Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marriage Posting 101

The funny thing about posting about marriage is that it's not entirely fair.  See, only one person in the marriage decided to write a blog that anyone can see, so when you look at the categories that I write about (on the right hand side of my blog), you'll see there are far far fewer entries in the marriage category than the ones like faith and family.  Unless you write very generically, or keep it totally about yourself, or just want to brag about your husband, you pretty much have to stay off of marriage issues. 

It's odd because, obviously, marriage is a huge part of my life.  I've been with Bray for 8 years now and we've been married for 5 1/2 of those.  We've had high times, low times, funny times, sad times, and all the in-between times that any married couple (save a Kardashian or two) has.  During my long period of pondering I wrote about this week, a lot of what I thought about was marriage and its highs and lows.  Generally and specifically.  Globally and personally.  So I am going to write a few posts about marriage with a few ground rules that I think are key if I'm ever going to write about marriage: (a) no secrets will be shared, (b) nothing disrespectful will be said, (c) some commentary will be from personal experience and some will be from what I've observed in other marriages but all of it will remain generic enough so no one has to share what they'd rather not. 

I actually think this is the reason real issues about marriages aren't discussed, particularly Christian ones.  Sure there are lots of books about marriage.  But many writers, men or women, have to gingerly step around the issue of saying I did this terrible thing and my spouse did this terrible thing for fear the ultimate outcome of the writing project will be to inflict more pain on a healing marriage.  I've certainly not figured out a way around that issue, but I hope someone does because there's much about Christian marriages that could be improved upon with some frank discussion. 

In my experience, since the children have arrived (this is our third Christmas with the kids), the holiday season often is one of the hardest on our relationship.  It's the combination of multiple factors: Bray has to work many hours in his line of work during the holidays; I am stressed about getting everything decorated, food cooked, kids photos done for cards, shopping completed; Bray hunts and this is the heart of the season; lots of parties and family get-togethers mean more rushed schedules and often sick kids; and then, of course, just all the build up and then the ultimate let down after it's all over.  It is emotionally and physically exhausting, but much more so with children. 

It's sad though when you think about the three celebrations that mark the holiday season:  Thanksgiving, when we stop to say thanks for all the blessings in our lives; Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour; and New Year's, when we celebrate the year behind and new beginnings that lay ahead.  If we kept all that in perspective, then maybe we could find a way to release some of the tension that inevitably builds up in the marriage over the course of six weeks. 

Regardless, the key is how to fix whatever broke when January rolls around.  I think one of the biggest struggles in marriages today is to allow the rush of modern life to sweep the small spills under the rug.  After months or years of sweeping martial spills under the rug, the rug gets too small to contain the mess and everything erupts.  What if, instead, at the end of each month (or each week depending on how ambitious you are), we sat down with our spouses and talked stuff out?  Get the kids in bed, turn the television off, push the bill paying aside, and look at each other in the eye and say thank you for doing this or this thing you did hurt me or I think we could improve on communicating with each other or whatever it is that month.  A month end "true up."  Literally.  Give one another the freedom to be honest (especially the guys because they're often concerned they'll be living with hacked off wives if they say what they're really feeling), but speak out of love and not out of anger or resentment.

Pretty lofty goal, huh?  But I think it could save marriages far and wide if we'd all give it a shot.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I have several posts in the "can" from my prolonged thinking period in the Tranquility Room, but I'm scrapping them all today because my best friend swooped in last night at the exact perfect moment to save the day (or week or emotional disaster, whatever the case may be). 

I always have so much fun with Mary regardless of what we do but because I've been a little down and because we've not seen each other a lot lately and because we were going to see one of our favorite bands, Better than Ezra, last night was absolutely perfect.

We had dinner and cocktails at The Grove and swapped our bummer stories, but from then on out proceeded to only say and do super fun things.  Including having a blast at the House of Blues rocking out to Better than Ezra and I can honestly say that I saw a side of Mary I'd never seen before (and we've been friends for nine years!).  Cyndi Lauper had it right, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Sometimes all it takes to make you feel 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter is a best friend and some good music.  So if you're having a bummer day or week or month, call your friend and at the very least take a spin around town blaring some good tunes.  I can recommend Better Than Ezra..........

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time to Think

I believe the saying that money can't buy you happiness.  But money can buy you some time in the Tranquility Room at the Trellis Spa.  I spent yesterday morning at one of my favorite spas in town, but one I've not been to since having the kids because it's just too pricey.  However, a group of my girlfriends were getting together to see a friend in from China, and I was off of work, so I splurged on a massage and pedicure.  While they were both fabulous, as was the time with these sweet girls, probably the most amazing part of the day was my time in the Tranquility Room.

Can I set the stage for you?  It's a small room.  It comfortably seats four chaise loungers, a fireplace and two small waterfalls, but that's it.  It's completely quiet and free of any electronic devices (they're banned) or clocks.  The chaises are made out of chenille and nearly custom fitted for lounging ladies complete with comfy throw to keep your toes warm when you kick off your sandals.  The lighting is dim - bright enough to see a pen on paper but no brighter.  The backside of the stone fireplace has a fulsome fire (the front side of the fireplace faces into the waiting room), flames which lick but never devour the logs.  The two stone waterfalls are loud enough to deliver a trickling water white noise into the space without being intrusive.  It is the perfect peaceful retreat.  And it gave me time to think.  Time to think for a long period without interruption which has been completely lacking from my current day-to-day existence.   

I've always loved this little spot, but never more so than at this moment in my life.  I've been in a bit of a ditch.  When I started penning words that came to my mind about my current emotional state (I begged the spa staff for a paper and pen because I started getting so many writing ideas in my head that I had to jot them down immediately or lose them forever), among the first were unhappy, restless and, among other harsh words, self-involved.  I tried to identify all of the conditions that led to these emotions.  I identified some, certainly, but not all of them.  Much of it is reflective of the fact that, despite my earthly best efforts, I'm not where I should be in my walk with the Lord.  This thinking period led me down a dozen rabbit trails and filled two sheets of notebook paper, front and back, with writing ideas and self-assessments in the ten minutes that followed all of this mental chewing. 

Here's the thing.  The room, it's artificial.  It isn't real.  It's contrived.  The perfect combination of warmth from the fire and blanket paired with the exact right degree of air conditioning, the constant trickling of waterfalls, a bottomless cup of tea or glass of wine, and the "tranquility" to ponder is an expensive artifice.  But it did give me time to think.  Time I realize now was long overdue.  And it gave me a lot of writing material which you'll see in the days to come.  Most importantly, it led me to rethink how I got to this current state and what needs to happen to change it.  It's mostly God stuff, but some of it is me stuff, so I'd better get to work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bizzarro Ticks

Toddlers have funny ticks.  They change regularly.  My three toddlers have developed a whole set of new ones over the long Christmas weekend.  As you likely read, we were all very sick and so there was a lot of frustration (and depression on my part because three sick kids is SO overwhelming).  But........there was hilarity too.  How can there not be when you combine three 26 month olds, new toys, the concept of Santa, and p.j.s all day!?!?!

