Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Interview with My Husband

My beloved spent three days in the hospital, last week. I was with him both nights and most of the rest of the time, too, and, strangely, we really enjoyed our time there. He's a very private person, and I almost fell off the side of my cot when he suggested I write down what happened: figured I'd better hurry up and do so before he changes his mind. I have a feeling you'll be hearing about this from my perspective, too, but, for now, here's Jim: 

B: What can you say about your struggle with weight?

J: It sucks. It's like having five extra fingers on each hand: the weight's always in the way. It's like a disability no one wants to talk about. I myself don't want to talk about it, but it's in my thoughts constantly. It affects every aspect of my life.

B: And your struggle has been lifelong?

J: Oh, yeah. I've dealt with it better, at certain times, but I've always dealt with it.

B: When have you dealt with it better?

J: I weighed around 375 pounds going into the spring of 1994 but lost about 125 pounds because I wanted to play [foot]ball at Maryville College. I ate once a day and worked out once or twice a day.

B: That fall is when we met and dated the first time.

J: Yeah.

B: I thought you looked really good.

J: I gained the weight back. I was back up to 350 pounds by the time we graduated in 1996. I was up to 400 pounds by 1999. My dad got sick and died; I broke my leg; and I lost my job. While I was living at home, in my mom's care, I lost well over a hundred pounds. I got a new job, moved to Nashville, and lost even more weight. I was down to about 265 pounds in September of 2000. Again, I was eating once a day, walking, and lifting. Over time and through various circumstances [work, moves, relationships, etc.], I gained the weight back. I was at my highest weight, 570 pounds, when--in September of 2006--I fell on a ramp on the second day of a seven-day cruise. I ruptured a quad tendon, required surgery, and was in a wheelchair for six months. I lost about 130 pounds, which brings us to the point of our getting back together [Easter 2007]. My lowest weight, since we've been married, has been about 380 pounds.

B: Now you weigh about 480 pounds. But you have hope of losing weight, now, and keeping it off. And why is that?

J: Well, I had gastric bypass surgery on Wednesday. It's not a magic pill; I mean, I have to follow the rules in terms of eating what I'm supposed to eat, drinking the water I'm supposed to drink, taking the pills I'm supposed to take, and finding ways--other than eating--to deal with stress.

B: Why did you wait so long to have surgery?

J: I don't think my insurance has ever covered it before, for one thing, and I had to overcome the fear of surgery I had after the knee surgery in 2006. Now that I have a wife, children, and other responsibilities, I want to be here.

B: There are several different weight-loss-surgery options. Why did you choose gastric bypass, specifically?

J: It's the most routine, effective, and successful of weight-loss surgeries. It works in two ways: by restricting how much one eats, also how much gets absorbed after it's been eaten. It also curbs hunger, in most cases, for at least six months. I'm tired of being hungry.

B: What would you like to say about the surgery?

J: The worst part was waiting an entire year to meet all the requirements for surgery. The surgery itself was better than I ever expected. Starting the night before, I wasn't anxious at all. When I did get anxious--after I'd been separated from you, while I was in pre-op--an anesthesiologist named Jay calmed me down. Another person found a vein in my hand for IV, which was a relief because--after 11 sticks in 2006--my surgery was rescheduled for a later date. I got a PICC line on that later date, which I wore for the nearly 3 weeks I was in the hospital. The first thing I remember seeing after this surgery, my gastric bypass, is you. And Pastor David.

B: And your pain level?

J: I had no pain the first day and didn't even feel like I'd had surgery. After that, I felt some pain in my side, but never more than a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1-10. I'm not taking any pain medicine, today.

B: You're on a liquid diet, right now.

J: Yeah, and everything's going down and coming out ok. No vomiting, yet. I'm getting around great; we went shopping, yesterday, and we went to church, today.

B: So, for a year, you haven't wanted me to write about this at all.

J: I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want people to know about it. I didn't want people to know I had to resort to this.

B: What made you change your mind?

J: (laugh) Well, it's done. People are going to figure it out, eventually; I mean, my nurse thinks I'll lose 100 pounds by the time our baby gets here in three months. But, also, I want to praise God. This has been a wonderful experience, so far. I know people have been praying for us. I could really tell in the hospital because you weren't all crazy. You can get pretty crazy.

B: I love you.

