Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Need To Talk To You (despite the bronchitis)

I have bronchitis.  And a sinus infection.  And some other stuff.  It made me a less than ideal companion to my family at the farm this weekend. 

I've been burning my candle til there's not much left.  And my darling husband has too.  Yet he completely stepped up and let me be a slug the past few days despite it being his birthday weekend. 

I do have a rockin' doctor who gave me a ton of meds yesterday and promises that I will be in travel-able shape by the time I have to catch a plane to Chicago Thursday. 

As a result, I've been a little iffy keeping up my writing this week.  But I do have a few precious vignettes from our weekend at the farm which may put a little smile on your face - it did mine. 

The eldest absolutely adores his grandfather (Bray's dad).  He worships the ground he walks on.  Apparently, last weekend when Bray was at the farm without me, grandfather allowed him to have some coffee milk in a little mug while the "men" sat out on the front porch having their morning cup o' joe.  Well, my funny child now knows exactly where his little mug is that grandfather designated for him (and put in a kid friendly location) and asks for coffee once in the morning and once in the afternoon when grandfather is enjoying his.  (The children had been calling him grandpa, but now that the eldest calls him grandfather, the other two followed suit.)

It is the most precious thing you have ever seen.  Those two fellas having their morning coffee together - with my baby either sitting next to grandfather or on his lap.  I hope it doesn't stunt his growth :)
Check out Saturday's adoration session over coffee:
Blowing on my lil' coffee

Cheers-ing coffees with grandfather

Proudly displaying my little mug
While the eldest follows grandfather around, the baby won't leave daddy's side.  He wants to do everything daddy does and will work earnestly around the farm to the extent his two-and-a-half-year old self allows.  He spent an hour and a half cutting hay with dad and then rode the family around on the buggy to survey his progress (yes, he steered on Bray's lap - lord help us)!  
C'mon mom, I got my boots on and am ready to go

THIS one is my favorite tractor
But my favorite moment of the weekend (despite the lobster feast for Saturday's dinner which nearly outshone everything) was the little lady's newest past time.  She is not nearly the tractor enthusiast that her brothers are, though she does love to ride horses, so we hung out some while the boys were cutting hay.  I could be sitting on the ground or in a chair watching her play and she would come over, spread my legs, pull a kid-sized chair over in between them, sit down and say, "Mommy, I need to talk to you."  She would then sit there facing me in her chair and jabber on about half a dozen things, only half of which I actually understood.  She would explain the goings-on of the family, the activities that had taken place, why she liked certain songs, and so forth and so on.  She would punctuate her steady stream of conversation with laughter about some statement she made that cracked her up.  She did this over the course of the weekend on at least three occasions.  I loved it.  I love that she wants to talk to me.  I love that she engages me close up and face to face.  And I promise that I will engage in this dialogue for as long as she wishes to do so, hopefully until she's 50 and I'm in hospice.  But in those teen years, when she's less receptive, I will happily turn the tables and pull a chair up in her space and jump start these conversations.  I hope this weekend's were the first three in three million. 

I'm just dying to know what she's thinking

How could you resist a conversation with this?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Other Shoe

I heard this amazing man speak at last weekend's conference - his name is Tom Davis and he runs Children's Hope Chest which sponsors orphans in many countries and rescues children from sex trade.  During his speech, he began to draw a beautiful picture for the audience:

It's a beautiful snowy night at Christmas time.  A mother and father are driving down the road in their car while their children sit in the backseat singing Christmas carols and laughing.  It's dark outside and the snowflakes glisten in the street lights. 

Then he said:  End scene.  What happens in Scene Two?

Think about it.  You just heard Scene One.  What is the first thing you imagine happeninng in Scene Two? 

Do you know what almost everyone said?  Scene Two shows a car accident.  Almost everyone who heard that beautiful scene pictured it as a movie and believed the next image would inevitably reveal a gruesome car accident. 

What does that say about us?  About me?  The first thing we think about, the first place our mind heads when we see something so perfect, is the disaster that will inevitably come next. 

We have become such a apprehensive people.  We almost wish against experiencing a beautiful scene in our own lives for fear of what will come next.  There couldn't be an instance of unadulterated joy unmarred by misfortune.  Misfortune must follow.  What does that say about our faith?  Our perception of God?  Even the most optimistic among us, including me, sees the car accident as an inevitable consequence of the beautiful moment of blessing.  We spend our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

It doesn't have to drop.  Sometimes, there is no other shoe. 

Psalm 21:  You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—length of days, for ever and ever.  Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.  Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

Ephesians 1:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ

Does that sound like a God standing around dropping shoes on our heads?  Granting unending blessings and LAVISHING the riches of His grace? 

Can I paint you another story?  A real story?  A story from my life on Friday night:
It's a beautiful summer day.  The Vincent family is driving to the farm to celebrate the husband's birthday.  Their three two year olds are in the back seat singing songs and laughing.  The wife is looking back at them while the husband answers his phone.  Their rear tire blows out as they suddenly hear bump, bump, bump, bump against Interstate I-10.

Do you know what Scene 2 is?  A car crash?  Stranded for hours while waiting for a tow truck while the birthday is ruined? 

No.  We were in traffic so we were not driving fast.  We were mere seconds from an exit.  Off of that exit was a Sears Auto store that told us the tires were rare and would have to be special ordered.  Yet less than a mile from that Sears store was a Discount Tires that had our exact tire in stock and we could limp there without a tow.  It was near closing time, but we arrived before 6.  They finished the repair in less than an hour.  We still had birthday dinner at the farm.  The blow out had not happened the weekend before when Bray was taking the kids to the farm without me.  There was money in our bank account to cover buying a brand new tire.  There was even time for everyone to indulge in birthday cake after dinner and sing the birthday song to my precious husband who kept his head level the entire time. 

