Friday, October 25, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (13)

Welcome to the thirteenth, old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere. I've had a good week: my small group finished a study of Romans; the children and I got through our regular activities without a hitch (Charleigh even earned a ribbon in gymnastics!); I had a great visit with Becky, yesterday; and my brother's surgery seems to have gone well. I hope you've had a good week, too!

We'll be setting our clocks back, soon, and jumping feet first into colder, darker months. I tend to feel sleepier, more languid, and less inspired this time of year, so I'm going to pray against that, this week:

Heavenly Father, thank You for a good week. Thank You for going with my brother. I ask Your healing hand upon him and just pray that he will be able to live life more fully and comfortably, going forward. I lift little Jaimie up to you, also Nathan and Zeb. I lift Jackson and Kendall up to You. Thank You for caring about what's in the best interest of all five of these children. Too, I lift my friend Jason up to you. 

Thank You for Your Son Jesus, the ultimate Creator. Thank You for seasons: so different one from another and each so beautiful in its own right. I know that even now, as I type this, it's springtime for my friend Julia in New Zealand. Thank You for my autumn and her spring. Thank You for the season of each person reading here. 

Wake us up, Father, and keep us awake. Breathe into us Your Spirit. Give us songs to sing, words to write, images to capture and create. Make us Your inspired people evermore. We love and thank 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, Friends, and may God bless and keep you this week.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My History with Halloween

My grandparents' living room. I'm the vampire in the back right.

I have only a handful of memories of halloween, growing up. I dressed as a vampire one year but know this because I have a photo and not because I much remember it. I do remember Little Bo Peep and Strawberry Shortcake costumes, and I know why.

The Little Bo Peep costume came about because we realized at the last minute that it was trick-or-treat night. I had a big, fat come-apart for my lack of costume, and Mom pulled Little Bo Peep together from what we had lying around (i.e., a cane became a shepherd's staff).

The Strawberry Shortcake costume included one of those hard, plastic masks with eye holes, and--for as cute as it was--it was the most aggravating thing: hot, also dangerous in that it really limited my vision.

I remember my daddy spreading our candy out on the carpeted floor of the rec room and examining each piece carefully: for razors, I guess, or poison. I don't know how he would've detected poison, but I knew in those moments of candy examination that he loved us.

My brother and I carried the same, blow mold jack o' lantern pails every year; I still have mine, in fact. I don't remember Mom's ever decorating for halloween, though, and we entertained a precious few trick-or-treaters because of the length of our driveways in both Pennsylvania (where we lived until I was eleven) and East Tennessee.

I was a little old for trick-or-treating at the point at which we moved south, and there were no nearby neighborhoods, anyway. Down home, older kids like to "go rolling" on halloween, which--in case you've never heard of it--entails making a mess of someone's yard with toilet paper. Like this:

Now, our daddy made it very clear that--if he caught someone rolling our yard--he wouldn't hesitate to shoot that person dead, also that--if he ever found out we'd been up to such tomfoolery--he'd flat wear us out. So I really have only one halloween memory from my growing-up years in East Tennessee, which is of the parents of our youth group setting up the scariest haunted house for us, one year, in the upstairs of a vacant farmhouse.

They put somebody in a coffin up there, y'all, and he popped up at us. Someone else jumped out from the shadows; I want to say he appeared to be bleeding profusely from the face. We screamed our heads off and then died laughing; I suffer no PTSD from that situation. I've had to overcome several fears (most notably that of taking communion), though, instilled in me on Sundays by the God-fearing preachers of that church.

Many years later, when Cade was born, I was so excited to live in an actual neighborhood where there would be trick-or-treating. Cade was too small to eat candy, so we didn't trick-or-treat. I dressed him up like Blue from Blue's Clues, though, and my best friend Erin (who'd flown in from far away) and I handed out candy to trick-or-treater after trick-or-treater.

Cade, Erin, and Me. 2000

And as far as I can recollect, I've missed only one year of trick-or-treating in all the years since (last year, because I was two days from having a baby and exhausted, and by then we'd already "trunk-or-treated"). Back when I taught English at the tech school, I flat-out refused to teach on halloween night. I held three make-up classes, one year, to accommodate all my students from a cancelled, October-31st class. I didn't care; it was totally worth it to trick-or-treat with Cade.