J: I love you, too.

Chick-fil-A: Sharing My Heart in Verse

Image by Zelko Nedic

I've been trying to say I ain't got no dog in this fight,
and I've been telling the truth: she don't wear my collar.
But, dag, she's a big dog, and she's sitting right here,
her eyes pleading: "My name's Under," and I've always
been a sucker for that one: the kicked-around one.
Lord help me, I gotta do something with this here dog!
And I really do mean Lord help me; she's parked tween
the Tree of Life and some soldier's shoe, but I lost my
flaming sword awhile back (no fruit left on the Tree,
anyhow), and all I've got for weapon, now, is the Word.
Where you from, Girl? Whom you representing?
I don't think my struggle's against you, no matter what,
but you gotta quit tugging at my laces; I need my shoes
(I call them the preparation of the gospel of peace) tied.
I need a little time to think about this mess, and pray...
time to think about Whom I'm representing, and
how best to represent He Whom I'm representing.
Because He's love, and I want you to see Him, Dog,
in me. (Maybe you will.) Hows about, in the meantime,
you and I go buy us some square burgers? No chicken.
Where's the beef, Girl? You got the nose; lead the way.

***Sharing these thoughts, today, with poetic friends at The Mag.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Big God Moment

I used to write and send many notes: not anymore. In fact, I've become a rotten card sender. I haven't sent Christmas cards for a couple years, and I'm woefully behind in sending Happy Birthday, Happy Mother's/Father's Day, etc. cards even to those closest to me.

But, yesterday, I wrote a note to someone in my church who always makes me feel better. I felt a little silly, writing it, but I did it, anyway: I felt like I was supposed to. I shared how much he ministers to me just in being himself. I thanked him for caring for me: not with words of advice, but merely in looking happy, always, to see me.

This morning, the same person showed up on my front porch. He said Someone had sent him to pray with me. I invited him in, and he held my hands and prayed a beautiful prayer over me.

When he finished, I asked: "You didn't get my note, already, did you?" He looked confused, and, no, of course he hadn't. I just mailed it yesterday; the mail hasn't run, yet, today; and--even within the county--a stamp can't buy same-day delivery.

"I've been feeling like I should come for awhile, now," he said, "and, usually, I ignore the feeling, but I didn't feel like I could, this time."

"Well, you're going to get a note," I said, "and when you do, you're going to wonder how I did that."

He laughed and went on his way, leaving me to marvel at what God has done, the last couple of days, in asking something of both my friend and me, also in rewarding our obedience by proving: the little voice we heard really was His voice. I know He's drawing each of us closer to Himself, and I feel a little braver, suddenly. He's right here; wherever I go, He goes with me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Belated 5th Anniversary Post

It's late, and I crawl in beside you, saying: "I need you." You know what I mean: that I want you to talk to me in the dark, that all I've ever wanted is someone to talk to me in the dark. You throw an arm over my side, snap my body toward yours, and break into song:

I need you tonight
Cause I'm not sleeping
There's something about you, Girl,
That makes me sweat

You crack yourself up. Laughing, you say: "You're rolling your eyes right now, aren't you?" And you kiss my left eyelid, in the pitch black, with a loud smack.

So many things to love about you: little things, big things, but sometimes I fail to see for high drama. It makes my head swim to think of what we've survived, these five years of marriage: jobs, joblessness, moves, pregnancies, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, labor and childbirth, parenting, surgeries, fleas, leaks, breaks. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't lived it, and we both know what's just ahead. 

My spirit has never been so tired, but I have your body for my bed, your heart for my home. I'm thankful. I've never before said to a man: "I want only you," and meant it; in that respect, you've saved me from myself. I'm thankful. You strive to provide for and delight me. I'm thankful.

I did; I do; I will: no matter what that means. Just keep coming home to me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

On Dreams and Hard Lessons

Bucky Collins. Photo swiped from his wife Pat's facebook.

