Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Did it sneak up on you like it did on me? It doesn’t make sense, really, since it seems like all the Christmas sparkle came out after the 4th of July. Nevertheless, it’s here, we are excited and I have 2 kids who started the countdown the day after Thanksgiving.
My sweet gal, Julia, still loves all things pink and loves for me to read her the poem “Why God Made Little Girls”. When she isn’t intently doing her “kindergarten work”, she spends much of her time trying to talk when Brighton takes a breath. She enjoys ballet and sewing class, which is another letter in itself. She savors her sweets like no one I know (except maybe for me) and she can somehow get 100 bites and a good hour out of one cookie.
What I learned new about her this year is that she can be a huge help to me and she has certainly gotten me out of a pinch or two. She loves to hear poetry and is not afraid of any insect- like creature. The closer she can get to it the better. She can hold her own up a rock climbing wall and my favorite thing about her is that she forgives quickly and easily.
As for my tow-headed little B, his handfuls of cars are slowly being replaced by balls and anything of Julia’s that may solicit a shriek from her. He is ALL about shirts with numbers on them (a.k.a. jerseys) and his favored teams are TCU and the Texas Rangers and on a good day of Mom training, the Georgia Bulldogs. He adores his sister and prefers her company over almost anyone else’s. His sweet grin is infectious and pretty much everyone he sees gets exposed. His most useful trait right now is that he is my walking talking calendar. At any moment, he can spout off the next 72 hours with ease. He manages to function off the nutrients of breakfast and a little lunch because dinner brings on fits of choking, gagging and retching, unless of course, I am serving up Dino Nuggets or Bagel Bites.
What I learned new about Brighton this year is that he is nocturnal. We hear pitter pats and doors creaking all hours it seems. He just doesn’t require much sleep! He’s pretty crafty with his words….so crafty that I think he could talk Popeye out of his last can of spinach. (not that he ever would but you know what I mean) My favorite thing about him is that he is always up for praying.
Tarrant NET is going great. Jeff continues to love what he is doing. We still are amazed at who God brings to be a part of carrying out His vision for unity among Christians. We have a new staff member, Sultan Cole, who is leading our Project Unite initiative in southeast Fort Worth. Thank you SO much to all who have supported us in a myriad of ways.
I have no complaints. I still do my pharmacy thing one evening a week at Walgreens but being Jeff’s wife and Julia and Brighton’s Mom just does it for me. My life is full in the best sense of the word and that, I know, is because I serve a gracious and merciful God.

Love to each of you this Christmas. May it be a happy one.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in Dixie

Two Christmases down, one to go. So far, we've acquired 12,000 pieces combined from a construction site and a Barbie kitchen which are both now in random zip-locs and a few pieces, I am sure, are under one of Meema’s couches. There are 10 “grown ups”, 4 older grandchildren and 6 grandchildren who are getting older—at the speed of light, I might add. At the moment, the six are all sequestered in the basement scrunched up together on one couch watching Ratatouille. The four are playing LIFE which one of the little ones got for Christmas and the ten, well, we are ALL on the sectional (plus 5 dogs) with our feet propped up watching Doodle’s big screen. That’s why it’s okay for me to be on the computer.

Tomorrow on Christmas Eve, we will load the car with more than we unloaded (12,000+ pieces) and head down to South Georgia where I grew up. I can’t help but think of what my Daddy will be up to all day tomorrow in 'O Little Town of Soperton'. He will have to count sheep tonight in order to fall asleep and will wake up maybe before daylight anticipating his 35th (?) time to open his store on Christmas Eve. He owns his own pharmacy called Dennard’s Drugs and Jewelry and True Value Hardware. That ought to tell you all about my small town right there. It’s about as close as a small town gets to one-stop shopping. Really though, year after year my Mom has filled the store with some of the prettiest things I have ever seen.... anywhere. This small town never lacked a place to buy lovely things. It’s hard for me to visit without putting something “on my bill”. Anyway, the “store”, as we called it at our house, was the place I wanted to be every Christmas Eve. As soon as I was old enough to wrap packages for our customers, I could “work” at the store. We even had a turn crank bow-making machine. That might have been my first job. (I eventually worked my way up to cashier, jewelry repairer, engraver and then pharmacy tech and intern.) My sweet patient, Daddy……my history there is a whole other story.

First thing was the food. The counter in the back of the pharmacy would be piled with cookies, cakes and candies from customers and employees—Martha Washington balls, candied pecans, Buckeyes (aka peanut butter balls), divinity, pumpkin bread, tea cakes and so on. Each person had their special thing they put together in their kitchen and we anticipated it every year. My Mom never had to buy a ham because we would always get a couple. Small towns definitely have their perks.

Then there was the music. It was always a riff between my Daddy and me because he loves country music. This South Georgia girl never developed a taste for it! I would try to sneak my own music in—so would the other girls who worked there—but somehow it would always get misplaced. So we endured who knows what from the record player. Alabama, Willie Nelson, Hank Wiliams (father and son) and the like. You can just imagine. Well, about 5 or so years ago, I found myself wanting to download some of that music, one in particular. Okay, here goes………. Christmas in Dixie. (Don’t tell anybody.) When I hear that song, I can almost smell the store, taste the Buckeyes and hear the wrapping paper being torn from the big roll. Hearing lines like “it’s snowin’ in the pines” and “Graceland all in lights” is actually enjoyable.

As for the man who counted sheep the night before, he was definitely in rare form. Just a little more excited, not real interested in filling prescriptions, a little more patient with all of us girls who were really just there for the excitement, maybe even a little on the giddy side. Somehow he would always manage to throw his back out so memories I have include a crooked Daddy who walked funny. I don’t think he ever got to join Mom, Blake and me at the Christmas Eve service because, many times, men would call who had just completed a job, gotten their pay check and needed to buy Christmas for their children. By the time he got home, Blake and I were milking our last bit of patience. The car lights shining through pine trees in our long driveway might as well have been Rudolph’s red nose. His favorite day on the calendar at the store was completed and now he was ready to concentrate on us. Tired as he may have been, he still had the energy to make it fun. Many years he came home with some crazy gift for me and one year it was one I had to “open up immediately”. I was too young to recognize the red flags waving in the recesses of my consciousness. When I opened up the box, a LIVE FROG jumped out. It had hopped in front of him while leaving the store so he went back in and wrapped it up. Makes perfect sense, right? Well, to him, it did. My reaction was probably his best present.

So tomorrow is the big day……… Christmas Eve at Dennard’s. Lots of last minute gifts will be purchased. Many presents will be wrapped at the same wrapping counter- just moved to a different place. Some customers will just stop by to say "Merry Christmas" or to sample something from the back counter. Bad country Christmas CD’s will be played over and over. Loads of candy will be consumed and I doubt Daddy will make the Christmas Eve service but he will be home in time to eat lasagna with us with maybe even a little mischief up his sleeve. Tomorrow, I will certainly miss the action at 119 Second Street but I hope someone will save me some Buckeyes.

The "four" plus the "six". Cute bunch!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Exceeded Expectations

Have you ever been just so happy you did something? Wanted to do something special for someone and wondered if it really would turn out.......... well, special? We had our Kindergarten/First Grade Christmas Tea today with two honored guests, Mrs. Juanelle Winsor and Mrs. Betty Cox. Mrs. Winsor is our children's science teacher (bottom right hand corner) and Mrs. Cox is the girls' sewing teacher (left hand side in the pretty pink). Many pages could be written about both of these gracious ladies, so I won’t try to accomplish that here, but trust me, you want to BE these women. These ladies have invested so much into our little girls (and boys) so we wanted to somehow say “thank you”. Today was our effort.

With a captive audience of teachers, proud moms and friends, most all of the girls recited a poem, a hymn or a passage of Scripture in front of the Christmas tree. Miss Leah Sawyer even dazzled us with “Jingle Bells” on the violin! (Accompanied by her Mom with bells!) The girls did an incredible job of maintaining their poise in front of everyone and remembering what to say. I got the biggest kick out of watching the hand signals of the Moms when their girls needed prompting which wasn’t very often. There were two little girls in particular who didn’t like being “signaled”—my Julia being one of those.

