Friday, March 28, 2008

This Week

I haven't written all week, just haven't felt inspired. =) But just to make myself do it, I'll give a boring recap of our week. Tuesday was a fun day...Kate and I went to visit some of our girlfriends that live in Dallas. We visited and let our kids play for just a few hours, which was way too short, but it was really fun. Thanks for taking me with you, Kate! It's always refreshing to spend time with Kelli and Holly. It's also always embarrassing when your child decides to push and shove your friends' kids playing at McDonalds. Oh, and let's not forget hair-pulling. That was a new one. Jonah has kept me busy working on a few things the last week or so....remembering manners, being kind to our friends, answering adults respectfully (which falls under the manners category I guess). This is just where we are right now...having to review some things....things like NOT HITTING YOUR FRIENDS! Ugh. I don't like having to reteach that one. I recognize that the disobedience I most detest seeing in my son is usually the kind that involves public embarrassment...the situations that really aim to crush my pride. It reveals so much about my heart when I realize that. I so don't want it to be about me. Ever. But so much of the time, it becomes about that. Something a few of us were talking about on Tuesday was the necessity of prayer in parenting. It is so simple. It should have been understood from the first day of being a mom. It shouldn't be so easy to forget about. But sadly, it is. I tend to react first, then pray later. Or control whatever behavioral-problem is daunting me before I really turn to the Lord. I want to turn to Him immediately, with no answers of my own, broken, ready to hear His solution. I know He's the Parenting Expert. No one else comes close. So why is it hard to remember to pray for wisdom in the moment of disciplining or correcting or teaching my child? It's one thing to set aside concentrated time to pray for my child's heart and development on a regular basis (not that I even do that superbly!) but an entirely different thing to always have the gut reaction of prayer whenever he tries something new on me. I wish my first response were to immediately pray. I've seen some of this compulsiveness in myself this week, and I know God is wanting to address some of these things and grow me in this area. And I just keep getting tested in it. I have definitely been more tired the last couple of weeks, and I see it affecting my patience level with my precious child. And I hate that. I need some beauty rest for my heart. I just don't want these last few months with just Jonah to be marked by an increase in how easily irritated I am. Really, most of it is just lack of enthusiasm on my part. A decrease in energy and desire for proactive parenting. Yuck. So I'm really starting to pray through a lot of that and seek what the Lord wants from me right now in terms of godly parenting during this temporary stage (pregnancy) of fatigue. And I know He'll help me. I just need to deal with all the heart issues involved for myself before I really attempt to shepherd my child's heart. Some of that process isn't all that fun. So that's been a big part of my week.

Yesterday, Jonah I went to the park to play. We took lunches, and Joel met us there during his lunch break. It was such a sweet family time. Joel is able to come home for lunch often, but we rarely go on an outing during that time so this was very special. There's a big amphitheater at the park we went to, so Jonah got on stage to "perform" for us, while Joel and I sat on the front row to cheer him on. I told Jonah to tell us some jokes or funny stories, and he proceeded to string together various comments about Jonah and the Whale, all the while pointing his finger at us emphatically. He then walked off, and Joel turned to me and said, "His first sermon!" Then we just died laughing. This little guy is SO FUNNY. Sometimes when he really shouldn't be. He's gotten in trouble before for responding to our correction by saying to us, "Don't talk to me. Don't talk to me like that." Which in my book is the equivalent of telling us to shut up, basically. So that never goes over very well! Yesterday, in the car, I told Jonah to stop doing something...spitting, I think, was the offense...and he quickly said, "I'm not going to tell you, 'Don't talk to me like that.' I'm not going to say that." He said this a few times. And lest you think this comment signaled growth in his choices, he said it with a definitive attitude. It was his way of saying it but getting an "out" in saying it because he was saying he wasn't going to say it. Make sense? He was outsmarting me big-time. I had no idea what to say in response. It was funny, but it wasn't. I just let it go though. And laughed about it in my head.

Today's big excitement was finding a great deal on a daybed at a garage sale. I had hoped to find a twin-size bed to go in Parker's room to help with accompanying guests since we no longer have an official guest room. But I hadn't gotten my hopes up very high because I didn't know if I would be able to afford it. I'd been at a standstill decorating her nursery because...oh guess what...decorating a room costs money. Hmm. Anyway, I didn't have a clue what to do in the room, and a lot of it depended on if I would find an affordable bed. Well, I feel like this bed was God's special gift to me today! He reserved it just for me. =) Seriously, I never thought I would find one at the first place I looked. It's a simple thing but a huge blessing. It is going to need some touch-up work, so I'll post before-and-after pictures when we get around to painting it.

