When you go to a church with a name as pretentious as "Renovatus," you're allowed to have a MANIFESTO instead of a mere mission statement or something.  ;) We recently rolled out a newly-tweaked manifesto. You can read it here.
Illustration by Jake Page
Recently, we enjoyed a sermon about the part of our manifesto that reads "We ARE your grandmother's church, and your great-grandmother's church, and your great-great-grandmother's church. We embrace continuity with the church's past. We seek intergenerational and cultural diversity. We will harness the classic spiritual practices and truths that transcend time and place. We are a local representation of a timeless community."
Many newly-formed churches think that they're reinventing church for a new generation and have abandoned all aspects of the liturgy and practices that former generations have practiced for...generations. One of the things I dearly love at Renovatus is the mix of old and new music and liturgies. I love that last week we had prayer for the "grandparents," and there were at least 40 down at the altar as we blessed them and prayed for them to "dream dreams" a la Acts 2 and to continue to be a vital part of our mission to renovate Charlotte. And of course, to share their wisdom and love with younger generations.
At our small group last week, we went around the circle and shared about our grandmothers and their spiritual legacy. Some had no real "legacy" within the church and broken relationships. Many of our grandmothers endured some kind of physical or emotional abuse at the hand of their husbands. But of the all the joyful, wonderful and sometimes tragic things we shared, I kept hearing about the RELATIONSHIPS we had with our grandmothers. Never once did anyone mention "and in 1987 she got this awesome game system for Christmas!" Some had grandmothers who were awesome cooks, some were real characters, some were Godly, some spoke of Jesus but not in the way you might hope (!)...but what came through was how they related to us and to our families. Strong women and sometimes broken women doing the best they could. It really made me reflect on the legacy I want to leave to Shepard and generations further down the line. I want to be known as a woman who brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth through my prayers and actions and words. I want to be known for showing grace and mercy. I want to have gentle answers and a ready hug. I will likely never be the best-cook-in-the-world grandma, and that's ok. But I really do want to be known for encouraging, supporting, and loving those God has seen fit to send into my life.
Especially as we enter a season of giving, I have been wrestling with wanting to buy a bunch of "stuff" for Shepard, because it's fun to give gifts and is expected in our society. We somehow tie gift-giving automatically to the measure of our love. Commercials seem to tell us that in order to show our love, we must buy such-and-such. As Christmas approaches, I really want to give the gift of a rich, Godly legacy to those around me. That's something that will get passed down through the ages. It will not become tarnished and moth-eaten or go to the land of unwanted toys. Join me?


Man, oh little Man!

I just realized that I have been so busy keeping up with baby jones over on http://www.shepardjones.com/, that I haven't posted a more recent picture of him on here. I mean, I know my legion of followers probably keep up with both blogs...BUT! For shame! I spent so many posts thinking and dreaming of the little guy that I would feel like I'm betraying this blog who's been with me for MORE THAN FIVE YEARS if I didn't do a proper baby post.
They're letting us take you home!? Don't they know we have no idea what we're doing!?

Those first few days were rough, but every moment we've all grown more confident and relaxed and realize that we have a great support network for advice and help. Shepard is a joyful baby. He is always smiley and happy to see you. He is so alert and attentive to all that is happening around him, soaking up what seems every ounce of information from every minute he's awake. He is starting solids and has found his feet. I marvel at everything he's learned since he was so tiny in my arms. I marvel at everything we still have to teach him, but look forward to it all. As we embark on our first few holidays with him all together, I am astonished at how much things have changed since this time last year. Two days before Thanksgiving in 2009 I saw him for the first time on the ultrasound. He was just a little blob--I think the size of a peanut or something--and we didn't yet know he was a he. We spent the better part of our drive to Tennessee last year kicking around names. We were SURE baby was going to be a girl since we had no guys names that were agreeable.

Our little "Pumpkin"
 Some people say that they didn't know what love was until they had a child. I think that's an odd thing to say, as my life has thankfully been filled with love. But there is a special kind of love mixed with a sense of protection and care that sort of floods you. He is God's gift to our family, and I'm so thankful on this Thanksgiving for my squirmy long-legged blue-eyed giggle machine. Welcome to the holidays, sweet boy.


It's not that I am out of things to say...

