Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scrapbook Story

As I mentioned earlier this week, I threw Bray a surprise 40th birthday Saturday night.  I have certain talents but one of them is not being crafty - I throw a great party but when it comes to crafts I leave that to my mom.  However, I went out on a limb and created my first ever scrapbook for Bray to highlight his past 40 years.  Included in the compilation were stories from family and friends about memories they had with Bray.  The only one I am at liberty to share is my own.  So here was my entry and ode to my wonderful husband:

I don’t know how to write just one memory of Bray. First, I’m a lawyer so I’m not always concise. Second, I’m a writer, so I could fill a book. Third, he’s the love of my life, so words really don’t do him justice. And since I’m compiling this little book, I may exercise a little leeway with myself (and use small font!).
My first memory of Bray is the night we met. I was at the Mucky Duck with friends and one of them tried to set me up with Charlie. Bray had come too and we ended up talking for hours, arguing might be more accurate, about drilling in ANWAR (showcasing our political differences early on) and the virtues or evils of lawyers (he called me the Texas Hammer all night). Regardless, at the end of the night (where I casually offered a business card no matter how he tells the story), I called my mom and said, “I’ve met this boy…..” Little did I know that he was no boy, but the amazing man that I would fall in love with despite everything that looked different about us on the outside. I first knew I was starting to fall in love with him on Valentine’s Day 2004 when over dinner he told me all the entertaining things he’d done while babysitting his nieces that day, and I remember thinking, “uh-oh, I’m in trouble.”
I still can’t believe that he proposed to me while we were in full costume after Halloween parties in 2005 – while that picture will haunt me for the rest of my life, the memory of him popping the question down on one knee in my living room will forever be one of my favorites. I remember how happy I was on my wedding day – not one jitter to be found. We’d had all the big debates and issues vetted in the 2 ½ years we dated, so there was no question in my mind this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I must have smiled bigger that day than I ever had as I floated down the aisle. He held my hands and rubbed the top of them all through the service - it’s like I can still feel that to this day. We made great fun memories traveling together, especially that first year – Maine, Hawaii, D.C., the Grand Canyon, Miami, Montreal…. He was a rock during all the disappointing times when we tried to start a family and could not. And then, after the initial shock started to dissipate, he was incredible during the 33 week pregnancy with the babies. I can see him painting their room and building their bookshelf so it would be exactly the right size. He was at all the ultrasound appointments and the morning we found out Baby C was a boy, he couldn’t stop grinning.
And then, likely our favorite memory, was October 2, 2010. After all the waiting and praying, God blessed us with three miracles. The day they were born, he raced up to the NICU with them while I was sewn up so that he could report directly what was going on instead of us having to hear it second-hand. There had been a debate about which boy would be Samuel and which would be William - Bray felt it should be the first born, and I felt we should meet them first to see their personalities. I remember Bray coming to post-op after leaving the babies to give the first account, and he was talking about them by name. And after a minute, I said, Hey wait, how do you know which one is which? And he said, Oops, I named them already – the sign is on their isolettes. Twelve hours later, when he was allowed to wheel me up to see the babies, I remember meeting them and thinking, “yep, he definitely has the right name.” He was so elated that day, smiling so broadly that everyone commented on it – he said later that night, “they are just perfect.” And they are.
B - Seven and a half years together and five years of marriage later, and I am so excited to be celebrating your 40th birthday with you and the kids. I still get goose bumps when you kiss me, admire your courage and honesty, and miss you when you go away. I love you more today than ever before, and I can’t wait to spend your next 40 years creating more memories together.
Gindi Vincent, Wife and Head Cheerleader for Team Bray

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So finally, after six months of planning, I can write about it - Saturday night, I (along with many others) pulled off what I didn't believe was possible in a day and age of e-mails/texts/cell phones - a SURPRISE birthday party.  And not just any surprise party, but my husband's big blow out 40th Surprise Birthday Party!  And if you doubt whether or not it was actually a surprise, you should have heard what came out of his mouth as we pulled up to our dear friend's house and there were over 50 people in the street to welcome him with a big "surprise!"  I can assure you, my husband who does not like surprises or being the center of attention was not initially all that happily surprised.  But I think about 10 minutes into it, when he saw his favorite friends and all of his family, he started warming to the idea.  He didn't have to stand in a circle while people roasted him or open presents in front of a crowd, he just got to spent the evening hanging out with some of his favorite people.

