I had forgotten just how crummy they make you feel. I haven't been feeling well since Monday, and I really thought it was from this lingering head cold / allergy stuff I've had going on. But due to other symptoms which are pretty undeniable, I feel certain it's a beloved UTI. Thank goodness I've got an inside scoop with a nurse practitioner (thanks to my neighbor) and should have an antibiotic called in today. Hopefully all will be well in a matter of days.

Okay - so that's about it for now. See, I had lots of things to blog about, but none of which all fit together nicely. So you just got a hodge-podge run down of my life. Maybe I can give you something meaningful tomorrow...

Monday, April 26, 2010

The words I needed to hear...

On my reading list for the past several weeks has been a commentary on the Book of Isaiah on loan to me from my dad. I'm sure the thought of a book (well, actually it's a two volume edition) written about a book of the Bible may not appeal to all, but the English major in me is just giddy with the thought of learning more about the words of Isaiah and the time in which they were written. I am still quite a nerd deep down inside, even though reading is not my favorite pass time.

Saturday, during the storms, I sat down to read from my little commentary on Isaiah and read the following words written about Isaiah's call from the Lord into prophecy in the sixth chapter:

"No human being is worthy to serve and represent God, but anyone can be made fit for his service by purification. Not only must people be cleansed before they can fulfill a holy purpose, but they are cleansed in order to fulfill the purpose God has for them."

So, I just kinda sat there and said, "Thank you, Mr. Terry Briley." That's who wrote the book - Terry Briley. And I'm sure when he sat down who knows how many years ago to write about the beauty and magnificence that is Isaiah, he never once dreamed some worn out stay-at-home mom would be reading his words one day and hear exactly what she needed to hear about serving the Lord. It made me realize that God can work with anything. Even me. It reminded me that even the prophet Isaiah felt unworthy of his commission, and his words are still being read and cited today.

I've been reading and studying and finding things in the Word of God lately. I'm putting ideas and thoughts together. Consider it a very long brain-storming session. I've got my highlighters and notebooks and articles and commentaries. And I've had my doubts, too. I've doubted if God could really take me and my story and my humble knowledge and understanding of Him and his Word and use it to serve Him. Until I read that little snippet in the commentary on Isaiah.

See, much of my doubt about whether or not I can be used as a vessel is my own sin. Yes... I know we all sin. But I guess there are times in my life where I feel like my sins are a little less Christian-like than some other sins. Like mine are a little more messy. You know, harder to come clean. But I have to remind myself that by God's grace we are all saved, and that there are no limits to His forgiveness and power. I am the limiter, not Him.

So, I'm still here. I am reading and studying, and my mind is spinning out of control. And I'm praying for that process of purification to continue in me, along with the gaining of knowledge and understanding. Through that, I know a beautiful work will emerge.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm still here...

Yes... I'm still alive. I honestly haven't had the time to sit down and think and type out a post in the last week. Nothing major going on, but I've just had little things to do that involved me being in the car for what seemed like the bulk of last week. Mom's retirement party on Monday, a practice game in Gardendale Tuesday evening, various errands on Wednesday, mom's doctor appointment in downtown Birmingham on Thursday, a field trip to the Birmingham Zoo on Friday, and then a family bridal shower on Saturday afternoon. I was supposed to come home from the bridal shower and head to Pell City to watch some baseball. And I actually began the drive that way only to find as I got about 15 miles from the house that our little team had lost. I turned my car around, parked it in the driveway Saturday evening, and it didn't move until 5:30 last night.

I don't think I've ever been so glad to not go anywhere in my whole life.

So last week was a little frazzled.... here and there and everywhere. I'm a person who has no problem sitting still. In fact, I enjoy it. I love to sit and think or read my Bible. I enjoy the quiet and stillness. So I really missed my quiet time with God last week. And it's got me feeling a little behind.

I don't know why I always feel a little behind when it comes to my relationship with God. Like I'm just not quite where I need to be or want to be or should be. But I guess I'm where I am, so that's a start. I've just got so many things running through my mind. So many thoughts and dreams and beliefs about how God could use me. And then there's me standing right in my own darn way in more ways than one.