First up, the eldest.  He enjoys making coffee with me in the mornings.  Weekdays it's usually the Keurig machine because it's quick for work, but weekends we make fresh coffee in the"big" pot with fresh ground coffee beans.  He loves it!  So I selected a play kitchen that had a coffee pot in it because I knew that he'd love it.  Well little did I know that it would be the biggest fighting issue in the house.  The kids LOVE the coffee pot.  But none more than my sweet boy.  He ran back and forth from his play kitchen to refill his coffee pot and careen back towards us yelling, "more coffee?  more coffee?"  He would then pour us coffee in our mugs and head back for more.  His favorite new words are "More Coffee?" 

Next up, the baby.  He's obsessed with the words "apple pie."  The reason I say the words rather than actual apple pie is because I'm fairly certain that he has never seen or tasted an apple pie.  I have video which I will post when I figure out how to cut portions of it that illustrates this new obsession.  We ask him what he's making in the kitchen and he says apple pie.  Even if it's in a coffee cup.  We ask him what the elephant is in the book and he says apple pie.  He sometimes will follow this apple pie business with hysterical laughter.  It's the funniest thing I've ever seen.  I'm going to buy him an apple pie so he sees what it is that has him so taken. 

Last but not least, the little lady.  I think she probably was the sickest, so she was the grumpiest this weekend.  However, she was not without her moments.  She's also big on the kitchen (as well as "jump, jump" on the trampoline).  But she seems more mesmerized by the little stove top sound effects from the pots and pans.  And she's learned to fight her brothers.  They like to steam roll over her for the item in the kitchen they want (mostly the eldest), but she will scream and fight them for it now.  She's clearly got the stereotypical girl response and the stereotypical boy response working in tandem - she will let out a cry like she has lost her dog but pair it with a big hit upside their heads.  The former we work with her on, the latter sends her time out (stealing a coffee pot does not warrant hitting, yet). 

I look forward to what they'll come up with this week.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

And to all a good night...

If you read this weekend's post, then you know that today was going to be a coin toss.  But it was good.  Not flawless, but good.  Isn't that life, though?  It's not flawless, but it's good.  Three years ago this time, I wasn't even pregnant and couldn't have imagined that this time three years later I'd be celebrating with three walking, talking toddlers.  Two years ago this time, we had infants home from the NICU for just over a month and were walking around with monitors strapped to their chests.  So being sick for Christmas isn't the end of the world.  
My baby girl with her new baby girl

Just After Santa left.......

Joy riding on the tractor w/aforesaid calf

Squeals of delight over a new stuffed calf

The kids awoke, two with fevers and coughs still (along with mommy), with grand excitement about Santa's appearance and his gifts.  We all rushed into the living room together to see bow-tied tractors and kitchens and dolls and trampolines.  They loved their presents and fought over them all day (so much for not needing multiples of items - oddly, the most fought over item was the coffee pot in the play kitchen).  We had a grand lunch, I ended up having all the items I needed at the house so my inability to run errands yesterday did not ruin a thing.  I am sick and tired tonight, as were my sweet kiddos, but we have a warm house, clean clothes, fresh bathwater, plenty of food and medicine, and a doctor on call should we need one.  We are so much better off than most people around the world. 

Today ultimately was precious and special to me because of the Christmas message at the center of everything.   I choked up as I read the kids the story of our Saviour's birth and the message of hope that it brought to the nations then as it does now.  I am most moved by the advent calendar's telling of Mary - how she treasured each gift that was brought to Jesus, her son and God's, whether it was gold from a Wise Man or a token from a nearby villager that heard the angels singing.  As a mother, don't you know that's true?  Here she is, in the middle of this revolutionary occurrence, not that she asked to be, and all she can do is love her sweet boy as any mother would do and equally love those who came to worship and adore him.  As they came singing, Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, or their version of it, don't you know she teared up and her heart swelled.  Don't you think that as she changed him and fed him and bathed him, she kissed him and prayed for him just as any mother would do.  Even though he was not like any other child, he was still her child, and he was going to save the world - including her.  What a gift, but what a burden.

Today, what I hope my children took away besides Santa and presents, was the reason why we give.  We give because we celebrate Christ's birth and we give because He gave so much.  And I hope the gifts that were given and received by my family that went to World Vision as well as students in Guatemala and children needing vision in Africa and men wanting to go to seminar in third world countries and girls being rescued from slave trade in India were delivered with the same message of hope: today is Jesus Christ's birthday, He came to bring you a hope and a future. 

I hope you and your family had a Merry (and healthy) Christmas.  From the Vincents to you, Merry Christmas to all, and (if you'll excuse us now) to all a good night!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Nightmare Before Christmas

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, then you know that I had relatively healthy kids until school began.  Then, like floodgates opening (and like I was warned by many a parent before me), every other week the trio, or some portion of them, were sick.  Unfortunately, that pattern did not pass the holidays by.  Everyone was well the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving so it was inevitable we'd catch something at large gatherings.  And catch we did.  Three sick kids for two weeks on z-pac and then hand, foot and mouth to top it all off.  Everyone had been well for over a week when we went to the farm this past weekend.  And now, in these mere days and hours before Christmas, everyone is sick again. 

The eldest led the pack on Monday with coughing and fever.  Sadly, five days later and he's almost worse than when he started.  We were at Texas Children's Hospital this morning for x-rays.  Fortunately it is not pneumonia, but unfortunately it is viral and there's no good treatment for his thickened lungs, roller coaster fevers, and restless coughing nights.  By Wednesday, the little lady had it, and the baby was in the throws of it by yesterday.  After returning home from TCH with my big boy this morning, I spent forever in our doctor's office (only to see her back up who I'm not a fan of) and found out the doctor thought the whole family had contracted whatever this virus was and I should just hydrate them and try to keep the fever under control.  BUT.... we got a call a half hour later, darling girl's flu test came back positive!  A weak positive but still positive.  We all were good patients and had flu shots in September, but all for naught.  I begged the back-up doctor to call in Tamiflu for BOTH the baby and the little lady because everyone clearly had it. 

Tonight was the worst of the week yet.  In addition to all three kids being sick, I'm sick now too, and they're starting to potty train and Bray has to work a ton of hours leading up to Christmas.  So tonight I got poop on my hand twice from potty runs that were successful (albeit during the middle of me trying to prep dinner and each run taking a minimum of 10 min), was thrown up on twice (a new symptom the baby added tonight), sat helplessly through harrowing coughing because when their fits are simultaneous it appears they will all throw up, and ran through three diaper rags cleaning up nose goo. 

People used to say I was the perfect person to have triplets.  I'm so organized and scheduled.  And that may be true when they're well, but when everyone is sick, this sick, I'm utterly and completely overwhelmed.  And the fact that Santa is coming tomorrow night and this is our current state has me in tears.  I don't even know if I have the groceries I need for our meal Sunday but it doesn't matter because I can't take three sick kids to the grocery store solo on Christmas Eve..........

