Friday, September 28, 2012

Faithful Friday: God Nudge

God never ceases to amaze me.  Each time he leads me to scripture - at just the perfect moment and exactly the words needed - I am in awe.  It reminds me of his loving ways and his desire to have a personal, meaningful relationship with us. 

Words are powerful to me.  They are what speaks to my heart.  And last night's words were nothing short of Heaven-sent.

It was a later than normal night when we finally made it to bed.  Part of it was due to the knowledge that we'd be off today and didn't need our typical shut-eye quota.  The other was due to some personal turmoil we're experiencing.  Because it's personal and doesn't just, or even really at all, involve me, I'm not sharing.  Thanks in advance for the concern I know many of you will have.  Nothing to worry your pretty little heads about, just a season of struggle.  This too shall pass...

But as we crawled into bed, the weight and emotions from disappointment and drama hovered like a fog cloud.  I didn't want to enter dreamland with the darkness and felt the need to turn to God's word.  Tim went to get our devotional but returned with the longer, more involved book.  I began reading and instantly we realized there was no understanding.  Having to repeat the first paragraph three times, I frustratingly closed the book and set it on my bedside table.  Reaching between us for the Bible, to place it on top, it fell open to the 34 Psalm. 

This particular Bible is a worn favorite, it's pages dog-eared and ink-filled with thoughts, sermon quotes, moments and milestones.  It's a devotional Bible, having short passages within the scripture for each day of the week.  Something whispered, nudging me to read aloud.  I began with Psalm 34, the passage for this particular day.  Lines jumped out, highlighting themselves and speaking to us for the current issue at hand. 
Comfort nestled among us, peace settled and our spirits were lifted. 

Such an honor when God speaks.  Or when he whispers.  Or gently nudges.  However he sends the message, I'm blessed and thankful to hear it.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another - showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Deep Fried Joy

Three worn plastic dishes side by side.  Seasonings stirred into flour to just the right sandy color.  Fresh farm eggs cracked, the golden yolk swirling into stark white milk.  Skillets warming.  Fingers caked with flour, goop meeting grit.  The soft sizzle of the oil that greets chicken to pan.

Such was the setting for last night's dinner preparations.  In each step, I could sense the presence and love of my mother-in-law.  Gone from this world two years now, I carry on the tradition of cooking her baby fried chicken for his birthday meal.

If June were here, she would have called Tim yesterday morning and invited him to a lunch he already expected to attend.  He would've eagerly counted the hours at work until the time to drive the short distance to her apartment, where the aroma of fried chicken would meet him in the parking lot.  Hearing him from the breezeway, she'd stand waiting in her small kitchen at a tiny table for two.  Her face would light up at his entrance and he'd envelop her in a giant hug, sneaking a chicken leg behind her back in one swoop.  They'd share a laugh and then a meal with all of his favorites.  The best part though, for Tim, would be her company.

I never attended a birthday lunch, it was their special time, but I can envision it in my mind from the stories he'd tell upon returning home.  Our gift was the fact that he never came back empty handed.  In a faded yellow tupperware container, her name written in cursive across the top, would be those tasty leftovers of fried deliciousness.  This container now lives in my cabinets and I smile upon the memories of the meals she sent to us each time I use it.

My hope is that Tim had a bit of flashback of happy memories with last night's dinner.  His smile, upon presenting him a plateful of crispy chicken, was worth the time spent, mess, and unavoidable grease pops that came in preparing it.  He was giddy with excitement as he bit into the crunchy, yet moist leg.  And it didn't bother me in the least that not a word was said until the very, finger licking, paper towel cleaning finish.

It was my great pleasure to bring him some comfort, a hug from his momma above, and a hefty dose of love on a plate for his birthday.  I pray it was as joy-filled for him, as his enjoyment made it for me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Faithful Friday: Blessings in Disguise

When we lost Austin, there were a lot of comments from others that took me back.  Some that made me downright angry.  I don't believe that any of them were intentionally hurting me, in fact just the opposite.  When the unimaginable happens, people grasp for words - anything - that will bring comfort.  Sometimes they say the only thing that comes to mind, and because they've never experienced such a loss, they can't fathom how it might be perceived.

One comment that haunted me then, is healing for me now.  

