Sunday, April 27, 2008

Half Price Tuesdays

Tuesdays. My “day off”. Alone time. Love it. My kids spend their mornings with two ladies I consider geniuses, not to mention saints and this particular morning I didn’t have much to do. Jeff was out of town so food was low on my priority list. The kids are easy and popcorn always sounds good to me. So Tuesday, the thought of visiting Half Price Books stirred a certain excitement within me, as it usually does. It has become a regular stop for me since I have been trying to improve our home library for the kids. Books are wonderful but books are also pricey. As my friends and I get these "must read" book lists, we have sites online we check and some peruse Half Price Books on a regular basis, like me. After telling my friend, Kathy, about a few things I found in the Hulen store, she decided to give it a try, but in true Kathy form, she went to a different Half Price Books so she wouldn’t “buy anything [I] wanted”.
Once I dropped off the kids, I began my mission: to find cheap books. Julia’s Samantha doll had made the trip to school that morning and she was securely buckled in the middle. (so much for being alone) Since Samantha’s big brown eyes seemed so attentive in the rear view mirror, I debated aloud about which store to visit, thinking of what Kathy did last week. The problem was that I had visited a Half Price Books while I was in Ohio last weekend and had found all sorts of treasures on my list. I was actually shocked at their selection and began to wonder if people in Ohio had something against reading. The even better part was that my Mom was with me and was just as enthusiastic about buying things for her grandchildren as I was about purchasing great children’s books. We made a perfect pair. This stop in Dayton clued me in on how different each store’s offering can be so I was itching to try another one in Fort Worth, so I caved to my curiosity and headed in a different direction. As I walked in and spotted the “Half Pint” section, my attention was drawn to a familiar green van parking in front. It was Kathy! Oh my gosh! I was caught. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was on the phone with my Mom and quickly got off so I could think clearly—come up with some strategy. I thought about hiding. I thought about leaving. I thought maybe I can still shop but just steer clear of her. Crazy, I know. Then my phone rang and I REALLY wanted to answer it. So unfortunately, Kathy heard me before she saw me. I stammered through my excuses for being there and thankfully, she wasn’t territorial. We were civil and even gracious as we searched for our favorite authors and created no embarrassing scenes except maybe our balking at any book that was more than $5.00!

My point for writing this? Any of you with babies or soon to be parents, start this library now so you aren’t trying to do it in a matter of months and wind up spending the grocery budget on good books for your children. Food is just as important……..well, almost.

Kathy and I left happy and still had milk money. As it turns out, anything I bought, she already had and anything she bought, I had……………except for maybe those Billy and Blaze books. But I am not bitter. Really.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Flat Rug

Flat, not with an enormous elephant under it. I found the rug to be completely flat, with no remnants of large trunked creatures under it- barely even dust. I got to meet my Mom and a dear friend, Denise, in Ohio this weekend where Denise’s handsome son, Drew, was playing “Jimmy” in the clever musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. I was blown away by Drew’s smooth, strong voice and how he brought his character to life so vividly that at times I forgot he was Drew, the adorable brown eyed little boy I had babysat from time to time in my hometown. His facial expressions communicated volumes and his timing was impeccable. You never wanted his song to end and apparently, his voice had an interesting impact on the female cast. I got wrapped up in his hopeful romance with Millie waiting for his good looks and sweet charm to melt away her “modernism” ……………until he, well, grabbed her and laid a big smoochie on her. Then, in an instant, he was Drew again and I was like, “Whoa!!!!!!!!! Okay, that’s LONG enough. You barely even know her! Is she a nice girl?? DO something, Denise!” I stole a glance at his mom, who never took her eyes off of her boy the entire show and she was just smiling, so I just forced one too and decided to ask my 10 questions later. (Even though, I still wondered if she was, indeed, a nice girl.) All ended well for Millie and Jimmy (no more kissing) and we had seen a delightful performance.