The kids were so excited for Santa and Christmas and started "getting it" this year for the first time.  We've spent all week assembling things and wrapping presents.  All I can do now is pray for a Christmas miracle.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Farm Before Christmas

So instead of the traditional Night Before Christmas, we spent our weekend before Christmas at the family farm.  I've written about it before but it will likely appear more often now that my children are absolutely OBSESSED with the farm.  Everything from tractors, four-wheelers, cows, horses, and grandma and grandpa just fascinates them (all words they mastered now, by the way, they've grown quite verbose). 

Grandmother had the farm all done up in festive decor and the kids ran miles, I would estimate, in the two days we were there.  Not only were there the joys of farm-filled goings on, but three of their cousins happened to be there to which just added to the excitement. 

I, if you haven't picked up on this, am a city girl.  I married a fellow that could live on the farm or the ranch in a minute.  I personally think this combo is going to result in very well rounded children - they'll be well-read and rooted in the arts and music, but they will also be able to work a cow and ride a horse better than anyone else in grade school.  Here are a few shots from the highlights of the weekend which included: the eldest and little lady riding their first horse (with grandfather of course!), feeding the cows both by hand with cubes and by tractor with hay (the eldest taking to it the best and literally letting the cows lick all the food right off his hand, he now says tongue A LOT because those animals have some seriously long tongues), swinging on the swing set and with grandmother on the tree swing, sitting by a bonfire, running across acres of land, the baby driving BOTH grandfather's truck and daddy's tractor, and taking the four-wheeler/buggy from one end of the farm to the other.  It was chilly but sunny so there wasn't a moment when they weren't outside - they didn't even want to eat their meals or take naps because it would take them away from the bliss of it all. 

Music Miniseries: Part 3, Scriputural Sonnets

One of the awesome things about music and its inspirational powers is its history.  Music goes all the way back.  People were moved by music since time began.  It helped them communicate with God.  It drew them closer to one another.  It provided them an outlet for their emotions.

One of the most lush and larger-than-life places we see this played out is in the book of Psalm.  The Bible is replete with words from songs to God but nowhere more so than in David's book of songs.   From blessed is the one in Psalm 1 to praise the Lord in Psalm 150, David pens beautiful sonnets and sounds.  Everyone from Amy Grant to U2 has borrowed from David's lyrics and set the words to new and beautiful melodies.  They resonate just as clearly today.

The longest Psalm is Chapter 119 and my Women in the Word bible study was charged with reading it and meditating on it over the holiday break from our study.  It is a 176 verse psalm with everything from praise to remonstrations to forgiveness and guidance.  I've been reading it in bits and pieces because there is so much to digest.  And I wish that I had musical ability because I try to sing them but can't come up with the right melody. 

Christians worldwide realize the power of scriptural songs, and particularly the Psalms.  I was just reading an article from a pastor in Pakistan who, in a Facebook update, wrote these words:  "Christian boy been murdered in police custody. Police fired shells on rally and arrested Christian protesters. Working on remaining tracks of “AWAKENING” youth album. Title song, Psalm 119, will be finished tonight."  His mission is to reclaim the heritage of singing the Psalms in Punjabi, set to indigenous melodies and rhythms.  The pastor goes on to say that paying attention to worship renewal and music will reignite Christianity in the region. 

Music.  It does powerful things.  It moves people to action.  And if used by God, with God-breathed words, imagine the transforming power of the song.  While music inspires me and changes my perspective in many ways as I've written about in this little miniseries, its impact is most dramatically felt in my walk of faith.  God uses his scripture and His songs to draw me closer to Him, to breath a fresh word of strength and wisdom into my spirit, and to give me rest and comfort during time of need.  If you love music as I do, then take a moment today to read a Psalm or turn up a praise tune.  I dare say you'll find the inspiration and perspective you've been seeking.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Music Miniseries: Part 2, The Perspective

Yesterday I wrote about how music inspires me.  Today, I wanted to write about how music can change my perspective.  Or at the very least, remind me of what my original perspective was before I got so busy and forgot about all the good stuff in my life. 

The best, and more current example, is how music can remind me to slow down and appreciate these days with the kids.  They're learning new things every day.  They add words and skills and understanding on a moment to moment basis.  But I get so busy doing all the things on my lists that have to get done, that sometimes I forget to slow down and savor the little people they are now.  Before they aren't little people anymore. 

The concert I mentioned getting to attend this week, featured a song by Linda Eder called If I Could.  I hadn't heard it before but it resonated.  I'm a momma bear.  And boy do I want to protect my kids from every dangerous or hurtful thing possible.  But it's not possible (as Bray regularly reminds me).  The words are:
If I could
I'd protect you from the sadness in your eyes
Give you courage in a world of compromise
Yes, I would

If I could
I would teach you all the things I've never learned
And I'd help you cross the bridges that I've burned
Yes, I would

If I could
I would try to shield your innocence from time
But the part of life I gave you isn't mine
I'll watch you grow so I can let you go

If I could
I would help you make it through the hungry years
But I know that I can never cry your tears
But I would if I could

In a time and place where you don't wanna be
You don't have to walk along this road with me
My yesterday won't have to be your way

If I knew
I'd try to change the world I brought you to
Now there isn't much more that I can do
But I would if I could

Hearing that song Tuesday night immediately reminded me of another song.  When I was in high school, I attended the same church as Wayne Watson, a popular Christian musician at the time.  He sang a song about his two young boys which I couldn't appreciate at the time, though I sang it anyways, but now I can hear each line of each verse ringing crystal clearly in my head.  The songs may not seem connected - in my head they connected though and they led me to action.  If I Could changed my perspective - of course I should love my children with everything in me, but I can't protect them from the world.  And Watson's song, entitled Watercolor Ponies, reminded me that these days with three toddlers are speeding by and I have to appreciate every single moment and enjoy the mess and chaos because I will be heartbroken when it's gone.  I leave you with the words of Watercolor Ponies

There are watercolour ponies
On my refrigerator door
And the shape of something
I don't really recognize
Drawn by careful little fingers
And put proudly on display
A reminder to us all
Of how time flies

Seems an endless mound of laundry
And a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow
Reminder of the war

That we fight for their well-being
For their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence
For the Lord

But, baby, what will we do
When it comes back to me an you?
They look a little less
Like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watching
The children growing
Is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowing the watercolour ponies
Will one day ride away

And the vision can get so narrow
As you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by
With no applause
But in the greater evaluation
As they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings
As eagles for His cause

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Music Miniseries: Part 1, The Inspiration

I had the treat of going out with my best friend to see Linda Eder perform with the Houston Symphony for Christmas.  She's got an amazing voice and sang a song that just moved me incredibly and led me to an idea for a post.  Plus it got me to thinking about how so much of what I write is inspired by song.  Whether a concert, on Sunday morning at church, or on the radio, music is one of the most effective ways God communicates with me.  I see things from a new perspective.  I hear things with fresh ears.