Someone mentioned then about my job and how this experience may help me relate more to parents with children diagnosed with cancer, especially those who lost their battle.  They mentioned how this would allow me to comfort them.  At the time, honestly, it ticked me off.   

I didn't want to lose my son to help others.   

I couldn't see ahead to the next hour, let alone where we are today.  All I felt at the time was the raw loss and pain that comes with child loss.  To think of any type of blessing or good that might come from Austin leaving was impossible.  

Yet from the beginning I was reaching out to other parents of child loss.  As I searched for answers and support, it was only natural to offer a prayer and listen to their story.  Along this journey I've even been blessed with new friendships, some from miles away, from women who share this unwanted bond.  Gentle whispers seem to guide and connect me to others walking this path.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.     2 Corinthians 1:4

Now, it seems the news of another child with cancer comes more often than I remember.  Maybe I'm just more in tune, but over the past year I've met more families than I'd prefer to count who face a parent's worst fear.  Some have seen the fear become reality, some still bravely fighting, and one family is gracefully preparing for it.  

Lane Goodwin is a little hero who's captured the hearts of not just our local area.  Nearing 100,000 likes on Facebook, Lane's story is touching the world.  His family has been in our prayers since hearing of their battle.  I've especially been drawn to his mother, knowing the pain she hides, and to Lane's younger brother.  Seeing the photos of them together tugs at my heart, thinking about Noah's journey in this loss.   

Watching their story on the news this week, something just spoke to me to reach out them.  Actually, I'm pretty certain it was someone.  A peace just washed over me and I could sense Austin pushing me to send them a message.  It was one of thousands, as messages, prayers and hundreds of photos from others giving Lane a "thumbs up" are being sent to them.  But mother to mother I just had to send our thoughts.  

In so many of the families we've met on this journey, any comfort we've given has come back to us tenfold.  Truly, we feel blessed and are better for knowing them.   

I don't look at our loss as something God caused so that good might come, but that through the loss and because of His comfort, good has naturally progressed.  Child loss will never be a club I'm glad to be a member of but comforting others makes the membership somewhat easier.  

If you don't have Facebook, you can follow Lane's story here.  Thumbs up, sweet boy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

From a Church Pew

There's a reason I don't normally sit on the back row at church.  Unlike the popular expression, I'm more of a front-to-middle row Baptist.

I'm too distracted from the back.  There's so much activity in a church service - and not just from the pulpit!  Being a people watcher by nature, this does not help me pay attention to the message.

Today, I was saved by the fact that I attended both worship services.  We left for Sunday school this morning but after about two minutes I could tell from Tim's face he would not survive four hours.  He's such a trooper and would never complain, never ask to go home early; yet he did quickly take me up on my offer to go next door and sit through just the early service.  This allowed me to take him home, as the kids were coming out from their lessons, and get back to them in time for the second service.  Because they picked the pew - and the fact that we had a packed house - we were on the last row.

I let this excuse my lack of total attention, as I perused the crowd.  There were adorable babies I made silly faces and smiled at... a few elbows from wives keeping hubbies alert... stern looks from parents to keep children in line...inspired expressions from those touched by the message.  And one particular duo that brought me joy and a reminder of being a wooden pew as a small child.

Seeing a little girl sitting with her grandmother, notebook in hand, she would doodle and write, looking up with a smile and proudly showing her next masterpiece.  Each time her grandmother would nod in approval, smiling back with a hug or pat on the leg.  This transported me some thirty-odd years to a little church I grew up in, side by side with my Grandma, pearls and sweet perfume.

We actually were near the back row.  Right hand side, second row from the back, by the window was our seat.  I remember the feel of the dark brown pew, solid wood under my legs, as it stuck to whatever skin my cotton dress didn't cover.  Precious Moments Bible in my lap, I would mimic and copy Grandma's movement, as she turned to the passage from which Grandpa drew inspiration for his sermon.  If I needed a distraction, I knew Grandma's purse provided entertainment, as it always contained a good supply of gum or candy. 

Occasionally, she'd allow me to doodle on scratch paper, although it wasn't nearly as fun as when I'd venture to the other side of the church to sit with my Aunt Becky.  She had mini Snoopy colored pencils and itty bitty paper to match.  Plus, I got to watch her play the piano with a the close seating her spot allowed.  With all the activity, one might think I didn't soak up much of the sermon, but I always listened to my Grandpa.  I loved to watch him in the pulpit, his passion and compassion pouring from his kind face and loving smile.