Clementine has been in Vacation Bible School, this week, at the first church to which I belonged in Powhatan. Several times, I've guided her to the correct pew and, on my way out of the church, passed Bucky Collins, the sight of whom always reminds me (in the most pleasant of ways) of a lesson I learned the hard way. (Why is it that I have to learn so many things the hard way?) It went something like this:

I taught sixth grade English for one year: the 2005-2006 school year. I could write several posts about it and probably will, at some point, but it didn't go well at all. I'd gone in excited and optimistic, and I'd never in my life felt so unloved and disrespected. I'm not a person accustomed to failure, and my confidence had been shaken as never before. I vomited, often, before going to work in morning. I cried all the time. I needed to be medicated (although I never was), and more than one person suggested as much. I still count my surviving the school year as one of my proudest accomplishments.

Anyway, at some point during the school year, the Lord showed me Bucky's face in a dream and said, very clearly: "Talk to Bucky Collins."

Now, this was well before I had a facebook account, which meant that--in order to talk to Bucky--I'd have to call him up on the phone or track him down at the (large) church I'd left a year or two before. I was pretty sure he wouldn't know me; I remembered him but didn't know anything about him and, for that matter, didn't think I'd ever had a real conversation with him. And what was I supposed to say: "Uh, hello, Mr. Collins. I know you don't know who I am, but the Lord spoke to me in a dream and said I need to talk to you?"

I'm an extreme extrovert, but, remember, my confidence had been shaken. I'd never felt so insecure in all my life.

I let the dream go.

A year or two later, I enrolled Cade in a Cub Scout troop that met at my former church: Bucky's church. Cade hadn't been part of the troop for long when I saw Bucky at the church, one evening. I was waiting for Cade's troop meeting to end and sat down with Bucky. I told him about my dream and a little bit about the point in my life at which I'd had it.

He didn't laugh at me at all. Instead, he said he wished I'd called him. As it turns out, he's a former Scoutmaster who continues to devote much of his life to working with young people. (The crazy middle-school kids are his specialty!) He was so kind, that evening, and I promised myself that--in the future--I'd take my dreams more seriously. It's one promise I've kept to myself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jerry Sandusky: What I Said to My Son

I was blessed, last Friday, to spend some time alone with my twelve-year-old son. We were driving down the road when we heard a radio announcement regarding Louis Freeh's report on Pennsylvania State University.

After the announcement, I asked Cade if he'd heard of Jerry Sandusky. He hadn't. I explained, simply, that Sandusky had been a football coach at Penn State and that he'd recently been convicted of molesting many young boys. He'd gotten away with it, I told Cade, for at least fifteen years because a whole slew of people had kept his secrets.

"I know you're wondering," I said (as Cade squirmed), "why we need to talk about this, but bottom line, there are only two ways for me to protect you. I can refuse to allow you out of my sight at all times, or I can teach you what to do if there's a Jerry Sandusky in your life." And I proceeded to say the following:

  • A crazy number of young people are molested.
  • A molester is a person with a sickness. If (s)he's doing (or trying to do) something inappropriate to you or someone you know, you or that other person is very likely not the first victim. If you don't tell me what's going on, there will very likely be more victims. 
  • A molester is going to do what (s)he can to get access to young people. (S)he's going to work around and with young people. (S)he's going to be a coach, a Scout leader, a youth pastor, a Sunday school teacher, or--as we've seen in our own community--a Santa Claus.
  • If someone asks you to keep a secret from me, a red flag should go up right away. Unless we're talking about my surprise birthday gift or something silly like that, this is the very thing you should not keep as a secret. 
  • There isn't a secret in the world that I'll be sorry you told me. I'll never laugh at you or be angry with you for telling. I'll never not believe you.
  • If someone says (s)he'll hurt you, me, or anyone else in our family if you tell a secret, know this: ain't no one in the whole world meaner than your mama. God has empowered and will empower me to take care of our family, and no one stands a chance against me. I'll know what to do. Tell me what's happening. Help me to help you.

I'm curious to know: are you having conversations like this with your children? This is part of an ongoing conversation between Cade and me; twelve, in my humble opinion, is entirely too late to start discussing these matters. Clementine, at three, already has an understanding of what her private body parts are; who is and is not permitted to touch them and for what reasons; and what she should do if something happens that is not allowed.

I feel deeply saddened by the Jerry Sandusky scandal but know: I can do something to keep all that hurt from being wasted. I can talk openly about what happened at Penn State with my children. I can prepare and protect them, and I can encourage other parents to do the same.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Down Side to Blogging

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I blog for my kids. I do not blog for Jesus, although He's here, certainly (and there and everywhere). You might be wondering: if I'm writing for my kids, why do I blog? Why don't I just type my thoughts into a Word document?