So I thought I'd write a short 3 episode miniseries on music and my life.  This entry will be about how music inspires me, tomorrow I'm writing about a specific example of how music affects my actions, and Saturday's will be on music in the Bible.  I hope you stay with me for all three, especially if you're anything like me and LOVE music. 

I can't remember a time when music wasn't in my life.  Before my father was a pastor, he was a music minister at churches.  Both my grandparents and my mother sang and played the piano.  I can remember going to my grandparents at the holidays and all sitting around the piano while Mimi pulled out the hymn book and played, and my grandfather's and father's booming voices led us all in Christmas carols.  I still remember singing to my Mimi at the end stages of Alzheimer's, when she was completely ravaged, but still loved music.  And now, I get to sing to my children, from the car to the nursery, they beg for songs.  They dance, and clap and try to help sing along.  Oh I hope they love music like I do.  I used to be a DJ when I was a tween, and I remember sitting in that padded room blaring out my favorite contemporary Christian music on my dad's new radio station.  I'd also memorized Grease and could sing every syllable with my cousin, Sarah.  In high school, I would go every year to the ballet with Mimi, and I remember how moving the symphonic sounds were when set in motion with dance.  In college, I was introduced to country music and found a whole genre I'd missed.  In law school, I was introduced to, and fell in love with, jazz and blues, now still possibly my favorite genre. 

Today, still, I hear old and new songs and see or feel something fresh.  Michael Buble's new Christmas CD totally puts me in the holiday spirit.  Singing Dwell in the Midst of Us makes me desire God's presence in the middle of everything I'm doing.  Hearing Davis and Coltrane play Kind of Blue makes me feel cool in a way that I know I'm not.  Dave Matthews makes me want to make out with Bray.  Tom Petty belting out Free Fallin' requires that I sing at the top of my lungs while speeding.  And singing my I Love You lullaby to the children in my rocking chair makes my heart burst with love.

Music inspires me.  To write.  To think.  To see.  To feel.  It's like no other drug in the world.  Music can make me laugh or cry or kiss or run.  Music changes how I feel and act in any given moment.  It's a miracle. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Merriment and Melee

I'm just now getting around to writing about this weekend because I'm pooped.  It was all fabulous, but wow are we tired! 

Poor Bray got his fill of culture this weekend.  Friday night was dinner and a show at the Alley with a couple friend of ours.  Sunday night was the annual Vincent family arts night out which included dinner at Brennan's followed by the Houston Symphony Pops (both were good but I've had far better experiences at both in the past...).  Then Saturday was breakfast with Santa at the kids' school.  We'd been preparing them that they could sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they'd like for Christmas all week.  The baby had been very clearly saying, "tractor - BIG tractor" (who does that sound like?!?!), and the little lady had been saying "baby" (as in the doll, not the infant), but the eldest was a bit muddled and settled on a tractor as well (he tends to be more interested in what others want, I'm waiting for that to pass). 
So the event was wonderful and none of them cried and they fell in love with the Frosty and Rudolph characters walking around - so much so that they began to stalk them and hug them fiercely. Not to mention all the nativity scenes out for them to play with - they are seriously in love with camels these days, go figure.

Resting before the Santa Photo Shoot by the Natvity
Loving those Camels

Who doesn't love Frosty?

This Christmas is really fun.  Now that we've had our Santa encounter, the baby walks around saying "Santha, Santha" which I have to capture on video because it is the most precious Santa you've ever heard called out.  They LOVE the tree that's up and keep taking the ornaments (all shatterproof) down and we keep hanging them higher - it's definitely not one of my Martha Stewart trees.  The presents, sadly, aren't around the tree because they enthusiastically want to rip into any of the paper - I'm assuming this will go on for a couple of years and then I'll be able to show off my presents again!  Bizarrely, they're starting to potty train themselves and I'm kind of hoping they'll hold off til the New Year because of the travel - the baby especially is doing it ALL in the potty, we're thrilled at the thought of no more diapers, but it's going to be a pretty hassle intensive time I know for the next few months.  They have hand bells and we sing Jingle Bells all around the house while they play their bells.  They even got to take presents to Baby Jesus at chapel at school last week which left an impression (a live baby in a nativity at chapel - so great that they're already learning the meaning of Christmas).  They're also reading all the time, on their own they spend time with books, especially our Christmas ones.  It's a very sweet time for us all and we're trying to savor every moment instead of getting caught up in the melee.  What a treasure. 
Reading Time

Trying Out our Christmas PJs

Friday, December 9, 2011

Waking Up

My darling boy had a nightmare or something last night around midnight and woke up crying for mommy.  Because I'd gone to a holiday party, I had missed putting the kids down for bed and really found myself missing hugging on them.  So instead of being the consistent responsible mommy, I went in and plucked my little man out of bed and brought him in to sleep with us.  He's actually probably the best about sleeping, actually sleeping, in our bed, so the majority of the night was fairly restful despite an extra body in bed.  But the best part of it was waking up this morning.  Bray and I woke before he did, and I just laid there watching his sweet little face.  I don't know that I've ever actually watched the process of one of my kids waking up.  When I get to them, they're normally already awake.  So I got to watch him scrunch up, and then stretch, and then open his eye lids, and then watch them fall heavily back down, and then he rolled over and puckered his perfect little mouth, and then back came the eye lids opening as he processed where he was and what time of day it was.  It was just precious.  He's such a pretty child, but I never really get to study his face because he's two and running around like a mad man.  But this morning was quiet and still and I got to thank God for my beautiful blessings.  He awoke before the other two as well so we even got a few extra minutes to snuggle before the day got going.  What an amazing way to start off a day. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sidestepping Pitfalls

We had a big interview yesterday.  We, as parents, interviewed on behalf of our children to get them into a school that I believed would be the perfect fit for them.  I fell in love with this school and was ecstatic when we were selected to interview (it increased our odds of acceptance once selected for an interview). 

In preparation, I was reading the information on the school's website and rereading our children's life verses.  I read each one and prayed it over each child from afar and the words read so fresh and new that they completely shifted my focus as I prepared.  The last verse I read was the eldest's, from Proverbs 3, and these words nearly lifted off the page as if animated in a 3D movie, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..."

Imagine that.  Step 1 - trust in the Lord with ALL of your heart.  Step 2 - Lean not on you own understanding.  Can you imagine the pitfalls we would sidestep if we all just did that and only that?!?!?  Forget all the other incredible divinely written words in the Bible.  What if we just (a) wholly trusted God, and (b) didn't rely on ourselves!  Not only would we sidestep the many pitfalls that befall us as we walk this winding road, we would in all likelihood be moved to an entirely NEW road that didn't even HAVE pitfalls. 

I just wrote about how recently I've heard this message that we shouldn't manipulate a situation to be God's will when it's really our own striving or desires.  I'm guilty of that.  Seriously guilty of that.  I am a Type A person that has tried to achieve my entire life.  Once one achievement is under my belt, I'm off to another one, oftentimes entirely unrelated.  But there's this careful tightrope I have to walk.  I think that God encourages me, all of us, to use our gifts and talents, and I could be just as disobedient if I sat on my hands and did nothing.  HOWEVER, if I'm trying to push my agenda instead of further His agenda all my work is in vain.  Not to mention displeasing to the God that I serve.  Oh, and it can lead to another nasty sin of mine, pride. 