Erin brought a baby girl (Mira) into the world six months after Clementine was born. They've twice traveled to Virginia to visit the pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins, make Nutter Butter ghosties, and trick-or-treat with us. In less than 48 hours, they'll be here to do it all a third time. I'm so excited I can hardly see straight.

It hurts my heart a little when fellow believers talk about the evils of halloween. I haven't experienced any evils of halloween. Yes, I'm aware that there are pagan origins to certain halloween practices, but there are pagan origins to the practices of other holidays (more religious holidays!), too. We don't associate any of our holiday traditions with satan, and I feel like we're clever enough to assign our own (positive!) meanings and reasons to/for all our holiday traditions.

Yes, I'm aware that some people enjoy scary and gory costumes, decorations, etc. on halloween. I don't want my children exposed to or frightened by these sorts of things, and so far, they haven't been. One of them has been frightened, however, by my mother-in-law's ex-husband (who did nothing but open the door to us at Christmastime), and another has been frightened by many a small animal. We worked through those fears, and I reckon we'll work through any future fears best we can, regardless of the holiday or situation.

I think my children will grow up and wax nostalgic about halloween. I'm just like every other good parent; I'm raising my children according to my own conscience, and I assure you: the Holy Spirit is much with me. So far, I haven't fallen under conviction for the ways in which I celebrate halloween, and--until the Holy Spirit convicts me--(wo)man doesn't stand a chance of changing my mind. What other people do or think about halloween is their business. I'm about to do my deal.

2012, for Trunk-or-Treating

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apple Pickin'

I thought I might include apple pickin' in the last post (with my other mini adventures) but didn't feel like I could narrow down my photos or words enough.

I've noticed: as I grow older, I become steadily more appreciative of making and keeping traditions. I love how, over time, a positive experience becomes increasingly significant because of my history with it. Apple pickin' on Carter Mountain is turning into one of those things for me. I have great memories there: not only with my children, but also with some of my closest friends. 

This was my second year in a row to travel to Carter Mountain with the Sharonly Wonder, and I have to say: it might have been my best apple-pickin' experience, yet.

Sharon likes to get after the fujis, and they're way up the mountain. Hold on; I'll show you:

Carter Mountain Orchard

Ok. Do you see that red barn? Well, we parked on the far side of it. Like I said, the fujis are way up the mountain. I don't expect you to remember, but my little Chip was born November 2, 2012. So I done waddled up to the fujis, last year. I remember thinking to myself: Sharon might just kill me, also wondering: What if my water breaks right here on the side of the mountain? But she didn't; it didn't; and later, Jim Dear wondered how in the hound dog I'd managed to climb a mountain when keeping up with dishes and laundry seemed to escape me, entirely. 

Truth is: I still have no idea how I followed the Sharonly Wonder all the way up to the fujis, last year.

Three years ago, Charleigh was less than two months old when Rachel and I went to Carter Mountain, which was a fairly frustrating experience because (being still down a bit in the back from labor/delivery) I didn't want to wear the baby, so I put her in a stroller.

Y'all. A stroller on Carter Mountain is worthless as tits on a boar hog. Charleigh and I hung out in one spot in the Granny Smith section (just beside the barn), and I thought: I ain't doing this again until this kid's big enough to walk or, better yet, pick apples.

Which is probably why I didn't go to Carter Mountain two years ago.

But, anyway, I got it together this year, Ladies and Gentlemen. 1) I wasn't pregnant. 2) I borrowed Rachel's backpack for Chip, i.e. no stroller. 3) Sharon was there to take a turn carrying Chip in the backpack. 4) My friend Christy's big kids and tons of their big-kid friends were there to help with the girls. 5) The girls were so excited to fill their bags with apples that I didn't pick the first fruit; I just played with my camera on a perfect day. Win-win-win-win-win.

Christy's daughter Abi, carrying Charleigh

My little Clementine was in big-girl heaven. Sweetest big girls in the world, too.


Abi in a fuji tree.


Christy's son Noah, carrying Clementine.

Sharon and Chip

Granny Smiths

Apple Cider Doughnut

One more thought before I close. As I was planning this post, I remembered the Johnny Appleseed song and specifically the first stanza, which we used to sing at Girl Scout camp when we wanted it to rain. Right, wrong, or indifferent, I remember its nearly always working.

The Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and the rain and the appleseed
The Lord is good to me

I'll include a link so you can listen and learn. Just in case, you know, you're ever in a season of drought.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Money Troubles and Mini Adventures

We vacationed a bit hard this summer, which would've been fine had our renters continued to pay their rent (the mortgage on our second house), but you know how it goes, which is rarely the way it ought; thus, we've had to slow way down.

We've cut out the eating out, also all shopping save that of the responsible, grocery variety, including thrift-store and (almost all) yard-sale shopping. I've stopped driving into town except on the days Charleigh has gymnastics (the one luxury to which I'm still stubbornly clinging, along with Clementine's dance).

And, you know, I don't like it, but I feel surprisingly happy, anyway. The house is cleaner, the laundry more caught up, than it's been for awhile. I switched out the girls' warm-weather clothes for cold-weather ones. I'm expecting some out-of-state company over the next couple weeks: so, so excited about that. Excited about halloween and Chippy's first birthday.

I've been studying--and learning!--my camera and photography with determination and wonder, and I've been writing offline. Fiction. Just a little bit.

I love autumn. I love my husband and how, without so much as a word, we've agreed to treat one another more kindly since the money troubles started (because life's hard enough). I love my children and how, really, they just want Jim and me and our attention. I've raised them to go and do, and they love it, but they're just as happy to hang out at home in our log cabin or yard.

Clementine's learned the dinner-time prayer that hangs in our dining room, the same one Cade used to pray:

Thank You, God, for this food
for rest and home and all things good.
For wind and rain and sun above,
but most of all for those we love.

My eyes well up at that last part every, single time. I really am so thankful for all of it, including the mini adventures we've managed to squeeze in, over the last two months, on a tight-tight budget.

Wizard of Oz kids' event at the mall. (We already had the dresses.)

Watching Jim play softball. (Doesn't he look great?!)

Day at our state park with Sarah Beagle and the kids for whom she's a nanny.

Wizard of Oz 3D (a huge extravagance, admittedly, even though it was a matinee).

Fall festival at church. Cade, Samwise, Phillip.

Fall festival at church. Trunk-or-treat (our minivan). My girls with Zach and Lydia.

Fall festival at church. Chip and Rachel. This photo totally makes me cry.

Day at the zoo. (We have an annual membership.) This is Rachel's son Zach.

Aubrie and Chel at the zoo.

Chel's son Camden at the zoo.

but most of all for those we love.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (12)

Welcome to the twelfth, old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere. How are you? I've been sitting here taking inventory, trying to decide how I am, and I'm thinking that--if I'm undecided--I must not be doing all that badly. Ha!

(I used to have this friend at the adult home--Miss Iris, her name was--and every time someone asked her how she was doing, she'd say: "Pretty good, for an old lady." I feel happy, remembering.)

Before I go any further, I want to make a point of thanking you for being here on Fridays. Thank you for agreeing with me in prayer. Thank you for sharing your prayer requests with me.

I'm not going to lie: the prayer-meeting posts are my most unpopular, and I've been tempted to stop writing them. But you know what? This isn't a popularity contest: it's a fellowship of believers! I read back through my prayer-meeting posts, this evening, and several of my prayers have absolutely been answered! Too, these posts fall right in line with my central reason for blogging, which is to record life and faith for my children. Without further ado, then:

Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing us when we pray, and thank You for every answered prayer. You know all the mess I have on my heart; help me leave it at the foot of the cross so as not to let it affect my mood or outlook. I pray the same for my brothers and sisters reading here. Give us the gift of the "big picture." Help us to focus on our many blessings, Lord. You are so good, and we love You so much. In Jesus's name we 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. 

God bless you, Friends. I hope to see you next week, if not before.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What I Want to Tell Grandma

I thought I was done processing my last visit with Grandma, and maybe I was, but then I made blueberry pancakes for six children, Sunday morning. Five of them gathered happily around the dining room table (although I guess I shouldn't speak for Samwise, who pretty much always gets sandwiched between the little girls), and Chippy ate in the johnny jump-up, bouncing between bites of a dry, blueberry pancake.

