Friday, December 30, 2011

Whiling Away the Hours

Patience has never been my strong suit. If you don't believe me, call up my mom; she'll tell you. So will Jim.

If I can't find someone to restring my sweat pants, I throw them in the trash...because I've cried in frustration every time I've ever tried to restring them. Also, I get really bent out of shape when technological devices (especially printers) don't work the way I think they should.

I yell at Cade for tapping. I yell at Clementine for all sorts of things.

I go barefoot or wear flip flops most of the time, but I should wear steel toe boots because I get angry, instantly, when someone steps on one of my feet.

Patience has never been my strong suit, and here I am: more than two weeks into the craziest waiting game of my life. My doctor told me I will probably miscarry over the holidays, but I haven't shed so much as one drop of blood. He told me--in the unlikely event that I haven't begun to miscarry--to call, next week, for a third ultrasound.

I know, whatever happens: I will follow my doctor's instructions. The crazy thing, though, is that--should Monday arrive without incident--I will struggle in scheduling another ultrasound.

The waiting has gotten easier.

I've come to see: every day that I don't bleed or cramp is one more day of more day with my baby. Whatever the healthcare professionals see or say, I'm still pregnant, and that's a blessing. I'm cozy and lazy, sleepy and warm. I'm resting, and there's beauty in having a legitimate excuse to lie around: to encourage stillness and hush.

I've never waited on the Lord, before, like this. I think back to when my brother was at his sickest and how I raged: how I fell into a pit; how I refused comfort; how I looked Christ in His kind, steady eyes and threw tantrum after tantrum.

Knowing I had no control over that situation infuriated me. Knowing I have no control over this situation relieves me. It's in God's hands. His hands are bigger, warmer, more capable than mine.

God and I have come so far. (Thank You, Father, for growing my understanding of Your character.)

I'm whiling away the hours (conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas came and Christmas went.
Christmas that year was heaven sent.
-Johnny Cash

Mom and Her Grandkids

That's my brother, reading to Clementine.
My bunny pjs were a COMPLETE surprise from Jim. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

As Thou Wilt

I called Christy, Friday morning, just to hear her voice. "I made you something," she said. "When can I run it by?"

"We're getting ready to leave," I told her. "I need to buy a Christmas present for Jim. But we should be home this afternoon."

"Why don't you bring the girls over here and let us love on them while you shop?" she asked.

"What? Are you serious? They have snotty noses," I warned.

"Oh, I don't care," she said. "Bring them over!"

Thus the blessing of finding myself, about an hour later, alone in my minivan: what a wonderful opportunity to think and pray without interruption!

I'd been troubled by what I'd heard in my head, earlier in the week: You need to decide whether you're waiting for a dead baby or a live one. If I'd been talking to God or myself, I still don't know, but I'd felt stunned by the words and--for days--unable to respond.

I'd been unable to arrive at a point of perfect faith in this pregnancy's yielding a healthy baby. I'd wanted to believe things will turn around, but I'd felt foolish at the prospect of disregarding entirely the words of my doctor. How, I'd wondered, would I process more bad news if I truly anticipated only good?

On the other hand, I'd tried to ask God for a miscarriage if there were to be no miracle, and I'd had to stop praying along those lines.

I continue to harbor so much hope.

So I'd felt, basically, at unrest. I hadn't felt comfortable in my inability to decide for what (whom?) I'd been waiting.

But, Friday, thanks to my time alone (and, undoubtedly, the many prayers being lifted up, on my behalf), I responded at last:

I don't know whether I'm waiting for a dead baby or a live one. I'm waiting for the baby You would have for me. I hope Your will involves this pregnancy's working out, but I've arrived at the point of wanting Your will more than I want a live baby. I know Your plan for my life is perfect. I have complete faith that You can give me a live baby from this pregnancy, but I don't know if You will. Your ways are not my ways; You know things I don't know, and You know what's best. Sometimes Your plan involves pain, suffering, death, and unanswered prayers. (You give, and You take away.) I trust You. I know that--even (especially?) through my hard things--You are growing, loving, and teaching me, and I thank You. No matter how this works out, I know: You are good.

If it was a cop-out, it was the hardest cop-out at which I'd ever arrived.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The ultrasound technician might have been twenty-three, but--as the last tech had been hard on my nether regions--I was glad to see this girl...until she asked me in her chipper little voice, before I'd even undressed: "Have you already scheduled your surgery?"

I stammered around, as I always do when someone stuns me with her lack of good sense. But I wish I'd asked: "Why? Are you planning to assist?"

