Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book News!

I did it! With Nathan's help and superior skill, I navigated through and self-published my book, Poppies in December. I really don't know what has kept me from doing this earlier, but now that it's done, I love it.

Lulu was really amazing. Everything about it was easy and straight forward, and the finished product is something I am very, very pleased with. If you are interested, you can go look at Poppies in December on lulu by clicking here.

Poppy's story is something I am so grateful for. Sometimes it seems more like a dream than a reality that she was really here, living and breathing for a short time, before going on to her forever home. But when I think about the transformation she brought to my life, when I remember her impact on so many hearts, and when I consider the ways that God uses her when I don't even know it, I am reminded that the reality of her life is no dream. It is a miracle.

God thank you for Poppy! Thank you for the blessing she has brought and continues to bring to our lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

what makes the world go round

Do you want to know something? I've been mulling the same subject over and over again for a few weeks now, wanting to share it but fearing that it would be too muddled to make sense. But of course now that I'm writing this, you'll have figured out that I have decided to try and share it anyway. So here it goes.

Do you remember the first scene in The Lion King? Surely you do, but just in case, it opens to Elton John singing "The Circle of Life" as all the animals come to pay tribute to the newly born lion cub. The zebras and gazelles and everything else are gathering, while the lyrics blare, "it's the circle of life, and it moves us all..." which of course is talking about how everything in the "circle of life" is a response to something else. One action leads to another, and another, and on and on it goes.

That's what's been on my mind. Not the animals, but the concept of response. Like the song says, everything in life is a response or reaction to something else. One thing happens, and that sets the course for the next thing to happen.

I was pondering how different my life would look if everyone I knew and interacted with treated me exactly how I wanted them to. See, I'm always giving myself a little bi on my behavior as long as I'm reacting to something that has been done to me unfairly. For example, someone does something ridiculous in traffic and almost costs me my life? Well, certainly I have earned the right to a little frustration and a hearty, "What were you thinking, Dumbo?!" as I drive by. Someone is a verifiable jerk to me? Doesn't that mean that I have every right to rant and rave a little before (or even after) I forgive them? In other words, is it fair to think I should have to react perfectly in a situation where it is because of something unfair that has been done to me that I am upset?

Well, I don't know about fair, but how about right? The fact is, there are a thousand things that happen every single day that we are going to react to. Some of those things are going to be very unpleasant, and undeserved, and sometimes, those things will be so deeply hurtful that it will be hard to function, much less react in the "right" way. It is familiar territory to us all. No one is exempt from being treated like dirt, from being judged unfairly, from being snapped at for no reason, from being betrayed by someone we trusted, from being lied about. And for me, it is after one of those moments that I am most likely to respond with my gut reaction: anger and hurt. I have justified my response over and over again, but it wasn't until recently that I began to see that maybe my reaction was more important than I realized.

I heard the other day something that confirmed this. What I heard was a quote from Ghandi that was something to the effect that he likes our Christ, but he doesn't like our Christians. Wow. And the ironic thing is, we are supposed to be the example of Jesus to the world. A poor example as a collective whole we are making. And it hit me that maybe part of it might just have something to do with our reactions.

Jesus was treated poorly, unjustly, despicably, and He always reacted in love. Never in anger or in hurt. And as a follower, He asks me to do the same. It's not like He doesn't know exactly how it feels to have to react to something completely wrong and unfair. He did that daily. He knows, and still, knowing how hard it would be for us, He calls us to a life that goes beyond reacting naturally to the junk that comes our way. He calls us to act supernaturally by letting go of the offense, giving up our right to lash out at what is done to us, and responding in love. Oh my goodness, nothing comes less naturally to me than that. But if it did, and if it came naturally (because of Jesus) to all of us, what would the world see? What would "Christians" look like if all the bad that came our way was met with love instead of anger? What if we weren't driven by what has been done to us, but instead we were driven by what Christ has done for us?

It's got to be one of the hardest things that Jesus calls us to do, and I honestly can't fathom being able to really do it. But, there's a good reason for that. I CAN'T. I'm no more able to do that on my own that I am able to walk a tight rope 1,000 feet in the air. It's one of those things that I really think is only possible when we let the Holy Spirit do it through us. That is what it means when the Bible says, Christ in us. It is His power giving us what we need to do the things that are so completely opposite of what comes naturally, that it is only through Him that it can be explained.

Easy, it is not. But I'm ready to start trying.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sound of Music

Do you remember the first time you saw that movie? I can't remember the single first viewing, but the season of my life when this movie became a part of who I was is ingrained in my memory like a hand print in wet pavement. When I was seven my parents got divorced. We moved back to Memphis and got a little condo with no cable and no "rabbit ears" that I remember. We did, though, have a tv, a VHS player, and two movies: The Sound of Music and Ben Hur. Not your typical children's classics, huh? But children's classics are no, never have two movies been so loved. The Sound of Music especially was a favorite with me, and I knew it, every line, every song, every pause, from start to finish.

