Friday, December 30, 2011

Contemplating the New Year...


I've been feeling contemplative the last few days.  It happens every year when there are less days left on the calendar than there are fingers on one hand.  Thinking on the where I was last year this time and how it compares to who I am today.  Thinking about who I want to be a year from now.  Thinking on fresh starts, clean calendar pages, new beginnings.

God gave me a passage yesterday.  And, yes, I am bold enough in my faith today to say that He put it in my life that very day for me to read.  See, I've been thinking about the year ahead, wondering what my faith will look like as enter a new year, knowing what I want from myself, knowing the power I need Jesus to display in my life.  This verse summed it all up for me through challenge and conviction in a way only the Living Word of God can.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make ever effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our  Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  {2 Peter 1:3-11}

Wow.  Powerful words on building a spiritual foundation.  I can see the progression in my faith, but if we view it in terms of steps, I still have a ways to go.  

I think I will always be in the pursuit of knowledge.  For me, reading the Word and finding new applicable things each time is something I will never grow tired of.  But where I fall short is finding a challenge in the Word, feeling convicted by something I read, but not taking the steps to act it out in my life.  Typing those words hurt my own feelings a little, but I am only being honest.  Faith is easy; faith through action is where I get a little tripped up.

I keep trying to write about what I want to achieve this year, spiritually speaking, and, truth is, I can't get it out right.  I don't have the words to say it or explain myself well.  But that Scripture moves me and outlines so many attributes I would like to achieve.  Faith.  Goodness.  Self-control. Perseverance.  Godliness.  Kindness.  Love.  But there are also two words I focus in on in the verse (once I remove their prefixes and turn them into positive words): effective and productive.  I want to be effective and productive for the Lord.  I want to start right here in my own house being more effective and productive for Jesus, showing my kids my faith, where it comes from, and what He looks like, not just in the big moments of life, but in the moments quiet and small as well.  I want to be a better advocate for the Lord, and boy have I got my work cut out for me.

Happy New Year, my friends!  May we all be more effective and productive this upcoming year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Wrap Up

Another one in the books.  Hard to believe.

Each year, I anticipate Christmas in several different ways.  There's the financial planning and fretful way as I wonder how on earth we will get it all figured out.  This year was perhaps a little more stressful on that front.  We had the job change which left us a little short as the car lot Scott worked for skated us out of a nice hunk of his paycheck.  This is just a part of the car business, by the way, so be extra nice and patient the next time you make that purchase... you have no idea what these guys go through just to get the money they have earned.  Though we're tickled pink with the career change, we've had to get used to a totally different pay schedule, and we we not-so-pleasantly surprised when we learned that our final check of the year would come on the final Friday of the year, leaving us a little strapped in between.  Amazing how it has all worked out, though.  It always does.  Thank you, Lord.

I normally anticipate Christmas Eve with my mom's family at my grandmother's home.  But this year, them being in the nursing home and the house having been sold months ago, it wasn't to be as usual.  This left my heart a little sad, but it also left room for a new tradition to be born.  Me, Scott and the kids went to the Christmas Eve service and were so blessed because of it.  A young man played the most moving rendition of Drummer Boy I have ever (and possibly will ever) hear.  And I saw the Christmas story in a totally different light.  The faith it took.  God's calling on certain people like the wise men and the shepherds to be a witness for Him.  Can you imagine the faith it took to journey to see a baby?  A baby.  Unbelievable, isn't it?  Makes me think about what lengths I will go to experience my Savior.  If I had been sitting on my grandmother's wood floor, I would have missed that lesson.  I would have missed watching a man play his heart out for the Lord.  Learning to live in the now is tough sometimes, but it is definitely worth it when we choose to think that way.

I am grateful for the thinner Christmas we had this year.  Seems like no one on either side of our family had an abundance of money this year, so the gift load was much lighter.  We are not bringing in a whole lot of new stuff to the household.  Yet the kids had such a great time.  What they did get, they really loved.  One of David's gifts under the tree from Mama and Daddy was the Action Bible.  When he picked up the package to shake and test it once it was wrapped, he immediately said, "It's a book... why did you buy me a book?  I bet it's a Bible..."  But once he opened it and realized what kind of Bible it was, he was thrilled.  I look forward to sitting down with him and reading some of it.  I want more than anything for all the people closest to me to love the Word of God even half as much as I do.  Madalyn's favorite gift was a bag of school supplies all from the Dollar Tree.  I mean, how much simpler can you get?  But the hours of joy she will get playing school with $12 worth of stuff is priceless.  It's not how much you spend; it's knowing that what you've spent will be far less than the happiness the gift brings.

Perhaps the best gift of all this year was another Christmas with my mom.  Back in the summer, when she was doing so poorly and declining quickly, I didn't think we would see the holiday season with her in it.  I am so grateful.  Beyond words.  I saw so many Facebook posts about spending a first Christmas without a loved one, and my heart just ached.  I don't know why, nor do I need to understand it, but the Lord saw fit for us to have her with us longer.  And I will take every day with her that I can get.  Her handwriting on a gift tag... her paper plates atop chargers on the dining room table... her tree with all her ornaments... they were just icing on the cake.  Her being here was the most amazing earthly gift this year.

Another one in the books.  Hard to believe.  Even harder still to believe that at 35, I am still learning what this season is all about.  Still taking it all in.  Still learning so much about life and trying to appreciate all the little moments all year round.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We made the trip this morning to see Santa.  Every year, once school lets out for the holidays, we make the drive to the big mall nearby to visit him and have our picture made.  I used to go to the Galleria in Hoover, but they changed Santas a few years ago, and I nicknamed the new one Butter Teeth.  I am not trying to be particular, but if I am going to wait in line and pay for a photo, then I at least want Santa's teeth to be as white or whiter than his beard.  So last year, we went to a much smaller mall in Vestavia and waited a shorter amount of time and were grateful that Santa had pretty teeth.

The car ride to the mall was filled with talk about what would be asked for.  David reiterated that all he really wanted was an Xbox.  Madalyn has had quite the time this year narrowing down her wishes.  Number one on her list is a hamster.  Well, in all honesty, on the list she made at school, she requested eight hamsters.  Why eight, I don't know.  I don't think she realizes that we would have close to 100 by next year's end if we had eight stinking hamsters in a cage together.  Nor does she realize that Mama doesn't do critters in the house.  I have informed her that Santa must have written approval before delivering live animals for Christmas gifts, and that I will not be granting permission for any such thing.

Also on her list is eight puppies, a kitten, a chalkboard, clothes, hang earrings, school supplies, and a few other things that she couldn't remember and couldn't interpret from her own handwriting.  Surprisingly, though, those weren't on her mind this morning.  She announced that she'd be asking Santa for $20,000 so that she could go to the Dollar Tree and buy everything.  In a way, I almost wanted her to ask for the money... maybe we'd have a Miracle on 34th Street type Christmas miracle and get exactly what she asked for.  But then the adult in me realized that not even Santa has $20,000 to spare at this point.

When they finally made it to Santa's lap, David completely changed his tune and asked for an Ipod touch. Madalyn asked for Christmas songs.  And me... well, I just took it all in.  I know these days are fleeting.  I know the moment they logically dismiss away the magic is fast approaching.  Truth is, I enjoy the magic as much as they do.  The wishes.  The dreaming.  The wonder and delight.  It reminds me of a time when life was simple and imagination was big.  It's a place I can visit with through my kids where there is no cancer and no bills.  And I will miss it when it's gone.

So Merry Christmas to all my friends out there!  Wishing you all the happiness and magic the season has to offer, and hoping you will take some time to thank God for the amazing gift of Jesus He has given us!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Strong...

I should be in the shower.  But I am not.  A chipper and very awake (as in way more awake than I am in the morning) lady called at 7:00 this morning to tell me that I shouldn't show up to the intermediate school until 9:30 instead of the scheduled 8:00 to assist with the Santa Shop.  I will let you in on a secret... I would have never made it by 8:00 anyway, so this works out golden for me!

This week... where can I begin.  I filled you in a little the other day, but the ups and downs and all arounds of life don't translate to black and white (or whatever color my words on my blog are... maybe pink?) very well.  I can tell you a story about it, but what I can't get across to you is how it really feels.

