Friday, August 30, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (5)

Welcome to the fifth, old-fashioned prayer meeting in this space. I'm so glad you're here and that we can come together in this way! I'm not going to share any specific prayer requests, today (Those I mentioned before stand!), but instead, offer a prayer for the new school year:

Heavenly Father, what a busy time of year this is for so many of us. We and our children are learning at home, in public school, in private school, in technical school, in college, etc. Some of us feel the pressure more than others. Help us to take a deep breath and enter this school year calmly and with peace.

I pray foremost for Your protection, Lord; I think of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, last year, and know I'm not alone in battling fear over my children's safety. Place a hedge of protection around us, our children, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, etc.

Help us to be good learners, Father, and to fulfill joyfully whatever roles You have for us in our various, educational environments. Help us to support and encourage one another, and all for Your glory. In Your Son's name I pray, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

Don't be alarmed if I don't post your comment or respond right away; my computer time will be extremely limited until Tuesday evening. Wednesday would be a great time to check back! Thank you again for being here, and I hope to see you next week, if not before.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

12 Things I Learned in August 2013

1) One of the very nicest things a husband can do for a stay-at-home-mom of a wife is to take sick days when she, at last, goes down. Jim took two sick days, this month, so I could rest and recover.

2) My aunt Doris and I have musophobia in common, among other things. I love reading her blog Motherly Advice from Nin. You can check it out here.

3) I watched several good! movies this month, including The Place Beyond the Pines and (at Byrd Theatre) The Great Gatsby. None of them excited me as much as Safety Not Guaranteed. I could kiss it on the lips. It's Brandee like The Wizard of Oz, Big Fish, Sliding Doors, Stardust. It's so Brandee that I want everyone I know to watch it and, one by one, call me up to talk about it. I LOVE Safety Not Guaranteed. It's free on Netflix; watch it (and call me up)!

4) Speaking of Big Fish, it's a new Broadway musical. I'm already planning a romantic weekend in NYC with my man: early next year, after I've weaned the baby. Oh, and do you know The Wizard of Oz will be released for IMAX in September? (I learned that prior to August but thought I'd mention it, anyway; I can't wait!)

5) Circus on PBS is totally worth watching.

6) From the Metro Richmond Zoo (and doubled-checked online, because the zoo doesn't always get it right): Galapagos tortoises can live up to a year without eating or drinking and, in the 1800s, were stored below ship decks--alive and on their backs--as a source of human food. Isn't that sad?

7) From the news: to watch out for "sliders"; for my own protection, to disable geotagging on my cell phone; and--gross!--about a sea snail's hatching inside a kid's knee.

8) My dad invented a handy-dandy gate latch. $15.99. Do you need one?

9) From Sandra Heska King: the words "silent" and "listen" contain the same letters.

10) From Julia Prentice: the Little Spotted Kiwi of New Zealand is nocturnal and kicks to protect itself. The girls and I were looking at a picture of it in their Visual Encyclopedia of Animals, and they wanted to know if it pecks (no) or bites (no). Instead of running an Internet search, I asked Julia. I love that I have a sweet sister in New Zealand, now, thanks to blogging...and Jesus.

11) This flower, which I photographed at the state park, is a passion flower. It has its own, beautiful legend revolving around the crucifixion of Christ.

12) I learned a lot about William Branch Giles upon visiting his (private) former home The Wigwam. Later the same day, I stumbled upon this wonderful website, which includes photos of all Virginia's historical markers.

Charleigh, Horseback Riding at The Wigwam. That's my beautiful friend Elizabeth leading the horse.

Clementine, Horseback Riding at The Wigwam.

I'll eventually link this post at Emily Freeman's Chatting at the Sky; I think she'll publish on Friday?, but I post prayer meetings on Fridays, so I'm writing my list, now. To read twelve things I learned in July 2013, click here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Guest Post by My Rising Eighth Grader

 A Guest Post by My Rising Eighth Grader

I'm doing this blog post because I have to in order to get my stuff back. These things are my phone, Kindle, iPod, and video games. The reason I don't have them is because my final grade* in English was a C.

At first, I thought I had gotten all A's and B's because I got a certificate from the school saying I did. But it was a mistake because when the report card came it had the bad English grade** on it. So all of my stuff got taken.