Rather, I have so many it feels overwhelming. But I think for my own sanity, I need to let some of them out. In writing. Here. I just do better when I am writing through my thoughts rather than letting them roll around in my mind and bump into one another. If motherhood has been anything, it has been an exposure of all in my heart and life that are still under construction--my impatience and need to perform and clutter problem. And my curious confusion about working. I want to have work to do, but I don't seem to want to have to go into an office every day for 8 hours to do it. I want the satisfaction of having done something concrete and adult interaction, but the cost of time away seems too high for me to bear.
So, I've been wiggling between the rock and the hard place. And still feel at an impasse. I'm trying to make it cozy here at the impasse and make it work, but I can't get past the fact that something is still not in place as it should or could be. And for that, I will just have to trust the Lord. Which may be the purpose of the rock/hard place.
That's where I am today. Looking for a pillow or something soft. 'Cause this place is not. It's just all hard. I'm just trying to make it to Christmas. It seems like Christmas might be a nice stopping off point for my head and heart. A chance to breathe a little. And the promise of a new year with new hope.


Thoughts from a Mommy

Hello, Blog. How are you? My name is Shelley. We used to be good friends. Then I neglected you for a needier being. I have missed you, but really with the lack of sleep and all, haven't had much to say or time to say it.
It's amazing how quickly the world shifts when you are faced with a set of tiny blue eyes and a hungry mouth. I used to think I was busy, and I was...but this is a whole new level.  I couldn't imagine what folks meant when they said "things will never be the same." I knew things would change, but it's kind of like the mystery of marriage...you can't know or begin to know until you're on the other side of it.
Things I now know:
1. God is good. I have always known this, but He showed up for me in a mighty way in those last few days of pregnancy and in the delivery room. Delivering a baby was by far my biggest fear on this earth. And even after hours and hours of lying there waiting for the big moment and enduring some pain, I had such a peace when Nurse Jessica said it was push-time. I felt like I had a job to do, and the easiest thing would be to just do it. I was also intensely curious to SEE my little guy, so the particulars were secondary. And, frankly, I shielded myself from much of the gory parts by keeping my eyes closed. I highly recommend that. My sweet Jerod was so great to cheer me on and read the nurse's face for me verbally so I could just push and do my job. I would also like to thank my Mom who was a champ, praying for me, keeping me together and even cutting the cord!
2. Lack of sleep should be classified as a mental disorder. The simplest decisions became monumental..."should I let the dog out now or warm a bottle first?" This question might take me three full minutes to resolve, at which point I could have gotten both things accomplished and moved on to sorting the pile of tiny socks. I will break down at the least thing because I just feel paralyzed by indecision...not out of insecurity but just out of sheer inability to make all of my thoughts connect and get to an outcome. I'm still working through this. I'm pretty sure Jerod thinks I have lost my mind. I surely hope I find it again!
3. I don't hate mornings. This statement should go down as a real, live, certifiable miracle in the Book of Miracles. I have always hated mornings. Alarm clocks are harbingers of evil. I have always moved slowly and talked little. I'm not angry in the mornings, but I just have no need to interact with humankind for at least two hours after I awaken. Now, I half-enjoy waking up and cuddling with Shepard, changing his diaper, feeding him...and especially now...making him smile and coo. If the Lord had seen fit to have a cute little baby rise over the horizon instead of the bright, hot sun, more people would like mornings. (how's that for a fun mental picture?) I'm getting up an hour or more earlier every day now, and don't really mind it. Today I even had time to unload the dishwasher, clean off the kitchen table, and set out my cute new fall leaf placemats. People DO things in the morning besides run around getting ready? Apparently so. I'm now among them. The aforementioned statements do not disallow me from an occasional sleep-in should I be afforded the opportunity. And I'm still not a chatty Kathy...but I don't have to quell the feeling of meanness I once did.  :)
4. It's ok that babies are a big mystery. I was so concerned about not knowing anything about babies while I was pregnant. I read and read and was armed with lots of ideas about what to do. The reading was good, because there are things that are "knowable." I mean, you need to know how to feed him and when to be concerned about a fever, etc. But really, it's all a big mystery that needs to be solved...sometimes from minute-to-minute. There are clues and hints and witnesses to help you, and passages in books that jump off the page now that you're in the big middle of the mystery; but it's really all just some prayer and hope and trial-and-error to figure out what works for your baby at the moment. It takes time to build a rhythm and some confidence...or it did for me. There have certainly been moments when I've been completely at a loss, but that's when an awesome husband, friend, mom or somebody steps up and nudges you in just the right direction or at least gives you a license to make a good guess. Mysteries keep things exciting. Having a robot with a manual would be a lot less fun.
5. The plan is the friend. Planning ahead is the only way. I am kind of a planner, but I have taken it to a whole new level. There is a lot to consider with the simplest trip...diapers, wipes, extra outfit, bottle, pacifier...and that's just to get out the door! Going back to work has added a new layer, as many things I have to do at night. I'm not sure if we'll ever get to the new fall season on TV {not really a bad thing}. Just having everything in place and at hand when you need it reduces a ton of stress...and crying.
6. I am seeing all activities through a new lens of priority. Certainly for the time being, I am trying to funnel every decision about how I spend my time through these two questions..."is it good for my boys?" and "will it advance the Kingdom of God?" If the request fits into the yes for one of those questions, I will maybe consider it. Much, much further down the list now are questions like, "is it fun?" Fun will still happen, but I'm just not jumping at every chance to have it.