Being true to their sweetness, Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Winsor took an opportunity to encourage us as moms which we all drank in as fast as they could roll the words off of their wise tongues. A couple of moms expressed their appreciation for them and told them how comforting it is to leave our children with women who love the Lord so much and who live out God’s word so clearly. Their intentional impact and natural influence cannot be measured.

During lunch, each child was to finish the statement, “What I love about Mrs. Cox/Mrs. Winsor is…………..”. Now, this was precious. I didn’t get to hear them all, but I did over hear one little boy tell Mrs. Winsor, was that he loved “the way she taught science and that she loved the Lord”. I also heard one little girl tell Mrs. Cox as she sat down beside her, “Mrs. Cox, I am so glad you are here today.”

I expected a sweet morning, excited little girls in all their Christmas finery, yummy food, good conversation, but I didn’t expect (oh, me of little faith) the party to be as big a blessing to our honored guests as it was. They both were so grateful and even teary at times, but when Mrs.Winsor told me this was her best gift AND that she had never felt so appreciated, I knew that the children had hit the mark--- accomplished the purpose. Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Winsor, whom we love so much, felt loved, honored and greatly appreciated. When I shut the door behind them, my first thought was, when can we do this again?? May this inspire you to “target” someone soon. It’ll make your year…… and quite possibly theirs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From the Backseat

Oh, what we hear from the backseat! Regretfully, no matter how hard I have tried to remember something until I could get to pen and paper, I have forgotten so many things Julia and Brighton have said while strapped in their car seats and now, boosters. So many conversations take place, so many things found out, so many funny things said, so many arguments to be worked through……….. many of which are worth remembering. Here are two from the last couple of weeks.

On our way to school the other morning, Brighton was himself in what I like to call “turbo mode” which is when any of his unique qualities are being magnified. Julia and I were listening to his questions and answering the ones he left time for, seemingly regurgitating any information he could muster up, all strung together by his infamous “ums”. Now, his “ums” that he has so cleverly found out, is his way to “keep the floor” so to speak. If he ends every thing he says with an “um” anyone who may attempt to speak can be quickly under the accusation of “unrupting” him, BY him. At this point, his future looks good as a politician because he would be the master of filibustering.
Anyway, as I looked in the rear view mirror, I could tell Julia was waiting for the “end” so she could say something. It was early and her patience was fresh, so she sat quietly. Finally, we passed a motorcycle which immediately took B’s brain and eyes to the outside, promptly shutting his mouth and she looked at me in the mirror, sighed and said, “Brighton is just full of ‘ums’ this morning, isn’t he, Momma”?

A few days later, we were on our way to get Julia outfitted for her costume for Celebrate Christmas. It was late in the day. Patience was not so fresh……..stale actually and an argument began. Julia was to be in the Jesus and the little children scene and Brighton was going to play at Jake’s house so Jeff and I could host some supporters. Well, Brighton started saying he was going to be in the scene with Julia. Julia kept correcting him and of course, Brighton argued emphatically with her. She tired of this quickly so as I watched her in the mirror, she folded her arms with exaggerated fashion, rolled her eyes much like someone else I know and let out a disgusted, “Oh, brother!” I quickly switched my eyes to him who looked a little perplexed at first but he quickly got it together and folded his arms- with a little trouble (she had done it so dramatically), rolled his eyes which looked more like looking at the ceiling of the car and let out an equally as disgusted, “Oh, sister!”
These "states of being" only happen on our 15 hour road trips to Georgia!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How Quickly Things Change

“Amen”. It was music to my ears- like hearing the timer go off when you are craving the cookies baking in the oven. On Saturday as I finished my talk in San Antonio, I prayed with the ladies and ended with “Amen” and sat myself down. It was over and I was one relieved happy girl. The setting was about as comfortable and cozy as it can get. There was a great big porch that wrapped around a ranch pavilion nestled in South Texas trees. Since the weather was typical Texas, they kept all the barn doors pushed wide open and we were able to enjoy the country setting all the more. The room was filled with huge square picnic tables topped with cow skins, glowing red glasses with candles and poinsettias. The enormous fire place made it all the more relaxing and with hostesses like Debbie and Twanya, it just couldn’t get any better. The only glitch I felt like we had was as we were singing the last worship song before I was to go up, I realized there was no microphone stand and no one had wired me either. Major amateur that I am, that sort of made the butterflies that were already in full "flutter" start doing kamikaze dives. I talk with my hands as much as I do my mouth! It wound up that I did hold the microphone and actually switched hands a time or two. (Those things get heavy.) There was a stage that I hadn’t really anticipated but I actually was glad for that once I got up there. With the distance and the lights, I couldn’t really see everyone. It made me feel a little anonymous, kind of like I was still practicing in my room or something (except add high heels and eyeliner). I could see silhouettes and hear their responses but that was about it.

To my delight, my dear friend, TJ, had agreed to go down with me to keep me company which turned out to a bigger blessing than I could have ever imagined. As she nobly attempted to take a “back seat”, so to speak, and help me, she wound up with ministry opportunities of her own and one particular lady wishing for “just 2 more days with her”. Not a few more minutes or a cup of coffee but 2 more days!! (Get in line, little lady.) She handled questions like, “Do you travel with her on all her speaking engagements?” If I had been standing there I would have said, “Yeah, on all TWO of them. Last time, she drove me from the church parking lot to Joe T’s downtown.” She only compounded the fun of the 24+ hours and sweetly anticipated many of my needs- something she does well for many.

As we left the country, we stopped at Starbucks (2nd stop) and I think I sucked down, to TJ’s amazement, a Caramel Frappucino in less than 3 minutes. I enjoyed my brain freeze and the “shakes” that quickly followed. We had every intention of getting more comfortable for the ride home and shopping, but we found ourselves walking the stores in San Marcos in high heels. (For those of you who don't know us, you can’t find 2 people who value casual and comfortable more-except maybe our Minnesota friend.) We kept calling ourselves ‘one of ‘those’ ”. You know who I am talking about. You see women that actually do this because they want to. This may explain why we only went to about 5 stores. As we stopped to eat dinner at Chuy’s (2nd night in a row), we went out of our comfort zone and ordered a different entrée. We were so proud of ourselves. Starbucks (3rd stop) took us home from Waco and happily into our own beds.

So after a pretty neat weekend of being affirmed, encouraged and pampered (by the church that invited me, TJ, Chuy’s and Starbucks), I woke up with 25 minutes to get ready for church, get kids bathed and ready (baths were imperative and I am loosey gooesy on baths), toast bagels, and make PB &J’s for the ride home. As I flew up the stairs by two’s, I am welcomed by, excuse me, but throw up on Julia’s floor. (Jeff had warned me last night that he had been a “Yes” Daddy all day and that they had plenty of sweets.) So there they were………….. completely unrecognizable on the floor by her bed. Miraculously, we made it to church on time only to be the number one distraction rushing Julia out the back when she would give me that panicked look. The last time it happened, Jeff ran her out, but not quickly enough. Yes, the “t-up” word or the “v” word all over the back of the sanctuary. Needless to say, we all loaded up and came home.

Little did I know, reality was only a good night’s sleep away.

Debbie-- the one who got me into this! Loved it, friend!

TJ- the one who helped me through it. (TJ--I decided it just wouldn't be right if I didn't include the picture. By the way, GREAT outfit.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lucy's Carol

Lucy’s Carol

(Lucy was 5 years old when she composed this carol;
her mother wrote it down word for word.)

When the baby borned
Joseph said to Mary,
‘What am I going to do about
This little-born Jesus Baby Christ?
I never knew it was going to be like this,
With all these angels and kings
And shepherds and stars and things;
It’s got me worried, I can tell you,
On Christmas Day in the morning.’

Mary said to Joseph,
‘Not to worry, my darling,
Dear old darling Joseph;
Everything’s going to be all right,
Because the Angel told me not to fear;
So just hold up the lamp,
So I can see the dear funny sweet little face
Of my darling little-born Jesus Baby Christ.’

Joseph said to Mary,
‘Behold the handyman of the Lord!’

Happy Christmas, happy Christmas!
Christ is born today.