During that same year my grandparents took my mom and me to Germany and Austria with them and I got to take the official Sound of Music tour, visiting all the famous land marks (minus the gazebo which was under construction) and singing the songs virtually every where we went.

When I think back on my special love for the movie, it shocks me that I don't actually own it myself. I realized this the other day when my sister-in-law and I decided we would love the girls to be able to watch it together. We made a trip to Blockbuster, settled in with the big girls around us (Marianna has two cousins her age), and hoped they would love it as much as we did.

It was an instant hit, and we kept it all five days of the five day rental so that Marianna could watch "the children" over and over again. Since then, I have been hearing her little voice around the house piping out, "I am sixteen going on seventeen..." and I noticed that many of her dolls and animals now have the name "Maria." High time evidently for me to be getting our own copy so that she can learn each of those wonderful songs by heart.

I feel like this was one of my "firsts." I got to share something that was special to me when I was a little girl with my own little girl, and have her love it back just like I did. Oh, the wonderful things The Sound of Music brings to life...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Competition, anyone?

When I was in the fourth grade, I played basketball for the first time. I knew nothing about it and I really don't remember much of the season except for one story that has been told so many times, it's almost like family folk lore. I had been given the job of throwing the basketball in from the sideline, and on one particular throw in, while the referee was holding the ball up at his shoulder height to make sure everybody was in place before giving the ball to me, I began leaping up, straining as hard as I could to try and grab the ball from him. My parents realized at that moment that even with as little basketball skill and knowledge as I had, when I was on the court there was nothing but me and the ball. Everything else was a detail. That's also when it hit them I might be more than a little competitive.

While that may have been a clue in moment for my parents, I actually knew it at least a full year sooner. In the third grade I sat next to a boy named Dustin. Dustin and I quickly forged a friendship based purely on our desire to race against each other on every single piece of classwork, quiz, or test to see who could finish first. This competition had the unfortunate side effect of extremely bad writing on my end, so bad in fact that in addition to having "chicken scrawl" stamped all over each paper, I also had to be taken out of class once a week for a neat hand writing tutorial. I can remember sitting in that library with the tutor thinking it was funny that she was teaching me how to write, when that wasn't the problem. I knew how to write well. What I didn't know was how to write fast and well. And writing fast was a whole lot more important than writing well at that stage in my life =).

Old habits die hard. I can tell you that the desire to finish first didn't really disappear through elementary school, middle school, or most of college, although the speed was tempered by the fact that I also wanted to do well (another facet of my competitive nature). I was a die hard for basketball, ping pong, and Dr. Mario nintendo, and getting beaten in any of those areas was a blow. This became especially hard after I started dating Nathan and about a year into our relationship he became better than me at the latter two items. I won't lie. There were more than a few ugly fights over a particularly painful Dr. Mario loss, including the first fight of our marriage.

I know, I'm weird. I would like to think that over time, maturity has tempered the competitive side, and in many ways I think it has. But then I have to take an honest look at how I feel when I lose coed volleyball (like I did on Tuesday) and I think again. Anyway, all of that brings me to last night. I am in the first week of my official 12 weeks of 1/2 marathon training, and the short run this week was 2 miles. I decided that I would take that short run last night and run it as fast as I could to start working on speed. I've never really tried to run as fast as I could before, and I can tell you it's quite a bit worse than normal running. I finished, exhausted and breathless, in 16:43. Why did I do it? Well I read yesterday on my good friend Laurin's blog that she just ran a 5k in an amazing time, and I thought to myself, "Time to step it up, my friend. Time to step it up."

So tell me, is competition something you embrace or is it a dirty word in your vocabulary? Share some stories! I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christmas in October

I know it's too early to be shopping for Christmas, so I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've already bought a present. It just seems shameful. No, I'm kidding—not about the present because I really did buy that, but shame is too strong a word. How about over motivated? Whatever the case, I usually try and wait to begin the glorious shopping season until the weather is at least seasonally appropriate, and that usually winds up being sometime in October. Not September.

But October is okay. It's still a little early, but I have found that if I go ahead and get some of it done before Thanksgiving, it gives more time for other things during those busy December weeks. You may be wondering, why all the philosophizing on timely Christmas shopping? By all means, let me tell you =). My sister, Rachel, has been busy the past month planning a Christmas crafts fair extravaganza, complete with 14 vendors, special deals, and lots of giveaways, that will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 10-3 at my mom's house (4822 Valley Birch Drive Arlington - 38002). I'm really excited about it because not only will I be participating with some kind of sewing and applique items, I also plan on getting some of my shopping done!