That's all for now. I'm proud that I strung so many sentences together, and I think they make sense. 


One month ago today

I had checked into the hospital for my first overnight hospital stay. I couldn't believe how calm I was. As I've mentioned before around here...labor and delivery was probably the thing in life that scared me the most.
I had a profound sense of duty on the delivery day though. Just a calm and peace. I knew that there was a job before me, and I set out to do my job. I didn't scream or yell or even cry (shocking!). I just breathed through the contractions, listened to the nurses and Jerod, monitored our progress...waited until 6 cm to get my epidural. That last hour before the epidural was pretty "special," but I lived. (Still don't know how women give birth without some numbing, but whatever...I don't get brownie points in heaven for having some help)
Even when the nurse said it was time to start pushing, I didn't freak out. I got a little nervous, but I knew my Mom and Jerod were there to pray and help as much as they could. They were both wonderful helpers. Since my eyes were pretty much closed the whole time, Jerod helped talk me through what I needed to do based on the nurse's reactions and instructions. I was pushing so well that she had to call in the doctor before she expected to.
And then, presto! Out came the baby in one big push. Once the nurse told me what to do and I realized it was within my power to get this show on the road as it were--I made sure we didn't prolong. I wanted to meet my little guy!
I couldn't believe my ears when I heard his little cry. Just perfect. We've had quite a first month, and there will be more on that later. I had a funny moment the other day when I realized I could now be the punch line of "Your Mama..." jokes.  Hee hee hee. I'm a MOM! Mama, Mother, Mum, Maaaaaaaaaaa! I have a new name. I have a new life. I have new purpose. It's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. It's a joy. Even when I have to scrape myself off the bed after a deep nap. I barely mind it.

Just wanted to finally get a little post on my blog before too long. I still have thoughts and things to process and write about, so I'll be back. Meanwhile, I'm going to watch the little one sleep. And if I fall asleep myself, all the better.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz



Well, we were darn sure he'd come on Saturday. It's now Sunday evening...no baby. No contractions. No nothing except his stretching his legs in there. I keep assuring him verbally that if he will come on out he'll have much more room to stretch out here. Especially if his legs are anything like his dad's!
My mom and dad are here now...and we wait.
And wait.
We'll see what the doc says tomorrow. Scheduled to begin induction Tuesday evening at the hospital! Woo hooooo!


Look! Over there! To the right! 7 days folks.

You know, other than the fact that it's our 11th straight day of 90+ degree temperatures, I'm feeling fine. I don't yet have that "GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME!!!!" intensity I've heard about. I am infinitely curious to MEET the baby, so in that sense, yes. Get this baby out of me 'cause I'm ready to pour out my love on him. 
I do have a "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" intensity about working right now. I'm just ready to take a breather and focus on this other whole set of responsibilities.
The brilliant news is that my doctor gave me a true "due" date yesterday. She basically said that if he's not here by early next week, we'll induce on Wednesday the 30th. I'm not a huge fan of being induced, but she feels it's best for baby and mama. So now I am grateful to have a definitive end in sight. I had nightmares about being a beached whale in the middle of July because I had made such a cozy home for the little guy in my belly.
I've told a few people...having a baby is a little weird in the sense that every other major event in your life, you plan a DATE and can count down and prepare. It's hard sitting on pins and needles as they say, with a bag half-packed and your family "on call." I mean, I could be leisurely waddling through Target and BOOM! Here he comes!
So...this time next week, we'll either have a baby or it will be baby-having-eve!


Gratitude. With commentary.

Our Sunday sermon ended with a charge to make a list of 30 things we're grateful for. OKAY!  :)
I'll do it in "public" then! I'm going to go ahead and say "salvation and Jesus" as givens...and here we go.