On Tuesday, we were smacked in the face with news about fluid around my mother's heart.  I knew she wasn't well and hadn't been for a several weeks.  A skin infection several weeks ago had prompted swelling in her left arm, and even though the infection was gone, the size of her arm never quite went back to normal.  The shortness of breath was steadily becoming more noticeable.  On Saturday when I saw her, she looked very swollen in her feet and her arms, and she couldn't walk very far without having to stop to catch her breath.  Disheartening doesn't describe how it feels to see your mother like this.  There's this ugly bitterness that threatens to bubble up within me... Why can't she have just one good day? She's been through so much... just make her feel better!!!

But through it all, my mom has this amazing quiet strength.  It's not an in your face strength, flamboyant and showy in nature.  It's a calmness and ease about her, one that doesn't want anyone to know how difficult it is for her to carry on her daily tasks, and one that maintains this even-keeled tenacity.  I bet you have never strung those two words together in a sentence... even-keeled and tenacity.  They typically don't mix, but they do inside my mother.  She's a fighter, resilient, strong, but she never lets anyone see her sweat.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

After tests and doctors and residents and two days in the hospital, she was discharged yesterday only to go sit and wait at the doctor's office to have fluid drained from her lung.  No procedure was ever done in the hospital.  We went from this is a critical situation to we're discharging you having done nothing.  Of course, I am relieved that they determined it wasn't a serious situation, but it would be nice if they could make those determinations without sticking my mom in a hospital bed for two days and worrying us all half to death.

And still, my mom sounds the same.  Through it all, she just remains the same.  Calm.  Patient.  Strong.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.  For who is God besides the LORD?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  Psalm 18:30-32

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In no particular order...

Random thoughts by me, and in no particular order:

Don't mistake my kindness for a weakness. Oh, and don't mistake it for stupidity either. I am neither weak nor stupid; I simply choose (most of the time) to be kind.

Madalyn wishes that school never existed because she is tired and is bored at school. I wish it never existed so I didn't have to get her dressed and out the door five mornings a week. Oh, and make her sit down to read and do spelling. It's just not her thing.

Patience is a virtue, and I hope there's a large tank of it somewhere waiting on me to tap into it. Like a big ole' water tank full of copious amounts of the blessed virtue. Something tells me that I'm gonna need lots of it in the days to come.

Do you know what a batch of brownies looks like after it has baked in the oven for an hour and a half? I do...

Nothing says Merry Christmas like the ginormous, bright red zit on my nose. Think Rudolph.

As of tonight, Madalyn will have finished an entire bottle of the putrid tasting antibiotic, 27 of the capsules swallowed. If you don't think this is an accomplishment, I have no idea why you bother to read my blog.

I wonder when the phrase it is what it is will lose its meaning in my life. Maybe when I am 87. Maybe then I won't have to remind myself that things are simply what they are. Or maybe I really won't care.

Why is it that when I go to the store nearly every day in a week that I forget the same item every single time? The answer is Qtips, folks. I will buy them today. I WILL.

Another thing I am pondering is why some box brownie mixes are for an 8x8 pan, others for 9x9, and still others for 9x13 (aka family size). I happen to think they should all be the latter, because there is nothing better than fudgy brownies for the entire family. I seem to have a lot to say about brownies, don't I?

I broke all the Alabama Child Nutrition guidelines yesterday at the elementary school. What are they gonna do? Fire me from being room mom? I dare them... better yet, I think I am sort of begging them to...

Some days it's easier to keep your sanity in check. Today is one of the harder days. Do you notice that I tend to have these type posts on my difficult days? It helps to get it out. I am sorry you are the victim today. But it's better you than one of my children.




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Perfect Peace...

I woke with it on my heart. Words. Divine and Inspired. Sent from Him, passed through the ages, ringing in my ear.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

Perfect peace.

Nothing about the past week and a half has been peaceful. My very-limited-budget Christmas shopping has begun. My 92 year old grandmother was admitted to the hospital. My mother was admitted just yesterday to the hospital with fluid around her heart. I've had a few moments when the realization that my world, so rapidly changing around me, is so utterly out my control... that the very realization of it has threatened to push me over the edge. I've wanted my grandmother to pass to her permanent home where she could be comfortable and my mother wouldn't have to worry about her anymore. I've wanted my mother to wake up one morning and just be restored to who she was before the cancer took so much away from her. I've wanted money to fall from the sky like fall leaves in an October wind. But I can't wave a magic wand and make any of those things happen, and for some reason unknown to me right now, they aren't in the plan.

Why can't raining money be in the plan? If not a healthy Mama, then why not? {That's the 5 year old within me that rears her ugly head every now and again.}

I am amazed to find that God's plan is so perfect that someone as imperfect as me can't understand it. If my grandmother had been called home, we'd be in a real pickle right now with my mother in hospital in Birmingham. If my mother woke up one day and was miraculously restored to perfect health, I wouldn't have the honor of witnessing her strength and grace in the midst of difficult situations. If money rained from the sky, then I wouldn't have been granted a blessing through someone that so blatantly shouts to me Tamara, I am listening to you! Do you ever have those moments? Moments so beautiful and still in which a need is met and you know it's the hand of God, where there's no doubt whose hand is at work.

And so I woke this morning with this Scripture on my mind. Not in perfect wording, mind you, and not reciting book, chapter and verse. But the first part of it I remembered, and I knew where I had it written down. And I was drawn to the Words, words God penned for you and me, ones He wanted me to focus on today, tomorrow, forever.

Perfect peace. Only the peace that can be found in Him. In knowing that I will have everything in every moment because He is within me. It won't always be easy, but I have Him to hold me through it. And so does my mother. And father. And brothers. And you, too. Do you have it yet? Have you found it? Have you even looked for it?

Spend a moment today looking for the Rock eternal. He will sustain you through whatever twists and turns you life may take. I know because I am feeling it now for the first time in my life. It doesn't mean I don't cry or get angry or scared... it simply means that there's this place inside of me that no one can take away. No one. It's my own little Ark of the Covenant, if you will, where the very Spirit of the Living God, the One who raised Jesus from the tomb, resides. He comforts me. He gives me strength to get up and carry on even when the sinful part of me just wants to curl in a ball and cry. He is the reason I can move on through all this imperfect crap of the world.

To Him be the glory always and forever. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No words of my own...

I've got so much to say but not the words to say it. So much on my brain and my heart. Good things, disappointing things, stressful things, sad things. In other words, life.

So, since I am without my own words, I will share with you someone else's. Here are the lyrics to my all time favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night. It's one I heard all my life, but the first time I listened to the words and let them sit on my brain for a little while, I fell in love with it.

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's been a week...

Boxes and trees. Dropping a large ornament on my foot. Lights that work and others that don't. Strep. Again. Doctor. Again. It's been a week.

I have officially given the pediatrician's office $192 in the past 30 days, and I still owe them $80. You see, in the month of November, we were technically without health insurance. We were eligible for Cobra coverage, but I didn't receive paperwork for that until the latter part of the month. And why pay $785 for coverage when you can just pay your doctor outright for two visits? It's a lot cheaper that way I have discovered. So the new insurance was effective December 1st which corresponded nicely with this statement from Madalyn: "My throat hurts." I let it ride for a couple of days mainly because her fever never climbed above 100.5, until yesterday when I took a peak in her throat with a little flash light. I'm no doctor, but what I saw alarmed my uneducated eyes, and I knew we needed to go in for a throat swab.

It was positive. And since we just had strep in the early days of November, the doctor didn't want to put her on the same antibiotic again. And since Madalyn is allergic to the penicillin family, the only choice was this absolutely awful tasting stuff. There are no words really to describe just how awful it tastes. We were given capsules and told to sprinkle the contents into food... apple sauce, pudding cup, ice cream. She said to do whatever it took to get it in her three times a day for ten days. I may as well have been sentenced to ten days in the pits of hell.

I tried mixing it in with a bowl of grits. I mean, it's just a wee bit of medicine. How bad oculd it be? I took a little taste and nearly died. The only person who would have eaten that bowl of grits would be one of those adventurous souls who set out to hike a mountain by them self and ended up lost for five days in the wild forced to eat leaves off trees and drink water from puddles on the forest floor. And even they might gag a little when they tasted it.