Those are some of the highlights of the week. I left out the part about a painful spot at the top of my stomach that has been hurting me all week. Actually, it's been going on for a few weeks but has gotten worse this past week and started to alarm me. Then, I read about it on the internet. Still not sure if that's a good idea or not. It can really make you panic. But then, there are also times when it's informative and forces you to be more direct about your concerns with your doctor when he may otherwise be pretty laid-back about something. So I don't know what's best. Phone communication issues with a nurse's assistant this week left me feeling frustrated in conveying my concern, so I'm waiting until my next appointment on Monday to address it with him specifically. We'll see if it's something that warrants real concern. It probably isn't. Last Sunday, I had pretty much self-diagnosed a hernia! Now, I don't think that's it. I don't think it's anything serious. But here's my question....if all of the hernia information out there says that pregnancy is one of the top leading causes for hernias, then why don't any of the pregnancy books or resources talk about hernias in pregnancy?! It confuses me. But anyway...I'm way less dramatic about it than I was a week ago. I realize I don't have a medical degree, so I'm trying to be a little more relaxed about figuring out what's causing this pain. But I'm ready for my appointment on Monday, just to see what the doctor says it could be. This little girl does move around a whole lot. I thought Jonah was active in the womb. I really did. But Parker has him beat, big-time. She does not stop rolling and flipping and leaping. Yes, I believe she leaps. =) She is a busy girl in there. Not sure what's in store for me when she's actually outside of my uterus. We could have our hands full!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone's Easter is filled with joy over the sweetness of Christ and what He offers us!

Our day has been a good one. At church this morning, Joel had to help with some things and wasn't able to sit down by me for quite a while during the service. My parents would have joined us for church (we go to different campuses of the same church), but they had ministry responsibilities there as well. So I sat alone. I had a moment where I almost felt sad about it. It felt weird to be myself on Easter. A song was sung that reminded me of my late grandparents, as my Pop used to sing it often at his little rural church he pastored. Songs can take me back so quickly to someplace in the past. I thought about how most of my Easter Sundays growing up were spent with extended family. A lot of them in those teeny rural churches Pop pastored. Sometimes we were at our own church, but lots of Easters were spent in Lufkin, where my relatives lived. I thought about how different today's experience was from many Easter church experiences in my past. And I really almost felt sad. But before I could finish that thought, I felt relief. Relief that I was at my home church. The place I love. And I wasn't without my church family. There are so many people in church on Easter who don't call that particular church home. And that's not bad. But I'm glad that today I felt at home. You see, while Easter IS a special Sunday for very special reasons, I really don't want my church experience to be any different than it is any other Sunday of the year. I realize it is. Because I'm inconsistent and lazy in my worship sometimes. But I hope that the Lord grows me to a place where I am in awe of His gracious gift of the cross and His incomparable resurrection power every Sunday. And every day of the year. There was this little girl sitting in front of me during church who had to have been younger than two. I heard her whispering to her mom, "Where is Jesus? Where did Jesus go?" as she looked around. I couldn't hear the mom's response, but I giggled and then realized how much I could learn from kids. I wish I would more often seek Him like this little girl was seeking Him! With an expectation that she was going to see Him! Reminded me of Jeremiah 29:13.

Today is also the first day in over a week that it's just been me, Joel, and Jonah at home together, and it has been so nice spending good time with my boys! This past week was crazy busy, so I haven't had time to update my blog or the physical energy to do anything beyond the necessities! I am very tired and looking forward to some rest this week. But it's been SO FUN! Oh, the trip to Kentucky was great. And although it's unlike me to spare you a detailed report, I just am too far behind to go into all that we did...lots of catching up to do from the last week, so it will have to be brief. "Brief" for me. =) The traveling went great. Really. Not bad at all being in the car all day long two out of five days. God answered some prayers for my back! And Jonah's time with his cousins was all he dreamed it would be...and more. They just played nonstop! Jonah's ears didn't work very well the whole time we were there....he was too busy playing to hear me say anything! But it was a blast seeing them all together! They're all getting so big. And I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Blake and Amy as well...what a blessing to have a brother and sister-in-law who are such good friends. But the highlight of the trip?? This little guy:

He's such a sweetie!!! I miss him so much.

Jonah holding Brady for the first time:

Proud Aunt Hannah:

Thanks, y'all, for a great visit! You were sweet and gracious to let us all stay with made sacrifices (especially with sleeping arrangements) that were much appreciated. Love you!

When we returned home, Joel's mom was here, and she brought Joel's youngest niece, McKenna, with her. It was such a good visit! Jonah loved having McKenna (who just turned eight) to play with. He has not been lacking in playmates for the last week, that's for sure! The weather has been warm and sunny since we've been back, so we've had lots of good outside time. We all went to the zoo, along with everyone else in town. I'm thinking Spring might be here to stay! I sure hope so.

We had breakfast with Nanny and McKenna at Cracker Barrel before they headed home, then we loaded up and drove to Athens for a family lunch and Easter Egg Hunt at my aunt Joy's house. Cousins and cousins' kids all came in for it, and it was good to see them. Although it never feels like long enough. It was so lovely being able to sit outside and eat lunch - Joy made it so cute and the food so yummy. I just love all of those fun people in my family! As you can see from the pictures below, it's impossible to get Jonah to look at the camera and smile at the same time when he's with his cousins. I've given up for now.

Fun with eggs:

And some of my little boy this morning (Can't believe he's so close to being THREE!!):

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Productive Day

I'm feeling so excited right now. It is almost 4:00, and I've crossed off 11 out of 15 things on my to-do list for today. We've been busy getting ready to go out of town, had lots of errands to run, packing, housecleaning, and we even squeezed in time at the park with our weekly Friday playgroup. It's been a full day. But it thrills me to no end to have one really productive day out of the last seven. Whoo-hoo!!! You can tell I'm getting things done around here when I have four blog posts in only five days. Don't get used to it.

