Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bits: Good News/Bad News?

Good news first.  Yes?

:: Rocking it old school since our saved-for-long-drives dvd cord died. With a few essentials.

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1.  Best fall road trip trail mix combo.  2. Community Bible Study goodness and {gourmet?!} gas station coffee.  3.  Lots of books, in hand and on CD {LOVE this old collection!} 4. Not pictured: Doodle books, especially handy when delayed by an awful two-hour wreck on the interstate {by all means, best gotten for about $2 at a local cheap spot}. 

:: All of this leading to, well, a whole lot of beautiful.  And sleeplessness; it was just too hard to call it a night when we knew we only had a few short days together.
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Oh, my birthday gift!  Tucked inside that Clabber Girl tin is the most perfect shade of turquoise mason jar.

We miss our old neighborhood, especially in the fall.  Neighbors gathering at our house for chili and trick-or-treating.  The retired folks on our streets with porch lights blazing and doors flung open wide, us making their night for dropping by with our caravan of many littles.  Impromptu and planned outdoor movie nights or weenie roasts or trips to the pumpkin patch.  S'mores and smoke, lots of laughs and conversation framed by the Tennessee leaves.  Our dearest friends hooked a whole bunch of us up with a special night just like these for a "welcome back" visit and between that, and all the other sweet visits we got to make, we are simply filled.

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Thanks to whoever grabbed our camera for these!

:: Not that it's ever a competition, but you simply cannot outgive or outlove these people.  They welcomed us into their family and I know, being close to my own family and having moved many times without a stitch of family for miles, this is a really big deal.  And we love them so.
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Our brothers keep it real, lest we be overcome by girliness in their absence. What funny, I mean convincing, superhero faces.  :)

:: We even got a little gift while visiting as the folks who are buying our beloved Tennessee home postponed their move-in date until next week.  So we got one last chance to walk its floors, relive its memories, and soak up its beauty.  We loved that house; it gave us these friends, and we thought it would be a raise-our-kids kind of home.  That wasn't God's plan, and we see His hand right where we are now but-- words are pretty futile, I think.  We are just glad for the unexpected present we were handed right before we left town.
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And the bad news?

Would you keep praying for Maddie Girl?  We are in the middle of another round of specialist appointments and, what feels like, detective work.  Some pieces of the puzzle have been revealed and, honestly, it is nothing short of divine how we have discovered them.  Truly, the hand of God. But there are still things to figure out, and we want to keep hearing clearly the direction in which we should walk.

Right now, downstairs on my kitchen counter reads this note:

I know yesterday was a hard day, but we will get through all this.  God will be faithful to carry us through as He has been in all our trials.  I can't wait to see you tonight.

So bad is an overstatement.  I feel God holding us.  I have my husband's prayers and faith and love.  Anytime your children have problems, it feels bad.  No doubt.  But I know the one who uses ALL things together for good.  I've seen Him do it time and time and time again.

Only can bad=good with the Lord.

Which means, and I'm no mathematician, good=amazing.
Yes, only with God.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bits: Why I Sometimes Cry in Wal-Mart

Extra thankful this week for my bits of beautiful, glimpses of glory. In all the colors of fall.

:: An apple orchard on a warm, adventuresome, meandering kind of Friday.
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:: Subsequent apple crisp (subbing the pears, obviously, and minus the pecans) and apple sauce.
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:: While my mouth is watering, a cool Sunday morning and Joe's french toast.  Enough to make me want to marry him all over again.
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:: "Suzy Family Martins," carved and named to the girls' exact specifications.  Still loving to share this as we light her up and lean back to marvel at the wonder of the cold night sky.
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Extra gratefulness in my life often accompanies extra thoughtfulness.  Lately I have been thinking about people, about callings.  Not just the big "move across the globe callings," but the every day living out of what we believe.

A lot of times, I am deeply involved in my own life.  I hit up the grocery and I have a list, that I may or may not follow, and depending on how  many people have joined the outing-- it is possible, I practically may not notice another soul while I'm accomplishing my goals. 

But there are other times.  I'm by myself, or I slow down and I see.



Mamas are worn out, sometimes I am that worn out Mama too, but I mean really worn thin.  They talk in hisses too close to their children's faces.   People on their cell phones, shouting, only to hang up- head in hand- as regret, no doubt, washes them over.  Hollow eyes, rough hands.  Speeding cars, sad frowns.

And I think, if I'm to be honest,  I have trained myself not to see this.  Or at least not take it in too close to my heart.

Maybe because I am a fixer.  I want to put broken pieces back together so badly.

Maybe because I am tired or proud.  I know this kind of work to be messy and inconvenient, often a long road.

But I have learned a lot over the last years.  I have been broken myself, out of my comfort zone or worried about things like my child's heart.  Struggling through difficult deliveries and mouth surgeries, job losses and financial unknowns.

I am learning, though, that I may not have the perfect words or my elusive magic wand but I can offer a cold drink of water when it's in my power.  I can pray. 

I can cry for someone I don't even know.

