Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Hiatus

I love Halloween!

I think trick or treating is by far one of the coolest things we do with our kids. In the passed, I have written about how I love that complete strangers open up their doors and hand out candy to little passer-byers. What an amazing opportunity to engage your entire neighborhood! Those neighbors that seem so stand off-ish all year long, fling their doors open at the sound of the door bell and offer unknown kids a treat.  I've been saying it for years, kids are so good at tearing down barriers in our lives.

We had a great little neighborhood that we lived in last year, and we saw hundreds upon hundreds of trick-or-treaters. Our kids ran the entire neighborhood with their cousins, and I was told multiple times between houses, "this is my favorite holiday EVER!"

Last year, I started planning in my head how I was going to transform our entire driveway into a carnival like atmosphere for this year. Carmel apples, hot chocolate, games, music, bonfire, etc..etc.. We were going to pull out lawn chairs and chill. Then we moved.

I'm not sure what has transpired under our little double wide roof, but no one even cares about Halloween this year.*insert heart break* After ten years of costume drama, no one has even mentioned  the word costume. Not one child has mentioned going trick or treating, and no one has even carved a pumpkin (except Mark).

Halloween fail.

Maybe my kids are getting too big. Maybe candy is no longer drooled after the way it was before. Maybe they, like their mother, miss Halloween in Kansas and are kind of sad we are missing it. Maybe, just maybe, we are taking a Halloween hiatus and we plan on coming back bigger and better than ever next year! Carnival theme, in all of it's glory, recreated in our new driveway in FC! BOOM! Watch out.

In the meantime, in honor of Halloween, I'll eat a brownie for breakfast (compliments of Miss Tekoa)!

Happy Halloween 'ing'! And check back next year for the revival. Revival of Halloween!!!


My "once upon a time" trick or treaters :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Pallet Awaits You

It seems like right around the four year old-five year old stage, our kiddos have struggled intensely with nightmares. Dobson explains in one of his many books, the brain is rapidly growing at this stage in a little person's life therefore, causing increased nightmares. Anderson has been having a lot of sleep overs in our room. Mark and I do not share our bed. We are just that selfish. We were hardly willing to share our one bed with each other :)! We are happy to share our floor space with whomever. Anderson's presence has become such an expected event at night, instead of being awakened and having to actually get up, (lame)  I just set up a little pallet for him next to my side of the bed before he even arrives. Now he doesn't even wake us up, he just comes in (sometimes with every blanket, stuffed animal and any other article off of his bed) and plops down on the pallet for some rest.

One of my all time favorite Old Testament passages is 1 Kings 19; Elijah has recently been the conduit in which God Almighty has put to shame the priests of Baal. Soon after, Elijah finds himself in a panic and fearfully running from Jezebel (never a bad idea to run from the Jezebels in your life, men! :) Elijah is exhausted, he sits under a juniper tree and begs the Lord to put him out of his misery, "It is enough, take my life!" I love what God does here, it is the perfect picture of a Father dealing with an irrational, exhausted, sleep deprived, child. He lays this grown man down for a nap, and sends an angel to stand guard over Elijah while he sleeps. The angel wakes him, feeds him, offers him sweet drink, and then puts him back down for a nap. God goes before his precious son and lays out before him a pallet. He gives Elijah rest for his body, soul, and mind.

Rest. Often a misnomer in the Christian life. Somehow we have elevated the idea that busy Christians, doing Christian busyness, is God's business.  For a season, we attended church Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon for choir practice, Sunday night, Wednesday night, every other Tuesday night for a committee meeting, and I attended a weekly Tuesday morning bible study. For real. We were busy. It was exhausting. We wanted to seek out our own juniper tree and be put out of our misery.