So many memories, from a simple glance across the church today.  Blessed to have those moments, the faith foundation given from my grandparents, and the joy of remembering.

And yet somewhat distracted, thankful for the message of today's sermon...and the added blessing of hearing it twice!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Faithful Friday: Belated Joy

You have filled my heart with great joy. - Psalm 4:7

Yesterday's post just wasn't possible on time.  We had company and I wanted to soak up the sweetness. 

Tired from a full week of school, she was extra snuggly and wanted to cuddle on the coach with "Aunt Header" so I had no extra room for a laptop or time to write a post.

Bryanna has been patiently waiting to spend the night with us for several weeks.  Tim's back has postponed her plans, and though he's still not fully healed, we knew she was good medicine.

That little ray of sunshine has been a blessing for my heart from the moment she arrived.  Hard to imagine it has been five years...

What I remember from her birth is that Austin was upset he couldn't go with me.  It was a school night and honestly at the time I thought he just wanted to play hookie.  From the first moment he held her however, it was obvious there was a connection.

The two were always together, both searching each other out at family gatherings.  Unlike with others, Bryanna never cried when Austin was holding her.  In fact, he calmed her.  And he seemed at ease with her as well.

She loved her "Aww-wa" and he loved his Baby Bry.  I loved how their faces would light up at seeing each other. 

It surprised me somewhat, Austin being a teenager.  He wanted to be with her though, never hesitated in caring for her and most certainly watched over as she grew.

I'm most certain he would've been a part of all the milestones of her life.  Sadly he only got to be here for a few, at least in physical form. 
But he's definitely holding and protecting her, no doubt she has her own special guardian angel to carry her through this world.

One of the many photos on Austin's phone of them, taken by him Thanksgiving weekend. 
 Sometimes looking at her reminds me of Austin.  It takes me back to those early days and I can't help but get teary eyed, wishing they had more time together.  That we all did...

Yet I'm also reminded of how healing she has been for me.  it's impossible to stay anything but joyful whenever she's around.  Full of sass and sparkle, there is never a dull moment around the child.  Her blue eyes have a way of making your heart melt, all the while laughing from her scrunched up nose or attitude that goes with it.

Bryanna has most certainly brought much happiness into our lives, even on days we didn't believe possible.  She has a way of lighting up the room and loading it with JOY.  The past five years have been a blessing with her here and I'm grateful to her momma for sharing her with us. She's never hesitated in letting her stay with us, even on special days like today.

Our just another Saturday has become a birthday princess extravaganza....with super soft snuggles and pillow talk, sugary kisses from a sticky pancake and bacon breakfast, giggles during hide-n-seek, quiet time on the couch just taking in how much she's changed, measuring tiny fingers to see if they've caught up with my hand now that's she the big 5, and many more simple, yet extra special moments.  I could go on and on, but then I'm afraid I'd miss out on even more.  Besides, we still have a full schedule of cheer leading, presents, a party and of course, a Hello Kitty cake to enjoy today!

May your Saturday be as sweet....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Savoring September

Part of me can hardly believe September is already here.  It seems like the month is nearly half over and I find myself grabbing both sides of the calendar and holding on. 

This is the start of my favorite time of the year, followed of course by the most difficult part of the year.  Avoiding November, I tend to focus strongly on every tiny morsel of joy that comes my way.
Make the most of the moments you love.

This weekend was filled with some pretty sweet ones...

Sleeping with the windows open
and waking to misty rain.
Between the crickets at night and the
clean scent of dewy morning air...Ahhh!

The start of fall festivals!!
We took in two this past weekend
- a new and an old, filled with
Carnival food
Free Music
Arts & Crafts
Did I mention the food!? 
Deep Fried Oreos...Loaded Pork Nachos....Sweet Tea
 Oh, My!

Insert "Awwwww" here
Meeting (and holding) our great-nephew, Liam Jude
My arm went numb from holding him but who really cares...
and oh, how I wish you could bottle that new sweet baby scent!

Blessed to be able to go back.  How I've missed worship.
So thankful to have Tim beside me.
He probably didn't really feel like it,
but we returned again that night
for BBQ, friends and fireworks.

