Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Small Town Wedding {Belated but not Forgotten!}

It's hard to describe a small town wedding but you know me— I'm going to give it my best shot….  especially when it's my own, small town, that is.  Especially when it's the first born of my favorite brother. When this boy came to us October of 1992, I had just gotten married and lived about 3 hours away.  That was bad but not as bad as when Jeff and I packed up and moved to Texas adding about 12 MORE hours between us.  Now, I was excited about the move to Texas but I was NOT excited about being that far away from family, especially that little baby boy who had stolen my heart.  I kind of knew we wouldn't be back.  I knew Texas would become our home— and it has but all those years ago I determined that I would figure this aunt/nephew {and then later aunt/niece} thing out from 15 hours away.  Some things worked and some didn't.  I could have done much more and there are things I regret missing, but over the years something worked.  And we know each other.  And they know how much I love them.  I've been known to tear up at random texts or pictures they send— just to know I was missed or that they wanted to share something with me. I teased RJ at his rehearsal dinner that I was honored to get pictures of baseball injuries over the years.  I doubt I missed a one.  That counts for something, right?!  But the biggest honor was the question to Jeff,  "Will you perform our wedding ceremony?"  Honor.  To get to be a part of the months leading up to that big day and for Jeff to lead them through the covenant of marriage….. no words work.

Not even a set of pictures or videos can recreate an experience and they certainly can't stand in for what makes these kinds of things so very special.  As I watched my nephew get married that weekend in October, I was reminded of the only thing that makes life as sweet as it can possibly be— relationships.  No value can be placed upon them— they are simply God's grace to us in the form of people.  What joy comes from an event if there is no one with which to share it?  How much richer a life changing moment is when people who love you are there to celebrate it with you.  Relationships. His gifts to us— gift upon gift upon gift……And our family is undeservedly blessed to love many and to be loved by many.  You know who you are.  It’s all grace. YOU are grace.

Talk about grace.  Seriously.  This girl.  I remember when RJ called me-- or texted-- honestly feel like it was a real-live conversation but maybe not-- after their first or second date.  “She’s great.  I know you are really going to like her.” And he was spot on.  “Like" is a mild word, really.  We couldn’t have combed the world over and picked anyone more suited for RJ and the family.  This one is special.  Megan, I am so very thankful for you.

This guy keeps things lively-- he’s a favorite to have around.

I got to Soperton a couple of days ahead of my family which was such a treat. I had missed all of the wedding festivities being so far away so I was itching to get there!   This sweet niece of mine surprised us by coming home a little earlier than expected which made my night!  Blake cooked a yummy meal on his egg in his “man world” in the backyard.

Love her t-shirt.  It was the last day she could wear it.  Her energy around Nana’s house buzzed all day. 
You’ll see a lot of camouflage... because a lot of hunting took place.. even the morning of the wedding.
Jeff, Julia and Brighton made it in time for the rehearsal.

Three Favorites.
I couldn’t resist this pic of Blakes’s sweet little pose.

Jeff and I were married right here as were Blake and Adele.  Our church -- as any church - was not/is not perfect but  it’s my home church and so many significant things happened here for me.  This place is full of people who loved me well and   taught me profound things.  

If you are not from the South, I am not sure if you are ready for the next picture.  So brace yourself.  

I know.  Yes.  That’s a pig.  A real one.  And as the menu says “pik’n” pronounced “pickin”-- no “ing”.  Got it?  And the second “yes” is that yes, you PICK it OFF the pig and then you EAT it.  I know.  It’s a tad disturbing.  I cannot convince you that it’s yummy because I know you cannot get past the ears, and eyes and nose.  A true Southern girl just looks at the meat and nothing else.  NO lady, I don’t care where she’s from,  embraces the whole head thing.  Can’t.  

And there they go.  But it’s a party, y’all.

Love these two.
Proud mommas and daddys.
Many kind things were said at the rehearsal dinner but this childhood friend and neighbor, Blake, stole the show.  He’s a good and faithful friend.
Saturday morning I gathered these beauties {Confederate Roses} from Mom’s yard for the Wedding Day Brunch.

Mom, untangling the asparagus fern
Megan’s sister did her make up.  Something tells me they have done this a few times before!

I’ve often referred to my parents as a “gatherer of people”.  I am sure there is a cuter title or a better word but either way-- they are great at this.  Here they are in their element welcoming people to the Wedding Day Brunch-- all their friends and family and out of town guests.  I’ve seen this scene many, many times in my life-- Daddy greeting and saying a FEW--never too many-- and SOMETIMES, not always-- awkward words, but they are heartfelt, for sure.  {Oh... and momma looking on.  She’s fine to let him talk.  And doesn’t she look pretty in this picture?}  Their graciousness and generosity has come back 1000 fold-- and spilled over onto me and Blake and now we are getting to see it splash on to the 3rd generation.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all of the seeds sown into our lives by loving and blessing others.

