Thursday, April 30, 2009

a new translation

Last week I was on the way downstairs to get my Bible, when I saw a Bible sitting on the bookshelf just a few feet away from me.  I grabbed it, saving myself a trip downstairs, and sat down to read.  Just a few verses in I realized that it was a Bible that Nathan had gotten several years back when he had wanted to give a different translation a try, and at the time I think it was a translation that had just come out.  It is the New Living Translation, different from the New Living Bible because it is actually a translation and not a paraphrase.  

What I've really enjoyed about it is the fresh perspective it has given me, not because the meaning of the words is different, but because reading the verses through in the new phrasing has allowed me to see many things with fresh eyes.  The language is also more suited to how we speak, breaking through that natural communication barrier that sometimes exists between us and the language of some translations.  

I want to share a few things that have stood out to me that never really have before.  

The first I found tucked away in Proverbs 31, and it was actually before the verses about being a virtuous wife.  Verse 8 says "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those who are perishing. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." What a call to those of us who follow God!  We have a duty to speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves and be their advocates.  I love that God has asked us to be there for the forgotten groups, those without power or influence, because it is these that God has His special eye on. There are so many groups to whom this would apply, giving us all opportunity to be a part of making this happen.  Of course when I read this I thought immediately about the crisis pregnancy center that we adopted Adrienne through.  

I've also been reading through the first chapters of Matthew, and the Beattitudes spoke powerfully to me through this New Living Translation.

God blesses those who realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are gentle and lowly,
for the whole earth will belong to them.
God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice,
for they will receive it in full.
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

That first sentence is HUGE.  Over and over again, it seems like what Jesus speaks out against are those who think they've got it all figured out on their own.  Those who feel like their goodness is good enough, going through life mildly intoxicated by their own sense of having mastered the secret to living, when in reality they miss the entire point!  It's such an easy trap to fall into, especially for the person who lives a good life.  When you see yourself doing the right things, when you line up pretty well against some of those around you, then it gets easier and easier for your need for Jesus to seem pretty minimal.  But Jesus lists that first.  God blesses those who realize their need for God!  I think that's why sometimes the hard things of life are blessings in disguise, because it is those things that bring us back to this reality more swiftly than anything else.  I know. 

I'm not going sentence by sentence, but I do want to hit on the last one as well.  God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God.  This is something I don't like to dwell on.  I don't like really thinking about persecution being a reality.  But the truth is that it is, and in some places in the world, it is happening now.  And as much as the human part of me doesn't want to admit it, we are not immune from persecution coming to this country, and not just the I'm being excluded by my friends because I'm a Christian kind. This isn't the only place that the Bible tells us that it is a blessing to suffer for Him.  I'm not asking God to give me chances to be persecuted, but I am asking that He help remove the fear from my life that tends to grip me when I think about this to long.  I don't want to worry about the future, but I do want to be able to live for God despite whatever the future brings.

If you are interested in reading more out of this translation, or if your in the market for a new Bible and don't know which translation to choose, you can go to biblegateway and read any part of the Bible in just about every translation available.  It's a really neat tool if you've never used it before!  Give it a try and see if something doesn't strike you in a new way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

okay, I've got to ask...

Do any of you really like Adam? Let me rephrase.  Do any of you think he will make it for real on the radio?  And if that question doesn't make any since to you, then you must not be one of the Idol faithful that I must count myself a part of.  Yes, I am talking about American Idol, and now that we're getting down to the top 5, I'm getting nervous.  

I know that the judges have been touting Adam as the greatest contestant in the universe, and I realize he is very talented, but here's the big question, would you really listen to his album?  There's no question in my mind what Paula thinks about that question, but I'm wondering if there are others, like myself, who think Kris Allen is fantastic, and who would much rather listen to his version of "Just the Way You Look Tonight" than anything else sung in the other rat pack renditions?  I don't know.  There may be a bigger contingent of those who would really listen to a metal album by Adam that I realize, but to me it seems that he might be like others who have won the show, but then go on without hitting the mainstream.

Unashamedly leading questions, I know, but I really am curious.  Does anyone vote? And if so, who do you vote for?  I enjoy listening to what Adam does each week, but I feel like he belongs on Broadway, not the radio.  I also love Danny, but week by week, Kris has won me over.  Allison and Matt both have great voices, but I would be shocked to see either of them get into the top three because they have struggled to stay out of the bottom three for so much of the competition.  

So, to any other idol faithful out there, what do you think? 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

a little spilled juice

I didn't expect to be up right now, since just a few minutes ago I had curled up on the couch, ready to enjoy the sometimes weekly treat of a Sunday afternoon nap.  Today we put on The Tale of Desperaux and hoped that Marianna would join us in a little snooze, but as she's really turned into an every other day napper and she had a nap yesterday, she was wide awake.  I stayed up with her through the movie while Nathan rested, and then, just as the credits were rolling, Marianna jumped up, ready to play with Daddy, and I decided it was my turn for a nap.  I closed my eyes, reveling in that just about to take a nap feeling, when suddenly there was a crash in the kitchen.

At first I didn't move, waiting to hear a reaction, and then I heard Nathan's "Uh oh" and realized that my nap was not to be.  

My immediate reaction to this interruption was relief that I was there to be able to help Nathan with whatever had just happened in the kitchen.  I hopped up, ran into the kitchen where I saw half a jug's worth of cranberry juice on the floor, and flew into action, cleaning it while at the same time reassuring Nathan that I was just glad that the jug had been plastic instead of glass, thus preventing someone from getting hurt.  I then walked out of the kitchen with the juice-sopped towels, thankful that instead of wasting an hour napping, I would now be able to mop the floor and do some other chores around the house.