It will be a free event, and each and every vendor has promised to give a special one day discount. On top of that, there will be giveaways and door prizes all day long! I'm kind of hoping to win the free photo session from Ava Grace Photography myself. Just to give you a taste of what will be offered, there will be casseroles you can purchase for Thanksgiving or Christmas, children's accessories and monogramming, Christmas cards and stationary, frames, jewelry, makeup, house decor, and more.

My sister has entitled it Christmas in the Valley, named aptly for my mom's neighborhood where the event will be taking place. If you're in this area, we would love to have you come by! I am adding the event button to my blog, and I'm told anyone who does the same will have double entries in each and every drawing that takes place that day! In the comment section, feel free to ask questions, suggest a vendor that you think we might want to consider adding, or just let me know your coming. I think it will be fun =).

Monday, September 14, 2009

token time in Tennessee

We are at church, someone passes us and says to Marianna, "Hi there, it's good to see you this morning." Her response? Nothing. We are at a party, someone comes up and says, "Oh my, I love your party outfit!" She hides behind my legs.

Have you ever been there with your kids? That stage where friendliness is like a disease they are afraid of catching. Marianna has always been a little slow to warm up to strangers, but she has recently used her reserve as a crutch that inhibits basic courtesy. I'm not aiming to change her personality, but I do want her to know that responding to someone when spoken to, and giving common, polite greetings is something that she needs to be able to do without telling me, "My mouth is just too tired to say anything."

Verbal encouragement alone has not been doing the trick. She says she'll be friendly, but then the moment of truth comes when someone actually says something to her, and she is diving for my legs once again. That's why I decided it was time to bring out the big guns, go all out, and give her the motivation she couldn't resist.

Awhile back I found a giant Ariel head, complete with makeup and hair accessories, on a huge sale in the Disney store. I went ahead and snatched it up for birthday or Christmas, and it's been tucked away in my closet for several months now. The only problem is that Marianna knows about it. She saw me buy it, and somehow discovered where I hid it, so she reminds me about it all the time. She'll say, "Mom, I sure can't wait to get my Ariel head! Is it for birthday or Christmas? I hope it's for my birthday because that comes first." Something about that just isn't right =). So since she already knew about it, I decided the Ariel head would serve its purpose better as a motivational tool than a long-known-about present.

Yesterday I laid out the plan. I sat Marianna down and explained the concept of the "friendliness token." These tokens can be earned for any acts of friendliness, and conversely, they can be taken away for acts of marked unfriendliness. I then told her that once she had earned 10 tokens, she would win the much anticipated Ariel head. I thought the visual would serve to get the motivational juices flowing, so Nathan ran and brought out the Ariel head and placed it in full view on the table. We told her that until the tokens were earned, the head stays in the box.

Boy has it worked. The "Ariel in a Box" has become almost like her siamese twin, the growth that never leaves. She carries it around with her from room to room, sits next to it on the couch, sleeps with it in her bed with her. She is a driven three year old, and she's laying the friendliness on thick. At church she went down the hall way saying hi and waving. At lunch she was nothing but smiles. I even let her earn a token last night with family, just because she is trying so hard. The first thing out of her mouth this morning was, "Mom! I have three tokens! Just a few more left until I get to open the box!" That was followed by, "Can you please go get Ariel in a Box out of my bed. I need to sit by her."

I don't know if it will last, but for now, outings where tokens can be earned are like candy. She is eating it up, and the shyness and inhibition that cripples her at times has flown out the window. I'm cheering her on, and if she keeps it up, I'm guessing she will have Ariel out of the box by sometime tomorrow. Motivation can definitely be a beautiful thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

going to the chapel

Last night we went to an engagement party for some friends of ours. Evidently it made an impression, because today, this is what I found on the staircase.

Puzzled? If you are, I won't tell Marianna because she would be awfully disapointed. After all, is there any mistaking that she is a beautiful bride about to marry her handsome groom?

The veil (a Christmas hand towel I made a few days ago) made her a certifiable "wedding girl."

The groom was chosen not only because of limited availability, but because of the jeans. Obviously.

The wedding had all the important elements: the processional and the dancing. In Marianna's eyes, you endure everything else for the enjoyment of those two essential aspects of the big day.

Oh, and showing off the ring. That's the third essential. She learned that last night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

embarking on something new

Nathan and I (but more Nathan than me) are just about to leap into a new adventure at church. We have gone to Faith for two years, and during that time we have been involved in a wonderful connection class that we have grown in, been accepted by, and loved. But Faith has a philosophy that is almost like a trademark, that when we grow, we send out a new group and begin new things. We knew that applied to the church body in general, especially as it relates to planting new churches (Faith is a new church starting machine), but we found out that on a much smaller level, it also applies to connection classes.

