Sunday, December 28, 2008

home for christmas

we went to my mom's house for christmas this year. it was a good time. and it was a treat for me to get to have that much time with my mom. being a stay-at-home mom definitely has its perks. like not having to ask the boss for time off - or to travel anyway. time off is scarce. :) so while loralai napped, we made cookies, cooked tasty foods, laughed, laughed and laughed. if mom gets the giggles, we're over. she laughs and i fall in line and then we're useless. but it's the best.
my brother and his three kids live a few miles away and so we got to see them a lot. and they're so much fun. loralai gave turner (the oldest) a big smooch on the face - an open mouthed smooch - and turner just looked at her like, 'umm, eew.' but i think he secretly liked it. he's such a sweet little guy. and wyatt, the middle child, did what all middle children do best...he slung his dinner plate on the floor one night. end of the day, no nap, in need of some attention....strawberries went rolling. i don't think it will be funny if my kids do that, but it was sort of funny watching him do it. i wish i had written down the things that they said while i was there. but i didn't. and my mama memory fails me. so just trust me when i say that they're funny. they are. and carly, their 4mo. old baby sister, is in for it. or maybe the boys are in for it. she might have them dressed in girl clothes before it's all over. but if not, she's sure to be the toughest little girl on their circle.
christmas is always sweet. and it's always a little bit of a let down when life goes back to normal. but such is life.

maybe this year we can try to hold onto the sweetness of christmas that is jesus - and not just the cookies or the excess christmas weight.

i hope everyone had easy travels and fun times with their families.
mom with her grandbabies.

a happy baby eating a christmas day snack of yogurt

loralai's christmas present to todd
making the present was a mess of fun

Monday, December 15, 2008

God is everywhere. Even Wal-Mart.

Today I had a divine encounter at Wal-Mart. I know what you're thinking: what could Possibly be divine about Wal-Mart? Well, God's everywhere ya'll. Don't be so quick to think that He doesn't work miracles at Wal-Mart...or answer prayer.

So the story goes like this: I made my way to Wal-Mart in search of a few little Christmas gifts to finish up my shopping. The shopping trip was a bust because I didn't find the gifts I was hoping they had. But I'm pretty sure that God didn't intend on me finding what was on my Christmas gift list anyway.

Let me explain.

As we (me and Loralai) were checking out, Loralai was eating her cheerios, I was making conversation with the woman behind me in line (mainly because Loralai makes it so easy to talk to everyone since she's quick to say hello to, well, everyone), and waiting patiently to get to the register. Wal-Mart is the pits for checking out. Anyway, so in front of me was a dear old woman. I don't know, maybe 80s. I'm a poor judge of age. But she was a little slumped in the back and completely white haired and just sweet looking. So it took her a little bit to get her items back into her cart after check out - no problem. But the cashier already rang up all of my items and told me my total before my cart had even reached the bagging area because our older friend was still putting her things in her cart. It hurt my feelings that the cashier was so quick to dismiss the help that our friend needed. So I told her I would wait; that I didn't want to rush our friend as she was loading her cart.

And then I prayed. I had a short little conversation with God as I stared at the back of my white haired friend and admired her green pants and pretty white knit sweater.

After my bag was back in my cart, we said goodbye to our other friend and made our way to our car. As we approached the car, there was a really apprehensive woman getting out of a car parked directly in front of ours. She started hollaring to the guy walking behind me and asked him if he could help her get their car jumped. Their batter had died. At first I thought, 'does she know him? wow. that's pretty convenient that someone she knew was walking by at the exact same time that she needed him.' Then I realized that she had no clue who he was but bypassed me to ask him for help because she thought he would more likely help her. He was black. So was she. And I guess she just thought that a little white girl would be less likely to extend her hand.

Man, this sucks. She was right. And not because she was black, so much, as she was just rough looking around the edges. So as I was getting Loralai out of the cart, I had this really fast internal conversation with myself and God. And it went something like this: ok, just don't make eye contact with them, get in the car and be on your way. That guy will help them. But then God jumped in and said, 'what are you afraid of? you're right there. just help them.'

And so I ate my words, God's word, and all of the "wisdom" I've dished out and I did it. I moved. And I said, "do you need help?" And she started talking a mile a minute saying something like: my daddy's car is broke down and the battery died and we just need to jump it and he has jumper cables and... And then she started yelling at her dad. She was mad that he was on his cell phone and there she was trying to get them rescued and all he could do was talk on the phone (i'm sure he was calling for help, too. so he just ignored her)

So she was yelling at her dad. Hollaring and fighsty. And then I noticed that her t-shirt said, "Jesus is my lifeguard." And so I said to her kindly, "if Jesus is your lifeguard, just calm down and we'll get all of this worked out. He's got it taken care of. we'll get your car started." To which she replied, "you are a God bless-ed woman. do you see how my spirit is calmin' down right now as you talk to me?" (Oh jeez. I wanted to tell her that I'm a dang 'ole fool most the time, but thanks for the compliment.) And then she went blabbering again to her dad and so I kindly said to her, "If Jesus gives the sparrows exactly what they need, He'll do the same for you. It's going to be ok." And she said, "yea. that's right."

And so she stood waiting. And finally, out stepped this old man. He looked like he'd worked a hard life. He had few teeth, worn hands, a back bent forward but he was happy. He opened the hood of his car and propped up the hood with an old broom handle and proceeded to connect the cables from his car to mine. I praised him for being so prepared with cables.

I cranked my car and then stood by the back door where Loralai sat in her seat. And I just told her that we were helping some friends who needed it. And I stood there with her as I thanked Jesus for the awesome opportunity to be able to help - and for getting me out of my comfort zone to help some folks who might not have "looked" the approachable part but were. The more I stood there, the more I was convicted of my prejudice. I wondered how often I judge people for how they look, for how their car looks, or how often people judge me for how I look, or how my car looks.

I don't know their names. I just know that they were black. The woman was maybe in her 50s and the father was probably in his 80s. And I know that when I left the woman said to me, "thank you for your help. God knew we needed you and so he sent you out here at just the right time." To which I replied, "well, maybe I needed you too." And we hugged and off I went. (oh yea, their car started up smoothly after what seemed like a million tries).

And I was so excited that God used me to help someone and that he broke me out of my comfort zone that I got right on the phone to call Todd and tell him. But it wasn't until I was on the phone with him that it hit me - or that God revealed the sweetness behind it all. And then, while the phone was ringing, I was bursting with excitement.

God had answered my prayer.

While I was in line, waiting to be checked out, and waiting on my elderly friend to put her bags back in her cart, I asked God something. I said, "God, please will you bring an old person into my life? I miss old people. Please will you let me help someone?"

I had completely forgotten that prayer (that's the short 10 minute memory span of a mama, for ya) until I was calling Todd. And then it was as if God was saying so clearly, "Ashley, I answered your prayer. And you're right. You needed them just as much as they needed you."

Hallelujah!!

What an awesome day. What a small but beautiful way that God showed himself to me and that father and daughter in need. And what a treat to get to show Loralai that we weren't made to be exclusive of folks just because of how they look. We're called to obey when God calls us to move - and to love our neighbors.

What a sweet day to get to see a prayer answered and to share it with such an impressionable heart.

i'm so glad that these sweet brown eyes got to see God working today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

christmas blues. or pink.

(disclaimer: it's another long one. sorry.)

I say Christmas blues because it never fails. Thanksgiving and Christmas inevitably make me miss my family that has passed. And I say pink because I'm thankful for the pink rose colored glasses that God gave me soon after my dad died.

