Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friends who could when I couldn't...

These last few days have been very busy...too busy to deal with some unwanted news that we received on Wednesday.  In the moment, I had assignments to complete, two quizzes to study for and a class to get to that evening.  No time to deal with the news.  I had a huge exam on Thursday that took all day to prepare for, and small group immediately upon finishing the exam.  Still, no time to deal with the news and how it left me feeling.

That night, our small group discussion centered on prayer.

Frankly, Wednesday's news threw me for a loop and prayer was something I just couldn't muster up the energy for.  In part...  I couldn't pray because I was so frustrated, exhausted and fed up by the news.  I went to group, heard the topic and immediately felt like bursting into tears.  Eventually...  I did.  The group was so warm and receptive; and, not so ironically, we paused in the middle of our discussion for prayer.

While the group was able to pray for me, I still could not talk about it very easily; let alone pray.

If I'm being completely honest...  I like to give the silent treatment.

The following day, my most amazing friend called me from Salt Lake City.  She never calls on Fridays; Tuesdays are our phone-date days.  She said she'd been driving along, praying for me, and felt prompted to call.  She asked how I was (fine), then what I was doing (sending an email), then how I was again.  How on earth did she know?  I burst into tears...and again...while I was still completely unable to pray, she did it for me.  And she cried too - I am so grateful for friends who help me cry.

I am constantly amazed by the Lord's provision.  For many years He has provided abundantly for our every physical need and -- here I am, giving Him the silent treatment -- and He provides friends, two days in a row, who prayed when I simply could not.  I deserved a time out and instead He blessed me with incredibly wonderful friends who helped me find my voice and sent me back to my Heavenly Father.

Wow.  God is so gracious and merciful.  I am so grateful for his gentleness and patience.  He must want to shake me at times.

One week ago

We finally had professional pictures taken.  It was super fun!  It's been a week....and I'm dying to see them!  This is only a sneak peek.  I'm in a lot of the pics too, but these are my favorites of the guys.  Are they totally gorgeous, or what?!

 
 

Thank you God for giving me these most incredible guys!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seasons

We have been married for almost nine years, and those nine years have very much been lived in blocks of seasons.  Nine months of being newly married, four months of being laid-off, nine months of expecting our first child, two months of adjusting to the first child before another five month lay-off, another pregnancy, another new baby, another lay-off, and so on...  Every time Bryan is working, we know it can end at any time so we never live like the money is going to pour in forever.  When he's laid-off, we know he'll go back to work eventually; so we pray prayers of thanksgiving for His constant provision, accept the gift of time together, and look forward to the light at the end of the unemployment tunnel. 

Last May we heard about a potential new job and, for the first time ever, I began praying for stability.  I prayed for a change in our lives that would eliminate the ups and downs of these employment seasons.  A job that would allow us to plan further into the future for vacations, home improvements, fun purchases, and college tuition for the boys.  I really wanted to feel like we'd "caught a break".  These are reasonable things; yet they are very much about comfort and not so much about character.

As I chatted with my husband about marriage, relationships and the maturation we've seen in the last ten years together, it occurred to me that these seasons and seeming instability have actually been a tremendous gift to us.  Through them, we have learned to roll with the punches, remain steadfast, and do whatever it takes.  We've learned to work as a team, stick together through difficulty, keep life in perspective, and lean on each other.  We've learned to have faith in the Great Planner and not our life's plans.

It is not easy.  In fact, the first several bumpy years were quite difficult, and occasionally they still have the ability to suck the life right out of us; however, that sucking is now very brief...  The bumps serve to refine us, bringing us closer to each other and closer to Him.  We are so grateful, and even amazed, that the bumps haven't driven us apart.  As a lifelong runner (from people) this is nothing short of miraculous.  I can hardly believe that I've been given some staying power!

I praise God for the crazy seasons in our lives...and the wonderfully loving and loyal husband He's given me to journey through them with.

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.  Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering."  Isaiah 48:10

Friday, February 18, 2011

Serious

When in his "standard / at home mode", Zach is loud, goofy, playful, joking, outgoing, witty and charming.  However, he can also be quite intense and serious; even nervous.  He likes to know what's coming, and loves learning anything, so he is never the child goofing off during instructions.  Every teacher he's ever had refers to him as a "good role model", so we know they see the serious Zach more often than the goofball.

But his seriousness results in more than just being a good role model.  He gets nervous.  He thinks intensely about what is about to happen, what might happen, what should happen, what could go wrong...  Sometimes he gets overwhelmed by all the information he's trying to process.  Sometimes he's nervous because he feels unprepared.  Sometimes he just wants to be perfect.  Often we see it coming on and can talk him through it.  Prayer always calms him.  But last night his intense nervousness sneaked up on us.

This has been his school for a year and a half.  He is comfortable here.  We love him.  His teacher loves him.  He loves all of us.  However...

