Thursday, November 12, 2009

learning to love.

we have a little girl. i know you know that. but she is such a little girl. she likes to put on our shoes. she likes to put on her pretend high heel shoes that her GiGi (my mom) gave her. she likes to put on her princess tiara, to put on my shirts, to pull my hair up from behind my head and tell me "i doin yer hair mommy", to dance dance dance to music and to make her daddy's heart melt just with her smile.

we're seeing so much sweetness pour out of her little life. and she has no idea that her capacity to love is changing our hearts: todd's and mine. but she's changing us. because as he and i stand in the kitchen hugging after he comes home from work, we hear, "aaawwww. huuug." and then our little loralai runs over to us, puts her arms around both our legs and looks up and says "hug?" so we pick her up and the three of us hug.

and just when todd is least expecting it, loralai will walk over to him and hug his leg or his waist or his neck and say "aaawww." and to hear her talk to her daddy on the phone is like listening to a little girl pick up the phone to talk to her best friend. you've never heard a child talk so much - on the phone, at least. she clams up for all other people, on the phone, but not todd. nope. she gets out a book and starts "reading" it to him. saying, "see daddy? see da cow? yea? yea!" she smooches the phone, tells him she loves him and firmly reminds him to "make da bacon daddy!" he melts. i smile.

her love is constantly shifting our hearts. knowing how precious our every word is around her makes us want to love better. it makes us want to know Love better so that we can teach her, form her and be a safe place for her to land when the world is too much. a safe place to come when the questions finally start.

i know that all parents love their babies. our love probably isn't any more unique than yours, but it's ours. and we know no other baby. and i don't think that todd or i could ever imagine where our marriage would be if God hadn't given us this life that points directly back to Him.

after all, when you start making forts and teaching a little one to cook and manners and you start hearing: daddy, make a port? mommy, git in da port, ok? daddy, i need more crackas, peeeeez. thank yeeewww!: then you know that God created you for something more than just existing.

He made you to Live.

the other day i talked to loralai about being afraid. i reminded her that when she wakes in the night, that if she's afraid, to just say Jesus or to sing (or hum) the Jesus loves me song. and two nights ago, around 4a.m., i heard our sweet one wake from sleep and cry. but i waited. and from the monitor i heard the most angelic sound. it was the voice of the baby i carried in my womb and she was sweetly humming Jesus loves me.

and so she and i both fell back asleep to the reminder of the love of Jesus.

and just because i think it will make you smile:




Saturday, October 31, 2009

a love letter.

this blog isn't so much a blog as it is a copy and paste. it's a letter i wrote to family and friends, yesterday. and it's about a friend of mine, our church, and our Jesus. and it's a beautiful story of redemption. i hope it, and the video linked, will somehow move you one step closer to Love. He's waiting.

---------------

hi everyone,
i have some good news i want to share with you.
last weekend in wilmington was something else. as a matter of fact, my heart is pounding as i write this to you. so here's what went down. and where ever you stand right now, please just hear me (read me) out. know my motives and my heart as your friend, and then let what i have to say and what you hear, following, soak in. it's surely to change you.

in 1997, i had the sweet privilege to meet a girl who i thought was a total california cheerleader dyed blonde goof. well ok, she was all of those things. but she was more. she was hilarious, insanely intelligent, beautiful, tender-hearted and loyal. it's one of those hindsight things where you look back ten+ years later and know for sure and certain that it was no coincidence in your meeting. our lives didn't happenstance on the other's. we were 17. and last sunday, we were thirty. it was her birthday. and in so many ways, it was her BIRTH day.

we roomed together for a while in college but then went our separate ways. i was saved then and wasn't walking but i did have some convictions. though they were probably weak at best, one of them was to not mess with drugs. hard drugs. and i walked away from that living situation broken. i remember grieving her because our friendship pretty much dissolved after our rooming situation changed. i can't wrap my words around what is in my heart and what i want to share with you. so please bare with my loss for words. and forgive me if i lose you in any of this or if things don't tie together. but this is the truth.

i called her carter. and when i moved back to wilmington, after having been gone for the better part of four years (post-college), our lives merged again. there i was working with her. side-by-side. we made decisions together, walked together, she took care of my maddie dog when i went back and forth to winston as my grandad was dying. our friendship rekindled - as did my walk with the Lord. God brought me back to Port City church. and my spirit was refreshed with God's word. the friends i thought i would be hanging out with when i moved back to wilmington weren't who i found myself with. instead, God did something totally different to me. He pushed me toward things i was uncomfortable with. making new friends. but carter, she stayed constant. and she started to ask questions. she asked questions about God.

and it would be another two years, after she was married and i was married, that God would grip her in a way that neither of us - anyone - thought He would grip her. in her deepest grief, after losing her baby, she didn't find answers in Oprah, or a song or "in time you'll get through this" but God. it was somewhere in the quiet of her tears that she whispered for the Lord to please be near, and He was. in fact, He was always near. He was just waiting for her call. for her to recognize the Love that He was. and her life changed.

i don't know if i've ever seen a transformation, in a life, so intimately than i've seen in carter. to walk with her now is so different. to say that i'm blessed by her friendship is so small. but i don't know another word other than blessed that falls under the scope of the holiness of the One who saved us both and redeemed us from sin. i laugh so hard with carter. we share tears when we worry over our girls. we push each other in our roles as wives and direct each other back to God when our perspective is skewed. to call her my sister is an answered prayer. she is comfort and genuine and loving and kind and courageous. because for years she carried a secret. few knew of what her college experience looked like, at times. but on sunday, her thirtieth birthday, the tenth anniversary of our church's existence, she stood before a crowd of witnesses, two thousand or more in size, and publicly professed victory over something that once held her in bondage by guilt and fear and regret. but now she stands completely refreshed, redeemed and no longer identifies with her past but rather with who she really is. she is a child of a God. God's daughter. and living free.

i say all of this (i know. it's a lot.) because if it even impacts one of you, then that's enough. but most of you know her. you'll recognize her and her husband when you see her in this video. http://www.vimeo.com/7315415
most of your call her hilary. but the blessed of you can now call her Sister. because if you are in Christ, then that is who she is to you. and what a blessing that is. i hope that the rest of the testimonies that you see will transform you - will soften your heart and ready you.

our Lord loves you. whether you want Him to or not, He does.

God's peace,
Ashley

Monday, October 26, 2009

over us.

this past sunday at our church, a beautiful thing happened. we celebrated ten years of our church being a church and doing just what God does - using the ordinary for something extraordinary. because He is extraordinary.

i don't know, really, how to explain what church was like on sunday. it really was one of those days that you had to be there for what took place to really resonate with your spirit. but i want to share a little glimpse of what it was like to sit there and be a part of that day of worship.

when i was 19 i went to Port City Community Church for the first time. i was a believer, saved, but not walking. and i remember that i enjoyed church. it was engaging and fun. and it was the only church i visited more than once, while in college. and i moved away for some time after college and when i returned, God called me back to Port City. i can't explain it. i just remember not wanting to go to that church and yet knowing that it would be dumb of me to not try it again, at least, just once more. and so for about five years now, it's been my church home. to just say that makes me happy. i've never had a church where i called home. and it's a privilege to call Port City home.

so on sunday we had a guest speaker come - a great man of faith from Africa with whom our church walks with and helps in their efforts to build up God's kingdom in Kenya. to hear pastor jackson's account of faith - how and why he came to Port City - i don't know the words. it was just amazing. let's just say that he heard God's calling, sold his car, got on an airplane, flew into the united states and then phoned our pastor and basically said, "i'm coming to you. to my people." our pastor laughed - we couldn't be his people...we had no money. we were a tiny church then. but we were. God had spoken it.

and isn't it so - when God wants it to be, it will be. small, big, short, skinny, fat, speech impediment, shy, loud...He uses it all.

on Sunday, He used it all.

i won't tell with visual clarity, because I know that she will want to tell it, explicitly, eventually. but this is the truth of what we experienced. on sunday, i watched a girl, a woman, a friend of mine who i met when i was 17, glorify God so boldly along side her husband that i didn't cry. i wept. and it was tears of excitement and grief and joy and overwhelming love. she displayed her testimony and the victory that God's grace gave to her life in a way that i will never forget. i screamed a hallelujah cheer as loud as my voice would carry from my seat as she showed the world that the enemy has no hold over her life. but that through God's love and mercy and truth - she is free.

and as we sang in a body of worship to our Lord, i felt it. the presence of God's Holy Spirit was so potent and holy and sweet.

the only thing i can compare it to is when God first created the world and He said that
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was a]">[a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