For the life of my blogging, for as long as I shall blog, you'll probably get to read about my dad. And I'm sorry if it seems like I'm rehashing the same emotions over and over, but I've come to learn that the process of grief isn't just in the passing weeks after we lose someone. Sometimes it takes a lifetime.

I have three people that I plan on holding onto as tight as God will let me, as soon as I enter heaven. One is my grandmother. My mom's mom. I was only six when she died. But I still can't talk about her without crying. Isn't that weird? Maybe. But I remember specific things about her. I remember how her arms felt - sort of flabby, actually. But her skin was like velvet. And I remember her hands. I would hold her hand and press on the veins on the top of her hands - I loved how they felt. Her hands were soft, too. I remember her hugs - she pulled me in tight and squeezed good. Not one of those pat-you-on-the-back kind of hugs. And most importantly, I remember how she smelled. And somehow I managed to get her after bath powder that she used - it had this big puff thing and I kept it safely in a drawer. Every now and then I would open the box and lift the puff thing just to smell the powder. To smell her. She was a heavenly woman.

And I miss my grandad (my mom's dad). Oh my goodness how I miss him. It wasn't until my grandmother passed, his wife, that his edges softened. He was a Col. in the army and was rigged and stern from his career. But after grandmom died, he didn't have a choice - well I suppose he did - but he chose to let us hug him and love him. Somewhere in the midst of college exams, boy troubles, job interviews and buying my first house, I realized that my grandad was morphing more into a dad and a friend and less into this grandfatherly figure who I used to place in a glass box and only get out for special occassions. I found myself calling for advice - or calling just because I needed to hear his voice. And when he found out that he had cancer, I sat in the parking lot of a Chili's restaurant and cried my heart until I couldn't catch my breath. Surely at 92, one's time must be running out. But it still didn't seem fair. He was the healthiest man I knew. But alas, his time was near. And even despite his fear and pain, he would call me and ask me if I was ok when a boyfriend broke up with me. And he would tell me that I would get through it. And he would drive over to visit with me. He was a friend of all seasons. I admired that about him. I admired his heart. My most favorite memory is with he and my mom. We sat at our kitchen table one Christmas and played a game of scrabble. To this day, I crave that game of scrabble. I don't think the three of us have laughed so hard, together, ever. Grandad's face was a deep shade of pink and he kept stomping his feet as he laughed and gasped to grab some air to at least breathe a second in between giggles. It was the best.
And when I would visit him at his house, I felt like I was home. He lived in a condo. But wherever he was, that's where home was. To be in his presence was to feel like I was home. I think he would be every woman's romeo. That sounds dorky, I'm sure. But he was chivalry at its best. To greet me when I arrived, he would often times walk across his living room with his arms open wide and say, "hello Ashley!" in his loud booming voice. Then he would hug me and kiss me right there on the soft part where you can feel your pulse just above your collar bone. I used to feel like the most beautiful woman in his presence. I just knew, without fail, that I was completely loved by Carl Whitney. He was such a delight. A cheerful giver. A cheerful receiver. A neat freak. Never a hair out of place. Never a shirt unpressed. Never a piece of paper unfiled. A contagious laugh. The best joke teller. The reason I believe I got down and dirty and dug deep and regained my relationship with Christ....well, part of the reason.

The other reason is and was my dad. If you knew my dad, then you probably have your own idea of who he was. And that's either really good or really bad. ;) But even if you did know him, there was a lot he didn't let on. He really struggled. He was abused as a kid and his mom was abused by his dad. And my dad was the oldest boy in the family. A family of 5 kids. And so all of the dysfunction really worked on my dad. Give a man 50 years to let all of that kind of resentment settle in, nest and work its way around and you've got yourself a royal mess. When God says that sin can multiply, he's not kidding. But don't mistake yourself by thinking that your own sin will only affect yourself. It was the sins of his parents that started the unwinding of his heart. As parents we play such a huge role in nurturing the hearts of our babies. But as individuals, we also have a choice. And while the choices were laid out before my dad, it was his choice to deny God for most of his life. I can only imagine the vantage point that God had, all the while, of the race for the finish. Victory was, inevitably, the Lord's but getting there was brutal. I'll not exploit my family by going into the detailed accounts of dad's life but I will say this: times were hard at our house. But they were good, too. And as soon as my dad died, I had a conversation with my brother. And through his sweet tears he told me that all he could think of were memories of my dad that he loved. I wanted to shout a hallelujah praise when he said that. But I held back for fear that I'd ruin his moment. But that was it. Death had lost its sting. Screw you lord of evil, deceiver of our world. When Jesus saves, your power is like the snake that was stepped on. Dead. But what was alive, finally, was life. I know that my brother had tried so hard to forgive my dad for the hurt he had inflicted but it was hard. It was harder for Bryan because he had babies. And he couldn't understand why his own dad was absent in their lives. But finally, those sweet rose colored glasses covered his eyes from the old and the pain was washing away. I don't make excuses for my dad's decisions but I also don't resent him either. It's remarkable, really. And I don't say that to pat myself on the back or to fluff up my pride. I say that because I stand in awe of the grace of the cross in reflection of the forgiveness I was able to receive and give.

When I first met Todd and told him about my dad, all he could see was the pain that I held onto. The resentment I had towards my dad. The entitlement I held onto - my dad owed me something. He owed me every hug he denied me, every night I wanted him to be sober, every Christmas that he was grumpy, every moment that I felt like he had offended me - he owed me an apology. Todd didn't seem to flinch when I told him all of the "stories" that came from living with an alcoholic. Instead he offered me one thing. Well two. The first was for me to call him. Ooooh no. I wasn't ready for that. But the second thing he said was, "have you trie forgiving him?" Isn't that so simple? Forgiveness. What a frickin novel idea. And as much as I loved Jesus and had just been worked in the recent months during my grandfather's final days, I was dumbfounded that he suggested I forgive my dad.

But why?

I was so selfish. Still am in a lot of ways. But really. (stay with me. i know this is long. but i'm getting there).

Jesus tells us that we are to forgive as many times as it takes, daily, hourly, in order to keep our hearts postured for Him and not for anyone else. And as long as I kept hating my dad, I was missing out on two things. Loving my dad and receiving the love of Christ. I was so busy hating my dad and replaying horrible events that I had forgotten who my dad was. And I was so busy thinking that I deserved an apology that I had put up a block between me and Jesus. Why on earth would God continue to rain down a parade of blessings on my life when I wasn't willing to even try to forgive the man that He had ordained to be my earthly father long before my dad was even born. Who was I to deny that kind of forgiveness?

And so I tried. It wasn't easy. But it happened quicker than I imagine. In less than a year, i found myself loving my dad. I found myself replaying old memories that I loved about my dad. And I started consciously telling Satan to hit the road any time an old memory would creap in. To this day I will only reccount old bad memories if only it allows me to witness to another. I refuse to open up that can of pity and sit in it. It denies God of the glorious redemption he offered my dad - it denies God the beautiful life he created through destruction.

And so when Thanksgiving and Christmas come creeping in, I miss my dad. I'm getting a lump in my throat just writing this. I miss rubbing noses with him. Lately Todd has rubbed noses with me and I say, "nope. it doesn't feel like his nose." God I miss him. I miss the thickness of his hands and his short stubby fingers and the callouses on his palms. I miss his hairy legs (please know that this isn't meant to sound creepy and weird -i think it's just things that, as as kid, you know about your parents). I miss his blue eyes. I miss his laugh. I miss his phone voice. I'd know his 'hello' anywhere. Which leads me to say, I miss his voice. I just wish I could hear his voice. I miss his hugs and his smile. I miss watching him rub his beard down and then massage his moustache with his pointer finger. I miss watching him mow the grass. I miss so much about my dad and I ache for the day when we'll be reunited wholey. Holy. I sometimes ask God this, "God, if you have time, would you mind finding my dad today and just hugging him for me? will you please tell him that I can't wait to see him. Kiss him for me and rub noses with him. Please tell him I love him."