1. Family: all of 'em. Even the nuttiest of them are endearing. Jerod and I are both blessed to have great, supportive, and loving families.
2. Jerod: he's kind, real, smart, honest, tall, and awesome...long-suffering, patient, and interesting. And he likes me back.
3. Baby Shepard: I don't even know him yet, but he's been so sweet inside that he will surely be sweet outside. What a blessed and easy pregnancy it's been! Can't wait to meet this one.
4. Renovatus: my family in Charlotte. The place I feel at home. The place where my faith is grown and challenged and spurred.
5. My Pastors: dang. It's unreal how much I care for them.
6. My small group: there's nothing quite like a group that will cry with you and laugh with you, then pray with you...and sometimes do all three at once. With t-shirts.
7. Air-conditioning: no lie. I thank God for it about once a day in May - October.
8. My job: I rarely dread coming to work. I have great co-workers and work in a beautiful place that has felt like home since I was 18 years old. I make next to no money, but at least I like what I do. That says a lot.
9. My house: it's cozy, cool or warm depending on my needs, filled with love and fun antiques, fish and a dog...a great place to prop my feet up and feel at peace.
10. Godly heritage: when my faith falters, I can rest on the faith of my "fathers..." I know that God has sustained us, and that He always will.
11. Woods: I don't wander into them nearly enough; but whenever I do, I feel refreshed and serene. Especially if the woods are in the mountains and smell slightly of damp moss and ferns.
12. Creativity: I realize that any creativity I have is a gift from God. I don't take it for granted. I love the feeling of crafting something new or interesting or finding a new use for an existing thing...or stringing words together that work just so.
13. A good "ear": I love being able to sing along with the radio without hurting small dogs in my vicinity. It's a joy to sing. I can always find a way to poke holes in my talents and wish they were somehow better or more like "so-and-so's," but I am grateful that I enjoy opening up the pipes in the shower. 
14. The imac computer: If it were a person, I would hug it. Every day. It's the greatest computer on the planet.
15. E-mail: Odd, you think? Makes my life much easier...especially at work. I'd always rather write than talk, I guess. Good for documenting as well. I like e-mail.
16. Living between mountains and beaches: I love that if I need to/want to, I can be at a mountain or a beach within 3-4 hours. Need to make this happen more often, but thankful for a good geographical location in the world.
17. Being debt-free: Not everyone can be in this boat, and we've worked hard with God's help to make it happen. But having no credit card debt or extraneous debt is a blessing, indeed.
18. Education: So thankful to have been given opportunities to further myself and be challenged.
19. Birkenstock and Dansko shoe companies: given my foot condition (Fred-Flintstone-Flat), I am always thankful to have shoes that don't hurt my feet and are kinda stylish.
20. Travel: France, England, Africa...their people and beauty are etched in my heart and mind. And for all the places I've yet to visit, but can dream about...Italy, Greece, Germany, Japan, New Zealand. I can hope.
21. Mexican food: Cheese dip. Nachos. Fresh Salsa...yummo!
22. Books and Reading: For escape and information, I am thankful for the worlds I discover through literature and even the less-than literature
23. Mornings with no agendas: You know those days when you wake up and don't have a pressing "to do" list? Yeah, I barely know them...but I make sure I have one every now and again. A little coffee and space to think and be. You know, the ones when you can wear pyjamas for lunch?
24. Climate variations: I know, weird. But I love that I live in a place where I get all four seasons. About the time I'm getting done to death with one season, things change. Leaves fall or things sprout. I am not wandering around a desert or sweating year-round or sporting parkas every day. This makes me happy.
25. The Bible. The character of God revealed in the stories of real, fallible folk. God using broken instruments to make beautiful music and give us wisdom beyond our understanding.
26. Ice cream: glorious. in just about every flavor. any time.
27. Sunday afternoon naps. Weekly.
28. Missionaries and workers for justice: Thankful for all who risk lives and give up comfort to share the love and mercy of Jesus here and abroad
29. Clean/running water & modern restrooms: seems simple enough. But not everyone has access to such things. 
30. Cell phones: I mean, you don't have to answer it just because it rings...but it's nice to keep in touch with folks and to get a quick answer to "are we out of milk? 'Cause I'm at the store..."


15 days 'til due date!

Oh my. It really could happen anytime now. We spent the weekend trying to get the house picked up in case of emergency dash-to-the-hospital. Everyone says don't worry about the house...but please! I can't bring baby home to a wreck! And we still have to have clean clothes, towels, and sheets...you know!?

Jerod was so sweet to tackle the nursery closet as I supervised from the glider. We got most everything out of there and appropriated. Enough to get all the big baby stuff inside the closet as well as his hanging clothes. I can't imagine that his hanging clothes will ever be as long as his dad's! Just one last box of stuff I need to find spots for in the office/guest room.