I was also forced to read a book with Mom.*** It was even worse because she called it the "Mommy and Me Book Club."

I learned that Mom keeps her promises when it comes to punishments, and I learned that if it happens again it will be worse. So this year I'm going to get all A's and B's so this won't happen. Hopefully I won't ever have to write a blog post again.


Notes from the Mean Mommy

*We found out the first week in July and took away the aforementioned items right away.

**C in English is only a bad grade if 1) the student is in a TAG (Talented and Gifted) class for English, having displayed giftedness in this area, 2) the student has earned the C based sheerly upon his refusal to complete homework, and 3) the student's mother--who possesses an M.A. in English--made herself available to assist on a daily basis.

***I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars: Adele Geras's Troy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (4)

Welcome to the fourth, old-fashioned prayer meeting in this space. I appreciate your being here, and I've been comforted in knowing I've had company in praying about some of the things heavy on my heart. It's been such an honor and privilege to pray for some of you, too.

The people for whom I've asked prayer in previous weeks still need prayer. My brother will return to Baltimore in early September; it seems the new nerve stimulator is a bit out of place and therefore not controlling his back pain. And although there's been marked improvement in terms of one of her symptoms, my friend's doctors haven't yet agreed on a diagnosis and course of treatment.

I imagine that--if I'm a little discouraged--so are they. I keep reminding myself: God's thoughts, ways, and timing are different than mine. I'm choosing to continue to pray. I hope you're choosing the same: even if your prayers haven't been answered, yet.

Let's just keep praying. Together.

Would you be so kind as to help me pray ahead and over September 6th? My brother will see his doctor in Baltimore that day, and my seven-year-old friend Jaimie will have surgery that day. Jaimie has a rare form of cancer. Of her surgery, her dad wrote that it "includes a clinical trial procedure which has some significant risk [but] gives [...Jaimie] the most significant chance at long term survival." 

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for every single person who's taken the time to visit this virtual space and pray. Thank You for bringing us together from so many different, physical places; You are so good to make this prayer meeting possible, and I know You hear us; thank You. 

Father, I lift up September 6th. I ask You to be with my brother, little Jaimie, their doctors, all the healthcare professionals attending them, all the people who love them. Heal; comfort. 

Help us to be bold and persistent in our prayers, Lord. Help us not to grow discouraged. Help us to trust that You care about every detail of our lives and all the things that frighten and hurt us. Thank You that--through the blood of Your Son--every victory is ours. We just have to live our way into it. I love You and pray in Jesus's name, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

Thank you again for being here, and I hope to see you next week, if not before.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8 Ways I've Become Part of My Community

I love to write out our road trips and adventures away from home, but the past couple weeks have provided many opportunities to reflect upon how blessed we are in living where we do. I was just telling Sharon, today: I've never before loved so many people in one place.

I've lived longer in this area (twelve years) than anywhere else, but I haven't always felt so rooted, grounded, and just...deeply satisfied here. In fact, Jim and I started our marriage just over six years ago assuming that--as soon as my joint-custodial arrangement no longer precluded it--we'd return to East Tennessee. And who can guess what the Lord has in store?, but these days, we think of this as our permanent home base, if nothing else.

These past couple weeks, I've been asking myself: what changed in terms of my relationship with my physical (as opposed to virtual) community? And I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about settling in, in hopes that they'll bless or help.

  • I spend time in my community, which sounds like a given but isn't necessarily. Years went by that I spent most of my waking hours in various workplaces or hang-outs outside my community. I know we can't all work near home (My husband works outside our community!), but we can usually make choices regarding where to spend our free time. This past weekend, for example, Jim and I talked about going to the lake or ocean but decided, instead, to explore the new state park right down the road.