Then she told me she saw no evidence of a yolk sac. "I had one, last week," I informed her.

"Oh, really?" she asked. "Maybe you did; I didn't look at last week's report. But I don't see anything, today, but an empty gestational sac."

Jim told me on the drive home: she corrected herself while I was in the bathroom putting my pants back on, but--after I emerged--she didn't bother to tell me she'd seen a yolk sac, after all.

This sort of thing will make a patient reconsider the experience of having her womb jabbed upwards--over and over, for at least fifteen minutes--by a much older tech who took seriously her attempts to find something (someone).

Just so you know: I really like my doctor, else I would never put up with such cockemamy.

Bottom line: the images showed no change from last week to this, so we wait.

I know I won't have peace about miscarriage unless I at least start the process naturally, so, for now, I've turned down D&C. My doctor walked us through every possible scenario, including the (unlikely) one that nothing will happen, in which case I'll return to his office, in January, for another ultrasound.

"I hope I'm wrong," he said.

And I do, too.

I've prayed so much that I can't say who's responding to me: God or myself. I can say that, yesterday, I heard--plain as day--in my head: You need to decide whether you're waiting for a dead baby or a live one. I breathe life into everything, and I'm not a baby. I'm not helpless.

I stared at myself in the mirror, shocked. "Was that really You, God?" I whispered. But I didn't hear anything else, and I'll admit: I looked crazy as a bed bug to myself.

Still, I'm oddly calm to be stark raving mad. It's looking like--for the first of 38 Christmases--I'm not going to see my dad over the holidays. Having given up what little control I had (i.e. when this pregnancy will end), I could miscarry at any given moment. But it's ok, and I really do mean that.

I'm planning to sing "O Holy Night" during Fine Creek's Christmas Eve service. It's the second of only two songs on my bucket list. (I've already crossed out the first: "The Star-Spangled Banner.") But I've opted not to sing the second verse because I don't think I can keep from breaking down over these words: "The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King!"

I mean, I do have my limitations.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Things, Pt. 3

Our church has a tradition of throwing Jesus a birthday party:

This year, Mrs. Louise Lippy explained how Fine Creek started celebrating Jesus's birthday with cake. She explained, too, how the angel on top represents the Angel of the Lord; the star represents the star that led the shepherds to Jesus; and each red candle represents a hundred years since Jesus's birth. I think there were a few other things, too, but I was wrangling Baby Charleigh.

Isn't Mrs. Lippy beautiful, though? She's in her 90's, but she's always perfectly put together. I want to be like her when I'm in my 90's, but--let's get real--I'm not put together now, in my 30's. I'm going to be a wreck of an elderly person. My hair's going to stick up in the back, all the time; I just know it. And make-up? Forget it.

Cade lit the candles while we sang "Silent Night."

Last year, Clementine couldn't be trusted near the birthday cake. (I blogged, here, about our close call.) This year, she behaved really well...beyond some premature candle-blowing.

After the candles had been lit (some of them twice!), we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and invited the children to blow out the candles, together. Mrs. Carol Baltimore took care of the back side. I tried to make sure my piece of cake came from the back side, because I know Mrs. Carol didn't spit on the cake as much as those kids. Mrs. Carol plays the organ and piano for Fine Creek, and she and her husband Mr. Bob were our county's Christmas Mother and Father, this year. Our church family is so proud of them.


Later in the same day (this past Sunday), we celebrated Tractor Man Zach's second birthday:

And, today, the BFFs baked sugar cookies, ate pizza, opened presents, and, basically, had themselves a wild rumpus:

(Trying to get four toddlers to pose for a photo ain't no joke.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

On Being Wide Open

My doctor called this morning and said my hCG level rose only a little (from about 21,000 to 22,000) between Wednesday and Friday; it came nowhere close to doubling. He thinks miscarriage is imminent. He presented the options of "letting nature take its course" or undergoing a D&C. He offered another ultrasound, so I'm planning to return to his office on Wednesday.

I can say: even now, I have hope. Also, I'm glad to be sharing the whole mess: not because I want to make anyone sad (especially at Christmastime!), but because it brings me comfort to know so many people are hoping and praying...and even praising!...with me.

I remembered, this morning, sharing pregnancy news (of Clementine) with a friend, a nurse. She asked how far along I was. I told her I'd just found out, and she responded by asking: "Are you sure you want to tell people you're pregnant so soon? Things happen, sometimes, early in pregnancy: especially in the first trimester."

And I answered: "I'm sure. I want people praying for me. And if something goes wrong, I'll want them praying for me even more."