....in that sweet room of worship, it's true, the spirit of the living God was hovering over His creation. and it was good.

in the presence of God, it is good. in His presence, there is rest. and it is good. in His arms, there is comfort and protection. it is good. He is our shield. our refuge. our salvation.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

and my shoulders relaxed. it was love.

one christmas, back in the day, i think i was 14 or 15, our family got a new computer. and it had a microphone and speakers. i know. crazy high tech stuff! but it was back then. and it even had a cd player. and that christmas i got a deanna carter cd. oh if you don't know her - just sing real sweet and soft and add some country twang to your voice and there you have it. i loved her cd. strawberry wine.

and so there i was in our rec room - the third floor that my dad transformed into a play/rec room - listening to the cd. and up walks my grandad. you had to walk through our guest room to get to the stairs to our rec room. so naturally after eating a big christmas breakfast, grandad needed a nap. but who gets a nap when a teenager is listening to country music just up the stairs off your bedroom? so he just came on up to see what the music was all about. and without judging or smirking, he just sat down on our futon that was laid in the position of a beach reclining chair. he laid back and fell asleep. but do you know what he fell asleep to? me singing through the microphone. little 15 year old me singing my heart out along with deanna carter. i remember being shy but he didn't say anything and i think his silence just made it possible for me to sing through the silliness and just keep enjoying our new christmas present. our computer (that likely took up the entire desk it sat on: the screen, that is).

and then there were the years that i moved to high point, nc which put me only 20 minutes from grandad's house - then in advance, nc. and i would stop by for lunch or to visit on the weekends or for dinner or whenever - and even if he was in his robe, or just eating breakfast, or settling in for a nap, he never turned me away. ever. he always said with a big loud voice "hello ashley!!" and if he wasn't already snug in bed, he always stood and walked my way and greeted me with a kiss. but my favorite was the time that i tried on a dress for him - when he took me shopping with my mom - and he was stunned by how pretty he thought the dress looked on me that he walked over to me and kissed me softly right on the soft place between your collar bone and your neck.

i don't know what love for a grandbaby is - but i know what love for my grandad is. and it still rolls on. and i want that for my babies. for my love to always roll on.

but how do you know? how do you know if you're loving right? i think that's a check you make with God. i think that's something you ask of Him to search in you. and He will. and gently, when he readies you, He'll show you where you're lacking and how to love more. you just have to ask and be open for the correction and teaching.

last week, though, i got a glimpse of something sweet. and it reminded me of grandad lying on that futon and of the sweetness of his kiss on my neck. but it came from my little one.

she was tired at the end of a day. and while i held her with her legs straddling my belly, she put her head on my chest and said, "mommy, sing the hmm hmmm song." i was confused because i didn't know what the hmm hmm song was. at first. but then she started humming and it was clear. the first three notes she hummed were clear - the rest, not so much - and i knew what she wanted. she wanted me to hum Jesus Loves Me.

every night as todd or i are putting Loralai to bed, or nap time, we hum Jesus Loves Me one time through and then lay her down. and when she tuckered out one day, that's all she needed. that little sweetness that reminded her of where it was safe to rest. and while i hummed holding my first born in our hallway, staring at prego pictures of myself, i just sighed. what a gift.

what a precious insight into the heart of my baby and into the gift that God is giving me.

God asks us to create a safe place for our children. a place where they can grow in security, in comfort, in peace. a place of correction that is gentle and not demeaning. a place where they can be silly and themselves when they might hold back in the world.

my grandad did that with me. he loved me even when i was singing some silly country song. and he kissed me and greeted me with affection that made me feel like the most special girl.

i want to do that for my children. let them grow and be and kiss them and love them so that they always feel beautiful. because no matter what the world calls them, i want them to know that all that matters is that they are their Savior's beloved. and that's enough.

and that understanding of love will first come from the ones that God has given them to. us.

what a privilege.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

i'm not twenty.

i'm definitely not twenty. and i'll tell you how i know. at twenty i did things like: drink a lot, party a lot, listen to music loudly, ignore God daily, retail therapy, go to the beach by myself whenever i wanted, and didn't stare in the mirror at growing wrinkles or gray hairs.

because at thirty. things have changed. and thank goodness for that.

i didn't realize how much i had changed in ten years until i realized how much i changed in ten years. i know. very profound sentence. but it's true.

at thirty, i'm: married, a mother, walking with God, a stay-at-home mom, i have two dogs, laundry to do, a house to keep up, in-laws, a blog (ha.), i rarely shop unless it's for food, the husband or the daughter, i rarely go to the beach alone (as a matter of fact i've been two times without child in the past year), but i love going to the beach now because it means seashells and wowing over birds and waves and God's creation, and i listen to music but it's most always a form of worship music and if not, or if so, it's never super loud because almost always at the end of a day i have a headache from talking so much to my favorite little girl and who needs to promote a headache earlier than need be?

so that's that. thirty years have come and gone. and time passed and in that time God has done what He said he was going to do - help the old me go away and the new me grow. though i'm not done growing yet. and that's a good thing.

so let me tell you quickly about my birthday weekend.
friday night, todd took me out to eat. i suspected a surprise of some sort. but he assured me that he wasn't slick enough to pull off a surprise. and so when we made it to our restaurant and sat at a table for two and i looked all around and saw no one i knew; i figured that it really would just be a sweet dinner for two. but about 5-10 minutes later, while i was looking at the menu...in walks my mom, my brother and my sister-n-law with huge smiles on their faces. and my face, well i just had my jaw hanging wide open. i was speechless. and totally taken. it was awesome!

we have a really small family. it's just me, my brother and my mom on my side of the family. a long time ago, my dad's side of the family stopped keeping in touch with us; so our extended family shrunk quite a bit. so now when birthdays or holidays come around, we always want to be together. i just can't really put words on how sweet it was to see the three of them walk through the door. i felt so special. and so surprised! they all (ok, my brother didn't b/c he never talked to me before coming to town) LIED to me to get here. my mom told me she was sick - that she was running a fever. her thought was that if i thought she was sick, then i would surely think she was staying at home because there's no chance that she's going to travel if sick. BUT, she told me she was feeling yucky the day AFTER she had told me that an assistant teacher at the school where she is based had died of flu related symptoms. so for 2 days i cried over my mom. and PRAYED so hard. i had her dying of swine flu within 24 hours. i had todd holding me in bed while i cried and he prayed for her. that woman. sheesh. when it was all said and done, it was really pretty funny. and she felt terrible for my being so upset but it worked and they pulled a big surprise off :) [on a real note, though, there really was a woman who died at her school, so if you would lift up her family. it was a sudden death. and i know that grief must be heavy.]

me and my sweet mama.
birthday cake number 1
the sweet loveable liars. :)

on saturday, todd, loralai and i got up and went to the beach for half of the day. i love going to the beach with them. it's just the best. and morning beach trips are better than anything - coffee, cool breeze, then the sun pokes out, you warm up, play and then head home for lunch. ...but while todd took the short one back to put money in the meter, i called my mom to tell her thank you, again, for coming. and as i was talking to her, i realized something. i had my bikini bottoms on inside out! oh heaven help me. as i was telling mom my revelation, she said, "well is the white panty liner thing showing?!" GASP. it wasn't. thank you jesus that i was wearing a black suit and there wasn't one of those little liners. and you couldn't so much tell that it was inside out other than the dang TAG flapping in the breeze. todd suggested i go in the ocean and do the 'ole switcharoo of the suit. no thanks. i opted to not chance losing my britches to the ocean's current and just wear my inside out embarrassment.

proof that i was there. that i drank coffee. that i wore a black bathing suit. did you reeeeaaally think i was going to show you the tag flapping in the breeze? come on now. ;)

they have deep conversations.

that afternoon i went on a shopping spree - by myself. i haven't been to a club in years. but after walking through Forever 21, i felt like i might as well have thrown back a few shots. that store is insane. and i think that my thirty-ness completely rolled its eyes at the nonsense going on in there. when my phone ring is on high and i can't hear it over the noise, that's just silly. so i left.

but i didn't leave the mall empty-handed. i have a few pieces of clothes to wear that are cool (i guess) and don't shout mommy or 'hey i used to be able to fit into this pre-baby and now i'm just wearing it because it's all i have and i know it's uncool but, really, it's all i have'. now my clothes will just shout "hi. i'm new. thanks."

and so with saturday came birthday cake number 2. from todd and loralai. and why todd felt the need to make such a silly rhyme? i don't know. i think that to know todd is to know his odd and silly, yet sometimes confusing, humor. and that cake was delicious. i think the great american cookie cake is my favorite of all time.
it says: what's that little birdie? ashley's thirty? love you!