Great question. I think I've answered it, before, but I'll answer it, again. I started blogging when I saw a coupon code for Blog2Print, which is a site through which a blogger can have his or her words printed and bound into a book. So, far I've printed my blogged words four times. Here's a photo of my books:

Among these four books, there are a total of 486 pages, and I haven't printed since Valentine's Day. I started blogging less than two years ago, on November 10, 2010. I guess I've had a lot to say to my kids. I'm well aware that my lack of niche has hurt me in terms of a following, but, again, I'm blogging for my kids. So I blog what I'm thinking and what we're doing, and I'm pretty much all over the place.

I know I wouldn't have written so much for my kids if I hadn't blogged my words. I'm an extreme extrovert, see, and the interactive nature of blogging make writing fun for me. Usually. And here's where the downside comes in.

If I'm writing for my kids, I'm going to be as wide open as possible. If I'm not honest about my feelings, what's the point in writing them down? I want my kids, especially as parents, to be able to pick up my blog books and experience their childhoods through my eyes. I want them to really feel my feelings. And I certainly--and please hear me on this--do not want my kids reading about their childhoods and thinking I was something I wasn't. Because it will be hard enough for them to parent without trying to live up to some Julie Andrews standard.

I do leave out certain things that I think might be hurtful for my children to read. For example, if I want to wring one of their cotton-pickin' necks (and sometimes I do), I probably won't blog that. Additionally, there are certain things I can't blog freely because the stories (while they impact me tremendously) belong primarily to other adults in my life. Unfortunately, because I have to omit certain stories from my blog, I come across as crazier than I actually am, I think, to people who don't know "the rest of the story."

I think carefully about every word I publish, and I haven't published a single word that I regret. If you've read words, here, that you regret, please--and I mean this as lovingly as possible--get the hound dog out of my business. You're free. You don't have to read my blog. Please do not advise me regarding what I should or shouldn't blog. I'm not asking you to agree with everything I have to say; you're free to disagree, and you're free to say so. But, please, don't advise me not to share my feelings, and please don't bring my Christian witness or testimony into the conversation. Because that just makes me tired.

It also makes me sad because part of the problem with Christians, in my opinion, is that so many of us value how we're perceived (especially by non-Christians) over authenticity. Within the last week, I've heard how--if Christians don't approach challenges with a positive attitude--it reflects poorly not on them, but on God. I'm not sure if I felt shamed, convicted, or both. Regardless, I have to shut those particular voices down for awhile because I don't know how to turn my frown upside-down right now, and I don't need to be worrying about how I'm making God look on top of everything else.

I've also heard, within the last week, more about how the devil steals Christians' joy. I felt even less joyful after hearing those words. I suspect they were channeled directly from God, but it makes no nevermind. I still didn't want to hear them.

And here's a question for my fellow bloggers: when you know people are reading your very personal thoughts, how do you keep from assuming that the words they speak in your general direction aren't related to what you've blogged?

Am I being paranoid? Am I on the brink of a mental breakdown? It's possible, People. I have a lot going on. I'm pregnant (although if you outright blame my issues on hormones, get ready to duck). I'm doing life without meds, even though--trust me--I've asked for them.

So I don't know what to do, really. I feel like quitting everything: teaching Sunday school, church in general, blogging, reading other people's blogs, sharing my feelings with everyone. (How to know whom to trust?) And I feel like that's what the forces want me to do. I've been putting one foot in front of the other for awhile, now, and--looking back--I've been walking like a drunk. So maybe I'd do better to just plop down on my hiney butt for awhile and keep my thoughts to myself.

I'm tempted to switch my blog to private, but I'm concerned about the impact on the friendships I've formed through blogging, also on my motivation to blog once the interactive nature has been choked to death like a chicken.

Can anyone advise? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

My heart is so burdened right now, and so many of the reasons can't be blogged. What I can share is that the due date for our miscarried baby was July 24th, and--had we not experienced the loss--I'd probably be getting ready to go to the hospital in the morning. (My labor was induced a week early with each of the girls.) I've been feeling so sad. Everything looks great for Baby Chip's arrival in November, but he doesn't replace the one who was lost. It just doesn't work that way. I know there are people who don't get it, so let me put it like this: if one of your closest friends died, would it be ok because you have another friend? Right. Separate (beloved) people. Each one matters.

