Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nice or Love

Chris and I were having a conversation this morning about niceness. I always thought that to show love to someone meant being nice to them. That if I wanted to show the love of Christ that it meant to make that person feel good. It's sounds silly when I put it that way, but in the moment, that's what feels right.

But as I learn about the love of God, I am confronted with the fact that He is not "nice". His love is fierce and jealous. His love drags me to Himself, sometimes kicking and screaming. His love is confrontational and "in your face". He sent His only Son to His death, out of His love for me. Does that sound nice?

So why do I think that I always need to be nice and not hurt anyone's feelings? I'm sure I could find something or someone to blame it on, but the truth of the matter is, if comfort is my god, then I impose that internal law on others. If I see my sister in Christ headed down a path of sin and pain, should I be nice and support her in that choice? Or should I tell her that she is messing up? Which is love : to cheer someone on as they walk out in front of a bus? Or to tackle them and drag them out of harm's way? If it was me walking out into the road, I would want someone to tackle me. Sure I might get bruised and scraped, but I'd be alive. And if that person I love rejects me because of it, do I quit loving them? Does God quit loving me? God's grace gives me the ability to put the pain in perspective.

The difficulty comes in when I consider my own sin. Who am I to point out someone else's sin? Answer: a fellow sinner saved by God's grace. In that place, I come in love not condemnation. I come wanting to listen and enter into that person's life. If that person is just annoying and I want them to stop it, I don't want to enter into their life. And that shows me that I don't love them, I love me. But when I long to share their pain and push them back into the arms of God, that is love. "Nice" doesn't even figure into the equation.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thoughts of My Home

Today, the kids and I got the house cleaned up and started decorating for Christmas. We put up the tree and strung the lights. We set out other small decorations. And for the first time in recent history, I was able to set up my Christmas village. My cousin Dustin had given me several new 'residences' a few years ago. Today was the first time they were taken out of the box. I have a small buffet type piece of furniture in my living room now. And Ty, Grace, and Brody helped me set them all up. They put out the buildings and then played with all the small things. They love the benches, street signs, people and skating rink. I got some really cute video.

I was able to purge my laundry room. Things there are now organized and any old, unuseful stuff is g-o-n-e. Woo-hoo! It looks really great to me. Now, I want to do the same thing to my pantry. But one thing at a time.

Right now, the kids are each playing quietly. Ty and Grace are playing with the mini-horse stable that Maggie got for Christmas last year. Brody's playing with his train set. Maggie is with Poppy.

Chris is at work. I'm so ready for him to come home I feel like crying. He's been gone for 2 1/2 days. His presence completely changes the dynamics in our home. I feel more peaceful for one thing. The kids love talking to him and asking him questions. When he's gone, he's never far from our thoughts and conversation.

I've never heard anyone talk about the mystery of 'one flesh' that Scripture talks about. But I think about it a lot. It's a beautiful thing the way Chris and I complete each other. It's a constant give and take. I remember when we first got married, I never wanted to be away from him. A friend told me to 'just wait until you've been married a few years'. That bothered me. Should a husband and wife ever want to be apart? Before, it was sort of an insecure thing. Now, it's just that we work so well together. It's a bone deep completion. Is that corny? It's true. We just like being together. He cracks me up. He's funny and smart and pretty. And he thinks that I'm funny and smart and beautiful. I miss him when he's gone. And we've been married almost 11 1/2 years. Seems like 2 or 3, except for the fact that we have 4 kids. We've been through so much together, I'm glad God gave me Chris. God always gives us what we need. And He knew before I did that I needed someone strong-willed and tenderhearted.

He'll be home in hopefully about 4 hours. Lord, protect my husband. Bring him safely home to me.

I am thankful. Not just because everything is going really well right now, (because they're not) but because God has blessed me. His blessings may not always be in the form I would choose, but that doesn't mean they're not blessings. And right now, in this moment, I am thankful.

Friday, November 25, 2005

This is Ty and Ellas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. They were plotting how to spend their $6.00. As you can tell, they are best friends. I think they're precious. But if they ask, tell them I said "Cool" not "precious". Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jeremiah 17:9

I am learning that everything is not always as it seems.