We would have been great to sit fat and happy in our class for many, many more years to come, but when we were asked to really think and pray about teaching, we felt like it was something God was leading us to do. Not because we are spiritual giants, or excellent teachers, or because we have it all together. None of those things are true. But we felt like God was reminding us that He uses what He wants to use, not because we are perfect, but because since we are imperfect, He will be all the more obvious.

I can speak on behalf of Nathan and say this isn't exactly in our comfort zone. Some parts of the newness of it are scary. But it is also really, really exciting. We feel like God has laid on our hearts that this be a class where we can grow together in our relationships with God, be involved with our whole families in working in the community, and minister to each other through whatever life brings. For those brave enough to jump on board with a pair of total novices, we will learn together. We are so grateful for the people who have already committed, even before the first lesson, to be a part of it. A real step of faith for sure =).

This Sunday, our first week, Nathan is going to talk about, why is a class important? What is it that is so special about a connection class that makes it worth staying an extra hour in addition to the Worship service? What kinds of things happen best in small group that are much more difficult to achieve in the large group setting?

We have some ideas, but I'd love to hear yours! If you haven't ever been involved in a class, why not? What reasons have kept you from it, and what would encourage you to want to go? If you are in a class, what are you most excited about? What things do you think are most important and what keeps you coming back? We would love the input. And if you just happen to be looking for a class, the door is wide open and we'd love to have you stop by.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

pulling my hair out

Be forewarned, this is a very silly post with no depth whatsoever. It is about hair. I've been thinking a lot about hair lately, mostly because several months ago mine started falling out. First of all, let me say that was not an entirely new experience for me. Both times after having a baby, I would go through a season of shedding several months later. It was always a little alarming, but feeling like I knew the source, namely post-pregnancy hormone changes, I wasn't that concerned.

But this time around, when there was no pregnancy to blame for aimless strands of hair that were becoming my constant companions, I started to scratch my head. First I thought I'd just wait it out and whatever was up would no doubt work itself out. One week, two weeks, three weeks passed with zero improvement. It was time for a game plan to find out what was going on. Of course I felt silly being concerned, but I was starting to wonder how long I could stave off a trip to Wigs-R-Us. I scheduled a visit to my doctor—a huge step because I knew that meant the double whammy of blood drawn plus the embarrassment of such a trivial complaint—kind of hoping that they would tell me there was something out of balance so that I could start doing something to get back to normal. No luck. Healthy as a horse, with no noticeable reason for hair loss.

Next I turned to vitamins. Not because the doctor told me to, but because action is better than in-action. I figured, even placebos work sometimes, right? So I began taking a one a day multi-vitamin, knowing that even if it didn't help, it certainly wouldn't harm. Still no results.

I moved on to hair care. I had gotten up the courage to go get my hair cut, knowing that I would have to explain why my hair was dangling off the comb before the scissors had worked their magic, but it seemed like a great time to lay the pride aside and ask if they had any suggestions. The stylist's recommendation? Salon products. Even as she said it, I knew I really didn't buy it, but buy it I did. The Suave Professionals become Nathan's exclusive property, and it was Biolage for me.

In the meantime, I began treating my hair as if it were a 90 year old grandma. No heat from the blow dryer, minimal brushing conducted as gingerly as possible, no pony tails, and absolutely no tugging from little hands and fingers. I guess I was working under the assumption that gravity would be my friend and loose it's hold on my hair as long as I did my part to help it out.

I waited another week, giving the shampoo time to work its magic, before I ordered my hair vitamins. I don't know what in the world hair vitamins are intended to do, but at this point I didn't really care about the specifics, a fact the hair vitamin world is no doubt aware of. It was about this time that Nathan began to wonder how much my quest for a cure was going to cost him, but I was going on two months of the weirdness and it was taking a toll on my psyche, a toll that I felt was worth paying for. The vitamins arrived, bumping up my total vitamin intake to three pills a day. A record for me. At the very least, I was feeling healthy because of the sheer quantity of vitamin intake =).

So how did it all end? Not very spectacularly. Gradually, the hair loss stopped, leaving me to ponder whether the change was induced by my intensive hair care regimen or if it was simply the result what I suspected all along, an unexplained season of hair loss that auto-corrected. I'm nearing the end of my vitamins and my shampoo is beginning to make that almost empty gurgle ever time I squeeze, so I suppose I'll find out soon enough if that fount of El Dorado was really what it was cracked up to be. I'm guessing, and hoping, that it's not =).

So how about you? Any similar stories with similar outcomes? Maybe, maybe not. If there are a lot of you running around out there with shared experiences, none of you ever told me before hand, or maybe I wouldn't have been quite so concerned =). The truth is, every time I told someone they usually raised their eyebrows and offered up deep looks of sympathy. Not exactly encouragement I was looking for. But now, with a full month or two of hair free symptoms under my belt, I can look back with humor and smile at how the frustration of hair loss nearly led me to pull out my hair.