Look, I want to say, too: next week will be a huge, life-changing one for our family. I wish I could blog more about it; I can't. But please pray. I can't help but wonder if God in His wisdom knew it would be a terrible time for a new baby, and that's why the miscarriage.

I can't help but wonder a lot of things.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Like Riding a Bicycle

Cade returned from a camping trip with the Boy Scouts, recently, and told me he'd learned to canoe. Now, I hadn't canoed since before he was born, but--back in my days of Girl Scouting--canoeing was my deal above anything else. As a Junior Counselor, I'd taught younger campers to canoe. I'd even gone on a two-week Wider Opportunity to Oklahoma, once, oriented around canoeing. I should canoe with Cade, I thought. Surely, it would be like riding a bicycle: it would all come flooding back.

I asked Jim if he would keep the girls so Cade and I could canoe at Bear Creek Lake. The idea of my canoeing disturbed Jim. "You're pregnant," he reminded me. "What if you slip and fall? What if you capsize the canoe?"

"I know how to canoe," I told him, "and--if worse comes to worse--Cade and I know how to swim. And we'll be wearing life jackets." It took several such conversations, but, at last, I convinced Jim.

Saturday morning, in the parking lot next to Bear Creek Lake, Cade asked: "Mom, are you sure you want to take your camera? It'll get ruined if we capsize the canoe."

"Cade," I said. "My camera will be fine. We're not going to capsize the canoe!"

One of my former sixth graders was manning the boat house. She eyed me warily when I told her we wanted a canoe. "Really?" she asked. "A canoe?"

"Yes, yes," I answered. "A canoe. We'll be fine."

A little while later, we were finally underway. I wanted to explore the south side of the lake first, I told Cade, because it's the part we can't see as frequent visitors to the beach. The shoreline of this part of the lake is especially jagged, so we could canoe out into several narrow, shallow areas.

This made Cade a nervous wreck. "Mom, I think we should go back," he would say. I heard: "You're not going to be able to turn around," and, "You're going to get us stuck," and, "You're going to
capsize the canoe."

None of these things happened, and we finished with very little water in the bottom of the canoe. I think Cade would've actually had a good time if he'd been wearing regular shorts. (He complained incessantly that the mesh in his swim shorts was hurting his butt and making it itch. He'll be irritated with me for blogging as much, but there's not much he can do about it; he's at Boy Scout camp. Bet you any amount of money he won't boat in swim shorts.)

I was sharing this story with my girl Christy, earlier, and she said: "I didn't know you could canoe." She's been one of my closest friends for almost a decade.

Which goes to my very point. No one knows me like I know myself, and no one knows you like you know yourself.

Sometimes, we have to push through other people's doubt, fears, and reservations and get on with our bad selves. I know, for me, the rewards are especially sweet when I've been my only cheerleader.

Friday Whirlwind

So, yesterday morning, I rolled (literally) out of bed at 6:30. I don't know if I've mentioned, before, but I'm a morning hater, so only Big Love could inspire such madness. As it turned out, my blogger friend Anne and her family, Texans!, were in Chester, which is only a forty-five-minute drive from me.

I've written about Anne, before, but--over the last couple years--she's filled a void in my life. I knew I couldn't miss the opportunity to talk to and see her face-to-face. Jim had sweetly agreed to work from home and watch the girls so I could not only meet Anne for breakfast, but also swing by my doctor's office for an ultrasound. Cade came along with me.

I loved my breakfast with Anne because she's the same Anne, in person, that she is on the Internet and over the phone. I don't know how to pay anyone a higher compliment than to say she's the real deal, and Anne's the real deal.

Me and Anne. Photo by Elizabeth Conder.

After I hugged Anne goodbye, Cade and I headed to my doctor's office. Cade hadn't yet seen Baby Chip; he'd been camping with my brother's family during my 20-week ultrasound. At that time, the baby's position had been such that the tech could check neither the anatomy of the baby's heart nor his nose and lips. There had been no real cause for alarm, but I needed another ultrasound to verify that everything was ok, and...