For instance, my heart doctor informed me that sometimes people mistake dehydration for hunger. He said that many people walk around in a state of unrecognized thirst, and once you get rehydrated, you feel thirsty. Experts say that many times, depression is a sign of repressed anger. So anger makes you feel sad. A Bible study I'm in says that our dissatisfaction with ourselves and our circumstances is really displaced or unrecognized hunger for God.

I discovered a new one last Sunday. Our music during worship is awesome. I mean really, really amazing. And last Sunday, Stokes, our music leader, sang a duet with a friend of his. I sat there listening and worshipping and before I knew it, I wanted to hug Stokes and Adam and thank them. But very quickly, I realized that I had gone from worshipping God to praising the servant. Why is that? What I was really feeling was thankfulness and praise towards God but my response was all wrong. I wanted to give the glory to Stokes. And Stokes didn't want it. He was too busy praising God.

Why do we do that? I don't know. But it shows me that I don't know myself as well as I like to think. Only God truly knows my heart. Only God can change it. Only God can expose my heart to me. And when He does, I learn something new about myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bull Or Buffalo?

Today, being Sunday, was a day of rest. Maggie was playing at a friend's house. Chris and Brody were asleep. I walked into the living room where Gracie and Ty were watching a rodeo, actually bull riding, on the television.

Wanting to make conversation, I asked, "What are ya'll watching?"

To which Gracie replied, "We're watching the Buffalo Races."

You may not think that's cute, but it cracked me up!

Friday, November 18, 2005


As I write this, my heart aches for so many people. My friend Toni has just lost her Mother. The next day, Toni lost her daughter-in-law, my friend, Jessica. Jessica died of cancer, leaving behind two daughters. As I was getting ready to go to her funeral, I found out that my dear friend, Laura Kessler's little brother was in a car accident. Last account I had, he was taken off life support. They don't expect him to make it. He is 16. I used to babysit him. While I was at the funeral, I stood next to my friend and mentor, Maja. Maja's daughter, Rachael, died a few years ago. I used to babysit her too. I think of Rachael all the time. I keep a picture of her on my refrigerator.

Why does God create us with the capacity for profound love? Why does he connect us to other people? Make us need other people? Death is inevitable, I know, but it's also very, very personal.

Nothing else has ever caused me to feel as though I am literally coming apart at the seams. When my best friend, Lori, died and also when my Mom died, it actually felt like my heart was being squeezed in two. How is it that His love for me includes loss? Profound loss. Heart-wrenching loss.

I don't know. I'm not Him. But I do know that God knows how we feel. It broke His heart when His Son died. It tore Him apart, literally. The Father turned His back on the Son. Why? Because He loved me. And by doing that He conquered death. Death has no more power over us.

And it's weird, because I hate and fear the death of loved ones. But I long for death every day. I want to be with Him in Heaven. I'm not suicidal; but I recognize that death is a release from this pain and longing. I know that if I died, God would take care of my family. I trust Him with my own death, but it's much harder to trust Him with death of others.

My Mom and friends are much better off. But I miss them. And Laura will miss Clete. Toni will miss her mother. Kayla will miss Jessica. There are no quick answers. No trite phrases that will ease the pain. And to try to think of one is closing my heart off so that I won't feel their pain. Life is messy. And God calls us to cry with each other and hurt with each other and laugh with each other. And pray for each other. The whole time remembering that He is the one who has given us the ability to do all those things. Our earthly relationships are but a reflection of the intimate connection we have with God. And when we need comfort or faith or peace - He gives us Himself. And that really is enough.

I hope that doesn't sound flippant. I don't mean for it to. But I choose to believe that. That choosing is the very definition of faith. And He'll give me faith when I have none.