Yesterday was fun, as I enjoyed a nice lunch with a couple of girlfriends at a "girly" place. We planned this for my friend Ame's birthday (and Kate's, but unfortunately, it didn't work out for her to join us after all, so we'll be doing something like this again when I get back in town!), and it was a refreshing outing. It's not very often that we're able to get together without kids during the week. Our girl time usually consists of desperate coffee dates late at night after kids are in bed. Those are nice too though. After our yummy lunches, Shelly, Ame, and I then spent some time walking around these cute boutiques that are in the shopping center where the restaurant is. These are not the kind of places you take kids, so again, this was more of a special least for me and Ame. Shelly is expecting her first baby (a girl!) in May as well. She still gets to do fun, cool things for now. Actually, she'll probably still do fun, cool things even after she's a mommy. I want to be her. =) But anyway, it was a good time, though we missed having Kate with us, but much fun can it be to go in stores and look at beautiful things that we either can't afford or can't fit into??!! We need to think through that one a little more next time!

Per Amanda's request, here is a belly shot. I had my mom take this before yesterday's lunch date, and the style of the shirt probably isn't the best to show you what my pregnant stomach looks like...I think it looks a little deceiving. A fitted shirt would show that in reality, it's much bigger than that. But there you have it. In all its glory. I'll be 30 weeks tomorrow.

One more semi-interesting thing I'll leave you with....When I told Ame this earlier this week, I prefaced it by saying that if you know me or my family, you already know we're pretty weird. So this shouldn't be a shocker. But still...this jewel I'm about to share may cause you to understand our weirdness to be at a whole different level than you thought. Do you want to know Jonah's absolute FAVORITE place to eat? The food court at Target. Yes, that's right. When my mother-in-law was visiting a few weeks ago, he BEGGED to eat there. We tried to distract him with Chick-fil-A and the reminder that he could play at Chick-fil-A, but he was adamant that Target was where he wanted to go. While I have grown quite accustomed to easily answering "no" to that common request, it was a special time, because Nanny was there and all, so I relented and we all ate at Target. OH MY WORD, their food is soooooo good!!! Did you know that?! I had no idea. They have this amazing California Chicken Salad that I have a crush on now. You can get a kids meal for 1.99, which makes Jonah happy. Candy ate the hot dogs and said they were really good. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by my eating-out-at-Target experience. So much so that I talked a lot about it for the few days after that. However, I was still not ok with just going in and eating there if I wasn't actually shopping at the store already. But last Sunday when Joel, Jonah, and I were out and over on that side of town and needing somewhere to grab dinner, I joked to Joel that we should go to Target, and he immediately asked Jonah if that's where he wanted to go. JOEL!!! I was kidding!!! But Jonah enthusiastically shouted, "Yeah, let's do that!" and was so excited that I couldn't tell him no. Actually, Joel had already decided we were going, whether I liked it or not. He wanted to see if it was really as good as we had said. So, in we went. I was slightly embarrassed at the thought of explaining ourselves to people we know that we might see at Target. That we had actually gone to Target specifically to eat at the food court. But then, one bite of the California Chicken Salad....and I remembered. Amazing. I didn't care at all who saw us. And I don't care anymore who knows. I'll share it with the world. I have no shame. It was one of the best family dining experiences we have ever had. That's just the truth. I can't wait to go back and try the yogurt parfait. It looks downright beautiful. If you ever want to meet for lunch at Target, I'm your girl! Seriously. You should try it, if you haven't. Don't let anyone tell you it's only for exasperated mommies who get so caught up in their shopping endeavors that they realize they forgot to feed their kids and it's two hours past lunchtime. (I know none of you have ever had that happen in a Target! Ahem...Yeah, me neither.) You don't even need to go shopping at Target. (Although, I don't know if there's a ever a time that I don't need to shop at Target. ) You can go anytime. Just go. I'm paving the way for this to be normal. At least, that's my goal.

Oh my goodness....I can't wait to hold that sweet Brady tomorrow night, assuming he'll still be up when we get there. I hear he's a cuddly one. That's new for babies in our family. His Aunt Hannah can't wait to have his little body curled up against her with his head resting on her shoulder. Especially since this is surely my last niece or nephew, I really think that this time around, I am probably going to be one of those family members who spoils the baby and doesn't ever put him down and holds him every possible second of the day, every second, of course, that he can be wrestled from his grandmother's arms. The mommy in me is mad at me for that. But oh, the aunt in me wants nothing to do with putting him down! How can I put him down when I can hold him?!! I'm just going to apologize in advance, Amy! No...I will try to be good. But it will be hard! I need this baby boy and the rest of his family to live in Texas. I figure, since they are not living here and I don't get to see them very often, I will be somewhat justified in my annoying spoiling techniques. Right?! I mean, Blake and Amy, if you don't like it, you can always move here!!!!! That would get me to stop.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Welcome Back, Spring! You Were Surely Missed...

Wow. We've spent most of the day outdoors, enjoying warm sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. After a playdate at the park this morning with friends, Jonah and I picnicked in the backyard for lunch and played out there until his naptime. Then I remained outside for an hour of his nap and just came indoors. As fun as the sun is, I couldn't wait any longer to blog about this.