...everything is. I've been breathing a little bit easier, since finding out. This pregnancy has been my easiest in terms of feeling sick but--on the heels of a miscarriage--my hardest in terms of feeling confident. It hasn't helped that my platelet count has been low; that the doctor couldn't locate the baby's heartbeat at 16 weeks; or that the technician wasn't able to say, at 20 weeks, that everything was ok with the baby's heart and face. I've even allowed my lack of sickness to mess with my head.

But here's my baby, and he's already beautiful. Thank You, Lord.


Another, Closer Profile: Hand over Face

Looking Straight On

I loved having Cade with me for the ultrasound. He didn't say much, but--as soon as images started appearing--he rose (without really realizing it, I think) to his feet, and his eyes stayed fixed on the screen. I hope his brother will be as good of a boy, and I told Cade as much.

Last night, the five of us celebrated our great news by watching Brave at the Goochland Drive-In. We had a blast!

Friday the 13th...unlucky...bah.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You Will Walk Through Fire

I was given these words in a dream Tuesday night: You will walk through fire and not get burnt. 

From Wethington Photography, via Pinterest
The words came through clearly; I woke up with them and carried them through breakfast before running an Internet search for them.

I found them in Isaiah 43:2. (I always start with KJV.) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

I read the surrounding verses: beautiful. And then, as I often do, I pulled up a parallel translation. This time, I chose MSG. (I don't, always; I'm just as apt to choose NIV or ERV.) I read the first four verses in the chapter and noticed: MSG leaves out, entirely, the words from my dream. There's no mention of walking through fire.

Then I noticed something else from Isaiah 43:3 in MSG, and it was these words: I am God, your personal God. Strange: I knew I'd just read those exact words, days before. It took me a few minutes, but I located them on Deidra Riggs' blog post from Sunday.

And, so far as I can recollect, I had not looked up Isaiah 43 (in any translation) upon reading Deidra's blog post, which I would've had to have done in order to get the words MSG omits, the words from my dream: You will walk through fire and not get burnt. Unless the Lord had whispered them directly to me, in my sleep.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Only God Can Fix It

I have not been easy to love, lately.

There's this ongoing issue between God and me. When I say ongoing, I mean for many years, and, when I say issue, I mean something I've been begging God to fix from the outset. He hasn't, obviously, although--every so often--He throws me just enough of a bone to keep my thin, pale flicker of hope alive.

It seems I can roll with God so long as my ongoing issue is my only one; however, when life deals additional blows, I flounder. It could be worse, I guess, because I haven't stopped believing in God or even in an eventual victory. Then again, have you have ever lived with vertigo? Because I submit humbly: sometimes falling feels better than walking with an absence of balance.

I've learned, recently: the church doesn't so much know what to do with someone like me. Please understand, I'm referring to the church at large, not any particular center of worship. Please understand, also, I count myself part of the church and guilty as charged.

In fact, I'm probably more guilty than most, because I almost always walk away from people who make me tired.

I think back, and how many times have I walked away from someone I couldn't seem to help: someone whose problems God didn't seem inclined to fix within a "reasonable" time frame? How many times have I offered a hug, a prayer, and/or a hot meal and hightailed it? How many times have I slung a few of God's promises at someone, invited her to Sunday school to hear more, and gotten the heck out of dodge? (And I wonder why my class is small.)

How many times have I missed an opportunity to shine the love of Christ into the life of someone who feels abandoned (and rightfully so)? Forgive me, Father. Forgive me, Friends; I couldn't see it until I became reeling and unsteady, myself.

Moving forward (in as straight a line as possible), I'm going to avoid:

  • "God has a plan," also, "There's a reason for everything." Because--even though I believe those things, if I don't know what the plan and reason are--I find those promises frustrating.
  • "Are you ok?" Because I've always prided myself on being wide open. If you have to ask, no, I'm not.
  • "You're letting the devil steal your joy." Awesome. Now, on top of all my other problems, I'm in the process of being robbed. And if the very fruits of the Spirit are being stolen from me, am I even a Christian?
  • "Everything will be ok because it was ok for me." Great. I'm happy for you. When will everything be ok for me? We're talking about me, remember?

Hold me accountable, Folks. If I slip up, remind me, and I'll write these things up my arm in Sharpie.