  • I joined a church within my community and have developed ties to those with whom I worship; however,
  • I reject daily the idea that my church exists within one building and, instead, make a point of serving the Lord whenever, wherever, and however I feel led. With this mentality, I've developed many friendships inside my community but outside my center of worship.
  • I identified my spiritual gift (mercy) and went to work, casting myself under the leadership of those who specialize in the realm of pastoral care. By doing so, I've developed friendships with those I've served under and with...not to mention with those I've participated in serving.
  • I've committed to studying the Bible with others in my community. If anything forges bonds more than this, I don't know what it is.
  • I've stopped trying to limit the number of friends I have. That looks silly on the page, but I've gone through seasons of feeling reluctant to start at the beginning with someone: to tell my story, to go through that awkward phase of getting to know a person. At some point, it just clicked: everyone has something to teach me. Also, it's ok that not every relationship develops into a deep and eternal bond.
  • I've stopped trying to develop friendships for the sake of my children. This has been huge for me. I don't mean to imply that I maintain friendships inappropriate for my children; I mean that some of my most rewarding friendships are with people who don't have children my children's ages, or at all.
  • I've stopped waiting to be pursued. Instead, I initiate, invite, include, offer.

What about you? What connects you to the community in which you live? 
Or what particular challenges do you face there, in terms of feeling connected?

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm a Survivor

My idea of a dream babysitter is one who e-mails out of the blue and says: "Hey! I'm available to watch your kids tomorrow night! Want to go on a spur-of-the-moment date?" Because yes, yes I do. I want to go on a date and rarely do. And better yet, I want to go on a spur-of-the moment date.

If I have to plan the date, I probably won't. Even if I do, I'll probably back out of it. I don't know why; I can't explain it. I'm such a spontaneity junkie that--even if we plan a trip six months out--I have to wait until the last minute to pack...just so the vacation feels a little like a surprise. If you tell me you're visiting three months ahead of time, I'll be found cleaning frantically the day of your arrival...just so it feels a little like a surprise that you're on your way.

And these kids, Man: they're trying to break me. Kids--at least in my experience--thrive on schedules and plans: ugh. Nothing makes me feel more like myself than a last-minute date (except Merle Haggard, but this post isn't about him)...even if we take the baby with us.

So imagine us on our last-minute date. I'm not wearing make-up, but I've showered and donned a white peasant blouse. We've decided to eat on the patio; the weather's perfect. I note a teensy farm smell as we sit down. I'm not troubled; I grew up on farms. Where's the farm near here?

Oh. It's in the pants of my baby.

Ok, ok. No big deal. I excuse myself and carry the baby to the minivan. Oh, too bad: he has a bit of poop on his outfit. It's alright; I have a diaper, wipes, and an extra outfit for him. But then I look down and see:

I have poop all over my white peasant blouse. I'm not talking a little bit. I'm talking a 4"x6" smear on the side, where I carried the baby on my hip, also a spot the size of a fifty-cent piece on the bottom front. I use all the remaining wipes to scrub at my shirt, but it's still mustard-colored (in 4"x6"- and fifty-cent-piece-sized spots). And I smell like a farm.

I put the clean baby back on my hip to hide the bigger spot and carry him to Jim, whose smile slowly fades as I point at my shirt. "I'm going to the bathroom," I whisper, and he nods.

I slink (along the wall, like a rat) to the bathroom. I'm in luck: it's a one-sink, one-toilet deal with a door that locks. Also, it has good-quality, colorless hand soap. I peel my white peasant shirt over my head and apply hand soap and cold water to the yellow spots, then hand wash over the sink. The spots come right out. I put my shirt back on and study my reflection. I smile and think how I much prefer wet, soap-smelling spots to yellow, farm-smelling ones.

So imagine us on our last-minute date, my white peasant blouse drying in the summer air. We're smiling and enjoying our time; I didn't flip out and ruin it. And I'm thankful, you know, for the test. I feel like a real mom. I've got Destiny's Child singing in my head. ((I'm a survivor (What?) / I'm goin'na make it (What?) / I will survive (What?) / Keep on survivin' (What?)))

There will be bread pudding with caramel sauce. A spark in his eye, his hand on my knee. Survivors, all of us.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (3)

Welcome to the third, old-fashioned prayer meeting in this space. Happy Friday! I hope you've had a good week.

Cade got home Saturday afternoon; a big thank-you to those of you who prayed for his safe return.

