Friday, October 21, 2011


With every change of the season, I am filled with bright expectation and excitement. The transition from autumn to winter brings along an anticipation of the Christmas holidays. I annually fall in love with the segue from winter to spring--the stark, beautiful nakedness of an oak beginning to bear it's light green spring robe; the pretty blooms resting on the branches of redbuds, dogwoods and peach trees. I enjoy the life and hum of summer out here on the lake, in the woods. But my favorite is the often dramatic entrance of fall.

A cozy kind of happiness washes over me when the light shifts angles and cooler temperatures sweep in. I get excited over the first brightly hued leaf I discover in the backyard. I daydream about pumpkin bread, candy-hungry children, and my family gathering together and reflecting on our many blessings before sitting down to my favorite meal of the year. Now that I have a child and another one who will very soon be appearing, this time of year has become even more sentimental to me, and I am thrilled that Baby Sara will be born in the glorious autumn season. It feels like a tip of my hat to my favorite time of year.

I've been thinking a lot about the shifting seasons--not just of those we are blessed with if we live far enough from the equator, but the shifting seasons of life. Last night, I told Brandon how much I've enjoyed every stage in our marriage, even the parts that have held their own various kinds of heartbreak. From dating to being engaged, from being engaged to being newlyweds, from being alone to owning a dog, from owning a dog to having our first child, from being a family of three to expecting our second child, these transitions have all been challenging, but they have all held remarkable blessings. And now, as I have less than 24 hours left of the final season on the short list above, I am mentally savoring each one, as I've been doing subconsciously for the past few weeks, made evident by the following photos--
Micah on the first cool, fallish day--our first day in months to play outside

Micah helping me with our first pumpkin bread of the season

Brandon and me at a wedding of friends

Micah and Emory, enjoying the pumpkin patch at Curry Farms

Micah playing at Curry Farms

Micah feeding a goat at Curry Farms

Micah painting pumpkins

New play dough

Micah enjoying a cupcake at the Fall Festival at my Nona's church

Trick-or-treating . . . er . . . . hunting on Halloween in Mom's neighborhood

There isn't enough memory storage on my photo card to capture all the kisses and cuddles I've stolen from my red-headed firstborn in the past few days.

I have worn myself out trying eke the most out of our final days as a family of 3, and you know what? It's been worth it. This last chapter has been wonderful, covering Micah's birth, a personal rebirth in my walk with Christ, a new closeness with Brandon, the growth of community with my extended family. It's been a really good chapter, one that I wouldn't be able to leave if I didn't know that by turning the next page, even more blessings await.

Tonight, Brandon and I head to the hospital. I will be induced into to labor, and tomorrow morning, we will have a baby girl. After so many months, it feels a little surreal, but really, really good. I will actually be holding the heartbeat I heard in March, the tiny smudge on the screen. Sara Elizabeth will become more to me than a thought, a hope, a movement in my belly. She will be my daughter, and she will be her own person.

I will close by sharing a funny little post I put on Facebook this morning--

Dear Sara,
This may come as a shock, but as of tomorrow morning, I'm kicking you out . . . . cutting the cord, so to speak. I've enjoyed our time together, living within such close quarters, but it is time for you to find your own place in the world. Once you're gone, I may find that I miss our closeness, but I'm sure it's for the best. And believe me when I say, the transition will be a lot more painful for me than it is for you. I'm looking forward to witnessing and sharing the next chapter of your life!
Love and blessings,

Monday, September 5, 2011

Panning for Gold

"Gratitude is an art of of painting an adversity into a lovely picture." Kak Sri

Kak Sri and I speak two different languages. We live on different continents. We don't share the same religion, culture or skin-tone, and we don't like the same foods. I can't even properly pronounce his name, but in this statement, we agree. You don't have to have much in common with a person to learn from them, or appreciate the eloquence with which they are able to state an idea that has been buzzing in and around your head for awhile.

I think I'll add "the ability to learn from others regardless of our differences" to my list.

