Sunday, May 25, 2008

a few days full of smiles

the weekend isn't completely over - todd has monday off. but i figured i'd put some new pictures up. so far it's been a good few days. it's so much fun being a mom - especially to this happy little baby. mmm mmm. she's sweet sweet love.
never knew that i'd have such a happy and content little baby.

sleepy loralai enduring another round of pictures -
we're obssessed with picture taking.

todd's mom gave us this goofy headband - our child hardly has hair - loralai caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror in her crib...she laughed.

i planted flowers this weekend and had a cute little helper.

jordan and tony came in town (they're moving back - yay!) - we went out to eat w/ them to front street brewery. the perfect close to a beautiful sunday.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

Alright y'all. I don't think I've ever done this. But other than Super Fudge, Raney, Redeeming Love, and a few other fiction books, this has to be one of my all time favorites now. I say that the Secret Life of Bees will tell you more about life than Oprah Winfrey's crazy life book ever could. Set in the south in the 50s, this book had me laughing, in suspense and feeling more love than any book I've read in years. It's that good. You have to read it. It will make you look at the world with more colorful eyes - really.

Here are some quotes that I loved - I think they sort of sum up thoughts on life (especially if you're from the south or ever loved someone you were told you shouldn't or can look back and see how innocent you were at an age - it takes you back to those times)

If you think the country is quiet, you've never lived in it. Tree frogs alone make you wish for earplugs.

What she did ask was "When did you start saying 'shitbucket'?"
I'd never resorted to bad language, though I'd heard my share of it from T.Ray or else read it in the public restrooms. "I'm fourteen now. I guess I can say it if I want to." And I wanted to right that minute. "Shitbucket," I said. "Shitbucket, hellfire, damnation, and son of a mother bitch," said Rosaleen, laying into each word like it was sweet potatoes on her tongue.

Some people have a sixth sense, and some are duds at it. I believe I must have it, because the moment I stepped into the house I felt a trembling along my skin, a traveling current that moved up my spine, down my arms, pulsing out from my fingertips. I was practically radiating. The body knows things a long time before the mind catches up to them. I was wondering what my body knew that I didn't.

I laid my head on his shoulder and wondered how he could stand me. In one short morning I had exhibited insane laughter, hidden lust, pissy behavior, self-pity and hysterical crying. If I'd been trying to show him my worst sides, I could not have done a better job than this.

Field bees were the ones with good navigation skills and tireless hearts, going out to gather nectar and pollen. There was a group called mortician bees whose pitiful job it was to rake the dead bees out of the hive and keep everything on the clean side. Nurse bees, August said, had a gift for nurturing, and they fed all the baby bees. They were probably the self-sacrificing group, like the women at church socials who said, "No, you take the chicken breast. I'm just fine with the neck and gizzard, really."

The sting shot pain all the way to my elbow, causing me to marvel at how much punishment a miniscule creature can inflict. I'm prideful enough to say I didn't complain. After you get stung, you can't get unstung no matter how much you whine about it. I just dived back into the riptide of saving bees.

I said, "If I was a Negro girl---"
He placed his fingers across my lips so I tasted saltiness. "We can't think of changing our skin," he said. "Change the world--that's how we gotta think."

People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It's that hard. If God said in plain language, "I'm giving you a choice, forgive or die," a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.

Next I gathered up the mouse bones that I'd kept in my pockets, realizing I didn't need to carry them around anymore. But I knew I couldn't throw them away either, so I tied them together with a red hair ribbon and set them on the shelf by the fan. I stared at them a minute, wondering how a person got attached to mouse bones. I decided soemtimes you just need to nurse something, that's all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

i think it's important to share.

i'm probably going to make people uncomfortable by writing this, but i figure people never grow if their comfort isn't shifted now and again. so if you find yourself reading this - settle down somewhere comfy. it's a long one.