Salted Caramel Gelato.
My first gelato
and I must say,
if salted caramel is the only
gelato I ever get to try,
how lucky am I!

And then this happy little box

was waiting on my doorstep
as I arrived home.
My Starbucks gift pack from the
I won had arrived!

...Just in time for Pumpkin Spice Latte season.
Mmm...helps me savor September even more.

What's your favorite part of this season?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Faithful Friday: Silent September

I'm rather opinionated.  If you ask me my thoughts, I will give it to you.  Sometimes, I give it without a request.  My family is usually on the receiving end of this generous and free gift.

I'm also a stewer.  If something bothers me, I sit on it.  Think about it.  Get all worked up over it.  Again and again.  And then, eventually, usually, I release whatever it is to said person.  Yes, my family is also the winning recipient of this as well.

It comes with my need to control things.  I'm an organizer by nature.  I need to know that everything and everyone is as it should be.  But I've realized the past week that this flaw only adds stress to me - and those in my path.  My mission for September is to embrace silence...and hopefully from that, serenity.

Now, I'm not expecting that I'll change overnight.  Or, that I even fully want to.  Having opinions and being organized aren't necessarily bad.  There are parts of this character trait I'll always embrace.  I just don't need to stew and worry, or get worked up on things I can't control.  Some things, you just have to give to God. 

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. - Philippians 4:8

I've come to this place after caring for my stubborn husband the past several days.  It isn't that he's a needy patient.  There's been no bell ringing or extra trips to get something for him.  As predicted, it's been just the opposite.  Once the severe pain subsided (and we're so thankful it mostly has), he began chomping at the bit to get out and about.

I returned to work this week, just as he became more mobile.  This was not good timing for the worry-wart wife that is me.  Would he drive too much? to soon? Have someone pull out in front of him suddenly, causing him to jerk or brace?...or worse - would he wreck?  If he ran to the store to pick up a gallon of milk (still the heaviest thing he can carry), would someone bump him in their cart?  Would he "man up" and attempt to carry multiple gallons, because this family's refrigerator always stocks a large supply.  Would he forget his meds, or forget that he'd already taken them and take another too soon?  SO. MANY. WORRIES.  Achhhhhhh!.........

Yes, these are the thoughts that have been swimming, stewing, and just generally stressing me in my head.  But this morning on my commute - aka convo with God time - I had a "come to Jesus" meeting with myself.  In the end, the only thing I can do is pray, trust in my husband (and mostly in God), and lay it His feet.  Hubby will either be still, or he will not.  He will either embrace this pause, or he will not.  He will either heal, or he will not.  But nothing I say, or stew about, will alter this.

The only thing it does is make me a generally not so friendly person.  And when I notice there isn't much JOY in the joyfulchallenge gal, it's time for a change.  Fitting that as I was pulling into the office, I heard this scripture on the radio.  Thank you, God, for reminding me that the only thoughts that deserve my time are those which are positive.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

White Rebel

The day after Labor Day.  Pools close.  Summer fades to fall.  And, most importantly, all white clothing must be immediately discarded.

At some point, Noah has heard me speak of this ridiculous fashion faux pas.  Today he's silently protesting.

Last night he put out clothes on his chair.  I noticed everything was lacking color.  Questioning him with a raised eyebrow, he responds, "Mooooommmm.  I've wanted to do this my whole life! (insert puppy dog face and pausing for acceptance). 

My nod allowed, remembering the wild outfits Mom let me wear to express myself at this age.  Gloves in my hair, combat boots, and a long period of all black - homage to Poe and Robert Smith (lead singer of The Cure). 

Jumping in his closet with glee, "YES!  I'll be the only kid in school in white!"  He was rather giddy about the idea.  I snorted, shaking my head, warning him the concept may lost on the majority of his classmates. 

It didn't take much to wake him today.  Just a light and one sentence, "It's Project White Day!" sprung him from the bed.  Well, sorta.

Look close.  There's a kid in there somewhere...

I reminded him once again that the only people who would probably notice would be teachers, as I wondered what they might think about the crazy mom who allowed such nonsense.  He didn't care. 

And honestly, who could resist that smile.

EnJOY your day, sweet boy! 
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