Yesterday, I began compiling a list of 1,000 gifts because I read a book that dared me to do so, written by an ordinary woman, only a bit more like me than Kak Sri, who was dared to do the same. I've mentioned One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are in my last two posts, so if you read regularly, you may already be weary of reading my rants about it. But believe me, it's worth ranting about.

While reading the book, I learned that gratitude actually equals a great many things. Kak Sri mentions one in his quote, but this book states many equivalents--clear sight, purpose, joy, intimacy with God--all of which, I desperately desire.

Last week, like much of life, was difficult. I won't give details, but you know how difficulties seem to come in sets of three? Well, I am a witness to the phenomenon. Yesterday morning, I told Brandon, my husband, "I really hope this week isn't like last week." By yesterday evening, my hopes weren't looking too good.

Yesterday was a grey day with scattered rains and impressive wind gusts that seemed to only feed my melancholy. While Micah napped, I made a choice. I couldn't change my circumstances, but I could change my hopes. Instead of hoping for a different week, I decided to hope that I would be distracted from my troubles by offering my thanks to the Giver of Gifts. Without yet knowing of Kak Sri's words, I put them into action.

It may seem short-sighted and childish to look to gratitude as only a distraction, but at the moment, that is what I need. In my quest to be distracted, I am completely, by a God who loves me and gave Himself for me. Yesterday, my list was distraction, an today, my list is joy. We all have to start somewhere.

1) Small hands, stained by bright blue sidewalk chalk
2) The peaceful sound of the wind rolling through the trees, reminding me of ocean waves meeting their end on the shore
3) A soft, soaking rain
4) A crisp, Fall pear fresh from the tree
5) An unexpected meeting with a friend (I so needed her smile and happy spirit yesterday.)
6) Three unsolicited kisses from an adorable red-head--one on each cheek and one on the mouth
7) A black-spotted dog rolling in the grass, basking in the sunshine
8) A mild, beautiful day in early September
9) The caress of a steady, cool breeze on my face; the gentle kiss of a sun ray on my shoulders
10) A two-year-old's belly laugh
11) The ability to learn from others regardless of our differences

Who cares that my only aim was to sift through the sand and muck so I could only see gold? The point is to see Gold. I believe that God is transforming my desire to be distracted from trouble to being distracted by Him, a work that will only continue as I add to my list.

Before I sign off, I want to direct you once again to Ann Voskamp's website. I encourage you to go there, and be blessed. If you are so inspired, order the book. $10 is a bargain price for a good wake-up call.

I also want to share my new favorite song. I can't think of a song that more aptly describes the current state of my heart. You can't yet find it on Youtube, and I can't yet add it to my playlist, but it's worth the trouble of clicking on this link and scrolling down to play the song for free, and/or reading the beautiful lyrics below--

"I go to the riverbed, shoes on the shore
I’m shaking a little bit, hardly know what for
Oh, and the water’s cloudy as the sky
I’m looking for answers in the riverbed of life

I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold
Until I have all my heart can hold

I go to the pages handed down and worn
I’m hearing the sages with the Truth on their tongues
Sifting beauty from the layers of ash
I’m tracing the universe with my fingers in the sand

I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold
Until I have all my heart can hold

It’s there in the city, where the nations converge
It’s in the graffiti and the shapes of the earth
Choir lofts and kitchens, where voices ring loud
Reflections of grace, shining glory over doubt

I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold
Until I have all my heart can hold
I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold
Take all I can hold

I go to the riverbed
I go to the riverbed"

May I meet you all at the Riverbed, pans ready and eyes wide open. There is Gold to be found by all who would see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Magic of a Thunderstorm and a Sleepy Red-Head

This afternoon, a thunderstorm swept in during the early afternoon, and decided to stay awhile. The weather never became treacherous. Rather, the sky turned an almost friendly shade of grey, the wind tugged gently on the trees, thunder rumbled low and comfortably, and the rain drizzled more than drilled over our parched little patch of earth. The weather called me to bed for awhile, and kept Micah happily dreaming longer than usual.