this month last year i was debating on whether or not to call my dad back. he had been leaving several messages on my machine (which in hindsight, i wish i hadn't deleted) for me to call him back. but the week of may 19th, or so, i just didn't want to call back. i'd been struggling over the month of may with decision of whether or not to call him back. our conversations were intense. and God was on me in a big way to talk to him. but i was selfish - i was tired of talking. i just wanted to pray. honestly, it was easier. i knew that my dad's salvation was being worked out and i was getting exhausted, spiritually, after each conversation with dad.

and as i finally felt the real desperate need to hear dad's voice and to call him back, i started getting visions. (this is where i say you might shake your head if you're not a believer - but i believe in God's ability to speak to us however we'll listen - in vision, dream, scripture, conversation with a friend, etc.). in any case, i would pray and ask God if i should call dad (i always waited for the holy spirit to tell me when to call - otherwise i knew the conversations would sour quickly). and for a week solid i saw something that i didn't want to allow my brain or heart to understand or digest. i saw dad on his couch, hands clasped over his belly, sleeping. dead.

memorial day weekend i got a call from mom. she confirmed my vision. all i could say was, "i knew it. i knew it." and i cried. i remember the first thing i cried: Abba, Father! one of my best friends, carie beth, came over and together with todd we prayed in our backyard. and from that moment forward, life changed.

life had changed long before then, but then it really changed. i was pregnant. i didn't know it. i suspected. i wondered. carie did too, i think. but life changed in ways i wouldn't expect. God used my dad's death to open up my eyes to love i had never experienced - and joy. in more vision, God confirmed my dad's salvation. and then through one of my cousins he confirmed it. i was amazed. not at my dad's salvation - i had claimed that victory in prayer a year before. i was amazed that God was blessing me with such clarity in faith, in his word, in his presence.

and today, i hold my sweet loralai and i cry. i have my dad's long eyebrows - so does she (thankfully i learned how to use tweezers). she also has his long eyelashes.
and there have been days that i hold her and i can't help but cry. in some ways i'm jealous of her. she has a daddy. she has a daddy who craves her presence and tries every day to make sure that he walks so closely to God that leaving His presence will never be an option and therefore will never be an option to walk away from his baby. dad walked. but he didn't first walk away from his family. his first step back was from God - and that is where it all begins. that's where the spiral begins and then evil takes its go and a life can fall down in sad ways. his did. but the beauty - oh the beauty - is that while he walked away from God, God never walked away from him. (lamentations 3) and after my head was firmly pulled out of my toosh, i remembered what it was to love my dad and found new ways to love him. somehow in the year before my dad died, in desperate prayer for him, i loved him all over again.

tomorrow, may 21, marks a year that he's been gone. it's hard to believe. and i still cry thinking about him. my best hug was the one i got from him after my last softball game in highschool. and still, if i look at a picture of him, i can hear him. i can see him. i think my dad was one of the most handsome men i've ever known. i'm sad that joy wasn't his for so long but i celebrate in his eternity.
below is the eulogy i gave at his funeral.
i encourage anyone struggling with addiction to first turn to Christ, to find community and seek help. and if somehow i can help, please let me.


I want to start by taking you back a little bit...

Black hair, bright and deep blue eyes, round cheeks, strong hands.

He wanted to farm for a living but found himself, instead, living vicariously through his McLeod family and helping out in summers as a boy on their farm in Carthage, NC. Something called out to my dad in the hot humid summers of North Carolina and escaping the cold of New Jersey, he made his way to East Carolina University. He found out that the struggles of his youth were making him the man of his future. The trades he was somewhat forced to learn as a child were blossoming into things that he enjoyed and that allowed him to prosper. He found a talent with working on cars at a local shop in greenville - he learned that he could fix things. And the nail pops he hammered in, the dinners he cooked for his siblings...all of those experiences helped him when he moved on to North Carolina. They even helped him to teach his future wife how to cook - or cook better. But she surpassed him quickly. He found affirmation in doing a good job, in being able to see the results - start to finish - of a job well done. Sometimes it was carpentry, sometimes it was in fixing a car, or growing the perfect garden, or mowing the perfect lawn , or growing the perfect daffodil, or having the most obedient and docile dog: Zap. God blessed my dad with amazing talents. His hands were his brush and his canvas was vast.

