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 entrĂ©e. 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