Well...not exactly.

The real life scenario looked a little more like this.  I heard the crash.  I didn't want to move.  I heard Nathan, and I still didn't want to move, but realizing it would be impossible to get to sleep at this point, I dragged myself up.  I slowly walked into the kitchen, where I stood staring at the pools of juice on the floor, and I concentrated on keeping my mouth shut, so as to prevent something less than uplifting from coming up.  I turned, slowly again, to go get another towel.  I slowly, slow enough to even stop and look at an email on my computer, returned to the kitchen and helped clean the remainder of the juice.  I then thought about mopping, but instead made myself a chai, and sat down on a chair to commiserate my lost nap.

And that, my friends, is what my gut level reaction to an interrupted nap really looks like.  It's not pretty.  In fact, as I sat here, I began to think about how far removed I am from true unselfishness.  Sure, I love to help my kids and my husband, and I enjoy doing things for them, but only as long as it doesn't interfere with what I had in mind for myself.  Which of course, falls a little short of the definition of truly considering others before myself.

That got me thinking about what true unselfishness would really look like.  It's so foreign to me, that it's difficult to truly comprehend the idea of people caring more for others than for themselves.  I can imagine it happening for a few hours of volunteer work, or for special occasions like birthdays or mother's day, but every day, all of the time?  That's another story.

Jesus talked so much about this idea.  He knew that it doesn't come naturally, yet being fully human, He did it.  He is our only model of living a truly unselfish life.  And what did He tell us?  He said to love others as we love ourselves.  Give to those who are in need.  Spend time caring for orphans, widows, and the poor.  Forgive.  Do everything with a cheerful heart.  All of these things speak of what an unselfish nature would look like. 

What's even harder for me to believe, is that through Jesus and the power of the Spirit, all of these things, eventually, can become my first nature.  As evidenced by the spilled juice incident, I'm not quite there =).  But I believe God's word when it tells me that through Jesus, we can live the life He wants for us.  I believe, as hard as it is to fathom, that someday, that imaginary reaction I described could very well be my own, and if it is, it will be nothing but a testimony to how great God's power is to change those who believe in Him from the inside out.  

Believe me, that's what I want.  Am I beating myself up about it?  No.  I realize that I make mistakes, and many of them, every day.  I also realize that God forgives me every time I ask Him, no matter how repetitive and frequent that asking might be. But what I'm saying is that God's word tells us that the longer we walk through this process of sanctification, the more we look like Jesus.  And the more I look like Jesus, the less the spilled juices of the world will be able to throw me into a disgruntled funk.  I know it's a process that happens over a lifetime, not overnight, so one day at a time, hopefully getting closer each day to looking more like Jesus and less like me. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday night

Last night was fantastic.  We were able to go with Adrienne to the Life Choices banquet where we got to sit with other adoptive families, meet people who are involved in some way in Life Choice's incredible ministry, and listen to Jim Daily, the new president of Focus on the Family. Everything, from the food, to the entertainment, to the speakers was all orchestrated for one purpose, to share the life saving mission and ministry of Life Choices.  I can't say enough wonderful things about the amazing place through which we adopted Adrienne, and being there in a room with over 1,000 other people, all coming together to support Life Choices was really awesome.

Three things stood out to me as being particularly terrific, and here they go.
  1. Adrienne ATE!  I am so grateful to each of you who gave me some helpful advice on my previous post, and I feel like I gleaned so much from what y'all had to offer!  I went out yesterday and bought several of the food products reccommended, and the Gerber 'lil crunchies were a HUGE  success.  And when I say huge, I mean that she ate somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 of those little suckers.  It was fantastic.  A sweet little girl from the next table over borrowed my camera for a while, and when I got home I was so happy to see she had captured her in action, chowing down.

  2. Three of my previously unknown to me blog readers came up and talked to me last night.  It was so cool to be able to meet those ladies and hear a little bit about them and their stories, and be able to put faces with some of the many "unknown faces" I write to on this blog.  I was so thrilled they took the time to come up and say hi!

  3. Life Choices gave me the opportunity to share our story of adoption with the group last night, and I was so humbled to be able to tell about God's story of Poppy and Adrienne.  I can't imagine that I'm ever going to be able to get over what God has done, and that He is allowing me to see part of the big picture by showing me that it wasn't just about our little family.  His purposes are always bigger.  He uses everyone who is willing to be used, regardless of what they may feel their qualifications are. It still blows me away.  That's why I was so excited to be able and share a brief (and I do mean brief... five minutes is not enough time to get it all in, but I tried!) version of our story, knowing that God will continue to use the story to bring about His will in a way my mind isn't able to comprehend.
Such a cool night, and a fantastic reminder of our role in becoming actively involved in reaching out to the women in crisis in our community.  I know all of you don't live in Memphis, but I hope that many of you, wherever you are, have the chance to find out about a crisis pregnancy center near you, and maybe even become involved in some way.  It's a ministry I don't think you will ever regret becoming a part of!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

why won't Adrienne eat?

Today we went to the doctor for a follow up visit, and I was assured up and down that Adrienne was doing great.  It turns out that the fever is the result of something viral, so besides getting tylenol when needed, no other meds are necessary. She has been happy and content, although a little more lethargic and less active than normal, but it makes sense since her body has been through quite an ordeal over the past few days!  The stress of a seizure combined with the energy her body is exerting fighting the virus has her just plain tuckered out, but she is on the mend, and more importantly, no permanent damage has been done.

