Sunday, August 29, 2010

Here's My Heart

“We don’t need you to DO any more or PLAN any more, we need your heart.”  As I heard these words spoken from my husband of 18 years, I was also hearing something that sounded like a clanging cymbal...........or maybe a resounding gong.  The sound in my head is what made me cry.  “......[if I have] not love, I am nothing.”  It wasn’t a great start to our night, nor was it what I had in mind for our first night home from vacation, but what he had spoken needed to be said.  
“We need your heart.”  In true form, I stiffened at first.  I’m thinking, “Of course, they have my heart. Who could love their family more?  My love for them overwhelms me at times with aches in my heart, lumps in my throat and words that fill up my computer screen.  How could he SAY that? ‘We need your heart.’?”   The most comfortable thing for me to do in a moment like that is to STAY stiffened, get angry, and argue to save face but I’ve been in enough of these conversations over the years to know the smartest thing for me to do is to ask God to soften my heart-- right then-- no ifs, ands or buts.  Even when I’d rather keep it like sun-baked plaster.   
Unfortunately, it has taken me too many years to learn the immeasurable value of what Jeff does for me when he brings up hard things like this.  To his regret, he wasted no time at the beginning of our marriage saying difficult things to me and we will both tell you, that did not go well.  My stubborness wouldn’t allow it to benefit me.  As the Lord has graciously given us more years together, these "kids down", coffee-laden, couch-time talks have gotten easier.  Well, a little.  As for value, his words of truth have forced me to lay my heart bare before the Lord and ask Him to help me, change me, or heal me in ways I would have NEVER clued in on.  Because Jeff has been “spot on” so many times, I cannot risk waving his words away. If I choose to do that, I could miss something huge, something God wants to do in my life, something significant in my sanctification. 

I have several sweet friends who are newlyweds or are preparing for marriage and if I could tell them anything, this would be on top of my list.  For the guys, don’t be fearful of lovingly calling your wife out in regards to her sin.  It’s part of your role.  (Ephesians 5:26) You are hurting her if you don’t.  You’re causing her to miss out on a blessing- backhanded as it may initially seem.  Even if there is only a hint of a soft heart, you will continue to gain her respect.   For the ladies, ask God to soften your heart, listen to him, take it before the Lord and be grateful you have a husband brave enough to speak it.  It’s part of your sanctification.  (Ephesians 5:27)  Beware of not taking his role, thus his words, very seriously.  There’s fruit to bear and the marriage relationship has the potential to harvest bushels of it.
“We need your heart.”  The obvious is, my family doesn’t sense they have it.  There lies the problem AND the mystery.  The problem is that in all I do for/with them and plan for them, they don’t sense my heart of love for them.  The mystery for me is what does that look like- them “having my heart”?  How do I make sure I am communicating this while teaching, cooking, serving, folding, packing, unpacking, cleaning, paying, reading, training, planning, writing, bandaging, buying, tucking, and driving?  What does it look like in my friends' homes?  What does God want it to look like in my home?  Jeff was wise (and grace-giving) in making sure he said that I didn’t need to plan or do any more, because that comes so natural to me.  Evidently, baring my heart does not.  On paper, yes.  In life, no.  
It’s been a month or so since that conversation and I doubt my family senses anything different, but my prayers and my thoughts are different.  My focus has shifted.  As I “do” and as I plan, I remember what he said.  New prayers are prayed.  I am counting on the Spirit to do a new work in my life.  The invaluable. 
Lord, please show me how to communicate all the ache, all the lumps in my throat, all the words, all the flutters, all the fullness-- the love-- that I feel in my heart for Jeff, Julia and Brighton...regularly, loudly, quietly, abundantly, clearly.  
So, my sweet family, here’s my heart.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's on His Mind-- and Mine