I eventually got it down her throat by mixing it with a spoon full of frozen strawberry daiquiri mix (and for those of you out there that happen to think like my own mother and are posing the question in your mind, let me state that the frozen mix DOES NOT CONTAIN ALCOHOL, thankyouverymuch). My sister in law had used a similar trick with frozen grape juice concentrate, but there was no way I was making another trip to the store, so I used what we had left over from the summer. The windows were open in my house when the event went down, and I am certain the entire neighborhood heard the play by play, but we got the medicine inside her body. One time. And now she claims she is NEVER taking it again. NEVER. It should be a fun ten days for me (three times a day, at that).

The plus side is that just after one dose, Madalyn slept the entire night without getting up with fever or to cuddle with me and take over the king sized bed. I feel like a new person. Hopefully God refilled my patience bucket while I slept. Please, Lord, tell me You refilled it. It's too early to tell at this point as I haven't forced strawberry daiquiri mix laced with putrid antibiotic powder down my daughter's throat yet. Check back with me later...

Other than force feeding medicine to my child, my plans for today include NOT A WHOLE LOT OF ANYTHING. I started reading The Help over Thanksgiving week, and I want to sit down with it for a little while today and immerse myself in another world that does not involve my children, off brand liquid ibuprofen, and washing my hands 2,593 times a day.

Happy Saturday. Hope it's a good one!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Craving something different...

A couple of months ago, my mom bought me two books, Jesus Calling and Made to Crave. The first I had mentioned that I wanted; the latter my mother apparently thought I needed. I don't say that in an ugly sense at all... she knows me all too well and the long standing battle with food that I have grown weary of fighting.

Truth be told, I am the heaviest I have ever been while not supporting the life of another inside my womb. I am fluffy and frumpy, and, as much as I hate to admit it, my weight and body image effect my self confidence and my relationships.

I have avoided starting to read Made to Crave. I haven't been in the mood. I haven't had the energy. I have just put it off to the side to deal with another day, just like I've done with my issues with food over the past several years. But in the past few days, I've had it on my mind. Satan has been pushing me away from it for the past several weeks, and now I feel like God is urging me to read it and face this issue head on.

He also put it on my heart to ask if there is anyone out there reading these words that want to join me? It wouldn't necessarily be a formal study, but we could read it at a steady pace and talk to one another about how we are doing, have some accountability partners, and blog about what we discover. Follow the link here to see if it's something that sounds like a good fit for you (there's even a sample chapter). If you're interested, leave me a comment with your email address (or email me if you would rather not have your information public). In the meantime, I will be praying over this idea and thinking of a good way to go about this. Maybe a good target date would be the beginning of the new year, giving anyone who wants to participate a chance to get their books.

Give it a thought... I'm tired of craving all the wrong things...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The weight of the season...

The past 24 hours, I have felt a wee bit overwhelmed. By all the boxes coming down from the attic of festive decorations. By the elf lurking in the closet downstairs... I swear I can hear him cackling every time the kids mention his return. Is it possible for a little stuffed elf to mock me? Overwhelmed by all the secular activities that this holiday season brings upon us whether we choose them or not. So y'all aren't doing your Dirty Santa party this year? Have you got that basket ready for the annual auction at school yet? We need to sit down and discuss the class Christmas party soon. What is Santa bringing your kids this year??????

Throughout the day yesterday, my chest tightened. I couldn't find the extension cords. A strand of lights on the tree for downstairs is out, and I fidgeted with the tiny fuses for 20 minutes only for them to remain dark. The arthritis in my hands is flaring up with the bitter cold outside. I haven't purchased a single Christmas gift yet, and it's almost December. My Christmas Eve tradition at my grandmother's house is over. The bits of pieces of the holiday season began to fall like snowflakes on my soul and were rapidly accumulating. A heavy blanket of fear weighed my heart down. This isn't what this should feel like. I love this time of year.

I woke this morning with Luke on my mind. Read the story, Tamara. Read it again and remind yourself of what was done for you. So I sat down and began with Luke 1:26. I didn't have to get very far before the tears welled up in my eyes and I felt the message the Lord would have me pull from the Scriptures today.

And Mary said, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." Luke 1:46-55

I amazed by Mary's faith each time I read this account. It was no easy road that lie ahead of her, and I am sure she realized it. But she had a direct message from the Lord via Gabriel. Sometimes I wish I had Gabriel to whisk down from heaven and tell me which way to go or what has been laid out for me. But then I wonder... would I have the faith of Mary even under much less stressful situations? Obviously not. That's what led me to her story this morning in the first place.

Dear Lord, Father of my Savior and Father of mine, I praise You this morning for your amazing gift of Jesus to our world so very long ago. I thank You for the divine Word you left for us to read throughout the generations and for the brilliant lessons found within it. Help me, your humble servant, to find ways to glorify You in the midst of this crazy world. Help me to remember that I am not here to serve the world but to serve You. In your Son's Holy Name... Amen.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Truths in nature...

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the LORD on high is mighty.
Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O LORD.
~ Psalm 93

There are certain truths in life. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Every day. The waves crash on the shore, and tides correlate with the position of the moon. The rains come and go. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

I find comfort in these truths. I look for them in nature. Do you? Do you examine this amazing creation we stand upon every day and find the little things that are just simply true amidst all the things that can go so very wrong? Maybe it's the want-to-be poet inside of me, or maybe there are more souls out there {other than me} that find comfort in the tiny perfections of God's creation.

My family took a Thanksgiving get away to the beach. My parents rented a house big enough for our entire family to come and go as they pleased during the week. The kids and I left on Tuesday, leaving Scott at home as he had to work. My two brothers came the following night, the oldest with his wife and the younger with his daughter. We all worked together and made a fantastic meal for Thursday, and the kids enjoyed playing on the cooler than what they're used to beach. It was nice to be together, to be somewhere other than home for a change, and to watch the kids enjoy one another.

On Thursday night, I went out on the back deck to make a phone call. After hanging up, I sat in the darkness of the evening listening to the waves and studying the sky. The sun had already tucked its head below the horizon of the water, but its color still radiated from behind the curve of the earth. I was in awe of the beauty, and the longer I stared at it, the more defined all the colors of the night sky became. They were all present... red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. A horizontal spectrum had formed over the distant waves, lines of color blending together perfectly as though painted on a canvas. Another truth. Scientific fact. The order of the spectrum in any way it's ever displayed, whether shining through a prism or a rainbow, is always the same.

Truth is comforting. In this world of disarray and modern chaos, it's nice to know how firm our world really is, or maybe how firmly held it is in the hand of its Creator.

You see, the reason I was there was imperfection. My mother's cancer brought us there, together for a holiday we don't normally gather for in a place which we had never all been together. And there I sat, alone, thinking, in front of this magnificent creation, beautiful and glorious, powerful and overwhelming. Experiencing the truth of the earth. Experiencing Him. Hearing his voice whisper to me, "I am. I love. You are mine." More truths of His that are harder to accept sometimes than the scientific facts.

When I stop and think about it, it's all that really matters. He's in control. He is mightier than anything His very hands created. He is from all eternity. And I am His. I am loved. And so are you.

It's a truth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tiny Prints!




I've been mulling over this post for several weeks now, looking through the multitudes of holiday options on the Tiny Prints website. If you have a blog, I don't think it's too late to get in on their holiday card giveaway. Shoot me an email for details if you want to join in on the fun (see my contact tab).



First I'd like to say that the website is so user friendly. One feature offered is the favorites bar at the bottom of the page which allows you to mark your favorites and go back to them with ease instead of searching back through hundreds of options and confusing yourself. I marked nine favorites, but I promise I could have marked more!!!



One of my favorites, mainly because of its original design, is below. I love the way the photo flips out as you open it, and the color scheme is so unique! I could imagine this one sitting on the mantle during the holidays instead of being stuck in the midst of all the other traditional holiday cards.



There were two others that made my top three, and both of them share a feature that I adore. You can pick from a few different color schemes. I don't know how many times I have found a card online that I loved but wished it had different color options. With the click of your mouse, you can see several different background and accent colors giving you so many choices! I love it! Some of the cards (like the round one shown below) also have the option of choosing what format you want, whether the ornament ball or a flat card.


Now to decide which one is my all time favorite. Oh, and to capture that perfect photo. I don't know which choice will be the toughest! Check out the Holiday line at Tiny Prints for all your holiday needs!