And now that I can rest easy on that front, I'd like to talk about the other issue that has been my constant antagonist over the past three months.  Something that, I've got to tell you, I really can't relate to, as it has to do a complete rejection of all kinds of food.  Adrienne will not eat anything solid.  And when I say will not, I mean it in a she-would-rather-be-tortured-than-be-forced-to-eat-something-solid kind of way. 

First I tried putting little finger foods on her high chair tray, cheerios, green beens, turkey, etc., with hopes that she would begin feeding herself.  No luck.  Next I tried putting tiny bits of food directly in her mouth, but we found this is where the real resistance began.  Adrienne clamps her mouth shut and then begins turning her head as far as her neck will allow in the direction farthest away from the offending food.  Again, this was a no go.  After that I tried putting solids on her spoon and feeding her that way.  Generally this method gets one piece of food in her mouth because it takes one try before she realizes I'm not giving her baby food. But I still wouldn't label this technique as successful since it almost always results in her spitting the food back out onto her shirt.  So, to put it mildly, I'm baffled.

I really don't know what else to try besides persistence. It such a strange concept to me, to dislike solid food with such a passion.  And that's really what it is.  She doesn't just not care for it; she abhors it.  With Marianna I gave her almost nothing but fruits and veggies, trying to keep her diet as healthy as possible, but since Adrienne has proved to be a real challenge where food is concerned, I've tried almost everything.  Cookie, cake, and brownies are all equally disliked and thrown to the ground.  Meat, cheese, and fruit aren't ever given a chance.  Really, the only thing that has had any kind of repeated success is a french fry.  For some reason, she is okay with eating a solid, like a fry, that she is able to hold in her hand and gradually eat.  

So that's where we stand.  She is so small, weighing just over 16 pounds, that I can't really stop giving her the baby food when she refuses to eat solids.  It just seems to me like she needs the calories!  But where does that leave me?

In a pickle.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two hands, holding tight

I'm still breathing in deeply this morning.  The more deep breaths I take, the more of the tension, terror, and anxiety from yesterday melts away.  Yes, I've known that things were okay since about 6:00 yesterday, but even with the head knowledge, it's taken awhile to gradually seep through every part of me.  

Relief.  That's the only word to describe it. 

In the middle of the night, Marianna came down to our room crying, having just woken up from a nightmare.  It's the first nightmare she's ever had, and she told me this morning that she dreamed someone had taken her from a car.  But last night I didn't ask questions.  I just pulled out a blanket and let her lay down next to our bed.  

But even with the close proximity, she continued to whimper.  I kept telling her, "Honey, it's okay.  Momma is right here with you." That wasn't enough for her.  Soon I saw her hand peaking up from the top of the bed, and she said, "Mommy, I need you to hold my hand."

I moved to the edge of the bed and let her hand latch onto my fingers, and it wasn't ten seconds before her other hand flew up and grabbed my hand as well.  The two handed grip on her lifeline, my hand, was what she wanted. It wasn't enough to be in the same room and know I was with her; she needed to feel my touch.

Even at 3:00 in the morning, the parallel between her need for me and my need for God struck me with complete clarity.  Yesterday, when I saw Adrienne's limp body, what I needed was God's touch.  I knew He was there, but I wanted to feel His presence.  

I told you that I was reading The Shack, and one of the things that I think really draws people to the book is the fact that God, manifesting Himself in human form, is able to be there physically for the main character, Mack.  God can wrap physical arms around Mack, and show that love that is sometimes so difficult to feel.

Really, that's what we all want.  We want that closeness that can feel His presence, sense His arms, and know, not just in our head but in our heart, that He is there.  And that's why we have His Spirit.  In the absence of a physical touch, the Holy Spirit speaks to our heart and soul, providing a tangible comfort and physical peace in those moments of difficulty.

I felt that yesterday as I held Adrienne's body.  I didn't know what was happening, but I knew I was not alone.  Real arms would have been a beautiful thing, but I'm so grateful that God gives us His Spirit to minister to us in the meantime.

One day we will see with our eyes, one day we will touch Jesus, one day we will KNOW.  But for right now, even when I cant grip God's hand with both of mine in a physical sense, praise His name, I can do so spiritually.  He is real and He is here, always, and most especially in times of trouble.

Just so you know, this is how I found Adrienne this morning, sleeping deeply and peacefully, with only her clothes, the little hospital gown and bracelet, to speak of the trauma of yesterday. She is happy and feeling good.  Again, thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a big scare, a huge relief

Wow.  How fast a day can change!  Today was ridiculously normal most of the day, spent doing nothing more than going to the grocery, cleaning the house, playing with the girls, and working.  But all of that came to a dead halt at 4:40 when Marianna heard Adrienne making noise in her room.  

It's standard practice for Marianna to go into Adrienne's room as soon as she wakes up from her naps; she loves to get in bed and entertain her for a minute or two before I get up the stairs.  But today as soon as I walked in, I knew something was weird.  Usually Adrienne is bouncing up and down by Marianna, giggling or playing, and looking very, very alert after a good nap.  Instead, as I approached the bed I saw that Adrienne was face down on her mattress, her sheet was damp around her head, and she wasn't moving.  Small groans were coming out of her mouth, and when I called her name she didn't respond.  

I reached down and picked her up and discovered her entire body was limp. She was unable to support her head or torso at all.  That's when I got worried.  As I started talking to her, trying to get a response, I noticed her breathing was shallow and her eyes were rolling up towards her eyelids, unable to focus on anything.  

I was scared.  I did something I'm sure every mom hopes never to have to do, but I knew in an instant it was necessary.  I ran and grabbed the phone and called 911.  The operator told me to keep her alert and breathing until the paramedics arrived.