So now, I'm recuperating.  Anyone who knows me knows I love to throw a good party.  But never have I been more motivated to throw a perfect party than now, for my husband, who I adore, and who I have never had the chance to throw a party for before!  I started planning at the beginning of the year.  Secured my location and then began to research themes and invitations.  Found this adorable place in Wisconsin to do a fishing themed surprise 40th invite which my mother and I then took up a notch with fishing lures & burlap.

They went out eight weeks in advance so those out-of-towners could plan to come in (which they did - thank you very much)!  Then began the on-line ordering process for all the customized items which arrived in a trickle at my office from April to June - banners, cocktail napkins, party favors, etc.  Oh how I wish I could do this for a living.  And then the cherry on top was the This is Your Life scrapbook for which 19 people contributed stories and pictures.  I became so emotional reading all these wonderful memories of Bray and watching him as he grew.  I spent hours at night at Walgreen's scanning old photos in when he was out of town and my mom stayed with the sleeping munchkins. 

All of it culminated on July 23rd, 4 days before his birthday, when we went to our friends for a "fish fry" at HIS suggestion!  Low and behold, the gang was all there.  I am completely exhausted but never have I taken on a more worthy endeavor for a more worthy person.  It was such a gift to see him register how much everyone loves him and how thrilled we all were to be able to be a part of his life.  As a part of this week's blogging, I'll post my story entry for the scrapbook, and maybe even the kids, but the rest of the entries are for him to enjoy and appreciate alone (and one day for our kids to sit and read and see how loved their daddy is). 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What I Believe

I write about my faith in application sometimes.  But I've never written about the underlying elements of my faith.  I think, if you're reading those application blog posts, it is probably relevant for you to know what the foundation of my faith is.  So here goes, in brief:

  • Jesus is the Son of God, one of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who offers a path to an intimate relationship with God the Father.
(Mark 1: 10, 11)
  • Jesus is the Word of God who made His dwelling among people here on Earth.
(John 1: 1-4, 14)
  • Jesus is the Messiah who preaches good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims freedom, opens eyes and releases the oppressed. 
(Luke 4: 14-21)
  • Jesus is the Son of Man who walked on this Earth and served others.
(Mark 10: 43-45)
  • Jesus is the Light of the World who takes away darkness.
(John 8: 12; Revelation 21: 22-25)
  • Jesus is the one God who I worship.
(Philippians 2: 5-11)
  • Jesus is my Savior who forgives sins and offers eternal life in Heaven with Him.
(Matthew 1: 21; John 3: 16)

1 Peter 3: 15 tells us to, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."  The reason for my hope, the reason for my joy, the reason for my optimism, is my faith. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Art of Apology

Humility is not a personal strength.  In fact, in my more honest moments, I acknowledge that one of the things I struggle with is pride.  As a result, God has given me several "growth opportunities" recently to improve upon my talent for humility (see, I can even pridefully brag about humility, I'm a disaster).  These opportunities generally come in the form of requiring me to apologize. 

I do apologize.  But my apologies can often be riddled with provisos and exceptions that they sound more like I'm defending a client that offering a true and unqualified apology.  I would like to apologize better.  I am working on it.  This week I was presented with another growth opportunity. 

I recently wrote about a colleague being less than kind and as a result I had to "sort of" apologize to a senior attorney who chewed me out.  I wasn't that interested in taking personal responsibility for any part I might have had in making the project less than successful.  So my apology was fairly defensive. 

This week I found myself with another opportunity to put a shine on my apologizing skills.  I met with someone who has been harboring some resentment because of a situation that cropped up last year.  Once again, I didn't believe I had any hand in causing the situation or his resentment, but it was festering and posing a problem for a professional relationship I have.  So I looked him in the eye and apologized.  I apologized for any negative impact the situation caused him or his job and apologized if I had failed to communicate or been less than gracious about my handling of the issue.  It helped. 

Taking personal responsibility helps, but you can't just do it "internally."  If you plan to either share some of the blame or mend a fence, you need to apologize.  And if you're anything like me, it is hard.  My pride automatically throws up a handful of defenses I could use - "but I didn't know," "you never told me," "it's not my responsibility," "this is how things are done," and of course, "I'M RIGHT!"  Who cares?  What if you are right? 

What are the implications if both sides just retain a defensive posture?  Do you really have no role or responsibility in the conflict?  The answer to the latter is almost always no.  The answer to the former is that it almost always gets worse. 

None of this means always blame yourself and become a doormat.  I'm far from a doormat.  I'm not being abused for my excessive apologizing I assure you.  This is just to say that if you, like me, struggle from pride that may hinder your ability to offer an unqualified apology maybe we should take time to substitute a little humility for that pride.  It's going to be a process for me.  And I'm going to screw it up from time to time.  But watch me, I'm growing. 