Okay, the rug and the three of us. Because of my immaturity in Christ during my high school years, I created tension between these two amazing women. First let me say, Mom and Denise have always loved each other. They have been friends way longer than I have been friends with Denise. Unfortunately, for a season, their friendship was strained because of me.

I would steal away to Denise’s home any chance I could because there, I felt understood and nurtured in my relationship with Christ. I don’t even know that I really tried to communicate at home all that was going on in my heart at the time. It seems like every time I tried, it all came out terribly judgmental and legalistic which was completely opposite to what I was being taught. My Mom had every right to battle this ugliness that seemed to come out so often in her teenage daughter and to her credit, she let me see all this for what it really was instead of pointing it out in every discussion we had. Sadly, I was out from under my parent’s roof before I understood how “Phariseeical” I had been. In high school, as I continued to follow Denise (and sometimes her husband, John) around their home, learning all I could, she could not in good conscience send me away and, in turn, my Mom never said I could not go over there. So we all walked this wobbly tight rope for years--- wanting to do the right thing, not wanting to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings or overstep anyone’s boundaries.

I have now been out of my parent’s wonderful home for 20 years and up until last Thursday morning I had my reservations about how this trip of 3 would go- 3 ladies who share unique, once in a life time relationships: long time friends, mother-daughter, discipler-disciple. Well, I walked up to meet them at the airport in Dayton, Ohio and there they were, talking and laughing just as I would have been with a friend on a girl’s trip. They had evidently talked each other silly since the early morning drive to Atlanta and they really never stopped. To my delight, it seemed they had more to talk about than I did with them. It did my heart a world of good to see two of the women I love most in the world going on about this and that and truly enjoying one another. Each one is still my mentor, in their own special and beautiful way. One, my mother and sister in Christ and the other, the dearest of friends and also, my sister in Christ. This weekend, we enjoyed fellowship of the sweetest kind. No more tight rope walking, no more mountainous rugs, just a flat rug on a nice, clean, sturdy floor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meema and Doodle

Jeff’s parents were just in for a visit. Being Jeff's parents, that makes them my “in-laws”. Because of who they are and the choices they make, “in-laws” is a really nice word around here. They are ever gracious and completely supportive of anything we have done or presently do….from “helping” the car coast from the light to our mailbox to cheering their son on in uncharted ministry opportunities. THAT makes me ever so thankful. It is a joy to have them here. Just like anyone else’s week, we had a few things going on. Even the kid’s schedules were potentially busy. As we tried to weed out some “negotiable” items on the calendar, one in particular affected Julia. It was a birthday party, but as Jeff explained to her how she didn’t get to see her grandparents very often, she chose her Meema and Doodle without any whining or pouting. As Julia and Brighton get older, the buzz around the coming visits of Meema and Doodle are growing with intensity. The anticipation is almost more than they can bear. We count down days, bedtimes, naptimes and then minutes until, from our dining room window, Julia and Brighton see the Sanders' “sick of I-20” car pull into our cul de sac. This visit I was at Walgreens when they arrived but called shortly after they walked through the door. I heard familiar sounds of my excited children and, for a few minutes, hated being at work. Before I left home that afternoon, Julia made a simple coconut sheet cake for them and I could hear her already begging Daddy to get it out of the refrigerator to offer them some. In true grandparent style, they sat and ate a piece whether they wanted it or not!