If I had one wish from a genie in a bottle right now it would be that MY closet would get magically sorted, organized, and rebuilt. Just not gonna happen before due date...such is life.

The sweet husband also installed a ceiling fan in the nursery which was on my "to do" list. He agreed that we needed one after we spent time in there sorting the closet. It was a little stuffy!

We're ready. I mean. We have stuff. Lots of stuff. Diapers, creams, toys, onesies, wipes, bags, breastfeeding stuff, books, fans, lullabies, bottles, pacifiers, humidifier, socks, mittens, hats, furniture...man! Do we have STUFF!?! I still get the cold sweats when I think about delivery, but I just keep asking God to get me through it.

Feels like we're flying in airplane strapped to a skydiver and are about to be pushed out into the vast open skies. We don't know exactly when or exactly what to do...but we have an expert "attached" to us! And lots of family and friends ready to help us land. Thanks everyone for your excitement and prayers!


It's the Final Countdown!

25 days 'til due date, kids!
I'm in a last-minute flurry of purchasing the first-aid kit, thermometer, and gripe water! My hospital bag sits half-packed on the guest-room bed. You can't really pack up everything ahead of time. I have a short list of last-minute throw-ins. Surely I'll have at least 10 minutes to grab my phone charger! And I will take way too much. It's kind of who I am. We can always put something in the car...Jerod will accuse me of moving in.
One of the things I'm anxious to see is how our notions of parenting will be tested. We have a lot of those "I'll never...do (fill-in-the-blank) with MY child..." I'm sure it will all get blown to bits. I don't even think I'm going to bother writing any of it down. I'm hopeful I can stick to my guns about not going out in public with superhero costumes on.
From what I gather in my life experience, there are no definites. Just prayers and hopes, trial and error, sleepless nights, moments of hilarity, cuddles and hugs and growth.
We are getting excited about meeting him now. Some days it feels real and some days kinda hazy. We are about to meet one of the most important people in our lives! There will be so much to learn and get to know.
I'm so blessed. I can't wait to meet the little guy. He has been very sweet in utero. I hope that just carries on through.


Culture Immersion

I realized from the first few people I told about being pregnant that I had joined a club of sorts. The Mommy Club, I guess. Especially now that the belly is prominent, random folks will ask me about when I'm due, what I'm having, where I'm having him, am I ready?, am I excited? (really people? the sarcastic mommy wants to say, "Not really"), etc.
It's a little odd, because somehow, despite my best efforts to appear friendly, folks generally don't strike up random conversations with me. Until now.
I kind of like it. And I'm sure once the little guy gets here, it will increase (just don't ask to hold him if you're a stranger...ain't happenin'). I have talked with ladies at the dentist office, folks in Target, a girl at the greek fast-food place, etc. Everyone has a nugget of advice, precaution--or a story (or horror story--thanks!). It seems that most are excited for me and my forthcoming initiation into their club.
It's all very comforting and exciting (mostly--did I tell you about the hygenist from hell? trapped in her chair while she told me all about how pregnancy almost killed her twice? yeah, that was awesome). But it's nice to feel like you belong and to think that there's a community of people rooting for you--those you know and those you'll meet in the check-out line at the grocery store. Despite the fact that I know nothing of their culture yet, they are ready to help me ease into the culture shock.
I can't speak to diaper brands, sleep techniques, Yo Gabba Gabba, or poop color yet. I don't know the lingo and haven't experience projectile vomiting. I haven't held my little guy and looked into his eyes and seen his dad or counted his toes and fingers...but I sure am excited about learning this culture!
40 days 'til due date. We can't wait to meet you, baby boy!


45 days and counting

...wow. Check out my cute little countdown at the top right...Getting my list together for the hospital-bag-packing. Toothbrush and some socks should about do it, right?
Will post both of my shower pictures and new ultrasounds very soon!
We got to see his little chubby cheeks (frontside) yesterday. What a beautiful blessing.


Working 9-5, what a way to make a livin'...

...Barely gettin' by. It's all takin' and no givin'...

I learned this Dolly Parton classic for a 2nd grade talent show. I could sing the heck out of it for an 8-year-old. And I chickened out before I could take it to the stage. I think they were calling my name, and I was NOT going UP THERE! Boy, how things have changed. These days I find myself fairly comfortable on a stage.

But the song...