sunday was my actual birthday. (so that you know, i have never celebrated my bday for three days in a row. and have never felt the need to really celebrate my bday very much at all. so this was new for me and i actually really liked it). and i don't remember the last time my birthday was on a sunday. it was probably in my early twenties - when i wasn't walking with the Lord. so sunday, at church, on my birthday - now that was special. that pretty much took the cake. or made the cake taste even chocolate chippier. it was a beautiful day.

and i'm glad i'm not in my twenties anymore. i know that more change is to come. that's just part of this life. but i'm glad that the twenties are behind me. they were a huge time of change: i fell in love, out of love, lost a grandad, my dad, got married, had a baby, moved towns and houses three times...

i'd like to think that thirty will set the tone for a little bit of steadiness. if nowhere else, at least a little more steadiness as i keep walking forward with God. all things around us might spiral, but God remains the same.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. hebrews 13:8

on another note, loralai started potty training today. she pooped in the potty and peed four times in the potty. the floor. it was peed on four times as well. we read a lot. talked a lot. did lots of happy dances. ate lots of m&m's to reward the potty going. and i'll blog soon to let you know if the potty training is still in training after a few more days of this rodeo. this mama is whooped. and that kid, is so precious.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

all i am is all i have

i've been listening to a song lately: alabaster box: and at first i just enjoyed listening to it and singing along. it's got a sweet melody and Loralai really liked singing the "la la la la" part - so i kept it on repeat while we would drive around town. but the more i've listened to it, the more it's taken on new meaning to me. the more that God has revealed Himself to me.

the lyrics go something like this:
all i am is all i have
all i have, all i have to give
and i give it all to You

it's my fragrant oil
it's my costly perfume
i'll take my alabaster box and i break it open
let the fragrance arise

let the fragrance arise

so take every song
every spoken word
all of my dance
all of my rhyme
i give it all to You

it's my fragrant oil
it's my costly perfume
i take my alabaster box
and i
i break it open

let the fragrance arise

....

and that's where it gets me. at first i was remembering the story about the woman who opened her alabaster jar and annointed Jesus prior to his death. i kept thinking about what a sacrifice it must have been for this woman to empty her jar of her costly perfume. the scented oils that could have gained her money for her family, she chose to pour out Jesus. i kept listening to this song thinking, 'wow. that woman was awesome.'

i mean really, there are so many things that i cling tightly to. and it's just stuff. like clothes, extra ice cream in the fridge (i mean let's be real), jewelry, art i've collected or done over the years, my car. there are things that i know it would be hard for me to hand over. to anyone. and that's kind of hard to say. to think that if i was asked to give away an extra tub of ice cream and i have to think twice about it, that pretty much stinks. i think that shouts that i'm a weeee bit stingy. but maybe the better thing would be to think that while i might have to think twice about it, what would i do? would i give up the car, the clothes, the house, the stuff...if someone else needed it?

would the fragrance arise?

all i am is all i have. and all i have, i'd give it all to You.
but would i? i'm hoping so. i'm working on that. and i'm realizing something. and that is, that it's becoming so much more clear to me, and apparent, that when i'm gone, it will only be how i opened my alabaster box and gave of my costly perfume that people will remember the fragrance.

the scent of love.

how else are we going to show the world the love of God if we cling so tightly to our stuff? or even more, our talents. i told todd lately that i just feel like i don't have a pat on the back feeling for doing a good job. and i do a good job at what i do, i think. but i think the part that's missing is that there's something else that God wants me to do. He wants me to use my talents. the gifts only He has given me. but what are they? that's where i need to press in to Him.

it will be then, when i start using my gifts, that my alabaster box can really start pouring out. so for right now, if you get an extra tub of ice cream from me, or some hand-me-down clothes, or an extra roll of paper towel, or a meal cooked, or a hug, or an email...know that i'm pouring out all that i have right now. because, right now, it's all i have to give. and i'll give it all for the glory of God.

and so as i think about a friend of mine whose precious week old baby girl is awaiting the diagnosis of possible meningitis, i wonder what it is that we can pour out? and i think it's love. love in the form of beseeching God to go before the doctors, the nurses, to remove any infection, to be near the baby's parents, to cover them in his protective wing...that the power of our prayers would be so loud and strong that what would arise would be a scent of Love so sweet. love so sweet that it stains the heart of this little baby forever so that when she's older and gives her heart to the Lord that she can recall those first days when she first felt love.

what is in us is enough and it's all that God asks of us. that we give of ourselves fully to Him so that He can do a work fully in us for the sake of His Kingdom.

i hope you enjoy the listen and will please lift up our dear friends' little baby, madeline.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a new reason for love

I've written and rewritten a blog three different times tonight. And I keep wondering why I can't write more than a few paragraphs without getting annoyed about what I'm saying. And I realized that I wasn't being real.

So here's real.

A friend of mine's wife just had their first baby - a girl. She's perfect and beautiful and full of new life. New hope. And I look at my walking, talking, silly 18month old little girl (not so much a baby anymore) and I find myself actually missing those first few sleepless months. I don't so much miss the sleeplessness as I miss the newness of it all. It was indescribable to look at the life that Todd and I had created, the actual tangible gift that God had given us. And while I still look at her in awe, something is different. My love for her has changed. And it's stronger and different and evolving. And I'm pretty certain that's how God wants it to be.

But with every milestone or change in her life, in my life, in our life as a family, I can't help but wonder. I never thought my wonder would go so long and deep for him. I never thought I'd find days when I was desperate just to hear his voice saying "Ashley Mac" in just that way that only he could say. And when I call Loralai "boogs" it's only because it's a natural nickname that I had no intention of giving her but continued to slip from my lips and so it is. But it was his name for me. And I miss hearing him say it.

I just flat out miss my dad. And some days I cry a stinking river of tears missing him.

There are so many days that while I'm talking to God, I just ask Him to walk over to dad and give him a hug from me. I know it's not necessary. For heaven's sake, my dad is in eternal splendor in the presence of the King. The last thing he needs is a hug from me (praise God!). But there are some days that I'm pretty sure I could use a hug from him. So it's these days that I have to press in to God all the harder.

My thirtieth birthday is creeping up in about a week. I know. You're surprised. There you were thinking that I couldn't be older than 25. Well, you were wrong. You mistook my beautiful gray highlights for blonde ones. Blonde they are not. But with my birthday is just a tinge of missing dad. I can't remember the last time I said "dad" out loud. That just seems weird to me. I suppose it is a little bit. But not to God. Because none of this, these thirty years, is a surprise to Him. In fact, when He was creating me in my mother's womb, He knew that all of this would happen. He chose my parents for me, the town that I would be born in. He chose Bill and Kay to be dad and mom. And he knew the choices they would both make and that I would make. He knew that dad would struggle with a different sin than the rest of us. He knew that the natural ramifications of dad's sin would look different than ours. That his would set him apart.

My dad was set apart. And he was apart from God for a long time. But by grace he was saved. And because of that, I rejoice in my current suffering. Because I know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope doesn't disappoint because of the love God poured out to us in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And how can I grieve to deeply or dive to far into self-pity when I know that I have forever to sit with my Father and my dad. I rejoice in the hope that God has given me because I know that what God chose for me was good. It was best.

He chose a dad for me who chose best. Ultimately, dad chose best. He chose God.

And so now I have a beautiful thing to teach my children. I get to tell Loralai about what it looks like to choose God and what it looks like to live apart from God. And God gave me a story close to my heart to show Loralai what love is. For the rest of the generations to follow after me, our children and our children's children, will know what love is. They'll finally understand what it is to see the face of their children. To hold them for the first time. To look at the eyes, and sweet mouths and thick thighs and stare in awe of the creation that God knitted in their mother's wombs and fire will be ignited. They'll know the story of all of those who went before them and chose hope. Those who chose Love. Those who chose to let go of their sin, of the things of this world that were binding them from letting loose and letting Jesus live inside of them.

And so the newness of loving my baby, my toddler, is restored. It's just changed. I don't look at the eyes and nose and mouth of my newly created infant in wonder of creation as much as I used to. Because now I look at her and think - from the lips of my mouth she will hear life or death. My motherhood will help a child chosen to be mine, choose. And choose Love.

I pray that all of us use our lives to help foster Love into our children so that they might receive the love of God.

His eyes were so blue, his hands so beautiful, his hair so black, his voice so dad. And I miss him. But I rejoice in knowing that loving him for 27 years, here was fine. Because forever with him will be even sweeter.