I rolled out of bed in the late afternoon, and peeked my head into Micah's room to see if he was awake. He blinked sleepily, only half-awake, and reached his arms toward me. I pulled him out of bed and into my arms, and settled into the squeaky glider in the corner. He nestled his head against the blanket I had thrown over my shoulder. I cradled him awkwardly, draping him along the left side of my growing belly, and began to rock.

The room was darkened by the cloudy day, and there in the dark, I had one of those precious "Mommy Moments." I held my son as I had many, many times when he was a baby, chest to chest. He so rarely allows me to hold him this way now . . . I breathed in the faint scent of his baby shampoo which still clung to his auburn-red strands from last night's bath. I listened to his rhythmic breathing against the shrieks and groans of the glider as I moved it back and forth. I kissed his hair, his forehead, his neck, his shoulder. I closed my eyes, and enjoyed the weight of him in my arms and the kicks and rolls of my unborn baby girl.

I thought about how important moments like these really are. These moments are fleeting, and they are meaningful. Every moment in which you say to your child with your actions, "There is nothing more important than sharing this moment with you," you tell your kids that you love them far louder than if you only spoke the words. They need to be sure of that love for so many reasons. They aren't whole without it. How can a child comprehend the love of God without experiencing anything with which it can compare, however dimly? And oh, how good it feels to give that love. It makes me whole, too.

I then began to think of myself in the reverse role--as the child nestled on the chest of the loving Parent. Micah and I weren't talking, reading or doing anything other than being present with one another, and both of us were perfectly content with our state of do-nothingness. Why do I always feel that I have to be talking, reading or studying when I meet with God? What am I missing that keeps me from only being present with Him, enjoying Him in quiet and stillness?

I kissed Micah's head again, smiling when he sighed and murmured something unintelligible, yet contented.

"Bliss. This is bliss," I thought. And while I am hungry for more moments like these with my son and my daughter on the way, I am starving for them with God, my Father. It is my prayer that in the months to come, I will learn the art of quietly resting in His arms, silently enjoying Him. Only Him. Give me Jesus.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Everything . . .

I haven't written in awhile. I could excuse myself in a number of ways, but the truth is I haven't felt like it. The plan was to write a post about our family trip to the Buffalo River which took place the first week of June. I even began mentally composing it the moment we arrived. It should have begun:

"I love coming to these mountains year after year. After better than 16 trips to and through the Ozarks, they almost feel like a second home. Each time I travel through, it's different. I've seen these mountains as a frozen world covered in a snowy blanket, and I've seen them alive with life as Spring draws to a close and Summer prepares for its grand entrance. This year, the cicadas are present and many, and as we exit the vehicle, we are met with their welcoming screeches which come at us in boisterous, rolling waves."

The post was supposed to begin this way, tell a lovely story about Micah's first float on the river, and end with a pleasant sentiment. But tragedy struck and sucked away all of my desire to tell that story. Smaller, yet significant, traumas bookending the trip left me a little dull and lifeless. I didn't quite have a case of writer's block. It felt more like writer's hangover. I had become drunk with the heavy and strong drink of bad things happening and the possibility of other bad things happening, and I couldn't quite get my head clear enough to sort it all out. After a little time--time to view the events of the past few weeks with some distance and biblical perspective--I think I'm finally ready to tell the story. I no longer feel any apprehension about sharing the story because the news and papers had no problem sharing the story, and did so incorrectly, might I add. Besides, they left out all of the good parts. So here goes--

I love coming to these mountains year after year. After better than 16 trips to and through the Ozarks, they almost feel like they belong to me, a second home. Each time I travel through, it's different. I've seen these mountains as a frozen world covered in a snowy blanket, and I've seen them alive with life as Spring draws to a close and Summer prepares for its grand entrance. This year, the cicadas are present and many, and as we exit the vehicle, we are met with their welcoming screeches which come at us in boisterous, rolling waves. I missed the undercurrent moans, forewarning me of the day to come, but I was unable to miss that the day was hot and alive.