Little Words... Big Lessons

Hats off to the creator and marketer of the now infamous Pillow Pet. I mean, it's a pillow, it's a pet... what's not to love about that? Ironically, Madalyn had something identical to the Pillow Pet when she was a wee little tot. It was a grey cat head in the shape of a pillow, and, though it was smaller in size than the normal Pillow Pets we see in the stores now, it rolled up and velcroed all the same. She used it in her crib as a pillow when she was a toddler. Couldn't tell you where it is now, but it's long been replaced by a lamb and a lady bug.

Last night, we made a mad dash to Walmart. I only needed snacks for the kids for school. Madalyn had three dollars in her wallet, and she just knew she could purchase something of value with it. She wanted to look at the toys, which we rarely ever do, and I agreed hoping to find some ideas for Christmas but all the while explaining she most certainly would NOT be making a purchase and neither would I.

"Oh, I love this! I want to get this!"
"Madalyn, it's $49.95, and you have $3."
"Well, I could give you my money and you could do the rest..."
"Christmas is only a month away. We are not buying a toy."

Similar conversations went on about various items or differing prices. Since her brother wasn't with us, I was trying to let her look and keep myself patient. Patience is not always my top virtue, especially with Madalyn. We had finally made it through the girl aisles with sanity in tact, and we turned out onto the main aisle to get what we really needed when she saw them...

They aren't your average Pillow Pets. No... they are pets in little houses that unzip and break forth for play! When it's pillow time again, you can zip the little pet back into its home. I remember having something similar to this notion as a child (hello, Puffalumps?!?!) and thinking it was quite nifty, but looking at it as a parent, all I am thinking is, "Why in the world couldn't have I had this idea and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits that go along with it?"

We entered a mode of frantic we seldom visit anymore. The six year old just had to have the puppy that zipped into the dog house. Like had to have it. But she had two things going against her... 1) I don't have an extra $20 to spare these days (especially with Christmas literally right around the bend), and 2) she's already got 2 pillow pets at home. It's hard to feel sorry for a child that has as much as my little girl. Granted, she may not have as much as another, but she certainly has an adequate amount of things of things to keep her entertained at home. And I am not typically a mom that purchases toys just because. My kids may get to pick something at the dollar store if we go, but that's about it outside of birthdays or special occasions.

She cried and whined and pleaded and cried some more. All through the store, the whole way home, up the stairs, she carried on. And on. And on. I mainly tried to remain quiet because my voice has a tendency to rise in pitch and volume when she gets like this. But then, she began to say things like, "You're just a meany mama... you never let me get anything... you always buy stuff for you and never for me... I wished I didn't live with a meany mama like you..." It was the latter phrase that dug into my heart. I know that it shouldn't, but it did.

Just the night before, I had awaken to the pitter patter that her slender feet make on the short pile of the carpet when there's no other noise in the house. A little lightening and low rumbling thunder brought her to my side of the bed. I welcomed her in as I slipped out to visit the restroom. When I got back into the bedroom, she was nestled in to my spot in the king size bed, all rolled up like a burrito, and I couldn't bare to bother her. I made my way to the couch and curled up with a couple of blankets for the rest of the night. She doesn't understand that part of being her mama. She has no idea the things I have gone without because her legs and feet continue to grow and I want to to continue being here when they teeter off the school bus in the afternoon. She doesn't understand how her words stung my heart especially after a night of crappy sleep on the couch. The little words from her little mouth just hurt... they hurt more than they should.

I quietly put her in the tub, talking as little as possible. Her tears finally subsided shortly after we turned the water off, and within five minutes, she had called me back in the bathroom.

"Will you bathe me, Mama?"
"Now you need me to do something for you? And why should I do anything for you, Madalyn, after the way you have behaved and treated me tonight?"
"Well, I'm sorry..." {less than convincing, I assure you}
"No, you're not sorry. You're not sorry at all, or you would have called me in here to tell me so, not to get me to do something for you. I will most certainly not bathe you. You can do it yourself tonight."

I made my way down stairs to avoid causing her bodily harm, my blood pressure still rising by the moment. I sat down with my laptop and eased my brain with a little Facebook check. That helps any situation, you know... staring aimlessly at meaningless information on a computer screen. Five minutes or so went by, and there she came, nothing but a towel wrapped around her little self, big brown eyes with a little puddle of tears welling inside them.

"Mama... I am sorry I said you were a meany mama. You're a good mama."
"Thank you, Madalyn. I know you don't mean what you say sometimes, but it does hurt my feelings. You know Mama has feelings too. Let's go get bathed."

As I knelt down beside the tub to wash her hair, I heard this gentle voice... How do you think I feel, Tamara, when you do the same to Me?

Oh, Lord... forgive me when I act like a six year old child that doesn't get her way. Forgive me for the times I don't trust that You will give me everything I need. Give me patience in dealing with my children just as You have been patient with me as I spiritually mature. Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the pain of death so that I can experience the freedom of forgiveness through your Holy Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Made {w}hole

Let me begin with this statement: I am grateful for my childhood in the church. My fondest memories involve fellowship halls, pot luck dinners, Uno with the youth group, church buses, flipping the light switches on or off. I firmly believe that I would not have the adoration of the Scriptures if I hadn't been born into the very family to which I was given; it's a love that my father, grandmother, and I share. I thank God that He has given me this trait as I know it's the one thing that sustained my soul through the years of doubting.

I've been reading this book... {w}hole by Lisa Whittle. If you've ever had negative experiences with organized religion, I urge you to read it. It's cathartic and reassuring. It's cleansing and hopeful. As I read the pages, processed the thoughts alongside my own memories, I felt as though I had put on a pair of prescription lenses made just for me. See, I, for so many years, looked at the Lord and His people through the lens of my own experience and disappointment. That doesn't work well. Take my word for it.

I've spoken here about Delores before. I don't even hesitate to use her real name, nor do I offer any apologies for doing so. She was Satan's first tool in my life at the tender age of eleven. My father was a dynamic preacher in those days. I have memories of him practicing his sermons at home, pouring over yellow legal pads of notes and his marked up Bible. I adored listening to my father preach, and I loved being churchy. Dresses below the knee, taking notes in my notebook in the pews, and acapella hymns. It was our life. We had packed up all our possessions and moved to a tiny town in Louisiana to follow my father's passion to preach. I don't remember and can't say I ever understood what Delores and my father had not agreed upon, but it was something, and she made her thoughts clear in front of the entire congregation after Sunday evening service. I was devastated. I can still feel the raw emotion in the pit of my stomach that welled up that night, the anger mixed with nervous frustration and disappointment, as I ran out of the building and into the parking lot. My little world was crumbling, and so was our church. My mother and I stayed at home one Sunday morning as my father went alone to formally resign to the congregation from the pulpit. Afterward, a small group of my father's supporters gathered in our home, and we sang together, prayed, and cried. I didn't understand all the details, but my heart knew one thing: even God's people cannot be trusted.

We built a church out of an empty space in a shopping center with a big grocery store, a little boutique filled with clothes my family couldn't afford to buy, and a vet clinic. We painted walls, cleaned things up, bought chairs, and named it. It was our life, and its members were our family. But something shifted, and my adolescent mind didn't understand those details either. My dad said it was time to go, so we packed our things and moved to Florida, out of the pan and into the fire. After a short year in a tiny town in the panhandle, my father decided to leave the ministry altogether.

Looking back through my fresh pair of glasses, I hurt for him so deeply. His passion for the Scriptures and the Truth written in them was undeniable. But the sad reality is that most Christians don't even bother to read the Word for themselves. They simply believe doctrine that's been handed down to them through generations of stiff, suit clad leaders. To those men, my father was a radical, one who believed in such things as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The first time I read through the New Testament, I was shocked to think there were people on the earth who would argue against that point. But there were a hand full to argue back then, and we ran into them all.

And so we went home. Back to our place of origin. No more moving. No more preacher's daughter for me. No more trust in Christianity. The picture of a Christian in my mind had become a man who walks several yards away from the church and hides behind a tree to smoke a cigarette, the Sunday school teaching woman who can't control her temper in front of the church on a Sunday night, the elders who straighten their ties as they deny the Inspired Word of God that's in plain black and white before them. I was confused to say the least. Confused about God, about why He would allow all of this to happen, why He would turn His back on us like this.