The times when I know that I was experiencing God are the times I screamed out in pain, wanting to know WHY? Betty Carter says in her book that why is one of the most devout questions that we could ask because it shows a belief that there is a God who is in charge. And whenever I ask a question of Him... He will answer. He promised that He would. And He's big enough to take my anger or pain or fear. He's bigger than my anger and pain and fear. He is God and He is good. Plus, as I've said over and over again (because it amazes me) He loves me. I know that He does.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

These are pictures from Ty's Military Birthday Party. They're a little hard to see. Sorry. The top one is my Dad wearing Brody's helmet. The middle one was taken while they were on their "mission" in the woods. The bottom one is them learning how to salute properly. Many thanks to Brendan for being our C.O./Drill Instructor. And also to Scott who taught me the lingo and consequently kept me from sounding more like a doofus than usual.  Posted by Picasa

Picture Pages

Do any of you remember that show, Picture Pages? I only remember bits and pieces. But today was picture day for me. I finally went to Sam's and came home with 5 envelopes of pictures.

So today, on my blog, is Picture Page Day. I hope you like them.

This is Maggie and Ty with their instructor, Mr.Crawford. They love him. He's very patient and doesn't let them get away with being lazy. Posted by Picasa

Maggie and Ty, The Equestrians. Maggie's riding a pony named Trigger. Ty's riding Spirit. They are learning to "boss" the most stubborn horses. This means controlling the movement and speed. Posted by Picasa

Here are Gracie and Brody watching Maggie and Ty at horse lessons. They love watching the horses, dogs, and goats.  Posted by Picasa

Brody with his first and only true buddy. Caleb moved away but Brody still remembers him. These two boys love to play. Sometimes in the toilet, sometimes in the dog food, but always together. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2005

My Father, The Social Butterfly

My Dad is a social butterfly. I've never seen anything like it. He loves people. He loves talking to them, watching them, and helping them. His favorite song is "People Need The Lord". And he truly believes that every person has more to them than meets the eye. I'll give you case in point.

I've already told you about our activities of last Thursday. When I parked his truck in the lot on 3rd Avenue, the only person either of us knew was each other. That was soon to change. I'll say "we" met people, but that's not really the case. "He" met people and introduced me to them.

We walked the few blocks to the club, where we met the hostess, I can't remember her name. But she's only been at that job for a short time and likes it. We then met Loren, our waitress. She just graduated from college with a degree in Music. She broke up with her long time boyfriend a couple of months ago and is "okay with it", she has a beautiful singing voice, and her family is from Ohio. She had an audition yesterday that she was very hopeful about. The BBQ ribs are her favorite dish.

Next, I was introduced to Calvin. Calvin is the "bathroom guy" at the club. You know... he passes out cologne and sells cigars... that kind of thing. Calvin is divorced from his first wife and used to live in Bessemer, Alabama. Calvin has been to (or lived in) Gate City, Downtown Birmingham, Eastwood and many other localles that are familiar to me. He has worked in clubs in Memphis?, Birmingham, and Atlanta. He loves cigars.

After that we left the club and walked around. We met a man named Pops. He was the bouncer at Coyote Ugly. He was standing out on the sidewalk by himself. He loves his job, used to do drugs, has been clean for a long time, and is not married. Other things were discussed but I was window shopping at the time. *He had my favorite quote of the night: I used to do acid. Now I do antacid.*

So at the end of a relatively short period of time, friends were made. People smiled and I think a couple even heard the name of Christ(and not as a curse word). We walked all the way to the end of the block, visiting and having a great time. When it was time to go, this is how it went:

"Mike, take it easy. Good luck tomorrow." (from Pops)
"Mike, take care of yourself. I hope everything goes alright." (from Calvin)
"Mike, I'll be thinkin of you. Come back and let us know how it went." (from anonymous homeless guy)
"Thank you Mike. Take care." (from Loren)

We started out that evening together with different agendas. I wanted to eat good food and relax. My Dad wanted to eat good food and minister to someone. He recognizes that people all have private pain and need the Lord. And he is always willing to take the time to get to know the nameless, faceless people of the world. I love that about him. Some people might find the fact that he talks to everyone annoying. I find it convicting.

Got The Blues

No, I'm not depressed. What I mean is I understand the Blues.