Remember that sifting of desires that God was starting in my heart a few weeks ago, talked about here and here? It all had to do with Him pressing on my heart the need to engage more in relationships with nonbelievers and to be more intentional in the area of sharing Him with people who don't know Him. I loved all the input given by everyone. It's given me much to process and pray towards over the last few weeks. Something I just have kept sensing though is the need to be willing to WAIT on God's timing for the things He wants to do in my life and opportunities He wants to bring my way. I keep realizing how, YES, God is wanting me to develop that area of my life and to bring me closer to His heart for people coming to know Him. He definitely has something in mind for me there. I just know His conviction has come for a reason. And I so want all of this to just happen right now. And the heart change and preparation is what He is doing now. But the actual relationship changes have not occurred yet really. There are specific ideas on my heart, many were shared by you, on how to be proactive in building these relationships and getting myself "out there" in places where I'd have more connections with people who don't share my faith. And as of now, every one of them has a "not now" answer, having to do with the timing of our family growing, our budget, my children's ages, other things God has asked me to do and not stop doing yet, etc. Some of them are maybe only a couple of months away from being able to start. But still, they aren't things I am being asked to add to my plate right now. And while it is bothersome to keep praying about it and thinking about it and pursuing it and still not really have the specific answers I would like to have concerning what nonbelievers He wants to cross my path with, I have to remember that just because He shows me something He wants for my life doesn't mean that He intends on making it a reality right that second. Maybe He's orchestrating things and circumstances to prepare the person on the other end of the relationship for our paths to cross. He could have any reason, of course, and it would be right. This all sounds so simplistic, I know. But I have a hard time getting this one. I tend to resent the vision God gives sometimes because I so do not enjoy the waiting time between when He gives a glimpse of His vision and when He accomplishes it fully. I sometimes find myself wishing He'd never shown me something in the first place. Why is it so easy for me to live like His timing isn't perfectly trustworthy? So, I've been thinking the last few days about spending some Bible study time looking at this whole issue of waiting. (This might be some of the heart preparation He has in mind for me during this waiting period.) I've studied it before. But I've recently discovered that I often study different topics within in the context of ME. And I think I've done that with waiting. I've sought to learn more about it and grow, but, in even doing that, my seeking has more to do with waiting for what I want. So I want to look at it again...from the vantage point of what God has for me and what I'm supposed to do while waiting for it. I have no idea where I'll start. I'll take suggestions! And I'll let you know how that goes. I've been planning to blog on that for a few days now but hadn't done it yet. can imagine my excitement when today, this happened:

Jonah and I were playing outside, and within a few minutes, our next-door neighbor walked out into her backyard. She and her husband are in their 70s and we used to see them outside periodically last spring and summer, but we've noticed they have not been outdoors as much in a long while. When we first moved in and met them, she shared how her husband had recently had a brain hemorrhage that had forced him to retire and while still physically strong, his speech had been affected in a big way. And I remember her telling me that he was struggling with feeling depressed and things like that. Well, we know a little about this kind of thing. And we've felt compassion for their situation, but it's seemed that they've become a little more "closed off" since then and we've had very few chances to even talk to them. They aren't outside very much anymore, and there are only so many times you can take brownies to people's door! If people don't want to talk or invite you in, they don't. So today was the first time I've seen her outside since probably last fall. So I immediately wave to her from my chair and make some gleeful exclamation about the spring weather. And she walks towards the fence. YAY! So I went to the fence too. She then tells me that she wanted us to know what was going on with them. Her husband had fallen (in the street!) in January, and his brain had begun to bleed again. He had surgery to relieve it, then the other side of his brain began to bleed. So he had a second surgery, and that one took place the day before yesterday. Sometime within the last couple of weeks, she fell and broke her wrist. Both of their physical needs have grown a whole lot over the last two months. Anyway, they have no idea when he'll be able to come home from the hospital. It sounded like a bad day today... she mentioned something about him acting a little "crazy." Having procedures done in the brain can bring some strange behaviors in the patient, I know. And it can be really hard for family members to watch. I was just so amazed at how suddenly God had brought this opportunity to me! I hate that this suffering is happening in their lives, but WOW...we are in a perfect position to show them love and be the hands and feet of Christ to them! Joel can help with yard work because she said she'll have to hire someone to do all that. I can deliver food and check in on them regularly. What an amazing position to be in. Just to tell her today that we'd keep them in our prayers. I have no idea what she might understand that to mean, because she really didn't respond to it. But to use that language and then have the opportunity to follow up in acting out our faith in how we care for them is truly a privilege. One that I knew was coming. But that I also didn't. I knew God had something in mind and finally had started to set my heart on waiting for it when, out of nowhere except His perfect will, He places this opportunity in my lap. There may be waiting involved, but He sure can do some things pretty suddenly!!! And I just cry typing this because she mentioned that her husband's fall and bleed occurred on January 11th. That's the exact date that Joel's dad had his brain hemorrhage four years ago. Not a coincidence. Her mention of the date was just a little reminder to me straight from God's sweet heart that HE has put us where we are to reach out to them. And that He has put US where we are to reach out to them. A reminder of how He connects the difficult experiences in our past with the present and future opportunities for impacting others' lives. And a glimpse of how He longs to use where we've been to reach out to others in their time of need. It is an incredible thing to be freshly reminded of that.