I was amazed at the vision he held secret in his mind – that he wanted no one to know - but that would finally take shape in the things he created. I remember so clearly walking to our backyard garden at our first house in Red Oak. Dad showed me how to pull a carrot out of the ground. I remember how orange it was and that it was a skinny little thing...i remember walking over to a spicket on the side of the house and washing the carrot as good as we could...and then he told me to just eat it. I was so small – so small. But God blessed me with a vivid memory of my childhood -- and i can remember biting down on that skinny carrot and thinking -- it's has skin on it! I appreciate the newness of my dad so much. I am eternally grateful that he was never afraid to show me life in a new way. He encouraged me to eat all of the veggies from our garden straight from the earth...or boiled, or fried, or stewed...I believe he found the earth to be a delicacy to him.

My husband and I recently put a fence up in our front yard - by ourselves - and we had to use a post hole digger to make holes for the posts that would hold up the fence. I remember that early into the project I found myself overcome with a sense of pride - a sense of joy. I recognized that I was sharing in the same emotion that my dad held when he was creating, or building. And as Todd would open the post hole digger and than slam it down into the ground it made this noise - shhhhhssshhh -- i never realized how much the sound of a shovel going into dirt would remind me of my dad. That sounds would remind me of dad. But it did and i celebrated in that. I told him that I was so excited to be doing this and sharing in the joy with my dad. Bryan and I didn't always work in the midst of my dad's projects, but we would stand back and watch a lot. And just by watching him, you could learn so to measure - the preciseness of an angle - how to take old wood and make it new - how to take what someone thought was useless and make it priceless. How to take an orchard and transform it into a race track for remote control race cars. He laughed and cringed as I took off on our three wheeler and my brother spun around on our four wheeler. He smiled with satisfaction when he finally taught my brother how to drive the tractor - finally someone else to mow those acres of grass! He chuckled when he outsmarted my brother when bryan thought he'd gotten away clean with a night out on the town - and he frowned when he knew he had to ground him. (i sort of laughed). He made his way to all of our softball games and tennis matches and made sure he could keep up with what seed we were or what our batting average was, how much weight we could bench press or how many minutes we could run without stopping. He taught us to ski and pulled us for endless our on our ski tube – whipping us all over the river and even treating us to a yacht wave or two. I can see him driving straight ahead, shirtless, his back so tanned (he called that his Indian tan) and his face smiling so big as he could hear the faint sounds of us laughing hysterically with fear and joy...and his thumb going up and down asking us...faster, slower, stop? “KEEP GOING!!!” he wanted to please us and he tried desperately to find a way to do so.

But as much joy that lived in him, i remember looking into his eyes and seeing a sadness - a pain. As a little one, i can remember the quiet in him. I remember him sitting on the back porch and listening to him have melancholy conversations on the telephone or just watch him as his eyes stared off into the distance. And there came a time when the joy that used to last for weeks, would last only for days - the time between good and bad seemed to close in a gap. As a teenager, i remember wanting to desperately reach him. I would pray at night and ask God to save my family - to make us ok. To make us last. I couldn't imagine holidays without each other - but i couldn't imagine the sadness existing any longer. Those days used to make my heart bitter and pained – I hurt for my dad and i hurt for myself and my family. as much as we wanted to deny it, the days of summer jubilee were fading. And as much as I clung to my dad, as much as i begged and pleaded with him, chased after him, grabbed his arm and cried for him to come home...he would hide behind his fear, his anger, his broken heart...and he would flee. And each time he fled, his heart grew harder and more convinced that the creation he had begun would never be finished. It was as if he was allowing himself to not finish his greatest project, because he was so desperately afraid that he wouldn't be able to make it perfect like the it was probably better left unfinished. And I think about the days when I realized that he would walk away and leave things unfinished – I thought about the joy he felt in his finished work before...his carpentry, cars, his garden...and I watched as all of that started fading into the distance. It was as if a life that was lived was moving further into the memory bank and less into the present. It was so difficult to watch - to be a part of. So we prayed. We prayed for hope and for understanding. And Jesus says that we may ask anything in his name and He will do it (John 14:14). I remember doubting that faith. Really God? Anything? He tells us to come to him, humbled and obedient and asking with pure hearts and he will set before us the desires that lie deep within us.