Thursday, as some may have gathered from my previous post, Dad and I went to B.B. King's Blues Club in Nashville. In the late afternoon during the week, it's very easy to get a table. We ate cheese fondue, bbq shrimp, ribs, and fries. AMAZING! It was so good. We finished eating around 5:45 and spent the next 2 hours walking around Nashville. (that's another post entirely)

At about 7:26, we found ourselves back at the entrance to the Blue's Club. Now, the music didn't start until 8:30 and we were already tired. Plus, we had to be at the hospital at 7am. We stood outside for about 2 minutes and debated whether or not we were staying. The bouncer (a very large, scary looking man who was very nice actually) informed us that we had 2 minutes to be inside before they started charging a cover charge. So, in we went. I mean, now it was free entertainment.

We sat at a table, drinking decaf coffee, for an hour while the place filled up. There were some interesting looking folks. I'm serious. One girl, I swear to you, had hair like Princess Leah from Star Wars. Another girl had some shiny knee-high black boots, covered in weird buckles and the whole sole was about three inches thick. Dad and I were having a ball staring shamelessly. I mean, these people looked in the mirror before they left home and felt that this was the best they could do. Wow. I won't even start on the dancers. Suffice it to say - Gross!

Finally the band was done setting up and ready to play. There was a drummer, an organist, a bass guitarist, a lead guitarist, a saxaphonist, a trumpet player, and 2 singers. The singers were a heavy-set, bald, white man and a skinny, pretty, black girl. I was not all that impressed. Until they started playing.

I have heard blues on the radio and even in movies. And as you know, I don't like repetitive noise. I was just hoping it wouldn't be annoying. But then the music started and I was captivated. There is something very alive about Blues. The musicians were having such a great time, laughing and "riffing". Before I knew it, I was tapping my fingers and smiling. It was great. Dad was enjoying himself and so was I. For a few moments, all the worry faded and I relaxed.

In a song, Chris Rice wrote about heaven, "I join in and I drink the music, holiness is the air I'm breathing." So, if that's true, blues would be a hot toddy. Warm and relaxing and invigorating.

Chris and his Mini-Me (aka Brody) at the Fall Festival. Brody went as his Daddy. We made his scrubs out of one of Chris' old sets. Cute, huh?  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So Much To Blog, So Little Time

Well, I'm back by popular demand. (If you can call 2 people "popular demand")

Dad's surgery went well. Dr.Lee was pleased. We were hoping it would only take a couple of hours but it took almost 4! I was 3 minutes away from a freak attack. But all was well.

While I was away, I learned some things. I'll put them in a list.

1. My Dad is hysterical when he's heavily medicated. Truly, truly funny to watch.

2. Vanderbilt Hospital is the blueprint for hell. I got soooo lost looking for "Medical Center North", which must NOT be confused with the North Tower of the Medical Center, or the North Plaza. Come to find out, it's hidden in the corner behind trees and huge buildings. And the sign for it's on the front, but the doors are on the side! AHHH!!!!

3. Some people are born without a sense of humor. It's a genetic defect. Their mommas should've drunk more orange juice while pregnant.

4. Some of the world's nicest people are disguised as scary, smelly people.

5. A blue's club is really dull at 4:15 on a Thursday afternoon. Now 9:00... that's a different story.

6. My Dad's new truck handles VERY differently from my mini-van. Don't ask.

7. University of Kentucky football fans are very loud at 11:45 at night. In the hotel room next to mine anyways.

8. Life can be very lonely when you're in a strange city all alone.

9. Bouncers are people too.

10. I'm more like my Granny than any one else. Only not as industrious. But at least I don't scare easy.

11. Being mistaken for your Dad's wife is really gross! No offense to Dad or Rhonda.

12.My sister and I would never survive if one of us moved away. Not even a chance.

13. Coming home to screams and cheers and hugs and kisses is awesome!

Well, that's all for tonight. I'll post more tomorrow. If you're lucky.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Excerpt From My Life

Hello, Friends. Today is the day for a disjointed, somewhat rambling post.

Today is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in Alabama. The kids have played outside for a while. But right now, I am torturing them. Yes, you guessed it... they're taking a test on the structure of the Earth and volcanoes. And it's 3 pages long! Ain't I a stinker?