Last week we were reading the story of Ruby Bridges and the flood gates opened.  Hope asked, "Mama what's wrong?"

I wasn't sure exactly, except to say that such bravery-- such six-year old bravery-- deserves unashamed tears.

I want to be brave for the broken.  I want to remember my own brokenness and use it for God's glory.  I don't want to be too absorbed in my own shopping cart alone.

Lord , please let me first be brave enough to see.

Even if I am only in Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bits: Neither Here Nor There

Alternately titled, "The Life My Camera Catches as It Lies Around the House."
Alternately, alternately titled, "The Kind of Day for Making Lemonade"

:: Some mornings we wake up later and/or are off our game.  Just as I'm about to get some school started a tea party of epic stuffed animal proportions has broken out, so I set about my own long overdue playing (alternately titled: cleaning the bathrooms). Photobucket
And if you let me clean the bathrooms, then once I'm ready to school again, the girls have moved onto "Our Town" (a.k.a. every homemade and tiny-creature-like creation we own).  So I sneak in vacuuming and sorting the mail and such.

And if you get me to doing those things, why then the girls have moved onto art projects, so I squeeze in my workout for the first time in a couple of weeks.
By this time it's lunch, so we do the whole day backward.  Which just so happens to be a beautiful perk of the school day for us.  That and reading, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" as many times as we please.

:: More playtime?  Our girls really run some top notch orphanages around here.  I do have to admit, however, that Hope has been caught playing favorites.  For once she found out Norton was my most prized possession as a child-- he has gotten some major preferential treatment.
We couldn't afford those overpriced dolls back in the day, so I had two knock-offs that I still loved dearly-- one was a red-head named Laura, of this I am sure.  Yet one Christmas, sweet Christmas, my parents gave me Norton.  He was in that special box with his birth certificate from The Patch.  We were innn-separable!

:: The Saturday morning suspense.  To the left: Will Hope pay attention long enough to actually kick the soccer ball as it comes past her?  To the right: Why, hallelujah! She did. 
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:: Serve Someone Sunday.  Daddy's brilliant brainchild.  This time for some hardworking first year law students freaking out before their first mid-terms. Photobucket
 :: Her. Just her, in all of that two-year-old awesomeness.
Me: {joking} Did we have crocodiles for lunch?
A: {laughing} Noooooo!
Me: How about snakes?
A: Noooooo! {then slow and serious} 'Nakes are poise-nuss.
Me: {laughing now} And you're a genius!
A: {look of concern}No, Mama. I'm Leesie.
Me: I know that.  Genius means you are very smart.
A: Oh {good giggle}.  'Den I am 'dat!

Me: I love you BIG much!
A: And you wuv me wittle much, baby much, tiny much!!
Me: You betcha.

A: {saddling her chair up next to mine as we eat cereal} Do you know if I'm a pwetty, pwetty pwincess?
Me: Yes, I believe you are.
A: Well, I know YOU'S a pwetty, pwetty pwincess Mommy!

A: {handing Maddie a favorite stuffed cat} Here'go!
Maddie: Can I hold your blankie too, Leesie?
A: {visibly deep in thought}
Me: Could you share it with Maddie for a few minutes since she's feeling sad?
A: Hmm. I think I's gonna share it with myself, guys.

A: {just after Nana left}  Let's go home!  Nana be there.  She hug us.
Me: I'm afraid not, sweetheart.  Remember she had to go home?
A: {furrowing her brow} Dat's 'spicable!  (despicable)

:: For the better part of the week we had a mansion in Heaven, courtesy of the Hopester, taped to our living room floor. Oh my, it was so great.
Alysse walking the streets of gold.

:: Joe had a couple of late work nights and then went on a MUCH deserved men's retreat; but it's official, I've gotten spoiled.  He used to have to travel all. the. time. for his job {please don't even get me started on the late night business!} and now a several day stretch seems like a long go of it.  But the girls and I lived it up; for Family Night, the breadmaker gave us pizza crust and the mixer gave us chocolate cake. Photobucket Photobucket
::  Want another easy fall recipe?  This one's been tested twice already this season with great success.
Gently beat with a mixer: One package of softened cream cheese with 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 3/4 cup pumpkin (optional depending on how fall'ish you want it to be), dash of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla. Serve with apples or eat it straight with a spoon.

Neither here nor there.  Just memories caught through the lens.  So many uncaptured, of course.  But I always love finding the ones I, for one reason or another, framed for the keeping.

Plus it sure delivers up a cold glass of sweetened lemons.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Bit That Really Matters

 “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.

At present we are on the outside… the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the pleasures we see. But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get “in”… We will put on glory… that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.  

We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”                  
–  C.S. Lewis

Before this, oh before this, let me get some important dribble out of the way.

:: Like, I love these three.  Rolling around hugging each other on the floor, which is far preferred to rolling around vying for a certain Polly Pocket.  In recent years I have met some awesome women and wouldn't you know that so many of them either have three daughters or are one of three sisters?
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Coincidence?  I think not.  It so encourages me and reminds me that these three were handpicked for Joe and I; little girls are our ministry.  Love.