If I were to, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," then the Bible says He will make my paths STRAIGHT.  No more pitfalls on a winding and bumpy road.  Wow.  A straight path.  A path that I can follow.  A path that won't lend itself to pitfall-induced sprained ankles and bruises. 

After yesterday's interview, we were pretty much set up for the fact that the kids wouldn't get in.  The me before I prepared my heart with prayer would have been heartsick.  The me now is at peace.  I still hope my children have the opportunity to attend this school.  I think that the academics partnered with the focus on Christ is nearly impossible to find these days and I would love for my kids to experience that.  But I don't know what the Lord has in store for them.  Only that He has a plan.  And maybe this is the plan and maybe it isn't.  As I wait to hear the news, I will remind myself daily to trust the Lord instead of myself, and maybe the first pitfall that new strategy will help me avoid will be the pitfall of anxiety.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I love Christmas.  Truly, it is the most wonderful time of the year.  And now with kids I'm going to get to experience it on an entirely new level. 

With that said, I've been a bit adrift the past week or so.  I really don't have anything new to write which is why I've been a little flaky on my blog.  I feel a little muddled.  I know part of it is that the kids have been so sick and that just sucks all your time.  Plus I've been slow at work which leaves me feeling a bit directionless.  I can't even really motivate myself to use that time to knock off items from my ever growing to do list.  I finished decorating the house last night, the kids "helped" decorate the tree Sunday, and I even went to a cookie baking party over the weekend, but alas, I still have lackluster spirits. 

I think some of this out-of-sortsness comes from the fact that I have a vision for what I think God wants me to do but it's just me imposing my view OVER His.  I read two devotionals yesterday that basically said that we should stop trying to manipulate a situation to make it BE God's answer or timing.  Lysa Terkeurst wrote a whole article about it which said, "I know how to strategize to make my plan seem like a great plan...what if I use these skills and talents outside God’s will? To push past God’s timing, God’s direction, God’s plan to teach me stuff in the process...It’s great to strategize and have a plan. But it’s not great if that plan stretches me so I seek “more” rather than truly seeking God."  (Click here to read the whole post.)

SOOOO, I am turning it around today.  I'm going to rest in where I am now, without being lazy, and be thankful every moment for where God has placed me today!  Plus, I've seen too much around me this week to feel anything other than over the moon at how unfathomably fortunate I am this beautiful Christmas season.  I just saw pictures of a precious baby girl who was born six weeks early because her mother had an aneurysm and had to be rushed into brain surgery and the baby delivered.  Mom and baby girl survived and have a positive, miraculous, prognosis, but they're rehab-ing with her parents and are fundraising to pay medical bills.  My friend with young children is rushing between her very busy job and her father who is in the hospital - I can only imagine that she would kill for a little of my downtime.  I have friends trying to balance the joy of the holiday with the emptiness of this being their first Christmas without a loved one.

Today God has given me an amazing time and space to celebrate this miraculous season with my handsome husband and delightful kiddos, so I will move my focus to that and to Him and refuse to be adrift. 

Luke 1 - In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hand, Foot and What!?!?!?

We have hand foot and mouth disease.  I use "we" loosely mind you, I technically don't have it, but I'm living with it.  Turns out, it's not a British cow disease, but rather a fairly common toddler disease that looks like the plague.  The eldest has it the worst.  The other two are getting it.  It has been ONE of those weeks. 

We had almost TWO full weeks of three well toddlers.  That occurred over Thanksgiving as well, which nearly never happens as their bodies sense when events are planned and explode with illness.  However, between a very big family Thanksgiving and a two year old birthday party to attend, I KNEW someone would get something.  I just didn't know everyone would get multiple things.........agh.

The doctor's visit for my eldest on Monday gave a relatively serious prognosis - he'd contracted something akin to the little lady's nastiness a few weeks back and was put on kiddie z-pac and a breathing treatment.  He'd had a scary high fever and I was hoping this would do the trick.  By Tuesday, the baby had it.  High fevers included.  So he went on z-pac and breathing treatments.  We have to be particularly careful with him because of his asthma.  By Thursday, darling girl started running a fever.  But when we got her into the doctor (Bray and my nanny were gone so I panicked about taking 3 two year olds to the doctor alone), the doctor was more concerned by the eldest's fairly horrific rash.  Turns out, it's hand foot and mouth disease and it's going around.  While apparently it's relatively harmless, it does result in fevers, painful rashes (around the, yep you guessed it, hands feet and mouth) and sore throats.  Plus, it's highly contagious. 

So today we're on lock down in our house and backyard.  The inside of my sweet boy's mouth is covered in sores and the doctor said he even has them on his throat.  She thinks the little lady's fever is just that she's catching the lovely HFAM and we'll see break outs soon.  We're already seeing them on the baby boy.  His hands and calves have these little red dots. 

But the poor poor eldest definitely has it the worst.  Here is is showing me his boo-boos.........say a little prayer for my darling boy:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life Verses

Before my children were baptized, our church encouraged us to select a life verse for each of them.  Bray and I prayed about it, and then we sent the verses to the church to become part of a welcome slide show they created for the families of children baptized that year.  It was incredibly meaningful but, as over a year has passed since their baptism, I felt the verses were becoming forgotten before they were ever being remembered.  So as a part of my Christmas present to the trio, realizing they won't appreciate it for years, I had a friend of mine design a calligraphy of the verses to frame and hang over their beds. 

I hope those words are the first verses of Scripture the children commit to heart.  I hope the words hanging over them at night are an outward reflection of the words of God we will speak over and to them in the years to come.  I hope that seeing the words every evening as Bray and I pray over our treasures before we go to bed will remind us to claim those verses for them and recommit ourselves to raising them up in the way they should go.  I share them with you, and for them, here:

The Eldest - Proverbs 3
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. 
 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; 
bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

The Lady - Phillipians 1
I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus... 
And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound more and more
in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern
what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ -
to the glory and praise of God.

The Baby - Colossians 1
For this reason, since the day we heard about you,
we have not stopped praying for you.
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will
through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way:
bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience,
and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share
in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bouncy Houses Rock, And Other Nonsense

Saturday we went to a friend's son's second birthday party.  It was at a bouncy house place.  But not just any place.  It was a bouncy house dream land.  The party was in its own private room with bouncers big and small.  Included in this bouncy fabu-land, which my daughter squealed over with delight being half rabbit, was a gigantic bouncy slide that you can only get up by climbing a rope ladder.  Imagine having been away from boot camp for five months how grueling climbing a rope ladder was with three toddlers in front of you who repeatedly lose their footing and slide into you while you beg your arm muscles to remember what they are for.  Nonetheless, the super fast sliding action you were met with upon descent made the treacherous climb well worth the effort.  And I think I lost two pounds. 