Friends as LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER.  I don’t know Soperton without the Bowers’ family-- and so many other families.  But these two-- attached at the hip all growing up.  So. Many. Memories.  {Notice Brian has on NO camou.}
He’s worried I was going to stick him.  I was too.
Our amazing Arkansas family-- minus the littles.  RJ was cool as a cucumber all weekend but I sense a little anxiety in this picture?  
There is a story.  There was a cake.  It landed on the floor before RJ and Megan came in.  Bill had a grand time helping clean it up.  
RJ and his pretty momma
These next photos were made by Wendy from Apartment B Photography.  They were super sweet girls who worked HARD all day!

I can say this-- MY favorite pastor
My favorite picture of the whole day
Cousins-- Brighton was outside duct taping RJ’s trailer hitch. Yikes.

Julia and Ivey
Fun shot

These girls danced ALL shoes that weren’t made for dancing.

Well, Soperton.  You were wonderful.  I’m not talking about the places, or even the food, but YOU--  friends and family, YOU were wonderful.  Thank you for loving our family and celebrating with us.  We all have much to be thankful for and RJ and Megan’s wedding weekend was solid evidence of that.  You know who you are-- we love you and are better people for having you in our lives.

RJ and Megan-- it was an HONOR to be a small part of it.  I am SO proud of both of you-- WHO you are.  It will be a joy to watch you over the years.   I just know it.  I love you both.

Friday, May 5, 2017

And the Story Goes On.... {Adoption. No Fear.}

Gosh.  I feel like I need to say SOMETHING before I just up and post on this neglected blog.  I went to save something I wanted to write about and noticed I didn't even have a "2017" folder!!  I miss writing.  I feel I miss out on the savoring of good things, hard things— finding the significance in them when I don't write.  For me, sometimes, that means living on a different level— one that's more shallow, not as rich.  Writing makes me stop — and think through things.  God has been faithful to push me out in the deep end to discover some treasure, but I know I've missed some things.  I so enjoyed teaching at church a few times out of Acts which prepared me for what's going on now— Revive TX, which hopefully I can write about later.  Any writing time was spent studying.  However, this morning, the house is quiet.  I am actually a little shaky because Jeff is usually the one who presses the coffee and he's out of town…..  so I must have been off on the proportions— and there is SO MUCH left over!  And I feel obligated not to waste it.  So between my jittery self and this texting stream among a few friends who got a SPRAY TAN last night, I may not be able to put two sensible thoughts together!!  {Spray tan— yes— a girl came to my friend's house and sprayed us all down with a caffeine and stain laden concoction and the comparative notes— and pictures— this morning are hilarious.  Oh the joys of being a girl and having GIRLFRIENDS!} Well, there's my little "hi!" Here is what I wanted to tell you…..

When we chose to pursue adoption, we were just so excited about starting a family.  Sure, we thought through a few things — mainly A BABY— but really, who thinks past the first few months even when having a baby?!  There are a few special select of you who have wedding budgets already in place after the positive pregnancy test but you are just……well, …special.  Most of us focus on all the NEWNESS and keeping baby alive and getting a little sleep.  Your brain catches up later, right?   So, of course, we have two sweet, God-filled adoption stories that have been chronicled in detail on this aging blog. {Just click on “adopting” in the side margin if you need more detail.}  Those stories are no different in that they aren't over after the first few months. Chapters are always being written.  Then, I had NO IDEA how God would continue His story year after year building on the things He had shown us, dazzled us and blessed us with during those processes.  Julia's fifteenth birthday was no exception.  {I did not write an official 15th birthday letter to post here this year.  They seem so personal now that she's older.  Maybe I can post them later one day?  But this will represent that this year because I feel the Lord has something for Julia in this story.}

Random picture but NOT a random friend.  These long time friends at their first Quinceanera.
So 15, right?