There was no other shoe.  The blown tire was not a shoe but rather a reminder of Him LAVISHING His grace all over our lives.  That was a display of His splendor and majesty.  That was the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure. 

I will sit still today and rejoice over our blessings.  I will not run around in circles worried that the sky is falling.  Because friend, when the sky falls, He will be in it and it will just be one more thing to marvel at. 
(Mark 13:26: At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Ode On My Beloved's Birthday

I love July 27th.  It was the day God sent my fantastic husband into the world.  Bray's not a huge birthday person, but I love birthdays so I always make a fuss.  When I asked him last night what he was hoping for on his birthday, he said, "a nap."  I responded, "C'mon!  Ask for something more exotic."  To which he replied, "A nap with a pineapple."  Y'all, I laughed so hard I snorted.  Talk about sexy.  This man is so freakin' funny he can pull a snort out of me.  So in honor of my funny, handsome, super terrific husband (who's also a rockin' dad), I give you, fully realizing my poetic limitations, An Ode On My Beloved's Birthday
(In case you just don't "get" all of it, know that this man loves God, his family, fishing and hunting, and being on a tractor at the farm.)

Yea! Today is your birthday,
Hop the tractor, bale some hay.
Let's grab the kids and have a party,
Head to the farm and not to be tardy. 

You say you are dreadfully blunt,
And we all know you like to hunt,
But I find you super charming,
Even when you have to do some farming. 

I hear love songs and I think of you,
Though we've been together 9 years it still feels new.
So whether we are naked or we're clothed,
I'm glad we're no longer just betrothed.

The kids think you are super neat,
A dad like you is hard to beat.
You take them fishing and feeding cows,
They get to ride horses and even use plows!

You are the reason I've got so much love in my heart,
And I pray that we never shall part. 
So on this special day,
Let me just shout hip, hip, hooray.

For he's a jolly good fellow which nobody can deny.

A date from our first year together
Our birthday date last night

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Love Cup Explodeth

Seriously?  I have the most adorable children on the planet.  I know you mommas may be reading this and disagreeing, to which you are fully entitled, but right now I'm going to soak up the preciousness of these little love bugs.  You well know all my posts do not start out so gushy.  Between bed time drama and potty training disasters, we have had our share of meltdown posts which is why I LOVE to write these.  Overrunneth just did not seem to be expressive enough of a word to use in the title - so explodeth is the best I could come up with.

Ever since I got back on Sunday they have been little globs of love.  Kissing and hugging and laughing.  And not just with me, but also with each other.  Plus I swear they learned 100 new words while I was gone.  So they are talking a mile a minute.  They explain everything with a "because" or in the little lady's case, "cause, cause, cause," or in the baby's case, "otherwise..." 

The little lady, who has her seriously mean moments, has just exploded love - giving big kisses and hugs and staring me right in the eye and saying, "I love you TOO mommy," or "I love you SO much," or even extolling how much she likes her brothers, daddy, and other family members. 

The baby can not get off of me.  He attacked me when he got out of the car Sunday with this big bear hug and has hung on ever since.  It is delightful.  He's still got a little of that baby fat so he's just so cuddly, and he has this very distinctive smell that is like a drug to me.  I keep kissing his little cheeks just to inhale more of it. Last night, he climbed into bed with us about 3 am and just wrapped his arms around me and patted my back in little circles.  How on earth do you kick a kid out of bed when that love is happening?

The eldest, in addition to being a love bug, is also being such a helper.  He goes around helping clean and pick things up and carry things in the house and proudly announces, "I a helper!"  The past two mornings he runs down the hall to jump up in my lap and cuddle.  I can not move I am so crazy about this little charming fella.  Yesterday morning, Bray went out in the hall to meet him and came back into our room to announce, "He wouldn't even stop for me.  He just wanted to get to you."  I couldn't even feel bad about it because he is such a precious prince. 

Not only did I miss my kids and they miss me, but I missed my husband and he missed me.  I can't stop kissing on him too!

We have gotten to do such fun things, low key hanging out as a family.  Story time at night.  Family shopping excursion to Costco.  Dinner I actually cooked.  Swimming.  And the little lady excitedly announces, "Whole Family!"  The kids want us to all do everything together which means everything from all five of us playing ring around the rosies to a family unit cannonball into the deep end. 

My favorite part has been the nights which usually kick my butt.  But this week I have taken the time to sing and tell stories, and then I crawl into bed with each of them.  Their beds are on the floor now so I can cuddle up behind each one and whisper little stories or songs for a couple minutes before going to the next one.  It is precious time.  Time that I realize won't exist years from now when they will not want to cuddle with mommy.  But right now, my little love bugs are all about the hugs and kisses and cuddles. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

She Speaks, So You Don't Need Me Right?

Part 2

I did go on Saturday.  However, by lunch, I had decided to skip the last publisher's appointment.  The first appointment went fine - she took both my book proposals.  The second one went constructively, she was not interested in either but gave me helpful feedback.  This was the third one.  The Christian publishing mothership.  And if I really did not want to do this, what was the point of going to talk to another publisher?  While I sat in the prayer room willing myself to not go, my dear friend and prayer partner Amy later informed me she was in the other room "prayer blocking me!"  