I had no faith in God. I felt abandoned by Him. I tried to find things to believe in, all the while maintaining my pretty little picture of goodness. By the time I graduated high school, I realized that no one was really who they appeared to be, that no one stood up for what was right. None of the Christian world around me made any sense, so I began to play the game myself.

Satan sent the perfect one to work on me, too. Handsome. Charismatic. Charming. It was as though Satan scripted it all for him perfectly, what to say, what to do, how to get me in the lowest position I had ever been in my life. He took me down. He sent my soul into a pit, and for years, even after I had finally rid myself of the embodiment of that demon, I remained in that deep dark hole.

I'm out now. I finally stopped scratching at the sides of the pit and just let the hand of the Lord Almighty lift me out. He has rested me on the edge of the pit in the soft green grass. I can still see the hole, but I am no longer in it. A part of me wants to get up and run toward the goal I have in my heart. But I am learning that I need rest, this time to learn and ponder, for Jesus to tend to my wounds. See, when you have wounds from every angle, the healing process is all the more complicated. I've got holes in my soul from Christian locusts and from the Devil's advocates as well. I'm trying to reconcile how they can come from both sides and hurt equally the same. One thing I am grateful for is that my Savior has experienced it all and even more than I can fathom. This verse in Hebrews resonated in my soul most of all: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (2:14-15).

Jesus didn't have to. He chose to. He shared in my humanity. He lived in a body just like mine. He lived alongside the Pharisees, even argued with them. He witnessed the hypocrisy of people, the lies, the pain, the bitterness. But you know what else? He healed the ones who came to him with the worst of the worst. He ministered to those that the Pharisees wouldn't even speak to. He reconciled the law. And He is currently reconciling all those years of disappointment in people that bore His name and the scars left behind from Satan's attacks.

I have a purpose. Just as the suffering of Jesus in His flesh was not in vain, neither is the sufferings of anyone who proudly carries the name Christian. I can't say when or how it will all come about, but I have a clear vision in my mind of what He wants me to do with all I've been through. But for now, I am resting. I am feeding my soul. I am waiting patiently. I am leaning on a fresh faith in my literal Savior who has lifted my soul from the deepest, darkest hole... I am longing for the day when my story is made {w}hole.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jury Duty...

I have a confession. I have jury duty envy. I know it's not right, nor is it normal, but I just can't help myself.

I was called to serve in 1997 at the ripe old age of 21. Bright eyed, fresh faced, 30 pounds thinner than I am now, and wearing a marquis solitaire on my left finger that I would learn to hate in less than a year. I was a lawyer's dream. Of course I was selected for a case, and it involved insurance fraud on the part of an Alfa Insurance salesman. I loved the whole process and actually longed to do it again. I've only been summonsed once since then while I was pregnant with my oldest. Though my heart wanted to be there, my pregnant body did not. I asked to speak to the judge, and told him that I would prefer not to sit on a jury at this time as I would be needing frequent restroom breaks.

When the little card arrived in the mailbox a few months ago, I was so disappointed to see my husband's name on the front. So was he. Being a commission only employee and only member of our family that receives a paycheck, he wasn't thrilled with time away from the job to listen to lawyers. And I get that. My bank account gets that, too. So he made a phone call to the number on the card. Unfortunately, the lady he spoke with didn't quite care about the inconvenience it may cause. She was glad to put it off a couple of months for him, so he went with that option.

Yesterday morning, he got ready to go, and I told him he would just fill out some forms and answer a few questions and get a phone number to call. He is a lawyer's worst nightmare, and I felt 100% certain no attorney in their right mind would select him. What I didn't bank on was the computer that randomly selects the grand jury getting a hold of him. Yep. You heard right. The grand jury.

Poor Scott. He just started this new job two weeks ago. He's been working so hard and adjusting to the new swing of things. My husband is certainly not one who likes to sit and listen to anything. And now he's forced to sit through five days of grand jury testimony while his mind wanders to all of the things he needs to be doing at his new job.

And I find myself at home, dreaming of filling in for him. I know it's wrong to think of ways I could dress up in his clothes and fool the legal system, but I must admit that it's crossed my mind. I think I would make a pretty good Scott, but I am not sure I could pull off his mannerisms.

So Scott's civic duty will end up costing us money. Loss of production at work. Having to eat out five days this week instead of coming home for lunch. I am thinking that it may be time to readjust the thinking of our county court system... when it's a burden for some to serve, they shouldn't be required to do it. Especially when their wife could fill in for them and is more than willing to do so.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Inside my brain...

I've been a little quiet around here as of late. To be honest, I've been what they call busy, which is weird for me. I generally don't like busy. It's a state of life I try to stay away from... not because I am lazy, but because I feel like it's a state in which we lose ourselves if we're not careful. We create too much external work for ourselves that we forget the internal work that needs to be done. Time with God. Time with family. Time with our spouse. We look for outside sources to feed our egos instead of feeding our souls. That's one of the joys of being a stay-at-home mom; I was forced to let go of my concept of earthly value and focus on the things that bring us true joy as women. Not that I don't think women who work can't balance it all... I just think it would be harder for me as a woman to put being a wife and mother first if I had a job that made me feel valued (because I dare say that a job outside the home would leave me feeling more valued than the kids do most days!). Okay... I am losing focus here...

I've been busy with my little crafty business. I got this rather large order a few weeks ago, and it was incredibly intimidating. But, of course, I wasn't going to turn down an order, even if meant that my own hands would have to create 42 zipper pulls and the leather things that hold them to the zippers all by myself. 42. This was right after I had another fairly large order of 19. My CrazyMamaCreations deal is a lot of fun, but what people probably don't realize is how very time intensive it is. I mean, it's just me, after all. And it takes quite a bit of menial effort to make a plain metal washer into something cute! So to say that I am glad to be passing off this big, big order today is an understatement! I enjoyed making them, but it will be a huge load off my shoulders to have it 100% complete.

I've also been getting ready for a craft show this weekend. I have purposefully not done a show yet. Major issue is time. Time to prepare. Time to go and set up and work the show and take down. Not to mention the risk. It's a risk to prepare things specifically for on the spot purchase when you're not certain any of it will sell. I am a made to order kind of outfit on Facebook and Etsy, so there's not much risk involved in that. But to prepare an inventory and not be sure that anyone (except me) will like it, well, it's a little intimidating.

I find myself intimidated by the strangest things. Take, for instance, this morning, when I went to the elementary school to learn how to make copies for Madalyn's teacher. It's been eleven years since I've used a commercial copier. May not seem like a big deal to you, but I was a little intimidated. Not just of the copier but of the whole process. What if I copy the wrong sheets? What if I don't make the right number? What if I can't remember how to make a two-sided copy into two one-sided copies and have them come out into the tray in groups instead of collated and I get fired from being room mom which I really never wanted to be anyway??????

Do you see what I do to myself inside my brain? Why do I do this? It's pure insanity, I tell you...

Also on the agenda lately has been lunch. As in cooking it. Now this is something I have enjoyed doing. Since my husband is working so very close to home now, he's able to come home for lunch. And it's been fun {in a weird way} cooking for him again. He's not one that eats a lot in the evening, so I have long gotten out of the habit of cooking real meals at night. But now, I can cook for lunch, we eat together, and then the kids have dinner ready. It's been a really nice change of pace around here, and a big money saver. I feel really blessed with Scott's job change. Beyond blessed, really. Just hoping that it all works out in the end. I am keeping the faith that it will and not applying my crazy inside the brain questioning to this one part of my life. Seems strange that I am freaking out more about using the copier at the school than I am about my husband's new job. But that's just the way my brain works...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The One

I read this post yesterday, and it really got me thinking all day long about Jesus. Who He is. What He did. How He lived. How I should live because of who He was, is, will be and because of what He did.

I am just now getting to know Him. Even though I spent the bulk of my childhood in church, I never thought along the way that He was someone with which I could have an intimate bond. Jesus was another character in the Bible to me, and there He remained, in the pages, in the red letters of the New Testament. Not until a few years ago did I realize that the Bible is full of this amazing information, power, encouragement, and counsel. Oddly enough, it was my reading of Isaiah that brought me closer to Him and His Father. There is beauty in the promise of perfection, of sacrifice, of Zion to the people that you know will hand Him over and mock Him. There is beauty in the Father's pursuit of the people of Israel. True beauty.