I enjoy being a productive member of society. I quite thrive on having a schedule, deadlines, expectations. I'm not sure I know how to live in a world where those three things don't exist. And here I am...facing it. I'm really trying to get a handle on the abrupt changes that are about to come my way. After I get the little guy here, I won't have time to even recover before he starts making inarticulate demands that I probably won't know how to respond to at first. It will be a great adventure...and I will have help...and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm so thankful for the timing, that my sweet tall dude will be around all summer to help! He's such a help all the time. Part of me is a little excited about having a free-flowing schedule with my only attentions being on the little guy and getting to know this whole new human, welcoming him into the world, taking walks, watching fireflies, eating and feeding and changing diapers, and trying to catch a zzz here and there.

And just as quickly as he comes and I get used to that rhythm, I will return to the 9 to 5 (or 8:30 to 5) and join the ranks of working moms. We visited our intended childcare situation this week, so I could see where little guy was going to be rocked and fed while I'm at work. The room was sweet and music played softly. One of the little ones in a bumbo seat practiced her wave on us while two others broke out into tears at the STRANGERS who dared enter their sanctum. I feel as good as I can about sending him there . This decision hasn't been easy; but in the long run, we feel it's best for our family right now. That has been the liberating factor. It's for right now. Not forever. At any point, I can reevaluate, situations can change. We'll see how it goes through Christmas and monitor and adjust accordingly.

I'm giving myself a lot of leeway to learn as I go and to ease into this vast unknown. I won't have annual evaluations or incident reports for parenting. I will have lots of love to give, a great partner to help me, and a "village" of folks surrounding me...as well as a super-supportive workplace just four miles away from childcare. This can be done. As many folks who have encouraged me to be a stay-at-home mom...just as many have encouraged me that working and parenting can be fulfilling in its own way too.


Feels like crunch time!

Well, here we are...60 days to go. I made a list last night of all the things to do. 60 days can seem like a lot on paper, but when I boil it down, it's just 9 Saturdays until the due date!! YIKES!
"Deep breath. You can do this, Shelley."
I really like being prepared. This tendency is one of the hardest things for me to deal with as I think about the transition to mommy-and-daddy-hood. I am embracing the fact that I will not have a CLUE for the next 18 years. I mean, I can pack his snacks for road trips, have an extra onesie (or three extras) in the car, and have extra diapers...I can plan appointments and soccer registration and what schools to send him to. I can make sure he has notebooks and pencils and crayons for the big first day of kindergarten.
But I cannot plan for the minute-by-minute decisions and dilemmas that will face Jerod and me as we attempt to turn the little pooping-crying-smiling machine into a responsible, compassionate person.
In moments like this, I am reminded of my frailties and my intense need for God's grace. It reminds me of what faith is all about. Stepping out into the nothingness and knowing that God will place a stepping-stone beneath my feet. I will rest in his grace. I will breathe deeply His presence and drink from His fountain of knowledge.
And I will still go online this weekend and find a shade for the nursery window too. As much as I want the Son to shine in the nursery, I don't need full sunshine. Lord, help us all.


I'm a "we" in more ways than one

I'm reading Donald Miller's new book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years". It's ridiculously good. Of course, I love his style and thoughts. He talks a bit about our lives as a story...that we need to be listening to the Author's voice and "writing" our lives in such a way that is pleasing to God and active and interesting...that's a tragic boil-down of a lot of good exposition, but it works to give you some context.
One of the things I read last night was that our "stories" are much more interesting when we're writing them for an "us" instead of a "me." We are better people when we don't isolate ourselves and we involve others in our storyline. He said this in the context of a dating relationship, but I find it true on so many other levels as well. Christian community, friendships, family and outreach to our community at large...
I've discovered this week that I much prefer "we" to me. Jerod has been out of the country for a full week now. I was really sad to put him on a plane and send him over the ocean. I'm pretty sure I went through a whole pocket pack of Kleenex on the way home from the airport! I mean, happy for HIM to experience wonderful sights and food and opportunities...but just sad that he wouldn't be around.
I tried to console myself with notions like this:
1. I will get to sleep on the WHOLE BED and stretch out like I used to before I was married. I used to sleep on my stomach in the "X" formation...and now that I'm pregnant, I like to bust out a "K" or an "L" on my side and take up most of the bed after he gets up in the morning.
2. I will not have to wear my snore strips across my nose because my pregnancy-induced snoring will not bother the DOG.
3. I can eat whatever I want...and lots of Italian and Mexican food (since I tend to kill him with my near-constant desire for those nationalities' foods).
4. I can read as long as I like in bed because he will not be there to have light in his eyes.

And that's about all I came up with. It consoled me for a day or two. Some "me" time!
But I seem to be ruined for that now. I'm a "we."