I went.  The editor was crazy cool.  A working mom herself, she understood the need to reach working moms unreached by churches who are often judged or criticized for their career choices.  She told me there was no one in the Christian publishing world speaking about the issue right now.  She said there was a hole and the hole had to be filled with a voice.  (She did not say MY voice, just A voice.)  She took my book proposal and one sheet and put me in contact with a new author she was publishing this fall who happened to live and teach in Houston.  

I was a wreck.  The only thing worse than thinking you might fail is thinking you might succeed.  That afternoon was a roller coaster.  I left the conference for almost an hour to sit on my bed and watch mindless t.v.  When I returned, Amy reappeared to sit with me and walk through the drama even though she had just had her OWN three publishing appointments (which went well).  I ended up confessing that I was terrified my ministry might grow, and then I would screw up and it would explode like my father's had and end up turning people away from God.  She told me I was nuts and there was only one source causing me to have a massive meltdown.  We went to the next session, which happened to be on God-sized dreams, and the speakers rattled off a list of reasons that indicate you have a God-sized dream.  You know what was near the top of that list?  You are scared.  If you are passionate about what you want to do but are suddenly terrified, you might just have yourself a God-sized dream.  Ugh.   

I was still going round and round on Sunday when an old college friend, who happened to be in Charlotte that weekend, wanted to meet to catch up.  I was fried but didn't want to say no.  Turned out, not only was it a fabulous visit with her, but she came with her friend who does web design and offered to help me design a wordpress website and blog.  Then, during my flight, a man struck up a conversation with me on the plane.  He asked about a book I was reading that I had received at the conference.  After he found out how I got it, he asked if I was a writer and asked for my card.  Then he just opened up and shared that his sister-in-law had died the day before and had not really had any belief system.  She was 53 and died from a yellowjacket sting.  We began to talk about how his family was struggling and the importance of faith.  I got off that airplane and heard God shouting, "I have CALLED you to MINISTER to people.  GO. DO. IT."  

Repeatedly at the conference, speakers said, "He doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called."  I do not feel equipped.  I do feel called.  

Still hesitant Monday morning, I called my dad and told him I was terrified I would make mistakes like he had and my ministry would fall apart and wreak havoc in people's lives who might have looked up to me.  Instead of getting some touchy feely "you won't make the same mistakes I did" response, he said, "You do not get to use me as an excuse.  You don't get to hide behind me."

I didn't want to hear it, but he was right.  When I ran out of excuses on Saturday, I pulled this one out.  It is ridiculous and from the devil.  I have no idea what will happen with anything.  A book.  Speaking.  The blog.  Whatever.  But even if it is just writing about my kids and sharing my faith to people hurting on an airplane, I don't get to hide from that.  It is unacceptable.

I John 4:16-18: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  
Jeremiah 29: 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  
Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Monday, July 23, 2012

She Speaks, So You Don't Need Me Right?


This weekend was hard.  I'm going to write a little about it today and tomorrow, and then go back to the stuff you are used to reading.  But if you are at all struggling with where you are supposed to be or what you are supposed to be doing, I hope this installment may encourage you, or at least let you know you are not alone. 

This weekend I met incredible women with unbelievable testimonies.  These were not the speakers.  These women I sat next to at breakout sessions and lunches and coffees. I cannot even count the instances in which I had no words in response to their stories.  Women came to the SheSpeaks! conference to learn about speaking or writing to reach others for Christ and shared these stories:
She was sexually abused at the age of 5 and then again in elementary school;
She lost her husband and youngest son in a car accident;
Her son "came out" to the family as gay and her husband disowned the son;
Her daughter's biological father slammed the door in the daughter's face the night she found him (which was also the same night the mom was at the conference);
She was abused her whole childhood so she had to find hiding places in the house to escape;
All three of her teenage children died;
She had adopted 14 children, many with special needs;
Her father was murdered and after she found Christ she began a correspondence with the murderer in prison and forgave him; and,
Her child was suffering from or recovering from cancer.

These are not all of the stories.  These are but a few of the 650 stories there.  I stood in amazement that these women were not sitting around bitter or suicidal, but rather surviving and wanting to share God's love with others.  They wanted to do something positive out of the horror or the struggle.  They willingly shared their heart wrenching stories.  They would relive the pain in order to help someone else.  Maybe many someone elses. 

These women's stories not only inspired me, they shut me down.  Who was I?  What on earth could God do with me?  He clearly did not need me.  This roomful of women had much more compelling stories and could do much more good.  They were clearly called, so I would not be needed.  After 13 hours of conferencing on Friday, I shut down that night.  I didn't even know if I would go to the conference the next day.  I called Bray and said, "I'm out."  The combination of seeing people I believed were more worthwhile or useful to God and the overwhelming information about the "business" made me decide in an instant to stop trying.  I couldn't do it.  I didn't even think I wanted to anymore. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Flashback Fridays

Since I am in North Carolina today for the SheSpeaks! conference I decided to post for today's Flashback my post from the day I registered for the conference.  I will be back with all new material on Monday.  Heck, you may not be able to get me to shutup.  Until then, enjoy Through the Tears, the Vision Reappears posted on March 15th:

I'm sitting here, at my desk, typing these words with tears in my eyes. There's always been a part of me that's wanted to be a writer. I've been keeping a journal since I can remember and writing short stories since way back. I've written everything from letters to boyfriends, fiction projects with friends, devotionals for women, and, obviously, blog posts. I love to write. 