One other thing about the experience that touched my heart had to do with Jonah. I have mentioned how he's been praying for our friend with cancer. She received an encouraging doctor's report yesterday (though still needing much prayer!), and sensing a great opportunity for a lesson in prayer, we talked to Jonah about God hearing his prayers and answering.
So when my neighbor left, I told Jonah what she and I had been talking Mr. Marsh was sick in the hospital and we needed to start praying for him like we've been praying for Mrs. Thomas. He immediately stopped what he was doing and prayed, "Dear God, thank you help Mr. Marsh feel better. Amen." And it just was an amazing moment for me. Here's why: It seems that we often think (or at least I do) that to live out this call to engage in relationship with people in such a way that we can show them Christ, we will sacrifice the opportunities to invest in our children's knowledge of Christ. It's like we think we have to choose one or the least in this stage of motherhood. And that moment with Jonah just confirmed to me that I don't have to choose between one or the other! That God will lead me into these opportunities as I seek them (whenever He wants, of course) and still give me precious moments to teach my child about God and ultimately help nurture him into an understanding of his need for Christ as well. I love that!!! I didn't think I had to choose....but sometimes, people act like you do. And I had started to believe them. Now I remember the truth...and I see the joy that comes from involving my children in the mission with me.

God had so much in mind for this day of sunshine. And here I was thinking He sent it so that I could get tan. I'm slightly embarrassed to tell you that's really what I thought. Oh, silly me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Spontaneous Date

Jonah played very well by himself for the longest time this morning. I was busy getting stuff done around the house and was thankful that he was "letting" me, meaning not complaining about it. I had told him once when he asked me to read him a book that I couldn't right then. And he never asked again. Part of me was grateful and excited for his display of independence, but another part was a little heartbroken when I realized just how long he had sat there "reading" books to himself. He was so patiently waiting for me to be done. And it just hit me that he is easy like that most of the much so that I could easily overlook opportunities to just spend intentional quality time together. We're always together. But I'm talking about not just being together and interacting while I'm getting something done. But doing things just for him and being completely focused on it. So I stopped what I was doing and read a couple of books to him...then we loaded up into the car and headed on a "surprise date." His excitement was so precious. He kept asking for hints as to where we were going, and he's said so many times since we've been back that that was a fun date! We spent some time at the kids' Wildlife Museum here, and it really was fun. I kept telling him how much I enjoy his company. I think I just needed to take a break from other duties and instead spend time helping him to know that I enjoy him. I wish I did that more often. I think I'm really bad at it because like I said, Jonah is pretty low-maintenance at home MOST days, in terms of not always requiring my attention every second. Because of that, I have to be very careful not to just waste our days. I know the nudge today had to have been from the Holy Spirit, and I'm hoping He sends more reminders as to how important that is to do. I need them! I can get so preoccupied with what needs to be done (not that I'm even getting that much done right now...I'm slow!) that I miss so much of him. And that makes me sad to think about. I realize that we rarely go anywhere that's just kid-oriented and for him if we're not meeting friends or going to our playgroup. And let's be honest...playdates are so much more for meeting Mommy's social needs than anything for Jonah! Although my friend Maureen says that if mommies are getting the emotional boost and social rejuvenation we need from spending time with our friends, then ultimately our kids benefit from it too! But was a good reminder today to make sure we do some of those things when it's just him and me. It's just another way to communicate love to him, and I don't want to miss out on that...and I do for such silly reasons sometimes.

We do have a lot to get done this week as we're getting ready to go visit my brother's family at the end of this week. We have tons of stuff to pack, and we're going to be really limited in space, so packing for this trip might require more than my brain can handle right now. I don't know where I'm going to put anything! I'm also trying to stay on top of the housework this week as I will again be getting back from a trip with house guests having already arrived. So I have lots to get done this week! Joel says I'm nesting. I don't know really. "Nesting" seems to imply a certain level of productivity and efficiency in tasks around the house. I'm majorly lacking in that area. It's been a struggle lately to get things done in a timely manner. But I guess my desire to be at home and work here has had a recent surge. The nursery is starting to look somewhat like a nursery, but it is nowhere close to actually being baby-ready. I can't work on it when the rest of my house is disorganized, but I finally saw some progress in the time spent last week cleaning and organizing. I just have to maintain it for a week, and hope that the craziness of next week doesn't send me back to square one! Then, maybe I'll be able to come back and actually decorate Parker's room.

On Sunday, we went to visit our friends Stephen and Stephanie who just had their first baby....a little girl named Mayleigh. She's beautiful, and it was so fun watching Jonah around her. Y'all, he was so sweet to her! He remembered what we had told him beforehand about being respectful and not touching her skin without permission. He just sat by her, but once Stephen told him he could touch her hand, Jonah just sat beside her on the couch holding her hand for the longest time! It was precious. Made me so excited! And I think it was helpful for Jonah to be around a three-day old baby and realize that they're not born capable of getting into their big brother's collection of Hot Wheels! He's been most concerned about that. So I was relieved to see him understand that newborn babies don't really do anything. Should buy us some time in preparing for the day when Parker really will start messing with his stuff.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What I'm Reading....

I'm going to try to be more consistent in writing about what I'm reading. I have this terrible habit of starting five thousand books at once, so it take forever to actually finish one. I've recently finished one that I will soon write about, and within the next couple of weeks, I should be finishing up some more. I'm going to try to hold off on starting any more for a little while. Although the waiting list is long. Too many of you have been giving good book recommendations! But here are some thoughts on a book I've recently begun to read....( I know, I said I wouldn't start anymore until my currently-reading list gets shorter. This is the last one. I hope.)