At that point, things got crazy.  My parents and my best friend live in the neighborhood next to mine, and they were there within minutes to help in any way they could.  The paramedics arrived shortly after and Nathan and I loaded up in the ambulance with Adrienne to make the drive to the children's hospital in town.  

Driving away from our house in an ambulance with my eleven month little girl looking anything but okay, strapped in her car seat on the ambulance stretcher, was a dark moment.  I couldn't think any thoughts clearly other than to beg Jesus to be with her and keep her safe.  No explanations or potential scenarios were presenting themselves, and the EMT riding with us was silent as the grave, leaving me feeling as in the dark as I've been since the moment we knew something was wrong in the ultrasound room nearly two years ago.

Nathan and I continued to try and get a response from Adrienne, if for no other reason than to keep her from drifting off, which seemed like a very real possibility.  Each breath was shallow, her moans continued, and her body was dead weight.  I dangled keys in front of her and we watched as she struggled to try and move her hands toward them without any luck.  But gradually, things started to change.  She regained motion in her hands, then her legs, and finally her neck.  The EMT also decided it would be best to give her some oxygen, after which we noticed a marked improvement in her breathing.

Her improvement was so great that by the time we arrived at the hospital, I had already made a round of calls letting everyone know that things were looking much, much better.  It didn't take long after we unloaded for the diagnosis of febrile seizure to get to us.  I had never heard of that before, but as soon as the cause was described, Adrienne's condition fit the bill.

A febrile seizure occurs when a child's fever spikes in a short period of time.  It is fairly common (the doctor told us 5% of children will have one at some point during childhood) and there are not consequences or side effects of the seizure.  

Adrienne had a small fever earlier in the day, but as it was low grade and she was feeling very perky, I gave her a dose of Tylenol and didn't think anything else about it.  However, it looks likes that fever escalated rapidly at some point during her nap, resulting in the seizure and the consequent panic.

After hearing the diagnosis there was HUGE relief because of all possible scenarios, this was very likely the best one.  Since I never saw Adrienne seizing, the thought that I was seeing the aftermath of a seizure never crossed my mind.  In any case, the rest of the 3 1/2 hour hospital visit was of no consequence compared to the thankfulness that flooded every ounce of my body.  

My sweet girl began acting more and more like herself as the evening went on, and by the time she actually saw the doctor, she was at peak charm.  No, she didn't appreciate the needle in her vein, the catheter, or the three rectal temperature checks, but all things considered, it was impossible to be upset by it knowing that she was okay.  

I spent the first half of the day lifting up Stellan and the second half praying my heart out for Adrienne. Am I prayed out?  Not likely =)  Today God has been so good to us.  I can't express how grateful I am to Him that I am home typing away while Adrienne is cozy as a bug in her bed.   There were scary, terribly dark moments during that hour when I didn't know what was wrong, but  I can tell you that God was there. Even with the unknown looming, I knew He was with me.

Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for your protection over Adrienne.  



Stellan is out of surgery and recovering. Read here to get the details about the surgery, which was evidently both complicated, difficult, and successful. There are still many things up in the air for this family, and I know they are grateful for all of the continued prayers on behalf of their sweet, five month old little boy.


Right now Stellan is in surgery.

I know sometimes my own words don't seem like nearly enough, so I pray scripture, asking God to apply His words and promises to the situation. This morning I have been looking through the Psalms, praying different verses and lifting up Stellan and his family.

Psalm 91 says

If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your dwelling.
For he orders the angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you with their hands
to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.
You will trample down lions and poisonous snakes;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, "I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.

We are wearing orange and praying. I don't know this family, and I doubt I will ever meet them, but it is my privilege to be able to lift them up, and beg God to cover them in His peace. I know God is listening!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the strawberry patch

Have you ever been strawberry picking? I have memories from when I was little, probably 5 or 6, going strawberry picking with my mom and some friends, and coming home with crates of strawberries. We made jars and jars of jam with all of those strawberries, and I'm sure we made other things, although I don't remember. I haven't picked a strawberry since that day, but the picture in my head is still vivid. Whether those berries were any better than those you can grab at the store I couldn't tell you, but I do know that you don't make memories that last twenty years from going in and grabbing a quart of strawberries from Kroger.

That's why I was excited when my mom told me there was a strawberry patch about 25 minutes away that we could visit, and even though I don't think the berries were quite up to par with what my mom remembered from those picked in my childhood, I'm hoping the experience is what will live on in the girls' minds, and not the green tinge of the berries. We really couldn't have asked for a nicer day, and even though those berries weren't exactly ruby red, Marianna and Breanna seemed to eat it up (figuratively, that is. Sure I may have snuck a berry or two on the way home, but I did refrain from offering any unwashed, pesticide covered morsels to the girls).

Here are a few shots from the day.

This is the second time in a week I've mentioned my little sister, Breanna, and since at least one person expressed a little curiosity, I'll give you the run down on my family tree.

I am the oldest of four, born when my mom was 20 years old. My sister, Rachel, is 22 and she and her husband Eric are expecting their first baby, Allie Grace, in May. My brother, Andrew, is 13 years old and in the 7th grade. He is a fantastic little brother, as well as a superb uncle to his two little nieces. And last but not least, is Breanna, who is a whopping 19 years younger than me. She was 4 when Marianna was born, obviously making her much closer in age to my daughter than to me, and she and Marianna have been great play mates ever since Marianna could toddle along after her.