I miss waking up Christmas morning, running downstairs to get my brother's and my stockings, running back upstairs to open the presents with my brother in his bed - and then running to my parents' bedroom to jump on them.

Christmas really is precious. Jesus really was born. The Savior of the world really was born to a precious young Mary as her sweet Joseph helped her labor and deliver sweet baby Jesus. And Jesus really did come to save. And he really does still live. He is alive. He's not just a tale or a legend. He is King. The one and only true God.

And somewhere in the time before I was born and the early 1900s, God created a beautiful thing. He made a beautiful woman, Dorcas Sheldon, amidst twelve children. And he made a determined man, Carl Whitney, in a small town outside of Boston. And from them he created a precious girl, Kay Ellen. Who fell in love with an insanely talented and intelligent Bill Fagundus. And from them, he created me. And in my heart he set eternity.

And if I can't be thankful for that well then heaven help me. And don't you know it was only heaven that did.

God, thank you for Christmas. Thank you for showing Mary and Joseph the means to persevere when they were terrified of the outcome of the birth of the Messiah. And thank you for choosing my heritage for me. Thank you for giving me a choice - to forgive. Thank you for showing me how to forgive - for giving us Jesus.

I celebrate You. You are Holy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

the poorest of poor

In a book I'm reading right now it says this: "I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor."

Do you read the Bible? If you do, you'll know that it is filled with direction for us to love the poor, the needy, the lonely, the widows... God never says, 'when people make you feel uncomfortable or hurt your feelings, walk away. they're not worth it.' Just the opposite. Jesus tells us that we should take in the lost and be the love that they need.

How often do you see a homeless person and just pass them by? Be honest. How often do you have three dollars in your wallet and think, 'they'll just spend it on booze anyway' and you pass them by but then you go to the store and buy a soda or a magazine or a hamburger. Which is more nourishing, booze or a soda? If you said soda, I say you're wrong. It's when we're feeding our desires and our flesh that we're living outside the will of God. And if you're annoyed with me right now, then good. God says that if you agree with everything I said then I'm just as good as the false profits.

It's time that we push each other. It's time that we're real and honest and we get out of our comfortable pretty Sunday clothes and start being the hands and feet and eyes and ears of the One who created us. The One who gave us salvation and entered inside of us a covenant, his spirit, so that we would die - WE WOULD DIE. Jesus didn't say that our old self would sort of stick around. No. He said that our old self would die...that we would be made new in Him. That just as much as he is in the father, so is He is in us. We are Jesus walking. When we accept Jesus as Lord, we aren't supposed to sit in front of our tv's and keep the secrets of eternity to ourselves.

When we see brother Will on the street, lonely, grumpy, angry, hating life, down and out, dirty...we are to extend love. So what if he spends his money on booze or cigarettes or worse. I don't know about you, but God loves me right where I am. And I've done some pretty disgusting things. Haven't you? Wasn't it us who hated our husband, wished we hadn't gotten married, smoked cigarettes, dabbled in drugs, ate obscene amounts of food just because we wanted to, lived with our significant other before marriage, were intimate before marriage, went out and drank ourselves drunk with friends and called it 'good fun', drove our friends around drunk and felt righteous because we were the 'good one'? Wasn't it us who did all of these stupid things that could have killed us or destroyed the very relationships we adored? And wasn't it our God who loved us and continued to call us to Him despite our hard hearts and hard heads?

So tell me, why then do we put ourselves above the person who is destitute on the streets, addicted to drugs? Why in the world do we think that we're an ounce better than them? Because our sin seems cleaner than theirs? Because our sin hasn't gotten out of control like theirs? Or because we're just so stinking comfy sitting at home that surely we're the blessed ones who have gotten it right and those people will just have to figure it out and work as hard as we have... Because after all, we earned all this stuff that we have? We went to college, got our degree, busted butt to get our job, climb the ladder, save our money...

How self righteous have we become? Didn't we read Job? Don't we know the character and heart of our God? Don't we know that as quickly as he can give life, he can take it away? Don't we know that when we choose to walk, he'll let us walk. Away or towards Him. He will LET us walk.

What a blessing to be financially stable. And what a blessing to have money stored up. But we're deceived if we think that the money we have stored up should stay stored and not shared. God doesn't want to force us to give him our money - he wants us to get it into our hearts that the money that's ours was never really ours but only his and it was he that gave it to us. So why then are we so scared to give it away? To give it back? Don't we want to be a blessing? Don't we want others to come to Christ?

Tell me something - if brother Will walked up to me and was drunk and said he needed money, what should I do? I think you listen to the Spirit's prompting. And if you don't know how to hear God's voice, ask him. Ask God, the one true God, to help you to have eyes for just Him and ears for just Him. He won't hold back. But brother Will, he'll stand there looking you in the eye and he'll wait. And you can deny this or you can chew on it - but he doesn't want your money so much as he wants life breathed back into the places of his heart where it's dessolate. He wants the breath of life - he wants Jesus. And so what if it costs you $3.00 or your entire fortune...if ten minutes of your time with Will costs you everything, then so be it. What if those ten minutes you took to tell him about the love of Christ were the final seeds that needed to be sewn so that Will would surrender?

I had a boss who reached out to me when I was hurting. He invited me to come and give to others. But I was grieving a lost relationship. I didn't understand how me giving to others could help ME. I wanted someone to give to ME. I didn't go. But his words stuck with me. It was years until I knew what he meant. It's Christ in us, the hope of glory. We aren't to keep it tucked away inside for just us to sit and feast upon. It's for us to share. And share big. Jesus didn't tell us to be afraid of the faith that we received. He said to share it - but to know that because of it we would lose everything. Our old self. Our old ways. Our old life.

Oh ya'll, let go. Let's let go of our old ways and cling to the new. Let's be rich in faith. Let's quit just saying 'Amen' at church and be the Amen in the world. Let's quit agreeing with Jesus' teaching and let's be Jesus walking. Let's quit being such wimps for the cross and start moving for the sake of the one who was nailed to it! Let's quit being afraid to talk about the suffering that our Jesus endured for us. Let's share it with the world. Let's quit avoiding eye contact with the cheater, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the homeless, the broken, the poor, the grieving...they need something. They need Jesus. It may not be the moment that you love them that they're healed, but let that not stop you from loving. In your eyes they're seeing a reflection of the Savior's.

And remember: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

Let's be bold this December. Let's step out of our comfort zones. Lock your doors still - yes. I don't deny that we live in a broken world. But let's quit being afraid to show the world the Spirit inside of us.

Monday, December 1, 2008

blog

i haven't really been in the blogging spirit lately. i was away for a week, at my mom's, while our house was under construction - or fixing. in any case, it required me to be away for the week while todd played boy scout and went without heat for a bit. thank goodness for space heaters. and then i returned and two days later we headed to richmond and charlottesville, va where his little sister got married. so it's been a bit of a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. and now we're home. aaah, home. home sweet lovely home with a comfy bed. oh i love our bed. so when i think of something to blog about, i'll blog some more. but for now, i wanted to grace you with a few pictures. loralai dressed up girly style for the wedding. pardon the one picture where her dress is tucked into her britches - it was the only way we could keep the dress out from under her very busy crawling knees. she was a trooper and did so well for the traveling. and she wore her little bonnet well. i can't wait to see the real (when i say real, i mean good, really good) pictures of her and the wedding that my sister-n-law will probably post soon. she's a photographer - a good one. it was cool to see her in action on saturday.

this is the sweetest picture of my two sweethearts.
loralai with her uncle jonathan and reaching for (no doubt the nostrils but her hand didn't make it there) her new uncle justin.

loralai practicing walking with her daddy.

this just makes me laugh. we hand to bundle her up for the outdoor super cold wedding. and i had to feed her gerber puffs the entire ceremony just to keep her from making this monkey squawking sound 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!'