The group joining my family was a lovely mix of old friends and new. Souls I had loved as a young child when my family attended Central Baptist Church were mixed with newer friends and brand new faces. Derek Crockett, who I had wanted to marry when I was 3 years old, had his two boys along with him. James Liner hugged my neck, and told me how much Micah reminded him of me as a toddler. My parents' long-time friend, Leo Honeycutt, was there, and as always, provided excellent food and comic relief for everyone. In all, there were 29 people with us, and the mix of people was perfect. However, the meeting of new faces would have to wait until later. Micah and I were exhausted after the long trip, and needed an early bedtime in preparation for the even longer day on the river.

The next day dawned bright and clear. The water was the prettiest I had seen it in a long time. The sunlight pouring from the heavens revealed pleasant shades of blue and green in the deeper pools, and the water was just right for carrying a two-year-old on his first float. Micah excitedly climbed in the canoe with expectant cries of "Catchy fish! Catchy fish!" It promised to be a very good day. (And allow me to interpose here that it truly was.)

The young boys and teenage girls splashed and smiled and tried to tump each other's canoes. The adults relaxed and laughed as they tried to ease into impossibly cold, mountain water. Micah enjoyed dipping his hands in the water off the side of the canoe, taking turns in our laps, and throwing rocks from the canoe into the water until he finally, after a serious effort to fuss himself out of the need of a nap, surrendered into a quiet sleep in my arms.

I watched children and adults alike leap off of Jim's Bluff, and laugh heartily as they surfaced the icy water. It was my turn to laugh when I watched my middle aged parents succumb to peer pressure, and swim out to deeper waters for this photo op.

Later in the day, our group stopped at the trail head to Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls, a beautiful feature on the upper leg of the Buffalo River. Because I was pregnant and Micah was two, our little family stayed behind to enjoy swimming and fishing as we watched the majority of our group disappear into the foliage. Micah couldn't have been happier with our choice. He found the largest rocks he could manage, picked them up grunting, "Heaby," and joyfully tossed them back into the water. He also reeled in a couple of Daddy's catches, and even kissed a fish!

While we were having a good time at the riverside, everyone else was having a good time up at the falls.

When our group returned from their hike, they all made their way back to their canoes. It was getting late. Everyone was getting tired, but we were all in good spirits. The day had been a beautiful blessing.

This is the point of the story where I want to close with a warm, fuzzy, "happily ever after" ending. This is also the part of the story where things from my limited, human perspective go wrong . . .

Brandon likes to be in the back of our canoe caravan because he likes to take his time and fish. We watched the canoes pass safely through a small set of very ordinary rapids one by one until only a handful of canoes were left. James Liner and his young partner had some difficulty with the rapids, and flipped the canoe. Brandon and I didn't see it flip, but we caught a canoe paddle and other paraphernalia as it drifted downstream. Another couple helped them right the canoe, and get back on course. As they paddled past us, I noticed a cut above Mr. Liner's eye. He had bumped his head against something. I asked him if he was alright, and he grinned, saying he was fine. There was no reason to doubt him.

Over the next half hour, Micah grew a little fussy. It was his dinnertime, and he hadn't gotten a good nap that day. Every time the canoe jarred a little against the rocks, he became uneasy. One such bump sent him over the edge into a full-fledged wail, which confirmed my decision that we would stay at the camp the next day so he could rest.

It was immediately after this incident that we saw them. We saw the three standing, performing CPR first, all from our group--a nurse and her husband, one of Mr. Liner's nieces. Then I saw other canoes from our group banked on the shore, their inhabitants sitting stock still with faces blank. And then I saw him. I knew at once who it was even though he wasn't the right color. I knew at once that he was no longer with us. And while we have no way of knowing what happened for certain, my brain quickly jerked back to the cut above his eye.

Micah wailed until Brandon shoved us to the bank. A small miracle, Micah immediately hushed himself and grew still and content in my arms. Without a word, Brandon joined the party performing CPR. Tears formed in my eyes, spilling down my cheeks. I may have been the only one blubbering there like a baby, and that is a little embarrassing, but I was hyper-aware of the fact that Mr. Liner's son and nieces were watching and what this would mean for my dad who had loved this man for most of his adult life. My heart broke for hearts breaking. Brandon called for one of my Epi-pens. I tossed it to him. It was no use.