An hour or so later, after the choir special, I settled into the pew between Jim and Cade. My stomach commenced to growling loudly, which cracked Cade up but reminded me of Grandma; she used to tell how--when her kids were growing up--she'd come home from church nearly every Sunday with a rip-roaring headache. She said she'd realized many years after the fact (having finally been given some peace and quiet and time to think) that she'd pretty well always skipped breakfast, herself, on Sunday mornings, having been caught up in getting everyone else fed and out the door.

Sitting in church, listening to my stomach, realizing I'd forgotten to eat...I felt so close to her.

When Andrea and I visited, last month, she asked Grandma how many children she had, and Grandma said: "Two. Two was enough. He said two was enough. And that was alright." She had seven children and still does.

Andrea asked: "What are their names?"

Grandma said: "Richard and Mary Ellen." Later, recounting the story to Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Carolyn, we all laughed because--if what Grandma had said were true--none of us would've made it into the world, let alone the room.

The seven-kids thing was the part of Grandma that felt mysterious to me, back before her Alzheimer's and my little kids. I'd try to imagine it and couldn't. It didn't appeal to me at all; I'll tell you that. But somehow, I hit this tipping point after #4. (I was leaning hard after #3.) Extra kids make things seem easier, mysteriously, so I've taken to borrowing them and dreaming of a full-sized van. I feel deeply satisfied, cheerful, when my minivan is crammed full and the log cabin buzzes and rattles with the energy of my children, plus extras. Strangest thing.

I hardly recognize myself, sometimes, and I want to tell Grandma. I want to tell her I understand her better, now, than I ever have: how my proudest moments have become the ones in which Mom says I remind her of Grandma.

I want to thank Grandma for having so many children because #6 is my mom, and #7 (Mary Ellen) has impacted my life like precious few others.

So many things I want to say to Grandma, and no one else will do.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (11)

Here we are: Week 11 of the old-fashioned meeting of the blogosphere. Welcome! How are you? 

Today, I'd like to offer a prayer for our government and the people of this country. 

Image Credit: Jif

Have I ever told you I was a political-science minor in college? I fulfilled the requirements (I was even president of the College Republicans for awhile!), but I'll be honest: whereas my English classes made every kind of sense to me, my political-science classes always felt just a little over my head, like something wasn't quite clicking.

The situation involving the government shutdown brings those feelings back. As much as I've listened, read, and watched, it all feels just a little over my head. I'm starting to think it makes very little sense to me because it makes very little sense, period. My prayer, then:

Heavenly Father: I lift up to you, first of all, the American people who are suffering because of the government shutdown. I lift up the families of fallen soldiers who have been further, negatively impacted by the government shutdown. I lift up our servicemen whose return home has been delayed, whose Military Commissary has been locked up tight, and whose Chaplains have been made unavailable. I lift up our veterans who've been denied access to memorials erected in their honor. I lift up the business owners who haven't been able to operate because the buildings they lease or the access areas to those buildings rest on government soil. I lift up all the employees losing wages because of this shutdown, including the fishermen who've been denied access to the ocean.

Father, I lift up President Obama. Your Word says there is no power but of You, that the powers that be are ordained of You. I trust, then, that You have a plan involving President Obama. I ask You to draw him ever closer to Your heart: to make him an instrument of Your will. I ask You to bless those of his efforts that line up with Your Word and will lead to the furtherance of Your work.

I lift up to You every, single Congress(wo)man in our Senate and House of Representatives. I know all of them are under a great deal of pressure, right now. I ask You to flood them with Your wisdom. Help them, along with President Obama, to work together and resolve their issues according to Your will for our country.

Father, I know: the wisest among us sees through a glass darkly. Our human minds cannot discern Your truth without the help of Your Holy Spirit. Send this help, then, Father. We love and trust 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. 

God bless you, Friends. I hope to see you next week, if not before.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From the Mother of a Boy Scout

I've been sitting on this post for awhile, and when I say that, I mean not that I've been sitting on it in draft form, but that I've been trying to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it.

Let me start here: my thirteen-year-old son has been a Scout (first Cub, now Boy) for six years or so. He loves Scouting, and I think it's been good for him. I joke sometimes that--thanks to Scouting--he could probably survive more easily in the wilderness than in our home. 

Some of Cade's fellow Scouts have become his best friends over the years, and let me tell you: I love these boys. So does my husband. So do my little kids. We really know them, too, because they've camped out in our play room over and over, and three of them have vacationed with us at one point or another. They all want to be Eagle Scouts, some day, far as I know. And they're already six years in; I imagine it'll happen.