I found this endearing carol in a Christmas book I purchased several years ago (Celebrating Christmas by Christina Goodings) and pretty much anyone who visits my house for any length of time over Christmas has it read to them. I can’t help myself. It is precious in so many ways-the language, the perspective, the expressions. The first time I read this, my thoughts were, I wish I knew this little Lucy. What sort of young woman is she now? I bought this book back in 1998 before I landed on the “different planet” with kids and so now, it’s really not Lucy I wish I knew…………. it’s Lucy’s mommy who I would like to spend a morning with sipping a cup of coffee. Just by reading Lucy’s words, you can imagine teachable moments they shared, meaningful conversations that took place, and precious time spent together. I think her words even speak of loving relationships in their home, “my darling, dear old darling Joseph” and “the dear funny sweet little face of my darling”. The special times and love shared in their home must have been abundant for Lucy to have formed such a beautiful, sweet and accurate scene of the first Christmas in her little 5 year old head. Way to go, Lucy’s Mommy! Your girl got it. Now, please tell me how you did it!

A word I have been thinking about a lot lately is intentionality—mostly because of this talk I am doing on Saturday, but also, because I am a parent and if I am not intentional in things I want to instill in my children, someone else will beat me to it. Jeff said something on the way home from church the other day that has been like a tune I can’t get out of my mind. He said, “So many times, we just throw things up on the wall and expect them to stick.” He was talking about something unrelated to parenting, but that was the context in which I heard it. Needless to say, I have lots of efforts that are lying on the floor. I rush through a great teachable moment to get out of the door. I cut off an opportunity for a meaningful conversation because “my ears are tired”. I shorten time together because emails need to be answered. I throw something up there, hoping it will stick because, after all, I threw really hard and really fast. Sadly, I find it only as a mess on the floor to clean up later. My prayer is to recognize these moments taking shape and take hold of them as if their lives depended on it. A little extreme? Maybe, but maybe not.So, thanks to Lucy’s mommy for the inspiration of doing something right, for being intentional. It sounds like, for you, what really mattered stuck.

The Objects of My Intentionality

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Shirt's Demise

Brighton HAD a favorite shirt. Cheapest one I have ever bought. Came straight from the quiet little town of Soperton where my Daddy owns a pharmacy/store that I would love to tell you about another time. When I bought it, I ordered 5 more for B’s best buddies. It’s one of, like, three he wants to wear every morning. You know how that goes. You also know when your kids are playing outside and it’s been…………. well, a WHILE since you have heard from them, you begin to wonder if they are still out there, alive. Just when I put down the kitchen towel to walk out and take inventory, Julia appears at the back door, eyes cast low and toe twirling on the floor. (Again, who teaches this posture?? Not me. I know I haven’t done this in at least 25+ years!-though Jeff may argue that) She says, “Mommy, you know that orange shirt Brighton has on? His favorite one with the number 13 on the back of it?” I am completely interested. “Yes.” “Well, it has, like, 2………… no, 3 holes in it.” Eyes still down and toe still dancing. As my curiosity mounts, she goes on. “He’s doesn’t know it, Mom.” Impatient to hear, I ask, “And how did the holes get there?” recalling the shirt was perfectly intact before they headed out to play. She finally unlocks the stare from the floor, looks up with a face of exasperation, remembering the moment, I guess, and says with hands flailing, “Well, I wanted Brighton to walk somewhere and he wouldn’t, so I ‘drug’ him!”
(In case you are concerned, I corrected her grammar later.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Kick-Off

It’s Sunday night after Thanksgiving. The kids are down and Jeff is at a meeting. For the first time in several days, it’s quiet here. Today, the last plate of leftover Thanksgiving was eaten for lunch and the last empty box of Christmas decorations made it to the attic not to be seen again until January. I think we made the most of Thanksgiving. I teased Jeff that I think he gets more excited about Thanksgiving than he does about Christmas. It’s sort of like a kick-off for the season, I guess. Lots of anticipation of what is to come.

Wednesday night we invited our cul de sac to the backyard for s’mores. Since the cold blew in that day, everyone came wrapped and covered with coats, hats, scarves and mittens. We warmed them up with wassail, coffee and a big fire. To my amusement, I found out some people are serious about their s’mores—2 marshmallows, 1 marshmallow, gold marshmallow, black marshmallow, chocolate stuck inside marshmallow etc…. When they left, Jeff and I and the kids toasted ourselves until the fire was gone (and the rest of the wassail).

Thursday morning brought the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to our living room as well as strange sounds from the kitchen as the kids watched and commented on Jeff’s preparing the turkey.

Brighton kept asking if the bird was dead-- such insight. The house began to smell like most every house does on Thanksgiving Day as the turkey began to cook. When our friends arrived with armfuls of their traditional contributions, we got to eat this once-a-year meal. We ended the night with our “thankful cards”. Each of us writes something he is thankful for about each member of the family and leaves the card under their pillow. It’s really sweet if we can get Julia and Brighton to slow down and think. This year, Brighton said he was thankful that Daddy took him to restaurants. That is so much his love language—anything but my cooking! Last year, Julia was thankful that Daddy stained our patio (??) and this year she was thankful that I was her teacher. I make 4x6 cards and put them in a little book for each of us.

Friday morning, I woke up with Christmas garland and ribbon in my eyes. Jeff handed me a big cup of coffee and cheered me on. Julia got most of the Thanksgiving stuff down while I started pulling out lots of memories in the form of Christmas decorations. She was a big help for quite a while whereas Brighton just wanted to know what was for lunch. (I told him I would eat whatever he wanted to fix for me.)

That night we read a new Christmas book to them that a friend of mine and I found during storytime at Barnes and Nobles one Friday. It’s called Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. Precious. It’s about a little mouse looking for a new home and truly gets “exceedingly abundantly more than [he] could ever ask or imagine”. We told the kids that the book was a clue to their surprise for Saturday morning. So the next morning, we made Mortimer’s new house—a gingerbread house and that’s what they call it, “Mortimer’s new house”. Poor Mortimer has also been blamed for missing house ornamentations made of sugar!

So to top off the weekend, there was the traditional Thanksgiving Day Georgia/Georgia Tech game at 2:30 on Saturday. Since NO ONE in Texas cares about this game, we had to PAY a whopping $21.95 just to watch it! However, it turned out to be the best money spent all weekend. Georgia won for the 7th time in a row!! Back in September I had some friends pick me up 2 Bulldog shirts while in Athens just for this occasion. I secretly put them on the kids before rest time thinking how fun it would be to see Jeff’s face as they came down the stairs. Since the little bees where getting smushed, it was way more fun than I had ever thought. (By the way, if you haven’t watched game on ESPN in a while, the ESPN commercials are worth seeing. Very FUNNY.)

That’s my recap—for me, for my family. I can’t help but wonder how this will all change over the years. Will I have to urge my children to stay home on Wednesday night to have “S’more night” with the neighbors? Will they chime in with their excited Dad as he pumps them up about Thanksgiving weekend? Will they take their “thankful cards” seriously? Will Julia enjoy helping me decorate the house for Jesus’s birthday or look for something else to do? Will they have taken any truth from Mortimer’s Christmas Manger—believing with their whole heart that their God delights in giving good gifts to His children? Will they grow up to be Georgia Bulldog fans? I am SO kidding. I can think of one thing, no, two, that I know won’t change. I will still be trying to carry on these family times and traditions for us and Brighton will still be asking me what's for lunch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Different Planet

I got a call from a friend of mine, Debbie, who moved to San Antonio to help her husband plant a church (Crossbridge Community Church) and asked me if I would speak at their Ladies Christmas Luncheon. This gave me quite a shock (and a rush of nausea) because, see, she has heard me speak before. I am not a speaker. I am one of those who would rather cook the meal for the couple of hundred at the luncheon, set up and clean up, print invites, make name tags, set the schedule, decorate, come up with games (even though, for me, that’s right up there with putt putt) than have to stand up in front of more than 3 people and actually say something—anything but SPEAK. I even reminded her of this. She acted like she didn’t hear me. Yes, I could have said no, but as Jeff and I prayed about it, it was clear that I was to do it.