And a mom is allowed a favorite picture. {A month before she turned 15}

So her birthday.  On the way to school- the quick less than 10 minute trip-  we typically read a devotional I have in the car or our church's The Journey on one of our phones.  Two days after her birthday, January 26th, I was telling her that this day was almost as special to me as her actual birthday because this was the day we took her home. {Well, to the La Quinta in Bossier City, Louisiana until all paperwork was complete.}  God was faithful to encourage me through His Word throughout the whole process— He chose to use Streams in the Desert and the Scriptures chosen for those days. I was blown away often and the 26th of 2002 was no exception.  So this January, I briefly mentioned it on the way to school that morning.  Well, after she read the entry in Jesus Calling, she looked up the verses on the phone and read them aloud.  And she read this verse, "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7  Unfortunately, I had gotten distracted and was halfway listening but it was enough.  I was like, "Wait!  Read that again!"  She did and I was— blown away, again, by the kindness of the Lord.  I had to remind her that it was the same Scripture that God had given me the day BEFORE we got the call from her birthmother that she was going into labor when I was about to go CRAZY because we hadn't heard from her in weeks.  And the SAME Scripture He so graciously gave me AGAIN 2 days later on the longest day of my life, waiting to take Julia home with us- the day things could have dashed all our hopes and dreams.  He gave it to me in His Word that first day- 1/22- and then it was a featured verse in Streams in the Desert -1/25— reminding me that I didn't need to worry about "bad news"— a changed mind.  Adoption thwarted. Back to square one. It gave me confidence to BE Julia's momma from the second I met her- minutes after she was born.  To give her my WHOLE heart and not be worried that that was too risky until I knew for sure her birthmother would sign the papers.  {And sweet birthmom, S, I know you visit here around Mother's Day each year— Hi, by the way and I love you. Bless you, sweet one. I hope you find this so incredibly encouraging to your heart.  Let Him bolster your heart and faith with stories like this.  God wants YOU to know that YOU did His will.  YOU did the brave thing and sacrificed part of yourself for our daughter's greater good.  You set that story, her story- that goodness- in motion for Julia and all of us will forever be grateful and always remember you for that.  You are loved here in our home and never forgotten.  God is faithful to us both, yes?  May He continue to bless you and your family, S.}

And so He kept using His Word and just then on her 15th birthday, He decided we both needed a reminder of His Sovereign hand in the story.  It is only by His grace that she's ours.  I had no control, but I decided to trust Him like never before and He drew me along every LONG and HOPEFUL day with His Word.  Fine, if one wants to say it's a coincidence or that I am reading too much into it.  I believe He is in charge of coincidences and, on good days, my thought patterns.  So there, you skeptics. ; )

So I told Julia, like it or not, that verse was hers now.  It's just come up too many times around her story for her to ignore.  It's mine too, but at 15, I believe He wanted her to have it as well.

"[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7

Sweet Julia, I have a feeling you will receive bad news in your life— we all do.  It's inevitable in our sinful world where we, sinful people, make choices every moment.  Bad news is a part of our fallen world, but you don't have to LIVE in fear of it.  You can trust that even in hard news, He is trustworthy and WITH Him, you need not fear.  His faithfulness is an anchor— something that reaches to the depths of who we are and tethers our soul deep in His care.  I pray you, Julia, can bask and delight in that comfort and security.
I'm counting on that for me and I am counting on that for you.

May our hearts be steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  So be it.

I love you.  With my whole heart.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Middle School: Girls, Glenn Miller, Socks and Idiots {or just one Idiot}

I am determined to write a few words this morning.  I lose my practical head when I get to teach at Bible Study so I got to do that Wednesday morning and last night and presently, the laundry machine is spinning, the dishwasher is humming and I've got TWO pots simmering on the burner.  AND for a few more hours, I have NOWHERE to go.  A home day.  I love it.

Watermark Middle School Small Group-- and their leaders.  Grateful for each one.
Jeff and I are chaperoning the last middle school dance tonight.  I've been wanting to serve in some way at the other two—just to get a pulse on what these things are like— but we've been out of town or something.  So tonight, Jeff is a "Special OPS Dad" in the hall and I am checking tickets at the door.  Last night Brighton came in our bathroom— and uncharacteristically for him— he beat around the bush trying to ask this question.  "Are you going to embarrass me?"  Oh, I had fun with that one.  But seriously, does he really want me to act like I don't know him?!  I told him he might regret that if I wind up being the coolest mom there handing out Altoids to all the kids who forgot to brush their teeth after their quick dinner before the dance!  I also wanted to ask him, "Are YOU going to embarrass ME?"  Fair, right?  But somehow that question sounds so much worse turned around on him.  If I am parenting him the way God leads me to, his choices have nothing to do with me and therefore, his actions should NOT embarrass me.  Oh the thought struggles of parenting.  It's a fight to keep those TRUTH thoughts front and center moment to moment.