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

swallowed whole

i've been doing some praying lately and i realized something. i ask a lot of God. last week i was asking him for healing for my niece. and i was also asking him to help Loralai's snot subside and for her cold to hit the road so that sleep will be restored. and i was asking him to continue to provide for our family, financially. and i was asking him what i could make for dinner - other than chicken or quesadillas (b/c time is of the essence and my creative cooking brain just is, apparently, not). and i was asking him to soften the hearts of a few people i love, so that they will please turn away from what the world says (ie: most often dr. phil and oprah) and turn to Him - for the first time and for some, just for good. and i was praying that the difficult circumstances that some of us are in would restore our love for God and i was asking him to help me to see the good in the times that seem, on the outside, to be hopeless or just discouraging.

and then, i sat down with that bible of mine and i prayed. i realized that i was asking a lot of God. and i realize that simply because God is God, he gets to do as he pleases. and so, here i went again, asking God to please help me to rest in knowing that the decisions he makes - the prayers that seem unanswered - are at his mercy and within his perfect will. help me to know that when i don't get everything i want - that THAT is perfectly perfect.

and as i was praying - and asking - and seeking - God gave me the book of jonah. and oddly enough, do you know i don't even think i've read it. i just know about jonah and what he went through. and maybe i've read bits and pieces here and there but i never sat down and read it and chewed on it for a while. but this is what i read:

chapter 2 (NIV)
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

"In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I
called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, 'I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.'
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my
head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank
down;
the earth beneath barred me in
forever.
But you brought my life up from the
pit,
O Lord my God.

"when my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

"Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the Lord."

And the Lord commanded the fish,
and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

....
After I read that, I had a definite sigh of relief moment. It reminded me of chapter 3 of Lamentations where God tells us that despite all of our shortcomings - his mercy is new every day. I was pretty overwhelmed by Jonah, at first. God doesn't imply that the belly of the whale/fish story is all a metaphor - he doesn't let up like Jesus does in giving explanation for his stories. This story is told as what really occurred. And so I thought about how Jonah was pleading with God saying - God, you threw me into the ocean and let the waves kick my butt. i thought i was going to die and so despite my earlier denial of you and running from your asking me to confront people on your behalf, i bit my pride and called out to you to please forgive me and have mercy on me. i asked you, when i thought i was going to die, if you would please spare me so that i might be able to hold true to the promises i had made to you. and i realized that you would do anything just to get my attention - like toss my sorry toosh into the ocean where a giant fish would nearly eat me.

Re-read the passage again. And if you don't believe the fish to be true - read it as this: God will use ANYTHING to bring us to him. He will allow us to return to the same sin over and over again if it is the only way that we will be knocked down, continually, so that our posture is humbled and we are desperate for his intervention - for his mercy, love and grace. But God says, through Jonah, that if we will quit with the mess - quit thinking Dr. Phil and Oprah are the wisest of wise, if we'll quit turning to food for comfort, to alcohol for confidence, to working out so that our bodies are beautifully carved rather than healthy, to books that tell us that cheating is ok because our spouses got boring or uninteresting, to the comfortable answer that says that divorce is appropriate because our spouse just didn't have the same visions as us in life - God says that if we will quit making excuses for where we fall short, and simply loose ourselves of the baggage that we're holding onto that's making our ears def to him, our hearts hard to him and our eyes blind to him - that then, he will put us back on solid ground. On dry ground that is easier to walk upon.

He'll bring us up out of the belly of that whale. But unless we choose to let go of the junk we like sitting in, God will let us sit there for as long as it takes. Because as much as it is that we think that God loves us - he wants us to love him back. He doesn't want to be the only one pouring out the love - he wants a relationship.

He wants to hear about all my insane thoughts, my crazy prayers about dinner and sucking snot out of my baby's nose - because really, when the chips are up or down - the only one who can truly have the glory for my life, and over my life, is the one who created it.

So I'm going to start thinking about this Jonah a little more. And I'm thankful that God led me to one of the shortest books in the bible to read - on a night when my attention span was puny - so that I might be let in on one of the biggest secrets he shared: mercy. grace. love.

It's all ours, if we'll just resign to letting go and letting God be God. Isn't it sweet, ya'll?

Monday, October 27, 2008

i know is true.

some things in my life i know to be true just because i know, without fail, that they'll happen, or exist, because they always have.

maddie dog will beg every time i eat popcorn (or anything for that matter).
and she'll poot because she's so excited about the prospect of food. and then todd will scrunch his nose and say that we just HAVE to do something about that. the pooting. but we never do. mainly because we can't.
frankie dog will say hello for a few minutes but will inevitably go and put herself to bed where she burrows her nose under her feet and only peeks her eyes up when you walk in the room - probably to make sure she isn't missing out on any food opportunity. our dogs love food. carrots in particular.
todd will always love playing guitar, listening to music i consider weird, like wearing hats, "forget" to brush his teeth on the weekend, and say he loves every meal i cook.
my mom will always love snuggling up in her flannel jammies. she'll always love hot tamale candies, a good sappy love story, hot chocolate (ok, anything chocolate), and laughing.
so you get the picture.
i think blogs are better with pictures to fill in the imaginery blanks but i don't have time for that tonight.
but i went running tonight and i thought - i will always love this. the feeling of running. and then breathing in cold air. i will always love the relaxed feeling that comes over me after a workout. i'll always love popcorn, chocolate, a good laugh, hugs from my mom, snuggles with my doggies, giggles from my baby and my husband's smile.
but something comes between me and all of this sweetness. at times it's just sadness. or a sense of being overwhelmed or tired or stressed or even anxiety.
and this is what i know to be true.
when i doubt, when i'm down, when i feel like it won't get better or i won't pull out of this funk...there is one who does. Jesus tells us to bring all sin to light. so if i go to him and confess where i'm struggling, i'm free. right. i'm free already because of my salvation. but there are times, it's true, where we get bogged down simply by living in the world. and so the truth of it all is that Jesus came to set us free. so that no longer would we be captives, but redeemed. so that even when the world says to give up, to walk away, to argue your point or satnd firm because you HAVE to be right. Jesus says to love. this i know to be true. it is. a friend reminded me of this tonight. she said, 'understanding God's word is the easy part. loving is the hard part.'
i know the cause and effect of things happening in this world and in the community around me. i see it and i get it.
but what i think we forget as a whole, as God's body of belivers - as his church - is that the greatest truth we have to offer in reflection of Jesus is his love. we are vessels of his love.

i'll always know that i'll love loralai. i know there won't be day that i'll look into her eyes and be completely thankful that God let me birth her. and as i stand in the kitchen and sing praises to God while she eats her carrots, i see a little smirk come across her face. and then her hands raise. it's true. maybe she's waving - she likes to do that. or maybe, maybe she's copying my hands that are lifted up. and maybe she's seeing me excited about the love i'm sharing for our God. and maybe in a few years, her hands lifted up won't be in reflection of her mama's but in praise of her Jesus.

