Sunday, March 31, 2013

Train Up a Child

My Beautiful Niece Adalynn Grace, in Church This Morning

Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Turd in a Ziploc

Here's something you should know about me: I'm rarely kidding. Seriously. In "real life," if I make people laugh, and often I do, it's because I'm wide open. I'm a person who talks openly and passionately about what's happening around me and how I'm processing it.

I have a sense of humor and can appreciate the funny elements of stories, but I'm probably one of the most serious people you'll ever encounter. I'm dead serious, and I'm not even kidding. Seriously. (Please believe me.)

Now for the story of the turd, which I couldn't make up if I tried.

Clementine was horsing around on a bar stool, yesterday, and fell, striking the left side of her forehead against a log that protrudes from one of our (log) walls. Y'all. I have never in my life seen a goose egg like what formed on that child's forehead. It bore a remarkable likeness in size and shape to one of those orange circus peanuts.

To say I could never be a nurse is the understatement of the century. Woozy, I grabbed a Ziploc of frozen strawberries from the freezer and asked Cade to make sure Clementine held it in the right spot. Then I sat down (hard) to call the pediatrician and run a Google Search. Long story short, Clementine held that Ziploc of strawberries to her forehead the whole way to dance class.

Later, on the way home, she ate the fruit.

The three little kids and I were at the park, today, when Charleigh danced up to me and said: "Mama, I hafta poop." I walked her to the minivan and sat her on the potty seat I've started keeping in there. She did her deal, and I shook her turd into the Ziploc from which Clementine had eaten strawberries the night before. We returned to the park, and later, I disposed properly of the waste.

At this point, you're probably wondering why in the world I feel the need to blog this story. I don't mean to scare you, but I could go off in ten different directions right now. Seriously. (Remember, I'm a serious person.)

But this is what I want to tell you most of all: I'm my best mom-self when I'm adventuring with my kids. I'm much more apt to lose my cool at home, where my daughters display what I call "rat behavior" like: shredding styrofoam plates and toilet paper; eating the Hershey Kisses off the tops of all the cookies; filling various containers with water from the door of the refrigerator and spilling said water on the carpet; "washing" their hair with milk and juice from their sippy cups; smearing personal lubricant (yes, really) and diaper cream all over their faces; etc.

My girls aggravate me when we're out, too, but they behave less like rats. I won't yell in public, so I feel like a kinder mom when we're adventuring. And most importantly, I'm an adventurer at heart; I've always been an adventurer.

I mean this to encourage you. It's taken me awhile to figure out how to make adventure happen with three very small children. I'm blessed to have friends like Sharon and Anjie, who love to adventure with the little ones and me, but oftentimes they're not available, and I have to do what I have to do. I don't like carrying--and putting a small child on--a potty seat in my minivan. But I push through my discomfort in order to do what I want and be who I want. In order to be my best self. In order to be the person God made me to be.

If you haven't figured out a way to be who you are in your heart...if you're overwhelmed or scared...if something's holding you back...buck up, Little Camper. Push through to the other side.

Don't be afraid to put up with a little shit. I'm not.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Visit

My brother came to visit for a couple days. As excited as I was at the thought of his coming, I wouldn't allow myself--until he stepped over the threshold--to believe fully in his arrival. But then and all at once, here he was, and he was smiling. It was like a dream.

Maybe we do our best believing when we've stopped believing just a little or, at least, surrendered our hopes: this is what I want, Lord, but I understand it may not be Your best, and may Thy will be done.

I'd been talking to myself in all new ways. I'd been telling myself things like: even if I'm never again permitted to see him on this earth, nothing and no one can take him from me; I know who he is, and I carry him with me everywhere I go. Thing like: we've been washed in the Blood; we have eternity.

And I'd begged, at points: no more suffering, Lord, please. Whatever it means: no more suffering, please Father God.

What do prayers like that even mean? Do they indicate victory, or defeat? My heavens, I'm so deeply lonely; my soul feels bare and hollow as a wing bone; I wish somebody would talk to me. I wish the Russian blog-stalkers would speak up. Do you have words, Russians, to explain my heart?

So here my brother was, and he was smiling, and he had these wires sticking out of his back. The tape was rolling and sticking to his t-shirt, so I peeled it away and retaped the wires and little gray boxes against his skin. Normally, I would shy away from a task like that, but all I could think was: he's here; he's smiling; I get to be the one; he's in and under my hands!