As the short visit went on, I barely saw my kids. I don’t think Julia or Brighton let them out of their sight for a moment—maybe except for the bathroom and even then, solitude was sometimes unsuccessful. They were just right up under them, on their heels—especially Julia with Meema. One afternoon, we were all getting ready to go out and I realized the children weren’t in OUR bathroom where they usually are when we are getting ready, but upstairs, once again. I went to the bottom of the stairs to see if they were allowing any privacy at all and this is what I heard: water from the sink and Julia saying rather loudly, over the water, “Meema, why do you brush your tongue?” How is that for crowding? Obviously, Julia loves to watch Meema do her hair, put on her makeup and apparently, brush her teeth. Somehow, Meema always has makeup that she “never" uses and somehow, it lands in one of Julia’s purses which then calls out to her begging to be used or rather, smeared. However, I would have a hard time picking a more elegant and classy lady for Julia to watch get ready and to see femininity at its best, up close and personal. (Another thing for which I am thankful)

Fortunately for us, we get lots of work out of Doodle (yes, there is a story behind the name) when he comes. Maybe that is why they don’t come very often? There always seems to be some sort of project Jeff is trying to finish and Lowes trips that have to be made. Brighton made one trip with them but B’s main concern was not Lowes or the Dollar Store (underwritten by Meema) or if Doodle would play with him, but if Doodle was going to eat breakfast with him and sit by him. “Is Doodle going to eat ‘wiffus’? Can I sit by Doodle?” This is the ultimate for Brighton—a good “company” breakfast (that being something other than cereal, cheese toast or frozen flax seed waffles) and a grandparent by which to sit. Doodle. As Meema often says, “Those two have something special going on.” (And as the picture shows, it started early.)

I have to say God has taken care of these 1000 miles I used to be so concerned about. I don’t think 2 kids could be more crazy about their grandparents—BOTH sets. It is His handiwork. He grafted 2 infants perfectly into our family leaving no person untouched in the process. No one is more thankful than me that our kids have such sweet grandparents and have all four eager to make memories with them. A recurring prayer from day one of the adoption process was that God would knit our hearts together in a special way—all of our hearts. He has shown Himself faithful………. as usual.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Well-Trained Daughter

Jeff’s dream come true. Someone to make coffee for him. All is right with the world. It’s not enough that his coffee maker measures AND grinds the beans for him. It requires little more than filling the tank with water up to the number 12. (Yes, 12, for one person. Jeff’s coffee cups are super sized.) Why am I not the one to fulfill his dreams, you ask? Have I ever mentioned that he is picky about his joe? Long, long ago I heard the grinder grind and the familiar sound of the brewing and decided I wanted a cup of coffee. I got my favorite mug and pulled out the carafe knowing it would stop brewing when I did. At that moment a large hand came out of nowhere and stopped me. I heard my husband say, “Don’t!” With fear and trembling I said, “The coffee stops brewing when I pull this out, right? I didn’t spill any.” With Starbucks apron authority he answered, “Yes, but you're pulling the heart out of the coffee when you interrupt the brewing.” Excuse me? The what?? I wasn’t the least impressed with his barista mumbo-jumbo, but I never did it again. Ever.

Not only is the timing of pouring critical but the caffeine intensity and particular roast are of the utmost importance. If you have ever had a cup of coffee at our house, you know why you can smell it when you get out of your car in the cul de sac. No candle or air freshener on the planet has a chance of fulfilling its mission, because what can overpower the smell of freshly ground and brewed coffee at the concentration of Jeff’s liking (need)? Let’s just say his coffee has a life of its own. Nuclear powered. Toxic. Decaf is not welcome here. He gets it from Costco, where they roast the beans “in house”. Columbian Supremo. Any other kind or flavor “defiles” his coffee maker causing “everything to taste different”. Every few Christmases, he will brew some foreign holiday blend followed by a cleansing ritual that seems to last clear until Valentine’s Day.

Simply put, he’s a coffee snob. He makes 2 pots a day at home and who knows how many at the office. I have to give him credit because the last coffee maker, as fancy as it was, was a huge deal to maintain. He even ordered an extra set of internal parts to make it easier on himself to facilitate this “habit”. (Isn’t that a nice word for addiction? Or should I call it a “headache preventative?”) Therefore, my thought has always been, why try to make the coffee? It’s way too complicated and I am way too insecure. Surely I would never get it just right. Right? This, of course, has worked out nicely to propel a great excuse to be hands-off the java production.