He'd been out of school sick on Monday and Wednesday, so he missed the day that his class did a dry run of their student-led conference.  He didn't know exactly what to do, and...while we noticed the change in his demeanor right away...it was too late to preempt the seriously intense Zach.

And I didn't think to quietly take him aside to encourage him and pray the moment I noticed the change.  (Kicking myself.)

Before entering the classroom, he was bouncing off the walls to show us all of his artwork and projects in the pod.  But the moment his parents and teacher were in the same room, he clammed up.  He answered his teacher's questions, but barely responded to our praise, comments or jokes.

After the classroom meeting, we went back out to the pod to look around at their stations.  He enjoyed showing us around, but teachers were still passing by and he was still on edge.  As if he was performing.  He does not love performing.

We chatted with several friends and hit the book fair on the way out.  It was only then -- on the way out -- that his old goofy self returned. 

I love that Zach is well-behaved.  I love that we can send him anywhere with anyone and never worry about his behavior.  But I hate that he seems to feel pressure to be perfect.  He certainly doesn't have to be perfect for us; and I believe he knows this.  In fact, Zachary would define perfect as trying his best; not necessarily being the best.  But there is still so much pressure for him in the trying.

I pray that Zach would always have the right perspective of himself; knowing that he is good and well-loved regardless of achievement or performance.  And I pray that with time and experience, he feels more confident, less stressed, and even happy to have his parents poking around in his private life.

We're not going anywhere, Son.  As your birth announcement said; "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."  We are so well pleased and completely in love.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Date night

Our friends invited us out on a double date this weekend.  We hardly ever date, let alone double date.  The plan was to have dinner out at a trendy Mexican restaurant of Sandra's choosing, then we were to meet some of her family out at another restaurant for a birthday party and some dancing.  Sandra and Daniel are from large Mexican families and it seems that someone is always celebrating something.  I think I've figured out why...  It might have to do with the fact that it was her sister-in-law's SISTER's birthday!  Sandra and Daniel combined have thirteen siblings, all of which are married, bringing the grand total of extended siblings to thirty...and they're celebrating a sister-in-law's sibling's birthday?!  How awesome.

Anyway...  The restaurant was a little trendier than we were expecting.  We were unaware that our restaurant of choice had just been on PBS's Check, Please the night before!  It was packed.  We waited two hours for a table!  We had a blast though.  You just can't beat great food and laughter with great friends.

After dinner we were running way behind schedule.  We met Sandra's family at another Mexican restaurant down the street; only to find that they were closing in 30 minutes!  We laughed and chatted with her family and friends...and found some crazy Mexican music rolling out another restaurant's doors, so we danced a little on the sidewalk.  The dancing wasn't a total loss...  Next time - real dancing, guys!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Practice leads to excellence

Defensive player of the game!

Another basket!

Jackson sets the screen as Zach rushes by

Two of Zach's biggest fans

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nursery Time in Song and Rhyme

Zachary, you have come along way since Easter 2008.  Dad and I took you to a Sunday church service when your preschool class was performing a couple of songs, but you wouldn't get off your teacher's lap.  The rest of the class sang and danced while you sat (with your back to the audience) with your hands over your ears.  The following fall, I was moved to tears when you actually did get up with your classmates and sang at the Thanksgiving feast.  I can still remember how proud you were to do the Turkey Tango.  In our year and a half in preschool, we never did go back to one of their Sunday services to sing in church - a crowd larger than your class was just a terrifying prospect.  We weren't sure how you would do at your Pre-K year-end program, but you were awesome.  Kindergarten didn't bring with it a performance of any kind...  So first grade presented your first ever all-school assembly and evening program - Nursery Time in Song and Rhyme.  With hundreds of people in the audience, you rocked both performances.  You had such confidence that you even told me that it was unnecessary for me to come to the all-school assembly to cheer you on and take video.  Your exact words:  "I've got it, Mom.  There's no reason for you to come watch us sing the same songs twice."  And with that, you took off for school and your big debut.

We could not be more proud of how much you've grown up, taken risks, ventured out on your own, and tried new things.  We are constantly in awe of what a remarkable young man you are becoming.  We love you!

Book club

I had the pleasure of leading a group of first graders through their first ever book club discussion over lunch today.  It was so fun!  For everyone.  I'm telling you, the kids were practically glowing!  Over half of the entire first grade - I think I heard 55 kids - participated.  They all read Ready, Freddie Science Fair Flop and wrote a short book review at home, answering just a couple of questions.  Then, during our discussions today, the kids addressed several other questions.  My group of four - two girls and two boys - absolutely loved it.  We enjoyed talking about our most and least favorite parts of the story, picking our favorite experiment and explaining why, discussing what a hypothesis is and whether or not we could resist the urge to simply go with the rest of class if we believed the majority had the wrong hypothesis.  We also talked about secret keeping, and the consequences of Freddy keeping a secret from his mother.