I have a love-hate relationship with crafts.  There is hardly anything, besides reading, I’d rather Julia and Brighton do, but when I think of “doing crafts” with my children, my anxiety level rises, I get hungry for sugar, and I think hard about turning on the TV.  For one, I don’t like the mess.  Two, I have no direction to give them on being “crafty”.  Three, I don’t have all the latest and greatest from the local Hobby Lobby.  But the one thing that causes me to jut my arms in front of me--palms out-- besides the sight of glue sticks, scissors, popscicle sticks, colored paper and cotton balls is where in tarnation do I put the creation once it has been stuck together by enough Scotch tape to secure the Federal Reserve?  Where do I keep the puppets made of sticks from the yard, felt and Scotch tape?  Or the painted scraps of wood?  Or the balls made from pipe cleaners, wads of paper and more Scotch tape?  And finally, where do you keep 27 pieces of paper taped together to resemble Rangers stadium?  It’s hard for me to talk about the paper-- a forest, I tell you.  And Brighton?  He’s a paper snob.  If it has so much as a dot on it, he will not use it.  Creases and bumped corners bother him too.  You can forget about having him draw on the back of any of it.  When I have suggested that we mail some of his 237 drawings of Rangers Stadium to grandparents or cousins, he says, "You mean I'll never see it again?  I may forget what it looks like.  Let's just keep it so I can show my boy when I grow up."  Direct quote.   So, now that I am keeping some for my grandson, my trash can won't be quite as full.

Whatever is on the boy's mind, not only comes out of his mouth, but also comes out of his hands.  Here are a few of his "thoughts".

My kitchen table..........a race track

My island....... a basketball court

Just one of the 237 drawings....this could be his most detailed one.

Okay, I know this isn't art, but it is his favorite toy.  He plays endless games of these guys running the bases all according to the game going on in his head.  The other day, he figured out something was missing.

His sister came in real handy here.

Okay, so my favorite thing and my least favorite thing was the popcorn you can see in the little bowls in the background.  Julia took apart a "popcorn maker" so she could give out the minuscule pieces of popcorn to the Polly Pockets and Puppy in my Pocket animals.

At least I didn't have to store this "creation" of his imagination.

Fairy X 2

She's never been one to be "outdone".  They both had loose teeth, but B's was DAYS looser than hers, but about half an hour after Brighton came down with his pearly white in his hand, so did she.  He had no blood, but she had plenty making it very apparent she had been working hard at getting her tooth out for the last thirty minutes.  The thought of being left out of pillow sussies was just too much for her.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

From the Backseat #15 "A Sad House"

We got a little turned around a couple of times while driving the roads in and around Madison, Mississippi a month or so ago.  We pulled in a short driveway to turn our big car around and Brighton said, "Oh, Momma.  THAT is a sad house."  I had an inkling he had an interesting thought so I asked, "What do you mean, B?"  "Well, just look at it.  All those people just died..........right there."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reality Is.....

Summer has been true to the wink it has seemed.  In May, it filled me with high hopes of long, lazy days by the pool with my kids followed by extended reading until suppertime.  Now, in August, that wink, well, I feel it betrayed me.  It was just a tease.  Here we are and our days have been a long way from lazy, the pool has been hit or miss and there has been nothing extensive about our reading times.  And suppertime?  You’d have to ask Jeff.  Summer. Just a wink.  And, the last couple of weeks, I seem to be forcing the companion smile.

We begin school in a week.  I have my planning done and oh, you should see it.  You’d be so proud and maybe even impressed.  I’ve impressed myself.  I am always in awe of how AMAZING it all looks ON PAPER.  I stare at it often and daydream of sweet, stimulating, harmonious days within the walls of my home which, of course, stays perfectly clean all day long.  How could I go wrong with every minute spoken for, every subject combed through and mapped out,  well-written, personality-pleasing books chosen, “spontaneous” activities tucked away for needed breaks, and copies made through the last day of school?  Oh my.  How IS this going to turn out?  

I have heard myself say a couple of words more than usual lately and I have no idea where I picked them up-- a good friend probably, and I can’t think who--but, over the last month, I have started many a sentence with “Reality is.........”.  Like, “Reality is, we’ll never make it out of Lowe’s in time for the birthday party.”, or “Reality is, we have a puppy and our backyard is going to look like this for a while.”  or in light of an ominous birthday looming, “Reality is, in a few years, I will want the washer/dryer raised.”  Ha!  When I began planning for school in late July, I tried to keep the two little words in the forefront of my mind knowing if my plan didn’t fit our family’s “reality”, it just wouldn’t work.   Reality is, I can plan all I want but if I strike out on my own and never look at the plan, it will do me no good.   Reality is, if this plan isn’t from the Lord, I am wasting my time and Julia and Brighton’s time.  Reality is, none of this is worth it if I am executing it while being irritated all morning.  Reality is, twice this week, I have had to bend down, place their young faces between my hands and ask for their forgiveness.  There’s my reality lately--- and we aren’t even doing school yet.