And just like he promised, as soon as we began to pray, He began to answer. It wasn't completely clear to me - what the Father was revealing - until the past few months ....and the last year. When I finally began to walk with jesus - when i let down my guard, controlled my tongue and cleared my heart of the lies that I had let sit there for so long, I realized that the promises that Jesus made were true - that his salvation was more real than ever and that in me sat eternity. God tells us that in us he has set eternity - that heaven is in us. Ecc. 3:11. I wondered for so long what that meant. How can heaven/eternity be in me and i be a person living and breathing on this world? Is God like a magic 8 ball -- I ask to see a glimpse and he will reveal it, or do I get to open my eyes and just know all of the secrets of eternity? I have pondered that for some time now and I finally received the answer this past saturday. After I found out that my dad had died, I sat down and cried a cry so deep and hard that I thought i was losing myself. And then i heard - in you is eternity - all you have to do is ask. So I asked, Father please show me a glimpse of yourself...and before i could open my eyes or finish my last sob, I realized that in my dad was eternity. That before the kingdom was, God had created us and eternity was set in us. So that when the truth of the gospel was spoken to us, we would somehow be able to recognize it. So that when we were hugged and loved in ways we thought we never deserved, we could somehow recognize the selfless and eternal love of our maker. So that through a telephone call, a card sent in the
mail...we would glimpse eternity. My heart rested as I sat on my back porch steps on saturday. I sat in the midst of eternity being revealed. God reminded me that: Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces hope and HOPE does not disappointed because of the love that was poured out to us through Jesus Christ. i realized that in all the times that my dad
had turned away from me...that when i tried to reach for his arm as he ran from our house and our family...that it was not me he was turning from. He was running from God. God was the final project and he could feel that in his family and it scared him to face eternity - so he ran.

And as I spoke to dad one night after my wedding – he challenged me telling me that he qualified himself as "good" by giving to charities and by giving to missionaries. I asked him if they were Christian missionaries and he said YES. And I asked him why? Why give to christians if you don't believe in christ? Why support something you think is hypocritical? I challenged him back, you see. and from there...from that night forward, our lives were changed. for each conversation following that one, we would start off by talking about superficial things, but then would go directly into talking about Jesus. Dad asked me one night through tears, “So why do you think bad people go to heaven? why do you think someone who abused a child should go to heaven? they don't deserve it.” And my heart broke. i could hear the pain that he had been carrying for years. his burden was so heavy. and so I told him...”dad, Jesus is real and i promise you that in your childhood he was never far. that he stood with you every step you took… he loves you and he wants you. He wants your attention. i challenge you to cry out to the Jesus you think doesn't exist - he WILL answer you. will you do that?” And after silence, a silence that usually means he’s avoiding, he said, “yea, maybe so. maybe I will.” And we talked a little while longer about eternity - that God set eternity for dad. That eternity was in him and for him...that he just needed to call out to his savior. and i reminded him that while his heart hurt desperately bad for those that had hurt him...that their salvation was between themselves and Jesus...but for dad, all it will take is a mustard seed of faith and his savior will bring him home.

We didn't speak for some time...but our next conversation was just as beautiful. we talked about living in america...about living free. And as sure as we spoke words of freedom, God showed up and presented himself in conversation. it was as if he was saying to me: ask him again, ashley. ask him to cry out to me. And so i told him that i believed that God was calling out to him...i told him that he WOULD be saved. That he would see heaven for eternity and that the God of the universe was undoubtedly calling on him. and he got really quiet and said, "you know, i used to believe in God." and I said, "i believe you still do. but i believe that you are scared and i believe that you hear Jesus calling you but you keep turning your head from him. i believe God is calling you." and then he said as serious as I've ever heard him get with matters of the heart (because he normally did his best to avoid intimate conversations) he said: "moment of truth?" "moment of truth" i believe he is too.”