Those are the facts, but you'd probably like a little explanation to go with them. My parents divorced when I was 6 years old, and my mom remarried her high school sweetheart, Bryan, two years later. It is a story that needs a whole post all it's own because I am certainly not doing it justice, but suffice it to say, it's a good one! My dad adopted my sister and me after he and my mom married, but they waited several years before having Andrew and Breanna. So in many ways, they have two sets of children, the grown-and-married-with-children set, and the elementary-and-middle-aged-school set. It's unique, but we certainly love the dynamics it brings to our family.

So there you go. Some strawberry picking and a little bio thrown in for free =)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

a word of hope

I know that right now the world is anything but certain. The economy has thrown chaos into so many lives as it has ushered in lay offs, pay cuts, and other job worries. I don't know if anyone can claim to be unaffected by the uncertainty all around us, and the first thing that pops into my head when uncertainty looms is worry. My natural reaction is to begin thinking through all of the things that I have absolutely no control over in a vain attempt to come up with some contingency plan for whatever may happen.

As soon as the little cogs in my brain begin down this path, I know how silly it is. God is the only one with the future in His hand. He knows that things are not going from bad to good but from bad to worse, yet He still commands us not to worry, not to try and fix things, no matter how hard that is to try to keep from doing!

Faith is something that gets rusty quicker than I would like to admit, and I think it's precisely for that reason that God forces us to exercise it so much. But even though we must walk in faith without knowing what tomorrow holds, we do not walk in the darkness. God has given us His promises, and so even though we don't know what the future will bring with it, we walk in the light of His promises, knowing that whatever it is, He is there.

A few verses tucked away in Isaiah 45 have mean a lot to me over the past two years. They say, "I will go before you and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness, secret riches! I will do this so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name."

I love that! God goes before us, even through the uncertainty and troubles of life, and makes a path for us. We don't have to do our own heavy lifting, so to speak, because God does it for us! We just need to recognize His power to do it and let Him in to help. I also believe that the second part of the verse speaks to the treasures He gives us in the dark moments. Some of His deepest gifts and riches are given to us when we are in the dark seasons of our life. It is there that He meets us and gives us gifts that are indescribable.

I need that promise today, and my guess is that many of you might as well. Things are not easy, but God is here! He is the one who calls us each by name, caring more for each of us than we have the ability to comprehend. Even with a bad economy, tenuous world politics, and the things we are each facing individually, God does not change. His promise in Isaiah is true and real, a solid piece of hope in a world that is so uncertain!

Monday, April 13, 2009

a little Easter humor

Today we picked up my seven year old little sister, Breanna, to spend the day with us. Marianna had spent the morning planning what she and Breezy would do all afternoon, and the first part of her plan included sharing some of her Easter candy with her.

As soon as she climbed in, I said, "Marianna, tell Breezy what kind of candy you have for her." Marianna couldn't remember right away, so I prodded, "Remember, the candy that tastes like marshmallows."

"Oh! That's right. Breezy, I have a toot for you!"

"It's a peep."

"Yes, I have a peep for you!"

A classic Easter candy, but one that Marianna evidently isn't that familiar with yet =)

just plain embarrassing

I came home from the store today and decided to do a little refrigerator reorganizing before I loaded it up with the new goods. This is what I found.

Yes, count them, one, two, three, four sour creams! I don't know if you can read the expirations or not, but I'll go ahead and tell you that only one of those bad boys is still good, and wouldn't you know, it's the nasty fat free one.

Believe it or not, sour cream is my weak spot, or maybe more my blind spot. I can't ever remember if I have any, so I always grab one of the little Kroger brand containers when I'm out, to cover all my bases. Looks like I've got the bases full and one on deck!

Oh my. Maybe one day I'll get it all together and look in my fridge BEFORE I shop.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed.

As a little girl, I can remember my excitement on Easter morning. The whole day, from the Easter basket, to the new dress, to the service at Church, all combined to make Easter Sunday an anticipated day, something only Christmas could top.

Today, I'm still excited. Or more precisely, I'm filled to the brim with awe and hope and joy. Yes, there will be Easter baskets, new dresses for the girls thanks to Grammy and a new dress for me thanks to Target's $20.00 special, and there will be a church service. But more than all of that, I'm so happy that I "get it" more today than ever before. I hope the same is true every year until I am with HIM who we celebrate.

Jesus came, voluntarily, laying down His will and His rights, to be our gateway into relationship with Him. What we messed up in the Garden of Eden, Jesus knew He would redeem on Calvary. And He knew it all from the start. That kind of love is still impossible for me to get my head around, and I don't believe any of us truly will until we see Him and know in full. But for now, as far as my mind will take me, I want to know the depth of the love that Easter represents. Feeble as it is, my understanding blows me away when I take in the magnitude of GRACE.

Today I hope we all take the time, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, to celebrate the LIFE Jesus has offered to us because of Easter. It truly is amazing!

"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2:1

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

the results!

I had so much fun reading through all of the responses! To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, I know I was surprised by the answers. Like several of you commented, it is a weird phenomenon that we moms love to read about each other's experiences. Hearing the wide range of experiences must help us learn, and at the same time reinforce what we already know but sometimes forget, there is no normal.

But before I give you the results, here are my answers!

1. Do I stick to a strict feeding schedule? I guess if you take out the word "strict" I might say yes. As long as it was within 30 minutes of my target of three hours, then I was okay with it. Most of the time, both girls would eat every 3 hours on the dot, but if either seemed hungry a little before, that was okay. I also didn't ever wake either of them to eat, so if they slept through a feeding, I'd just start the three hours over once they woke up. And with Adrienne, if I ever felt like I could get her to take a little extra, that was fantastic! She didn't eat well at all right at first, sometimes taking two hours off and on to finish three ounces. That made the schedule a little harder to keep, but after about 2 months, she came to grips with formula and we haven't looked back since.