Another book I bought at the Focus on the Family bookstore while in Colorado was Grace Gone Wild by Robert Jeffress. This man's brother-in-law was my pastor growing up and our friends, so I've always noticed his books in the bookstore. This one has caught my eye for a long time. But about five hundred books catch my eye every time I enter a bookstore, so I have to exercise much self-control anytime I'm in one. So you can imagine my glee when I saw this particular book on the 75% off clearance table.

Church environments I've been a part of in the past have ranged across a wide spectrum from grace-ignorance to grace-abuse. I've seen many people completely overlook the notion of grace, and in more recent years, I've been exposed to some examples of grace being abused. Grace being used as an excuse for spiritual laziness. I've seen the terms "grace" and "legalism" misused in such disturbing ways that many Christians are starting to believe that because of grace, it doesn't matter how we live and the choices we make. And as I've seen that more, God has really been stirring something in me. I don't know what it is exactly, but have a growing desire to know how to respond to that. How to be a good grace-receiver myself. And how to be an example to the Christians around me of what it means to know grace and walk in it. And what it doesn't mean. So this is a journey I'm just beginning and certainly am nowhere close to "having it down" yet.

I remember reading a blog several months back that brought me to tears. The author wrote transparently about her struggle to resume church attendance after a devastating loss in her life. Although she expressed heartfelt love for the Lord and her experience of Him was very evident through her writings, she did not know if she would return to church. She was unsure of how essential it was, and it was her feeling that God's grace (unearned by man) made it an unnecessary activity, i.e. God saved her from having to earn His approval, so why would she need to prove anything by going to church? I felt compassion for her. I really did. I understood how her grief would lead her to not feel like doing something like that. I certainly can't say that I know for sure how I would respond in a similar situation. I think I know what is right, but do I always respond to circumstances the right way? Absolutely not! I am incapable of doing so, without supernatural power anyway! So I certainly sympathized with her feelings and understood that such feelings are probably a natural part of the grieving process. Hear my heart on that. I want Jesus to fill me with compassion for people in situations like that. I know I need grace and mercy often.

The part that made me really sad though was reading the 60 or so comments by Christians who literally praised her for her decision to not do something she didn't feel like doing. They didn't acknowledge truth about God's heart for our involvement in the local church. Please hear me on this - I certainly would not have told her what to do or "preach" at her that she was doing the wrong thing. I think it would have been just as disappointing if the comments had been void of compassion and took on a tone of instruction at a time and in a context that wasn't appropriate. I know God is patient with me as I take a long time to agree with Him sometimes, and I am overwhelmed by His sweetness in that. It is so undeserved. I don't know exactly what would have been the right thing to say in that situation. But I think there are definitely some wrong things to say in that situation. I think it would not be right to tell her she was doing the right thing if it goes against the teaching of Scripture and the character of God. The commenters saw her authenticity as noble while ignoring the fact that it was based on untruth. I believe it is possible to show grace and empathize and encourage someone in that situation while refusing to call sin something that it isn't. And I was struck with grief as I observed these comments and their consistency in expressing the notion that grace allows us to pick and choose which commands of God we want to keep. Almost as if we get to decide right and wrong. It was like they really believed that the freedom that comes from grace frees us to try to "be God" and live however we want. That couldn't be further from the truth. And again, I'm not really good at knowing how to approach situations or conversations like that. I struggle with it and have no expertise on that whatsoever. I just know that I was bothered by this way of thinking that says grace means nothing is asked of us. I see in the Bible that although our salvation is a free gift of grace, Christ asks us to be willing to give up everything to follow Him. It's not an exhange. We don't obey to fulfill the requirements of our salvation. But obedience is still an essential element of the Christian faith! And I certainly don't know the hearts of those who commented on that particular subject and it could be that that's never what they intended to express, but still, that's what they communicated. And I think their supposed perspective represents what a lot of people within the church really think concerning grace and what it frees us to do and be. Grace didn't free us from having to obey; it freed us up to do and be what God designed: vessels of His holiness that exemplify who He is so that He will receive more glory. Anyway, that was just one example of how I've seen that "grace-abuse" lately....I didn't mean for it to take this long to tell.

My favorite resource on this subject is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic The Cost of Discipleship, where the first chapter or two deals with the topic of "cheap grace" versus "costly grace" and what Scripture really says about how God's generous supply of grace should be our motivation to obey Him and not a reason to disobey when we want. Well, this Grace Gone Wild book speaks to that issue as well, and it is definitely easy to read, and so far there are so many good illustrations that have helped me to understand what he is saying. I'm not very far into it though. I'll let you know more about it as I read more. In the meantime, I'll give you a little snippet:

"Although we were originally created in His likeness, sin shattered His image within us. We can try to mend that image through good works and religious ritual, but we are broken beyond repair. However, in a burst of undeserved generosity, God offers to give us a brand-new nature that He purchased for us at the expense of His own Son, Jesus Christ. Why does He offer to do such a thing for us?...One word: grace. God's unwarranted burst of generosity."

I love Jeffress' wording there: "unwarranted burst of generosity." Sweet words. While I'm learning to recognize some of these examples around me of grace-abuse, I am convicted that I corrupt grace all the time in my own life. Maybe it seems like I do it in smaller ways. But they're not smaller. I do the exact same thing as these others. Every day, in fact. These words remind me of the purpose of the saving grace God has given me: to give me a brand-new nature. But do I cherish that grace enough that I actually choose to live consistently according to that brand-new nature of holiness?? Every time I let sin hang out in my heart instead of kicking it out through His power, I am clearly saying that the price paid on the cross wasn't worth it to me. Not that day or with that particular sin. I don't think there's any worse grace-abuse than that. And I do it every day.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What Happened to Spring?