I'm my own obstacle in terms of belief in myself. In the belief that I have something to say, an audience who needs to hear my words, and the ability to relay it. In the belief that I can fully learn all I need to know to convey a message accurate with what God's Scripture intends. A belief that I could possibly be a messenger. Because, as I stand today, I don't think I could be taken seriously as a messenger of God's hope. Not that I want to be a female preacher or televangelist or missionary, but I do have a clear vision of writing this book and using it as a stepping stone to speak to young people about making healthy choices and understanding God's forgiveness in the midst of your mistakes.

I guess I have such a clear vision for what I want, and yet I see none of the in between. I am literally walking by blind faith that if I continue to educate myself right now and get a good grasp of the Scriptures that the next step will reveal itself to me. But not even knowing what the next step might be is a little disconcerting.

But I guess that's life, right? Not knowing what the next step is. And so I have to deal with where I am today. And I'm still here.... still trying to learn and put together the pieces of all I've got floating around in my brain. And I guess I have to remain grateful for the process of life and it's ability to keep you on your toes about the future.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pretty in Pink

My mom officially retired on April 1st. That sounds crazy to me - that my mom retired. First of all, I'm not old enough for my mom to be old enough to retire. Retirement is for....... well, old people. And I don't feel like my mom is old. So, it's just weird to put the words my mom and retired in the same sentence.

All that being said, I am so excited for my mom. So incredibly excited. She's worked for as long as I can remember. There were spells that she stayed at home with me, and there were times that she was able to work part time. But for the past almost twenty years, she's worked full time for the State of Alabama in some capacity. And I just think it's high time she told the workforce goodbye.

Yesterday, the kids and I attended a retirement tea given in my mother's honor by her co-workers. The kids had the day out of school anyway - some kind of weather day - so it worked out perfectly. I wished I had taken my camera, but I guess I really didn't understand what a big deal it would be. I thought it would just be the close group she worked with daily. Instead, it was a huge group of people - maybe forty or fifty - and included the entire department.

When we arrived, I saw that the all the flowers were pink as well as the cups and plates. The table in the large conference room was done up beautifully with two big baskets of various garden flowers - trimmings from azalea bushes, Gerber daisies, and snowballs. As people began to enter the room, I saw that some were wearing pink. But it wasn't until a younger man entered the room wearing a solid pink long sleeved dress shirt that I realized almost all the people in attendance were wearing pink in some shade. It was incredibly touching to me that they had organized the group in this fashion, and even more that the majority of people had remembered to do it even down to the few men in her department.

It was nice to meet some of the people I've heard her talk about for years. To put a face to some of the stories I had heard. And it was even better to hear time after time what a wonderful woman my mom is and how much they have truly enjoyed working with her and getting to know her. One person even said to me, "You have a very special mother!" And I responded, "I know!!"

It's nice to see that other people see the same things in her that I do... her strength, her quiet wisdom, her wit, her grace, her innate ability to listen. All the good qualities I admire in her other people admire as well. And she's mine... forever my mother! She can't retire from the position of mother!

So, here's to you, mom.... even without a job outside the home, you've earned the right to be called retired for all that you've done as a wife, mother, and employee. And I am praying that you're days will be filled with the things that make you happy! I love you dearly!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Real conversation...

This is a real conversation I had with my kids this week. And David's response as I report it here is true and accurate, though I really wish I were kidding.

Madalyn asks me while at the dinner table, "Is it still Easter?"

"No, baby girl. Easter is over."

"Awwwwwww.... we didn't get many days. So what's comin' up?"

"You mean what holiday is next?"

"Uh huh."

"Hmmmm.... well, I guess the next big holiday that we really celebrate would be the 4th of July."

"And that's in May, isn't Mama?" asks David.

In moments like these, I just want to open his head up and check. Is there anything in there? Is it plugged in properly? Are there a few loose wires? WHERE HAVE I GONE WRONG???????

"Ummmm... David, sweetie.... the 4th of July is in the month of July...."

"Oh, yeah, mama. I knew that," he says with a grin, those two catty-wumpus front teeth showing.

God love him. And help him make it through school.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

14 Years in the Making...

This post is what's been stirring in my soul for the past 14 years. It might be a little difficult for some of you to read and take in, but it's something that I feel ever so convicted to do. So here goes...