The other time Debbie heard me speak, it was for the same kind of event in Salado, Texas. The original speaker had to cancel at the last minute (2 days before) and who do they call?? The one who takes 2 months to prepare for pretty much anything and has “Moses Mouth” when it comes to speaking to an, I cringe to type it, audience! However, it was nice to go on the pretenses of-- they called in second string on short notice so don’t expect much. (No one actually said that, but they knew I wasn’t their first choice. I was NOT the lady on the flyer!) I talked about this home made book I printed up about getting ready for the holidays. It includes checklists for November and December, stocking stuffer ideas and pages of Christmas traditions and decorating ideas/tips. The last 2/3 of the book is filled with tried and true easy recipes from my family and friends. When I asked Debbie what she wanted me to do for her, she said, “a little practical, a little spiritual”. Vague is not my friend. She was kindly giving me some creative room which I don't like to have. I need specifics WITH boundaries. The “spiritual” part, as she tagged it, is what I have been spending all my writing time on—getting the picture and coloring it in.

So, what made me want to write today is the little time I have spent on the “practical” part. This little book I put together was PRE-children. I started it in 1994 (first child came 8 years later)) and added to it over the years and now it’s almost 250 pages. I spend most of my time in the last 2/3 of the book where the recipes are so I haven’t looked at the first part of the book in a few years. Now, there’s a laugh. Someone with NO kids writing tips and ideas on how to make your Christmas easier. I can only imagine the laughs some moms got from my little check lists and the eyes rolling at some of my Christmas traditions and hazardous decorations. I am sure they soon figured out what planet I was on—the planet with no kids. Granted, there are women in ALL stages of life, but the majority in our church at the time had kids. No one said a word about my Currier and Ives images of Christmas where all is calm and beautiful (and unbreakable). The ladies were gracious to me, patted me on the back and told me what a great job I did. So, here are a couple of things that made me laugh.

“Taking the down the tree tradition—fill the inner branches with little gifts and candy to make this job more fun for the kids.”
One- by the time I am taking down the tree, I am done with traditions. I am into minimalist mode. Two- MORE little treats for the kids?? I had no idea how “done” kids could be too. Just get the tree down—an accomplishment in itself.

“Rise early enough to enjoy a quiet moment with your husband on Christmas morning before all the festivities begin.”
Is there an “early enough” on Christmas morning?? (Only if you lock your kids in their rooms like we do………..KIDDING.)

Julia and Brighton have certainly added a new dimension to Christmas, the best dimension in my opinion. The excitement and wonder they bring is unparalleled by anything I have ever known. Right now it’s 2 days before Thanksgiving and they are counting down the days until Friday because they know that’s the day all that’s “merry and bright” will emerge from the attic, the Ipod will be playing different music and our Christmas season will officially begin. We love the new “Sanders Planet” we have been on for the last 5 years. Wouldn’t go back for anything. Calm and beautiful may return one day but it won’t be near as fun. So, in the meantime, I will delight in AND cherish all that my precious kids have to offer to our family of four’s Christmas celebration.

Picture above: Year 2 on the new planet

Friday, November 16, 2007


There is something so wholesome about calico prints, long dresses and white bonnets. Wait until you see our daughters from today. It makes you want to move out to the woods or something. There are several little girls that get to have school at home so we try to get them together each week or so. This month we planned a Pilgrim party, complete with turkey and dressing. You really just can’t do Kindergarten or First grade without one. Most of them started out at the Log Cabin Village for “Timber Tales”. There, the delightful book “Hog Dance” was read to them and from what Julia tells me, the lady was a “very good reader”. If she kept Brighton’s attention, she must have had a song and dance. They made little paper wagons resembling what people would have used for travel. Then the little pilgrim girls (and their brothers) disembarked in my backyard and they were a sight to behold in their sweet outfits. It was perfect chilly weather for our small celebration. After we sampled (and devoured) everyone’s contribution to the meal, we made butter by pouring heavy cream into a Mason Jar and let the girls pass it around to shake it will all their might. We also found out that the Mayflower ship would not have fit in my backyard. It was 90 feet long, so we moved out into our cul de sac and measured off 90 feet so the girls (and the moms!) could see how big it was. (It’s actually very small, considering the number of people who made that journey.) Once that feat was accomplished and the moms were much more impressed than the girls, we headed to a sunny spot in the backyard to read “Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl”. Think white-washed reality TV in a book--sweet story with great information. As I did a mediocre job of reading words like "perchance", "coif" and "poppet" upside down, the girls listened intently while their brothers threw every immoveable object into our unfinished “pond”. (When Brighton realized he was the only boy sitting down to listen to the story, he hopped up so quickly you would have thought he’d sat in an ant bed or something.) We finished off the party with hat making. What is a Pilgrim Party without hat making? (Great job, Shannon!) With girls all donning new hats, I looked around my backyard and I felt as if I was seeing someone else’s backyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania maybe. Other than a few injuries from the swing set, lost head coverings in the “pond” and a couple of meltdowns near the end, I think it went great. So...............anyone for rich pottage for dinner and a quick game of knickers??

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


We were at Joe T’s the other night with a dear friend and, as she said, with the rest of Fort Worth. It had been one of those completely wonderful Saturdays when the sky was almost turquoise, a cool breeze was blowing and the sun was warm and bright. With visions of enjoying fine Mexican fare while sitting out on the lush never-ending patio, we drove up and our hopes were immediately dashed. The line was at least 2 blocks long and 5 people wide. Sadly and I do mean sadly, we resigned ourselves to a table inside which is altogether a different experience than outside. We ordered from the two things on the menu—enchiladas or fajitas served family-style. When the mariachis found out it was Brighton’s birthday, they serenaded our table with a traditional Mexican birthday song. B had no idea he was the man of the minute. Our friend had made one of those heavenly Texas Sheet cakes in honor of his birthday so after dinner we happily pounced on the fudge-like cake. Needless to say, the kids were beside themselves getting to eat chips, drink something besides water and now CAKE! Julia began swinging her arm around over her head where her brown curls have all but disappeared. With an impressive sizeable grin FULL of chocolate she announced, “This cake is so good it makes me want to rope a cow!” So there you have it--straight from my little Cajun Cowgirl. Giddy-up!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crooked Pictures

If you stopped by my house for a visit, you might get the impression that I like pictures of my kids. I often say, I can’t afford real art, so I hang my kids on my walls. Since I have quite a few frames adorning my walls here at home, I am a big fan of that sticky putty stuff that helps the frames stay put. Do cockeyed pictures bug you the way they do me? Just a little to the left…………. I have even caught myself adjusting other people’s pictures and wishing I had some of my putty stuff to share with them.

Because of this past weekend, my sometimes crooked pictures took on a whole new meaning. Julia and I experienced our first Mother-Daughter Retreat—and I use that word “retreat” VERY loosely. My friend, Jessica, and I managed to make a 3 hour road trip into a 4 ½ hour one. The conversation was good and we liked I-45 just fine. We eventually made it to the camp in the “wilderness” as the girls called it. I think my saying that the first session started at 8:30 –PM- speaks for itself. Bingo was scheduled for 10 p.m. followed by a marshmallow roast and so the schedule went on from there for the next 48 hours. In ONE afternoon we played in the sand, rode paddle boats, went horseback riding and rock climbing, attended a tea party with cookie decorating, and gave our girls manicures and pedicures. Oh—dodge ball right before lunch too! The bookend for the night was a hayride and a fire for s’more-making.

I have to say, besides just having all sorts of fun with Julia, another highlight for me was the “Just for Moms” early morning devotional with our speaker, Sally Clarkson. It was a casual time of this devoted wife and mother sharing her heart about family, motherhood and raising “wholehearted” kids. I don’t know that one sleep deprived momma missed this “optional” pre-breakfast time. This lady has wisdom from the Lord oozing out of her. I don’t need to rehash her words because she is just a click away in the internet/blog world. Read and be encouraged, affirmed, and challenged. (Her blog link is in the right hand column somewhere over there. Check out the Dallas conference in February.)

During the Saturday morning devotional she said one of those things that you can’t just let go—a word picture so loud that you can’t turn it down.