...and in those last phone calls, those last moments of grace...i believe that God was helping to complete a beautiful project. He was showing dad that it was good. that even if his face lay in ashes and soot, that even if his walk was so entangled and messy and his heart so heavy with burden and regret...none of that mattered if he just chose to cry out to the one whose walk is sweet, whose burden is light and who desperately wants to hold his son. Jesus says that the door to enter is narrow - but with faith as small as the last breath, his arms are open and he will welcome you home with a reunion like nothing our minds could ever fathom.

I say this knowing that in the last moments of my dad's life, Jesus was working so diligently on his heart. he was revealing things to him that had already been set in him, but that he had forgotten or chose to push away for fear of them being too much for him to handle...for fear that he would have to finish what he had started. but i believe that dad was humbled so much...that he finally wanted to finish. he wanted to see what it felt like to for, if but for one moment, believe and trust and hope and love and be loved. And so I believe he cried out: “Jesus, is this real? are you real? help me. save me.” ...and then I believe Jesus replied: “it is real, it is good, i am truth, i am light...Bill, I AM.”

And as tenderly as he arrived in this world, he arose to a sunrise more brilliant than anything the Pamlico River has ever ever displayed.

Lamentations 3
1 [a] I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD."
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

Galatians 4:6
6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba,[a] Father."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Slower Sprint

I went for a run tonight while Todd held the baby. I say that I went for a run because that’s just my phrase for – I’m going for a walk and if the legs abide, I will try to run. So I tried. And it felt really good. The wind was blowing. It wasn’t too hot and I had some good music to listen to. But my sprint is slower.

At the end of my run, I always like to sprint. I think it feels good to push myself at the end of a run and go as hard and fast as my legs will take me. But I noticed that the speed I had a year ago isn’t there. I guess being pregnant for ten months takes a toll on the body. And so I suppose it will take time to regain that speed and my endurance. Just as it took time to have descent endurance, it will take time to build it back up.

On my cool down walking back home I started feeling relief. But not from my legs. I felt a confidence about my marriage and my ability to be a good mom – to have a strong family. God talks clearly about the influence of a wife, a mother, in her home. It’s powerful. And he talks about the influence that a husband, a father, has in his home. It’s powerful. Both roles are so important to a family – to children.

And as I walked home I felt God whispering in me – you will build it back up. My endurance will strengthen with time, with runs, with practice. And so will my family. So will my relationship with my husband and my ability to mother and minister to my baby. The pressure isn’t on me to be a perfect wife or mother. The pressure was lifted when Jesus lifted it for us – when we were saved. Now the pressure mounts when I am the one pressuring myself. When my expectations are too high on myself, I can feel my legs slowing down and my self-esteem lessening. God tells us to put our trust in Him so that he might work through us. If I will allow myself to be fully God’s, then none of the pressure that I feel will exist – and it certainly won’t interrupt the race I’m running.

You see, I’m running a race to completion. I’m in this life to make my mark and to cross the finish line with boldness – not with a walk or crawl or a meek final step that said ‘oh yea, she finished but only because she had to.’ No. I’m claiming victory over this life. I’m working at this marriage because I was so blessed to find a man who promised to love me forever and who joined a covenant with me before God. I’m claiming victory in our marriage because anything less would mean that the pressure mounted up and we tried taking control. But this time, this family is going to let God lead the way and leave the pressure behind. We’re going to run the race together so that we grow together and towards God. There will be no more disease, no more destruction, no more deceit, no more anger, no more unforgiveness or hate. There will be only love and peace built on days spent in the presence of the one who gave us such spirits.