(But God - I've had plenty of learning opportunities this past week, would you mind giving me a few days off from more homework?)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"They're Stupid."

I was not popular in high school.  I wasn't UNpopular but I certainly wasn't popular.  My graduating high school class had 535 people in it.  I was a number.  Not particularly known one way or the other.  The first year was particularly difficult for me.  First, I was a girl in high school which isn't an easy feat regardless of your station.  Then it was a brand new school and I didn't know anyone.  I was going through an awkward phase (I have pictures to prove it).  And my parents were recently divorced, and my brother and I lived with my newly working mom in, well, lower lower middle class.  It was a challenging time.  One I've never written about and one I don't plan to write about for a while.  But I wanted to provide a bit of background so you could appreciate how a particular statement resonated with me last night. 

As you may know from a previous blog entry, I have a couple of television guilty pleasures.  And I do mean guilty.  They are not intellectually stimulating or growth inspiring to my faith.  They are guilty pleasures.  Ones I have no mind to abdicate at this time.  Surely, eventually, they'll die a television death, and then they'll be gone and I won't replace them.  On a recent episode of one show, a girl was on a date with a boy who liked her very much.  He was sharing how, even though he is very smart and well-educated NOW, he didn't do particularly well in high school because he was unpopular.  As he wisely stated, social standing can play out academically.  They went on talking about other topics and he said something so entirely funny and smart and romantic.  She took his hands, and looked him straight in the eyes, and said, "You are like no other guy I know.  The people who said you were unpopular, whoever made you feel unpopular when you were younger, they're stupid." 

Did you hear that? Whoever made a negative commentary about who you are and your worth and your value and what a treasure you are, they are stupid.  They don't know what they're talking about.  You are precious and wonderful and should be the most popular person in the whole world.  I have to tell you, the look in his eyes when she uttered those words made me cry.  It almost made him cry.  It's like she took years of this pain, this worthless label he'd worn as a brand, and she patched over it with worth.  The brand won't ever be gone, but a beautiful person whom he valued told him those people didn't know what they were saying and I think you are amazing. 

I am not a huge advocate of calling people stupid, but I have never heard the word used more appropriately.  They are stupid.  People who decide, for whatever insecure reasons, to meanly make judgments on who deserves to be popular and unpopular are stupid.  I have nieces who are teenagers and I saw this play out just two weeks ago as one got verbally abused by some mean-spirited teens - so much so that it left her in tears and her spirit crushed.  It's heart wrenching if you are the unpopular kid.  And it stays with you for life.  My husband went through it.  I went through it.  This guy on television illustrated how much damage it can do - here he was 13 years later still desperately longing to hear those people were wrong. 

If you endured this, and you don't have someone right now to tell you that those people were stupid, then let me speak those words to you today.  They were stupid.  They didn't know what they were talking about.  You are beautiful or handsome.  You have so much value.  You are precious and such a wonderful addition to our world.  They said those things out of very painful insecurities of their own not realizing the lasting pain it would cause you and not even believing what they said.  So if you can, release a piece of that pain today.  And another piece tomorrow.  Each day come read this last paragraph and know that you are wonderful and any negative worthless labels that were given to you in elementary school or middle school or high school or college or at your office are not true.  They are lies.  The truth is that you are precious. 

Isaiah 43 - For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Story: Part 6, THREE

So there we were, that Saturday afternoon, finally pregnant.  Or so our three pregnancy tests said.  I wanted confirmation.  Real medical feedback.  So off I went Monday morning to get my blood work done with Dr. C.  They said they'd call back Monday afternoon.  I was in meetings but had my cell phone on vibrate because I did NOT want to miss that call.  My hCG levels were supposed to be between 50 and 100.  They called at 4:30 & I stepped outside to talk.  They said, "Well, Mrs. Vincent, you ARE pregnant.  Very pregnant.  Your hCG levels are 408."  I was trying to process both pieces of news, "That's high, right?," I managed to respond.  "Yes, we think you're having twins.  Or even triplets."  The way this news came out in my head, I think there was a lot of other information provided, because I came home that night and told Bray that the odds somehow shook out like 65% twins, 25% triplets, 10% singleton.  I'm confident no one gave me numbers, but that is how I translated it.  We were both elated at the idea of having twins because it would mean our child would have a sibling which we so desperately wanted (and did not want to go through fertility treatments again).  Triplets never seemed real at that time.  {Plus, two of my friends who recently had undergone fertility treatments had twins.} 