“So many times as Moms, we spend so much of our time straightening a picture on a wall when the whole house is burning down.”

By His grace, I feel my house is far from burning down but I knew all too well what she was communicating. How many days go by that I have corrected Julia and Brighton for this and that or reminded them to do this or that, but haven’t spent even 10 minutes nurturing their hearts, investing a little of myself in them? What irritation and frustration they must feel on those days. What kind of person do I seem to them on those days? Thankfully, as I sense the Lord directing my parenting even more closely, I feel like I am getting the bigger picture—His picture. It’s truly all encompassing- our calling as Mothers. It’s a giving up of our selves and our own agenda every day in order to invest pieces of eternity into their hearts.

I cannot forget my role of helping shape their view of our Good and Mighty God, of leading them to treasure God’s Word in their hearts, of teaching them how to choose between a good choice and a bad choice, and of modeling how to respond to God and others in difficult circumstances. This has to be my focus instead of the do’s and don’t's and the this and thats.

So if you ever stop by, see my pictures (which are hard to miss), and find one ‘just a little to the left’, it might be one I missed with my handy sticky putty stuff, or it might just be crooked on purpose.

Grandparent info:

She did great on the rock climbing wall. She made it to the top and spun the owl's head!

Her first horseback ride on a old horse named "Ace", which she thought was funny name for a horse, was perfect. We had to tug and pull his reigns and kick him a little because he kept wanting to snack on the way.

She loved the cabin with all the girls along with many daddy long legs. After seeing her first one and finding out that they were harmless, she threw her share OUT of our cabin.

The cafeteria experince was one of her favorite things too. Fun drinks and dessert every night was almost more than she could handle.

When I ask her what her favorite thing was she says, "When you painted my finger nails AND my toe nails!" (You might can tell from her smile (?) in the picture.)
Probably my favorite discovery was when I called home and spoke with Brighton. When I was about to say goodbye he said, "Where's 'Juuuya'? I want to talk to her." And talk he did. Julia just listened and smiled. I realized it was there first time apart-- for this length of time. They gave each other big hugs on Sunday afternoon.
When we dropped the Cheek girls off, I got back into the car and found her crying. She had held it together long enough. She was worn out. I asked her why she was crying and between her sniffles and sobs she said, "I am sad it's over."

Momma was too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Brighton School"

I got Brighton to myself today. Miss Barbara had the day off so that meant, I was ‘on’. Once B got wind of this, to my surprise, he announced the schedule like this, (I will leave out the start and stops and the do-overs.) “Mom, when we take Julia to Miss Winsor’s, we can go to ‘Starbooks’ and have apple coffee (juice) with a lid and I can do my ‘spellin' wurk.’ Right, Momma?” Spelling work, I thought. What was that? So I asked him. He didn’t know either. With a few more questions I found out that he wanted to do school with me at “Starbooks”. Not a problem. I happily do coffee. I have preschool worksheets. I answered his favorite question with his favorite answer, “Right, Brighton!”

From the time I got him up this morning to the time we dropped off Julia, I bet he asked me 4 times where we were going next. I think he just liked the way it sounded coming out of my mouth so agreeably. He even had an opinion to which one we went to. I loved every minute of this little guy with me this morning. His grin he gives away so freely is contagious to those who see it. He was visibly enjoying himself. As we were hovering over the worksheets I took to honor his wishes of "doing school”, every now and then he would say, “Just a minute, Momma. I need a ‘dwink’.”

We visited the potty, oh, 3 times maybe? Our first visit, as I was waiting on him to wash his hands, I was checking my messages while digging in my purse. I heard the well known sound of complete 4 year old frustration (not much different from 3 year old frustration). When I looked up, he was flailing his little hands madly in front of the paper towel dispenser, the kind you just reach up and pull out the paper towel. I figured it out and decided to watch. He’d wave one hand, then the other. No towel. He’d look at me. I’d raise my eyebrows and shrug my shoulders. More determined this time, he planted his legs firm and tried both hands at the same time, reminiscent of something the Karate Kid might do. (Aging myself, aren't I?) Still no towel. After a pretty impressive effort, he finally surrendered and said, “This won’t ‘wurk’. It needs new 'battries'!” I walked over, simply pulled the paper towel and handed it to him. With brow furrowed and mouth frowning, he looked at the dispenser then the towel in my hand then his own hands and said, “I don’t need it. My hands are dry.” And no wonder....

Picture above: "Grandparent-ish" information" This is one of his weekly crafts from Zoo school. Get this. These are the horns of the "Lesser Kudu". Next week, the "coati". Hello, Wikipedia.

Monday, November 5, 2007


(Get comfortable and hang in there---it’s a long one. Or maybe I should say, longer than usual one.)

Verses. I love verses. Scripture, the Word, promises, precepts, statutes, laws, decrees, commandments- there are many names for His Words, each communicating a unique facet of it’s intention and possessing the ability to shoot an arrow straight to my heart’s deepest need. One priority for me in raising Julia and Brighton is for them to ‘hide’ God’s Word in their hearts as the psalmist says in chapter 119 verse 11. As much as I love Emily Dickinson’s poetic expressions like, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” or even contemporary author Phillip Yancey’s profound statements like, “Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him,” they are like a dandelion blowing in the wind compared to the unchanging, inerrant Word of God.

Before Julia could speak I used to casually say Psalm 23 while I was buckling her in or fixing her breakfast, and one day, when I paused to answer the telephone, she filled in the blank and we were on our way! I was amazed at her capacity to memorize even though I had heard God’s word roll off the tongues of toddlers her age. But you know how it is. When it is YOUR kid, you want to think they are the only one who has EVER done it throughout the history of mankind. So, she continued her “shock and awe” campaign for Daddy and Mommy memorizing anything we repeated a few times………… until at the ripe age of 21 months her brother came along and all we were memorizing was where we dropped the last passy. Then, after a few months, I was thankful Julia could still sing her ABC’s, Jesus Loves Me and name her colors. When days became slightly more predictable (a.k.a. synchronized napping) with two in diapers, I slowly began reviewing what we had learned pre-Brighton. A few years have passed and now little brother is chiming in and sometimes prompting Julia of what comes next—which, by the way, completely unravels her. For a while there though, EVERY scripture Brighton learned ended in a resounding, “He restores my SOUL!”

As I review with them what they have memorized (in hopes of it being etched on their hearts), I keep reminding myself how much His Word meant to me while growing up. I didn’t memorize my first passage until I was 11 or 12 probably but, oh my, what an impact it and all the others made and are STILL making. This is such my motivation in helping the children memorize it.

The first verse I ever memorized was given to me by our church pianist, Mrs. Janie. It was hand written on a small square sheet of yellow paper. I don’t think anything precipitated her giving it to me. I think she was just encouraging me and challenging me in her sweet quiet way. It was Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” I still have that piece of paper tucked away in my Bible.

I think of verses so new to me in high school that I read over and over again. I Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, love, faith, conduct and purity, show yourself as an example of those who believe.” I wanted to please Him in all of those ways. And I Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth strongly supporting those whose hearts are completely His.” I wanted my heart to stop His eyes. I remember a time when I had acted completely out of line with my Mom (one of way too many times, mind you) and I left a verse on her mirror that God strategically had me read that very night. Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but with humility of mind consider one another as more important than yourself. Do not merely look out for your own interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which is also in Christ Jesus.” Those verses forced me to be faced with the disappointing reality that the world DID spin around someone else and that I had responded horribly. I wanted my Mom to know I knew that and I was sorry.

As I was trying to figure out my place and purpose at the University of Georgia, verses like II Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith and purity,” and Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” came into to full focus. After finding out rather quickly that my place was at the library and my main purpose was to keep my nose was in a book verses like James 1:4 that said, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” helped me read that last hour on the 2nd floor of the Science Library. I can remember a couple of life altering nights in college that I wanted His Word near to me when I slept because of the comfort it brought.