I've had the Owens family on my heart and mind all week. The seven of them have been in Kenya for just over a month, now. I can't imagine what it's like to acclimate to an entirely different country, culture, etc. Join me in praying for them?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the Owens family. Thank You for calling them to do Your work in Kenya, and thank You for their willingness to go all in: to up and move to Africa. Hold them in Your hands during this time of transition, Father, and continue to protect them. Draw them ever closer to You, to one another, and to the beautiful people of Kenya. Bless the Owens family, Father, and bless others through them. 

Help us to remember: we can serve You wherever we are. Thank You for calling us to do Your great work; make of us willing vessels. In Your Son's name I pray, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

Thank you for being here, and I hope to see you again next week, if not before.

(Sorry to those of you who read this before it was quite ready; Baby Chip helped me publish prematurely, and I didn't know for a good forty minutes! Oh, well.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hoarding and Getting High

Farley the orangutan: the only creature at the zoo sadder looking than I.

By Friday, I'd been sick for five days and on antibiotics for three. The little kids and I were all a bit stir crazy, so I decided a zoo day would be just the thing. Only it wasn't (just the thing), and--even though we did the bare minimum in terms of walking, by the time we headed home--I could tell my throat and eyes were flaring up.

Not to gross anyone out, but my eyes were matted shut, Saturday morning, which (as it turns out) was only the start of a weird, weird day.

I'd seen an advertisement on Craigslist for an estate sale (somewhat unusual in these parts), and--with or without pink eye--I was determined to check it out. Jim and I loaded all the little kids in the minivan, and Jim drove me to this estate. It was pretty obvious from the get-go: things had been pretty well picked over, and whatever had caught my eye, in the ad, had been long sold.

I peered into the shed and wished for Dad because he would've been able to name the sorts of things I saw, also because he would've undoubtedly been able to use some of them. And although not to the same extent, it was more of the same inside the house; I recognized, for example, a manual meat grinder but saw many items I couldn't name, let alone begin to appraise.

The best way to describe the inside of this house is to say it was very much like the inside of my shed. There was no air conditioning and, thinking back, there may have been no electricity, at all. Cobwebs. Dirt and trash on the wooden floor like what you get after with a push broom. I stepped over and around broken typewriters and box after box of photos and slides. One room seemed dedicated almost entirely to old magazines.

While I was in the kitchen of this house, another woman stepped in and asked: "Isn't this just so sad? How did he live this way? It's so hot in here, so dirty. They were saying they've already filled a dumpster, and now look, he's gone, and strangers are going through his stuff. So sad!"

Holding a few (scungy) treasures, I shrugged and said: "I don't know. I think it's kind of cool that his stuff gets a chance to live on, elsewhere."

I decided to brave the attic and climbed a pull-down ladder in the hallway, for access. I stepped into the dark and stifling space. My eyes itched. I coughed and worried (as always) about mice. But there I found what I was after: vintage Christmas.

A few minutes later, the woman running the sale studied all I set before her and said: "$8.00?" (I was giddy for the rest of the day.)

Here's a photo of what I brought home. For $8.00!

The tree was still in its original packaging, and in fact, given the way it was packaged and its pristine condition, I'm pretty sure I was the first person to ever assemble it. I also bought three boxes of vintage ornaments in their original packaging; a flimsy Santa dish; a wooden lazy susan (I want to paint it and use it to play board games with the kids!); a bunch of rusty old keys (for an undetermined project); a painting on canvas (to hang in the dining room); a shrink-wrapped tray table (for the kids to use in the minivan); and a photo in a frame.

The photo had been hanging on the wall, and I fell in love with it. (On a wall here at home, I have photos of my girls--Charleigh in her underbritches--playing gleefully in the back yard with their Little Tikes car. Little kids and their little cars: love it!) I inquired about all the photos and slides in boxes, and the woman running the sale said: "Yeah, I don't know. I mentioned them to a cousin, and he didn't seem like he cared. I can't bring myself to throw them away. Are you interested in them?"

I shrugged. "Maybe. Not today."

Jim opened the trunk for me and decided to go have himself a look-see. Yeah, he was gone for about sixty seconds before he slid in the driver's side of the minivan, looked at me, and said: "You're a braver person than I am."

I came home and studied, on Pinterest, lamp shades made from photo slides. I wondered if it were irresponsible to bring home another person's family photos when I haven't done a good job of keeping up with my own. Then I got to cleaning the items I'd brought home from the estate sale and discovered some manner of aggressive, paper-eating bug in all of the original tree and ornament packaging, also inside the picture frame. Yeah, I'm not going back for those photos.