Romans 5 (suffering)
Jeremiah 1 (being set apart)
Luke 10 (choosing)
Proverbs 18 (power of our words)

Friday, August 7, 2009

the snake and the witnesses

We went to the aquarium here in town a few weeks ago. And while there we learned that there is a lizard with no legs. Not the cute little green lizards that turn brown or if brown turn green. But the lizards that are fat and cold and have a stripe down their back. Are you following me? Ok, so picture one of those guys but with no legs. Now, are you picturing a snake? If you are, that's exactly what these legless lizards look like, AND that's what I thought snakes were anyway. But I guess not. And I'd never seen a legless lizard until this aquarium encounter and told Todd that I would probably freak out if I saw one of those in real life.

Y'all, don't you know that God set me up?! What are the odds that a flippin' legless lizard would live in our new yard? Obviously fairly high because mister legless himself lives here! Uggh. Todd and a friend of his spotted Legless the other day - and my considerate husband gave me fair warning. But we have lizards at our old house and no warning is needed. Lizards see you, they move. They never stick around to let you pet them. Well I suppose when you gain 5 ounces and you lose your legs, you're slower than the average four-legged lizard. Because upon my walk across the backyard the other night, I so freakishly stepped on Legless. He then wrapped himself around my ankle in an attempt to kill me, I'm sure, but I being 100+ pounds heavier and more swift than he, jumped about 3 feet in the air, screamed a big Wooo hoooo ooooohh!!! and ran. And when I looked back, I caught a glimpse as Legless slithered (ran) into the azalea bushes.

So that you know, I was alone. No one witnessed my woo hooo shouting or got to laugh at my jump and running dance. And while I'm sure it was funny - cause really, it was - it was all the same NOT funny. Dang snake wannabe.

And yesterday as the little one and I planted some flowers in the backyard, two beautiful women walked up to me asking if they could talk to me for a second. I'm guessing you know what women these are. Because unless you're the mailman or a neighbor or someone who's car has broken down, let's face it, people don't just come walking into a person's backyard to chit chat.

So after offering me a Watchtower pamphlet about Jehovah's Witnesses, I smiled. Oh I was so happy. After all, God did make it clear that this house and land we live on and in is His promised land for Todd and I - it is His place to make a new impact. And as they walked onto our land, I thought "well welcome to the Promised Land y'all. welcome." We had an awesome conversation where I lovingly challenged them to rethink their belief that there is no final heavenly dwelling and that only a certain number do enter a paradise. I reminded them that if they did believe in Jesus that he said, "Come to me All who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest." He did not say 'come to me you 100 or 1,000.' He said come to me ALL. Our Lord does not discriminate. He asks that we simply acknowledge that Jesus is savior and that his death and resurrection are complete and allow full access into the grace that is eternal life in heaven.

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe a whole different set of understandings of what the Trinity is - of who God is and who He says He is. And after listening to them and us going back and forth they said that they had to go because they had alllll of these other houses to get to. And I told them that they should stay and be diligent to give me the evidence that their way is The Way. They were hesitant and insisted that they had to leave. So I told them that when they were going on their way to witness to other people that their time was a waste. If they didn't think that one lost sheep - their thought: me - wasn't worth fighting for, then all they were doing was walking the streets and passing out pamphlets. Not fighting for their faith. I also told them that they needed to get a copy of the King James bible (b/c they said the Bible had changed so much over time and that theirs was the correct version - and they agreed that the King James was the first. whatever. i'll take it.) - but i asked them to get a copy of it and compare it to their Bible. To look at the differences - b/c y'all, the wording is subtle and yet the meaning is huge - and then to pray to the One True God and ask Him to reveal Truth to them. They said they would. So will you pray with me that these two women will, even if they don't get a copy of the Word, pray to the one true God for revelation of His Truth?

Remember, eternity was set in our hearts and in us (all of us) is a desperate longing to know our Creator. Wherever we are in our lives, let's pray to the One True God for direction of what Truth is.

And let's remember that the snake is always creeping in the garden - and sometimes his disguise is so so so minute that it makes us think that it's just a lizard or that someone who knocks on your front door trying to profess that God is someone other than He says he is, is annoying. They aren't annoying. They're just confusing the snake for a lizard. The harmful as harmless. And they need to know who Love is.

Monday, August 3, 2009

well hey there. wanna read?

man. has it been a while since i've posted or what?! let me catch you up.

it starts here. new chaos.
when i posted last, i think that we were in the midst of figuring out when we would move and i was figuring out a toddler's new nap life. and i did all of this napping research (mainly because we were in napping hysteria and i was losing my mind with a sleepless child) and learned that this whole sleep transition could take two to six months. i was confused. all of my friends were like 'oh yeeeaaa, she'll be sleeping 2-3 hour naps in a week. well, two months later and we're just getting there. some days it's an hour and a half...some days an hour (sigh)...and some days two or three hours. so we're doing well. now.

but it started here:
the day that she decided that her green crayon was her favorite. i told her that she was not allowed to eat her crayon but coloring with it was ok. she agreed. but as i stood in the bathroom and was greeted with a toddler who said, "i eat cay-on mommy!"...i knew that she either was being defiant or hadn't understood our earlier agreement. either way, i laughed inside, and sat her hiney in hallway timeout where she kept insisting it was time to "git up mommy?" ...after a kiss and hug and a teeth washing that left the toothbrush green, we moved on. as we're continuing to do daily.
this summer has been full of lessons all around the board. in our marriage and in parenting. and i'm learning - relearning - some essential truths.

and those truths start here:

and here:
in the obvious gifts that God has given me. my family. my two brown-eyed sweeties. and now, our new house. our promised land straight from the hand of God. and i mean that. the enemy was working hard to get us to not close on our house. but close we did. only we ended up closing on our old house two weeks after we were scheduled to. oh y'all, it was a war and God won and we declared that we are NOT grasshoppers! and we will not be afraid because our God has gone before us and declared this life, this land, is his gift to us and we will walk forward in it with thanks and bless others because He blessed us.

isn't that something?
isn't this something?

and can i tell you somethings that might seem silly to you? well you can't tell me not to, so i'm going to. it actually smells like home. isn't that weird? i mean outside does. and it's not that i was trying, or am trying, to recreate my childhood home but there was something so incredibly sacred about that house and land where i grew up. and still, i can hear the sounds of the bugs in the woods. i can feel the wind and see the sunrise that i looked at every morning as i got ready for school. and as i stood in my backyard the other day, i had to catch my breath. i heard the bugs again. (y'all are saying, "ashley, we call those crickets." but it's not crickets. it's a special chorus that sings at night. and it's here.) and the wind, it blows just the same as the lane i grew up on. and after the grass was cut the other day, i nearly cried. i swear that if i closed my eyes and opened them, i was going to see my dad walking towards me all sweaty from working outside, and i would see my mom bent over plucking weeds and my brother washing his tan ford ranger. but i opened and all i saw was green grass. our green grass. on the street where God planted our new roots. and in the yard where loralai will look up and see her daddy all sweaty from working in the yard, from building her swingset. where she'll see her mama planting flowers and working in the garden. where she'll play with her brother or sister. where the dogs will play and love will grow. and she'll get to smell and feel the same love that God gave me when i was just a girl - only on a different street, but in His same creation. isn't it beautiful?

don't you ever just look at the sunset and think - vladik sees that.

vladik is my dear friend's belarussian son. he comes to stay with her family for six weeks in the summer to recover from nuclear fallout. and while getting fat on wholesome foods and being taken care of by doctors who donate their services, he hears the word of Life. God spoke to sweet Vladik for the past two years (and surely the prior 8) of his life through Carie and Mitchell and all the believers who loved on him while he lived in north carolina. and five days before sweet Vladik was scheduled to fly back to Belarus, he accepted Jesus as his savior. i'll never forget the phone call from Carie. she was crying like a little girl - more like a mama who just witnessed her first child accept salvation. i can't imagine the fullness in her heart - but i could hear it in her voice and i couldn't help but laugh a giddy little laugh with her. ...and so the search was on for a russian bible for vladik. Carie kicked herself for not having gotten him a bible prior to his coming this summer, but i'm certain that God didn't urge her to get the bible so that she could see a miracle happen. because after all, watching Him intervene in our search for a bible was WAY cooler than going to the bookstore and picking one up and wrapping it in pretty paper.