Last week was warm and sunny here, and this week, cold and rainy. Today...we woke up to SNOW! It was so beautiful falling. We bundled Jonah up and went out to play in it. It was his first time ever to actually be out in the snow as it was falling. He loved it! He just wanted to run in it, of course, back and forth across our backyard, over and over. Such fun. Unfortunately, the camera was on the wrong setting, so these pictures are blurry and didn't turn out very well. You can't even see the snow falling and know how big the flakes were! (Not that many of you would be impressed. But this Texas girl is!) But you can tell this little guy was having a good time....

My azaleas were very sad this morning.

Other memorable Jonah-moments from the last few weeks:

  • A couple Sundays ago, I was almost finished getting ready for church when Jonah came in my room and gave me a long stare. "What is it?" I asked him. It sounded so sweet as he replied, "You look nice and clean." I like to think it was his version of telling me I looked pretty (and I'll take it!) rather than referring with surprise to the fact that I had showered.
  • The first time Joel and I called him from Colorado, we told him we were about to go up in the mountains, not having any idea if he even had a clue what a mountain way. But he showed his concerned heart when he quickly warned, "Don't fall off!" Sweet thing.
  • When we returned, I laid on the floor of Jonah's room while he played with his little cars. My body became what every woman dreams of...(that was definitely sarcasm)...the "hills" and "curves" that the cars must drive on. He insisted on me laying still so the Hot Wheels could go up and down and all around the hills. Nice. He then looked at my beginning-to-protrude belly button and poked at it and asked if that was the baby sticking up out of my belly button. I thought I had convinced him that it was, in fact, NOT a baby coming out of my belly button, but a few days later, I overheard him telling my mother-in-law that you could see Parker's toe coming out of my belly button. I guess he just doesn't believe me. So, if you're wondering what my stomach looks like, evidently, like a human TOE is extended from it.
  • Last weekend, while Joel's mom was giving him a bath, she noticed a dry spot near his bottom that had gotten raw enough, I guess, to make a little cut. So she tended to it with some Vaseline. The next morning, I asked him if his bottom was feeling better. He said, "It's doesn't need any more gasoline."
  • He's been praying for our friend with cancer. He'll say, "Dear God, thank you help Mrs. Thomas feel better." It comes out just like that every time. But it's a sweet reminder to me to be thankful to God, even as I present my requests to Him. (Phil. 4:6)
  • Yesterday morning, out of nowhere he told me, "I am not a princess. I am just a boy." Glad to hear it, son.
  • And Wednesday, he had been occupied with something while I was finishing up preparing for Bible study that night with the community group girls. I was looking up the meaning of a word on the computer, and he was ready for us to do our next activity that I told him we would do together. So I was typing on the computer as I slowly said to him, "I'm almost more word to look up..." and without thinking about it, I just started explaining what I was doing, "I'm trying to find out what this word means so that I can know better what God is trying to say to me through the Bible." He said, "God says something to me." As I closed it down, I said, "Great. What does God say to you?" He answered, "That God is with me." I could have cried all afternoon over that one. I can't believe the mercy of God sometimes that He drills into the hearts of our children what we ourselves fail to teach and remind. I know Jonah was referring to the Joshua 1:9 verse that has been taught to him in Sunday school (although I have done such a halfhearted job of reviewing that and building on it) and it just motivates me to be more intentional about speaking Truth into his life and reminds me that he really is hearing and soaking up more than I think. I must make better use of the time we have now to do that!!! Do any of you have suggestions for how to be more intentional in those things? Any certain activities you do? I'm asking because as much as I want it to just be a natural flow in our home where we are constantly weaving truth into every experience we have, I do think I need to set aside times to do this in a more structured manner. I think it would help me.
It amazes me to watch Jonah's personality develop. As much as I like talking and thinking about temperaments and love languages, I wouldn't have a clue how to label his personality in any way! I know it's way too early to detect some of those things anyway. But I like seeing signs and glimpses of what he may become one day. And it's just so fascinating right now because I see such a unique blend of traits in him. At times, he can be so intensely serious....even pretty insightful about life....and then so very silly and random the next moment. Daily experiences with him range from conversations about the most serious of situations where he shows deep concern and compassion for others to conversations about the silliest and lightest things of all where his sense of humor and desire to entertain really shine through. He is curious about everything and is constantly asking questions. He takes pride in learning new things. He loves people, but he demonstrates some real "beaver"-like qualities too as he plays....his favorite things to do with his toys are still to sort them. We sort his cars by color, by type, and in all different ways possible. And we do it over and over, every day. He loves routine. But in a number of ways, he's so flexible and adaptable too. He reminds me almost daily that he "is big now and not a baby anymore." He has never been an extremely physically-affectionate child, yet lately, he enjoys cuddling and kissing and hugging more. I can't believe that him he's actually wanting to be held now that my back feels like it is going to break every time I lift him! But I'm loving it. I celebrate these things that I see as strengths and natural gifts in him, but I also pray for wisdom and insight into his weaknesses and struggles too. I think neglecting the reality of those could prevent me from knowing how to talk through with him what need He has of Christ. And I need to be more on top of addressing with him those heart issues such as selfishness and pride that seem to drive every kind of human sin. Trying to remember some of that Shepherding a Child's Heart stuff! It is such an amazing journey. Who knew that parenthood could bring so many lessons and opportunities to grow (I'm talking about us...growing ourselves, the parents)?! I don't know why it surprises me....marriage was the same way! But oh, how interesting that God designed for some of us to learn this way....through the very challenges of parenting....and how wonderful that in the midst of it, we are given this incredible gift of the enjoyment of our children as well. Just so you know...I'm REALLY enjoying this kid right now.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Random Happenings

This is just a catch-up post of random things from the past few days. Don't expect anything exciting or insightful. I just need to write something to get back in the routine of blogging.