The whole thing makes me think of Matthew 6:19-21: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Jesus's case against hoarding. I'm still regarding my stuff from the estate sale as a gift (even if I had to throw out all that cool packaging).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to tell you about this other thing that happened, Saturday. (I told you it was a weird day.)

It came a gully washer while we were shopping in the Dollar Tree, and when we came out, this woman in the parking lot said: "You've got something on your windshield."

"Thank you," Jim said, and to me: "Greaaaat." (We were thinking the same thing: that someone had probably hit our parked minivan, in the storm.) I watched a puzzled look cross his face as he read the note. Then he handed it to me:

"Honey," I asked. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

"No," he said.

"I believe you, I guess," I said, "but only because I know you don't get high." And we had a good laugh, but what I didn't say to him is that--somewhere deep in my soul--I was sighing with relief.

Because, Friends, I've had those relationships. I've had substance abusers and unaffectionate, penniless losers. I've had men who penned desperate notes and stuck them on my vehicle. And--maybe worst of all--I've had men who couldn't spell.

I'm smiling, writing this, but in all seriousness, I'm thankful to the Lord that I have so much foolishness behind me: that I'm all grown up and married to a decent, responsible man. And I can't tell you how many times in the past few days that I've prayed for the person who wrote that note...and for the person for whom that note was intended.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Being a Couch Rebel

Bottom line: I wrote a story about stepping out of my comfort zone, and it's going to be included--along with 85 other, similarly-themed stories--in CausePub's Kindle ebook* Couch Rebels, which will be available for purchase through Amazon in three days, on Wednesday, August 14th. I'd like to invite you to purchase a copy for the same reason I'm going to purchase a copy...for the same reason I got involved in the project to begin with:

Every copy sold will provide clean water to 3 people in Africa via Blood:Water Mission. The goal of this Cause is to sell 15,000 copies and impact 45,000 lives.

This is my first experience with CausePub (a for-profit crowd-book-publishing company that partners with nonprofits to help them achieve specific goals within specific causes), and Couch Rebels will be CausePub's first book. So, I'll be honest: there are many things I don't know. I haven't seen the finished product, and I have no idea how many copies of Couch Rebels will be sold or if the goal of the Cause will be met.

What I do know, again, is that every copy sold will provide clean water to 3 people in Africa via Blood:Water Mission.

What I do know is that 50%+ of all sales will go directly to the cause for as long as copies are sold.

I know that 20% of sales for the first six months will be divided among authors. I've prayed about this and want to pledge: 50% of my personal, author royalties will go directly to Africa Inland Mission to benefit the Owens Family**. (I have not spoken with the Owens family about this.)

Finally, I know that the more copies sold this Wednesday, August 14th, the better. You would bless in signing up to buy the book here.

The irony in my asking you to buy a book about stepping out of one's comfort zone is this: asking you to buy outside of my comfort zone! I wouldn't ask you to do it if I didn't believe there to be great potential, here, to make a difference. Thank you for your time and consideration.

*If you don't own a Kindle but have an Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone, you can read the book using a free Kindle app.

**To read more about the Owens family and their work in Kenya, click here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (2)

Welcome to the second, old-fashioned prayer meeting in this space. I'm so glad you're here! I didn't know what would happen when I called an impromptu prayer meeting, last week. I was deeply encouraged by the response.

I want to update you, first of all, regarding my last prayer request. My brother and dad made it home safely. My brother went to church on Sunday and has worked some, this week. Thank you for praying for him. God heard your prayers and continues to answer them.

I believe with all my heart in the power of prayer.

This week, I'd like to request prayer for my son Cade's stepmom. I don't want to go into a lot of details but don't think she'll mind my sharing: she sustained an injury at work back around the holidays, and she hasn't yet recovered fully. 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Tabitha and her kind heart. She's been so good to Cade; thank You, and thank You for the example she's been to all of us during the long months since her injury: so patient, Father. I ask, now, for her healing: whether instantaneous or through the wisdom and work of her doctors. I ask that she'll soon be able to live her life more fully. Please grant her, Jason, and Cade a safe trip home from vacation.