You see, in many ways, I identify with the people of Israel. I felt like I was one of the chosen people in my youth. My father a minister, I was there every time the doors were open. I helped clean the baptismal and vacuumed in between the pews more times than I can count. I recall the day I stood proudly in front of the small country church my father first preached for and recited all the books of the Bible. I was so pleased with myself for having done so, my faith even in childhood based on my performance. I had a task driven perception of God; if I do good, God will be pleased.

But what happens to that performance driven personality when she begins to fail. To make the wrong decisions. To trust the wrong people. To seek the wrong things. To fall on her face. She unravels, and so does her faith and her pretty little picture of God and Jesus, those characters she had learned all about in Sunday School.

I was missing out on the reality. The grit of the Bible. The Noah that got drunk off his first vineyard once he made it out of the Ark. The Moses that all but argued with God about his calling and doubted himself. The way Paul spent the majority of his life before following Jesus. I focused on the good performances of all the characters and not on the realness of them. There's beauty in the realness, too, as there is a lot of realness in me.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a new into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. {Mark 1:16-18}

Jesus is The One who can simply say, "Follow me," and people actually do it. Have you noticed that? Have you let it sink in that people literally dropped what they were doing, left it all behind, and followed a man they knew nothing about. Oh how I would love to have seen Him face to face! Can you imagine His magnetism? We experience it to some degree in the Scriptures, but to feel it in person... I just can't imagine.

... Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." {Matthew 9:12}

Jesus is The One who can stop the madness. His way is fairly simple, and he came to fulfill the rigorous performance driven law of the Old Testament. Where I fail, He makes up the slack. He pushes me to be better, but He wipes my tears when I fail. He was the sacrifice in the midst of chaos so that I can experience His peace. He loves me anyway.

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. {Hebrews 1:3a}

Jesus is The One. He sustains all things. He is the reason I haven't completely fallen to satan's tricks. He is the reason I seek, I long to know more, I try to live better, love better, be better. He is the One Sacrifice that trumps all others. He is the only One needed.

I am so thankful to be developing a relationship with Him. What about you? Do you know Him? The One? Want to know the absolute best place to find Him? In His words, in the words His Father has left for us. They are there for us to learn, to know Him, to hear what He has to say. Read them. They are beautiful, challenging, radical words. Soak in the whole story, not just the pretty pictures you may have learned in your childhood.

On a side note, there's a beautiful study of the words in Hebrews going on right now on Wendy Blight's blog... join us if you are interested! Week one has been incredible! And it's all about The One.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween and such...

I am shooting pretty bad this morning. My sinuses are killing me. And they're full of all kinds of strange stuff. I have ulcers in my mouth (possibly related to this nasty cold I am fighting). Oh, and I stabbed myself in the thumb with a needle while sewing a fuchsia feather boa to Madalyn's vampire cape, so that is inflamed as well. So all that combined makes it a good day to sit in my chair, read, and blog.

We did something different this year than we've done the past several years. We stayed at home. For the past four years, we've gone to a friend's house in another neighborhood. But several weeks ago, David started saying he wanted to stay in our neighborhood this year. I didn't react to it much at first, and I was a little worried about whether both kids would agree about what to do. But ultimately both of them told me they'd like to trick or treat at home this year, so we went with that. They had a lot of fun, and it was fun to be able to pass out candy at our own house again.

Madalyn was a vampire. When she first mentioned her costume choice to me, I was not impressed at all. But then my mind started spinning about how I could make it unique, and
I decided we could make it cute. I ordered a plain black cape from Amazon, and I found a hot pink boa I could sew onto the outside edge. I cut the shape of the collar out of a twenty cent
piece of felt and basted it to the cape over a line of fabric glue. I decided to cut the felt a little smaller than the actual collar just to make it look a little different. The best part about Madalyn's costume was that all the other pieces were just stuff from her closet or that she can wear in normal life. She wore a cute long sleeve tee shirt from Old Navy under her cape to
complete the sassy vampire look. She fought with me about the makeup, but once she saw herself in the mirror, she knew it rounded the costume out perfectly! For an idea I wasn't too keen on, I ended up enjoying putting her together more this year than I ever have.

David, being ten, opted for the weird mask
with jeans thing. He found this sleeve thing that has a nasty wound and a bolt running t
hrough it that he wore on his arm. Total expense for David's get-up... $10. I am liking the older age boy thing, even though I miss the cute costumes.

I cleaned out the buckets this morning. David ate more candy last night than he should ever down in an evening. He has self control issu
es. I also threw stuff away that looked weird. There was a fun size Hershey bar that looked like it was purchased in 2008. I always trow out that weird looking wax paper covered soft candy. Flavored Tootsie Rolls get tossed... I am still trying to find a human being that ingests those things and enjoys the experience. I Tootsie Roll should taste like chocolate not fruit. Bottle Caps are thrown out as well. I found one lone paper wrapped candy named Mary Jane, and I quickly tossed that in the trash pile. I have never heard of such, and I am certainly not going to allow my children to eat anything that has a name which doubles as a nickname for weed. I only found three peppermints this year. And the most nostalgic award goes to the pretty little roll of Royal Rolls in Madalyn's pumpkin... do you remember those? They are the Life Saver knock-offs and they taste awful. I can't wait to see Madalyn's face when she puts one in her mouth!

Hope Halloween was successful for all my friends out there, and that your kids have brought lots of your favorite goodies into your home for you to enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Radiant Faith

I am such a word nerd. But not in terms of an over-educated, stuffy, PhD kind of nerdiness (or smartness), but more in this weird way I attach myself to certain words and fall in love with them and giggle with delight when I see them throughout the Scriptures. In fact, the only time I am really a word nerd is with the Bible. I guess the Bible is the only written word that I've ever been in love with all these years.

Take, for instance, the word radiant. The word alone makes me take a deep relaxing breath. I love it, its meaning, and specifically how it's used in the Bible. Here's a couple...

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5
Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy. Isaiah 60:5
The Son is the radiance of God's glory, and the exact representation of his being... Hebrews 1:3

There's just something about that word. Radiant. Glowing. Emitting light and life and warmth. It's what I'd like to be, and I think that's why it's caught my eye and won my heart over. So when I saw it used in the verse in Hebrews this morning, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Today is the first day in an online study on Hebrews on Wendy Blight's blog. If you've never visited her online space, you should. She's an amazing, strong Christian woman that's so full of knowledge and love of the Scriptures. And she's hosting an online study of the book of Hebrews entitled Living a Cross Centered Life. This is the first week, and we're taking it one chapter at a time, so there's still time to join in if you'd like.

Anywho... so I began reading this morning, and I started with the introduction to the book in my Bible, and already I am challenged. The book of Hebrews was written to the Jews back in a time where, as a Jew, you either accepted Christ's life, death, and resurrection, did not accept it and were still waiting on the Messiah to come, or you wavered. When I stop and think about our reality today, not much has changed. There are believers, there are non-believers, and then there are those that believe but struggle to keep it in in play, wavering back and forth from the old way of life to the new. Here's a quote from my study Bible's introduction to Hebrews: "Those who did accept Jesus as the Messiah often found themselves slipping back into familiar routines, trying to live a hybrid faith." That statement pierced right through me, and it also confirmed I am in the right place, the right book of the Bible. And then, only three verses in pops up a variation of my favorite word...

I'd like a radiant faith, not a hybrid one.

All this being said, the book of Hebrews promises to be challenging. So if any of you out there want to join in, it's not too late. Head over to Wendy's blog, and enroll in the sidebar.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yesterday... the eventful day...

Yesterday was quite the eventful day.

First on my agenda, other than fretting over my mother's health, was to put my feet in the stirrups for a little annual pleasure. Only mine wasn't exactly an annual thing; it had been three years since my last annual exam (see the irony there?). I know, I know. Gasp in horror and wave that pointy finger in the air... it's not fun, and I just haven't been. I've also not had any problems and never had an abnormal result. But this year marks the point where I should start having mammograms, so there was no putting it off. Trust me when I say that I spent three years' worth of time in the office. I arrived around 9:30 and left about noon, and I literally saw the doctor for a whole eight minutes of that time. This is only the second time I have visited this particular doctor; I never attached myself to the one who delivered Madalyn, so I made a change. I do pity OB/GYNs even though they make good money... I wouldn't want to be the man making small talk about what your children are dressing up as for Halloween while examining hoo-hahs. Just sayin'.