The book itself is sassier than I like, but it's unrealistic to think I can keep my kids in an ultra-pure, polite bubble throughout their entire lives.  The author does a great job of balancing out the sass with worthwhile information about the scientific method, interesting ideas for science experiments, friendship, and even character.

The four first graders in my group headed back to class with plans to talk to their teachers about a science fair.  I don't know if they can pull that off this school year, but I know we'd love it!

Who knew you could have a book club with first graders?  Excellent!  That was quite possibly the best lunch period Zach has ever spent at school!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To Luke; with love, Zach

Zach made this card for Luke in Sunday school this past weekend.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bucket

Zachary got to try a brand new position at basketball yesterday - point guard.  I didn't have our camera with me, but we did capture all of Zach's playing time on video.

Including his first career basket - which also happened to be the first basket of the game! 

Needless to say...the crowd went wild!  We expect Bill Self to call any day now.

During the post-game locker room meeting, Zach was presented with the "offense" game star.  We are just so proud of him for practicing often and giving it his all.  I hope he will always remember how much he wanted to quit in the beginning, and how far he's come in such a short time.  Commitments are made to be kept.  In all things, practice is of value.  Nothing is out of reach.

Here's what the superstar looked like as he enjoyed his post-game snack.  The perfect mix of sweet and fierce...and sweaty and needing a haircut.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Naked in Times Square

Our small group began this I am Second study last night.  I'm not even sure if study is the right word, as there is no book, study guide or specific homework.  The website calls it a movement, so perhaps our meetings could better be described as discussions.

Last night's topic was sharing Jesus.  As our group discussed the fears and insecurities involved in being bold with our friends, neighbors, families, colleagues and acquaintances, I could really relate.

I am sure that when my Mass Communications professor came up with the bright idea to pose the following discussion question to the class, he had no idea just how intensely personal it would be for me.

"What four or five songs would make up the soundtrack of your life?  Why?"

I am a deep thinker.  I love words, I love meaning, I love vulnerability.  I love knowing and being known.  However, sharing the songs that make up my soundtrack is very personal and made me a little nervous.  I could have been completely casual and made up answers that wouldn't have left me feeling as if I were standing naked in Times Square, but I saw this as an opportunity for me to openly share the real truth of my life; and more importantly the truth about what God offers.

I worried a little that I would come off as some weird Jesus nerd, but then I remembered a blog post I'd read many years ago...  A young woman had written about how she wanted to love Jesus so much that she would be perceived as a freak.  Not in a bad sense of the word, but just freaky crazy in love with her Savior.  I want that too.  As outcast as it might make me feel by humanity, I want people to know that I am crazy in love with Jesus and why.  I don't want anyone who comes into contact with me to miss the message that Jesus loves each and every one of us and is faithful and eager to work in our lives.

I chose naked in Times Square.  And I choose it again here.  Now.  Here is the soundtrack of my life.

It begins with JJ Heller’s “What Love Really Means”.  As a girl raised in an abusive home, I spent the first 27 years asking who would love me for me.  This song so beautifully articulates the desperate loneliness I felt, and later the unrelenting love found in my husband, kids and the Lord.

“What Did I do (to Deserve You)” by Aaron Neville (so sad - no Aaron Neville video available) would be the second song on my life’s soundtrack.  My husband loves Aaron Neville and has an incredible voice.  He sang a lot of Aaron Neville to me when we were dating, and I sang a lot of it to each of our boys when they were babies (who were immobile and couldn’t run from my singing voice!).  The song asks the question “What did I do to deserve you?” and goes on to say that “only God’s hand could have made you and brought this dream to life.”  Frankly, I never dared dream that I would be loved by such an honorable man, that I would be capable of receiving and giving love in return, and that I would have the incredibly full life that I now have.  Without question, I believe that only God could have made all of this work.

“How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin describes the next phase of my life.  God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and purposeful.  This song really hit home with me when I was 31.  I’d been happily married for 3 ½ years, was experiencing a miraculous healing of my heart, had an incredible two year old son, and had just discovered that I was pregnant with our second child (after an emotional year of medical issues delaying pregnancy).  God, the Creator of the Universe, had done all of that in my life and continues to pour blessings out on me and work miracles in my favor.  I will always been in awe of his greatness.

“God of this City” by Chris Tomlin describes the current phase in my life.  As I was kicking off my first sexual abuse recovery group three years ago, this song became a staple in our church.  The lyrics have encouraged me every step of the way as I seek to end child sexual abuse and assist men and women as they recover from sexual abuse.  The song refers to God as “the light in this darkness, the hope to the hopeless and the peace to the restless”.  That is exactly what God has been to me.  As the song goes on to say that “greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city”, I apply that not only to the city I live in, but my life as a whole, and ultimately to my eternal destiny.  Greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done, and I intend to live every day of my life with that in mind – doing what I can to be a part of the greater things.

Thursday, February 3, 2011