When I married, that relationship opened up a whole new category of verses for me. Many I knew but never had put into practice like the traditional verses from Ephesians 5, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord………….in everything…………the wife must respect her husband,” and the amazing I Corinthians 13 that I saw in a new context. However, I cannot count the times I read (and STILL read) Galatians chapter 5 realizing after the zillionth reading that THIS was the key to Ephesians 5. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Experiencing infertility had to be the time in my life that I clung most tightly to this life giving Word. How could I not with verses like Psalm 31:19, “How great is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in You,” and Psalm 113:9, “He will settle the barren woman in her home and make her the happy mother of children,”? When adoption was reality for us and our baby, Julia, was born, we were waiting (in the hospital) the period of time that Julia’s birthmother could change her mind and He gave me Psalm 112:7 in a very special way. “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast trusting in the Lord.” Before our second child was born, He confirmed the name, Brighton, we chose for our son by giving me the verse from Proverbs 4:18, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” I can’t help but interject here that our God and what He has to say is good.

I love His Word. There is just nothing like it. What letters on a page can do what His do? His are living and active. His are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. His are sharper than a double edged sword. His are a lamp and light to my feet. His penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. His are sweet to my soul and healing to my bones. His judge the thoughts and intentions of my heart. His were here in the beginning. His became flesh. His stand forever.

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.” Psalm 119:111-112
May His grace make it happen.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fair Phrases

What kind of blogging mother would I be if I didn’t post something about our trip to the State Fair of Texas? It is the only trip Julia remembers and it was Brighton’s first visit of many more to come.

Most repeated phrases/words:
“What’s THAT, Mommy?”
“I want to see Big Tex again.”
“Can I ride that?”

"Stay close!"
“Can I ride that again?”

“I want a race car.”

"We don't have time."
"Can we go in there?"
"Why is Big Tex so tall?"
"Too many tickets."
“I want one of those.”
“Why not?”

And my favorite...
“Can we come back tomorrow?”

Noteworthy for me from J and B:
B-“When the sun goes down and it is dark outside and all these people go home, where will Big Tex sleep?”
B-“I don’t want to ride the girl ‘fang’! I want to ride the boy ‘fang’!” (How does one learn such gender specificity, not to mention Southern slang, at such a young age?)
B- referring to the Fair as the ‘big building’.
J-“Why aren’t you talking to all the people talking to you?” (on the Midway)

Things they won’t forget:
The Ferris Wheel
Dancing dogs
Julia helping the Italian Juggler
First funnel cake
Julia riding the big swing ride
The Bird Show

Sticky cotton candy
First roller coaster ride

Things I won’t forget:
Brighton’s expression when he was shown how to milk a cow
Being 48 tickets lighter after our first ride
The perfect weather we had

Losing B for 5 seconds
Realizing Jeff had “Fair skills” (Thanks for coining the term, T!)
Leaving the hand sanitizer in the car
Our trip to THE picnic table
The looks on their faces all day long

I feel like now I should write ‘and for everything else there is MasterCard', but I won’t.

(Click to enlarge. If you are Papaw, Nana, Doodle or Meema, her face is worth it!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tabouli and Aesop

I found myself eating lunch at a place today I had never been. As I sat there enjoying every forkful (and handful) with some of my favorite friends, I kept thinking of a familiar sign that hung on a store on one of our well- worn paths, “Driven by 1000 times? STOP!” This particular place we “lunched” boasts no reason to make you really want to stop except maybe to check and see if the patio furniture is drive-by treasure with which to fill the back of your car. My thoughts when I have read their sign that says, “Let us cater your next event,” have been, yeah, because no one wants to eat IN there. The stones are dingy. The landscape is far from manicured or even tended to and like the honored birthday girl today said, “You don’t even know where the door is!” The one door I did find didn’t even have a doorknob. I was glad to find it ajar. Once inside the seemingly small Jazz Café on Montgomery (or is it Birchman?), I found a big room with very stark décor but a lively place whose tables were surrounded by ladies just out of Bible study, businessmen on a lunch break, students enjoying, well, another break and my sweet friends celebrating a birthday. We ordered the sampler of hummus, tabouli and tzatziki (za-ZEE-kee- thanks, KS) which impressively disappeared just moments after it arrived. (Moms in the absence of kids can really pack it in.) I learned today that “tzatziki” is that traditional yummy white yogurt sauce served with gyros and other Greek dishes. When we were in New York in August, Jeff and I were fascinated by the incredibly LONG line that would form behind this one food cart outside our hotel. I mean EVERY night people would wait in line for whatever they were plating up. I saw other carts along Broadway and Avenue of the Americas serving the same food but not with lines like this one commanded. One night as we were headed back to our hotel I gave in to my curiosity and asked someone in line what the big deal was. The young man’s answer was simple. “They have the best white sauce!” Okay. So, it was the tzatziki that caused this long line every night. I regret not standing in that line to formulate my own opinion. I couldn’t help but wonder how the Jazz Café’s white sauce would fare on the streets of New York City.
Anyway, today was a nice surprise as it was for the other girls who had never darkened the mystery door. In our attempt to celebrate a 31st birthday, I think we were all quite distracted by the Black Bean soup and the gyros (with ample “white sauce” on the side). Briefly, we tossed around comments about the place’s appearance and came to the conclusion that if they didn’t need more business, why would they spend the money and effort to fix up the place? It made me think of a fable we had read the other day that the moral was, “Fine feathers do not make a fine bird.” And so in the case of the Jazz Café on Montgomery and Birchman, it’s “feathers” are no reflection of its deliciously yummy food!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Why

It was a yucky day in the Sanders’ School at Home yesterday. There is no way else to put it. I had been looking forward to our Monday all weekend. Last week our 2 days together had been cut short by unavoidable things so I was excited about Monday when I knew Julia and I would have a good 2 ½ hours to spend together. My idea was to do a simple math evaluation just to review and to boost her confidence before we proceeded with our day. She has excelled in math, not because of my teaching, but because she just happens to be good at it. Yesterday, you would have thought she had never counted to 5. I have to tell you, all sorts of things went through my head of what might be wrong with her. Did she have a high fever during the night that erased all memory of numbers? Has my 5 year old been sucking on some recalled toy made in China? Have I repeatedly exposed her to mercury infested fish? Everything just short of visitors from space raced through my mind. What has happened to her brain this morning? I kept looking at her, studying her for some clue, waiting for her to burst out laughing to tell me she was “just joking”—she never did. After about 30 minutes of keeping my cool, I patted her on the back, smiled and said, “I think you need a 5 minute break. Why don’t you go upstairs and rest on your bed?” Without a word, she went. I set the timer and worked on dinner for our company that night. Second attempt. After 30 more minutes of her erasing, shrugging shoulders, not remembering how to write the number SIX (!!?!!) and my keeping my cool, I patted her on the back a little firmer, forced a smile and said, “You need another break. Go upstairs and lie down and think about how to write the number six.” Again, she went. I set the timer, walked into my closet (so she couldn’t hear me) called Jeff and heard myself say "yes" when asked if I wanted him to be pulled from a meeting! As I dissolved in my closet, Jeff offered to come home to try to get to the bottom of it. I told him no, that I wanted to be absolutely sure she was doing this on purpose and really hadn’t just forgotten the basics of addition for some freak reason. Third attempt. When she couldn’t recall the shape with 8 sides even after telling me the sea creature with 8 legs was an octopus, I waved the white flag. I surrendered. I lost and she won. My irritation was no longer hidden behind pats and forced smiles. No yelling, no tears, no brash words, but she knew I was upset and I told her why. She had wasted our entire morning with this crazy charade of hers. I told her I loved being home with her, loved teaching her how to read and do math, loved reading all sorts of books and poems to her on the window seat but not with someone who wasn’t putting forth any effort. I said boat loads in my monologue on the way to pick Brighton up from Tree Frog School including that there were lots of other things “mommy” could be doing this morning but she was my choice. This was her only question- her only words the entire way to Boland Street, “What kinds of things, Mommy? What else could you be doing?” Poor girl. She listened to a list a mile long. (Words like nap, friends, and coffee just flew out of my mouth!) Bad statement, bad question. However, before we got out of the car, I made sure she knew I would pick her ANY DAY of the week to spend my morning with and I felt very blessed that God had asked me to be her teacher and that I wanted to do it.
Unfortunately, the charade played on through Daddy’s inquisition and investigation and she suffered the consequence. Her choice. But before our dinner company arrived, she had completed the math work perfectly as I knew she was capable of all along.