I think living wide open, for me, ties in with extroversion. My interaction with others gives me energy. In times like these, I need my people, and they know it. They show up.

I know it's not for everyone: the sharing, the transparency. And that's ok. I apologize if I've made anyone feel uncomfortable in my sharing and transparency. I really can't live, happily, any other way. And right now? Pure blessing...solid grace! the love of my people.

Yesterday morning in the choir room, I looked at Karen and said: "I don't know what's going to happen, today, but--if I respond to the altar call--please come up with me."

She beat me to the altar.

She said, later: "Whether you came up or not, I wanted to pray on your behalf." Others gathered around, too, and to find myself in the center of a pocket of kneeling people--to hear several voices praying aloud, simultaneously--took me home to East Tennessee in a way that nothing else may this Christmas season.

Yesterday afternoon, a dear friend sat across from me. She's gentle and quiet: not prone to wide open. But her eyes welled up, and she traveled into the belly of her own pain to say things I needed to hear.

Another friend didn't know what to say, so he said: "Hey, I'm sending someone over with a leaf blower." He'd already bought us a smoked turkey.

Rachel looked at me, today, and said: "I don't know if I can do this, but I'm going to try." She pulled me into her arms and started to pray. Somewhere in the middle of her words, there was a knock at the door. It was Izabel, bearing some sort of Brazilian dessert in a tin.

She looked into my tear-streaked face and said: "Oh. I think I am supposed to be here at just this time." She came in, joined hands with us, bowed, and prayed.

Rachel and Charleigh, yesterday.

My brother sent an e-mail: "If you aren't coming home for Christmas, could we come up there for a couple of days? I love you, and I want to be with you at Christmas!! [...] I just can't bear the thought of not having at least one day with you at Christmas."

Sharon--in her Sharonly way--showed up with salad and iced tea. Virginia Ann sent a plate of deviled eggs. The e-mails, messages, comments, and phone calls pour in, and I keep right on breathing because I am loved.

Thank you for praying. Please continue to pray. Ask God for either a miracle or blood.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Things, Pt. 2

Yesterday afternoon, Jim looked over at me, and I could tell he saw it: my teetering on the edge of the pit. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Tacky lights," I told him. "Craft supplies from Michaels and a new strand of lights for the mantle."(I had an amazing, vintage strand; problem was, it did two different things at pretty much all times. Off and steady. Blinking and steady. Blinking and off. I could throw it on the rug and make it work right for a hot minute, but then it would return to its old tricks. Or new, unsatisfying tricks. Finally, I decided it was a fire hazard and threw it away.)

So we headed out. We visited the first address on the tacky-lights list, but then the GPS stopped working. Unfortunately, my cell phone isn't working either (The send button's broken!), so we were up a creek. We just kind of drove around aimlessly: saw Santa in a camper. It made me laugh because--if one were to replace the reindeer with a certain yellow mountain cur--that could be my dad poking his head out the camper door.

We saw Santa in an outhouse, too; I regret not taking a picture. Jim told Clementine: "Look, MeMe! Santa went in the outhouse to poop!" She laughed and laughed, which made us laugh. Poop is funny at all ages.

I got my craft supplies at Michaels, and then we went to Target to buy a strand of lights. I picked out an LED rope light. I thought I knew what I was doing; I didn't. My mantle looks terrible. The ten vintage Santas up there look, suddenly, like they're conducting a science experiment under florescent lights.

One funny thing happened in Target: we came across a rack of ENORMOUS boys' and fleece, with feet. I started laughing because I made Cade wear those pajamas until he was, like, six. He was so excited when I could no longer find them in his size, and there they were, in Target: boys' pajamas with feet, size 12. I almost bought him a pair just so I could witness the extreme horror on his face in unwrapping them. I was so happy at the thought that Jim, I know, would've let me buy them.

But I didn't because--hello!--I need a new GPS and cell phone! (Have I ever told you: it's cassettes or nothing in my sexy 1998 minivan?) I don't need to be wasting money on pajamas that Cade will never wear. Too bad I wasted money on a cardboard house, at Michaels, that my daughters ripped in half in less than 5 minutes.

Cade just read this post over my shoulder and laughed. I'm glad he thinks I'm funny.

When he was reading about Michaels, he asked: "Mom what's the difference between art and crafts?"

And I said: "Eh, I think art is more dignified. Like, crafts are about popsicle sticks and shit." Then we both cracked up in shock because I'd accidentally said "shit." See? Poop is funny at all ages. It dawns on me: I've blogged about poop at least nine times, so I'm going to start a new, poop category with this post.