Please hear me; I'm not trying to discourage anyone. We've all said the things above, and with pure hearts and perfect intentions! But I've learned the hard way what helps most, and it's: I love you. I'm here for you. I love you. I'm here for you. I love you. I'm here for you. IloveyouI'mhereforyou. Repeat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When an Adventurer Becomes a Homebody

I don't much know what to say to you. One or both girls have been sick since Thursday, so I haven't left the log cabin since Wednesday. That's a really long time for me, but I've learned / remembered:

  • I have more patience with my children when they have legitimate reasons to whine.
  • In a pinch, the front porch and back yard can suffice as new worlds.
  • Worship doesn't need to happen inside and can be especially sweet, up close and personal with a storm.
  • An icy treats maker and sugary syrup become real blessings when, in summertime, small folks have sore throats.
  • Children don't give in to boredom; they turn empty toilet paper rolls into spyglass.
  • It's easier for a stay-at-home mom to do laundry when she's actually home.
  • It's possible to purge an entire truckload of garbage from the confined space of a pantry.
  • Charleigh Evangeline shows off randomly. One day, she counted straight through to eleven; another, she sang the ABC song from beginning to end, skipping only a handful of letters.
  • Baby Chip has grown big and strong enough for his movements to be seen from the outside.
  • Dinner at home can be more enjoyable than dinner out when there's a grill master in the family.
  • Hot bananas taste incredible: especially when they've been grilled with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and marshmallows and topped with whipped cream.
  • Ain't never been a muffin so amazing as a snickerdoodle muffin. (Do yourself a favor and refrigerate the batter before trying to roll it in cinnamon and sugar.)
  • With tension curtain rods from the dollar store, a person can end the drama of kids meddling with and behind sliding doors.
  • I married the right man times a million bazillion.

Now please excuse me while I get the hound dog out of here.

Clementine with Her Snickerdoodle Muffin

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thoughts on July 4th

I cried myself sick and begged him (to the point of hitting my knees) to change his mind, but it was set. Whatever he lost and continues to lose, he offered freely; there's been no theft. I watch him, sometimes, and my daddy, too--both of them reading lips--and think: I hate you, you piece of shit country; you're not worth it.

But that's not true.

Because I've sought Jesus and found Him easily in this place. I can walk into a cemetery and hug Him. I can even buy Him off the shelves and set Him on my very own dining-room or coffee table.

Do you know: there are tiny churches along our highways where strangers can enter freely and without question? Places where travelers can pause, reflect, pray?

Wytheville, Virginia

The roadside church above is 12' x 16' and open daily from 6 am until 10 pm. We pull into its empty parking lot, and Clementine immediately spots Jesus in the garden. She shouts: "Mama, look! Jesus!"

And Charleigh, not even two, recites proudly: "Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so!" 

My daughters know who Jesus is. He means something to them. They know He loves them, and they want to sit on His lap. Trouble is: He's breakable. I almost stop them from climbing Him, but then I think: I don't know why He's here, if not for this.

 We go inside.

I feel His presence right away. I record our visit in one book, write out my prayers in another. The bench at the altar looks inviting; I'd kneel and pray if I could close my eyes and concentrate, but I have children who want to explore.

After we leave, Clementine says: "Mama, I'm sad. I don't understand why Jesus wasn't in His little house."

I tell her: "He was in there. He's everywhere, even when we can't see Him."

And men and women have bled and died for our freedom to choose: my religion, or a religion other than my religion, or no religion at all. I fail daily, but I choose Jesus daily, too, and my ease in choosing comes with a price tag.

Politics make me crazy. I'm guessing they make everyone crazy! But I love this country. I love its Skeeter-Dogs and Slush Puppies and roadside architecture.

Wytheville, Virginia

Wytheville, Virginia

Outside of a church (The King's Lighthouse) in Bedford, Virginia. I'd love to know the story.

***Update: Mark Cline created the mama rhino and, most likely, the baby rhino, too. Danny Johnson hired Cline to make the mama; she helps folks locate Johnson's orchard. To read more on this story, click here.

Lynchburg, Virginia

Mark Cline Creation

I love that my children can sleep safely and soundly on clean white sheets four hours from home.

I love that the sweet man who created this

Bedford, Virginia

can sleep so soundly under this open, garage door

that, within feet of him, I can turn my minivan around without his ever opening his eyes or closing his mouth. Men and women have bled and died for our sense of security. I don't want to take it for granted.

And I do love my country. I really do.