I watched five people, Brandon included, from our group perform CPR for an hour while we waited for help we weren't sure would come. They breathed heavy, and pumped hard. I wept. I prayed. I tried to figure out how help would come. There was no place for a helicopter to land.

Micah remained calm and happy though it was well past his dinnertime and nearing his bedtime, so happy that I was sure it was a God-thing. God was good.

Tami, one of Mr. Liner's nieces, remained strong while she called out to him, hoping he could still hear her. God was good.

Eventually, help came trickling in from downstream. God was good.

There was a sense of peace that fell on all of us, and we let the knowledge that James was no longer with us sink in, yet in a silent pact, kept working and praying for the sake of his family. God was good.

Finally, a group of EMTs poured out of a tiny pig's trail that, wonder of wonders, led straight to our beach, and took over. God was good.

A lot of people sit in the camp of "death is natural" because everyone dies. I, however, see death as the ultimate reminder that all is not right with our world. We were not created to die. Death is man's greatest judgement, an enemy. All the while, it is very good to know that God never abandons us, even in death. His presence was near us the entire day, but especially near in the moments of death. I must remember, as we all should, "See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal" (Deuteronomy 32:39), and I must remember that God is good.

The next day, almost everyone in our group departed for home, overwhelmed by tragedy or necessity. I was in mourning, and the words that Tami, one of Mr. Liner's nieces, spoke to someone else expressing their condolences--"It's okay. God numbers our days"--rang louder in my ears than the screeching cicadas outside. It didn't feel okay. I opened the book I was reading, hoping to distract myself from the events of the day before, the images and sounds I will never be able to erase from my memory. This is what I read--

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks." --from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Out of my sadness and temptation to see this trip as, well . . . the worst trip ever, here was this call to leave behind the despair of death and find life by offering thanks. I recognized this to be not only a call for the moment, but for the long term. I also realized that I wasn't only to offer thanks for the good that had happened, but also the "bad."

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God." --1 Thessalonians 5:18 (Italics mine.)

I found it difficult to do so, but I thanked God for everything I could think of--Micah's safety, fish to catch, the hot sunshine, the cold water, rocks to throw, every one of James' smiles, the quick and quiet nature of his death, CPR, EMTs, pig trails and every glimpse of God I could find in the details. As promised, I felt more alive with each offering.

Learning to be thankful for everything is a scary thought for me, a thought that has kept me a little pensive and sober for the last few weeks. What if something even more terrible happens, and I am required to say, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord?" That thought puts a chill in the bones.

The good thing is that God knows where I am, and only asks that I begin learning to give thanks for everything, including the good and the bad, in a place where the good and the small dwell. For now, I can give thanks for fresh blueberries, the rain that poured from the heavens earlier this week, the sun that warms the world, Micah's smile and the gentle kicks of the baby girl growing in my belly.

That's right! I haven't officially stated this on the blog--It's a girl!!!

While these things are all pleasant, everyone has to start somewhere. I'm glad my Father knows that I am but dust, and brings this challenge to my door in a relatively sunny season.

What happened is still hard. I no longer think about it every day, but I think about it often. If I close my eyes and see things I don't want to see, I consciously recall Mr. Liner's smiles and laughter earlier in the day. I remember that he no longer suffers, but lives in a place where the only tears are happy ones. I remember the memories made on the river that day with my family and friends that can't be stolen away by the shadow of death. I remember that God is good, I say a prayer for the Liner family, and I give thanks . . . for everything.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reflections on the Demise of an Evil Man

Disclaimer: This post is an invitation to read my opinions of the events of the last week. I do not desire or expect that you agree with everything or anything I write here. These are my thoughts, and while I believe that they are supported by the Word of God, I understand that they vary greatly from the majority of the American public.