Chris and I cleaned out our shed. We found the "Ladybug Graveyard". Apparently, ladybugs come to my shed to die. Sort of like the elephant graveyard in the old Tarzan movies. But once we cleared away the ladybug carcasses, we got rid of so much junk! And in the process, we found a bucket of old tennis balls. Our foster-dog, Gabriel, is in heaven. He and all 4 kids played "Gabriel, drop the ball!" until he finally crawled under the porch to get some rest. All 4 kids were covered in dog slobber. Gross!!!!

Chris is having fun too. He's outside building Ty's Christmas present. Power tools and wood. Oh Yeah!

I've been running around all day trying to get things ready for my departure. I have to leave in the morning to take my Dad to Vanderbilt for his umpteenth surgery due to the wreck in 2003. This time, he's getting an entire elbow replacement. Please pray for him and his doctor, Dr. Lee. I'm trying not to worry or be afraid. But I am. I love my Daddy very much. Pray for me as I have to be up there alone and away from Chris and the kids. Pray for Kim as she'll have all my kids until Saturday.

My house is ready for me to be gone. Kim came up yesterday and helped me get rid of stuff. I got tired of fighting my girls to keep their room clean. So I took away everything. All that was left were the toys on their beds and the furniture. Then, if they could remember it and specifically name it, they could have it back. I gave away 4 Hefty bags of stuff. Now their room is clean!

My closets are empty. My dishes are washed. My laundry is done. My children are packed. I'm almost packed. I guess I'm about ready. I won't be posting again until Sunday or Monday. Talk to you guys soon. Bye!

Monday, November 07, 2005

To Breathe Or Not To Breathe

Sometimes life is hard. Not tragic, just hard. And it can change from day to day. Today was a hard day.

Let me clarify. Because we haven't sold the trailer and have no one to rent it, money is tight. The closer to the Holidays is gets, the tighter it is. Now, I don't mean that we can't pay our bills. We can. Our budget just has no room for breathing. And it's hard to go for long stretches of time without breathing. Ya know?

That wears me down like nothing else can. I hate money. I hate having it and not having it. I hate that I must think of it almost every day. I hate checkbooks and debit cards. I hate having to tell my kids "No" all the time. Of course, I hate it worse that they ask for stuff all the time. *Today, Ty informed me that he now collects old cell phones and old keys. AAHHH!!!* But most of all, I hate the effect of money on me.

I sense in myself the desire to be comfortable. I want to beg God to make life easy. I want to figure out a way to earn money. I want to ,spiritually speaking, be wearing elastic-waist pants that are comfy and easy to breathe in. But in my present state, it's like I'm wearing pants that button and are one size too small. Every time I try to breathe, I am reminded to trust God. The tight spots and trials are the very things that push me to trust. (James 1:2-4) Every time I think about putting on my spiritual moo-moo of self-sufficiency, I long to be made beautiful. I want to trust God more than I want to be comfortable. I want to, like it says in 1Peter 3:4, have the beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit that waits for my Redeemer to come. How much more wonderful it is to let my Bridegroom come in and care for me.

Is He big enough? Strong enough? Sovereign enough? Intimate enough? Will He take care of us? If the Bible is true.... yes, to all of the above. Is there joy in the "tight pants" of my faith? Absolutely! Whatever it takes to remind me of Him. And money will not always be tight. But something else will crop up. And I will have to choose to trust Him with it.

The beauty of Heaven, to me, is knowing that I'll be able to feel His breath on my face and sigh with contentment, knowing that there are no tight pants in Heaven! All is perfected.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Child the Taco

I was having a discussion with some friends the other day about how my kids respond to discipline. As a child, I was a "wailer". I would start shrieking and wailing the minute my Mother said anything about a spanking. She was always afraid the neighbors would call the cops and she hadn't even touched me yet. My kids are no different but they do have different strategies.

Maggie is the human taco. She folds her body completely in half backwards. With her arms flailing behind her and alternating from foot to foot. Her head is bent back and her body is twisting the entire time. And all this is before I'm even ready to give her a pop. She makes it much harder on herself. Same as with the rest of her life.