I lift up anyone reading this right now, Father, who struggles in living peaceably with someone else. Some relationships are dangerous, toxic, and best avoided; others are healthy but maybe a little uncomfortable or unconventional. Give us the wisdom, Father, to know the difference. Thank You for Tabitha's and my genuine love for one another. What a wonderful and constant reminder to me that You can redeem any situation into which I invite You; thank You for being the Great Redeemer! In Your Son's name I pray, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:
  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past.

Thank you so much for being here! I hope to see you for next Friday's prayer meeting, if not before. (As our family preacher Rob would say: I'll see you here, there, or in the air!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Post #500: Lie to Me

I told my parents and Jim that my friend wouldn't call back. I told them, and I'll tell you: one of his goats had kids, when we were kids, and he said I could have it when it was big enough to leave its mother. One day I went to visit that kid, and it was gone. When I asked about it, he said someone had made a great offer, and he'd needed the money. I was furious.

Months later, I still hadn't dropped it, and he told me the truth: he hadn't sold the kid; it had died. He hadn't wanted to make me cry.

And aren't we still so much, as adults, who we were at, say, twelve? Thirteen? I'm so much the same. Life has given me plenty of opportunities to buck up, to toughen up, but I'm still as easily broken as ever I was. My own brother avoids me on his worst days.


"I need you to call me every couple days," I tell my thirteen-year-old. "I'm not like your dad. My nerves. You know," I say.

"I know," he says. 

"And when you call, say nice things like how much you miss me and how you can't wait to see me again," I tell him.

"But, Mom," he asks, "won't you wonder if I'm just saying those things because you told me to?"

"Not at all," I tell him. "Lie to me. Tell me you miss me so much you can hardly sleep."

He laughs.


The phone rings. My friend. I close my eyes and float on his accent, his voice, as he tells me his hard truths. "I don't like what you're saying to me," I tell him, "but I'm so glad you called me back. I love you."

"I know," he says. "I love you, too."

"I want to pray with you," I tell him ("Alright," he says.), "but I'll probably cry."

"Don't cry," he says. "Everything's ok." 
Later, I stare into the dark and think to myself: we've changed, but we haven't. His words broke me, but not to the point I couldn't pray. And he didn't try to protect me with lies, at all, up to the point of his saying everything's ok. Let's just call that what it was: a bunch of crap.


The phone rings. My son. I close my eyes and float on his ever-deepening voice. "Hi, Mom," he says. "I miss you."

"Having trouble sleeping?" I ask.

"Totally," he says. I can hear his smile.


Struggling a little this week, Friends. I feel burdened for several loved ones, and I miss my big kid, whom I haven't seen since Friday. He goes on vacation with his dad every year, and every year I wonder if I'll handle it better than the year before, but--sure as clockwork--I always start crying come Day #4 or #5: not out of concern, just the missing.

Also, I seem to have gotten myself a mystery illness of the sore-throat variety for which--as of today--I'm taking antibiotics that may or may not help, according to the first general practitioner I've seen, I think, in at least six years.

I hope to see you here on Friday, regardless, for a second virtual (but old-fashioned) prayer meeting. Just in case this is spiritual warfare, I don't want to let the enemy win.

In the meantime, and on the heels of reading Beth's brave post on deconversion and Shelly's thought-provoking post on honest feedback, I think I'll continue asking myself: how well do I receive truth? (I have a ways to go, I suspect.)

This has been my 5ooth post in this space. Thank you for being here with me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nine Months

I tried my best to keep him a little baby. I hardly ever put him down. I think he experienced "tummy time," like, twice. I'm not even kidding.

It took him about eight months, but seems he wised up all at once. There was this week in early July during which he started doing pretty much everything: sitting up, crawling, pulling up, waving, saying words other than Mama and Dada (Yeah! Hi!). He cut his first tooth that week and very abruptly gave up his pacifier.

I was distressed. He knew it and laughed at me. I swear he talks with his eyes: "C'mon, Mama. It's cool. It's fun. I'm fun. You didn't really think you could keep me a baby, did you?"