But every increasingly, particularly since the summer of 2010, I've felt called to move more into ministry as a career. Writing, speaking, and all that goes with that. It's a very impractical calling. It comes with a significant pay cut if I ever acted on it. And while I felt that calling strongly last year, I've struggled more with it this year because of the reality of what it would look like. How radically our lives would change. As the reality set in, I felt myself taking steps back. Doubting what could actually happen.

I felt a radical shift in my mentality today though. Last spring, I saw that Lysa Terkeurst/Proverbs 31 was putting on a conference called She Speaks for aspiring Christian writers and authors in North Carolina. It looked so interesting but it fell on Bray's big surprise 40th birthday party weekend so I didn't look any further. Well, yesterday registration opened for the 11th Annual She Speaks conference this July. I started reading about the break out sessions and the leaders and I wanted to go SO badly. But it is expensive. It is far away. It entails me spending a weekend away from the kids. So I thought it wasn't really practical for me. I talked to my dear friend who's a Christian writer and asked if she would consider going, and she would, and we both decided to at least talk to our husbands about it. 

I printed out all the materials, price shopped hotels in the area, and took it home. After the kids were down (loosely, they were behind the baby gate in the room is about all), I went into Bray's office and made my pitch for consideration. I told him I didn't want an answer now but just to think about it and let me know given the budget implications. Well, he just said right away, "GO!" I said, "but it's expensive." But he just came back with, "GO!" When I priced flights this morning and saw how pricey it would be to fly to North Carolina I emailed him the update and asked if he wanted to reconsider. All he said in response was, "BOOK IT!" 

So I mapped out all the courses I wanted to take, researched the speakers and topics of the ones that conflicted (some of these break out sessions have five choices, and I'd like to go to THREE of them!), and went on-line to register. I can not describe to you the overwhelming emotion I felt as I started clicking my selections: Writer Track, I would like to meet with a publisher, place me in a Writer's Peer Evaluation Group, and then the break out choices like From Blog to Book Deal, Reaching Today's Busy Woman, Writing Out of Your Passion, Expanding Your Ministry........ I think I cried with every single click. It felt like I was actually DOING something to follow my calling. Like God had just opened this amazing door to actually pursue this writing thing and Bray had pushed me through it. His still small voice saying to my spirit, if this is what I have in store for you, I will make it happen. Trust Me. 

It is terrifying. Just the thought. But it's also the most exciting thing I could imagine. And I can still ONLY imagine it. Last week, at Beth Moore's final bible study session, she said, "You are safe, even in the middle of a war, when you are in the center of God's will." She said that some of us are trying so hard to stay safe, that we could be sitting on our couch eating a ham sandwich and choke and die. If we'd stop trying to keep ourselves safe in our own strength, even when that means running from God, and just follow the path He has for us, then we will be safe in the center of His hands. In the center of His plan. In the center of His will. 

I'm not at the center right now, but I feel like at least I just made a u-turn and stopped running from it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

So today, at 3 pm, I will be leavin' on a jet plane. I am flying to North Carolina, but it feels like I am jumping off the scariest cliff of faith. In case you missed it, which certainly would have been hard to do if you are one of my Facebook friends over the past couple of weeks, I am going to a Christian speakers and writers conference put on by Proverbs 31 called SheSpeaks!  There will be 650 women in attendance. 
You can participate on the speakers track or writers track – I am doing, not surprisingly, the latter.  I have loved to write since I can remember.  I have journals spanning just about every day from my time in high school to the years I dated Bray.  Sadly, I stopped for a few years but now feel right back at home using this blog as my old journal friend. 

I used to write fiction, mainly short stories, but never had the guts to submit them for publication.  They sit on my hard drive.  But in the summer of 2010, I started feeling called to women’s ministry.  Not traditional church bible study ministry for churched women, but one for working women (and working mommas) seeking something, maybe it’s God or maybe they can’t yet put their finger on it.  I have no idea what the calling looks like beyond that.  I have no idea if it even goes any further. 

Remarkably, I am going one step further.  A step taken in a crazy unrealistic faith way that I get palpations about just typing the words.   God, through a combination of divine intervention, generosity by my husband (both in time and in money), patience from my friends, and a lull at work, is sending me to this conference.  The day I registered, I cried. 

Here is what I have done in preparation for, through Christ who strengthens me, and what I will be doing, over the course of the next three days:

·         I edited my wedding preparation journal that I wrote when I was getting married and created, with incredible assistance, a one sheet (the marketing piece for the work) and a 22 page proposal for the devotional that is almost 7,000 words. 
·         I wrote the one sheet, proposal, and two sample chapters (plus the introduction) for my second book which I have been talking about writing for two years.  I needed at least 7,000 words for my two chapters to include in the proposal but it turned out to be 8,781 words and a full seventeen pages.  The words did not come from me I assure you.  That proposal, remarkably, is also 27 pages long. 
·         I am meeting with three publishing houses to pitch my two books – Harvest House, Regal Books, and Zondervan. 
·         I have “writer” business cards, 250 packed in my suitcase, to share with publishers, agents, and fellow travelers down this crazy path.
·         My assistant and I created a writers portfolio which takes years worth of my writing and synthesizes it into a bound notebook of hundreds of pages of words I have penned over the past decade.
·         I have a 750 article, an old blog post, that I will submit to a peer review critique group on Friday night (of which I am terrified).  It is the concept for my third book.
·         I have cell phone numbers for women I have never met that will be sharing my rental car tonight as we drive to Concord from Charlotte.  What a ministry that rental car turned out to be – only the Lord could have seen that coming.  And given what I’ve already learned about these sweet women (one from Chicago, one from Idaho, one from here in Houston), I will be the one coming away blessed.
·         My longstanding prayer partner will go on this adventure with me and serve as my roommate to keep costs down.  She and I have prayed every morning these past two weeks and that, in and of itself, was a great ministry to my parched spirit. 