God, in His great mercy, removed us from that busyness, and set us down in a church where we could only absorb the service and fellowship of others for an entire year. Talk about a restful time in our lives. We went to church with no responsibility, only to just be. Of course, for Mark and I, we get restless when we go long periods of time without exercising our gifts. So when our year of reprieve ended, we were thrilled to jump in and serve however we could. At the time, we sat under a session that fought against "busyness". We so appreciated their wisdom! We went to church on Sunday mornings. That's it. It was blissful! :)

I believe in the power of naps. I believe in the power of rest. Real rest. Rest for the body, soul, and mind. Rest is a huge missing ingredient in each of our lives. It's why I love this passage from Psalm 23, "He makes me life down in green pastures!"  I love the authority in that statement. "He MAKES ME!" At some point in all of our lives, God sits us on our butts and says, "REST!" Sometimes, via sickness, job loss, family crisis, or injury. He knows what is good for us, and since we are a stubborn people He goes before us and rolls out a pallet and commands that we LIE DOWN! Often times we have to be so desperate and exhausted that we collapse under our own individual juniper trees. He awaits you there. He will meet you under your juniper tree and satisfy every longing you have. He will give you rest, food for your soul, and living water that will wash over the calloused and broken places, and He alone will restore you.

He is so good.
Always good.

Now go find a pallet, or maybe, offer someone else in your life a pallet!!

Happy napping!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miss Billy Lovely

Post 501, the post after 500.

It's been a really crappy week. I am still struggling with feeling very unsettled in our new life. After having to join five new communities over the years, I know that submerging a family into a new community takes countless hours and painful ticks of the watch. This phase of the transition is always the hardest for me. It even happened when we moved "home" to Kansas. You feel like you go on a million "first dates" as a family. First dates to church, first dates to dinner parties, first dates to play dates, first dates in so many different social arenas. First dates are exhausting. Inevitably, there is all kinds of false advertising on a first date, and you sense that every statement has to be followed up with an explanation so you don't offend anyone and burn the potential bridge of friendship. EXHAUSTING!

Thankfully, just like in Kansas, we came back to MS to lots of developed friendships where there is no pretense, no explanation needed, just a whole lot of making out. *Laugh! It's a joke, it worked with my metaphor*

I've also been reading this book that is rocking my very core. It's called "Extravagant Grace" by Barbara Duguid. If you're on FB I've blown up my feed with quotes.

Most us prefer to hide our sin and weakness instead of revealing ourselves and experiencing shame and humiliation. As a result, our churches have become places where we perform well for others and speak far more about our victories than our struggles. In consequence, many Christians wrestle with the agony of sinful failure in isolation and desperation. The silent message (that churches are spreading) is deafening: Christians are people who quickly grow and change, and if you are weak and struggling you must not be a believer, or perhaps worse, you are a particularly bad Christian in whom God is very, very disappointed. ~Maybe it's time to change the message...~ Extravagant Grace YES! YES! YES!

Let's be honest: if the chief work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make Christians more sin-free, then he isn't doing a very good job. God could have saved us and made us instantly perfect. Instead, He chose to save us and leave indwelling sin in our hearts and bodies. Think of what this means. God thinks that you will actually come to know and love Him better as a desperate and weak sinner in continual need of grace than you would as a triumphant Christian warrior who wins each and every battle against sin. That is shocking news, isn't it?

It is messing up my head. Thanks Chris, for buying this book for me :) It has caused a shift in the ingrained teaching I have been exposed too my whole life. Unfortunately, I cannot resolve it in my heart yet.  For my husband, it has meant dealing with an emotionally spastic wife (more than normal I would say, Zach). As of two days ago, I was swearing off all Christians and all organized religion. Yep, it was a reasonable day I would say :)  Maybe y'all should say a prayer for him or send large amounts of wine. I told him when he married me he knew I was passionate, he said there was ample false advertising.