follow this: carie calls and says that vladik is saved and asks that i'll pray with her that we'll somehow find a way to get vladik a russian translated bible so that he will have a version of the Word that he can read. after searching for a few hours, online, for a bible, i called her to tell her what i found. but we were discouraged because it was going to take at least 4 days to get here (and that was the overnight system). weird right? after i hung up with her, i had a major ah ha! moment. God reminded me of an old friend. a friend of my dad's. my dad and mom had a couple that they were good friends with - they had a cottage at the river near ours - so we grew up with them - and their daughter became a missionary. can you guess where she does her mission work? eastern europe: bulgaria, poland, russia. I couldn't believe i hadn't thought of her sooner. so after emailing her to ask her if she knew where we could find a bible to have overnighted, she emailed me back. and i mean RIGHT back. i hadn't talked to her in years and God reconnected us in an instant. what i didn't expect was what she did for vladik. she found a bible. the correct translation (because she knew what translation was correct having lived in that area). and had it overnighted to carie's house. the part that, at first, made us sad was that it arrived just hours after vladik's flight left. but the beautiful part. oh just wait...

our fear was that stuffing a bible in a ten year old's travel bag and making it through customs into a dictator-led nation would make for trouble for our sweet vladik. so God eased our fears, calmed our hearts and did something even greater. he delayed the overnight, missing vladik's delivery and instead is going to deliver the bible by other means. Vladik's translator from 2008 was in raleigh this summer. so carie and mitchell delivered vladik's bible to that translator who will enter their home country with the bible - able to defend why she has it if asked in customs - and she will take a two hour bus ride out into the country to deliver the bible to Vladik. can you imagine a bible being hand delivered to you by your sister in Christ? or by your sister in Christ whom you've never met but has poured God's ministry into your country for years (years, even, before you were born) only to see the fruit of her labor coming to light?! can you imagine the conversation that will follow as the translator enters Vladik's home...that the translator will get to smile as she hands Vladik the bible and tell him how God used his people in extraordinary ways simply because God loves Vladik SO much that he wanted him to have a copy of His word.

now that is love.

and when loralai woke up from her nap on Sunday afternoon and the first words out of her mouth were "wadik? wadik home?" I said, "yes baby. vladik went home." and so we prayed for him. we asked God to form Vladik's heart after His own - and to protect him and seal him with His word of life.

God's creation - i stand on it and breathe it in and smell it and smile knowing that the promised land given to us is a reminder of how much He loves us. and i look at the sunset and i see the stars and i think 'vladik sees this too'.

God, you are everywhere.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

oh my days...part two

i know all of my readers (all two or three of you) are wondering what in the world is taking me so long to post again. or maybe you're wondering how the sweltering heat is working itself out with all of my fun doggy diesel truck adventures. oh the thrills of being a stay-at-home mom who's trying to sell a house and nap a baby and grocery shop and cook and stay cheery and manage to exercise and remember to put on deodorant and brush her teeth...daily.

well here's your update. our house is sold. well, not sold like we have the buyer's check in hand. but sold as in the contract is signed and we had our inspection today. and the inspector said that he found only minor things that we'll have to fix. praise the Lord, we don't have buy a new roof. wheew. and the beautiful thing about our buyers is that they were/are going to let us rent back from them for up to six months (allowing us time to find a house to buy). but as God would have it, we found a house. and that contract is signed too. and here's the even more beautiful thing. (back story: we've been house hunting/looking for over a year now but didn't feel peace about putting our house on the market and even worked with a designer and got drawings done of an addition to our current house. we wanted to exhaust all possibilities before selling. so we just kept taking small next steps.) ok, back the beautiful thing. Todd went to costa rica, in may, for a men's retreat. and when he came back he said that he felt like we were going to sell our house. but he didn't know when we should put it on the market -he was still working out that detail with God. but what he did know was that he felt certain that God had told him that we would have a new house by July 24th. i'd be lying if i said i doubted what he told me - i mean, that meant that in two months we would have a new house. two months. right? right. so about a week and a half after todd's return, we put the house on the market. and the chaos began. (please refer to oh my days part one to be reminded of said chaos.) and within a week and a half we had three offers on our house - one of which we accepted. and in that same insanely short amount of time we continued to scour the local MLS and go and visit many houses. and each time we left a house we just sighed. it was discouraging feeling like our house wasn't out there. it just wasn't. but then last tuesday, while todd was at small group, i started scouring the MLS again - as IF i'd see something different than i had a few hours before. but i did. i saw a beautiful white house with a rocking chair front porch, a huge yard, three bathrooms (not one. umm, like we have now.), and just hope. oh the hope and sweet excitement of growing our family.

i did a little drive by the next morning to just look at the house - hoping for confirmation. for a word from God. and wouldn't you know that i got busted peeking in the windows by the owner of the house. but as God would have it, i got my own personal tour of the house. our house. i say ours because it will officially (God willing the inspection on it goes smoothly and all of the next steps in finalizing everything) be ours in July. anyone care to guess what the closing date was stated as on the offer contract? right. July 24th. it wasn't requested by us, that's for sure. we got the contract in hand and todd said, "did you see the close date?" amazing.

on another note - we're working out some kinks in the ever changing world of loralai. from two naps to one. this mama has been worked. just when i need to be gone every flippin' day do to house moving appointments and stuff, my baby decides that one nap is suffice and that a grumpy attitude due to the change is just fine and dandy by her. lately she'll let out this whiney fake cry and then look straight faced at me and say, "baby sad?" and i say, "no. baby's faking. now cut that out. baby's happy." and she smiles and whines and goes about her business in a real moody girl kind of way. and then she'll have giggle fits. oh my days. that's what i say. life is so sweet with this short little talking baby. she'll say things like: "mommy ree book." "mommy cawkin' on a woephone." "maaaa-eeee! mere! gi down!"

and apparently i cussed today when loralai stepped on my toe...i said "oh gosh!! ouch." it was the most pleasant thing i could say when i felt like my baby toe was crunched in two. and she just waddled around the house saying "gosh. gosh. gosh." i'm just really glad she only hears gosh to parrott.

and on another note, i'm going to start coupon clipping and going to a cash envelope system for grocery shopping. i'm determined to be determined about doing something thrifty other than eating the baby's leftover lunch for my lunch. plus, if i write it and say it out loud i'm more likely to do it.

and on another note, i got baptized on sunday. and it was a sweet celebration. i cried my eyes out - which actually really surprised me. but, more about the baptism later.

hope all is well in your world wherever you are and that you're making room to see God move in your life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

oh my days...

i have no pictures to post - they'll come later. but i do have some humor for you. my life.

we put our house on the market last week. and last friday we had our first showing. and by saturday we had an offer. we accepted. we jumped up and down and praised God for some crazy quick house selling skills. and then the offer fell through. so that you know, we didn't shout or pout at God. we just accepted that He is working out something different than what we thought was best. and usually That is the best route.

todd and i are learning a lot in this long first week of home selling. like how to keep a house spotless...because for the past three days, we have had six showings. right. that means this: get baby up in morning. feed baby breakfast. play. read books. clean house spotlessly like tazmanian devil because running vacuum while baby sleeps is a no-go in a small house. get baby to help clean by giving her her own papertowel and smile as she wipes floors, counters, chairs and even my feet while saying "Keeen up! Keeen up!" take dogs out to poop. clean up poop so that new homebuyers don't step in fresh terd. sweep back porch. pick new flowers to put in vases. do laundry in a mad hurry. shower. brush teeth. throw in makeup. put baby down for nap. pack travel lunch, diaper bag and sanity and put in truck. right. truck. todd's big diesel truck with camper shell on back. get baby up from nap. throw open her blinds and shades. put her in play clothes. don't forget baby shoes, hat and sunscreen...oh yea, water. for her and me. put baby in truck. give her rice cake to prevent whining or a million questions: go pay? giii up? ok? me? mommy truck? daddy truck? doggy pay? ma-eeee come! .....and then load up dogs in back of truck that looks like this. "load up maddie." maddie runs to truck. jumps. first feet land, then jump back off. readjust. rerun. she takes another look. turns around a few times. runs ten feet backwards, then runs for truck and makes the leap. wheew. i breathe. her arthritic legs made the leap. good girl, maddie! frankie stands. she stands like a pissed off Eeyore. and i try to motivate a leap into the truck but it never works. she stares at me. i think she's cussing me with her dark brown/black eyes. i'm pretty sure she is. and i think it's because she know she'll be in a confined space with the ever optimist maddie...and frankie's the pessimist. the Eeyore. i laugh. i bend over and pick her up. i feel like i'm holding a ticked 60 pound goat. i hoist her in the truck. maddie pounces to lick her. frankie growls. aaah sisterly love. frankie lies down. maddie runs in happy circles. typical. i put key in ignition, wait for glow plug light to go out so i don't kill engine..then crank up the - laka laka laka laka - clunky sounding engine and away we go. into the sunset. yea right. into the hot blazing sun. the park. we go to the park to eat lunch. we eat. we play. but not for long. we must keep moving so that the dogs don't have a heat stroke. and then we come home and pee and play and the baby takes a nap. ....and we do it allllll over again. only this time no lunch. just snack. but still, it's me, the baby and the happy and pissed dogs. and sweat. lots of sweat. and changing poopy diapers in the front seat of the truck. and singing happy day endlessly and telling loralai "we're almost there" as she tries to gnaw her way out of her carseat while telling me "giiii up!" she's ready to get up and i don't blame her.