Sweet bloggy friends, it is time.  I have no idea what is in store.  I do know this, and I was reminded of this as I wrote my chapter on who God says we are.  God has a very specific, intentional purpose for each of our lives.  I know this truth:

Ephesians 2: 10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Jeremiah 29: 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Love Snippet

So I don't have much time to post my regular sized post since I'm neck deep in polishing off my chapters for the conference this weekend, but this was too good not to share.

Bray was gone last night, so sometime in the middle of the night the little lady and baby crawled into bed with me. I got up early to write and they awoke by 7 am. I asked if they wanted yogurt for breakfast, but the little lady said she wanted eggs and biscuits. So in the three of us went to cook in the kitchen while the eldest enjoyed an atypical morning of sleep.

While we were in the middle of cracking eggs and popping biscuits in, I heard his little feet padding into the living room. I called his name and his sleepy tousled little head peeked around the kitchen cabinet corner. He came over to give me a big hug and the baby rushed over to him and gave him a gargantuan hug. The little lady joined in and pretty soon the three of them had a super expressive group hug going on. When they had wrapped that up, the baby kick started the kissing by planting a big one on the eldest. So everyone kissed - each other and me. Then the baby announced with a grin, “I missed you, S___!” I thought my heart would pop out of my chest it swelled so big. I desperately wanted a photo of this darling moment, but no camera was in reach.

If that wasn't enough, we all sat down to eat and had a great time laughing and talking. I reached out to pat the eldest’s sweet cheek, and he pressed it into my hand and said, "I love you mommy!" Oh. My. Heavens. I thought I might pass out from the love. I emphatically replied, "I love you too sweet boy" which resulted in a bunch of "I love yous" and "I love you toos" being passed around repeatedly from each member of the family to the other. This was one of those mornings I was in NO hurry to leave for work.

Precious children.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Weekend's Top Ten

I didn't know that I had enough for a Top Ten List from the weekend, but then I got to typing.  I had plenty to update on the kids, so without further ado, enjoy this weekend's recap via a Top Ten List:

10.  The kids love to clean.  I'm delighted.  They take a paper towel (or wipie) and scrub the floor or chairs or where ever they are directed.  This weekend they even got a sticker for it. 

9.  Which leads me to, whoever invented stickers is a genius.  And the Target dollar aisle.  Granted our house is covered in stickers once the kids get tired of having them on their hands, but they are magical.  We have used them for potty training extensively (1 for #1, 2 for #2), but now we use them for many purposes - they got one for following house rules, or for wining Simon Says, or you name it....

8.  We went to Bray's big all employee party at the zoo Sunday. We are zoo members and the kids always jump at the chance to go to the zoo. But this had a cherry on top (minus the thunderstorm we got caught in). A BIG party in a BIG pavilion. The highlight, at least for the eldest and the little lady, was their first ever experience with FACE painting! What fun. She got a pink kitty cat and he got a blue elephant.  Too bad they didn't last all day because they loved those characters. There was food, dancing to the dj, popcorn and snow cones, bubbles, bounce houses and more. Plus Bray got to show off what cute kids he has. It was so worth the big blister I have on my foot from wearing the wrong shoes!

7.  We swapped kitchen tables with my mom this weekend.  We had a glass one that could have shattered at any moment with all the abuse and mom had a wooden one.  We'd been talking about it for weeks, but finally got out to her house.  They kids were SO excited.  They helped us clean the tables and set them up and immediately sat around the new table as soon as we had it in place and the baby announced, "I LOVE IT!"  The little lady announced, "Whole family!"  And the eldest shouted, "let's eat!"  (We had already had dinner so I was a bit at a loss as to what to feed them...)

6.  Which leads me to the baby's enthusiasm.   He's taken to saying, "I LOVE IT!"  I can't possibly capture the joy and staccato of his actual voice announcing it, but it is delightful.  It could be a new book, our new kitchen table, or the rare treat of a cupcake or cookie.  That really sends him over the edge.  (Poor kid, got my sweet tooth.) 

5.  The eldest has taken to giving the thumbs up.  Bray worked with him on it and he has it down (the others not so much).  It's hysterical.  Even while I was waiting for him to finish his business in the bathroom, he flashed me a grin and the big thumbs up - I knew we had success.  The thumbs up always gets projected as far out as possible and is accompanied by a winning smile with pride and joy in his eyes. 

4.  The little lady loves to car dance.  She dances to all sorts of music but is very particular about what she wants to hear.  As soon as we get in the car, you hear a little voice say, music please mommy.  Darling. 

3.  There is an insane amount of freedom in freeing a room of baby gates.  As I mentioned, we got my mom's wood table for our kitchen area.  We have an open concept house which for some time has been gated.  The play room lost its gate months ago, but there are gates across the entrance to the kitchen/eating area, into our hallway, and at the kids room.  I eliminated the kitchen gate when we moved tables.  The past 12 hours I have been entering and exiting the kitchen area freely.  I had no idea what a pain that had become (literally and figuratively - I've hit shins, toes, etc. on that darn thing) and how much more I can accomplish without having to open a gate!