Twice, he leaned over my kitchen sink, and hard as ever I could I scrubbed my coconut shampoo into his shaggy man head, and then I rinsed. I washed and dried and folded his laundry, and I baked his favorite cookies. He bit into one hot out the oven and whimpered; I saw his forehead twitch. "Oh, did you burn your mouth?" I asked, grimacing.

He answered: "No, it's just so good!" And laughter bubbled out of my heart and sailed light as a breeze up my throat. I couldn't hold it in my mouth, that laughter, and maybe it had never felt so natural to laugh as it did in that moment: his eyes sparkling hope, his mouth spraying crumbs.

In what seemed like just an instant, he was gone again (Another surgery, tomorrow!), but didn't he shine on us ever so hard every second he was here. Didn't he just shine and shine.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

{How to Make} Trailer Park Pancakes

It's snowing, again, in the Greater Richmond Area. Can you believe it? Isn't this supposed to be springtime? In the South?

Jim had missed the weather reports, and--let's get real--the man's never been particularly clairvoyant, so he left me in charge of dinner while he drove out into the blizzard to fetch his laptop from work.

When I'm in charge of dinner, we eat things like Trailer Park Pancakes. You've probably never eaten a Trailer Park Pancake, since I think the Galaxy Diner in Carytown might be the only place in the world where you can buy one. But, best I can tell, here's how to make them:

Ingredients (Makes 3 Trailer Park Pancakes):
  • 6 pieces of bread
  • creamy peanut butter
  • a banana
  • an egg
  • some milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla
  •  some butter or margarine for frying
  •  syrup and/or confectioner's sugar (optional)

Step 1: Smear creamy peanut butter on 6 slices of bread.

Steps 2 and 3: Slice up a banana and divide it among 3 slices of bread. When you're done, make 3 peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.

Step 4: Melt a little bit of butter or margarine in a skillet.

Step 5: In a shallow pan, mix together an egg, some milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. If you have vanilla from the hills of East Tennessee, as I do, you might want to use two teaspoons of vanilla and have yourself a healthy swig of vanilla, to boot.

Steps 6, 7, and 8: Dip both sides of each peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich in the egg mixture. Fry until golden brown on both sides, and enjoy with syrup, a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar, or both. (We like ours plain.)


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Glory of God

My brother and my daughters, yesterday.

Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? -Jesus (John 11:40)

And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always... (John 11:41b-42a.)

My brother has been unwell for many years. (I thought 8; he says 9.) 12 days ago he was transported via ambulance to an ER in Knoxville, Tennessee because he couldn't move his arms and legs. Since then, his potassium level has been restored (ending the paralysis), and he has undergone surgery--in Baltimore, Maryland!--to have a nerve stimulator inserted into his back. He will have another surgery within the next few days but was released to drive to me (near Richmond, Virginia) over the weekend. He feels better than he has in a long time. My entire family has the sense that we are living a miracle. 
The verses above are from my very favorite story in the Bible: that of Lazarus's resurrection. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Going There

When I was eleven, my family moved from Greencastle, Pennsylvania to Scott County, Tennessee, where I don't recall ever seeing a black person, except maybe one adopted or foreign-exchange kid. I heard tell of some black man trying to run a ferris wheel, one time, and getting shot at. Heard the shooter missed, but all I can say for sure is--by the time I got to the fair--some haggard-looking, white dude was running the wheel.

Fast forward a few years, and I had to select a January-Term class at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. I decided to study black gospel music. Larry Ervin taught the class. I don't know that I have words to write him for you, but I'll start here: just to think about him (and he's still alive and well) makes my eyes well up with tears. I love him like that.

Larry--and we all called him Larry--has big energy, big presence, big patience. He has a big laugh, and he has this way of looking, from day one, at a person and making him or her feel loved to the toes. I can't think someone could know Larry and not be ready to just lie down and die for him, and it's a thing that sticks like lamb stew to the bones; I haven't seen Larry for seventeen years, and I'd get hit by a train for him, yet.

So a requirement of this class, on top of getting some book smarts, was to perform in a concert with the black gospel choir. I'd thought going into J-Term that the singing would be a one-shot deal, but turns out I loved the music and Larry even more, so I joined for real and good: sang with Voices of Praise in many different churches and several different states.