Last night, I tossed and turned with vampires in my head all night. Yes, vampires. And not the uber-hip vampires from the Twilight series, but rather these super-dark, demonic vampires that were out to get me and my husband and my parents. My children weren't in the dream, but the three adults that matter most were. And there was this place - this awful, evil place - where the vampires would congregate and wait on unsuspecting people to come. Me, my husband and my parents went there, and I could tell they were vampires, and I expelled so much energy trying to get away from them and protect the ones I loved. Needless to say, I feel completely unnerved and unrested today. But I know why those darn vampires would not allow me to sleep well last night.

I have been seeing a therapist - a wonderful, wise, incredible Christian woman therapist - for the past several months. Over the past couple of years, my spirit had been uneasy. I wanted more. I was hungry for something deeper than what I had. I was looking for answers and people to blame and an easy fix. What I found was a need to heal a place - a very tender place - inside me. It's a place I've hinted at in my writing here but have never had the courage to expose. But it's the place in my soul that has swallowed my joy at times in my life, has buried my confidence, and has shaped so many of my decisions along the way.

When I was 19, equal in hope and naivety, I was the victim of acquittance or date rape. There was no burly man jumping out from behind a bush. No gun. No duct tape. Nothing you would see on 20/20 or Primetime. No stranger at all. It was someone I thought I could trust. On that night, I drew my line, and he crossed it anyway. I was shattered. Completely. Confused. Broken. Lonely. And I was silent...

I didn't tell anyone the whole truth for quite some time, probably because I didn't want to own up to what had happened myself. I felt so ashamed and guilty, and I have carried those feelings with me for 14 years now. Shame and guilt are perhaps the most blood-sucking emotions of all. Life-sucking... literally. The two emotions have guided all my choices along my path. They've led me astray. They have left me in the pit of depression during many years of my life. They have taken a toll on my closest relationships. Guilt and shame have worked their hardest to tear me down and hold me there, just as their maker, Satan, would have them do.

Back to those vampires... I've been wanting to use my experience, and I've been discovering things in God's Word - His living, magnificent Word - that have me speechless, inspired, humbled, and challenged. And my mind has been spinning out of control with ideas and thoughts and dreams. And those vampires just convicted me in my dreams last night that I have to stop running from my experiences. I have to put them out there. I have to talk about it or write about it. I have to come to a place where I can openly discuss who I am, what I've been through, why I made some of the decisions I made, and things I wished I had done differently. Because until I do that, I'll be running from these blood-sucking emotions my whole life. And until I put them out there for the world to see, I will never experience that divine retribution my God has promised me.

It's at my fingertips. I can feel it. I don't know how all of this will pan out. But, by God (and I do mean literally by God), I have a book in me. A beautiful book written specifically to young women full of things I wished I could go back and tell myself. Full of scriptures I wished I had read so long ago. Full of God's love and mercy and forgiveness and hope. I don't know when or how, but I know I will complete it one day. I know full well.

So there it is. There's an ear full of some things I've been wanting to discuss openly for quite some time now. It's not the whole of who I am, but it's part of who I've become. And I'll end with one of the most fantastic things the Bible has to say to us:

And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Monday, April 5, 2010

"That" Woman

Never say never. We hear it all the time. It's a catch phrase that carries through generations that have little in common... but we all know that one should never say never. The older I get, the more I realize the truth of the statement. There are a multitude of things I have said I'd never do over the years only to have proven myself not only wrong but ignorant as well.

Many moons ago, before I worried about the lines on my forehead or the weird colored spots on my nose, I said I'd never wear shorts or a skirt without tanned legs. I would watch my pale skinned mother put on her shorts to work in the yard or her dress to go to church and just be appalled at the revealing of her white legs. Of course, for my mom, tanned legs were only a distant dream. She knew she didn't tan well and had given up on the idea of golden brown legs before I was even born. But I also would see women out and about at the grocery store or the mall bearing white legs without even a second thought and wonder to myself, "How could they do that?"

I now understand. The years of baking myself in the sun or the tanning bed have left their marks on my skin, and my need to be unnaturally bronzed in early Spring has long died and been replaced with the practicality and healthiness of white legs. And life goes on. And so yesterday, I did something I swore so long ago I'd never do... I put on a cute knee-length denim skirt and walked right on into church, white legs and all. No one died. The Earth's rotation did not pause for even half a second as I once believed it would. But the one thing that died just a little was a part of that youthful vanity I once prided myself in. And I will say that it was harder for me to bare those white legs than I'd like to admit, but I reminded myself on Sunday morning as I dressed that the Good Lord above could care less what shade my legs are.