2.  The boys have become fast friends.  For those of you following the disastrous nighttime sage, we went back to high cribs after the terribleness of the big kid beds, but they can climb Everest now so a measly crib is no obstacle.  We are fully in big kid beds which means most nights they are not asleep until nearly 10.  It is absolute mayhem, but we're hoping moving sister into her own room will tamp that down a little.  However, it does let the boys play even more together and you can hear them laughing and giving each other orders.  (Makes me feel better about moving her out because I think she's getting a little left out.)  They've taken to wanting to sleep in the same bed.  It. Is. Precious.  Here's a few of the photos I snapped from the past few nights. 

1. We had a great family weekend and this weekend I will finally get to live my dream and pitch my two books to three publishers at a writers conference in North Carolina. Ready or not, here I come.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You Are Chosen

As I'm working on my second book for next weekend's writers conference, I had the incredible opportunity to spend much time today digging into scripture as "research."  For the chapter on what we are in God, I penned this page, I hope it encourages you today that you are chosen. 

            You may be incredibly athletic.  I am not.  In fact, I still remember the kids in school sighing when they got “stuck with me” for dodge ball.  I was never the first one chosen for a team. 
            Other times, I was chosen.  But then discarded.  I remember the elation of being with a man I thought I loved.  I truly couldn’t believe that he had chosen ME.  I walked around daydreaming about the life that we would share.  Then I found out that he had decided to choose someone else after a while.  That may have been worse that not having been chosen in the first place. 
            I lead with the fact that you are chosen because it may be the most important title you or I wear.  Regardless of all of the other stuff going on around me, this fact is constant.  The world can give me awards or not.  The world can offer me promotions or take away my job.  The world can choose me or change their mind and discard me.  If I know in the deepest part of my soul that the God that created the universe and came up with oceans and the platypus and rainbows picked me, then I can weather the changing opinions on the outside. 
            Don’t get me wrong.  I am not naive.  Being the last one picked on the team will always sting.  Being rejected by someone you love will break your heart.  But every single day you will still hold the assurance that God Almighty CHOSE YOU.  Created you.  He picked you first and He will not change His mind. 
            How do I know?   
Deuteronomy 14: 1-2:  You are the children of the Lord your God. …you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
Ephesians 1: 4:  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Colossians 3: 12:  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I Peter 2: 9:  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
I Thessalonians 1: 4:  For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flashback Fridays

Today's flashback is from March 17, 2011.  I pre-selected it after writing yesterday's post about battling with mistakes from my past.  This was entitled Battling Back the Ghosts.  The thing I love the most is that only this morning did I discover that the scripture I used to close yesterday's post was the same scripture I used to close this post a year and a half ago.  God is so faithful to use His word - if that isn't just more evidence that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8)...

I'm being called. Into a role. Into a brand new frontier. It's my dream. But I believe it's also my calling. You may be one of the many women out there being called to do something different. Something way outside your comfort zone. To take a BIG step of faith. Of course there are obstacles. But there is one big obstacle that I have, that you may have too, that should not be an obstacle. There are real obstacles and then there are self-imposed obstacles. We self-sabotage our dreams. That is a big self-made obstacle.

Our past. Previous actions. Misdeeds. Inappropriate behavior. Missteps. What will people say if I do this new thing KNOWING what I used to do. What I used to be.

That's where I'm at right now. My new course, my calling, is something in the faith-based arena. However, I am not pristine. I am not untainted. I am not without regret over certain past behavior. And it haunts me, only now, as I'm being called to a new place. To a higher calling.

I believe that women, in particular, are stymied, stunted, diverted from the best and highest course for their life because of apprehension over "what will they think?" I am determined NOT to let that stop me.  Look around you. So many people that are doing great things, life changing things, amazingly phenomenal things, have a history. Have dealt with a past haunting them. If you look at their history, it would not lend itself to the current miraculous place that they are in now. In fact, if Vegas were taking odds, it wouldn't take these odds.

What if those people, those who have been game changes, event makers, faith shakers, had let those odds, that past, a haunting, those questions about what people would think, stop them??? What if Peter had said, I'm sorry, I can't be the Rock upon which Christ will build His church because what if I bump into someone who saw me the night I denied Him? What will they think of me? They would never follow me. A man of weak faith. Wouldn't they question if there's any substance or value to what I say? In fact, I might end up just being a hindrance to the building and spreading of Christianity. Yet he somehow, and I don't know how, managed to move past that. The cloud of worry over what people's perception would be. He got over the regret and LET GOD work wonders - miracles we're still reading about thousands of years later.

Don't let something you've done stop you from being who God designed you to be.

Don't let your calling go unanswered because of fear over what people might think.

If anything your testimony will reach those who otherwise would have gone unreached because your faith would have felt inaccessible. God has used adulterers and murderers and faith-deniers to rock the world.

And sweet sister, you are pristine, clean, pure before our Father and Savior.

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Psalm 103:11 - For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Romans 8 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free...And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose...What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Jumble In My Head

My head this morning feels a little like the sky outside.  Gray and cloudy. 

Last night, I was rummaging around in a box of my old writing journals.  I have a journal, I believe, from every year between high school and the mid-2000s when Bray and I were dating.  I wanted to find one to measure (as in, with a ruler) so I could use it as the "go-by" for what I'd like my marriage devotional to look like.  The one I found was from 2003.  That year I went through a break up with a guy I had been in love with (in the spring) and met the man that is the love of my life (in December).  During the in-between months, I did some stupid stuff.  Ridiculously, I chronicled it all. 