So what of this? What am I thinking today? I wish I had prayed more through the whole shenanigan. I wish I had picked her up, snuggled with her, prayed with her and asked her was there something she needed to talk about. I wish I hadn’t allowed my flesh to take control and wield the face and voice of frustration at her. I wish I would have stood stronger while my daughter tried to see how far and how long she could push her mother. (a pitiful 60 minutes) I wish I could have seen that her charade was only one of her ways of finding out how securely she was woven into this family God hand picked for her. Her intentional rebellion was her way of testing where Mommy and Daddy stood with her. This isn't the first or the last time we have stared rebellion in the face. It’s not cute at 5 and it will certainly be full blown ugly at 15. God knows best, doesn’t He? Each week His Divine wisdom in having her home with me is ever so evident. The sweet thing is He doesn’t have to show me these things but He has been. When He asks His followers to do something, hopefully, we do it and we may never know exactly why. His gracious gift to me so far has been allowing me to see some of the “why” of His asking me to carry out this particular task.

(I respectfully told Him the “how” would be nice, too.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monsters and Moolah

Today after I got the kids up from naps, I took the opportunity to clean their bathroom. Yippee. It is a Jack and Jill so they share the toilet. I know, poor Julia. Who knows what goes on in there bacterially speaking? Anyway, Julia went on downstairs to see Jeff and Brighton stayed to talk. Love that about him. As I was cleaning the big white Petri dish, he announced, “God is with me ALL THE TIME!” This new realization is important to him right now since his imagination conjures up all sorts of hooey. Matching his enthusiasm, I said, “You are right, Brighton. Isn’t that just the neatest thing?” “Yes, Momma. That means if when I am in the bed at night when it is dark outside and I look under the covers and I see the pink eyes that I see in the dark and I am scared, God will come in my room and get that monster and take him and ‘thwow’ him in the “Twinity Twail” water and he will be gone forever and I won’t see his pink eyes under my covers in the dark anymore!!” Amen.
Later (and totally unrelated), as he opened his belated birthday card from PaPaw and Nana, Jeff made a big deal over the check so he ran over to me waving it in the air. I said something about how fun it would be to spend it, trying to help him understand the excitement regarding the rectangular piece of paper his grandparents had sent. In the midst of looking at the card and reading the card, Jeff put the check in his pocket. Once Brighton realized it was out of sight, he started asking, “Where’s my ‘spend it’? Where’s my ‘spend it’?” I could completely relate.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Brighton was born in Austin during football season so we have thrown a UT football tailgating party since shindig #1. Growing up in SEC country, I have had to learn the difference between an Aggie and a Longhorn. Then there are Red Raiders and another one I always forget. I have accumulated some things of this strange orange color adorned with the longhorn silhouette and actually like it because it matches the pumpkins I always have outside this time of year. ; ) Some die hard fans let me borrow some really neat stuff too.

When I awakened Brighton on the morning of his birthday which was Wednesday, I told him he was four years old. He sat up straight and said shaking his blonde bed head, “You mean, I am not ‘tree’ anymore?” I assured him he was four and he proceeded to get dressed by himself “because I am four now.”

I began making his cake yesterday- the caramel cake- and it almost did me in. 5:00- first batch of icing burned. Called Mom and she adjusted the boiling time. 5:45- second batch didn’t burn but was cement after cooling and I was supposed to add 10X sugar! Called Mom and she said add water to break it up. 8:30- added 10 X sugar. Something was terribly wrong. It looked like Play Dough just before drying out. Called Mom- more water. 8:45- began to ice cake and was about a fourth of a cake short. Took a break. 10:30- 1st half batch- burned again! 10:40 2nd half batch- fine, just a different color than the 2nd full batch. Oh well.

Five of the roughest and toughest little boys in Fort Worth along with Moms and sisters helped us celebrate Brighton’s fourth birthday today. Nothing makes Brighton happier than to have friends over. Actually, you don’t even have to be his friend. The UPS man will get quite the same response. He LOVES company. As we were waiting on all his friends, he was trying to "help" me in anyway possible to get the ball rolling. He disappeared for a while and reappeared in the kitchen carrying underwear, pants, socks and shoes. (At this age it ALL has to come off to take care of certain situations.) He said, “Can you help me put all 'dis tuff' on? I’ll still be four, right Momma? But will you help me and I will still be four?”

I thought the party went great. Boys are really easy. We had them throw a little football between the “goal posts” in order to win a prize. Here were the prizes. (Thanks, Miss Sue!)

After the “team picture”, they just started running in single file line all over the yard.

About half way through the party as I was in the kitchen taking “Dino Nuggets” out of the oven, he stuck his head in the back door and with a grin only he can give said, “Thanks for my party, Mom!!” That was all I needed. I checked later with Jeff to see if this had come from the “Daddy-prompter”. Negative. Brighton delighted in everything about his party and I so enjoyed watching him. He took great pride in serving his friends his “birfday” cake. He loved all his toys and gave sweet hugs to the moms. The way he whacked the piñata would have made any Momma proud. So good bye, my little “tree” year old and I look forward to every day of your being four.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When I left my hometown in 1988 for the University of Georgia, I left behind people whom God had used tremendously in my life. It never occurred to me to pray for someone else in Athens who would do the same thing, but God knew best, as usual, and to my complete surprise and delight, He did just that.
Like any good Southern Baptist girl, I showed up at 9:45 for Sunday school at the most recommended church my first Sunday in town. I remember when the college teachers were introduced being drawn immediately to one particular lady. When she spoke, you sat a little straighter and felt relaxed at the same time. You could hear the authority of God in her voice and the deep love she had for her Savior. I didn’t care what year she was teaching- freshman, sophomore, junior, senior- I was going to be in her class and that is exactly what I did—all 6 years through pre-pharmacy and pharmacy school. (Quite a rebellious act for me.) Mrs. Summey was sort of a mix between my two mentors from home and I followed her around whenever I could. God blessed our relationship and I was able to spend time in their home and with her two young kids, Lance and Melissa. There I got to see first hand how her love for Christ was lived out with her husband Jeff and her children. To be there was an opportunity to see the hands and feet of Christ as she served her family and me.

Some things I remember from that Sunday school class are statements like: “Wear white and keep it clean.”, “The secret of living is bearing fruit. The secret of bearing fruit is abiding in Jesus Christ. The secret of abiding is being willing to obey Him. The secret of obeying Him is loving Him. And the secret of loving Him is knowing Him.”, “If we act, think, smell, dress, talk, eat and drink just like the rest of the world, we have nothing to offer it.”, “Two reasons to obey Him: One, so you can be a target of His blessing and two, so you can give Him the pleasure of bestowing the blessing.” There are many notes in the margins of my Bible but these are the ones I think about the most. She is also the who had me tell the whole class where I saw myself in 10 years and after I did, she asked me, “What if only one of those things happens? What if none of that happens? What will you think about God then?” Those questions prepared me well for something I never expected to encounter a few years later.

Before I got married, I asked her if my gift from her could be a letter- a letter about marriage and her advice to me as a new wife. Without having a family at this point, I had no idea what an enormous thing I had asked her to do (the sacrifice of time and energy this would take), but of course, she did it and I don’t think she left anything out. That letter is a treasure to me and I have referred to it many, many times. During our first year of marriage, I remember calling her about a situation and not being able to hold it together on the phone. She dropped everything, got in her car, drove 4 hours so she could spend the day with me. By the time she left that night, ALL was well because she counseled me with God’s counsel and loved me with His love.