BUT, thank God, I have hope.  I love hope.  Don’t you?  It’s a not a fantasy but a spiritual grace.  I’ve always loved how Emily Dickinson described hope ----a “thing with feathers that perches in the soul”.  I know that feeling, that readiness, that “perch”-- hoping for something different, hoping for fun, for quick repentance and quicker forgiveness, hoping for enthusiasm, for laughter and hoping for Him.  For Him to come and make His Presence known in our mornings, afternoons and evenings-- in our eating, praying, learning (especially our math) and playing.  He makes all the difference.  I’ve done it without Him-- misery, drudgery, monotony, regret, boredom, hurt.  And on a good day I've done it with Him-- light, effective, joyful, satisfying, full, LIFE-giving, sweet.  

I am boldly asking Him that this year would be our best year yet.  There.  I've said it out loud.  Will I believe Him for it?  Will I walk with Him in it?  Will I depend on Him for it?  

Reality is, He wants it for us, too.  

Raising Texans

I had an embarrassing phone conversation with my Mom the other day.  I temporarily forgot that Georgia was one of the first thirteen colonies.  Yikes. Maybe it was the heat.  I don't know but it made me sad.  I do LOVE Texas--and it's hard to beat this small town/big city Fort Worth.  I am starting my 18th year here but I think I'll always be a Georgia girl.  Even after all this time, the accent is still here and so is my love for pine trees, dogwoods and azaleas.  Later on that day, I checked with Julia and thankfully, she had not forgotten the original thirteen.  Mom texted me later and said I'd been gone from "God's country" too long.  Maybe so, but home is two places for me now- God's country or not.  

However, I am definitely raising two Texans.  This is a joke that has been made many times before but it is just so Texas typical, I couldn’t pass it up.  We were swimming with friends earlier in the summer and lunch- time hungry came with the blaring sun which had finally broken through the heavy cloud cover.  We got up to go over to where we had made picnics before, but Julia perked up and said, “Can we make our picnic up on the hill?”  I sort of glanced around not remembering any hill.  I looked at Nikki, confused.  She answered with shrugged shoulders. "What hill?" I finally asked.  “That one, Mom. Can we eat lunch up there?”  

You have to look closely, but there the crew is "up on the hill".  

I probably shouldn’t be advertising this, but, again, it’s classic Texan.  Eating breakfast the other day, Julia was quizzing Brighton on all his newly acquired Kindergarten knowledge.  He was breezing through his impromptu oral exam until she asked him to name the continents.  (He should be able to do this.  However, I have merely pointed them out on our map for him to name them.  I never had asked him to list them.)  He started out pretty good.  “Africa, Australia, North America, South America and......................TEXAS!”  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Rite of Passage....

Need a laugh?  With a heat index of 111, I do.  Was there a right or wrong here?  Don't think so.  Was there a talk of "a time and place for everything" here?  Absolutely.  If you are easily offended, click on outta here.  

CAUTION:  Moms with only girls may be completely undone by the following video.  Watch at your own risk.  Not rated "E" for everyone.  However, if you do choose to show it to your girls, don't worry.  They will NOT repeat this behavior.  It is NOT in their genetic make up.

(I actually can't believe I am posting it.  He's just having WAY too much fun not to!  I recommend stopping the music before selecting "play".  It sort of ruins the effect.)
This one's for you, Blake!  You'll be so proud. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bliss in "Mississip"