and so i pray "lord, one of these showings BEST make an offer b/c i can't keep going like this all summer." this mama's gotta rest sometime.

and this morning we have two guys working on some of our non-working fans. and we have one bathroom. and they're right on the other side of the bathroom's wall. and i have to poop.

what a day...and it's only 9:30a.m.

please laugh.
(and pray that our house sells. and when it does...pray that God shows us where to live. aah to walk by faith. God's got such a sense of humor.)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

hot and snappy.

that's two things. a fever and my attitude. any other mamas out there get grouchy when their babies are sick? i do. and mainly because i can count on one hand the amount of times that my baby has been sick and so when she is, i get worried. our little one started running a high fever yesterday and after two hours at the dr. today, we're still clueless as to why. i wish i could blame it on the six teeth that are pushing through her gums. but i doubt it. so i'm guessing that it's a virus. and i'm praying for the fever to break. and i'm praying to be a little sweeter to the guy i live with - i usually call him husband, but this weekend i've called him by other names. you gasp. but it's true. i'm totally imperfect and get quickly frustrated when my baby is hurting and i'm helpless. sigh.

but still, she's precious and sweet and loves rubbing noses and giving kisses. she still loves giving maddie dog kisses and feeding the dogs her strawberries. and still she loves talking about things like "dat a apple? ...dat doggy bone? mommy kickle yorayay?! ...daddy go wuk? ...mo mo." apparently she can't have just one of anything...mo mo...more is required of everything: laughing, playing, 'kicks' (sticks) to dig with, flowers for picking, berries for eating... so even when i'm stressing over my baby being sick, i'm totally amazed at how precious she is despite her little position. because i, i ain't so precious. she's a flower and i'm a cactus.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

two years ago tomorrow.

two years ago tomorrow marks the day that my dad died. it feels so much shorter than two years ago. i'm amazed, still, at the waves of grief that sneak in. and i'm amazed, still, at the sweetness of God and how beautifully he was glorified through dad's life. most of me is happy that dad is free and in the presence of Jesus. but i'd be lying if i said that there wasn't a part of me that still aches for him. some days i get sweet memories of him flooding back. and i'm pretty sure, on those days, i can smell him and recall the touch of his skin as certain as if i had just seen him. the love that a child has for their daddy, especially a daughter, is a fragile thing. so isn't it something to see the Holy Spirit at work when life is redeemed after such brokenness?
i don't have much to say on dad's passing. it seems odd to revisit the same thing, every year, out loud to public eyes. but then again, it would seem odd for me not to mention the man who gave me life.
dad. i sure do miss saying his name.

(to read about my dad and to know his story, click on 'dad' above)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

lavish

so i was reading and came across this word: lavish.
it was talking about being lavished with love. like smothered, covered, washed over, engulfed in love.

i tried to think about lavishing love. how do i lavish love? who lavishes love on me? physically, i mean. in the here and now. presently on earth. and i started thinking about my loralai. and i'm pretty certain that i lavish her with love. i cover her sweet little body in kisses. i adore every inch of her being. i think from her brown eyes to her chubby little toes, i could just gaze at her little creation without looking away. i delight being in her presence and miss her when i'm away. and when i am away, i think about how i can love her more or better. i hope for wisdom in raising her and long to protect her. i think about every bite of food that goes into her mouth and carefully brush her soft brown hair so that it sweeps over just so in its precious baby-mullet little way. i clothe her and make certain that her clothes fit and are soft to her skin and clean and protect her where she needs covering. when she's in the sun, i make sure she has plenty of water to drink, a hat to break the sun's gaze on her face and sunscreen to keep from burning. i was created to cover this sweet little creation with love. and so i make it my job to do so. and i turns into my joy.

and then i think about my husband. and the more i fall in love with him, the more it comes to life that "i am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." that all of me is for him and all of him is for me. that there isn't an inch of this world i wouldn't give for a minute of his time. that there isn't a smil i'd rather see than his, a laugh i'd rather hear, a goofy joke i'd rather laugh at, advice i'd rather seek,wisdom i'd rather receive...than his. i am his, and he is mine. and i am covered in his love and he in mine.

and so when i read "How great is the Love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" i just sit in sweet awe. because i know for certain one thing: my lavish is not his lavish. and my lavish is nothing if He isn't in me. my attempt at love is pitiful and failing if i'm doing it for me and not for Him or if i think that i can make the mark by what i know and not allow him to work in me. do you hear what i'm saying?

because the Father sent his Son, we can be called children of God. without that sacrifice, we would still be working at reaching heaven. but now. now we're in kinship with the Son. we are children of God. sister, brother. daughter, son. how beautiful is that? i love my baby girl and i'm pretty sure that i love her in a different desperate way than i love other people - because i know she was given to me for a purpose, for my care and my charge is to show her love. God's holy sweet love. but when i read that God lavishes us with his love, i smile. because i know that his lavishing is far sweeter and covers way wider than my heart can conceive. and he loves us because. just because. because we are his and he is ours.

Jesus, I am yours and You are mine...because you first lavished your love on me.

mmm. that's some good stuff right there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

oh my sleepy eyes

hello blog land. it's me, ashley. tired, sleepy, nearly grumpy, hungry but unmotivated to cook, and greasy but unmotivated to shower. isn't that somethin'? the hubs left on wednesday morning (at the slap crack of dawn) for an awesome journey to costa rica where he joined other men to take on five days of fellowship and worshiping our God. i can only imagine the awesome experience he had while gone. i'm so happy that he got that time away. time to breathe in fresh air, to take in the beauty of costa rica, to surf on waves bigger than dinky east coast thigh high mush, to learn from other believers and to offer insight into God through his own life. it must have been so awesome.
i can only imagine.
because while he was gone i traveled to raleigh (a day before he left), solo, to visit his parents and family with our one year old. the ride there, the ride back, pretty uneventful. but the nights. oh the nights. i'm coming to just accept that my child doesn't do sleep in someone else's bed. oh no. and so six days ago began a sleepless sequence of nights. every night for six days we've been up for at least two hours a night. if it was just she and me, me and her, mama and baby, no one else in the house, no grandparents around, no one's ears i was trying to spare...the crying would be ON. oh yes. and tonight i fully expect there to be crying as the short chunky-thighed one relearns that sleep is what we do in our crib at night. for twelve hours. do you sense the sleepless grump in my type? you're right.
but do you know what is so sweet about it all? time. time without my husband has been priceless. normally when i'm in doubt of what to do with the baby or when i'm at a crossroads or feeling like i'm going to lose my ever loving mind, i call him for encouragement and direction. but i couldn't call him this week. and for the first time in a long time, i had only God to lean on. which is backwards - i should always always always lean on God before Todd. so maybe the sleeplessness has just been a painful kick in the butt of a reminder that God needs to come before Todd. and while pressing into God this week and really seeking him in his word and in prayer, he's been ever so clear with me. beautifully clear. i had questions, clear questions and have been asking them...and then lead to direct answer in his word. i've been in need and he has provided - through his word. through is promise of provision. i don't know really how to articulate all that's happened in six days - other than several days of greasy hair, really lame meals and some serious crying spells. i just know that it's been trying and rewarding. and currenty my little one is in her crib working on the sleep thing. i say working because i can hear her talking....'mommeeeee. daddeeeee. hi doggyyyyyy.' i suppose she's saying her prayers and just including all of us creatures in our household. that's what i'd like to think anyway.
so right now i sit, bleary-eyed and considering a bird bath since there's lightening in the skies, thinking about sleep and the sweet relief that will come when my husband crawls in bed with me tonight.
and maybe next week i'll keep pressing into God - because after all, he's the one with the answers. and he gives them to todd anyway. so why not consult God first and trust that whatever he gives me is enough?
sweet dreams friends.
(i know what you're thinking: it's only 7p.m.! but i'm tired. and there's no rules against putting on your pj's before sunset. so jammies, here i come.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

hat.