When you let the message of grace, the pure, undefiled message of grace, penetrate your heart, you cannot be stagnant in responding. When you realize that at the end of the day it is Jesus plus nothing, (and our deceitful hearts are really good and substituting nothing) you fall to your face and beg for more of Jesus and less of you. When the message of grace leaves you standing at the foot of the cross, you are tempted to clear the temple tables in your daily life of anything that misrepresents that message. *Sigh*

Eight years ago, we had just moved to Starkville, MS. I had a brand new Julia and a 26 month old Katie. We knew no one except sweet Mary-Mary, who literally kept me sane. Even the smallest of tasks, like grocery shopping, were overwhelming to this sleep deprived mother of two. A couple times a week, or every day, because I couldn't seem to remember everything on my grocery list, we would go to Wal-Mart. Each trip to Wal-Mart included a small interaction with the greeter. It was the same greeter every time. At first, she was cold and smiled very little. It always broke my heart that we couldn't seem to break the coldness and get her to smile. If you remember Katie at 26 months you remember what a hoot that girl was. She talked to anyone. Countless hours and many painful ticks of the watch later, the girls broke through the shell of Miss Billy and she smiled. Smiling lead to her handing out a sticker at the end of our visit. One sticker lead to her setting aside an entire roll of stickers at the beginning of her shift to give to the girls.

Between August of 2005 and May of 2009, you cannot imagine the amount of trips we took to Walmart, and all the seemingly small interactions we had with Miss Billy. When we left in May of 2009, Miss Billy cried. I cried. The girls cried. We had gone from two babies to four babies in a short, WAY TOO SHORT, 41 months. Miss Billy always knew I was pregnant before everyone else, because she saw me carrying around an extra, empty Walmart sack to throw up in while we shopped. "Oooooo, girl!" she would always say with this huge grin on her face, "You and your husband sure do know how to make 'dem babies!" "Yes, Ma'am we do!"

This summer, after we moved back to Mississippi, we ran to the Starkville Walmart, because I'm high maintenance like that. Low and behold as the sliding glass door opened and I grabbed my buggy, out of the corner of my eye I saw Miss Billy standing there with this huge grin on her face. I literally ran to her and hugged her like I would hug my oldest and dearest friends. I almost cried. Immediately, she asked after the girls and I spent five minutes showing her pictures on my phone. The last time she saw Anderson he was six weeks old so she just oooed and awed over his cute self. Seeing Miss Billy that day made my heart swell with this deep appreciation for the blessing that can come from reaching out and touching one life with a smile. Just a little dose of Jesus' love and a Wal-Mart sticker can change the world.

Yesterday, in the middle of my really crappy week, the girls came storming in from school and Katie held this red envelope in her hand, "Mom, you will NOT believe who this card is from?!" She was right, I had no idea. "Mom, it's a letter from Miss Billy!!!! Wal-mart, Miss Billy! Starkville, Miss Billy." Immediately, before we even opened the letter, Katie, Julia and I started crying (to my future son in laws, I am sorry I've raised such weepy girls). Y'all you cannot imagine what a precious gift that card was to me this week. It was this sweet reminder to not give up on mankind.To not give up on the power of gently spoken word. To not give up on pursuing just ONE person in your daily life. To not give up on clinging to Christ alone. It reminded me to stop throwing my pearls to pigs and just seek more of Jesus. It reminded that the gospel alone, thru grace alone, is all that matters.

I loved Wal-Mart before yesterday, but you better believe this lady will never stop shopping there as long as long as there are Miss Billy's to be found!

To all the Miss Billy's in your life!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

500!! 500 WHAT?

Today's post is a BIG DEAL!!

Thanks for swinging by.

Today's post is a BIG DEAL!!

It's a big deal for two reasons.

One, today, is LJLife&Literature's FIVE HUNDREDTH POST! Holy cow, who knew I had so much to say?! Besides, Mark, my family, and closest friends... and not so closest friends.

LJLife&Lit has been posting for just under 38 months. On average, that's 13 posts a month (yes, I used a calculator to figure that out! I'm not the math person in this union :) What a fantastic five hundred posts it has been. I cannot thank you enough for stopping by this writer's canvas and supporting me in something that I cannot imagine my life without. My brother Andrew said something so profound to me recently,  "Writer's write, and you write!" Me a writer? I have always loved writing. It's why, at the wee and naive age of 18, I put in my Senior portfolio that I was going to be a children's author. Then I had children. And well, I needed a non-rhyming, non- singsongy adult thought.