He turned nine months old on August 2nd. He has four teeth, now, and can navigate the walker like nobody's business. If I hand him a peeled banana or half a peanut-butter sandwich, he knows what to do with it.

He loves to sing along. I maintain that he has the heart of a great singer and will outsing all of us, one day.

He crawls into the playroom to play with his sisters. (I have to watch the sisters like a hawk, though; Clementine tried to pick him up and put him in the doll stroller, and Charleigh put a drum on his head.)

My body is his bed. He's never really fallen asleep without being held except for in his car seat, every once in awhile, in a moving vehicle. He prefers my body to the car seat. Oftentimes--after he's fallen asleep--I can lie him down on my way to bed, but he's always in my arms when I wake up. I can almost never recollect how he got there.

It's the sweetest thing: often, I'll be carrying him around, and he'll just lie his head over on my shoulder or chest and go to sleep. Just like that. Gone.

He hugs back, now, and kisses. Strokes my arm. Holds on.

He's my main man.

This has been merely a record of where we are: not a series of parenting recommendations. I'm a tremendous baby spoiler and have co-slept blissfully with all of my babies. I've pretty much always done what feels right and good to me, and I haven't paid no nevermind to what other parents do or think. We've been extremely happy. The key, in my humble opinion, to happiness as a parent is to do your own deal and hold your head up high.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Vacation 2013: East Tennessee

When several families in our small group started kicking around the idea of camping for a long weekend in East Tennessee, we knew we'd be in if at all possible. I mean, that's home to us. They ended up settling on a weekend that worked perfectly in ways we couldn't have forseen when we started planning. (Don't you just love it when you catch just a glimpse of how the Lord works?)

We drove south a couple days before our friends so as to spend some time in Knoxville with Jim's mama, whom we hadn't seen since Easter. The children and I met Uncle Bernie and Aunt Renee for lunch one day and my brother's wife just after; she was returning to my brother in Baltimore and traded me her older son for her younger.

Our East Tennessee experience was unique in that we didn't visit my home county at all but, instead, camped in Pigeon Forge and tooled around its surrounding areas. I didn't use my camera as consistently as I usually do and failed to get a good photo of the cabins where we stayed. Thank goodness Rachel got one, because I really want you to marvel with me that we slept seven people in ours.

Photo by Rachel Huff. This is Ray, who opened his Indiana home to us earlier this summer. Can you believe we had seven people in one of those cabins? It was like a clown car, Man.

I discovered that East Tennessee as a "tourist" can be incredibly expensive. Holy cow. We'll be eating in for awhile. I don't have any regrets but don't think we'll return to Dollywood with little children...or big children, for that matter, unless they're up for roller coasters. The little kids had fun, but I could've taken them to ride kiddie rides elsewhere for a whole lot less money.

I did love spending time with my parents, who have season passes to Dollywood. I spent more time with Dad than Mom, who enjoys the coasters and wanted to ride them with Jim and the boys.

I think my favorite Dollywood moment was watching The Little Engine That Could with Rachel (and with the others, but especially with Rachel). It could've been better only if Ray's wife Daleen had been with us. It's a long story, but I chose a Little Engine theme for Rachel's and Daleen's (joint) baby shower almost four years ago. It was surreal to be far away from our home in Virginia, watching that play with Rachel and her tow-headed tractor man.

I loved the no-pressure vibe among our group of twenty-five. We broke up into smaller groups for most of the weekend, each family making its own decisions in terms of activities. Here's the only shot of everyone:

Ray and Daleen, who originally hosted our small group, live with their children near Indianapolis, now. The rest of us--and three other families, besides--gather in Jim's and my log cabin every week during the school year. Five of our seven families have been studying together for at least five years, but I've grown so attached even to those who've joined very recently. I hold in my heart the wild hope that our children will grow up together.

Here are some more photos from our trip:

That's my nephew CJ, holding Chip.

Little Pigeon River Near Cades Cove

Cades Cove

The Track, Pigeon Forge

The Man and Me (because I'm wilder than you think I am). :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Old-fashioned Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere

I was sitting on the floor, this morning, folding clothes and thinking (again) about the Church of the Blogosphere. People drop out of it like flies, but I'm in it for good because I blog (print and bind) for my kids, and I'm part of the Church. I take it with me wherever I go.