:: A little viral thingy-mabob hit our house.  Grrr. Maddie slept with us through her portion of it and after one particularly late night, Hope came upstairs the next morning with us some breakfast in bed.
"I wasn't sure I should be using your coffee pot, Mom.  So I made you water."  Wise choice and best pretend coffee ever, sweet one.

:: I do not love when our kids are sick.  Chef Hopey got the worst end of the virus, so we repaid her with getting to sleep under cool sheets on the couch. She loves to sleep on one couch with me on the other.  Hermie the Caterpillar or the Pandora praise station, plenty of fluids, and an assortment of crayons and books kept us company.
Poor baby.  Happy to report it was short lived, though!

:: So far we have completed a project on the moon and one on teeth.  Enthusiastically.
:: Go turn your oatmeal container around and make some cookies.  Seriously.  Sometimes the best recipes are right there on the package.  Add some dried cranberries and cinnamon, and call it fall.  Mmmm.
And now, let me bare my heart.

With Hope, I really felt called for her to attend this awesome little preschool when she turned three.  I couldn't explain it fully; I just knew she needed to be there.  Even though circumstances regarding paying for this were not ideal, we took a leap of faith.  What a tall drink of water to my soul to remember it all as I went back to this post.

You see, I don't think I would have known to have gone quite as deep with Hope as this preschool did.  They learned the catechism through song and morning devotions, which I think met most of the kids right where they were at in their understanding.  For Hope that meant questioning deeply spiritual things even beyond what she heard.  She's our deep thinker and the scripture worked its way inside of her and, as is always true, didn't return void. On her own, she chose Jesus in the back of our Honda one spring afternoon.

All the while, her blonde headed sister was watching.

Since the girls were born we have consistently prayed this prayer: Lord, help them to know You at an early age and walk with You all the days of their lives.

Several times when we have prayed this for Maddie and Alysse, Maddie would pipe up with-- "But I already asked Jesus into my heart!"   She would do this even as young as two, and we figured she was maybe trying to be like big sister.  Still we would affirm what she told us and tell her that when she could understand what Jesus did and her need for Him, we would pray together and ask Him to be in her heart and Lord of her life.

Fast forward to this past week at the dinner table.  The subject of Heaven came up, which has happened frequently since Nana's hospital stay and brush with death, and Hope became upset at the idea that Joe or I would go to Heaven before her.  We reassured her that none of us can know when such things will happen, but that there is nothing to fear because she has asked Jesus into her heart (so eventually we will all be together forever!) and Heaven is going to be so amazing we cannot even imagine it all.  We mentioned again that when Maddie and Alysse are ready to ask Jesus into their hearts, they too would be with us always.

And, man, Maddie got upset.

"I already asked Jesus into my heart like a million years ago!" she protested.

Something in her eyes, in the knowing way she boldly proclaims Bible stories lately.  Something in the way she is often so truly sorrowful when she disobeys and how she is so frequently found singing songs to the Lord.  Something in the way she asks me, "Mommy does {this choice} glorify God?"  Something with the fact that our memory verse that week had been the Gospel, John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 Something, yes something, made me see...again...that the faith of a child knows no age limit.

We all stopped and I asked her what "asking Jesus into your heart" means.  For each question, she sure answered.  She told me of His coming to earth to save us because we are all sinners, His dying on the cross and raising again three days later, His wanting to live inside us and someday take us to Heaven.  I looked hard into those hazel eyes and said, "You know, Maddie, I think you have done just that.  But can we make it official?  Give it a date so we can write it down and remember always this, the most important decision you will ever make in your entire life?"

She nodded a big yes and requested to sit in my lap as we prayed the Sinner's Prayer.  Then her Daddy told her the Bible says that the angels were rejoicing, like throwing a party, that she had given her life to Jesus for always and forever.

A few nights later we were reading of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist in the Jesus Storybook Bible {This book is as much for Joe and I as it is for the kids!}  When I got to a particular part she burst out laughing and grabbed me by the neck with a big hug, because she truly knows this same Jesus.  He now lives inside of her and He takes away, and will take away, all of her sins evermore.  Her yes will get bigger as she does, but in that moment her childlike faith resonated true as soon as I read this out loud:

"Look," John said, as Jesus came down into the water.  But his voice came out as a whisper.  He couldn't make it any louder.  It was all he could do to even speak. "The Lamb of God... God's best lamb... who takes away the sins of the whole world."

That Something shone in her eyes, bright as day, once again.

We honored all of this with a Family Night dinner by candlelight and by recording her decision in our Family Bible.  Our little Leesie helped make the meal, and I pray too that those small eyes and ears took in more than the hot sizzle of the waffle iron.
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 For any of my mistakes and shortcomings, I am so humbly in awe of His work in the lives of these little women.  And so incredibly privileged to be in the front row as it all unfolds.
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Praise be to God!  She is a princess, just like she's always wanted.  She's a daughter of the Most High King.