Living far away from my family and raising kids, inspired me to write emails back to our family and friends about our kids. All their milestones, funny words, and a few pictures. We were still working from a dial up connection until we were set free in 2008 (Now we are back in captivity. COME TO CHOCTAW COUNTY AT&T!!!!!) After things began to become reality with Mama's diagnoses, it became apparent that we needed a way to be able to communicate to the masses. The the blog appeared in August of 2010.

Since the birth of the blog, the series "Living In the Storm" far and away has the most readership. Second place? All the posts on marriage and the importance of sex. Not surprising. :)

The second big deal today? Well, it's like this.. I need your help. I need you to tell me what your all time favorite "Living In the Storm" post is. I know, I know, most of you do not have the time to flip backwards over 500 posts and reread them. But if you can just think of one that stood at to you, spoke to you, stirred your heart, please let me know. Even if you don't remember the title just a "I loved the one when you talked about..." is ok too.

Why am I asking you this? Well, there is a writer's competition asking for submissions of memoirs of mothers. The chosen article will be published in a well known magazine and printed in May for the Mother's Day edition. I figure I have a few stories about my Mama.. But I need your help selecting one.

Again, thanks for letting this broken, messed up, grammar lacking, chicken scratch of a writer be apart of your life. This blog has saved me from myself. Saved me from more therapy than I have already had, and let me share just a little of my family and heart with the world...

Happy 500!!!
Here's to 500 more!!!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Knowing What You're Made Of

I am not sure why I was shocked. My child who tends to feel everything to the max, seemed to fall off the emotional cliff when things began to down spiral with Mama. For about six months, we struggled with a skittish, unsettled, little girl. Any time we needed to go somewhere, sweet baby girl, curled up on the couch and cried, complaining of physical pain in her stomach. Her stomach was constantly in knots, and her GI was a total mess. It was unnerving. She never wanted to leave the house. We tried every thing we knew to do; love, quality time, therapy, prayer, diet changes, prepping her in advance for leaving to go anywhere, more prayer, and on and on. Every horrible thought went through our heads. It was a very helpless feeling. It wasn't until about April (and the increase in vitamin D) that we began to see our Julia reemerge from the chambers of uncertainty and raw grief.

You can then understand why we were apprehensive about sending Julia to overnight summer camp for the first time EVER, uprooting her from Kansas, giving her her own room, and then throwing her into school, all within a four week span.

For camp, I called in the spies, and threatened Zach that our relationship would cease to exist if he let her suffer through homesickness and kept me in the dark; "Don't make her struggle, if she wants to come home, call me, I'll be there!" Dad faithfully reported back each day to her emotional climate, and even did a little investigative work to make sure Zach wasn't overlooking anything :)! Each day they reported that she was smiling and having fun."Sara, she is fine, she's doing great!" "She's eating, and laughing, all good signs!" Six days she was gone, and each day she proved this doubting Mama wrong. I couldn't believe she did it, I couldn't believe she survived. It was reported she had a couple of teary nights, but her Chiefs were outstanding and made sure she found the bed and slept off the sadness. It was a total success, and she is counting down til next summer.

The whole time I kept thinking, "this child is made out of something I knew not of!"

Julia settled in her own room without a blink. She told us over and over again how much she loved having her own room. I thought for sure she would struggle with the darkness and the loneliness. I was wrong.

The whole time I kept thinking, "this child is made out of something I knew not of!"

I knew school was going to be the final blow. I imagined mornings of dragging her out of bed and forcing her to go to school. I prepared myself for afternoons of pouting and banging my head on the table as we attempted to do homework. Especially, after the school year she and I had last year; she and I spent more time bartering about how much work she had to do before she could go outside and run some laps, than we actually spent working on school. She continually reported to friends and family that she was on vacation from school. Looking back, between the deep grief I was mucking through, and the uncertainty and sadness she could not pinpoint; it was a MIRACLE the child came out of first grade with any working knowledge of the world around her. Proof again, that God's goodness surrounded us during the darkness.