Sometimes, it takes me several days to process events, especially ones that demand a moral and/or political opinion from me. The death of Osama bin Laden definitely demands both. I found out about bin Laden's death on the fastest news source on the internet--Facebook. I was immediately struck by the nature of the celebration of this American victory including praises to presidents past and present, worship of our military, swear words, and derogatory remarks against an entire race . . . almost all followed by the words, "God bless America!"

With a burdened heart, I turned off Facebook for the night, and began my processing. At first, my only thoughts and feelings were that I knew I could not in any way celebrate the fact that a man is now in hell, and is suffering the wrath of God. Taking part in that celebration feels altogether wrong. I went to sleep that night troubled for the state of the spirit of our country, a spirit that doesn't seem too far away from being able to burn the flags or perform other acts of hate against the people we call our enemies.

It is only appropriate that I acknowledge my understanding of the fact that this is a strategic U.S. military victory. I understand that the hunting down and killing of Osama bin Laden has been the objective of every American soldier since 9/11. I also understand that as the number one military power in the world, that it had to be done in order to keep that status. I understand that the world would have thought us weak and apathetic had we failed to act after such a terrible and unexpected attack. (As an aside, let me say here that I believe that giving anyone--President, military or soldier--sole credit for the death of bin Laden is ridiculous. The Lord, in His wisdom, allowed this to happen. He alone is deserving of humble gratitude.) However, as I acknowledge these facts, I must also acknowledge that my foremost loyalties do not lie with a worldly government--not even the American government--but with the government of my true King. My thought processes do not center around U.S. objectives, but around the objectives of Jesus Christ, which at this time, are not about justice, but about mercy. I believe that the teachings of Jesus Christ make the mindless celebration of this man's death "spiritually inappropriate and politically naive." [Quote borrowed from a friend's Facebook status.]

The Bible is full of teachings about the spiritually appropriate way of viewing our enemies:

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him."--Proverbs 24:17-18

"You have heard that is was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."--Matthew 5:43-45

"Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord God, "And not that he should turn from his ways and live?"--Ezekial 18:23-24

One soldier on Facebook stated that justice is the business of governments, and that it has been served, but I believe that justice is the business of an Almighty God, and He alone reserves the authority to serve it. When He chooses to execute justice, we should be grateful that He is keeping His promises, but it is obvious that we should not be glad. The Lord isn't only concerned about serving justice to "the wicked." He is also concerned with the state of the hearts of His people. Hate has no place in His children, and hate is the only driving force behind the celebration of a soul lost forever.

Furthermore, it is truly politically naive to believe that because bin Laden is dead that the war on terror is over or that the thousands of lives lost have been vindicated. Have the people who died in 9/11 returned to their loved ones? Are my friends who have lost their lives in this war with us again? No . . . . no. Do we really think that Osama was the mastermind behind his acts of terror? Please! Osama was a tool of the real Evil One--Satan--and believe me, Satan has many willing tools with which he will unleash his terror on the world. Many others are waiting in bin Laden's empty place. Just because my children will not grow up in a world where Osama bin Laden is alive and well does not mean that they will grow up in a world free from the reign of terror or in an age where death has been validated by more death. Death has no validation, and only the death of Jesus Christ is able to save us. Human death is the ultimate reminder that sin still rules the world. Until the Lord comes to rescue us, terror will be a reality we will face every single day.

"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."--1 Peter 5:8-9

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."--Ephesians 6:12-13

These scriptures make it sound as if we ourselves are in the same danger Osama bin Laden has been in for his entire life. We all suffer from his disease--sin--and without the daily filling of the Holy Spirit, we will, like him, become tools of the devil. Christians, we must do better! We must remain pure in heart, filling the world with the Light of Christ, and not with the anger and hatred of the devil! I am grateful that Osama bin Laden is no longer able to do evil in this world, and I gratefully accept the Lord's decision to take him out of the equation, but let us not forget that the battle wages on. Let us grieve, mourn and repent of our pride, seek the face of our Heavenly Father, and adjust our thoughts and attitudes to reflect His own.