It won’t happen in a day or in a month – but through the course of the race, obstacles surely standing in our way, we will learn to grow stronger together, building our endurance and persevering in a marriage, a family, that will pass down through the next generations, love. Love will abide in our family. Our children will know the heart of God because they saw it in their parents. And they’ll remember that it wasn’t a love that was bought or given without thought – it was delicately formed through lives that meditated on the love of the one who IS love.

Hallejuah, yea? Yea.

Hebrews 10:35-39
35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38But my righteous one[f] will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."[g] 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

the weekend

what a fun weekend. todd and i threw in the towel to yard work and house work and spent the weekend together. not that we aren't always together on the weekend - but this was more of a purposeful together. we even watched a movie together. it was really nice. on saturday we went to greenfield lake where we walked part of the 5 mile trail (i didn't think this mama could handle 5 miles with a stroller and heat) ;) on our way, we made friends with an older fella fishing on one of the bridges. he actually caught something....while an alligator watched about 30 feet away. it gave me the willies just looking at that beast. i have a healthy fear of the water and the creatures that chomp beneath. ...people were out and about - kids playing on the playground, raccoons running up trees and stopping to stare (ok, they're pretty creepy looking), people walking their dogs and really cute little puppies and some people walking their kids.

then on sunday we got up and went to church and then came home and napped - aaah naps. and to finish up the day, we went to flaming amy's for a mother's day treat. yum - who can pass up ginormous burritos and chips?! loralai was a champ. she hung out and smiled and did her sweet little baby thing while we ate and went about our day. man, we really are so blessed. she is such a good baby. when we got home, we realized that we hadn't taken any pictures of loralai with me on mother's day - so, we got her in her diaper while we were changing her into her jammies. then, of course, todd and loralai had to have a little down time on his favorite spot- the hammock.

a good weekend. a sweet husband. a sweet baby. life is doing alright around here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

the sweetest love

my sweet mama kay

The night that we started a sleep schedule with loralai, I cried. I cried because she was crying. I cried realizing that as much as I wanted to hold her and soothe her, it wasn’t healthy for me to stop the tears every time. I knew that at some point I had to let her learn how to get herself to sleep and then back to sleep. And then I cried more tears realizing that this moment was the beginning of letting go.

But why? Why would God give me such a new life only to tell me that I had to already learn to let go of her?

It was a bittersweet realization that Loralai was God’s first and wouldn’t always be mine to hold and comfort and soothe and smother with kisses. And then I cried some more. I cried for my mom. I finally understood her tears for me. And my heart broke – I somehow felt immensely selfish and horrible for every mean word I had ever spoken to her. I felt terrible for every temper tantrum I pitched in a dressing room (‘cause Lord knows I threw ‘em!), for every slam of the door, stop of the foot up the stairs…every disobedient act that I acted upon. So as I laid in bed that night, I emailed my mom to tell her thank you.

I realized her love – a mama’s love.

I firmly believe that God gives us all the capacity to love and to know the love of a mother even if we aren’t mothers. But I can now honestly stand in line with every mom that ever was and testify that the love that God has for us must be nearly painful for him to endure. It must be because if it’s more than moms love their babies, then His love is so enormous. So so enormous. I’m overwhelmed even trying to fathom his love for me – for us – simply based on the love I have for Loralai.

So in my email I thanked my mom for putting up with all of the tantrums I threw, the selfishness she endured, the hormone rages, the pity parties, the teenage awkwardness, or anything that I ever may have done that ever made her feel like I didn’t love her. I wanted her to know, so desperately, that ever since our eyes first met on that afternoon in 1979, I fell just as much in love with my mama as she did with me. And I loved it when she held me when I was little – I still remember how it felt when she rocked me in our short little blue rocking chair. And I still remember how it felt when she would tickle my arm for endless pleading minutes before bedtime. And I still remember just how her voice sounds when she would make up countless stories about this little worm (I loved those stories). And I still remember how I loved going into her bathroom in the mornings before school, while she got ready, and falling back asleep under my grandmom’s satin robe that she saved – I felt so safe under that robe and in my mom’s presence. And I still remember how I loved seeing my mom at every one of my softball games and how thankful I was for the cold cold ice water that only she would remember to bring. And I still thank God for every turkey sandwich, granny smith apple and pretzel lunch my mom packed for me. And I can still remember how it felt for my mom to rub my head and run her hands through my hair – and every now and then if I’m lying near her, she’ll still do that and somehow that just makes the whole world seem better.