for the glory of God, he made life. and in my life he has shown me his love in form of my family. and when i'm old and gray (ok, grayER), i want loralai (and our other baby(ies)) to be able to make a list of things they know to be true. and somewhere in the mix of their list, i hope it says something like 'and i know my mama and daddy will always love jesus. and i know that jesus loves me because the first time i saw my mama dancing for joy in the presence of jesus, i KNEW he must be real. cause for what other cause would a woman dance so crazily?' ...or something like that.

the power of the truth of the gospel lives in those who believe. and what a privelege it is to get to share that love, that truth, with our family. with our babies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

full.

so far, this face never fails to make my day. and no, that's not bedhead. it's just how her hair flies all by itself.

does it get much sweeter than this? maddie and loralai.
i love this picture. mmmm mmm.
we had a really full weekend. or week. we celebrated our anniversary last wednesday by stuffing ourselves with food. date nights are fun but when you eat too much - umm, yuck. but it was nice to have adult conversation.
on friday, i visited a friend who has a little one who is three months older than loralai. to see them together is hilarious. they stare at each other, pat each other's hair, pull hair, chase each other, watch the other's newest skills (and learn. man how loralai takes tips from her buddies.) and just have so much fun. it's the best. and it was so nice to just get to be with rachel for a while. i love being with my friends who have kids - it's like the babies babble the same language and so do we.

faith was hilarious. and loralai was teething - so this ball posed a little chewing problem.
and then...they found the door stopper thing. poot noises galore. even at their age it was funny.


on saturday, one of my oldest friends (i guess since we were 9 or 10) came to visit with her little boy, jonah. jonah had a bit of a rough start during his first few weeks of life. so to see him was to see God. not that you don't get to see God in all things, but it's just special to see a little guy who fought hard and you just knew that God was answering all our prayers. jonah is precious, has the prettiest eyes and is working super hard on pushing up to crawl.

hi jonah, hi. :)

kelly and jonah with me and loralai.

on sunday, we went to my friend hilary's house. kids, football, food - what more could a day hold? ok football - i could give or take. but being with friends, their kids, and food - well now that's a pretty good day. the house was FILLED with kids and most of them hung out in hilary's daughter's bedroom. wheew. i know hilary was glad when the craziness subsided. i think there were about 10 babes there at one time.


the three little ones: reese, brooke and loralai. the rest were running around. literally.


and then...the work week began again. it's always bittersweet when todd has to go back to work after a fun weekend together. loralai loves having him here. it's the best feeling to see your baby crawl with quick baby speed towards her daddy.


and she's up to new tricks. she's talking early. oh boy. she's saying mama (ma ma - especially when she's grumpy and wants to be held - or wants her lunch or dinner), daddy (da da - sparingly but we've caught it a few times), boom boom (bmmm bmmm - she lies on her back and kicks her feet to the floor and i always say boom boom - so now she's starting to say it just for fun.), and her best word is bye bye (bah baaayyyee - coupled with some serious waving), and this morning we realized that she was telling us "more" through sign language. that was something we started when she was about 3 or 4 months and she's starting to get it. it's all so fascinating - the developmental stuff. i love watching her watch my mouth and try to say book when i say it. it's just awesome.


aaah love. sweet baby love.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

i do. and i did. on oct. 8th.

i wish i could remember the day. i think it was june 8th or 10th. maybe. either way, it happened on sanibel island, florida. and it was june. i know that. and it was 2006. and it was raining a good bit of the time we were there. we went there to visit todd's grandmother; only he had other things in mind: like getting hitched. and as we walked out onto the beach to watch the sunset, he did it. he got down on one knee. and i panicked. it was like i couldn't breathe and wanted to cry. but i still said yes. i think that moment is an overwhelming moment. i can't imagine the amount of nerve it takes to ask a woman to be a man's wife - but at least you guys have MONTHS to ponder this. we have only seconds to respond. ;)

it was perfect. wonderful. the sky exploded and a sunset displayed itself before us in a heavenly sight. it was glorious. and we were on top of the world.

we made our way back to north carolina where we started planning our wedding. it was both fun and completely insane. we loved planning our life together, i had fun finding a gown and taking pictures and just feeling totally girly. and todd had fun (ha) preparing his house (his bachelor pad) for a woman.

and when october 8th finally came, we were ready. or as ready as you can be. because let's face it, nothing can truly prepare you for marriage. it's completely a leap of faith. you don't know what it's like to share your money, your time, your love, your desires, your trust, your life, your everything...until you've said i do. i love that it's a leap of faith. it means that there's more to our marriage than just us. there's God. and he's at the center of it all. if he wasn't, we would both demand our own ways and expect our lives to revolve around what we want. i love that todd leaps in faith with jesus and that i leap in faith with jesus. it stings when we fall, but we fall together and we stand together.

i love my todd. i love how when he smiles, he has laugh lines and his eyes squint. i love his brown eyes. i love his beautiful smile. it gets me every time. i love how he makes me laugh; cause he can make me laugh harder than anyone else. i love how he wants to love me better all the time and he tries hard doing it. i love how he loves jesus. i love how he wants to love me forever. i love how talented he is musically. i love my todd.

and i love that i got to marry him. and i love that i get to think about how perfectly happy our wedding day was, today, every year for the rest of our lives. because it was. every person who was at our wedding made our day richer; they make our lives richer. it was an indescribable feeling, while saying our vows, knowing that we were entering a covenant before God. God who knew we would do this before he even created us. it was overwhelming, that day, picturing the view from heaven. i imagined the angels seeing the light of Jesus illuminate on all of those saved. i imagined Jesus standing with Mark as we said our vows and i imagined the angels cheering when they welcomed us as One. and as Matt sang grace greater, i was (and still am) certain that i heard an angel singing with him. and as we danced and celebrated and smiled the night away, i remember never wanting that feeling to end: joy.

and while happy times come and go and there is a definite ebb and flow of marriage, joy is always constant. it encompasses all because joy is Jesus.

i love you toddy. you are my precious, sweet, silly, tender, God fearing, guitar playing, harmonica honking, delight in the sight of the Creator, husband of mine.

and even better. even sweeter. thank you Jesus for putting it on our hearts to marry so quickly after our engagement. if we hadn't, my dad wouldn't have been alive for our wedding. he wouldn't have gotten to hear me go on and on about my todd. he wouldn't have gotten to share in our excitement. i wouldn't have gotten to witness to him with such fierceness, fear and delight. and we wouldn't have conceived our precious loralai. because in the beginning, we were going to wait until the following spring or summer to marry. and that...that wasn't the right timing. but God's, oh ya'll, God's timing was perfect. and IS perfect. HOLY IS THE LORD!!!

i love you todd.


our beautiful sanibel island sunset
i love this picture. it makes my heart so happy. i said yes!
and then i got to take these fun pictures
even as a grown up girl, playing dress up was the best!

being at my brother's side walking down the aisle...