Let us do better, Christian.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Break: Family Style

On the last Sunday in March, Brandon, Micah and I loaded up, and departed for the Smokies. We left at 4a.m. for a whirlwind trip of 5 days. I use the word, "whirlwind," because when you spend two full days in the car, a 5 day trip is indeed a whirlwind trip. Pigeon Forge, TN, home to a truly ridiculous number of pancake houses, was our destination. On the drive up, we admired the lovely redbuds and dogwoods in glorious, full bloom, and the colorful wildflowers gracing the sides of the road. Rolling hills gave way to softly crested mountains splashed with varying shades of green. Mountain rivers and streams added beauty and shimmer to the latter part of our 12 hour drive.

Our schedule was almost as rigorous as the drive. On Monday, we spent the day in meetings, which resulted in a time-share purchase. I know, I know, they totally suckered us in. In our defense, they work hard to make you see the value and really want their product. On Wednesday, Micah took a 4 hour nap, which pretty much ate our play time. Therefore, Tuesday was our only day to do touristy things, and we hit it hard, which may explain the 4 hour nap the next day.

We began the day at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, and we all loved it! We explored a shark tunnel, a penguin playground and enjoyed the children's interactive exhibit with Micah. This place was incredibly cool, and we plan to hit it up again. We have a time-share now. Why not?
Micah and Brandon crawled through a small tunnel to get an inside look at the tank.

Micah found Nemo!

I did not care to touch a horseshoe crab, but the boys had fun.

I loved this enormous tank full of tropical fish. I could have watched it for hours.

Micah thought the spider crabs were cool. I thought they were creepy and entirely too large.

Why, hello there, Mr. Fish--
the obvious inspiration for the look of Davey Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Jellyfish are beautiful when a healthy distance is maintained.

This was taken right outside the Penguin Playhouse, and is my favorite pic of the trip.

Me, my boy, and the stingray who got up close and personal.

We left the aquarium, and before we got back to the condo, Micah had fallen asleep in the truck. Brandon packed us a quick lunch while Micah and I rested in the truck, and we were off to Cade's Cove--a gorgeous, free park featuring free-roaming wildlife, nature trails, and historical sites open for exploration.

Picnic cuddles.

The stream beside our picnic spot.

We really enjoyed Cade's Cove, but we were a little limited in what we could do. Two-year olds lack the patience for looking at historical buildings, and sleepy, nauseous moms who need to pee in a place where restrooms are far too scarce and people are far too many in order to feel any sense of safety behind a tree trunk have difficulty hiking 5 mile nature trails . . . or many one mile nature trails, for that matter.

Wait a second! That reminds me!

We're expecting! Thus the sleepiness, nausea and need for a restroom.
(I'm fully aware of how unimpressive this picture is. It was taken at 7 weeks. I wouldn't have known it was a baby unless the doctor had told me so.)

I'm only 10 weeks along, but I'm already into that ambiguous "Is she pregnant or is she getting fat?" stage. I hate that stage, especially when combined with the desire to sleep over 12 hours of the day and the urge to lose my breakfast.

Anyway, we plan to return to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area in the future when we have more time, and I'm not so miserable. We've barely tapped into the treasures these quaint little towns hold. And I'm not sure you can say you've been to Pigeon Forge without visiting at least one pancake house. Seriously.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Power of a Haircut

Micah recently acquired a new do. We are all a little amazed by the way it transformed him from Sweet Cherub to 100% Little Boy.

These "before" pictures were taken on St. Patty's Day, which Micah celebrated by wearing his kilt.

A few days later, he not only looks like 100% little boy. He's also acting like it. I was practicing the piano the other morning, when Micah walked in the studio looking like this:

After seeing the state of his face, I thought I needed to investigate the state of my house, especially since he's discovered the joys of crayoning the floors, cabinets and doors. This is what I found:

Thank the Lord for scotch guard, washable markers, Dreft stain remover, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, and the wisdom to know that new furniture is a long time coming. And thank the Lord for precious, little red-headed boys.