I wasn't the only white person in the choir, but I was one of very few, and sometimes the only white people in the churches were the ones who stepped off our bus. I felt white, always, in those places, but I also felt loved.

I used to wonder if it were just Larry: if he cast enough light to dispel shadows in those churches. But many years later, I was driving into Goochland, Virginia and bawling my eyes out when I passed a little, white church on my right. So much light shone out its windows, and I didn't know anything about the place but wanted nothing more than to be where that light was. I turned around as soon as possible and went inside, slid into the back pew.

Fifteen or so black people were finishing up a study on James Chapters 3 and 4. They didn't seem at all surprised to see me, even with my teary face and yoga pants. The minister looked up and said, "Welcome." I listened to the rest of the study and stood to pray with the congregation. When it was over, and before I could get out the door, a woman hugged me and said she was glad I'd come.

I have sadder stories to tell about race as pertaining to my every-day life, but I want it on record: if I need a church, and there's a light shining from within one, I won't wonder or worry about the color of its people. Because--in my experience, with or without Larry Ervin--it doesn't much matter with Jesus up inside.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Vessel

*image source

What is it you're willing to do for the Lord?
What is it you're willing to say?
Because this has been my experience,
and I am not ashamed.
If you're willing to open your house for the Lord,
He'll send the people in.
They'll come with their kids and their questions;
He'll send the people in.
If you're willing to tell a story for the Lord,
He'll give you a story to tell.
Sometimes you'll bleed in the getting it,
but He'll give you a story to tell.
If you're willing to sing a song for the Lord,
He'll give you a song to sing.
You may not hit the notes just so,
but He'll give you a song to sing.
If you're willing to pray a prayer for the Lord,
He'll give you a prayer to pray.
He'll burden and wake you and flat-out break you,
but He'll give you a prayer to pray.
If you're willing to go in the name of the Lord,
He'll give you someplace to go.
It might be dark; your knees might knock!,
but He'll give you someplace to go.
What is it you're willing to do for the Lord?
What is it you're willing to say?
Vessels unto honor will be put to work:
all glory to His name!

**I don't normally write all sing-songy and willy-nilly like this, but I was willing to write a poem for the Lord. :) Many of you have been praying for my brother (some of you for years!), and I want to note: his new nerve stimulator was turned on, today, and seems to be doing what it's intended to do. He called and instructed me to spend the rest of the day praising the Lord. Thank you for your faithful prayers for him! There will be another surgery in a week or so to make things more permanent; thank you for remembering this and my brother's future health in your prayers.

Sharing with Emily's Imperfect Prose community and also, for the very first time, at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Sarahs and St. Baldrick's

What happened was that Sarah Beagle (whom I'd never met) heard about the St. Baldrick's Foundation on the radio and asked Sarah Duffer what she thought about funding research for childhood cancers. All they had to do, Beagle explained, was talk people into making donations and go up on stage at the St. Patty's have their hair shaved plumb off.

I reckon Duffer said she'd do it if Beagle would do it, and they signed up. I got wind of the whole thing on facebook.

I met Duffer (left) two churches ago, in about 2001. She's my girl Christy's best babysitter, and--when Christy's kids and Cade were very little--we asked Duffer to help entertain the kids while we baked Christmas cookies. As the kids got older, Duffer decided she'd like to participate in the actual baking. She's become quite the baker over the years, and in 2010, she showed Christy and me up in a bad way. I'll say, too: when Jim realized Duffer was baking pecan bars this past Christmas, he whined for days. It's the only "sweet treat" I've heard him mourn since his gastric bypass.

Duffer set a fundraising goal of $350 for St. Baldricks, and I donated a little bit of money. And then I put something out on facebook about being willing to bake cookies for local friends who'd donate at least $10. (I'd say I don't know what got into me, but I really kind of do; my college friend Akiko's little girl Jaimie is fighting liver cancer, right now, and I've been all kinds of torn up about it.) Christy made the same promise on Beagle's behalf. Meanwhile, the girls continued to raise money on their own.

In the end, Duffer raised $665, and Beagle raised $622. Christy and I have a lot of cookies to bake! Christy and I decided we couldn't miss the actual hair-shaving event and (along with Christy's daughter Abi, Baby Chip, and my camera) headed to the St. Patty's Palooza at Innsbrook Pavilion.