...was the safest feeling ever.



and the look on this guy's face is priceless. and funny.



and we said i do. oh what a day!



what a happy happy day!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

i am weak and he is strong.

have you ever had a week where God just worked you? you had friends coming at you with questions and God led you to scripture. specific scripture. and then you met a stranger, and God brought that same scripture to mind. not something regular or easy to share; something a little more. (not that there's anything regular about God). this was my week.

a friend is struggling with a best friend who is battling addiction with alcohol. another friend was confused why they're struggling with finances. and todd and i met someone today who instantly brought this scripture to life.

usually it's just me who talks to homeless people. but this time todd did. and he was going to give him just a few dollars from his wallet when i think we both knew that God wanted us to give him everything we had. it was only $10 but we gave it all. but something that i think surprised us both was when we drove away we told him something in the same tone that we would have if we were driving down the driveway away from one of our parents. we said, "i love you." and our friend replied back naturally, "i love you, too."

where does love like that come from? only Jesus.

it's true. it's only Jesus that exudes real love from mouths that just sinned seconds before. it's only Jesus who moves you to tears when you realize that you're blessed beyond measure. it's only Jesus who puts truth in your heart and helps you forgive when you've been sinned against. it's only Jesus who helps you beg for mercy when you feel lost. it's only Jesus who collides two worlds so that we can fully understand that in our weakness, he is the only strength we need.

do you understand? we're all the same. it's not the people that are bad but the sin. it's the sin that's bad.

i know some of you that read my blog aren't Christians and so when i write, i think about you and i know that you don't receive all that i'm saying as truth. but please know that i don't ever write to condemn you or to even convince you of the truth of Jesus. i do, however, want to just simply thank you for reading.

and i find myself desperate. i'm desperate for salvation for ones that are lost. i'm desperate for answers for those that have gone astray. i'm desperate for love to overflow for those that feel alone. and then God reminds me three times: my grace is sufficient, ashley. my power is made perfect in weakness. ...when your friend is in need, really in need and broken, it's then that they'll recall my name and call out to me. but it's only then, when they're truly broken, that they'll be able to receive me. because then, in their brokeness, they're finally humble enough to let me help. and remember, ashley, sometimes this brokeness comes in different forms. for some it's homelessness, addiction and sadness. for others it's losing a job, not getting an interview, a relationship breakup or pet dying. but just know that in everyone's despair, i am there and for them I AM. it's not for you to fix them, ashley. it's for you to love them. it IS for you to tell them, 'i love you', and then be surprised that you said those words and actually loved them. it IS for you to not tolerate sin but to also not condemn the sinner. only I can do that. it IS for you to come to me when you are weak so that i can remind you of my promises. it IS for you to also delight in your weaknesses and to know that you aren't the One who will bring all that you love to salvation, but when you know that you are weak in areas, you will allow me then to work through you. so that my power can be made perfect. because when you are weak, you are strong. I am strong. ashley, i am the I AM. rest in perfection and holiness so that you can rest knowing that your reflection of me is enough.

and that's what God spoke to me this week, three times. three times he spoke this verse to me. and in three different ways, i was able to help (maybe even just an inch). and then i was able to receive. and i was amazed. and i still am. but i delight in knowing that i am weak and fallible and growing and learning. i delight in knowing that i am in love with the King of the world. i delight in knowing that God's promises are true and that he makes no mistakes and that i'm blessed beyond my prayers, beyond what i think i desire. i am loved. without fail; despite my failings.

in it all, i know that when i am weak, i am strong. because when i am slow to speak, Jesus uses the body he created that his spirit entered in 1992 to somehow do some sort of heavenly good for the kingdom of God. and while it might not be earth shaking movement and good that i'm making, i want to call to mind 2 corinthians 12, often, so that i am reminded that the power of God is in me - me who is weak, and troubled, and imperfect. me who was so excited today that my husband and i loved someone we didn't know and were surprised. we were surprised to find love well up in us where Jesus already knew it existed.

that, is glory.

2 Cor 12
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

stinky ole bacteria

she coughed and sneezed
but never weezed.
she made snorts and sniffed snot
but never a fever.
her head wasn't hot.

she splashed in the bath and played with her toys.
she kept on making squealy baby noise.
it wasn't until night 7 of her cold,
when we thought we were clear
that she made a loud screech and grabbed her right ear.

to the doctor we went.
hi-ho not so merry-o.
she checked thing one, then thing two
and let out a 'wheew.'
on her prescription pad she wrote,
amoxicillan.
not dope.

i asked her sweetly,
if she'd write clearly and neatly
for an energy pill or somethingy real sneakily
i could stick in my coffee, my milk? my water?
anything, anything to help make this mama feel smarter.

our baby has bacteria.
the bad kind in her ear.
it's made me raise my voice and brought on many a tear.

my baby being sick is so unfamiliar to me.
i'm used to her smiling and giggling.
not screaming and wiggling.
i'm used to her sleeping - 12 hours of the night.
and now she wakes at 2 and 4
and this sleep deprived mama is getting uptight.

so i pray for the amoxicillan to go on and do its job.
to kill the bacteria, or else i'll probably sob.
i ask God to hush my baby when she's hurting and i can't help.
because in me is a desire, like nothing else or more,
to make her feel all better.
to make her feel all new.
to make her feel all safe and sound.
so when my arms on her are wrapped around,
she'll know His love and mine are true.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

it trickled over and stopped.

i remember sitting at our kitchen table in highschool when it hit me. this awful terrible, felt like a knife jabbing into the side of my head, pain. at first i thought my tooth hurt and then i couldn't chew anymore food. i went upstairs, excused myself, and then called out to my mom. i just remember sitting on the top of the stairs and crying my little eyes out. it was the worst pain. i also remember mom telling me something along the lines of me being overly dramatic...until she pulled out her otoscope (she's an audiologist) and realized that i had an ear infection. at 15, i cried like a baby. but at least i could tell my mom what the problem was.

loralai can't. what she can say is ma ma-qua (that's quack)-and bah bah (that's bye bye).

anyway. so we've been battling a cold for a week. on friday i thought we had gotten our sweet and happy baby back. but then on sunday i wasn't so sure. and then yesterday the normally happy baby woke up unusually cranky from a nap and put up a huge fight in the bathtub where she normally quacks and splashes with her daddy. so we knew something was up. and the dr. confirmed an ear infection this morning.

so my heart breaks for our little chunky monkey who weighed in at 19lbs 8oz. she seemed so happy when she woke this morning that i thought for sure she didn't have an ear infection. how do those rascally infections hide so well? so while i don't talk ga gah like loralai does, sometimes i sure wish i did. maybe then she could have told me what the deal was.
poor little babe.

and i thought you'd like this picture - she's visiting her daddy at work and taking a bath in the tub like a big girl. aaah sweet baby life. does it get any better than this?


Thursday, September 25, 2008

deep thoughts

todd just said, "you should be proud of me." me, "why?" todd, "because i have NOT gone to mcdonalds, yet, to get the mcrib." huh? me, "i'm supposed to be proud of that?" todd, "yes."

loralai has a nasty cold. she slept on todd's chest last night b/c she couldn't figure out how to sleep without sucking on her favorite fingers - which shut off all air going in her body. so she slept on the daddy's chest so that the head was above sea level allowing for oxygen to flow - AND, so that she could suck the fingers. things that have helped us stay sane while the child can't sleep well: vicks vaporizer (it emits some powerfully strong eucalyptus scent. it's like walking into a cough drop), humidifier, standing in the bathroom with steam (glorious snot busting steam), saline nose drops, suctioning the nose holes, 1ml of triaminic, tylenol, lots of nursing, more naps that normal and lots of love. poor baby.

todd made dinner tonight. out of a bag. one of those frozen noodle, veggie, chicken things. we were desperate for quick food but not a mcrib - right. firecracker chicken. that's the name of the stuff he gets. i guess he didn't read the warning label. holy mackeral that junk was SO hot that i was sweating around the nose and had to guzzle some milk. no kidding. i guess it's a good thing. i hear spicy food increases the metabolism. maybe it will offset all of the dark chocolate m&ms i just ate.

tyra banks. i rarely watch tv anymore. but today loralai was sleeping and i wasn't doing chores b/c i was whooped. so i turned on the tube and i saw tyra banks with crimped hair. what in the BEEP is that about? hi, tyra, the 80s are no more. stop it. do NOT promote crimped hair.