When I emailed my mom that night, I wanted her to know that I loved her because now I knew. Now I knew how hard it was to let go and how much courage my mom must have had the first time I went to school, or had my first date, or went to college, or got married…and I will probably never forget the look on her face as I road out of our driveway on the way to the hospital to be induced (the first time – ha!). I remember thinking – that was a look of both pride and sadness. She was so excited that her baby was having a baby, but then again…it was another moment of having to let go.

It’s hard being a mom. And yet the most blessed job in all the world. To be given the privilege of being able to grow life in your womb and birth it into the world is incredibly sacred. You know the moment that you find out that you’re pregnant that life will never be the same – and it isn’t. It’s much more rich. Your ministry changes. Before you ministered to others (and still you do), but now you minister to your babies because it is their souls that you want saved. Life’s focus changes. And while it’s sleep deprived, emotional, hormonal and probably causes for more dressing room tantrums, it IS the greatest gift God would ever bestow upon any woman.

I’m so thankful to be a mom and I’m so grateful for mine.

Isaiah 66:13
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

.for jordan.

loralai's aunt jordan sent loralai the cutest gift right after she was born. and she gladly sports it on her toosh. i hope you like the picture, jo jo - and the chubby legs :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

she found her voice.

truly. these ARE the days. i think being a mom is what i was made for. that little smile just melts my heart.

she found her voice. and she loves using it :)

Monday, May 5, 2008


field of daffodils. minus the daffodils.

I went home this past weekend. Home meaning Greenville. Home is Wilmington too. But when I say that I’m going “home”, I usually mean Greenville. I was going home because my best friend from home was flying in from Portland. Katie. She had a few days off of work and found a cheap flight and decided to make a visit home. Home is also Greenville for her – though she was born in Minnesota. But for some reason, despite where we’ve lived or the places we’ve been, home has always been Greenville – really Winterville. Only we tell people Greenville because no one has ever really heard of Winterville; so it’s easier to just say Greenville. But Winterville is where we grew up just down the road from each other. She lived on a road – Orchard Lane – where I went to preschool. In walking distance from the preschool was a wooded field that would bloom full of daffodils in the Spring. But Katie's and my paths crossed after I was done with Orchard Lane and entering a summer camp. We learned to tread water together – I was terrified.

On my drive home, my first weekend trip alone with the baby, I had a little bit of quiet time to think…because the baby slept as I drove. And on my way I had new perspective – that seems to happen when I drive home and even moreso now that I’m a mom. But on my drive I laughed – three times I saw horses. Not so odd – but the odd part was that I saw a horse tied to a front porch grazing on grass in a front yard. Then I saw horses in a pasture (normal) and then a little further down the road I saw a horse meandering in the field (yes field) of a used car lot. So odd. And because it was Saturday when I was traveling, I saw all kinds of yard sales. One yardsale was in front of a mobile home graveyard. There’s about 3+ acres of land near a little town I pass through that has all of these rusted, window busted out, insulation hanging out mobile homes. And in front of them was about 5 people – one woman w/ a cigarette dangling from her lips – setting up their yardsale. Among the items to sell – two salon style hairdryers. You know, the kind that you sit in the chair and have the big round half globe thing come down over your noggin. That struck me as odd. I mean who goes to a yardsale for that? And if they buy it – what do they say, ‘oh yes! Finally – I’ve been lookin’ fer one o’ these thangs for my bathroom.’ Huh? And the final odd yard sale was one set up under a funeral tent – you know those tents that are set up at graveside? Right. One of those. Seriously.