For the next couple of weeks I had to go in every other day to make sure my hCG levels kept doubling.  So that Wednesday, they didn't double.  I found this email I sent my college roommate, the only person I'd talked to through this whole process, and one of those who had so encouraged me during this struggle:

"hey there, just a quick prayer request if you have time. we got the results of our second set of blood work today & the hcg levels did not double as they expected. the doctor actually believes this is good news, that it may indicate that initially all three embryos took hold and this reflects that one has now let go. i'm trying not to read anything more into it or spend all afternoon on the web deciphering what the implications are if your hcg levels don't double. i go back friday & they expect them to double then. monday was 408. today was 640. still high (and still increasing). would you pray they see at least 1200 on friday? i'm perfectly happy with God choosing how many babies we're supposed to have, but i do pray that the pregnancy progresses and stays healthy. you're my only friend who knows, so i'd really appreciate help praying over these wee ones. thank you!"

Two days later, the Friday after the initial Monday test, this is what I wrote her:
"Thank you for praying.  All week I've just been praying, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean NOT ON YOUR OWN understanding........."  The nurse said they wanted the level to be between 1200 & 1600 & it was 1400 - could you get anymore perfect?  Only if you're God.  I'm just so happy and kept saying, I believe Father, please help my unbelief........ I'm still human but this process is teaching me trust at each step."

This process continued for a little over a week.  At 6 weeks I was allowed an ultrasound so we'd know for sure.  They wanted to schedule it for April 1st - I said, "No thanks, I'll never believe if it's an April Fool's joke or not."  So in we went on March 31st to have the very first ultrasound.  I still have the picture.  Dr. C had a place on the screen to put information for two babies in case it was in fact twins.  So off he goes, pressing that little wand down on my stomach like I'd seen a million times in movies.  He told us not to panic if we didn't hear heartbeats, it was still early.  But then, thump thump thump, we heard a little heartbeat and saw it pulse on the fuzzy black and white screen.  We were both elated.  He kept moving that wand around to see what else was there before he started taking measurements.  When out of the blue he said, "Oh, there's three."  I have to tell you, my initial reaction was complete joy.  I had felt since the moment of the transfer that these were all mine.  I had never felt that with the prior transfers.  I just felt like they were all hanging in there.  But then I looked over and Bray went sheet white and put his head in his hands.  You could tell he was not only surprised but completely terrified over the news.  We finished the heartbeat listening and picture taking, and then Dr. C met with us in the adjacent room.  He could tell that Bray was not prepared for this news.  He asked us to consider reduction (one of several times this option was raised).  Bray and I had said from the beginning, when we knew this was even a remote possibility, we would rather have three than zero, and our faith would never allow us to mess around with what God chose to give us.  He gave us some additional information, statistics about multiple pregnancies (which weren't pretty), and a referral to a high risk doctor.  We left the doctor's office and drove to dinner (we don't eat out much but now that I was on alert that I'd need a lot of calories, popcorn and cereal would not cut it).  I remember him looking completely overwhelmed and stressed out.  I was trying not to be overjoyed because clearly the prospect was frightening for him (it should have been more so for me).  I remember him saying, "I'm not upset.  I'm okay.  I'm just worried.  About the babies health.  About your health.  About the money...."  I called my parents that night to share the news.  He had to take a little longer, he couldn't even talk about it for 24 hours. 

The next day, this is the email I sent to my sweet college roomie and our suitemate (who luckily lived nowhere near me and were Godly women I could trust to pray without anyone knowing the news which we weren't ready to share yet):

What a joy, and funny twist of events, that the two women I'm getting to share my early joys with this month are also those who I've known now for over 1/2 my life! I so appreciate your sweet prayers & excitement as I've been bursting to run the hall with the news. I have an update and a prayer request. We went to the doctor yesterday afternoon and the babies look good & are on target with those of a singleton. We got to hear their strong heartbeats, which is so incredible to me, since they're not even 1/2 inch long yet. God's miracles! You may have noticed the plural - the big surprise is that there were three sets of those strong heartbeats. I'm excited, but Bray is overwhelmed. So if I could ask for three prayers when you get time:

1. Bray - he's so overwhelmed, he's almost shut down. He's worried about health, money, etc., all the things our strong provider husbands are supposed to be looking after. But I don't want it to so consume him that we can't enjoy the pregnancy.
2. The babies - right now they look good, though one is a couple of days behind the others, and one has a smaller sack that the others. I have to go in every week to be monitored and I'd just pray that they'd all stay equal in size and in their rooms.
3. My term - The doctors want to get me to 30 -32 weeks. Some triplets have even gone as far as 33 - 34. Obviously, the longer they cook, the healthier they are. My due date would have been Nov. 22nd & now the goal is to get me to the end of September. Pray that everything I do (nutrition, work, etc.) would all be focused on getting these babies to "term."
I am excited. I'm reeling a little bit at the logistics but for right now I'm just going to enjoy God's many blessings and trust Him to keep them in His care.
I cherish you both & thank you for sharing this with me,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Benediction (from Pastor Doug)

It's been a hard few weeks.  Long days at work.  Very fussy kids because of the latest round of teething.  Some general discontent.  And I am tired and frustrated.  I think it shows.  Then my pastor sent out his weekly email which contained the closing benediction he gives every week.  And those precious words washed over my weary soul.  If you need a sweet benediction today, in the midst of drama or discontent, I hope sharing Pastor Doug's words calm your spirit:

May the living Lord Jesus Christ go with you.

May He go above you to watch over you,

Behind you to encourage you,

Beside you to befriend you,

Within you to give you peace and

Before you to show you His way

Now and forevermore.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tire Tracks

Today, I got thrown under the bus.  By a friend.  And I'm walking around with the tire tracks imprinted on my soul.  As a result of her action, I got chewed out at work by someone senior.  And I have to say, I really don't get chewed out.  I'm generally well liked and considered a good attorney who does a thorough job.  So this bus throwing business, and the repercussions, really caught me off guard.

I am sure there are people who take criticism better than I do.  I'm actually confident of that fact.  I take everything rather personally and I've been known to get defensive.  Which is exactly what I did.  I reacted in a way that could be much improved upon now that I reflect.  In addition to not reacting particularly well to the bus-throwing/chewing out, I went a step further.  I did a little smack talking.  I called my mom and told her about this incident by a person I'd now labeled untrustworthy/disloyal (I'm big on loyalty).  Then I went outside my office and complained to my assistant who I assure you has some serious crises going on in her own life and this must have seemed so incredibly trivial.  I goofed off on the computer for a few minutes because I couldn't get refocused on my work.  In total, this one act completely knocked me off my game and created some behaviors that are the anti-thesis of Christ-like. 

In retrospect, I have to ask myself why it so hard to apologize and take responsibility even if I feel it is wrongly allocated.  Sure my friend should have come to me and said, "I think you should do this" or "I wish you would go about this differently," instead of going to someone else (very senior) to complain, but what if I didn't focus on her actions and instead focused on my own.  Was there any merit to the criticism?  Would it have added to his esteem of me if I had instead said, "I am sorry a situation has been created.  Please allow me to do everything in my power to correct it until everyone is satisfied."  It certainly would have be a shorter answer.  It probably would have been a more adult answer.  And it definitely would have been an answer more in keeping with God's commandment to act as the "salt and light" in the world.

I believe that my generation, and the generation younger than me, has been told that it is acceptable to avoid personal responsibility.  That criticism is never constructive.  That the buck can always be passed.  Regardless of whether or not we believe that to be true in our heart of hearts, when confronted with an unexpected situation, those worldly messages often creep into our ultimate reaction.  And if we're listening to those messages rather than being steeped in the messages of our faith, then we fail when we react with anger, defensiveness, abdication of any personal responsibility, and buck-passing.  The mirror's glare has not been flattering today.  I will work to do better.  And as for being thrown under the bus, I'll trust the Lord to heal those tire tracks on my soul. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

I did not, like most of America, get a long weekend.  Both Bray and I had to work.  And we were down a nanny so it was working for me during naps and late nights and working for him at the restaurant.  We are exhausted.  Nevertheless, after an early morning, I took the trio to their first ever neighborhood 4th of July parade.  The kind I like to think they had in 1955.  Where everyone dolls up their bicycles and wagons (or in our case the choo-choos) and heads out, flags in hand, to celebrate our freedom in this great country.  And even though I was a little late on the decor category (picked up anything the grocery had last night so we could at least make an appearance in the parade), and even though it was a disastrous start to the morning where everything unwound, the parade itself was great.  The kids in the thick of things.  Seeing our neighbors with kids the same age.  Watching 18 month olds and 80 year olds chow on watermelon.  Marching to the festive music some lady piped out from a boom box she carried on her head.  All great free wholesome fun for the family.  And I for one am glad I ended up taking the kiddos.  Here's a few of the highlights (the fourth in our wagon is our neighbor friend down the street - the kids love to bring buddies in the extra cart):