isaac mizarahi - or however you spell it - i am going to protest all target shopping until they pull down the flowered leggings, the stone washed jeans, the peg legged jeans, the bright neon plastic jewelry and all things 80s. next thing you know, umbros will be back? what is our fashion coming to?

multiples. does anyone remember them? i wore them. they were wrong. very wrong. so were tee-ties.

i've yelled for jesus so many times this week. loralai hasn't eaten well b/c the snot in her nose, trickling down her throat, makes it hard for her to swallow. so she chokes. it's a helpless feeling.

pharmacists are nice and helpful when you have no clue what medicines to combine or not to combine. thank you, pharmacists, for going to school forever and learning about drugs.

yesterday - pre-crazy downpour of rain - we had the irrigation system in our yard fixed. we had some people fix the yard that are originally from a land south of texas. i think all hispanic people are extremely smart. because directly at noon, they laid down under our pear trees and snoozed. for an hour. i took a picture. yep. i'm sneaky like that. but, i'm too lazy to post it. but trust me. they slept. it was actually a good day for an outdoor nap. i just couldn't believe how deeply they could sleep; how unaffected they were by the blustery wind or the squirrels running about or cars going by. i wish i could sleep that deep.

milk. i think it's important to drink organic milk. if you don't do anything else organic for yourself. drink organic milk. you owe it to your body to be hormone and drug free - and you owe it to your children to not pour those additives into their bodies.

avacados are lovely. and so baby friendly. put one in a blender with a banana and you have a smooth, high (good) fat meal for your baby. and it freezes nicely, too.

has anyone noticed how gross primetime tv is getting? there are more sexual inuendos on tv, now, than i can remember. it's disappointing. i miss the cosby's. i saw a repeat of their show, yesterday, when the whole family was singing to the grandparents. i caught it right when rudy was singing, "baaaabyyy! baaabyyy!" oh it was great.

well, that's about all the deep thoughts i have for one day. pray for sleep - pray for snot to subside in our baby's body.

love love, ashley

Monday, September 22, 2008

sandy days

us. silly 'ole turner
self portrait. we forgot to tell loralai to look.
yay for morning walks!


aunt julie and loralai todd and his super happy girl
mmm love.
we like to scrunch our noses. apparently.
wyatt picking grass.
me, mom and loralai.


i highly recommend this sling to moms with babies.
sunrise
mom, me and bryan. and the two little dumptruck pushers.

we went to emerald isle for a few days with my family - well, my 'side' of the family. we found a beach house that suits us all and i think we'll keep doing this over the years. it's so much fun to see my nephews play with my baby - and it was so sweet to get to see my new niece. she's seven whole weeks and full of sweet baby goodness. i don't have a lot to say about our weekend, unless you want the details about how we saw a shooting star, how todd, me and loralai would get up in the mornings and go for beach walks, how turner smothered loralai with kisses, how wyatt never ever ever runs out of energy or funny jokes, how it nearly melts my heart to hear my nephews tell their mom and dad (or anyone they love), spontaneously, that 'i love you. you're my best friend.' and they mean it with every ounce of love in their hearts, how we celebrated mom's birthday at the beach, how loralai took great naps at the beach but found herself with a cold when we got home and now finds sleep hard due to a stuffy nose, how sand apparently tastes really good to babies, and how no matter how many toys i brought for entertainment, i didn't need a single toy because turner and wyatt entertained loralai more than she could have ever imagined. well, them and any water bottle that she could find and chew on. aaah beach family weekends.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

season

i thought that the weekend was going to, surely, bring cooler weather. it just had to. i had company coming in town. and this is my favorite friend to go on walks with; so the weather needed to be cooler. and the baby - she needed to nap. but for some reason, the first time ever, she refused to take her afternoon nap. i wanted to cry. but i went with it. and so did maribeth. thank you. and even though it was a disgusting 90something degrees outside, we plopped the baby in her stroller and walked. and while we walked, we solved the world problems - or at least resolved to eliminate all debt and desire for excess "stuff" from our lives - and, the baby slept. it was wonderful. maribeth is wonderful. my college roommate, a best friend, such an easy person to be around - i wish she could spend more time at my house. it was such a good visit - she got to love on loralai and i got to sit back and watch two of my favorite girls play together. precious sweet love.
maribeth came in town because one of our college friends, jenn, is getting married in october. and so a bridal shower was thrown for her - which meant that we all got to have a girls' night and go out to eat together. aaah fondu. deliciousness.
but being the mama that i am, all i could think about was curling up into my comfy bed halfway through dinner. it probably sounds lame. but i think a comfy bed is a delicacy to all mommies.
after company left, todd and i made our way to the park and then to run some errands. and now, finally, (umm a few days later mister weather man) the weather is cooling off. but i'm not complainin' - Fall, come on! i'm ready for your briskness and cool morning walks.



the beautiful, almost married, jenn.




















the beautiful maribeth.

i somehow manage to make scary eyes - but jordan, she just glows.
aunt maribeth and loralai. it was a fun little game of up and down the horsey leg goes. i think it was a workout for mb.




















i'm pretty sure maribeth was holding loralai's hand so that she didn't get curious and try to eat her curly hair.

outside is this little baby's most favorite place to be. something about the leaves moving, the wind blowing, the birds chirping, squirrels running around - all of it - it just makes her little heart so content.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

mama milk

hi everyone, i was just encouraged by reading this article. i'm always overwhelmed by just how perfectly God makes us for our babies - or rather just how perfectly God creates.