Once Erika and I texted and played Words with Friends for two hours whilst I waited in the waiting room, I went to the grocery store. I had to buy the items to put together a batch of Chex Mix for Madalyn's class activity since I have been bamboozled into taking over as room mother. Yes, you heard right. The other room mom up and moved to California last week. How does one suddenly make that move? I would love to hear the background story, but I am not nosey (or ballsey) enough to ask the teacher for the down-low. Nor am I ballsey enough to refuse to be room mom. I am pretty amazed that I have made it these six years without having to pull the role off at some point. I think I will do alright, but I am still a little apprehensive. Stay tuned for lots of fun stories about the adventures of Crazy Room Mama.

While putting together the Chex Mix, I celebrated the good news from my mom's scans and awaited a call from my husband telling me he had quit his job. Ummmmm, yeah, add that to the list for yesterday. Scott quit his job. Not only did he quit his job, but he is officially leaving the car business.

Please pause for a moment of silence.

When I tell you that I have prayed for years for this day, I mean literally prayers and prayers and prayers for years and years and years. It's all we've ever known... twelve hour days, late nights, nearly every Saturday. A couple of weeks ago, Scott got a call from an RV place within just a few miles from our house that was in need of a finance manager. He went in to interview, and they offered him the job the next day. It's a risk... a large company has just bought this location, and they are expecting big things. But it may take several months to build it up to the level they know it can achieve. But the hours are great, the location is perfect for our family, and it's a chance worth taking. So we're taking it. Scott starts on Tuesday in a totally different environment than he's used to. A slower pace, fewer hours, and hopefully a lot more family time. I have been so humbled at the thought of my petitions being answered by God that I don't even know what to say. The thought of him being so close, of him not having to miss the goodnight kisses, of him being more a part of our day to day makes me so happy!

I must admit that it's been a great week! I hope all my friends out there have had a great week, too...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Praise God!

We got good news today. Praise the Lord for good news! My mother's scans show a 40% decrease in size of her largest measurable tumor in her liver. There is still minimal fluid in her right pleural lining, but there is no growth there or in her spine.

When I read the text from my dad in my car, Doxology immediately started in my mind, a chorus of angels singing their praise between my ears, and I wanted to pull my car over and lie face down on the green grass and just soak in His glory! I have never in my life felt so appreciative... for anything... I didn't even feel this way when either one of my children was born! It's the hardest emotion to describe, yet one I am so very grateful to have experienced in my lifetime.

So, I Googled Doxology and found out it came from another hymn, Awake My Soul, and with the Sun. And when I read the words, I just thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever read. So I thought I would share it here today for all of you to enjoy. And just as a huge Praise God from me!

Thank you, Lord... words cannot express my gratitude to You, Lord... there are no words! Thank you, Jesus!


Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.
Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.
By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.
In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.
Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.
All praise to Thee, who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.
Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.
Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.
Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthdays...

Yesterday was my husband's 40th birthday. And, while that seems as monumental as birthdays come, it doesn't compare to today.

Today is my mom's birthday. And it doesn't even matter what number corresponds with it. The only thing important about this day is that about two and half months ago, I didn't think I would celebrate another birthday with my mom. She was failing. Quickly. I knew, she knew it, my father knew it. I was terrified.

Truth is that I don't know what this world is like without my mother in it. I've never experienced a day without her presence in some way in my life. There are days when she's been unavailable that I test myself and see how many times I want to talk to her about something, and the truth is, it's a lot. She was the first person I ever had a relationship with. The first person to love me, hold me, talk to me, hug me. And who I am without her is incomprehensible. It's never existed before.

I find it so odd that a toxic substance is now what's keeping her here. She's been feeling relatively well but for the last couple of weeks. The fatigue has set in, and she's seeing some skin problems that are side effects of the chemo. Her blood pressure is little out of whack early in the week. On the days she feels well, though, I can almost forget that she has cancer for a brief moment. But just for a very brief moment... the denial of the hard facts never lasts too long.

But this morning, I woke with this gratitude that I've never felt in my life. A thankfulness for this day, one I thought I wouldn't have, one I thought we would be robbed of. Another birthday. Another day with her. Another birthday card to sign. A lunch with chit chat. A mom here in the flesh, one I can experience as moms are meant to be. I know it won't continue on as long as I'd like it to, but I will deal with that when the time comes. And, even once she's gone, I still feel like there will be this undeniable presence in my soul of her. This part of her she has handed down to me over these almost 35 years I've had the honor of being her daughter.

Happy birthday, Mama. I love you!

Prayers are coveted, friends, as my mother will have a scan on Thursday to see if the pictures match her improving blood work.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Epiphany...

I was talking to my dearest friend for life, Erika, today about some things in the works in my life right now. These were my words: "I keep thinking this could be the answer to many, many years of prayer, but I am waiting on something to go wrong..."

How sad. How pitiful of me. I realized how awful it sounded the minute the words tumbled out of my mouth and after my friend made a bold statement to me... "Why don't you just expect the best?"

So, my question to myself is exactly that. Why don't I expect the best in any given situation, especially in one involving a petition to God for a positive life change? Why am I so surprised when God answers a prayer favorably? Why does His unyielding, unrelenting, undeniable love and power still completely blow me away? It's nothing new, but perhaps my acceptance of their existence is still so fresh in my being that I automatically go back to my pessimistic approach to my Creator.

How timely that I am reading a new book entitled {w}hole by Lisa Whittle. When I read the first chapter on her website last week, something bubbled up inside of me. I can't explain it. I identified with what she was saying, and I found it refreshing that she identified with me. I am not alone is a powerful feeling that we all crave to find true throughout the pathways of our life. When it comes to my spiritual walk, I often feel isolated, not only because I have no direct affiliation with an organized church but also because I feel like I've experienced a lot of disappointment from the church that most people don't see in their lives. The only person who knows all the ins and outs of how I feel about organized religion is my Heavenly Father, and it's definitely a subject that I try to stay clear of with most people, including the two people who have been most influential on my faith, my parents.

My book arrived in my mail box on Saturday. I wanted to dive in immediately, to hear another believer's account of their journey in finding closeness to God through Scripture, but Scott's birthday party was that evening, and there was a giant "40" to make out of chocolate chip cookies, icing, and black candles. So I placed the Granny Smith apple green book on my chair for Monday morning. I devoured the first three chapters this morning.

I walked away from the beginning of this book with the awareness (for the first time in my life) that I didn't grow up viewing myself as God's creation. In my little mind, the Church was God's creation, and, if I was good enough along the way, I could be a part of the Church. In other words, the Church was my direct link to God. I can't say where this belief came from; perhaps it was my rule-following, conservative, people-pleasing personality that formulated this mental approach to God. But that doesn't really matter. However this completely explains why Psalm 139 made me weep the first time I read it. It was the first time I viewed myself as being directly created by God, known inside and out by Him, and loved despite my imperfections.

I look back over the past several years, over my journey with the Lord, over the way He has lovingly worked on my heart, my hurts, my misunderstandings about Him. He has revealed Himself in the strangest of stories in the Bible, painting a more accurate picture of who He is, was, always has been, and always will be. This picture is more grand, more encompassing, more overwhelming that I ever dreamed God could be in the days of my ignorance, and I am gratefully placing in all the missing pieces of God's personality one by one.

I'm still not perfect. Never will be. But I do have this enormous zeal for Him. I want to know Him. Not just open Him up and have quiet time with a few pages several times a week and then place Him back on the shelf. I want to know Him on a level I never believed possible until I read Psalm 139 and believed it deep down inside. I want to draw closer to a Jesus that endured torture so that my soul wouldn't have to, and I want to help spread that around so that others will know it, too. I want to be the woman He knew I would be even in the midst of bad choices, hurtful life experiences, and rebellion.

There are just so many things going on behind the scenes these days that I can't openly discuss or can't properly put into words that make any sense. But I love a day full of the beauty of one single realization. Nothing is better than having an internal epiphany, especially when it helps you learn something about your past and pushes you closer to where you want to be. Head on over to Lisa Whittle's website and check it out... she's an amazing writer and magnetic Christian! You will be blessed by her words!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zombies and such...

I heard the pitter patter coming across the living room carpet. No... no, no, no... I thought in my semi-conscious state. No way, no how was I sharing my space with her tonight. 3:00 in the AM meant a good three and a half hours left to snooze.