I was thinking: what I'm missing in the Church of the Blogosphere is an old-fashioned prayer meeting. Maybe they're out there and I don't know it, but--even if that's the case--there can never be too many prayer meetings, so I'm starting one here and now, and you're invited.

Every Friday, I'm going to share one of my personal prayer requests in this space, and then I'm going to write out a prayer that may or may not be related to my request. You're invited to participate in any way you see fit.

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.

I can't promise much, but I can promise this: if you share a prayer request, I'll lift it up. I don't need this to be big; I need this to be authentic. Where two or more are joined together, right? And even if--even if!--no one joins me, I'll have a record of my own prayer requests and prayers, and the Lord is so faithful.

So here goes.

Please pray for my brother's complete recovery. He had a second, permanent nerve stimulator inserted a week ago. His staples were removed, today, and he's riding home to East Tennessee for the first time since June 22nd.

Father, thank You that my brother's surgery went well. Thank you that the staples have been removed and that he's able to go home. Please give him and Dad safe travels. Please continue to heal my brother's body so he will be able to live life more fully and with less medication.

I lift up to You anyone reading this, right now, with a loved one who's unwell. I ask You to draw this reader to Yourself. It's so hard, Father, to watch a loved one suffer; I pray Your peace that passeth all understanding, no matter the situation. Help this reader to release his or her loved one into Your care. Help this reader to extend practical sorts of help as appropriate but not internalize the problem and allow it to take him or her hostage, emotionally. In Your Son's name I pray, Amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? (See the bulleted list above for some ideas!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

12 Things I Learned in July 2013

1) The Greater Richmond Area includes at least one (amazing) blueberry farm: Swift Creek Berry Farm. Blessed to be included in Margie's and Phillip's blueberry-picking adventure.

 2) Blueberry bushes don't have brambles. Laugh if you will, but I was just as surprised as I was the day (fourteen years ago) I learned that pineapples grow out of the ground and not on trees.

3) Every now and then, a 35mm lens really is just the thing. No regrets over the purchase.

Charleigh and Andrea

4) Children really do grow up in the blink of an eye. Seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating my twenty-first birthday with my cousin-sister Andrea. Brandi would've been almost three years old then, but we didn't know her, yet. Andrea adopted Brandi into our family when she was five. She turned twenty-one this month.

Little Brandi, Me, and My Friend Gabby. 1998ish.

The Birthday Girl
5) It's possible for a baby to not only cut a tooth but also start sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and saying several new words all within the span of a week. I don't remember my other children's developing in a rush like that. (Stop the clock! Wahhhh!)

5) National Harbor, Maryland (eight miles south of D.C.) is a fascinating place to visit and offers a carousel; J. Seward Johnson's massive, heart-stopping sculpture The Awakening; and lots of fun shopping/eating possibilities. I was reading, tonight, that it offers, also, a children's museum; I look forward to returning.

Proud of this: my photo of The Awakening. I could've looked at this sculpture all day. (I wanted to marry it to the Awaking Muse  in Schaumburg, IL!)


Jim and His Peeps at National Harbor

6) God's timing is perfect. Including the following photo as a quiet reminder to myself. (I know what I mean.)

7) I'm a fan of the Gooch Dog. Yes. Yes, I am.

8) Somehow, my dad has morphed into an excellent kid wrangler. This is a puzzling--but beautiful!--development.

9) The secret to life with little kids is...big kids.

My Nephew CJ with Clementine


 10) I love a testifying magician. Terry Evanswood (at Wonderworks in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) shares boldly with his audiences that all true magic is the work of Jesus Christ.

11) I read Adele Geras's Troy this month as part of what I call Cade's and my "Mommy and Me Book Club." Great book. I was reminded of so much of what I'd forgotten about Greek mythology, and let me just say: I'm thankful to believe in and serve one God: a non-fickle, non-trifling God. And I'm thankful that He reveals Himself to me in ways that stick. Can I get an amen?

12) According to the girls' National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs, there never was such a thing as a Brontosaurus. The "Brontosaurus" fossils paleontologists discovered belonged to a dinosaur that had already been named Apatosaurus. How did I miss this? And was Fred Flintstone eating Apatosaurus burgers, then?