Fabulous Fats
Human milk is richer in the essential fatty acids needed for optimal human brain growth. Formula and cow's milk, on the other hand, are deficient in certain omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Not only do breastfeeding babies get the right kind of fats, they get the right amount. The fat content of your milk changes during a feeding, at various times during the day, and at various stages as your baby grows, according to the energy needs of your baby. At the start of a feeding, your foremilk is low in fat. As the feeding progresses, the fat steadily increases until baby gets the “cream,” the higher-fat hindmilk. After baby gets sufficient hindmilk, baby stops eating and radiates that contented look. During growth spurts, your baby nurses more frequently and because of the shorter intervals between feedings, he receives milk with a higher fat content that supplies the energy he needs to grow.
Not only does baby get the right kind of fat in just the right amount, but most of the fat in breast milk is absorbed, so baby gets healthier fats with less waste. Breast milk contains an enzyme called lipase that helps digest fat, so more energy is available to the baby and less fat is eliminated in the stools. Formula and cow's milk do not contain this enzyme, and the baby's intestines - the body's food judge - can't digest all of the fat in formula and cow's milk by themselves. So the excess fat passes into the stools, giving them an unpleasant odor - unlike the acceptable milder odor of breast milk stools.
Specific Proteins
Remember the curds and whey in the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet”? Curds and whey are the two types of milk protein. The whey is the easy-to-digest liquid portion, and the curd is the casein protein that forms a rubbery, harder-to-digest lump. Breast milk contains a much higher whey-to-casein ratio than most formulas and cow's milk do, so it's easier to digest. (Note that whey is the preferred protein for competitive body builders.) Breast milk's amino acids (the components of protein) supply the specific nutrients that babies need to build healthy brains and bodies, and research has shown that the amino acid taurine, which is present in much larger amounts in human milk than in cow's milk or formula, is especially important to brain growth. Breast-milk protein is almost completely absorbed, so there is less waste and less strain on the digestive system. The excess protein in formula and cow's milk, on the other hand, creates extra work for the intestines and kidneys, a phenomenon known as metabolic overload.
Sweeter Sugars
How sweet it is! Taste infant formula and compare it with the sweeter taste of breast milk. Human milk contains more lactose than formula does, and it is not only sweeter but better suited for brain growth. Lactose is an intestines-friendly sugar for babies. In infant formulas, some or all of the sugar comes from highly processed table sugar or corn syrup.
More Usable Vitamins and Minerals
No factory can make minerals and vitamins as well as mom can. On paper the vitamin-and-mineral profile of breast milk and formula may look the same - or it might even seem that formula contains more of some nutrients - but charts and comparisons can be deceiving. Mommy-made nutrients are better because of their high bioavailability, which means more of the vitamins and minerals that are in human milk get absorbed by the baby. What counts is not how much of a nutrient is listed on the Nutrition Facts label on a can but how much of that nutrient is absorbed through the intestines into the bloodstream. What counts is how much is available to the body - thus the term bioavailability.
The three important minerals calcium, phosphorus, and iron are present in breast milk at lower levels than they are in formula, but in breast milk these minerals are present in forms that have high bioavailability. For example, 50 to 75 percent of breast-milk iron is absorbed by the baby. With formula, as little as 4 percent of the iron is absorbed into baby's bloodstream. To make up for the low bioavailability of factory-added vitamins and minerals, formula manufacturers raise the concentrations. Sounds reasonable: if only half gets absorbed by the body, put twice as much into the can. This nutrient manipulation may, however, have a metabolic price.
Baby's immature intestines must dispose of the excess, and the unabsorbed minerals (especially iron) can upset the ecology of the gut, interfering with the growth of healthful bacteria and allowing harmful bacteria to flourish. This is another reason formula-fed infants have harder, unpleasant-smelling stools.
To enhance the bioavailability of nutrients, breast milk contains facilitators - substances that enhance the absorption of other nutrients; for example, vitamin C in human milk increases the absorption of iron. Zinc absorption is also enhanced by other factors in human milk. In an interesting experiment, researchers added equal amounts of iron and zinc to samples of human milk, formula, and cow's milk and fed them to human volunteers. More of the nutrients in the human-milk sample got into the bloodstream than in the formula and cow's milk. In essence, breast milk puts nutrients where they belong - in baby's blood, not in baby's stools.
Other Good Things Too Numerous to Mention
Each year scientists discover more and more health-promoting substances in human milk that can only be mommy-made, not man-made. The late Dr. Frank Oski, world-renowned pediatrician, former professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and our friend, was a longtime advocate of the importance of breastfeeding. He once told us, “When researching the difference between human milk and formula, I discovered that there are over four hundred nutrients in breast milk that aren't in formula.” As always, mother knows best.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

new stuff and stinky stuff

Last night I sat down at my eisel and I painted. Glory to God, I painted. Big deal, right?

Well it's been a long time since I've sat in front of my pretty 'ole marked up eisel, with a paintbrush in hand, and just painted. And it used to be that I loved to paint with a cup of coffee or a small glass of wine. Why? I don't know. Comforting, I guess. And I'd paint in my living room (not the safest place to paint when you tend to be messy) while watching, really listening, to a movie.

But last night I opted for no coffee (even though I drink decaf these days while i'm a mama cow) or wine but rather - glorious, delicious decaff coke. Oh yum. Even though I only made it a few sips into the cup. I never finish drinks that are tasty. I guess I get distracted; which I'm getting more of these days as I try to multitask everything. So I painted. And it was lovely and therapeutic and I'm sure a real prize-winning canvas. You millionaire paint collectors: cash in. This is your big chance to display a real beauty.


On another multitasking note. When I wrote that word: multitask: it took me back to the first few weeks of motherhood. My body, post c-section, was slowly being shocked back to life. And, so was my digestive system. And one day, while I was learning how to do the stay-at-home thing (with no husband or help), my colon said something to me: RUN. Only if you've ever had major surgery in the belly region, you know that running (or coughing, laughing, sneezing or farting) is not an option. A slow waddle, maybe. But running - umm, no.

So there I was nursing my sweet brown eyed baby when my bowels began to rumble. And so I did what any good mom would do. I multitasked. It didn't seem to bother her. She kept nursing. But I have to say, holding a baby to your boob and unzipping your pants with one hand is pretty tricky. I think I should have been awarded something that day.

And one more thing. I used to have quite the keen sense of smell when I was pregnant. Before pregnancy, no smell. And now, after pregnancy, no smell. Thank goodness, too. Because my sweet chocolate lab has some ferocious poots. I only say ferocious based on the husband's head turning, scary scrunched up face, he makes every time she poots.

So there's that.

Prayer Request

Please pray with me. A friend of mine's dad is sick. He has lung cancer. My friend is Brandi and you can read about her dad on her blog. Her story is sweet - the journey with her dad is one of reconciliation. So please pray for complete healing of his lungs. He's having a scan done, this week, to see if his cancer is responding to treatment. So let's pray that the doctors see a miracle- complete healing. Let her dad be an example of answered prayer - let's see God shine when he goes in for his scan and the doctors say 'it's gone!' and then they hear a sweet, 'thank you Jesus!'

thanks for praying.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Friday, September 5, 2008

no thunda from down unda

Happy Birthday to Me.

My birthday was on Saturday. So was tropical storm Hanna. And because it was, or at least we were told it was going to be, we decided to celebrate on Thursday. Long story short, I had my heart set on a delicious Outback steak dinner with a thunda from down unda for dessert. But when we pulled into the empty parking lot at Outback, I wanted to cry - they had lost their power. I wanted to tell them that they had their days wrong - the storm wasn't coming for two more days! Uggh. So we tried to replicate my early birthday dinner at Chili's. Not the same. Just not the same. But nevertheless, we pigged out.

We got steaks, cheese fries and the molten chocolate lava dessert thing - all in an effort to replicate what would have been our Outback deliciousness.

But ya'll, we ate so much that I thought I was going to be sick. I mean my stomach hurt and pain shot up all the way to my sternum. Oh, serious instant indigestion. Todd, who has a tummy of steel, was all whiney about how his tummy was hurting. I thought he was just following me with my wimpiness. ...ok, backflash: two days ago he went surfing and got rolled in one wave. that wave sent delicious ocean water straight up his nose and into his body. ever since, he's felt queasy. and snotty. and when he bends over, salt water comes out of his nose...still. two days later.

Fast forward: so at 1:30a.m., said Todd wakes from sleep. He's not a midnight pee-er. That's my deal. So when woke up, light-sleeper-mama that I've come to be, woke with him and said, "what are you doing?" His reply, "i think i'm gonna be sick." I thought he was just being dramatic. But nope. A minute later I hear all of Chili's indigestion making its debut into our potty.

What a night. Just so you know, we laughed so hard at dinner. I haven't laughed that good in a long time - which may have had something to do with the indigestion. And while it stunk that we didn't get our Outback, we did make the best of a birthday celebration. But you know, sometimes when things go wrong - they just keep going wrong. Poor 'ole todd. He's all better today. He blames his pukies on the mixture of too much greasiness in the cheese fries, lots 'o sweetness in the molten dessertness and a little salt water sloshing around with the goodness.

...On another note, our 6mo. old baby did a new trick. She pulled up on the side of her little toy box thing - she stood up. That's not supposed to happen at six months - hence the holy cow that came out of my mouth. Enjoy the new pictures and video. http://vimeo.com/1674900

us. married folks. parents.
de-ssert.

my date.


our little lion baby

it doesn't really fit, but it sure is cute.

me and my sweet little baby.

concentrating...look at that tongue ;)