2. At what age do I put my kids in the nursery? I'll answer both church and home options. Church: Neither one of my girls ever did good in a service at church, and I ended up spending the whole time concentrating on making every effort to keep them quiet with the result that anything going on in the service was virtually lost to me. Because of that, I believe I put Marianna in the nursery at 4 weeks and Adrienne at 5. I know that's young, but trust me, the nursery workers couldn't wait to get their hands on such a tiny little one. Home: Both of the girls' rooms are upstairs, and since I didn't want to get my stair-master credits at 3 in the morning, I kept them both in a bassinet until it was time to sleep through the night. For Marianna that was at two months, and for Adrienne, it was a few weeks earlier.

3. Philosophy on germs? I believe the circumstances around Marianna's birth dictated much of what I do regarding this topic. My grandfather died 12 hours after Marianna was born, surrounding her birth with more emotions than I could have ever dreamed. When we were discharged from the hospital, we went straight to the funeral home, and for that entire week, we were hardly home. Any ideas I might have had of keeping her in an isolated, germ free world, went right out the window, and with everything going on, I wasn't going to let that bother me. Instead, I let anyone who wanted to hold her, hold her. She was kind of symbolic that first week to many people, the promise of life and hope in the middle of the sadness. So, I couldn't put a n exact number on it, but I would guess it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 people who held her that first week. After that, it seemed just silly to do anything other than continue to be laid back.

4. I've gotten most of my advice, not from books, but from people. I've tried to take advice from people who I trust, and then I go with those God-given instincts from there. When Marianna was born, my best friend, Julie, was the only person I knew with a baby. She was so laid back, taking things as they came without getting uptight if something didn't happen like she expected. I saw that she and Maggie were both doing great, so I adopted much of her philosophy and I haven't ever regretted that for a second!

5. Laid back or uptight? I guess I just answered that. I am laid back, except, like many of you mentioned, about discipline. I believe that is an area that I've got to be strict in in order to be laid back about everything else!

6. Did I change from Marianna to Adrienne? Hard to say. I don't really think so. Both kids were very, very different, and so I've adapted to meet those needs that were different, but I think my perspective was largely the same.

7. One word: miraculous.

Now to the analysis. I was surprised to see an almost down the middle split on the first question. It seems that feed on demand vs feeding schedule is a toss up! Just goes to show that different things most definitely work for different people and kids.

The nursery question, was also a question where there was not much consensus. It sounded like those with babies that did well in church stayed out of the nursery much longer than those who didn't. That makes sense. And for at home, there was a wide range from straight from the hospital, all the way to a year! Very interesting.

The question about germs was one of my favorites, and I was quite surprised to find that the majority of you treated germs more or less as an unavoidable part of life that wasn't to be fought against. Not everyone, but many stated that beyond normal carefulness (staying away from sick people, etc) there wasn't a reason to treat germs as the enemy. I really expected the response to be the opposite, with just a few for being proponents of building the early immune system. Again, I found that enlightening.

The fourth question was by far the most stream-lined. Almost everyone replied that they went primarily by instincts. I think that is really great, but it caught me off guard. With all of the books and ideas floating around out there, I just assumed that most people would have gravitated to some philosophy or system. There is certainly not anything wrong with that, but I did enjoy seeing that most people trusted the God-given mothering instincts rather than what a book told them was "normal."

Question five came back with many more responses of laid back than uptight. Again, I was expecting, especially in regard to the first baby, an opposite reaction. But, I'm seeing that I'm being proved wrong on a number of areas, and that doesn't bother me one bit!

Question six was a mixed bag. Many stated they didn't change, some changed because of the personalities of different children, and some just plain changed.

Thanks to each of you who participated! It was fun and it reminded me again that there is no right and there is no wrong. It's fun to learn from each other, accept differences, and admire different style.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm curious

This is a post on babies! And no, we are not having one. But I have raised two, and several people I'm close to, including my sister, are just about to have their first. So that's had my mind running on the baby track more than usual, and what my musings have deducted is that there is a huge spectrum of thought on how to do things right, especially in the first few months. It seems to me that parenting styles vary the most drastically during that period, as people choose what path they will take in mothering their little ones. I've lived long enough to know that there isn't one right way! Goodness, if there was, this parenting thing would be quite a bit simpler than it is.

But I am curious. I love to hear about how different people do things and how it works for them. I also like to hear who did what they did and enjoyed the experience. That's the real fountain of El Dorado as far as I'm concerned! So here's a little quiz. I'm going to take the responses and very un-scientifically see if there is any kind of consensus on any of the following issues:

1. Do you abide by a strict feeding schedule, or do you believe in a feed on demand philosophy?

2. At what age do you put your baby in the nursery for the first time?

3. What is your philosophy on germs? Can anyone hold the baby? Do pacifiers get boiled?

4. Do you adhere to a parenting model that you've researched and read about, or do you go by instincts?

5. Were you laid back or uptight in regard to all things relating to raising your little one?

6. Did any of the first 5 change after your first child?

7. If you could use one word to describe the first 3 months, what would it be?

Okay, there it is. Answer any or all, and you don't have to answer in any particular order. Remember, this is very un-scientific! I just want to hear from you and see what you are doing, or did, or plan to do in the future.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

let's read

I am so happy with all of your suggestions!! Gracias! There were many named that I haven't read yet, and there were also quite a few that I have read, and some of those several times over. I loved how varied the responses were, and I'd love to have some discussion on what you put out there.