I have more happy things to share, but they're from my sacred Sunday, so I'm going to post them separately from the poopy things. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers. I am fighting for joy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hope Until There Is No Hope

I hope my loved ones will understand: I don't have the energy to explain over and over what's happening. If you don't care to read all the details, here is the short answer: my doctor is concerned, but all hope is not lost. I'll have a second blood test, today. We should have those results on Monday. Please keep praying.

Now, here are the details for the rest of you.

The first date of my last menstrual period (LMP) was October 18. I took a home pregnancy test on November 18, and I got a positive result. I know these things with absolute certainty.

My doctor's office scheduled my first (8-week) ultrasound on Wednesday based upon the date of my LMP.

On the ultrasound, we could see clearly a gestational sac and yolk sac, but no fetal pole or heartbeat. My doctor said there are two possibilities: that I'm not as far along as I thought, and it's simply too early for us to see a fetal pole and heartbeat; or I have a blighted ovum (i.e., the pregnancy is not viable), and I will miscarry.

My doctor sent me to the lab to have my blood drawn and hormone (hCG) level checked. He promised to have more information based upon my hCG level and its correspondence with the ultrasound images. He called this morning. My hCG level was really high on Wednesday: 21,000. With this number, he said, there would normally be a fetal pole.

However, all hope is not lost. As I've already written, I'll have a second blood test, today. My hCG level should be significantly higher than what it was on Wednesday. (We'll know by Monday.) The number can rise even when something is wrong. But--if my number is higher, today, than it was Wednesday--I'll have another ultrasound next week.

Please keep praying. The waiting and wondering is, obviously, very hard. We are choosing to hope until there is no hope.

Before my positive pregnancy test, I heard God say to me: "Thank me for your baby." So that's what we're doing, and that's what we'll continue to do: even if we never meet this baby, this side of heaven.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Things

My little ones, playing with their Fisher-Price Nativity:

Christmas caroling at the adult home.
Clementine knows Luther's and Joyce's names.
They know hers.

Cookie Day in the cabin with Christy, Noah, Abi,
Sarah, Quint, Becky, and my kids:

 Cade's first band concert:

How Great Our Joy

Sometimes things don't go the way we expect...the way we hope. Yesterday was my fourth, first ultrasound. My other three, first ultrasounds (with Cade, Clementine, and Charleigh) went so well; I didn't expect this ultrasound to be any different. But it was.

I left without full confidence. I left without a picture. 

We don't know anything for sure, yet. We appreciate your prayers as we wait for more information. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I want to share, with praise: I'm in a good place. I mean that in terms of both physical and spiritual location. I don't mean to imply that I don't want to go to bed and sleep through the waiting...or that I haven't done some of that.


Sometimes, in times of trouble, we see clearly how very blessed we are.

I've spent the past 24 hours rounding up the troops. And I have them: troops. They're praying people. They include my immediate family members. When I called my mom, she was working with my brother, and--after she hung up the phone--they prayed for me, together. My brother sent a text message: "I can be there in 8hrs. i will come if u need me."

My son accompanied me to church, last night; he always does. Just now, I passed through the kitchen and noticed, on the refrigerator, the buildings and stars he sketched during prayer meeting. He wrote, at the top: "Have a good day, Mom."

My husband and I went to bed, last night, and he held me in his arms and prayed, aloud, into my hair.

And all my friends are standing by. Becky prayed with me over the phone. Rachel and Erin called the house, today, to check on me: Erin from a sunny vacation spot. I could go on and on about my people.

But above and beyond and behind all of the great eye of the Lord, and it rests on me as surely as the orange-yellow moon hangs untethered in the night sky, above our log cabin.

For the past three weeks, I've prepared and taught Sunday school lessons on "joy." This past Sunday, we focused (in part) on the joy we should feel in knowing: Jesus was born into this terrible place of sin, and suffering, and death to save us. "Behold," the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11, KJV).

My class and I looked, too, at the experience of the wise men, who followed a moving star to Bethlehem. When it came to rest above Jesus's exact location, the wise men "rejoiced with exceeding great joy" (Matthew 2:10, KJV)...before they saw Jesus...before they met Him! They had been waiting, traveling! so long to meet the Object of their desire and affection, and they rejoiced in knowing the time was near.

And you know what? The Savior has always been available to me. I've known where to find Him since I was a child. Regardless of situation or season, I can rejoice: I know exactly where He is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Contain Multitudes, Pt. 2

A couple weeks ago, Mike Drewry filled in for Pastor David, and--before I share about the sermon--I just want to throw it out there: I think a pastor's choice of substitutes says a lot about the pastor, himself. I've attended many a church where--if word got out that someone was going to fill in, on Sunday--most of the members decided to sleep in. Or go fishing. Seriously.