Not only was our Saturday super fun, but the Thanksgiving outing to Austin, where we stayed under one roof with ALL 21 Vincents was not as overwhelming as I'd imagined.  We had our room and the kids actually went to bed at a decent hour and we ate great Thanksgiving food and the trio absolutely loved playing outside all day with their cousins. 

However, the weekend was not without incident.  As happens inevitably when we meet with great masses, the kids get sick.  And boy is my sweet eldest sick.  He's coughing and running a fever and I don't know what he caught but Bray's at the doctor with him now.  What with the weather turning cold, we've all got the sniffles and are saying prayers that no one else gets any sicker.  In addition, the little lady is 16.  Or so you would think.  She is cutting her eyes at me, saying "no" with such inflection you'd think we took the car keys, and completely disagreeing with my wardrobing choices for her (despite my penchant for style!).  I keep telling her she's two and she can't behave this way for at least another 12 years but she seems immune to the guidance.  Finally, the little baby is still just hysterical.  We're going on two weeks of him being the obedient light-spirited one and he's even adapted this little flirty wave for select people - imagine your palm outstretched sideways with your fingers snapping in as if to catch a butterfly - it's his little signature move and it's being met with warm reception near and far. 

All in all a Thanksgiving that will be fondly remembered with grateful thanks to the Lord for his continued delights. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

We are humbled and overwhelmed by your abundant blessings on our life this year.  We know that we do not deserve them but you have mercifully provided more than we could ever ask or imagine.  We truly bow before you today with thankful hearts. 

We ask for your mercy on our world.  For you to bring peace to the hearts of warring leaders.  For you to bring food where there is famine.  For you to bring healing where there is disease and death.  We pray for the world leaders and for our country's leaders.  That you would bring wisdom to their hearts and that they would seek discernment to know and do what is right.  We pray for our soldiers serving far from their homes this Thanksgiving Day.  That you would bring them comfort and keep them safe from harm. 

Thank you for the family and friends around us and far away.  We pray for you to heal those that are suffering around us and to bring joy to those that have experienced sadness this year.  We pray for all of us to remember, in this upcoming holiday season, that You are the reason for the season. 

Thank you for Bray and for each of these miraculous precious healthy beautiful children in our arms today.  For their laughs, for their smiles, for their exuberance over life, and for their intellect and curiosity.  Thank you for a job.  For food.  For a house.  I know that there are so many on this day that do not have the plenty that we do.  Grant them a hot meal and a roof over their head and an opportunity to work. 

You have been so faithful.  Help us remember to give thanks for your blessings each day and not just on Thanksgiving Day. 

In our Christ's Name we offer this prayer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Family Circle Rant

I had not originally intended to post about this issue.  But as I sent off the letter to the editor today, I just felt I would go ahead and share the letter.  Last month, I read an incredibly troublesome column in Family Circle magazine.  So troublesome it led me to write the editor, which I have never done in my life, and terminate my subscription.  So here's my email to Linda Fears (in which I copied Rosalind Wiseman, the columnist who sent me over the edge, and Family Circle's feedback department and my husband):

Dear Linda (and Family Circle Account Subscription):

I am writing in response to an Ask Rosalind column that appeared in your November 2011 issue. This is my second year receiving Family Circle magazine which I have enjoyed. As a working mother to two year old triplets, I often fall behind in reading the magazines I receive monthly (Family Circle and Parents). Such was the case this past month, so I have been playing catch up and reading the last two issues.

I was astonished to read Rosalind's first response to a mother's inquiry in your November issue. Horrified may be a more accurate description. A concerned mother wrote in to inquire about setting boundaries with her teen daughter and a boy, who was a friend, coming over to visit even with parents home:

Among the incredibly shocking statements Rosalind made were:

"I'm guessing that 'lead to trouble' refers to the possibility of your daughter engaging in sexual activity with one of her guy friends? Let's dial it back a little."
"But most girls are naturally curious about sex and it makes sense for them to explore their sexuality with people who make them feel comfortable. Accept that your daughter may begin having sexual experiences and that's ok...."

I interpreted Rosalind's response as the equivalent of: hey, what are you worried about you old prude - your daughter at 15 is totally going to be having sex and you should get comfortable with it. (In order to make sure my reaction was not totally off the wall, I shared the article with my husband and good friend, both of whom had the same reaction.)

I might expect this from Cosmo, but certainly not from Family Circle. I am not a prude, nor am I ignorant of the times in which we live. However, as a person of faith, I think the continued granting of platforms to people who assail the values of modesty and propriety are, at the very least, disheartening, or at the most, downright dangerous. I hope that Family Circle will considering highlighting, whether in letters to the editor or as an alternative column which offers the flipside view, what mothers should aspire to in instilling character and values in their children. Instead of just rolling over and saying, well, most kids are falling into the trap of loveless sex which leads to heartbreak, disease and unwanted pregnancies with repercussions for the remainder of their lives, maybe Family Circle could be about, well, the family CIRCLE. One where parents encourage their children to live up to their best and highest goals and ideals. One that does accept failure because it represents attempts at success. One that lives out moral character at home so that children know how to model that behavior in their lives as they leave the family circle.

Until that happens, please let this serve as my notice that I wish to immediately cancel my subscription to Family Circle magazine. I can not continue to support a publication that takes the position that parents should not care if their 15 year old children are engaging in sexual activity.

Gindi Eckel Vincent

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Excerpts from Sunday's Journal

Two things parents of two year old triplets should know:  the terrible twos aren't ALWAYS terrible, and they're smarter than you think. 

I had an amazing weekend with my kiddos this weekend.  I'd had a pretty rocky week.  Home and work.  And I was short-tempered and exasperated with the kids.  I felt bad about it but couldn't seem to put on a good face.  However, I forget sometimes that my children are geniuses.  They saw I was at my breaking point (as proof of this, Bray looked at me Thursday night, half-jokingly, and said, "you're not going to have a nervous break-down are you?").  So they set their mind to be fabulous two-year olds instead of terrible two year olds, and we had a WONDERFUL weekend. 

It wasn't anything earth-shattering.  We went to the park yesterday morning with my best friend and her dog, both of whom they are in love with.  We rode tricycles.  We took a stroll.  This morning, because of an early morning disruption (4:30 a.m.), we ended up waking too late to get breakfast cooked and dressed for church so we just hung out.  The kids and me.  I had coffee and they swung.  We read lots of books.  They watched their favorite video on You Tube (for you parents with two year olds just introducing "tv/video" as I am, my friend told me about Barefoot Books - four fabulous minutes of entertainment, Driving My Tractor is our fav).  They're healthy.  They ate well.  They laughed hysterically.  My mom hung out with us, and when she arrived, the baby started laughing and clapping because he was so overjoyed.  (She's a fabulous book reader - they run to her upon arrival with book in hand and say, "lap, lap.") 