"Mama.."
"What's wrong?"
"I had a bad dream." She normally doesn't talk. She normally just slides in the bed as quiet as she can so as to remain undetected. "It was about zombies."
"Oh, it's okay. Come on in."

I couldn't turn her away with zombies in her head. So, I cuddled up to her until her breath was heavy with sweeter dreams, and I made my way to the couch to sleep. There's no sharing a bed with Madalyn. She may be small, but she uses more space than two adults when sleeping, and it makes for a much longer night than just giving in and sleeping on the couch.

I drifted off to sleep on the couch and dreamed about a guy I dated in high school, my children being my younger brother and sister, living in a house with wall paper over the windows, and going to a high school football game with a boy I didn't know. Maybe I should have stayed in the bed with the zombies...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reminder...

My kids get on my nerves. They make messes and don't clean them up. They bring home homework from school that requires my assistance as well as a firm nudge to get it done. They eat the entire bag of Baked Ritz Crisps in ONE AFTERNOON {and then have the nerve to wonder why I won't ever buy that stuff unless it's on sale}. They create mounds and mounds of laundry. They leave wet towels on the floor. And they talk. A lot.

But..... I love them dearly.

Today, I ran through the aisles at Publix quickly picking up a few necessities: chicken for dinner, sugar free French Vanilla coffee creamer (praise the Lord they were back in stock... I've been using the regular stuff all week), and beer. I picked up TWO bags of the Baked Ritz Crisps {gotta love the BOGO stuff at Publix!} and a bag of the iced oatmeal cookies, knowing that would make me mom of the universe for this afternoon.

As I made my way through the store, a man and woman caught my eye. I could tell that they were mother and son, and I didn't think too much unusual about the pair until I got close enough to hear their conversation. His voice sounded younger than my own ten year old boy's, and I could tell that she was sending him about to pick up things along the aisle, giving him a task. He would go and retrieve an item and bring it back to his mother, and then she'd send him to get another. She shopped at the same time, and her buggy was near capacity. He sang to himself as he hunted through the apples. He mumbled something beneath his breath in the dairy aisle.

I got into the lane to the left of them to check out, and I overheard her send him to get a bag of ice. She wanted the small bag. He returned with the larger of the two sizes. Her eyes were clearly perturbed, but her voice never showed it. And my heart sank down inside of me in shame. I am so blessed. So very blessed beyond belief to have these two beautifully healthy children. And though their messiness and weird sense of humor drive me nuts sometimes, they are but fleeting seasons in their lives. This mother's child will never fully mentally mature; she is perpetually stuck in this one phase of life with him. Watching how she handled him so patiently and thinking of what her daily life must be like humbled me. And I needed it.

Being a mom is hard. Yes, it's incredibly rewarding, but sometimes the rewards are few and far between. I find myself in a state of wanting the good to always outweigh the bad, and that's just not realistic. If they would clean up after themselves more... if they would be more organized... if they would do this or that or whatever, then life would be easier. What an awful way to think.

Dear Lord... thank you for your gentle reminder today to be thankful for my children. They are Your creations, and I should marvel in them every day. Thank you for keeping them so healthy and safe all these years. I pray for that sweet mother in the grocery store today... may You grant her every ounce of patience and energy she needs for this day and all her days after.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bullet points by me...

I really have not a whole lot to say. But I feel this compulsion to blog, though I can't get out a complete post, so I will revert to the stinking bullet points.

~ I am doing Weight Watchers again. I did it three or four years ago, and I was successful, so I thought I would give it a whirl. I have such an issue with portions, you know, and eating when my body is not literally hungry. The points idea helps me look at food differently and focus on what I can have instead of what I can't. I am down four pounds which I am pretty certain is mainly water and just plain extra garbage I would normally be toting around in my intestines. But it's four pounds off the scale, so I will take it. Twenty more to go. Yippee.

~ Sunday, Scott and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. I am pretty proud of us. I know when we got married there were a lot of people that thought we probably wouldn't make it. Heck, there have been times when I thought we wouldn't make it. But we have. When I think about all the couples we've known over the years and I realize how many are divorced now, I know what a rare and special thing we have. Even when things get tough, even when I am cursing him beneath my breath as I turn every single one of his socks right-side out while dealing with the laundry, we are both committed to making this marriage work. And I am so proud to have made it twelve years.

~ I have a bruise on my shoulder. I have no idea how I got it. To be honest, I can't think up a scenario in my mind that would leave me with a bruise on my shoulder. But whatever.

~ I am about to conquer my fear of the thrift store. We're doing a Halloween/Birthday party for Scott's 40th birthday next weekend, and I need to put together our ensemble. Scott and I will be the unlikely couple... the private school girl and the redneck boy. If you know us, you already realize it's incredibly fitting. I don't want to look risque or spend too much, so I am not interested in ordering a real costume, so I thought I could search the thrift store and piece one together myself. I go into panic mode in thrift stores, so I am hoping I can get passed that and find what I need.

~The sun really needs to shine here. I am feeling the lack of sunshine.

~ I wonder if that Total Transformation program really works. The infomercial says it's free if it's not successful in your home. Hmmmmmm.

Okay. That's all I've got today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Life Fading...

"Let's play hooky from the old people..."

That's what I said to my mother today in the car as we were driving in Montgomery on our way to make one stop and then hit the nursing home. I just wasn't in the mood for the old people. Now, please don't feel that I'm being disrespectful when I call them that... it's just something my mother and I have said for years. I would ask, "How are they?" after she had been to see them, and her answer was always, "They're old." So we started referring to them as the old people, and it just sort of stuck. Even in their old age, they both have a gleaming sense of humor, and I would actually say it in front of them and have no doubt they would chuckle.

Anywho... wasn't in the mood for old people today. For about the past week, I've been feeling the urge to go shopping, plundering through stuff, look around. I don't know why. Maybe it's the change of season, maybe it's this really cool blog I recently found which leaves me wanting to get over my anxiety of thrift stores, or maybe a combination of a bunch of things. But visiting the nursing home just didn't sound like fun today, and I was hinting that we skip the visit and do something fun.

Mom didn't bite, and I'm very glad she didn't.

My grandfather has always been a man of few words and rare emotion. But in the past few visits, he just seems so sentimental, so eager to say I love you, so open to a hug. He muses about the meaning of life. He talks about how he misses when the whole family got together at the house. He misses home, the life he used to have, the one I'm pretty certain he took for granted and didn't realize would change as much as it has. For the first time ever, I see my grandfather as a person, not just my grandfather, and I feel this empathy welling up inside of me for where he is in life. He's trapped in this weird place, one in which he really has no freedom or home, in the biggest waiting room of all, waiting for the end to come.

My grandfather never sat still. Well not unless he had a bowl of ice cream or cut up cantaloupe. He had a garden in the backyard when I was little with beans, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, and muscadine vines. He piddled in his shed. He worked for a rent-a-car place picking up cars in different cities and driving them back to Montgomery. He went somewhere to play bingo, and all I understood about it as a child was that it wasn't somewhere ladies should go. He had this pillow thing that stayed on the ground in the back den of their house, and late in the afternoon, he'd lie down there on the beige carpet and get still enough to drift off to sleep. He took me and my little cousin for walks around the block, pushing her in a little umbrella stroller while I totted along on the side. He loved deeply but silently. He worked hard and slept hard. He never stilled his body unless he had to.

Today, I looked across the glass top table at this old man, deep wrinkles lining his face, eyes watering at the thoughts of times gone by and not to come again, and I realized that he is a man. Not just Grandaddy Norris. He is a man who has lived a full life, worked hard for the little bit he got, produced four off spring, lost one tragically too soon, watched his baby daughter fight cancer, watched his grandkids have kids of their own, watched the world change and grown and move too rapidly. And now he's forced to stop. And I really felt that in my bones today... really let it sink in. All those old people, the ones I try to smile at and speak kindly to when I visit, are people who have lived these once vivid lives quickly fading away.

Dear Lord... I thank you so much for my grandparents, the three I still have with me. I ask of you today that you ease their weary and confused minds, that you bring back up for them memories of the joy they've had, and peace for each day. Numb their longing to go back to their earthly home, and replace it with the promise of their home to come with You. In Jesus' precious and powerful name... Amen.