As I read through it, almost against my will, my face grew hot and I became painfully embarrassed.  No one else read it.  No one else saw it.  But I was still embarrassed.  I couldn't wrap my head around how immature I was and how I just passed up the warning signals that arose.  I thought, how could you have written this and not seen the red flags waving???

I believe this hit me particularly hard last night because I am neck-deep in last minute preparations for attending a speakers and writers conference next weekend.  One where I will pitch at least two book proposals to three publishers and meet 650 women that are similarly trying to get some form of women's ministry off the ground. 

I felt like the weight of the world had dropped on my heart.  This morning my heart literally feels like it is sitting under a brick.  And instead of clear words coming through my head to type out on this keyboard, everything is a jumble. 

I fully know, in my head, that God uses people who fail.  The Bible is FULL of examples.  In fact, for tomorrow's Flashback Friday, I already have a blog post I wrote on this issue from over a year ago.  Sometimes though, even though I know that, it feels in my soul like it would be hypocrisy for someone who has made so many mistakes to be a messenger of God's truth.  Like something doesn't match.  So I hesitate.  I question what I'm doing.  And I wonder. 

I don't have a quick easy quip at the end to tie that all up in a nice neat bow.  I do know that no matter how thick the clouds grow, there is always a sun behind them.  I do know the clouds do eventually move on.  I'm praying they take the jumble in my head with them. 

Psalm 25 - Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.  Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

Psalm 142 - Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

Isaiah 61 - The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Hosea 14 - “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.  I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.  Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow."

Romans 8 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death...And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose...What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stressed Out!

I have spent recent weeks in an intermittent stressed out condition.  Stress is not uncommon for me, but it has grown steadily since having triplets, and there are days when it becomes pretty acute. 

This morning I heard a message by an area pastor about stress that convicted me about how stress can actually just reflect my lack of faith.  His premise was that some stress is good, the stress that moves you from laziness to action, but stress can turn on you when it grows beyond healthy boundaries.  Then he shared this insight - "sometimes stress is actually based in our pride."  I have to tell you, I'd never linked them before though I certainly know that I struggle from both pride and stress.  How are they linked?  Stress means you are trying to do everything on your own and shouting that you have control of your situation and circumstances.  We don't.  Even I realize that.  If we would just humble ourselves, recognize that we have LIMITS and that God does not, then much of the stress we create disappears. 

The pastor used a fascinating passage of scripture I'd never really paid much attention to in the Old Testament before.  It sits right in the middle of Exodus 13:
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”  Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”  Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain —and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

The pastor broke down what Moses was saying to his father-in-law, Jethro.  He was saying: Hey, I am stressed out!  I'm stressed out because of all this responsibility.  People are coming to me and asking me to do this (peer pressure), everyone comes to ME (I'm important), I make the decisions (I'm powerful), and I teach them God's law (I'm spiritual).  I love what the pastor said about those cumulative statements that Moses made.  He said,  "What's gonna happen when you're important, you're powerful, and you're spiritual? You're gonna freak out, that's what is going to happen." 

Truer words were never spoken.  Somehow, even in our attempts to be "spiritual" or "faithful," we get a big F when graded against God's gold standard is for us.  I am so guilty of this.  Heck, I've done it this week.  I'm headed out to a speakers and writers conference next week and am going to present some work that might kick off a women's ministry.  It is something I believe God is calling me to do, but then I take His plan into my human hands and make a stressed out mess of it.  I have lists and action items and ulcers and sleeplessness - and over His calling?  I feel pretty confident that is not what He planned. 

The good news is that Moses had Jethro.  Jethro gave him Godly counsel.  He provided Moses with some steps to take, like delegating certain responsibilities, to help him get out of this condition.  He was also quick to say, in response to Moses' stressed out panic rant, "THIS IS NOT GOOD!"  Are you listening to those wise people that are in your life saying, "What you are doing is not good"?   I have those people.  I ignore them a lot.  I'm going to start listening.  (My mom is somewhere secretly smiling.)  I'm also going to stop trying to warp God's plan with my own human interference.  I'm happy to act, under His direction, but His steps for me will not result in an inability to sleep or eat.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it will result in deeper rest that I've experienced all month. 

I Peter 5 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tingles Down My Spine

Y'all, I have had a really great Monday morning.  This follows quickly on the heels of a really great weekend.  I wrote about the fun of Saturday and Sunday Bray was home.  Not only did we all get to hang out, but he also told me I could get away for a few hours with my very best friend in the whole wide world.  I adore spending time with her, but we can never find enough time to hang out with our crazy work schedules and the trio being two. 

As we were sitting over a yummy brunch yesterday morning, we were swapping stories and I told her about our morning swim.  All five of us were in the pool as soon as breakfast wrapped yesterday.  We had a blast goofing off, and there was even family cannonballing into the deep end with all five of us jumping simultaneously.  I swam over to Bray to give him a kiss, and I ended up getting about five kisses.  I have to tell you, I got tingles down my spine.  It totally surprised me that even kisses in front of kids can still make my heart race.  Last night, when I got kissed some more, I felt like Scarlett O'Hara getting kissed by Rhett Butler.  Rachel getting kissed by Ross.  Watts getting kissed by Keith.  Allie getting by kissed Noah.  My husband is still the best kisser on the planet. 