Cade's dad and I have discussed the Boy Scouts' decision to welcome gay members but have never (for one second) considered pulling Cade out of the program. We're saddened that--because of the policy change--Scouts are being rejected by certain churches. Of course, in our minds' eye, we see the face of our son, the faces of his friends.

I think I'm safe in saying: my husband Jim (Cade's stepdad) and I see from the churches' point of view more easily than does Cade's dad, who grew up Methodist. Jim and I grew up in Baptist (and East Tennessee Baptist, at that) churches, where we heard homosexuality preached against regularly and vehemently. In my experience, life can open a person's eyes, mind, and heart; she can reject some or all of the viewpoint she was offered, first; but she can never unlearn it. She'll never forget that initial position and how/why it works. Even if she no longer agrees with it, she'll have sympathy for those who continue to hold it.

Anyway. At this point, the decision's been made, and we could have a lengthy discussion in terms of whether or not it was the right one. Many churches see the new policy as a means to condone or encourage sin, and I get that. But isn't every Scout a sinner? Every single one?

I know: if my son were to come to me, tomorrow, and tell me he thinks he's gay, I'd be thankful he could still participate in Boy Scouts, where the Oath continues to be:

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. 

My son and his friends, far as I know, are not gay. I see them--and Boy Scouts, in general--as future leaders in our community; indeed, I see them as future leaders in our country, in our world. My son and his friends did not make the decision in question, and they've long benefited from the support of local churches (one, in particular). 

Churches who struggle with the Boy Scouts' new policy, I ask you: do you intend to stop supporting future leaders because someone who participates in the program, somewhere, is openly gay? And if so, what does that mean, exactly? Does that mean you don't want an openly gay person in your building? And if so, why? Because you perceive him to be a sinner? Aren't we all sinners? Isn't the church supposed to be a place where people draw closer to Jesus?

I'm so thankful the Southern Baptist Convention didn't call for a Boy Scout exodus. I've been a Baptist most all my life; do you see me hanging on? It's by the very skin of my teeth, sometimes. Churches of the SBC, you've been given a choice: to 1) reject the Boy Scouts or 2) "impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.” Won't you choose the latter?

If not, I'm curious: have you withdrawn your support of our military because they welcome openly gay service(wo)men? If you're a veteran, have you (in shame) stopped admitting it because someone who serves this country is gay? If you have a loved one in the military, have you closed your doors to him or her because someone who serves this country is gay? And speaking of that gay someone: aren't you thankful that (s)he stands on the line for you? Would you refuse him or her entrance to your church? I guess I fail to see how this situation with the Scouts is so different.

Tonight, my dear, conservative husband leaned toward me and said: "I think I'm coming your way a little. I'm starting to see this, with the Scouts, as an opportunity to minister to someone who's never stepped inside a church before." My heart swelled; my tears welled; I sat down to write this post.

Who is this Jesus you serve? Do you doubt for one moment that He would sit down with a gay Boy Scout?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Having a Time

image by crilleb50

He didn't look up as I approached but slid over, making room for me on the bench. I caught a whiff of Eternity.

"I can tell you're having a time," I said, "and I am, too. My renters are late, again, and my older son has a 'D' in science. The baby's teething and keeping me up at night. My toddlers are, you know: toddlers, and no offense, but my husband is, you know: a man. I'm worried about my brother and a half dozen other people. I guess you could say I'm just flat-out overwhelmed."

I took a deep breath and asked: "What about you? Why are you having a time?"

"Because you're here," he sighed, "talking my head off. Interrupting the time of my life."

It's been a while since I've linked up at The Mag, but when I saw the image above, I felt like I had a story to tell. I wanted to remind myself, really, to refrain from interrupting others' peace with my bellyaching.

In tricky seasons, it doesn't hurt to tap into my creative self. As you can see (below), I was blessed to incorporate photography (along with creative writing) into my weekend. I like to give Jim a hard time, but he and the children are all generally very patient and supportive. I photographed a family of eight (or ten, depending upon how you look at it), yesterday, and Jim--after tying a ladder (that I didn't use) to the roof of the minivan--played with the little kids while I snapped away and Cade trailed behind carrying props (that I didn't, for the most part, use). I give thanks for my family. The photos below were all taken today, at home.