Ty closes in on himself. He stops talking. He clenches his cheeks and stoically takes it. He just wants to get it over with. Same as the rest of his life.

Gracie does what I call "the stiff arm". She's like I was as a kid. The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth starts way ahead of time. She stiffens her elbows, gets red in the face and screams. She will fight me to the bitter end. Same as the rest of her life.

Brody is a little undefined still. He's only had to get a few spankings. But when he does something he knows is wrong. He'll put both hands on his rear and start sidestepping away from me, repeating the mantra "No Momma No Momma No Momma No" He wants to dissuade me from my present course. Pretty much the same as the rest of his life.

Makes me wonder? What do I do to avoid discipline? I justify, argue, berate, and avoid. Pretty much.... all of my kids combined.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Amber, if you thought they looked like a Gap ad before..... This was made last year at the beach. I must admit, I've got some good lookin kids.  Posted by Picasa


If you're like I was, you think that Baal is a particular type of false god. But according to Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Pres, a baal is a generic term. It was used to refer to the numerous idols of gods and godesses of the Canaanites that dotted the land at the time of the Old Testament. I looked it up - he's right. Keller goes on to say that anything can become a Baal for us.

I have come to realize more and more over the past few years just how true that is. It's not the "bad" things that I idolize. It's the "good" things. It's cleanliness, motherhood, matrimony, homeschooling, etc. Usually, it's the things that I think make me more pleasing to God. I can avoid, with relative ease, the drunken orgies and murder. But idols are those things that we think about more than God. They are those things that, if I lost them, would devastate me. The things that weigh down my heart before Him.

We've been talking in Wednesday night class about how repentance has always seemed to be asking forgiveness and then trying harder. Isn't that what sanctification is? God saved me. Now I have to dig in and try really hard to change myself. NOPE! That's using the flesh to conquer the flesh. Doesn't work.

What I am realizing more and more is that when I am consumed with... whatever, I have lost my spiritual focus. When I try hard to sanctify myself, I'm saying that God is either not big enough to do it for me or He doesn't care enough to be that involved. Neither of which is true. He is both big enough to handle it and intimately passionate about me to want to. It's tricky. How do I relax and trust Him to make me holy and not sit around doing nothing all day? I'm not sure of the answer to that question. All I know is that it's a day by day, moment by moment turning my heart to remember His love.

Life would be much simpler if my only idol was a porcelain unicorn that I could smash with a hammer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

God's Active Mercy

Occasionally, things will happen in my life that surprise me. My life is fairly predictable, so this is unusual. I don't like it when the little surprises are "Hey, I forgot to pay the power bill!" Those are bad surprises.

It is always a great surprise to me when my children say something profound. And most of the time, if I ask them where they learned it, their answer will more than likely be - from Mrs. Morgan or Mrs. Toni told me or Mrs. Rita said. Makes me very, very thankful that we have the best church in the world. But I also have feelings of being ineffective or unheard.

And then God sends me a sign. A note of encouragement. For instance, on the way home the other night, Gracie asked Maggie to sing a Girl Scout song. It's a version of If You're Happy and You Know It. Only it has verses that go something like, "If you think Boy Scouts are great clap your hands" to which the girls respond by not clapping and singing instead, "Oops, I missed." It has several verses. Maggie proceeded to tell Gracie that she didn't think they should sing that song anymore because she (Maggie) had been thinking and the song is disrespectful to boys. She said that she'd thought it over and the song implied that boys were stupid and not as good as girls. I felt a surge of joy. Not just over her decision but because she thought! Maggie sat and contemplated the song and it's value. She thought. It was a good moment.

So maybe I'm not beating my head against a wall as much as I think I am. And even if I am, God still commands that I not give up. But press on, keeping my eyes on Christ the whole way. And stop thinking that the results are up to me. God is working in my little ones. I can never begin to do what He has promised He will do, is doing. God's active mercy soothes my spirit and calms my heart. All my past sins are past. His mercies are new every morning. To me and my kids. Thank God for that!