My pastor gets all up in the Word, and so do his subs. I get a warm fuzzy feeling in knowing: I will be fed at my church on any given Sunday, regardless of who preaches.

When Mike Drewry preaches, it takes me weeks, sometimes, to process. He preached out of Mark 5:1-20 this last time, which is the story about Jesus's casting devils out of a man and into a herd of swine. Some of Drewry's excellent points include:

  • Mark illustrates the condition of the demoniac only to emphasize the sovereign authority of Christ and the quality of salvation He brings. We should neither refuse belief in the demonic nor hold an unhealthy fascination with it.
  • The enemy wants us maimed, killed, and destroyed.
  •  After Jesus casts out the devils, the former demoniac sits, wears clothes, and otherwise demonstrates that he is in his right mind. The locals respond with terror; they ask Jesus to leave. There are two types of people in this world: those who plead for Jesus to leave, and those who pray for Him to stay.
  • Just like the former demoniac, everyone is reminded of his or her condition before conversion. Outside of Christ, there is no way to be free of satan.
  • Jesus got in the ship not only because the locals asked Him to leave, but also because the Gadarenes was not his final destination.
  • We should emulate the example of the former demoniac by evangelizing: by telling others what the Lord has done for us and how much mercy He's shown us.
  • Jesus returns, later, to the same region where He feeds the masses. His audience at that time very likely includes people to whom the former demoniac has witnessed.

Meaty sermon, eh?

And here's one more point that--in my mulling over of Drewry's sermon--the Lord has whispered into my heart. Jesus does not say to the former demoniac (who wants to leave with Jesus): "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how sinful and wrong they are." Nor does He say: "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how powerful the enemy is (or was)."

Instead, Jesus says: "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion to thee" (Mark 5:19b). And I understand, suddenly: just like Mark, we should focus on Christ. Not (wo)man and his or her sinful condition. Certainly not the enemy who seeks to destroy.

In terms of witnessing, we will accomplish more in sharing what the Lord has done for us than in pointing out others' sin.

Scripture bears this out. In fact, Jesus says, plainly: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). As stewards of gifts from the Lord, including our children, Jesus calls us to discern. ((Later in Matthew 7, He advises His disciples to beware of false prophets, also to know men based upon the "fruit" they bear (7:15-20)). But judgment and discernment are two different things.

I would argue: God wants us to exercise caution in deciding how to use the resources He's given us: time, energy (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.), talents, money, and material possessions. He wants us make careful decisions in terms of whom we allow to speak into our lives. He wants us, undoubtedly, to keep our eyes open when it comes to our children and who may influence or touch them. These are matters of discernment.

But God does not want us to wag our tongues regarding who is bad, and why...who is sinful, and why...who is foolish, and why. He does not want us to beat others down by talking about how sinful they are or what idiots they are...whether to their faces, or behind their backs.

I can tell you, now: part of my New Year's resolution includes my adopting the attitude of Apostle Paul, who shares: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (I Timothy 1:15b).

And I don't feel like I can afford to wait until 2012 to say: I am among those sinners for whom Jesus was born into this terrible place of sin, and suffering, and death. He's cared enough to dust me off and scrub my soul of ugly things...not just once, but over and over. And over. I've turned my back on Him, but He's never once turned His back on me.

Whatever you've done, or are doing, or will do: Jesus--in His sovereign authority--can forgive you for it and save you from it. He can.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If You Grieve This Season

Grief, I think, is a good thing. It reveals: we were blessed. We experienced something that--or knew and loved someone who--mattered. I don't recommend our remaining in a state of grief, but it's healthy, I think, to hollow out a space for it: especially during a season of celebration that, frankly, doesn't necessarily come easily.

Powhatan Community Church blessed me, last evening, in their efforts to acknowledge my grief and suffering. I appreciated the opportunity to cry in a dark and quiet room where voices acknowledged my sadness and whispered hope. I appreciated the opportunity to light a candle for the loved ones from whom I was separated in 2011: Bob, Grandpa, Mac, my little cousin Gene. I thought, too, of my grandmother; she's still here, but already so much gone.

If you've suffered a loss this year--of health, job, relationship, home, or loved one--I recommend clicking here (the blue word) to watch the service. It's beautiful in its entirety, but--if you have only four minutes--what I needed to hear most occurred between 45:36 and 49:32 on the video.