i realize that i'm behind in the blog-world but i don't feel like i've had much that's been worthy of writing or speaking. so i haven't. but i've been reading blogs. and that's fun. so you bloggers, keep blogging. you're good naptime reading. :)

but loralai. she's obssessed with hats. and has been for months. for about three months, any time she's seen a hat she has to say "HAAAAT!!" and point and point until we get the hat, and then she demands that todd wear his hats. so for a while, there were days when todd was pretty much wearing a hat the whole time he was home. but now. now loralai knows how to put on her own hat and she's in hat heaven. she goes into the drawer in her bedroom where i keep her sun hats and she puts them on her head and then on her bo-bo's head (teddy bear) and on my head and todd's head... and then she loves shoes...but that's another post.

and i know that baby posts can be boring and dull - especially if it's not your baby and you can't hear the preciousness of her voice. but just trust me. it's a cute and precious thing when she talks - especially when she uses her manners. have i ever mentioned that? turns out i'm a total sucker for a polite child. especially mine. and when she says "peeez" and followed with a "tenk yew mommy", i could melt and most likely give her a freshly baked brownie that her sugar deprived body has no business eating but that manners would most definitely convince me to feed her.

so, enjoy these pictures.





so i know that the headband isn't a hat. but it might as well have been...because you see who else was required to wear it? the short one's dad :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

coot choos.

coot choos = cute shoes
poopy = poopy
waden = water
mo mo peez = more please
mommy choos = mommy's shoes
awwwwe = awe
pa pa baybe = pat the baby
nigh nigh baybe = night night baby
baybe eat doggy eat = apparently the baby and dog are hungry
muk = milk
wow = wow!
ki cat = kitty cat
up ki cat = get up kitty cat!
geeee = jesus
book = book
ree book = read book

the list of words our sweet short little girl is saying is remarkable. at 14 months, she's putting two and three words together. i'd like to say that we have something to do with it. maybe because she doesn't watch tv (alright, every no and then she sees the tv come on, but it's a rare thing). maybe because we sing songs all day and listen to the radio. maybe because she gets full attention and one-on-one time that she wouldn't otherwise. or maybe, maybe it's just her. maybe she was created to just be this little girl who would start saying mama and bye bye at 7 months and wouldn't stop talking from that point forward. maybe she was just meant to be an early bloomer and we have absolutely nothing to do with those areas of development. and that's completely ok with me if we have nothing to do with it.

but to take my hands off and start parenting different would be to deny the given responsibility i've been gifted with. to say that a parent has nothing to do with the outcome of their children, is just plain silly. we have so much impact on the hearts of our babies. they soak it all in. i was in the car a few weeks ago and pushed play on a song that goes like this "oh happy day! happy day! he washed my sins away!" and from the backseat i hear, "HAP-EEE HAP-EEE!" and i just smiled and laughed and praised God! it may not be ME that she's learning from, she's learning from everything around me - from my choices.

we choose carefully the music that we listen to around loralai - or that we listen to for ourselves. it's important. and now when i push play on that same song, before the words begin, she recognizes the beat of the song and says "HAP-EEE!" her ears recognize.

her heart recognize. she runs to todd and i and nearly falls into us for a hug. she just trusts that we'll catch her. she trusts us. she depends on us. and while she doesn't know it, she's depending on us to show her glimpses of Jesus. it will be through us that she'll get her first understanding of the love of Christ - of God's creation - the understanding that He is to be trusted above and beyond us. that when we walk out the door, it's more important to want Jesus to walk back in than to want mom and dad to walk back in. Jesus should be our all-in-all.

what would we do in triumph or tragedy without him? where do you turn? where do you seek for comfort? you either seek justice, justification, or you push out the world to ignore the hurt - or, you seek Jesus. and if you haven't, and if you have hurt or loss or are sick or are struggling or are lost or have tried it all and still feel mad or empty or like justice was never sought - seek jesus. just pray to the One True God and ask Him to lift you up and remove you from the burden that's been holding you down. and wait. it's a beautiful thing, beloved. just wait and see. it's not my promise that i promise you, but God's. he promises that when you come to him, that he will meet you exactly where you are - and you'll have a reunion with your Creator like you never imagined. the pains of the world will still exist, but the Hope of Glory will be more powerful and redemptive than any justice you'd ever sought after.

and when my little girl is walking into school for the first time, or shopping for groceries for the first time, or paying her own bills for the first time, or picking out music to listen to - in all of her choices, i pray that she has Jesus so engrained in her soul that the idea of doing anything less than what He has willed for her life is not an option. and i pray that Todd and I are living our lives and parenting our baby so that when she moves on without us, it's Jesus she needs more than us - that she wants more than us. I pray that He is her all in all. I pray that right now, in these days when i'm at home with this precious chunky thighed babe, that she's soaking it all in and that somehow my love pouring out to her is making a dent. i pray and claim that i'm making a dent into this fallen world so that one more little girl will grow up to be a woman whose heart is WILD for her Jesus!

as moms, as parents, our every step is watched. we may not be the ones who sparked the tongue to start moving and making words at 7 months, but once that little brain starts engaging, it IS us who gets to help form the hearts of the ones we're sending out to be lights to the world.

what a gift.


Happy Day 13mo from ashley dengler on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

a little pink.

i want to write something profound about how spring makes me feel. but i'm pretty well at a loss for words right now. i know. imagine that. but i love spring. and i love our yard in spring because it fills itself full of bright, light and dark pink azalea blooms. i really feel like it's a little slice of heaven when we're outside. spring just does something to the world. it breathes new life. and everyone loves it. even the smallest of us. even the ones who are just learning to say flower - and decide that seeing flowers in your hair is more beautiful than seeing flowers on the actual flowering plant. and the more the little one says "mo mo mo", the more flowers you decide to put in your hair. because after all, it's your greatest desire to help this little one experience the most beautiful life, filled with new experiences and the ability to soak in all of the goodness of this glorious creation. and then imagine, there's The Creator who delights in the same thing, only more graciously given and sweetly spoken and beautifully painted than any gift we could imagine giving to our own babies. He gives freely to all. all for us to feel and know Love. beautiful. welcome spring.

Monday, March 30, 2009

whisper His name

i have an every day friend. she's one of my dearest (the one who introduced me to peanut butter). she's an every day friend because she's my every day phone call. she's someone who knows me in places more intimately than friends who have known me 25 years. and she and i have only been friends for a little more than three years. this friend is a precious soul, with a light that shines so bright for Jesus. her desire to know her Savior is insatiable. it's a blessing to be her friend and to be in her presence means that conversation is rich.

today we were talking about how close she is to birthing her second baby. and we were working through the nerves that rise up when childbirth nears. and she told me about a song she sang at a church she visited this weekend: Whisper His Name. that's the song. it says - whisper his name, call out his name, shout out his name...and He will run to you.

pause.

really think about that. we did.

just do it. right now. whisper his name: jesus. call out his name: jesus. shout out his name: JESUS!

do you feel it? do you feel the nearing presence of the savior? i do. and i have so many times in my life. but i don't recall those times nearly enough. but today i did. i love this friend. she evokes that - the desire to be near to the One who comes when we even just whisper his precious hallelujah name: jesus.

so i want to list for you the times that i've called out his name and he came. and then i hope that you'll do that same. make a list, if just mentally, of the times that Jesus has come to your aid. he's ever present but when He arrives in ways that, and when, you take notice. it's breathtaking.

two dogs were chasing me. i was on foot. i screamed, "JESUS JESUS JESUS!" and he came. a man on his bicycle with his dog came racing down the road and ran the dogs back. i just stood and cried. knowing that jesus rescued me from danger by an angry pitt bull and his other mix-breed friend.

i prayed in my hand-me-down twin bed, growing up, that Jesus would save my family. my save and his were different. but saved we all are.

in the throws of laboring during childbirth, i called out: Jesus: and he came. peace covered me. he healed my wounds.

when my dad died, all i could speak through anguish was: ABBA! FATHER! Jesus. and he came. he gave me visions and led me to Himself through his word.

when my grandad was dying and i was caring for him alone, and desperate to have one last conversation with him, though his mind was slipping away and his body wasting, i called out: please Jesus. and he came. he gave me one last conversation. an exchange of I love yous and never another word from my grandad.

when my neice was being operated on and her recovery seemed daunting, myself and a group of prayer warriors called out his name: Jesus help! and he came. she recovered, she drank a bottle, she took a first breath, she slept, she smiled, she cooed. he came.

when a boyfriend broke up with me and i was tempted to take antidepressants to dull the pain, i instead called on his name: hold me Jesus. and he did. and he covered me in a renewing peace.

when my friend told me she was pregnant again and feared losing her baby for the nearly fifth time, myself and other prayer warriors called on his name to heal her bleeding uterus and to make the life inside of her thrive. and so we called on his name: Jesus! and he came. and life is growing within her.

when dark hands held mine above my head, pinned to my bed, in the middle of the night and i couldn't move, i shouted his name: Jesus. and the hands disappeared as though his name held some sort of power that even they couldn't resist.

there is power in the name of the One who sat at the right hand of the Father when the world was spoken into being. He reigns. and He loves. and all we have to do is call on his name because it is by his name that we are saved, through his grace, through faith.