But as many odd things as I passed on my drive home – the happier I was to be going home. It’s on these back roads that I’ve done so much thinking over the years. And here I was, a mom, driving my baby to my hometown. And along the way I passed two signs. One said, Jesus is Lord. The other said, I enjoyed the wedding. Invite me to the marriage. – God.

Growing up, I would say that I was from a small town – but it’s growing now. It’s spreading more every time I visit. But some things never change and I like that. It’s comforting. I like stability – I suppose we all do. Predictability. And some things just are – and home is one of them. Like I know just how my brother and sister-n-law will react when I drive up to see them. I know just how comfortable I’ll feel at my mom’s house. And I know just how easy I’ll feel driving around town. I don’t go back to “old” me – we all have the old us…the us everyone knew growing up (maybe the jokester, or the one who was kind of goofy, or absent-minded, etc.)…but it’s at home that I get a feeling of me. And I think that’s necessary. As much of me as I am here in Wilmington – there is a reminder of my childhood that I get to breathe in when I’m at home and I need that.

Katie visited with me and Loralai for a good while on Saturday. And like always, we pick up like we saw each other only 5 minutes ago and then we inevitably talk on the phone later as if we’re still living 5 miles down the road. I only wish that was so – b/c if it was, Katie would come to my house in her beat up old 1980 something jetta with tin foil on the antenna and busted out starter that made a hideous screeching noise when she started up the VW. And then we’d turn on the oldies station – b/c it was one of the only ones we could pick up – and we would drive around town (b/c that was pretty much all there was to do in a small town) and be completely content just being together. Doing nothing. I guess growing up in a small town helps you learn to appreciate the simple things b/c you had to learn to create your own sense of fun – and it had to be simple b/c complicated, other than family drama or boys and high school, just didn’t exist.

It was a good weekend. And it ended with me stopping at McDonald’s, ordering a decaf coffee and a sausage and egg biscuit and greeting the drive thru lady – only to realize I went to elementary school with her. And then I called my husband to tell him this: “todd – I have a mind like a steal trap! I was just at mcdonald’s, drove up to the window and there wasa girl I went to elementary school with. And so I say to her, “is your name teresa?” she said, “yeeess.” I say, “is your last name holden?” she says, “yessss.” Then I told her that I went to school with her and her brother, lynwood. She told me he was living in Mississippi – and I was waiting on napkins and we just got to talking…OH MY GOSH! I STOLE FROM MCDONALDS!” …just as I was telling todd about my steal trap mind, I was miles away from mcdonalds, looked down and had TWO meal bags. Teresa asked me, in the middle of our conversation “did you get your order yet?” I told her no b/c my baby brain mind was mush – but really, the reason we were in conversation was b/c I had asked for napkins. I had already gotten my meal. But she handed me another biscuit and then we said bye …and it wasn’t until I was bragging about what a great memory I had that I realized that I had two biscuits. Oh well. Thanks McDonalds.

All of this to say, I’m from a small town. I wasn’t raised in the city. I didn’t know what Abercrombie and Fitch was until college. I thought a tshirt and shorts that fit was a good outfit. A good weekend was a car ride with Allyson and Katie, a stop at dairy queen and a good movie. Somewhere between high school and now I made plenty of mistakes. Lots. I lost my way and forgot who I was. I even toyed with my faith. But because I was sealed years ago, God kept working on my heart. And blessed me immeasurably. And still, Katie is one of my dearest friends. That field of daffodils wasn’t blooming but was as beautiful as ever. My family is still my treasure and I love going home because now it’s not just going home to mom’s…it’s an adventure filled with a Turner, Wyatt and Loralai and a soon to be baby girl (name is still a secret).

Aaah, home.

aunt katie and loralai. mm mm sweet hugs.

aunt katie and loralai relaxing.

aunt julie and loralai - and the baby in her belly.

sunscreen covered turner and wyatt smooching loralai.