Please pass the video on to those in your life who grieve.

May God bless you in this and all seasons.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Contain Multitudes, Pt. 1

I've been a little thin-skinned, lately, and a little backed up with both poop and words. You may be thinking: "TMI!" right now, but I find the truth even more appealing that usual. And I blame it all on a person whom says is the size of a lentil.

I'm trying to find a way to tell you about something the Holy Spirit is teaching me through both written words and whispers, but I'm not quite there. I'm a little sluggish in my processing. Also? I keep nodding off.

But profundity is coming to this blog as sure as Santa is coming to this house. Speaking of which, lemme just tell you: Santa and his elves know about my children's terrible behavior, and my kids are totally unfazed. The size of their caring makes a lentil look huge, in comparison. They aren't giving a figurative crap any more than I'm giving a literal one.

All three of my kids have been giving me a ride. And can I just confess? I'm tempted to put Clementine in Time Out and lie down for a nap. I wonder how long she would sit on her little stool before waking me up.

Don't miss the irony of the shirt.

Lest you doubt Charleigh's participation in on this misbehaving business, be advised: her best words are: I DON'T WANT IT!, MINE!, NO!, and DOWN! She was screaming: "DOWN!" in this photo, actually:

I was just trying to get a great photo of her wearing her daddy's 39-year-old overalls for a blog post I wanted to entitle "A Case for Hoarding."

Thank you, Friends, for reading to the end of this post. I'm guessing it's a mite confusing to read about poop, the Holy Spirit, Santa, bad behavior, and hoarding in one fell swoop. But you do know what Walt said, right? "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes" (Whitman, not Disney).

I don't. Contain multitudes, that is. I contain only three: the Holy Spirit, Lentil, and myself.

But, interestingly enough, when I write again, it will be about someone in scripture who really did contain multitudes. I'm hoping that's enough of a hook to bring you back.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Empty Chair

I felt called, once, to visit an acquaintance at a local hospital, where he was receiving inpatient psychiatric care. I'd never visited this part of the hospital, before, so I didn't really know what to expect. I'd spoken with a mutual friend who hadn't particularly encouraged my going; he'd visited and didn't feel as though he'd blessed or helped.

Still, I felt called to go.

I told my husband. He--being the cautious, protective sort--wasn't especially thrilled with the idea, but, to his credit, he trusted and offered to drive me. He waited in the minivan with Cade and Clementine while I walked in the hospital, wearing maternity overalls.

My acquaintance had provided me the information I needed to receive access, so a nurse at the front desk unlocked the door to the visiting area. There were people everywhere: some sitting on sofas and chairs, others just sort of milling around.

I'd assumed I'd have to wait for my acquaintance to join me, but--to my surprise--I saw: he was already sitting in the visiting area. He was talking with two other men at a small, square table.

The chair just to the left of my acquaintance was the only empty chair in the room.

I don't think I have words to tell you how I felt in seeing that empty chair. I'd already felt confident that God was calling me to that place, but--when I saw the empty chair...the only empty chair!...beside my acquaintance, who hadn't known when I'd be visiting--my heart was flooded with joy. There may as well have been a shaft of light pouring into that chair; I knew it was my chair. I knew it was waiting for me: that I was the person meant to fill it.

It was a very humbling, satisfying, overwhelming moment in my spiritual journey and one I pray to never forget.

My acquaintance hugged me and introduced me to his friends, and I sat down in my chair. A pack of cards rested on the table, and I asked the men if they'd like a fourth, for spades. We proceeded to play, and I played well thanks to the countless "wasted" hours I'd spent playing the game, in college.

With the pressure for eye contact diminished, conversation flowed easily and well among us. Before I left, I asked if I might lead us in prayer; we joined hands and bowed; and God gave me words.

I don't share this story because I think I did something profound for my acquaintance that day. I share it because God did something profound for me.

If you're anything like me, at least once in your life, you've felt called or compelled to do something, and you've talked yourself out of it. You've told yourself: I'm not the best person for this job. I'm ill-equipped. There's someone better.

And you know what? You haven't been wrong, entirely. Because there's always someone better, more experienced, more polished and less bumbling.

Never-the-less, God doesn't make mistakes. When He calls you to do something, His reasons likely have as much or more to do with you than with anyone else. He wants to grow and teach you. He has a perfect plan for your life.

So just go: even if your hands shake, your knees knock, and you're at a loss in terms of what to say. Everything will be okay.