There are two careers, two different families, three two year olds, and all other sorts of things that sometimes cause marital conflict.  And just as my friend and I discussed, marriage is work.  There are fabulous days and brutal days.  But when you can still kiss the man that you first kissed almost nine years ago and get the same shivery tingle working from your neck down your back all the way to your bottom, well that means you can get through anything. 

I realize that sounds naive and overly simplistic and maybe it is.  But I do believe that in the hard times that spark keeps you connected.  I don't know where you are today in your marriage, on the mountaintop or in a dark valley, but is there anyway you can set everything aside tonight and kiss your husband?  REALLY kiss him.  Kiss him like you did the first month you were dating.  Odds are you will get a kiss in return that will send tingles all the way to your toes and make your knees weak. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday Stories

My mother is in telling bedtime stories to the trio who wouldn't settle down tonight after such an exciting day, so I have the chance to pen a few stories of my own. 

Today was wonderful.  Funny and bustling and replete with toddler frivolity.  The day got off to such a sweet start.  The eldest and little lady woke early, before 6, and crawled in bed with me since Bray's gone.  Fortunately, they drifted back to sleep for an hour.  That's when the little man awoke, solo in his room, and came hunting for any family members that could be found (the beds are officially, and finally turned around to toddler beds after the months of drama because there is absolutely no mechanism that can fence them in despite all our efforts). 

He crawled into my bed and said, "There they are!"  With all of his chattering, at 10 til 7 on a Saturday morning, the other two promptly awoke.  As soon as the eldest opened his eyes, the baby hopped over to him in a single bound and said, "Hey S__!  I missed you!" Then he turned to the little lady and said, "I missed you too!"  Then promptly turning back to his brother he excitedly started jabbering, I couldn't write it all down fast enough, but I know he said, "You weren't in bed!  I no can see you in mommy's bed.  Are you okay?  I like you!" And then they gave each other a big embrace and kiss.  They looped the little lady in soon enough, but there is no doubt that there is a big love fest going on these days between brothers. 

When then had the chance to go to a 3rd birthday party for one of my favorite people's son.  It was awesome.  It was in a contained play area with lots to climb on and my darling friend's niece and nephew doted on my kids.  Especially the 11 year old boy who was amazing with children, and I can't imagine what his parents did to raise such a responsible little fellow.  My eldest followed him around the whole party in near idol worship.  When the little boy turned to me to say, "I'm going to take a break," and headed over to a table, my little man turned to me and said, "I'm going to take a break" and quickly followed his new friend to sit right next to him at the table.  What a sport that precious one was.  Plus there was pizza and cake and monkeys and over sized slides so the kids had a blast, and I totally felt like I could manage with the support system there. 

Finally, we got a good swim in later this afternoon and boy the kids have really turned a corner.  We've had several weeks of swim lessons.  Though our first trainer was fired, our latest one rocks and she said on Thursday she couldn't believe how well the kids were swimming at two.  They were accomplishing things on the 4-year-old-checklist!  When my in-laws came over for a cook out Wednesday, my 6 year old niece ran into the pool doing cannonballs and now all the kids try to emulate it.  Remarkably, the eldest, my most cautious, is a maniac.  He goes running across the deck and without a pause launches into the deep end.  Then he rushes around to do it again.  It is so fun to hang out with them in the pool because I can do all the silly stuff I used to do as a kid again.  I'm doing cannonballs and somersaults and feeling incredibly grateful for daily access to a pool!  Here's a shaky excerpt from one of today's many cannonballs:

There still are hard moments but today was a treat.  Especially a gift since two weeks from now I'll be in North Carolina for my conference and I hate having weekends away since I work all week.  My time with them today was such a treasure. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Flashback Fridays

For those of you just joining me, this summer I'm doing Flashback Fridays as I work on finishing my books.  This post comes from nearly a year ago.  I've been going through old posts as I build my portfolio for the writers conference I'm attending (two weeks from today!).  I stumbled on this one and it still felt so true.  I hope you enjoy The Other Side of the Mountain from August 2011:

As you might imagine, I hear a fair amount of kids music these days. We have a little c.d. player (yes, we're not high tech in my house) and a stack of kids music c.d.s covering everything from the alphabet to nursery rhymes. I've had this one annoying song stuck in my head all week. It goes something like this (I apologize in advance for my singing):

The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see.
And all that he could see, and all that he could see, was the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain........was all that he could see.

Clearly the people that write children's songs are geniuses. But after hearing this song in my head for several days, the wisdom of the lyrics began to seep in. Here's a bear that is restless. Discontented. He's looking for something new, exciting, different. So he sets out on a big adventure. He's going to go to the OTHER SIDE of the mountain. Maybe it will change his life. Things could be so much better. Then he gets there. To the other side. To see what he could see. Turns out, all that was there was the other side of the mountain. Can't you hear his little bear brain whirring, "Hmmmmmmm, this is just the other side of the SAME dad-gum mountain. What was the big appeal? Why was I in such a hurry for this? It's the same mountain."

Have you been there? Are you there today? Are you fed up with your side of the mountain? Are you ready to take off to see what you can see? Leave your job, your marriage, your church, or your friends...... Unsatisfied, unfulfilled, unsettled. Wouldn't life be better on the other side? Can't you imagine what must lay JUST on the other side? Might I offer the wise words of a children's song to you? When you arrive, it will just be the other side of the same mountain. Life has a way of working that way. I know, I've gone on these adventures. They promise more than they can deliver. So hang in there. Say a little prayer. Take a deep breath. Reconsider going over the mountain.