1. I have been restless sleeping, despite my ability to take up the entire bed. His spot feels empty.
2. I don't miss the snore strips...I won't lie.
3. Picking out what to feed myself is more of a chore, and I miss having him around in the evening during dinner preparation...and our schedule in general. To be perfectly cliche, pizza just doesn't taste as good when we don't pass the (horrible-I know) garlic butter back and forth to dip our crusts in.
4. I am staying awake far too late reading, and miss those good 8 hours I get when I go to bed about the same time he does. It's like I stay up later because the silence and stillness seems boring and lifeless. I seem to need to fill it with activity of some sort.

I so appreciate all that he does around the house, too. He feeds all of our fish and looks after the dog and waters the plants, and keeps up with the mound of dishes. He makes me more grounded and calm. He encourages me to eat things like oranges, and he makes the morning coffee. And he mows our jungle of lawn.

I'm so glad he's coming back tomorrow. I don't need a lot of me time. I'm a we now. And soon we will be three. And things will change once again. I think I can roll with it. Life is more interesting when we're a we.


90 Days to go...my momentary meltdown

I was attempting to get dressed for work today. Most days, it hasn't been too difficult. Everything goes with black pants, right? I'm accepting the fact that I look sort of bulgy. But the forecast today was calling for temps in the 70s, so I thought I might whip out some sandals and let my puffy winter-feet breathe.
WRONG! The feet are already expanding a bit. I definitely have some sandals I can wear, but hardly anything suitable for work. It's just not cool to wear my birkenstocks to an event with a donor who gave "building money." I'm not looking to be a fashionista here, but I also don't want to look like a round lump of dump!
The only work sandals I had to go with brown wouldn't quite fit around the cankles. Change clothes completely. Black sandals that fit are my dressy back-ups...only suitable for wearing short periods of time and not for all day working.
So, I finally got myself covered and in socks and winter shoes and started my pity party. It's hard enough some days to get my job done (especially this time of year)...and then to have to maneuver dress outfits with dress shoes on fat feet. My lack of sleep and generally feeling of overwhelmy-ness just spilled out. I cried all the way to work. Not bawling, just frustrated.
I started thinking about all the events I have coming up, what I'm going to wear to them (I really have plenty to wear--don't let me fool you here) and how I am going to get everything done for them...and how tired they're going to make me...and how standing up at them is going to make my feet EVEN FATTER and I won't be able to wear ANY shoes I own...
You know.
The spiral.
To the pit of despair. :)
I walked in and had a few moments to compose myself and get my leaky eyeballs under control.
My boss walked in and handed me an April calendar of all "my" events. She had already written "Let's talk" on it. She proceeded to tell me that some of our other staff members could relieve me at some of these and to let her know which ones I'd need help or a substitute.
I probably looked at her like she was Jesus himself.
Because in that moment, she was. The Lord answered a prayer of tears. I saw no way around the sheer busyness and stress and long hours that I was facing. He did.
And on my lunch hour, I might have gone to Shoe Carnival and gotten a suitable black and brown pair of work sandals in WIDE a size up...fat feet need love too.


Things I don't get...

I've been toiling over calendars all day. Made a list this morning (for others on campus who need it) of my events between now and June 20...there were 34 events. And since I made the list, I've added four to it. And no telling what we'll add between now and June.
I've been updating calendars and event details like a mad-woman all day, tracking down people to get guest lists, numbers, and coordinate logistics. My brain is just tired. So, here's a random blog because this brain needs a BREAK! (ever try doing this much detail work with "pregnancy brain?" sheesh.)

So, a short list of things I don't get (hint: there's a theme)
1. Fancy hand towels in a restroom that I'm not supposed to use
2. Having china that takes up space but you never use because "it's too nice, and I wouldn't want to break it."
3. Candles that are "too pretty to burn" and end up with crusted dust all over them
4. Rooms in a house that go unused because you don't want to mess up the furniture
5. Dining room table covers (that look like wood) that never come off--so the table you're "protecting" is never seen (??)6. Plastic runners over rugs

That'll do it for today's list. Why have things you feel like you can't use? They take up space and are useless. I believe in USING what you have and not living in a museum full of things to gaze upon.

Random. I know.


So Long, Armoire...Hellooo Nursery

Well, our house lost about 100 pounds last night. I nearly did a jig for joy when I saw our beautiful Lexington armoire heading out the front door in the arms of another man. Ever since we found out about wee baby Jones, we have been furiously (at times) trying to reorganize the house to accommodate this 7-10 pound addition. Our house needed to go on a serious diet plan.