His binder..... oh. my. word.
Oh, B and how I love him.  Jeff was out of town a couple of weeks ago and so I was doing the afternoon/evening Ubering solo— and y'all, side note, it's a THING.  I am not sure how parents make this happen day to day all over the world and we aren't all in a car pile up somewhere.  My kids have one yearly activity {ballet for J and the sport in season for B} and one 30 minute piano class. When we were homeschooling it was easy to consider that just another one of their classes.  Being in school 5 days a week has made all of the running around a little trickier but we are still at it.  One of the positives of this that I am savoring right now is CAR TIME.  It's when most of our talking happens and lots comes out driving around- sometimes I think more than when I try to plan it over a favorite snack or meal.  When Julia begins driving herself to and from school and ballet, I think I will truly begin to miss her.  So I am not complaining about car time—it's GOLDEN—  I am just shocked by the extent of it!  Coming back from the side note— it was just Brighton and me in the car and he said, "Hey Mom, when we get home, can we just sit in the den for a while and talk?"  Umm, yes.  I LOVE easy questions-especially the ones I can say yes to!  He asked me if I wanted a fire and if I wanted to go ahead and fix my coffee. Then he asked Alexa, "Alexa, play 1950's Jazz Music."  And we sat down by the fire and talked to the sounds of Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller.  I let him go with it wherever he wanted- took my hands off the wheel.  Much of it was funny but some of it was very serious— and some so heavy I was wishing Jeff were there to spread out the load.  Most of the heaviness comes from his story— and when I say "heavy" — it's all good but it's heavy to him and therefore, me because he's still making peace and sense out of all of it.  I am so proud of him for communicating with me his heart and pushing through to the hard questions and even trying to be sensitive to me in the process.  I love my 13 year old boy who hasn't stopped talking since he was 2.  I pray this never stops.  Breaks are nice, but you know what I mean.
I feel for the young man on the right....  Middle School is hard.
So the funny thing I wanted to tell you is that he said he was learning some things about girls— and you never know where this is going but this was light, thank goodness.  I needed some light.  He said some guys told him that with girls, you need to LISTEN to them.  Novel, yes?  And which "guys"?  And why did they latch on to this?  "REALLY listen", he said.  He said there were two problems with this.  I couldn't imagine.  First, he said, "Mom", he held his hands out like he was reading a paper, "it's like they are reading a 20 page essay.  They go on and on and on."

2nd problem? And this will prove to be his biggest.  I'm his Mom.  I know.

 "I like to talk, too."

Brighton has his own essay going on.  So yes, this will be interesting to watch as he moves through these years.

I’m chalking this little trend up to the strangeness of Middle School.  Please.  PLEASE.  
I didn't plan on this being all about B but last thing, for now… last year in 6th grade, he did a report in his Science class on fungus and he chose — with my subtle directing fueled by hygienic motivation— athlete's foot.  I think the boy had nightmares from the pictures.  Thursday morning, second day of track he doesn't get up— after being awakened by us 45 minutes before at his request —because he has managed to break two alarm clocks in a one year period.  So basically he rolls out of bed and into the car.  To add to my regrets of motherhood, nothing was sweet or life-giving about yesterday morning.  I was just stupid with my words.  ANYWAY.  Half way there, he realized he didn't have his socks.  If you have a kid in a school with a uniform, you know that socks are really a big deal— socks AND their shoes.  "PLEASE bring me socks, Mom!!  PLEASE!! I CAN'T GO WITHOUT SOCKS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY!!!"  This kills me.  I hate when they ask me to do something and I have to stand my ground and say no.  {He should have gotten out of the bed when I told him to.  Right?  45 minutes would have been PLENTY of time to think of socks.}  True to character, he made one last ditch effort as I drove away— completely ignoring my apology for the idiot I had been in the 5 minutes I saw him before we picked up the neighbor.  Of course, I struggled all day NOT taking his socks— completely wasted energy on my part.  However, it may have been worth it to hear him obsess over how badly he needed to get to "that foot spray" Jeff had gotten for him.  He could hardly think of anything else.  He had borrowed socks from the "snooze you lose" bucket in the locker room…..oh my word.  Can we just NOT think about that for a minute?  He DID say he turned them inside out before he put them on but he couldn't get to "that foot spray" fast enough when we got home. This morning, he left with socks.

He’s certainly my favorite 13 year old boy and I marvel at his changing self.  
I know Middle School is tough.  For 7th grade, the “Eyebrow Incident" will forever be seared in his memory but I also know that it's prime time in our kids' lives.  Big things are happening within themselves and it makes my brain hurt worse than a carpool schedule thinking about it.  When that happens, may it drive me to PRAY— to pray for what's going on in their hearts and minds and to ask consistently for Jesus to mold and shape them--AND ME.  I can't speak any better regarding these prayers than my friend TJ did in her post this week.  This mindset and these prayers are critical if we want to make it through these parenting years— without the idiot label AND with a great relationship with our kids— who are growing up faster than we could have ever imagined.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving them even more than we do.