God's already in that place to which He's calling you, and He's preparing it (him? her?) for your arrival. Go. Find your empty chair.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Photo by Christine Donnier-Valentin

All my life, red, I've loved you best of the colors.You're my fiery, take-charge nature; Dorothy's Technicolor bed of poppies and her sequined slippers, too; Kool-Aid mustaches; the covers on The Church Hymnal and passed-down Famous Fairy Tales; Raggedy Ann's yarn hair and secret heart; Scott High and Maryville College; the lessons of my teachers' pens; stripes on my flag; my baby girls' winter coats; Santa Claus's suit and a rose--stashed by my beloved--in a tree.

You're the passion of every being, especially that of He who died to set everyone free.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

Awhile back, my beloved--in all his frugality and wisdom--bought four movie tickets through Google; thus, for a grand total of $33, Cade and I watched Hugo 3D Thanksgiving night, and our family of five watched The Muppets, tonight.

'Twas a rare treat, all this movie-ing. 

A man who takes his wife, an 11-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 1-year-old to see The Muppets...30 minutes before the little ones' bedtime...and leaves the theater a real man. Not a Muppet of a man.

Everyone in my family loved the movie for different reasons. Jim appreciated its taking him back to The Muppet Show he enjoyed on tv in the '70's, and he loved sharing the experience with the girls. I thought Cade was going to fall out of his chair, laughing, during a scene with the Barbershop Quartet [Sam the Eagle, Rowlf the Dog, Link Hogthrob and Beake] and Jack Black. The chickens (squawking out Cee Lo's "Forget You") cracked Clementine's tiny hiney up, and Charleigh chair-danced through many of the musical numbers.

As for me, I left the theater feeling like I had whole new reasons to appreciate Jason Segel (I've been a fan since Freaks and Geeks: only the BEST. TV. SHOW. EVER!!!), who infused The Muppets, a classic, with his talent and spirit. Nothing better!

Also, I was delighted by the cameo appearances of so many fun celebrities, and I'll admit: I got teary-eyed when Kermit and Miss Piggy sang "The Rainbow Connection." (Cut me a break; I'm pregnant.)

All in all: fun for my whole family (ages 1-40).  Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Best Cupcakes EVER

Earlier this month, my friend Jayme at Tales from the Coop Keeper posted a recipe I've been excited to try: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Today was the big day, and listen: these cupcakes are soooo good that I'm blogging them, and I almost never blog food.

Truly, these are the best cupcakes I've ever eaten. You should bake some. Today. Right now!

Click here for the recipe. (I recommend cutting the icing part of the recipe in half, or--better yet!--doubling the cupcake part. I have enough icing left for 24 more cupcakes, but you'll not hear me complain; I've got the stuff to make the cupcake part, again, and I was planning to share with my friends at the adult home, anyway.)

Quick! Get your cupcake on! Don't delay! Yummmm!

Friday, November 25, 2011

On Flipping a Car & Landing Upside-down in a Swamp

"Begin a volume of Pages that tell of what He has done for you, through you, in you. We are a people of forgetfulness. We need reminders. And these reminders, as they accumulate, provide us with ammunition to combat the lies of the evil one as he whispers in our ears that He doesn't move on our behalf, that He doesn't care about us. Collect your stories. Create a strong heritage of those stories for your family, for future generations." -Anne Conder of

Well, it's Heritage of Faith Friday, and--off and on, today (i.e., when I wasn't trying to manage a steroids-ridden Clementine)--I tried to decide which moment of my life I wanted to write. There are so many moments from which to choose: I asked Jesus into my heart when I was eight years old, and there hasn't been a time, since, that He hasn't been faithful to me...despite long periods of my being unfaithful to Him.

One of these periods--and a lesson, born out of it--came to mind, today, and it's the one I've chosen to write...even though it brings me low to remember. It went like this: 

I wasn't walking closely with the Lord. I was a college student consumed with having a rip-roaring good time. It hadn't taken long for me to get there, and--while I'm not a person particularly prone to regret--I do look back and feel sad for the opportunities I missed in failing to let my light shine.

My high-school friend Matthew, college friend Erin, and I decided to drive from East Tennessee to New Orleans for spring break. We didn't have much money and decided to take Matthew's Geo Metro, which got excellent gas mileage. I was driving down a particularly long, dark stretch of highway near Hattiesburg, Mississippi when a large, yellow dog ran out in front of the car.

In a split second, I decided I didn't want to hit the dog. So I pulled the wheel, hard, to the left and got around it. Honestly, everything happened so fast: I can't say for sure that I ever tapped the brakes. We kept barreling down the highway, and I was struggling to keep the car on the road...on any lane of the (otherwise) empty highway.