Here we are 10 weeks into school, and not ONE morning has Julia whined about going school. NOT ONE. She loves school! And the way we are seeing her bloom, under the careful watch and care of her AMAZING teachers, makes my heart explode with gratefulness I cannot pen.

It always brings me to tears, when I recount the stories of Julia's last year. The faithful Guide who went before us and before our Julia Waitz, to draw her to Himself through deep struggle and soaring success.

Again, it humbles me and makes me say, "This child is made out of something I knew not of!"


Your daddy and I have seen you grow in this last year like NEVER before! You grew up in so many ways, during some really difficult circumstances. This last year has left us in awe of this mystery ingredient you possess in your heart; a persevering, never giving up, bold- yet gentle- determination, oozed out of you in this incredible way. We think everyone should be blessed enough to have a Julia in their lives. We have seen Jesus tread on new areas of your heart, molding you more and more like Him. We love your core. We love all the ingredients that your precious EIGHT YEAR OLD heart possesses.  You keep our life FULL of flavor, spice, and all things NICE :) We can't wait to dig into the next year with you and come out on the other side saying, "this child is made out of something we knew not of!"

We love you oodles and oodles!
Big 'ole smooch!
Daddy and Mama

Friday, October 18, 2013

Instant Replay

I think you can discover a lot about the temperature of a soul based on the books one reads and the music one listens too. I know we've talked a lot about how books have influenced my life, but music doesn't just influence my life, it taps the rudder of my life's direction. Music heals, rejuvenates, ministers to, humbles, excites, soothes, restores, expresses, when spoken words seem to fail. At the conference, we spent an entire session just singing.... singing. It was like a balm. I think heaven will be more singing than sermonizing.

All this to say, I've got these songs on instant replay on my phone. Over and over again they fill the orchestra of my day. They are speaking to my heart during a time when musical notes are easier to understand than bullet points of theology.

All my worship leader peeps, get these songs on the repertoire. Everyone else go buy them on Itunes.
Here are the top 3.

Behold Your God, Sovereign Grace
Behold our God seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him
Behold our King, nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him

All I Have Is Christ, Sovereign Grace
And if you had not loved me first, 
I would refuse you still
Now, all I know is grace
Oh Father, use this ransomed life in any way you choose

Oceans, Hillsong
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your Sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed, and you won't start now

Music has carried me this last year. In the presence of my great Comforter, I bring lyrics to the throne room and just point at them, while I lay prostrate on the ground. There is a reason that great music is written during great suffering.

I hope you hear them, really hear them!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You Are Not Alone

Well, hello there!!

Glad to be back here in the writing world.

Over the weekend Mark and I attended our favorite-EST conference, put on by CCEF. This conference is primarily for professional counselors and people in full time ministry. Mark and I are neither, (however we like to debunk the whole "full time ministry idea" because we feel like EVERYONE is called to full time ministry, no matter your vocation) Anyway, we love it!! For so many different reasons. The words, the worship, the work shops, etc...etc.. It's AMAZING. We think everyone should attend.

When Jesus took Peter and James to the mountain top and transfigured Himself before them in this truly  unreal experience; Peter begged of Jesus to just permanently pitch some tents and remain there forever. I love Peter's humanness here, because that's kind of what I was telling God about our experience in Frisco, Texas. "Please Lord, why can't Mark and I just stay here with our dearest friends, living this totally unrealistic life, keeping this ridiculous schedule, and riding this wave of highness?! " Pretty sure God laughed.