I also had another flashback while sitting in church yesterday morning. I flashed back to a day when I saw a woman in a short dress with a body slimmer on underneath. She was sitting in this weird sort of position, and her body shaper was showing, and I remember looking at her and saying, "I'll never!" Oh, but now I have. I donned my body shaper yesterday morning to wear a skirt I've had in my closet for four years. The purchase was made ten pounds ago, and it does still fit (just a little more snugly now). So I decided to wear my slimming body shaper to cut down on any rolling over at the top that the snugness might induce. When I sat down in church and crossed my legs, I realized that if I moved a little to the left or right in my seat, the body shaper peaked its way out. I couldn't very well reveal pasty white legs and a body shaper in one day - especially on Easter Sunday. So I spent a very uncomfortable 45 minutes positioning myself in the perfect way so as not to expose my secret weapon. Needless to say, my vanity is not entirely dead.

Even though many of my thoughts about Easter, especially in the week leading up to actually sitting down in the sanctuary and listening to the music and words from the pastor, revolve around clothes and appearances, I did clear my mind and think about the true meaning of the day. I listened as our pastor talked about how this year's Easter felt much different than it did even a short two years ago. How times right now are so uncertain for so many. How our economic world has so rapidly declined and taken its toll on the people and marriages and businesses of our community. But one thing has remained the same through it all - the blessed story of Easter, the love of our Lord and Savior, and the fact the He is risen indeed.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is Romans 8:11.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in
you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.

I will never forget the day I read it, though I can't give you a date and time. But I do know it was the first time I read the entire New Testament for myself all the way through in the Fall of 2001. I wanted to read it for myself, not with a devotional book or a high school Bible teacher's interpretation. I wanted to look at the words and read them and devise my own opinions about what it meant in my life. When I came across those words in Romans, it was the first moment in my life that I actually believed that the Spirit of God lived in me. And it also opened my heart to it's amazing power.

It's the same Spirit. The very same one who raised Jesus from the dead, who rolled the stone away, lives inside me. That Spirit is yet another gift of grace that God offers His children. I've done nothing to deserve it, yet He offers it freely anyway, despite any and all of my misgivings. And what an amazing thought that was - and still is - to me. Perhaps I haven't quite taken it all in and learned to use that power to its fullest, but that's where my spiritual growth comes into play. I am learning and growing in that Spirit every day, and where I mess up and fall, He's there to cover me with His wisdom and grace.

So I sat in church yesterday morning thinking about the woman I've become. The woman I'd like to be. My strong points. My weak points. And I was reminded of that scripture from Romans as I listened to the pastor and adjusted my skirt for the 39th time so that my body shaper didn't make its debut on Easter morning. And I came to a conclusion that I am pretty happy with who I am today. Am I perfect? Nope. I am indeed perfectly flawed... some days I think I am tragically flawed, but I have to remember that I have an amazing power alive and well in my soul. Sometimes I think that I can't make it through the next hour of the day much less the week ahead, but then I need to remind myself that the same power that can raise the dead is moving and pulsing through my heart. The very same power who formed the mountains and the seas, that brought a baby Jesus into the world through means that seemed impossible, that allowed Jesus to grow up and in His adulthood be killed in the most physically cruel way imaginable, and then rolled the stone away and revealed a living, breathing, walking once-dead man... well, that's the Spirit that lives within me. It's the same one. The same eternal, omnipotent force and gift to us all. And if that doesn't put a little hope in your heart, I don't know what will.

So, pasty white legs, body slimmer and all.... I am learning to be that woman. That woman God would have me to be. Trying to lose the vanity and pride in things that don't really matter. Trying to work on the issues in my life that might hinder the power that lives inside me. Trying to become the woman that doesn't care what the world says I need to do or be or look like, but rather care about the contents of my heart. Because, you know, it's a tough place to be right now in this crazy mixed up world - a woman of 33 years of age. It's even tougher when I realize that Jesus was probably around my age when He gave up His life for the souls of so many. Millions and millions of which would curse His name, would waste their years on this Earth worried about tanned legs and fat rolls, would spend their time honoring the desires of their heart instead of the desires of His heart. I've been guilty of all these things, but I am working fervently on living a life more pleasing to the man who gave it all up for me. To be the wife I need to be... the mom I'm called to be... to use the talents He so generously bestowed on me... to be that woman.