So while I have indulged in those excuses (pretty good ones, I might add), Jeff has been counting the months until Julia was old enough to learn the secrets of this daily discipline. He pumped her up for weeks until she thought this was what she was born to do—make coffee for her Daddy. And in a sense, I guess she was. She absolutely loves doing it for him and he has someone to make his coffee.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

From the Backseat #4 "Old"

As we drove down Vickery for the gazillionth time last week, Julia was reviewing her verses. Since the car—and God—seem to be our only constant during this season, it seems to be the best time for review. When Julia asked Jesus into her heart one of the verses we taught her, as most parents do, was II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!” A dear friend even made a special trip to our home days after Julia’s “new” life began with a hand made tiny glittered butterfly with the special verse from II Corinthians, which is now forever hidden in our daughter’s heart. Last week after she quoted it, she sat quietly and didn’t move on to the next verse. Finally, she spoke up and said, “Momma, I’ve still got some old in my heart.” In less than 10 words, she had expressed the primary struggle of my 20 some odd years of trying to walk with Christ. "Old"- a four letter word with only three letters.

Putting this infamous battle between the old and the new, the flesh and the Spirit into words is important to me. It can seem so nebulous at times but other times, there is nothing more “in your face” REAL. If I have the Holy Spirit within me, why in the world do I snap at my kids so often? Respond disrespectfully to Jeff? Fight to get my own way? My sins are as consistent as the tide but yet, the “fruit” from Galatians 5 is hit or miss with me. It grieves me that I cannot say to my children, “You may watch Momma today and you will see an example of what it means to ‘walk in the Spirit’. Do as I do. Respond how I respond, children.” At this point, they would be utterly confused and in need of counseling at an early age. However, I can say I have been the “poster parent” for confession and repentance. I make lots of opportunities for that around here.

There is a book that has popped up in our last 3 homes from time to time. Jeff would read it and tell me how great it was. I would begin and then a few years later he would read it again and tell me about it. I would start again, not knowing when I actually stopped reading it. I would love what I read so I have no idea why I never finished it. We’ve always had several copies for Jeff to give away so these books really have just appeared out of nowhere while moving or just straightening up the house and putting things away. Well, in January this year, Jeff read Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray again. He and his staff are going through it together as well as our small group from Christ Chapel. I was determined from the beginning to finish it this time and I can’t tell you how delighted I am. The late Mr. Murray has put words to this exhausting struggle and to my relief, words to the daily or rather moment to moment victory.

My favorite chapter is chapter 5 which is simply entitled, “Impossible with Man, Possible with God” from Luke 18:27. It would not be right to attempt to sum up this jewel of a book, because one, it is short enough and two, there is just too much that is of value. I will share a few quotes and hopefully whet your appetite enough for you to purchase this classic for yourself.

“Let us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life: ‘It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless.”

“The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be.”

“If you felt you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God: ‘My heart’s desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform it. It is impossible for me to live that life. It is beyond me.’ Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do.” (Sound familiar? Every page is infused with His Word.)

(I am having trouble picking just a few…)

“A good many Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and sin, instead of rest and victory, because they begin to see: ‘I cannot, it is impossible.’ And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under the impression, ‘I cannot’, they give way to despair. They will do their best, but they never expect to get on very far.”

“Do believe that when He takes charge of you in Christ, it is possible for God to make you a man of absolute surrender. And God is able to maintain that. He is able to let you rise from bed every morning of the week with that blessed thought, directly or indirectly: “I am in God’s charge. My God is working out my life for me.”

There is obviously no “heavenly formula”. If there were such a ludicrous thing, I think a key element before the equal sign would be a big “minus SELF”. Through the years, I have felt this to be such a tiresome struggle but I believe it does not have to be. I know how days go when it is my sole pitiful effort—not a pretty picture or a fun house in which to live. By His grace, I also know how they go when it is His Spirit carrying me through the day. Night and Day. Law and Grace. Appalling and Beautiful. Chaos and Peace. Harsh and Gentle. Dark and Light.