God has come through in SUCH a big way for us in the realm of babysitters.  I don’t even like to call them “sitters” because so very quickly they become so much more than that.  When someone genuinely falls in love with your kids, you genuinely fall in love with them.   Even though each of these young ladies of which I am thinking were a cinch to love from the very beginning, their love for Christ spilling over onto Julia and Brighton sealed the deal.   I STILL love each one of them.  I have been challenged by their faith, been inspired by their trust, and have been blown away as they have ministered to my family in their own unique ways.  Their relationships with Christ have been a beautiful thing for me to see unfold as I have gotten to know them better week by week, visit by visit.   God has used and is still using these girls in Julia and Brighton’s lives to help shape their character and their belief about Him.  I am forever grateful to Him for the jewels He has sent our way over the years.  As He has moved them on, we have had the absolute privilege of being a part of weddings, attending or throwing wedding and baby showers and even getting to keep and love on their sweet babies.  Now, THAT’S just plain cool.  
We were able to celebrate with one of them a couple of weekends ago and we couldn’t have been more honored to be there!  Remey is quieter than most of our past sitters but I had no trouble hearing her expressions of love to Julia and Brighton.  Most of them I wouldn’t know of until days or weeks later-- like a Sonic trip, a doughnut, ice cream, or Slushee to help celebrate a special day.  There were Christmas shopping outings, water balloon fights, ballet carpool, lots of baseball talk, a party of mine she and Layne rescued from failure, one particular early morning soccer game which involved a lost tooth and some of the kindest notes I’ve ever read left for me on my desk.  
And then one day before I left for Walgreens, I heard about him.  Just a little, but enough to know this could be good.  I’d seen the cute look on her face a few times before on some other special gals-- all unique in their stories:  Sara and Jorge, Carrie and Garrett, Katie and Christopher, Joanna and Nathan- precious couples that we still love very much.  Oh, but it was Remey’s turn and I was earnestly hoping and praying for God’s clear direction for her.  A side note here is my kids have been able to see (and somewhat understand) at least 3 of these godly courtships.  Julia heard numerous, age- appropriate dialogues about waiting on God’s timing, trusting Him for His best, making good choices and glorifying the Lord in relationships.  As these young men spent time in our home, Brighton was able to see them treat these special girls as the ladies they are, respectable and honorable.  Important to this momma?  Heavens, yes.  
After a couple of months, we were able to meet this handsome Kollin and liked him immediately.  When I learned he was secretly learning sign language in order to talk to Remey’s parents, I was already picturing Remey in a beautiful white dress.  And here she is.  (And cute Kollin too!  I love how he is holding her dress.)

Her random Saturday morning call in January didn’t surprise me one bit.  The wedding plans began and I think they hit WAY above the mark.  

My favorite thing about getting to be a small part of the festivities was meeting all of the amazing people that LOVE these two.  The level of character I have seen in Kollin and Remey has been shaped and sharpened by the Lord through many people--some with rich, long histories and some with short, special histories.   No doubt, I would be a sad case if it weren’t for people like this who loved me enough to share the truths of God’s Word-- the lovely stuff and the hard stuff. I was gently reminded -- now, THERE'S a treasure to store up in heaven.  My kids may not remember each girl as I do, but I will for priceless reasons.  They had a part in showing Julia and Brighton who God is and what He looks like.  They have and ARE painting quite the picture and for that, I am blissfully.......... grateful.

LOOK at ALL these cute girls!!!  They made Julia feel so comfortable and graciously included her in everything they could!

We were so excited that we were able to spend some time with this sweet sitter/friend, Layne.  She is changing her world through the children of First Baptist Church in Madison, Mississippi!

Getting the tie right.  He had no idea he was at least 15 years younger than the groomsmen.  He had his own little thing going on with all of them.

Gorgeous Remey

Loved this idea of the "crazy picture" of the bridal party.  

Don't you love the Vera Bradley ring pillow?

B never meets a stranger.  I asked them later what all he said and I was a bit surprised by some of it but not at all by the last thing, "Now, where is the food?  I am hungry."  The lady, DeAnne, played a significant role in Remey's life.  She's one I wish I had had more time to hang out with while there.

This was a highlight!  Jeff's parents!  We were able to spend some time with them for a few days after the wedding.  (Now you see why my husband is so handsome ; )

Remey, I love the boots-- and you too (more than the boots)!  We had a ball.  I've had a couple of cravings for Mama Hamil's over the last month.  Is that normal?  Our Wednesdays will never be the same.  And WHO will I EVER find that can talk ballet AND baseball???

Gutter Guards, Bowling Balls, and Sassy Shoes

She beat her Daddy in bowling-- granted she had gutter blockers, but she did outscore him!  Me?  Let's just say the Wii has not helped my bowling techniques.