As the comments started coming in, I realized right off the bat that I had left off a genre that I have read quite extensively: the Christian fiction novel. Let's park there first, as that seemed to encompass many of the recommendations. I'll start with Francine Rivers, one of my favorites. To my knowledge, I've read everything she's written, including Redeeming Love, which is most definitely a powerful allegory of Christ's love for us. It's lengthy, but it is a fast read, and worth the time if you haven't read it. But, even though I love that story, my favorite by far is her Mark of the Lion series set in AD 50 in Rome. There is some fantastic early church history, and Francine's character Hadassah goes down in my record book as one of the most amazing and inspirational I've encountered. Rivers also has a fantastic series on the women in the lineage of Jesus, including Mary, Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab.

Karen Kingsbury was also highly recommended, and while I have read some, I certainly have not read all. I did read the entire series on the Baxter family shortly after Marianna was born, but for some reason I didn't ever read any of her other stories. Her books are easy, entertaining, and encouraging, and if you usually don't like to read, they are a great place to start!

Another author in this genre that one or two mentioned was Bodie Thoene. While not as well known as the others, to me her writing style surpasses them both. She is a master of the historical fiction novel, and her two series entitled The Zion Chronicles and The Zion Covenant are unsurpassed. Each series has 7 books, so it is a huge commitment time wise, but if you are an avid reader, I would say these two sets are a MUST. One series focuses on the beginning of World War II while the other details the years preceding Israel becoming a nation.

Several of you also mentioned The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont, and this is one I will be adding to my short list on what to read next, as it definitely sounds like it will be right up my ally.

I told you last post that I am a history nut, and several suggestions looked like they would be great reads. I am definitely intrigued by the book on The Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, especially considering our current economic climate. I also would love to read 1776 and John Adams, by David McCullough.

I knew this would happen, and sure enough, several of you were proponents of the Russian novel. I have read my share of classics, but something has been holding me back, some strange apprehension or fear of getting in over my head, which has resulted in my continually avoiding anything Russian. Maybe it's the fact that I can't even spell the books titles, which makes me wonder about what lies within. Whatever the case, maybe now is the time. I just might make that my poolside read this summer and see how it goes.

There were a few suggestions for books that were garuanteed to make me cry, and when the mood is right, I'll admit that I like to settle in for a book that will bring some tears. But the thing is, I usually like to sit down with that sort when I have an uninterrupted block of time, and as any of you with young children know, those are few and far between.

Someone mentioned the Anne of Green Gables series, which brought back wonderful memories of when I read those when I was a little girl. It made me want to read them again, but this time with Marianna when she is just a little bit older. I think I will read a chapter a night and see if she loves them as much as I did.

There were many, many other suggestions, and I promise you, I will be coming back to check them as soon as I get through the first few on my list. Which brings me to what I have decided I will start tonight. It would have been hard to choose, but fortunately, Mrs. Livona made that decision easy for me when she lent me her copy of The Shack. I've heard lots of chatter about this one, so I am very much looking forward to reading it for myself. I have only a vague idea of what it is about, but when I'm done, I'll make sure I give a little review.

I hope many of you will choose one of the books suggested and let me know how you liked it! Happy Reading!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

new material

I love to read. I don't know if I can honestly classify it as a passion at this point in my life because there are only so many hours in a day I have to dedicate to it, and those are usually late at night, which makes it difficult to burn through a book like I did in my younger (pre-kid) years. But I do love it.

I can remember connecting with literature for the first time when I was in second grade and I began checking out the American Girl books from the school library. I fell in love with Samantha first before moving on to Kirsten and Emily. Then a few years later I discovered a new genre that I couldn't put down. Mystery in the form of Nancy Drew novels took over my 4th and 5th grade years, turning me into a verifiable book worm. I read nearly two hundred mysteries over that time, and I don't think one single plot ever disappointed.

From that point on, I was hooked. I was the dork who held onto the summer reading list each year to make sure that I had a suggestions handy when I went to the library. I re-read required reading in the summers because I had enjoyed the books so much the first go around.

I love almost all genres, although I am not a huge fan of sci-fi, but deep in my heart I am a lover of the classics. Dickens is my favorite, followed by Jane Austin, and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre ranks right at the very top as well. I also love a well-written historical fiction novel, because it brings together my two favorite subjects (and consequently, my major and minor). Recently I've read a few political books, the Twilight series, a trilogy of mysteries by Tasha Alexander, and a book by Randy Alcorn on stewardship.

Books are amazing. To me there is nothing like reading a book and connecting with a character to the point that you wish you could know that person, or becoming so involved in the plot that it is painful to walk away, even briefly, to attend to real life. For me, a good book is preferable to a movie any day of the week, and it is light years better than wasting time on the computer.

Which brings me to my point. I am in need of some suggestions for a new read. I finished Wuthering Heights last week, and since then I have found myself wasting ridiculous amounts of time on here simply because don't have anything to pick up and throw myself into. It's always better to me to read something on recommendation, and if you share a comraderie with me in this regard, I would really love it if you'd share one or two of your favorites. Maybe we can even start a little bloggy book club =). But in the event that doesn't work out, I really would like some suggestions!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

warning: another haircut story

But at least this time it's mine, and not Marianna's, or heaven forbid, Adrienne's. And even though you know I have been prone to take matters into my own hands in the past, rest at ease that I did not attempt a home remedy for the current situation. I know that if I had, this story would no doubt be much, much worse.

Fortunately, it wasn't two days ago that I posted this, so it was difficult to get truly upset with how the cut unfolded. After all, who hasn't at some time had a haircut turn butcher job? So sit back, read on, and let this bring back memories of the day when my story was your story.