Hopefully as Julia and I dialog about this “old in my heart” over the years, I pray our hearts open even more to the Holy Spirit’s leading in this. To let that happen, I see a need for me to learn to like the thought of being utterly helpless, to enjoy knowing I am not in control, and to love the smell of carpet in my nose. My flesh versus His Spirit.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Well-Mannered Peeps

Yes, it is. Yet, ANOTHER post about a little girl party/ activity. Are you surprised? Are you rolling your eyes? I understand. It’s almost hard to type because I am running out of adjectives to describe these recurring events made up of adorable little girls and I have not even written about everything we have done! Plainly, this one was just a good idea (not mine) and thought someone reading from the blogging world might want to tuck it away to use later. But to halt those rolling eyes, I want to come at this one from a different angle- one over 4 feet tall.

When I yielded to the Lord’s impressing me to home school Julia, I fell into a loosely knit group (Jessica, through prayer, doing most of the “knitting”)of Mom’s who had decided to do the same thing.......sort of. Little did I know then what an incredible group of Moms I would be getting to know. And “getting to know”, I still am doing but what I am finding out only encourages me more for the years to come.

In January, we met at a jumping house (for those of you with kids over the “jumping” age- a facility full of bounce houses) to talk about the activities we wanted to do for the spring. I can’t tell you how glad I was to be the one typing all the ideas into my trusty laptop because listening to all of them, I had the realization I was WAY out of my league. Each one came with several fun, educational, and enriching ideas that they wanted their child/children to experience and because I just happened to get to be in this group, MY kids could experience all THEIR great ideas. Sweet. I have about one great ORIGINAL idea a year. 2008 was just beginning and I had nothing. So, I typed and no one really noticed. Of the myriad of things mentioned and discussed that day, we have done 12 of them!!

One of the things mentioned was an Easter party. We decided to have someone come to teach the girls table etiquette and Elise (one of the Moms) is mentored by Mrs. Marilyn Basham who is certified by the Washington School of Protocol. The party would also give the girls an opportunity to wear their Easter dresses. As the day of the party drew closer, Elise also came up with the idea of having a tea cup exchange. She also found an Easter responsive reading the girls could learn and she picked out a hymn to teach them the morning of the party. The girls would recite and sing these for our guest, Mrs. Basham. I hosted the party, providing the “fluff” and Elise came up with the “substance” that made it actually mean something! I see this as a normal addition from her to the group.

Amy, who loves to bake, is a trained educator, an initiator and has a knack for planning. She came in, arms laden with beautifully decorated home made cupcakes and cookies. Jessica, who had a heart for a group like this to form and prayed fervently for it, is wonderful kitchen help and a perfect co-host. Her example has impacted me greatly and the Lord used her to soften my heart towards my decision to home school. We are all watching with awe at how gracefully she is living through the last days with her Mom. Shannon, who brought the main course, is one who you wish would talk a little more because everything she has to say is significant and seasoned with grace. Elaine dropped off her 2 peeps and headed for a solemn Good Friday service at her church. She has given us valuable book list after book list after she threw her schedule out the window after about a month and piled her coffee table with mounds of wonderful books to read to her girls. We have all benefited from her choice. We missed Kathy and her Leah. Kathy has a way with kids that always inspires me. Sort of like my friends TJ and Nikki, she has a way of making them feel so special and loved. This woman, I think, has an idea a minute and the only problem with that is that they are ALWAYS good and we only have so many years in which to fit them all in!
Well, those are the Moms of Julia’s girl friends that are schooled at home. I think I am in good company and just hope they’ll keep me around. After all, I type really well.

Mrs. Marilyn Basham's contact information is (817) 763-8858. She does ALL ages!!