It had been awhile since I'd been in the world like that. I'm not judging, just saying: people were decked out in St. Patrick's Day frivolity; selling unusual wares; drinking beer out of plastic cups; and playing very loud music, including, at one point, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." It had been awhile.

Christy Protecting Baby Chip's Ear from the Loud Music

But--sure as I'm sitting here--I found Jesus at the St. Patty's Palooza. He shone right out of the faces of two young Sarahs who marched up on stage to have their heads shaved in front of hundreds of people. And that's the thing about Jesus, I've learned: He shows up in the unlikeliest of places...and faces. He's just everywhere.


Now, validate my words. Say to me: yes, Brandee, I see Jesus; I do. Tell me how blessed I am to know Him; to love Him; to recognize Him; to capture Him. Tell me how blessed I am to have friends like these. A community like this.

And say a prayer, please, for little fighter Jaimie Fredricks and her family.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Where I Stand

I've written about it before, how I grow tired in the blogosphere and on facebook. So many hot topics, and everyone has his or her own take on every issue under the sun.

I spent my formative years in an independent, fundamental, missionary Baptist church, ok? It doesn't get much more conservative than that unless you make it wear a dress 24 hours a day and take away its automobile. I feel closer to the Lord, now, than I did then. I'm decidedly less conservative, but I'm not by any means liberal.

I'm in the grey, a lot of the time. I'm in the middle. I might even be called wishy-washy or lukewarm (on the issues, not on my faith), but I don't believe I'm unstable or double-minded, and I don't anticipate being spewed out of the Lord's mouth. Here's where I am at the moment, although this is a severe oversimplification. I acknowledge freely that I may be somewhere else, later. That's why it's called "down the road."
  • Homosexuality - I was born straight and am thankful that things are easy for me. I love gay people. I want gay and straight people, alike, to know that Jesus loves them and to love Him, back.
  • Chick-fil-A - I don't care who does or doesn't eat there.
  • Gay Marriage - I'm against it based upon my interpretation of scripture but feel sad (and sometimes conflicted) over my position.
  • Race Issues - I was born white and am thankful that things are easy for me. I love people of all colors and believe Jesus loves us all the same.
  • Immigration - I was born in the U.S. and am thankful that things are easy for me. I think it's nice when those who weren't born here and want to live here follow the proper course to citizenship.*
  • Gun Control - I don't understand why people need automatic weapons (machine guns) and think I prefer they not have them. I come from a family of hunters, however, and have eaten many a beast killed by their guns. I have guns in my house. If you break in and try to harm my children, I will absolutely shoot you and talk to Jesus about it, later.*
  • Abortion - I have never had an unwanted pregnancy and am thankful that things have been easy for me. I think God is pro-life. I also think He can forgive. I find images of aborted fetuses offensive and prefer that they not be shoved in my face.
  • Purity Culture - I think God wants us to wait until we're married to have sex, but I didn't. Either time. I regret my poor decisions. God can forgive and has forgiven me.
  • Living Together Outside of Marriage - See above. I lived with two men outside of marriage. I regret my poor decisions. God can forgive and has forgiven me.
  • Divorce - I am divorced and remarried. I have a beautiful relationship with my ex-husband now that I don't live with him. We do divorce well. God can forgive and has forgiven me. He can redeem any situation into which we invite Him. If you don't think so, I won't allow you to speak into my life.
  • Marriage - I live in submission to my husband. It's not always easy, and some areas are more challenging than others. I'm blessed to be married to a man I respect. I know he has my best interest at heart. 
  • Theology - I'm a member of a Baptist church. I don't necessarily agree with everything they say at my church, but I've never agreed with everything, anywhere. I shrug off what I can't accept. I love them. I've only just determined that I'm a Continuationist, not a Cessationist. I'm pretty sure I'm not a Calvinist, but I'm still working that out.
  • Women in the Pulpit - I have not been called to preach. 
  • Clothing in Church - I dress modestly, in general, so as not to distract others with my huge boobs. I don't feel badly for wearing pants because 1) God looks at the heart, and 2) My legs are terrific and less distracting when covered.
  • Tattoos. Piercings. - My ears are pierced, but I rarely wear earrings because I'm lazy. My nose was pierced during one particularly miserable phase in my life. God looks at the heart.
  • Drinking. Drugs. - I don't feel badly, as a 38-year-old woman, for having that rare drink. I have inhaled. It wasn't my deal. I would prefer, of course, that my children neither drink nor do drugs.
  • Hell - I'm not going there. Praise the Lord! I believe it exists. I will not allow anyone to try and scare my children, period. Including to Jesus.
  • Heaven - I plan to end up there. Praise the Lord! I believe it exists. I believe Jesus is the only way but that He saves more than Baptists. I believe my aunt is there, and she was a member of the LDS Church. I always invite in the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm still trying to figure them out, but I'm not sure how they shine out like that if they don't know the Lord.
  • Missions - My mission field is comprised of my home and communities (physical and Internet). In July, The Owens Family will pack up my heart and take it with them to Africa.
  • Small families. Large families. - I have 4 children. I nearly killed myself getting the last one here. He's 4 months old, and I'll be 39 next month. My tubes are tied. I'm at peace.
  • Parenting - I think parenting (outside of abuse and neglect) should be left up to the parents. I breastfeed and co-sleep as much as possible. I use disposable diapers and jarred baby food. My kids watch too many cartoons and don't do enough chores, but they're sharp as tacks and love Jesus, so I'm satisfied.
  • Spanking - I spank. I use my right hand. I want my kids to understand that everything I do with my hands, including spanking, is for and with love. If ever it's not, shame on me.
  • Homeschooling - I believe it's a calling. My 13yo has always been in public school. I'm praying about the little kids. Clementine just turned 4; I have time to figure it out.
If there's anything else you want to know, fire it at me, but know this: you'll probably not budge me.