Matthew--in the passenger seat of his car--decided to help me out and grabbed the wheel. We probably would've wrecked regardless; I was totally out of control. But, together, he and I (without communicating at all, so far as I can recall) took that Geo Metro over the right shoulder and down an embankment, where we landed upside-down, in a swamp.

My head hit the steering wheel, and I blacked out. I remember very little of the rest, but I'm told that Erin--who'd been sleeping in the back, sans seat belt--put one of her feet through a window. Matthew couldn't exit the car from the passenger side, so he (despite his large size) crawled under my upside-down body and out my broken, driver's side window. He scrambled up the embankment and flagged down help: no easy task given his dark, rock-star attire and long hair.

All things considered, we fared well. Lots of bruises, scrapes, and scratches, and I broke most of the blood vessels in my eyes, but we didn't sustain serious injuries. The Geo Metro was totaled, so my dad and brother drove over eight hours to retrieve my friends and me from the dingy hotel room where we rested after our ambulance ride, hospital visit, and subsequent release. My brother wrapped his right arm around me and held me against his side for the entire ride home: long after he lost all sensation in it.

I'm telling you: it's all very fuzzy in my mind. Except for this:

When I regained consciousness, I awoke somewhere in the middle of the Lord's Prayer. And--in that instant, in a whole new way--I understood what it means to be sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). I knew: regardless of any and all bad behavior on my part, I was a child of the King, and He was with me in that totaled and upside-down Geo Metro, where it had come to rest. In the swamp at the bottom of an embankment along a dark stretch of highway near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, He was with me

I've never forgotten.

I don't know why I was spared. I don't know why, but I was, and maybe part of the reason is so I can say to you: if you have at any point in your life asked Christ into your heart, He is in there, still. He has promised to never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). No matter what you've done, or how you've sinned, or how far you've wandered: you belong to Him, and He loves you. 

And it's alright if the vehicle in which you arrived doesn't drive anymore; it's really just a matter of turning around with your bruises, scrapes, and scratches and making your way back to Him, however you need to get there. Home isn't as far away as you might think.

Movie Review: Hugo 3D

A few years ago, I bought a book for my little cousin Daniel: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. Daniel spoke so highly of the book that I bought another copy for Cade, who's read it many times. I haven't read it, but--when I saw a trailer for Hugo--I recognized the movie as being based on the book I've seen Cade carry, off and on, over the past few years.

Cade and I went to see Hugo this evening, and I'm so glad we did. It's beautiful with its navy shadows and snow (think The Polar Express without animation); the actors fit their roles well; and--while the story moves slowly at points--in the end, everything comes together in a very satisfying way.

I love the messages of Hugo: everyone has a purpose, or (s)he wouldn't be here. Happiness comes from finding and fulfilling purpose. Love inspires purpose and keeps it alive. Finally, if a person is faithful and long-suffering regarding his or her purpose, the universe will send helpers and work alongside to insure success.

My favorite thing, by far, about my Hugo experience was sharing with Cade something he finds meaningful and learning why. I've been the child he was tonight, and I loved being on the parent end of things: taking time out to engage, encourage, and see something special through his eyes.

If you're looking for something to do this season, I recommend watching Hugo. I don't know how much the 3D contributed, really; I would've enjoyed, probably, as much without.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at Our House

Pretty Enough to Play Drive in the Yard

Coloring's Back to Normal

I don't know why the above photo loaded sideways, 
but I took it in honor of my mother-in-law, who gave me the dish. 
My broccoli casserole, today, was a sad, sad thing in comparison to hers.

Charleigh had sparkling grape juice in her sippy. :)

When Rachel heard, on Tuesday, that we weren't going to Tennessee because of Clementine's having the croup, she showed up with a Paula Deen Ham, sweet potatoes, apples, deer sausage, and potato rolls. I wanted to lay my head over and cry. I kept thinking about the Christmas Mr. Edwards crossed the creek, his pockets full of sweet potatoes for Laura Ingalls and her family. Mr. Edwards is one of my favorite characters in literature.

Our menu today? Ham, sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, potato rolls, and sparkling grape juice. I still haven't made our pumpkin cupcakes, but we've been eating Cherry M&M cookies all day.

Jim asked Clementine: "What are YOU thankful for, this Thanksgiving?"

Without missing a beat, Clementine said: "I'm thankful for my friends. Camden and Zach, Rachel and Chel, and David and Scott."

I'm thankful for them, too. These are among the friends who do life with us.

 Cade expressed thankfulness for his sisters.


Still hoping to catch a movie with Cade before the night's over. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!