I was so glad to be reminded of his love for me today. remind yourself of when you called on him and he came.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

update. advice. insight. request.

update: so we're back to two naps. the little one couldn't handle just one but the second is fading. so i wait and try to be patient and flexible. and me, who is quite the creature of habit and really enjoys my routine, is making a real effort into the flexibility. because i'm pretty thrown by the difference in my baby who is now screaming before falling asleep during her second nap - as opposed to my baby who used to lay down willingly. aah the little one is asserting her independence. and i breathe. ...and also, she's saying peeez, tank yew and mo-mo. her manners are precious. and she loves crackers - which she calls either "crackas or crack". so we've found it quite humorous when the short one says "mo mo crack peeez". aaah kids.

advice: i used to be completely in love with reduced fat peter pan creamy peanut butter. i was crushed when, while pregnant, peter pan was taken off the shelves because of a salmonella outbreak. and when it came back, i remember calling todd (while i was at the grocery) with pure glee as i held my first peter pan jar in more than a year. i thought, surely, God had blessed just me that day. until this weekend. one of my best friends is pregnant and going to have her baby any day now. and after her first baby was born, she lived off of peanut butter and graham crackers. so i called her, this week, to ask her what her favorite peanut butter was - i want to make sure she's got plenty of peanut butter and graham crackers to eat after the babe is born. and she tells me that she loves anything 'natural.' so off i go to the grocery and i pick up a smucker's jar of natural peanut butter with honey. i thought i'd keep it in our pantry with the graham crackers, until the baby was born. but naturally, i got curious. and so i opened that jar of peanut butter. and i stirred it up - pretty much because you have to. it's so thick and there's the natural peanut oil on top. i wouldn't go on about something like this if i didn't think it was just the best. but this junk is the best! i'm serious. i never thought i'd say goodbye to peter pan, but i think i might. because now, peter pan tastes like the candy peanut butter filling in a reese's cup and the natural stuff just tastes...i don't know. you have to get some and taste it...and i highly recommend spreading it on a graham cracker. that's delicious. and apparently makes great breastmilk - if you're in the business of making that stuff ;)

insight: here's a little peek into our life this weekend. loralai stood up in the bathtub last night, looked at todd all concerned-like look on her face and then...pooped in the bath. so the bath toys got washed in the dishwasher. and today we went to church and then to a friend's son's birthday party and then for a bike ride and to our neighborhood park. and then home. and i vacuumed - and while sucking up dog hair and oak leaves that make their way into our house, mainly our kitchen, i screamed. and i screamed because as i went to vaccuum under one of our kitchen cabinets, something moved. a lizard. dang lizards. this must be lizard birthing season, because we have more lizards than we can handle...that, and squirrels (thank goodness it wasn't a squirrel. i don't suppose they're as easy to catch.). so i scooped the little guy up in two cups and out he went. he was the lucky one. the last two that made it into the house, apparently made it in with some towels that our dogs had been lounging on on our back porch. they didn't fare to well when i washed the towels. and i nearly gagged when i went to put towels into the dryer and found two drown lizards. yuck.

request: i have a good friend who is experiencing a miracle. and it's beautiful to watch. it's also beautiful to be blessed by her miracle. you might be wondering how i can be blessed by HER miracle. because i love her. because i prayed for her for years. and because for a week now, many of us have been praying the exact same thing - the same request - to God and He answered our prayer. that's huge! read her blog. she is a blessing and her life is blessed. she's beautiful inside and out. her husband is precious and his love for her is priceless. and their little girl is one of the most sweet, funny and cute little girls i know. and the baby they're growing right now, is already blessed. already a miracle. already a loved child of God. pray with us that this baby grows fully, and perfectly. read her blog. (blogger isn't working right - so if this link doesn't work, just click on peanut and poppy under my blog list to the right)

and please keep praying for baby stellan. he's struggling and needs you to storm heaven, to ask God to move in where doctors don't know where or how to move, to bring him comfort and rest, to bring his family peace, to fully and completely heal stellan's heart. i'm desperate, for reasons i can't put my finger on, to see this sweet boy healed. i think God has big plans for stellan's life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

changes

let me tell you about the changes going on 'round here lately.
we got back from florida about two weeks ago - a much needed vacation. much needed down time for the husband and wonderful time for he and the babe to bond. times together, like that, are priceless.

when we got back, we'd made our minds up that i would begin to ween loralai from nursing. woah is me. that's what i say about it. i know i can't go on nursing forever, but i love it. and my little talker loves it, too. if uncomfortable or nervous, she walks up to me and pulls at my shirt saying "muk muk." i know. to some of you squimish on nursing or thinking that her asking for milk is yucky, well let me set your minds at ease. it's neither yucky nor squimish evoking. instead, it's heartwarming and affirming to know that your body was created to help grow and comfort your baby - and it's done its job. i'm blessed to have a little one talk so early; it lets me know what's going on in that sweet little mind of hers.

which is why it's so hard for me to take away that little piece of comfort from her. but i know, i know. changes are sure to happen and changes are good (most of the time). it's part of letting go and nudging her towards a little more independence. but let me be honest - that's hard. it's hard to have been needed so much for a year and then not needed at all anymore. sure i'm needed for other things, but not to sustain her life anymore. i'm guessing you're picturing me with my hand on my forehead in a gone with the wind kind of pose - i'm not. but i'm just trying to be real. it's hard learning to let go - especially with your first baby.

so there's that. no more nursing during the day. just first thing in the morning and right before bedtime. those will be the last to go.

and i thought that was all the changes i was going to have to work for over the course of march and into april. but apparently my two nap a day (approx. 2hr each nap baby) baby has decided that she's not going to take two naps anymore. total shocker to my routine-oriented system. so yesterday was the first day of one nap. bad news. backfire.

she made it until 11:15 and then i put her in her crib where she firmly crashed into a deep sleep...for all of an hour and fifteen minutes. do whaaaat?! oh dear. i knew i was in for it. for the next three hours, it was fun time. but after four p.m., you could kiss our day goodbye. she fell three times over her own feet. one time she fell flat on her right cheek. she called for mommy, daddy, hewwwooo, bye bye, muk, cAt, maaaoowww...you get the picture. it was like loopy girl entered the room and started saying all of her words. so we ate dinner at 5 o'clock and lights were out at 5:45. blessed be.

changes are a comin' and they're wearing me out - emotionally.

though in the throws of the wound up one, yesterday, i did get one thing accomplished. a good workout. we were able to miss the insane afternoon crowd of big kids at the gym and go play with the little kids, in the morning, and i got to sweat. aaah sweat. but as we walked back into our house, my sweat turned to ice cycles on my skin. our heating unit broke. go figure. so that will be fixed....friday. not to worry, though. we have a fat little baby who was bundled in two warm layers of clothes on top of a thick fleece blanket. we knew she wouldn't freeze. and the house never dropped below 65 degrees. and we have great friends who loaned us two space heaters for tonight.

but what a wrench to throw in my already changing day.

and then there's the snot. which i attributed to more teeth coming in. how many teeth do these kids get, anyway? it seems like we should be done by now. right :) so in the middle of the night, twice, the little one wakes up, unable to breathe through her nose holes. and these holes are crucial to a good night's sleep since she does so loooove her middle and ring finger to suck on during sleep. and i figure it's impossible to suck when your nose is snot-filled. so maybe it's a cold and not teething or maybe it's pollen. i don't claim to know jack, at this point.

so the cold night's sleep was interrupted. aaah change.

where are you predictability?

i think the only thing predictable is change. it's inevitable and sometimes we have to roll with the punches. because really, these are small punches. and today, she's already slept an hour and forty minutes. so we're getting there....i suppose.

thanks for listening.

and while you have time, since you've the time to read this blog, click on the side button and pray for Stellan. he's in dire need of healing.