*Added 03/16/13.

Can. Could. Might.

I was eight years old and kneeling on my bed in a nightgown when I asked Jesus into my heart. One minute, I was alone in my dark bedroom; the next, I wasn't. It might have been scary in the context of a different story, but this wasn't scary. My heart felt flooded, suddenly, with light.

At the outset of my Christian walk, God seemed really close. Close enough to be in the room. Close enough to be tucked behind the breastbone of an eight-year-old girl. But, over time, I don't know what happened: I started thinking of Him as God who parted the Red Sea.

He is God who parted the Red Sea, of course, but He's also God who goes with me. Sadly, for most of my life, it felt more like His eye was on me from a great distance than that He was beside, or within.

Only in recent years have I drawn close to God again. I feel Him in the room. I feel Him in my heart. I talk about Him all the time, and I talk to Him freely. He feels so near that, sometimes, I almost forget how large He looms. Yesterday, I looked up at the sky and all its clouds, and in awe, I thought: God made that! He's bigger than that!

God is trapped in neither my room nor my chest, and He's the same, today, as ever He was (Hebrews 13:8). He's still the God of miracles!

Someone explained to me, recently, that miracles no longer occur like they did, once: that God will heal miraculously through doctors, but not instantaneously in the way He used to, through Jesus's and the apostles' laying of hands. My stomach flip-flopped.

I came home and studied enough to know that--while I've never been Charismatic or Pentecostal per se--I stand among the Continuationists and not the Cessationists. Even though speaking in tongues, prophesying, and faith healing are outside my comfort zone, I would never be so bold as to suggest they don't occur legitimately in this age.

When God doesn't heal somebody, it's easiest, I think, to believe He won't heal anybody. Certainly, it would be easier for me to accept that He won't heal anybody than to believe He can and/or will heal some people in this age but has chosen--all these many times I've touched and prayed over my brother--not to heal my person.

But I believe the harder thing. I believe God can heal my brother in an instant, and I believe He could, and I believe He might. I don't know why He hasn't, and I've hurt deeply in recent years for this very reason. Still, no one can take it away from me: my belief that He can, and could, and might.

In the meantime, we work with a neurosurgeon.

"Have you seen him?" I asked my sister-in-law, today, nigh about 6:30.

"Oh, I'm with him, now," she said. "He's in and out."

At this point, my groggy darling heard her and asked for the phone. "Hi, Sis," he said. "I'm ok."

"A lot of people were praying, today," I told him.

"Yes," he said. "That's why I'm ok."

"That's why I'm ok, too," I said.

"Yes," he agreed, and I knew we were both thinking of that other time. "We serve an awesome God," he added. "We really do."

(That awesome God can. He very well could. And He just might yet.)

Jim and Charleigh, My Brother and Clementine. December.