As is usually the case with my hair and me, I woke up and came to the abrupt decision that today was the last day I could live without a trim. So I made my appointment and looked forward to the fresh cut feel I would be enjoying come evening. It was an appointment with someone new, but I had very few worries. Today I was going to ask for something conservative, something I have had done before and been very happy with. It was a "safe" haircut day.

My first indication that there was going to be a problem came shortly after meeting Annie. She asked if I wanted my hair washed, and I told her whatever was easiest for her worked for me. She opted for the wash. When I was little the wash used to absolutely terrify me because of the pain that was usually present when someone else shampooed my head, but 20 years has separated me from that last unpleasant encounter.

Until today.

As Annie began working the shampoo into a lather, my not-so-formally tender head memories came rushing back full force. I tried to focus on the pretty modern lights hanging above me instead of the sharp, follicle pulling, sensations that were zapping my scalp like a machine gun. It didn't work. I hated to be a wuss, but I had to admit that she was really starting to cause some pain. Several minutes passed and things escalated. Tears (not just pretend ones) sprung to my eyes, and I knew I was at the point where I was going to either risk sounding like a jerk or else start wiping the water out of my eyes. And it wasn't until that do or die moment that she finally switched to rinse mode and I was able to put on a smile before I was found out.

Hoping the worst was behind me, I followed Annie back to her station where I described the haircut I was hoping for: inverted bob, front to hit below my chin, minimal stacking in the back. And she was off.

I try and look somewhere besides the mirror when I'm getting a haircut because it always seems that if I look too closely, it will come across like I don't trust the person, and whether that's true or not, I hate to give that impression. So I took in all the details of the shop while I waited for the verdict.

And I waited.

And waited some more.

The haircut was not getting anywhere fast, and again, that made me worry.

Finally, it was time for the moment of truth, better known as the hair dryer. I sneaked a peek, and in that moment, I knew it was one of those haircuts. I tried to keep a calm, panic-strickenless face as I surveyed the result.

But that got harder and harder to do as it became apparent that Annie's hair pulling ways didn't begin and end at the washing station. With each stroke of the round brush, I began to feel the individual "pings" of hairs being torn from the root, follicle and all. Emotion rides high enough with a haircut without pain, so let me tell you, things were not pretty. I began wondering how many hairs had prematurely lost their hold with my scalp during the ill fated 45 minute period of time, and that thought didn't make me any happier. To add insult to injury, my eyes watered again, giving every impression, no doubt, that I was crying over the haircut.

Finally my hair was dry and the torture was over. I steel myself for whatever the end result is going to be, determining ahead of time that I will not let my tongue get away from me! But it didn't end there. Before turning around the chair, she pulled the hair clippers (the ones that buzz) out of her drawer and put those bad boys to work on trimming my neck. That was the final nail in the coffin. If the clippers are a part of the equation, nothing good ever follows. I look in the mirror and confirm what I had expected. My definition of below the chin and Annie's most definitely did not see to eye, or should I say, chin to chin. Oh well.

I was ready to leave it at that when Annie asks, "So, are you happy with it?" It just had to be that, didn't it? Am I HAPPY?! I scramble for something delicate to say and end up blurting out, "Well, I had in mind something a little longer when I said 'below the chin'."

Annie was not going down without an explanation. She grabs her comb and, you might not believe this but it really happens, she pulls my hair, roots straining, as far as it will go, to illustrate that when taut, the tip of my hair almost touches my chin. I said, "I was actually thinking that below the chin meant it would hang below my chin when dry, without pulling it."

Ah ha. That seemed to clear the air for Annie. She informed me, very nicely, that if that's what I wanted, next time I should detail those specifications- that I didn't mean I wanted it below my chin when it was wet and being pulled, but that I actually wanted it below my chin when it was dry and it was hanging loosely on its own.

Believe me, next time I will make it clear.

But, truly, Annie was a very nice person. In fact, she hardly charged me a thing for my cut, which she certainly didn't have to do. I won't go back, but there are no hard feelings.

Just a sore head, and a funny story.

bedtime stories

Last night when I tucked Marianna into bed, I told her this story.

"Once upon a time there was a girl named Madeline who was so very sweet. She loved her mom and dad and little sister very much. Madeline was a good little girl, but sometimes she enjoyed doing mischievous things that got her into trouble.

One morning Madeline was watching her mommy work when she suddenly came up with an idea. She thought it would be fun to go get the Sharpie markers out of the drawer and color all over her hands and toes and tummy. She knew she wasn't allowed to play with those markers, but it was so fun to make marks all over herself. She got the markers out and made beautiful designs all over her body. She thought she looked so pretty!

But when her mommy came looking for her, Madeline ran to hide behind the curtains because she knew that she was in trouble.

Her mommy found her and said, "Madeline, did you use the markers that you are not allowed to play with?

"Yes, Mommy."

"Madeline, you know I love you very much, but it disappoints me when you do something you know is against the rules. That is disobeying. I will have to punish you for this, but I know next time you will make a better choice and we won't have to do this again."

Later on, Madeline and Mommy played with crafts, read books and went outside. Then when Madeline wanted to play with markers she said, "Mom, can I have my markers and some paper to color with?" Mommy told her that was a wonderful idea, and she had fun as she made pictures for her mom and dad. What a lovely afternoon!"

As I finished, Marianna looked up and said, "Mommy, that's just like when I went and got the paint out of the closet and painted my body today! Madeline is just like me!"

The similarities between Madeline's little adventure and her own did not escape her, and I'm hoping that the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) reinforced message might help her conceptualize a little bit better. Let's hope that it doesn't result in an episode with Sharpies =).