I am so happy tonight.  My spirit is quiet.  My life is still.  I have to give a big shout out to my sweet bible study group who had been praying for some "abiding."  So here's a few highlights of my observations of my funny kids:

1.  They've learned the word "mine."  It's so interesting.  They've never said it before.  But they go to school now two mornings a week and I think they picked it up.  They must think it comes in particularly helpful as a triplet.  Thing is, there's not much that is just "mine" in the playroom of a triplet.  The baby uses it the most.  Everything is "mine." 
2.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the little lady is FEARLESS.  She leaps from the top of a single building (our couch) without a moment's hesitation.  They all throw the couch pillows off and start chanting, "jump, jump" and proceed to do just that.  She's the ringleader. 
3.  The eldest is the biggest, but he does not like to fight back.  While he will often be the first to steal a toy, he's only interested in what the others have, if the baby sits on him and pounds his back he will yelp for help. 
4.  They love each other and they love me.  They've started saying, "Wuv you."  Heart. Melts.  And since they're learning to count, this weekend when I asked each of them if I could give them ONE kiss, they would pucker up and allow me the one, but the baby would then say "two," "three," and once I got the kisses all the way up to "ten."  Fabulous. 
5.  They're so funny.  The eldest started crawling like a dog at the park.  I have no idea what brought it on but he, and I, thought it was so funny.  The little lady plays peek-a-boo under the changing table pillow each time we change diapers.  She gets so tickled every time I have a big freak out when she reappears.  The baby is amused by nearly everything, from silly voices to dancing like a maniac (I'm assuming that rocking out to You Shook Me All Night Long won't kill them at this age.  I was really sick of toddler tunes so when we turned on classic rock and that tune came blasting out I had to dance like a 21 year old around the room - they loved it and I'm pretty sure are immune to the lyrics at this stage). 

Also, as an FYI for anyone following the bed climbing thing, the boys have both figured out how to climb out even WITH the mattresses on the floor so I spend at least a half hour in their rooms at the beginning of nap and bedtime to ensure all go to sleep INSIDE the crib.  Fabulous weekend for them to master a new skill. 

I am so so so grateful to have these munchkins and can't imagine how dull life would have been with just one.........

Friday, November 18, 2011

Whose Dream Is It Anyway?

On Tuesday night I was listening to a woman share her story about why she and her husband were moving despite thinking they would live in Houston forever, and she said, Sometimes we have to surrender our dream of what we think our life will be

I am blessed to be living a dream.  Kind handsome husband - check.  Great career - check.  Wonderful church home - check.  Adorable bright precocious children (girl and boy) - check.  Nice house, car, etc. - check.  This is what I had dreamed my life would be, and it's truly more than I even thought I could hope for given some obstacles that were overcome solely by God's miraculous work. 

But whose dream is it anyway?  Is it really MY dream?  Or is it a dream filled up arbitrarily by what society deems success?  Or a dream filled up with God's vision and desires?  Or maybe it's a combination of a lot of those things? 

As you may have noticed, I've been unsettled this year.  I written about what God's calling might entail in my life, and it's uncomfortable.  His plans for the years ahead didn't really look like MY plans for the future.  So when I heard those words earlier this week, they just hung in the air like the bubble coming out of the mouth of a cartoon character.  Sometimes we have to surrender our dream of what we think our life will be.

Newsflash:  God anticipated this.  He realized that our dreams might not look like His.  So He wrote about it.  He warned us.  He said, if you'll give up what you think is your "dream,"  it will be replaced with something so much better, so much richer, so much more fulfilling. 

Isaiah 55 provides the perfect illustration of this:  “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD.  'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"

From the beginning to the end, the Bible reminds us that He is perfect and that His ways, His path, His dreams are unbelievably incredible if we would just follow hard after Him:  Deuteronomy 32 -  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he; Ephesians 3 - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

What He has dreamed up for us is more than we could dream up for ourselves.  And at the end, when we get say to that we've "lived the dream," don't we want that to be His dream?  A dream of a life that mattered.  Today, that may mean that we have to surrender our tiny little dream and allow God to replace it with His much bigger, more exhilarating, mind-blowing, stunningly wondrous one.

I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin
Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I'll love
How you serve I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you

II Thessalonians 1 - With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hole In Our Gospel and Giving Christmas Away

I've been working on a book review of The Hole In Our Gospel written by the President of World Vision, Richard Stearns.  I've never written a book review, but after reading this book (which took months because of how hard it was for me to digest this fresh perspective of what God is calling us to do) I want to do everything in my power to make sure everyone reads it - regardless of their faith.  However, the review has been lodged in my throat for weeks.  There were no words I could use that more beautifully capture Rich's story and charge to us than his own. 

Then I was sitting in church yesterday listening to the mission pastor talk about Grace's Alternative Christmas Market.  In December, our church hosts a market which allows you to purchase a gift for your friends or family but the present actually goes to someone in need.  So the recipient on your end gets a card and picture with a description of what has been bought, but someone else receives the gift and it is more precious than anything we could possibly pick up at Macy's for our aunt or assistant.  This market is a perfect illustration of what The Hole implores us to do.  The Hole reminds us that being a Christian is more than having a personal relationship with Christ; it also "entails a public and transforming relationship with the world."  If we have no outward expression of our faith, then it has a hole.  A big one. 

Rich shares his vision for how the world could be changed if Christians would do what Christ actually calls us to do.  But he shares it from an intensely personal place. He was a CEO of a major American corporation.  He had put himself through college and an MBA program.  He'd overcome great obstacles and was a "good" Christian along the way.  He and his family went to church and gave to mission programs, but with his luxury car and home and lifestyle he had avoided major sacrifice.  Then God called him to lead World Vision.  His life has never been the same.  He shares vivid stories of what he has seen across the globe, the suffering and hurt and disease, and then he shares how we can actually make a difference.  While The Hole is oftentimes incredibly daunting because of the enormity of the problem that faces millions of people worldwide, it is also hopeful that great positive change can come if we would all step up and contribute.

Let me urge you to consider two things today.  One, read The Hole In Our Gospel.  But be ready, it will challenge your perspective on what you do and how you spend your money.  If you can't afford a copy, let me know and I'll send you one.  Two, consider an "alternative" Christmas this year.  Don't do anything radical and impose it on your whole family, but implement this gift-giving strategy for you alone.  Ask those people who traditionally buy you gifts to donate the money they would spend to someone who REALLY needs it.  If you don't know where to donate, consider World Vision.  Their reach is extraordinary and they can do so much with so little - there's a list of items on their website you can purchase as alternative gifts.  If you live in Houston, then considering visiting Grace's Joy to the World Gift Market on Sunday, November 27th. Can you imagine what the world would look like this Christmas if one member of every family in America made the choice to only give instead of receive?  If your only presents under the tree were cards telling you what gift was being delivered to a person in need?  Meals to the Star of Hope.  A goat for hungry children in east Africa.  Spanish language Bibles to the church with no walls in Guatemala.  $1,100 worth of essential medicines, like antibiotics, to children in desperate need for $100. 

I heard this song by Matthew West for the first time yesterday.  It sums this challenge up.  We have the power to make a difference in a life or lives.  All we need is the resolution to do it.  Will you join me?