I could spend endless blogs telling you what we learned at this last conference, but I understand that is like trying to explain the thrill of a roller coaster ride to someone who has never ridden a roller coaster. NOT. POSSIBLE. So, I'll spare you :)

So, with as few words, and with as many meaty words as possible, (counselors like meaty words like; "pregnant experience", "cultivating hope of redemption", and "the arousal of the Holy Spirit!" I LOVE COUNSELORS) I will recap our "take away" moments.

Here are a couple books you should immediately stop and go order off of Amazon ASAP..

1.Give Them Grace, Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Small sound bite~ Making our kids "good" is merely an extension of the Old Testament Law- a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them. No, rules are not the answer. What they need is GRACE!

2.Extravagant Grace, God's Glory Displayed In Our Weakness by Barbara R. Duguid.
Small sound bite~ What if growing in grace is more about humility, dependence, and exalting Christ than it is about defeating sin?

Elyse Fitspatrick, lead the second general session and rocked our faces off by walking us through the incarnation of Christ. The most profound thing I digested this weekend was this: by the age of twelve, Jesus Christ knew who He was, what His calling was, exactly why He was here on earth, what was coming, and the last chapter of the book. Yet, YET, He spent the next EIGHTEEN years doing the mundane things in life, so that WE WOULD NOT BE ALONE in the mundane. For eighteen years, He measured wood, sawed pieces of wood, and swept up saw dust off the floor... So that we would not be alone! He perfectly loved His neighbors, showed patience and unfailing love in His everyday life, in His everyday relationships, so that we would not be alone. He provided food for His family's table, and ensured His mother had a roof over her head, so that we would not be alone. He balanced the budget, cleaned dishes, helped with laundry, ran a small business, so that we would not be alone.

I literally could not stop crying after she touched on this subject. It has been ruminating in my heart and I cannot let it go.

What a gentle, compassionate, sensitive, selfless, God we serve. He chose the mundane for 18 years. He picked it out. He lived it out. He absorbed it, SO THAT WE WOULD NOT BE ALONE!!!

I mean.

Can a girl get an AMEN??!!!

And literally, that was one small sound bite, from a weekend of drinking out of a fire hose.

It is good to be changed. It is good to be challenged. It is good to walk on the high places of the mountain top experiences, and really it is good to come back to earth and live it out in the mundane!!

Happy Mundan~ING!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's My Party and I Can Cry If I Want To


Grieving people all have a list of days inside of their heads that are deemed as potentially weepy days. Days that we plan for, mentally and emotionally prep for, days we all would rather skip.

Since Mom went to Jesus, those days in my head have included; Christmas, Valentine's Day, her birthday, Mother's Day, the day she was admitted to St. Mary's, etc.. etc.. But no where on my list did I have "days leading up to my birthday". That's the tricky thing about grief, it's unpredictable. Totally. Unpredictable. I started crying on Tuesday about having my first birthday (today) without my mom. It threw me for an unexpected down spiral of sadness...

When I reflect on it, I realize how natural it would have been for me to have forecasted this day as "possibly gloomy with chance of sobbing!"  I mean, it was my MOTHER who birthed me on this day 32 years ago. And it was her that I exchanged a unique set of love and thoughts with everyday, on this day, for 31 straight years. And all of the sudden, today, that exchange did not take place, and it hurt.

The last few days I have felt empty. Off. Sad. Incomplete. Fragment like. Fragile.

And if I have learned anything in the last 10 months, I have learned to roll with it. Don't fight the sadness. Don't sweep over the incompleteness in your heart. Don't bury and use red ink to circle the fragments. And sometimes, it's ok to shatter into a few pieces and cry on your birthday...

In the Odd Life of Timothy Green, there is this fantastic scene when they are sending their son off for the first day of school and the dad says, "Have a great day!" The mom says, "No, no, no that's too much pressure." To which the dad rephrases and yells back, "Have the day your're going to have!"

That was today. Just the day I was going to have.

Thanks for giving birth to me, Mama.
Thanks for pouring yourself into raising me.
Thanks for thinking that my character, life, and future was worth the endless sacrifices you made.

This day one year ago.