The rest of our Colorado trip was wonderful. I felt so rejuvenated. We returned home Thursday evening, and a couple hours later, Joel's mom arrived for a visit. It was great having her here for a few days....she and Jonah and I went to Canton on Friday and shopped our little hearts out. We intended on staying just a couple of hours, but after those two hours, decided we needed at least three more before heading home. It was great shopping fun. Even with pregnancy tiredness and backaches. SO worth it! Parker's hair bow collection began that today. She now owns bows that will require the purchase of coordinating outfits. Oh my.

Today I've been working on some organizational projects that have been calling my name for quite some time. Before I can do anything to Parker's room, I have to deal with all of Jonah's stuff....clothes, room decor, etc. It's all been pulled out, but it needs to be sorted into piles for a garage sale, the upcoming children's consignment sale, Goodwill, and clothes to take to my new nephew Brady when we go to visit them in less than two weeks. Lots of baby clothes have been washed today. The fragrance of Dreft has filled my home today, and there have been several times of intense emotion as the smell of Dreft-cleaned baby clothes has taken me back to those sweet first months of Jonah's life. I already grieve for how fast Parker's babyhood will pass by. I hold up to my face those precious outfits Jonah wore and remember what it was like to just be getting to know him, and the tears come quickly. I love who he is right now, and this stage is more fun than I would have ever expected. But I also miss who he was then. I hate that it gets so hard to remember the details of that time. I've got to make sure I don't stop and linger on memory lane every time I pick up an item of his, or I'll never make any progress on these piles that cover the floor in both the nursery and dining room. It's a mess in this house! Sometimes, it just has to get a lot worse before it can get better. So I'll be working on/in that mess for a few days, I'm sure. Just hoping I can get it all done this week. Until then, I can't even think about what I need to do to get the room actually ready for Parker.

In other baby news, I had my glucose test this morning. It's been a much anticipated day for me, as I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy with Jonah and was ready to know if that was the case this time. My doctor had pretty much prepared me to expect that I would have it again this time (his reasons mainly having to do with certain common symptoms associated with its reoccurence). So, all along I've petty much expected that. My genetics play a big role here. And while I have not put myself on the official gestational diabetes diet that I was on during my last trimester carrying Jonah, I have made some adjustments in my diet that would hopefully make the diabetic diet less shocking for me. I've already started doing some things differently with my eating. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I thought, "hey, maybe I should pray that I don't have it this time." Novel idea, huh? I don't know why I hadn't even asked God for that yet, but I hadn't. So I started to ask Him to allow me to miss out on the diabetes fun this time. And for the last couple of weeks, I've had a little bit of hope that I wasn't necessarily a lost cause....that maybe the doctor would be wrong and my tests would come back negative. I'm ready to know how God is going to answer this one. My doctor told me that they should have the results by late this afternoon and would call me if I needed to come back for the additional glucose screening. I could assume that if I hadn't heard anything today or by tomorrow morning at the latest, no news would be good news. Well, I never heard anything today, so we'll see what tomorrow brings. I feel so much better prepared for the condition this time around and I don't think it would be the end of the world or anything. But it sure would be a nice thing to not have to think about it. One great thing that came of my doctor's visit today was that Joel was given "doctor's orders" to give me massages to help with my back pain. Joel has already been doing that pretty well, but now I do not at all feel bad about asking for it! (I only did a little before, anyway.)

That's pretty much all that's been going on the last few days. One other thing has been weighing heavily on my heart. Just found out a family friend has been diagnosed with cancer, and there's just this sick feeling it brings to my stomach. My heart hurts for the family, the children involved. Though there's a prognosis that isn't completely void of hope (although none ever are, with the hand of God involved), I know this will be a hard journey for everyone involved. Of the people I have loved dearly that have died, almost all of them had to endure cancer as their way of exiting this world. I know it's rare these days for any of us not to be touched by it closely. And for those of us who have walked the path of watching a loved one suffer as they fought cancer, new discoveries of cancer just make you sick. Literally, physically ill. You're just a little more aware of the pain that the family will face and while you don't walk in their exact shoes, you have a glimpse of the difficulty of the journey that lies ahead for them. Just a glimpse is heartbreaking. Even when you also know God's goodness and mercy. And when you also glimpse the glorious things He can accomplish in the midst of such suffering. It's still hard. The woman being asked to walk this road is a beautiful woman. A godly woman. She is one of my mom's closest friends. It affects my family. It will be a very personal journey for all of us. There are so many things I hope for, when I think of this woman and her family. Hopes for all kinds of healing. And I'm thankful that God hears the cries for that healing as many are lifting them up.