What if I told you
You have the power
To give someone hope
Beyond their wildest dreams
What if I told you
It’s right there in your hands
In your hands
It’s hard to imagine
How something so small
Can make all the difference
Tear down the tallest wall
What if December
Looked different this year

What if we all just
Give this Christmas away
If there’s love in your heart
Don’t let it stay there
Give this Christmas away
And your life will be changed
By the gifts you receive
When you give this Christmas away

It’s feeding the hungry
Serving the poor
It’s telling the orphan
You’re not forgotten anymore
It’s doing what love does
Even when no one’s watching you
Give this Christmas away
If there’s love in your heart
Don’t let it stay there

Give this Christmas away
And your life will be changed
By the gifts you receive
When you give this Christmas away
For God so loved the world
That He gave His only Son
So we could be
His hands, His feet, His love

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pile of Leaves

We always have one good kid.  It rotates but there's always one over the weekend that is the angelic one and whoever that happens to be makes you fall in love with him or her all over again.  Well, this weekend it was the baby.  He was an absolute doll.  He was obedient, affectionate, and funny. 

He also has one secret power that the other two do not - his scent.  I know this is going to sound bizarre, but he has a scent, it's not good or bad it's just....him.  And it is the best drug you could possibly sniff. I remember my Mimi had it too.  I could always tell when she stayed with us and would beg my mom not to wash the pillow when she left because I could still smell her Mimi-ness on the pillowcase.  He has the same distictive smell and it makes me want to kiss his little face and neck all day long.  But I digress. 

Yesterday, we were outside playing a lot because the weather was just perfect.  For about an hour in the afternoon we were playing in the driveway.  We have a long driveway that the kids can ride their tricycles up and down, and they also collect rocks and run and climb the gate - curious kid stuff.  The wind had been blowing and had left quite a collection of leaves in its wake.  Well, the baby started collecting these leaves.  First, he put them in his dump truck for us to drive over to the trash cans and throw away.  But then he started making a little pile against the wall of the house where I was sitting.  I praised his lovely pile of leaves and it grew and then he came and sat with me.  He's a very funny active toddler but he was quite serious yesterday afternoon.  He looked deep in thought as he sat on the other side of the leaf pile - me and him, him and me.  The other two were riding around like wildmen, but he sat quietly, looking off into the sky and then back down at his leaves. 

It sounds random and mundane, but it was absolutely precious.  It was also so restful.  Here were all these options for busyness around him, yet he was content just sitting with the little pile of leaves he had collected.  It made my heart quiet.  My mind still.  The lists I make for the after-hours necessities were shelved.  And I just sat there with him in the quiet.  I did eventually hop up to grab a camera because I had to capture his face and the moment for all time. I'm sure all my picture snapping kind of killed his pondering, but he tolerated me nonetheless.  Here's the little face I got to sit with yesterday among the leaves: 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Post: Mommy Myths!

I'm so excited to have my dear friend and Christian writer, Amy Vogel, guest post today: defines a myth as: a traditional or legendary story, with or without a natural explanation; or any invented story, idea, or concept; or an unproved or false collective belief.

If I had a nickel for every time I compared myself to a collective belief about how I should be as a Mom – I’d have enough to pay for Kim Kardashian’s wedding and divorce! There are some seriously dark thoughts that lurk in my Mom brain – standards I cannot compete with or live up to. I couldn’t do it as a full-time working or now that I am full-time at home.

Three years ago, I found myself face down on the floor. I had put myself there after yet another horrific morning of fits, curses and gnashing of teeth. You might think the culprit was either my (then) 5 year old or 2 year old, but sadly no. I was the one who needed the time out.

In that moment I realized I couldn’t live on what I believed about myself as a Mom because I didn’t know who I was. I found the answer in Proverbs 3:4-6, which started me on my way. It was then that The Lord started to dig up the lies so rooted in my brain so He could burn them up like the chaff they are. But they are stubborn boogers. They don’t want to come up. These are the ones that get me the most:

1. I am all alone in this.
2. Other Moms don’t yell or fuss or get frustrated with their kids like I do.
3. I don’t love my kids enough.
4. I didn’t think it would be this hard.
5. One day, being a Mom will be easier.

That day and every day since, I make a choice. I could let these myths fester or I could let God turn me into the Mommy He meant for me to be (and that my girls deserve). I could keep on being the unpleasant, foolish person crying into the tile or I could start to act like the victor He said I was.

We all have to make that choice. We have to lay these burdens down or they will eat us alive.

When I prayed change into the Mommy my girls needed (which is a dangerous prayer by the way!), God had no intention of making me perfect or wiping my memory. He wanted to change how I thought. He used my brokenness to show me how to fight back. You see, we can’t just take the garbage out, we have to put good back in.

And since there are 5 myths, I’ve found 5 ways to counteract their poisonous effects.

1. Listen to God’s Word - For overcoming Myths 1-5 (Hebrews 4: 12, 2 Tim. 2: 9)
2. Listen to your Godly Friends - For overcoming Myths 2, 3 & 4 (Eccles. 4: 9-10)
3. Listen to your Mentors - For overcoming Myths 4 & 5 (2 Timothy)
4. Listen to your Husband - For overcoming Myths 1, 3 & 4 (The biblical equivalent of date night – Mark 10: 8-9)
5. Listen to your children - For overcoming Myths 3 & 5 (You don’t have to wait till for your “crown of the aged,” Proverbs 17:6, to enjoy your children!)

When we overcome these myths – through God’s power – there is freedom to know Him, your husband, your children – YOURSELF – in ways that will bring you unending joy.

To hear more about Amy's journey, follow her on

Thursday, November 10, 2011


It seems as though everyone has come down with something.  Everywhere I turn, a friend or family member or co-worker is ill.  Unfortunately, that has not passed over our house.  While each of the kids has had a bit of a cold, the little lady has been the sickest.  It came as a complete surprise because she's usually the healthiest.  But boy has she been sick.  It's apparently not quite pneumonia but a nasty case of bronchitis and some other respiratory infection so they're treating it like you would pneumonia with two antibiotics and a breathing treatment. 

As a result, she's cried a lot the past few days.  The worst is when she wakes up crying at night.  She sounds terribly forelorn and, of course, sick.  So the past couple of nights I get up and rock her.  Normally if we have a child crying in the middle of the night we won't pick them up because it makes it worse so we just pat them on the back and tuck them back in.  But not so when they're sick.  I get up and rock them back to sleep in the nursery.

It's been a while since I've done this and it's been precious time.  Even at 2 a.m., I have treasured our rocking time.  With her arms wrapped around my neck and her head nestled in my neck, I feel like I have a baby again.  And I am rapidly recognizing that they're not babies anymore.  So I've rocked her long after she's fallen back to sleep.  I've held her and prayed over her and thanked God for her.  I've treasured the moments I have left to rock-a-bye my baby.  Because I know, all too soon, that rock-a-bye will turn into bye-bye and I will hold these moments in my memory as precious keepsakes forever.