Just this August she sent out an email telling her friends and family that she had breast cancer. These words were in that first email. “All of the details of life are dove-tailing together as only God can do. It is SO exciting being a part of His world. (emphasis hers) I face it with complete confidence that God goes before and after me in every step He leads us to.” Par for the course for Mrs. Summey. I wasn’t surprised by her reaction. Inspired but not surprised. This is who she is.
We have gotten a few updates including one that said her body had reacted horribly to the chemotherapy – only the 2nd dose of it. She was hospitalized for a week because of her body’s response and this is what she said about coming home. “The gray haired old woman returned to Green Valley Farm about 5 p.m yesterday - no gray hair, but older than ever. As I descended in to the farm, I had one of those brief conversations with the Almighty related to this old place. He knows that I view Green Valley Farm as the nearest I've been to heaven on this earth. So I did ask when he decides to take me home to Him, could he just give me a direct flight from here to there. There is NO place on the face of the earth I'd rather LIVE OR DIE than these acres of the southern Appalachians. Thank you for allowing me to come home this week.” (again, emphasis hers)

Today was a treat for me. Lance and Melissa, her children, came through town on the way to the airport. I got an email from their Mom this week and this is what it said, “Melissa is about to implode with the anticipation of hopefully seeing you Tuesday. She is a remarkably strong young, Christian, but still imagine how stressed her days are with my diagnosis. Please just love on her and reinforce her foundation.” Her words struck my heart unexpectedly-a mother’s wish for someone to comfort her daughter. I had been given a charge of sorts and I considered it a great privilege. Lance was bigger than Jeff, now wearing the same kind of football ring Jeff used to thump Lance on the head with when he was only chest high. Melissa—I was stunned how much she reminded me of her sweet Mother. Oh my. I enjoyed just watching her face as she talked because of all the ways it reminded me of Mrs. Summey. So here I was with these 2 amazing young people and I do mean amazing. Their hearts are set on serving the Lord in any capacity He asks, just like their parents. Melissa just returned from a year in China, teaching English and loving her students with the love of Jesus and chomping at the bit to go back as soon as she can. Lance is about to start an intern in Washington D.C. with Bread for the World with all intentions of changing communities everywhere. They spoke tenderly and lovingly of their mother and spoke maturely of the challenges of the cancer and the hard hitting chemotherapy. Their trust in the Lord flew like banners over their heads and I was so encouraged.

As I sat there I realized I was witnessing and experiencing Mrs. Summey’s fruit- the fruit of her labor of all these years raising her two kids. Her God-loving and God-fearing children were sitting around the table with Jeff and me at Starbucks. Oh, why didn’t I pay closer attention back then? THIS was her reward of not growing weary in her well doing, her harvest of not losing heart in doing good.

Mrs. Summey (I still can’t call you Melanie.), I love you and am praying for you to see many seasons come and go on Green Valley Farm. And by the way, your fruit is beautiful.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Yesterday is over and words fall completely short to describe how I feel. Actually, words really can’t explain any truly important part of yesterday, but for some reason I feel I need to make an effort. To make it harder, I must remain vague in order to protect those treasured things of the deepest parts of the heart.
We caused some one great pain yesterday and she responded beautifully. It was a detailed picture of grace and beauty that I will not soon forget. There has hardly been a decision more prayed through and probably never a decision that has hurt in such a tender place. As God kept affirming this decision, we plodded on knowing we would obey. With obedience would come much grief, but as we all know, with obedience also comes great blessing. One of the sweetest blessings of yesterday for me was I got to see more clearly than ever, the gentle hand of my Savior on a young lady’s life. I am still in awe of Him because of what I saw in her. I saw her choose to be peaceful, choose to be fun, choose to be respectful, choose to be submissive, choose to be generous, choose to set aside her own desires for the good of someone else, choose to be honorable, and the most important choice I thought she made was that she chose to love. You can find her on the high road for that is the one she took. God's Spirit with her was evident and her life is marked by Him in countless ways.
I am forever grateful for this young woman for we are connected like few women are. But even the connection we have on this earth can’t compare to the one God has given us as sisters in Christ. My prayer for her is that as she continues to make these Spirit led choices that glorify our Father so incredibly that she would be overwhelmed by His graces, mercies and blessings. She is STILL on my short list of heroes.

For we who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory which is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Birthday Cakes

We are entering the season of birthday cakes in our family. I am feeling the pressure. I know. Big deal, you say. Well, you are not me and it is enough to cause this girl some anxiety. You see, I come from a long line of amazing cake makers-by birth AND by marriage. I know. It’s sounding sillier by the sentence, but in my family you must learn how to make cakes because you could never defame the family’s name by, heaven forbid, purchasing a cake from a bakery or let alone a grocery store! It just isn't done. (I grew up in South Georgia. Does that help explain anything?) So, every family member has their own favorite pick and as sure as you get called ‘honey’ in my hometown, you get to indulge in your cake on your birthday.

My Mom always made a strawberry cake for me on my birthday. It's one of those tastes and smells you can recall any moment you think of it. The real strawberries keep the cake moist so when you put it in your mouth, you almost hate to swallow it. When Julia came along, I thought her birthday would be a GREAT excuse to experience the cake again. With Mom 1000 miles away and a husband who doesn’t do 'bake at 350 for 10 minutes', I don’t get the strawberry cake anymore so I make it for Julia. She loves it because one, it’s yummy and two, because it is the only color in her rainbow.................PINK! (My 15 year old nephew prefers this one too, but don’t tell anyone.)

My brother’s pick is a Lemon Cheese Cake. No cheese here, but a cold, tangy, melt in your mouth layered cake. You won’t find this cake in any bakery. And don’t try to order one. You will take a home a cheesecake flavored with lemon. This one happens to be my Mom’s favorite too, but sadly, I don’t ever remembering her having one unless her dear Mother,Ju Ju, came to town.

My Daddy’s is Japanese Fruit cake—not the kind that gets passed around every Christmas, but one with actual cake layers, raisins, nuts and coconut. The layers are alternated, plain and spiced, but Daddy requests all spice layers and that, of course, is what he gets. (His mother started granting that wish.) I never have developed a taste for this one, but it’s a staple in September and again at Christmas.

My Jeff is partial to caramel cake and he would choose his Mom’s caramel cake any day. It’s wonderful. (Even though she has been a city girl most of her life, she grew up in South Georgia too!) In my family, Ju Ju is the famous maker of the Caramel Cake. Julia was my grandmother and the memories of eating ANYTHING in her kitchen are worth re-living. Now, if you never had Ju Ju's Caramel Cake (and you see it's in capital letters- it deserves it) you never will have it quite like it is supposed to taste. She had the touch and those genes didn't quite make it to me! This icing has to be boiled, cooled and re-boiled and of course she NEVER timed it. She said she did, but we think her clock was in another time zone. Without SPECIFIC instructions, my brain is like a machine with bolts and springs coming loose and popping out everywhere. My Mom does an unbelievable attempt. Almost the exact replica- so much so she makes 2 every summer to take to the beach and we (I?) hide pieces to make sure we (I) get our (my) share! (Back off, Bill.) Since Jeff’s Mom has the dibs on her son’s birthday cake (and I could never duplicate hers), I make him a cake with chocolate icing between the layers and caramel icing on the outside with chocolate drizzle. I have tried to woo him with chocolate and presentation.

Okay, last one. Brighton loves caramel cake (not capitalized). So basically, his cake is an attempt at the impossible but one we love to try to emulate as we remember our sweet Ju Ju. And besides it tastes like no other cake. As Charlie's small and funny little sister Lola would say, it’s very completely the wonderfullest and most extrememly delicious cake ever! (Her favorite and her best!)

The problem is I am now the one making these cakes for my family and therein the pressure lies. Next week is the week I ‘attempt the impossible’. THE caramel cake. The one with the icing that is always guess work (bolts and springs). Boiling, cooling, and re-boiling. I have another problem. My Mom isn’t coming. First birthday she has missed. She is having knee surgery. I told her that her excuse was lame. Somehow the last 3 years in all the hustle and bustle of her helping me to prepare for and execute B’s party, a caramel cake has appeared on my counter. Voila! There it would be. She can whip one out like Rachel Ray whips out a meal. Uttering a prayer of gratefulness to God under my breath, I would thank her and move on to balloons or brownies.
So, there will be no magic this year. No amazing cake makers in my kitchen or cakes appearing on the counter. Just me. The torch has officially been passed. My hand has been forced. I will get it done. I must. It may be lop-sided and the icing may fall off of the sides, but I will make a good Ju Ju effort and my son will have a ‘birfday’ cake.

Yes, I just wrote a blog entry on birthday cakes. I can’t believe it either.