The office moved into the guest room, which became the "guest/office suite," as I like to call it. IKEA to the rescue with some fantastic bookshelves.
The nursery, however, has been lagging behind my schedule. We were the proud owners of a lovely all-hardwood Lexington armoire...a lifetime piece...as Jerod would say. It was something he purchased for his bedroom before I was in the picture. Agreed, it was lovely, but after it had been moved around a few times, it lost its usefulness to us. It was too large for the new suite, too formal for the nursery, and too small to hold our TV. "Lifetime" or not, it needed to go.
As an aside, I'm not sure I even believe in "lifetime furniture." If I spend so much on it that I can't bear to part with it, then what do I do when my needs and tastes change?

After three listings on craigslist and reducing the price each time...plus some calls to local furniture consignments...and after three months of it just being in the way...it's GONE! Yahoo!

Now I can get this nursery shaped up and find someplace to put all of this amassing baby stuff. I already have piles of clothes and gadgets! Babies are "lifetime furniture" for sure! But at least the kind I can believe in.


What's in a name?

Jerod and I have talked about what we might name a baby for years...long before we were even ready to HAVE a baby. We had a loooonnnng list of girls' names we like quite well. So, here we turned up pregnant, and one of my first orders of business was to get this kid named. It's just not something I could save 'til the last minute. I wanted to know boy or girl, and I wanted said boy or girl to be named.

For about two years I've kept a running list of names I liked on my computer. Whenever I'd hear something I liked, I'd be sure to jot it down. Again, the girl column much, much longer than the boy one. The difficulty we had in coming up with a boy made me quite sure that we would definitely be having a GIRL.

For any teachers out there, you know quite well the pitfalls of certain names, and after teaching for 12 years, Jerod has lots of names that had to be immediately crossed off--mostly because of a kid he remembered less-than-fondly. There were also a few names I really liked, but were names of kids Jerod has at his current school. It would be weird to name our baby after a kid he's teaching right now, unless it were something fairly common or generic.

Just those strikes decimated the better part of my list.

OK, well, I also had two other criteria. With Jones being such a common last name (4th place in the U.S., first in the U.K.), I wanted something not-as -common for a first name; so I looked up list after list of the top 10, top 50, and top 100 names and tried to avoid those.

My other criterion was that the name be something that one could easily look at and pronounce, so my child didn't have to constantly tell his teacher what the heck his name was.

So, our finalists were "Cole" (my grandmother's maiden name) and "Ezra." The more I said "Cole Jones" the less I liked the way the "o" sounds worked together. And Ezra started losing luster since in our circle of friends and family, we knew about 15 recently-born boys with Old Testament names. I love Bible names, of course, but we didn't want to just join the trend by choosing another name to add to the list of Jacob, Caleb, Micah, Jonah, Noah, Malachi, etc. But, I liked it because it had a "Z" in it. :) And Ezra in the Bible was an amazing dude.

Over Christmas break, the name Shepherd emerged. Something about it clicked with us, both with the sound of it and the meaning of "shepherd," both literally and spiritually. We put it in our back pocket.

After much discussion and more discussion, we decided to let it rest a few weeks until we found out for sure it was a boy.

Man, that sonogram technician took her own sweet time getting to the gender part of the exam. I'm sure all that checking out the heart, measuring the head, and making sure he had fingers and toes was important; but I was DYING to know what kind of baby was in there! :)

And so, as you've seen on his first pictures...he's a BOY. Yikes! And Shepard returned. The more we said it, the more we liked it. And for spelling, we decided to go with a less literal, last-name spelling. As an aside, I had met a fellow named Shepard Fairey a few years ago--a well-known graphic artist and a grandson of a former president of Winthrop University. He's best-known for this poster and this poster. And, there's a FOX newscaster named Shepard Smith. So, it's not unheard-of as a first name.

Then, there's my tall guy. He's a lover of animals and tends after our little flock of fishes and dogs, and generally one who herds kids all day. I like that the attributes of the word "shepherd" seem to fit him as well.

We weren't terribly particular about the middle name; so we went with my maiden name, "Giles." As a first name, it sounds like a butler or chauffeur; but as a middle name, I quite like it.

There you go. Shepard.

"Return, faithless people," declares the Lord, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:14-15


Baby Bump

You can tell a really tall person took this picture...


The First "Mommy" moment

I can't believe I didn't post this when it happened...so I'll back-track. My hope is that one day I can look back on this point in life on my blog and have some nice memories recorded of the journey. Especially when Shepard turns two, and I'm not sure if I really want to keep him (I kid, I joke, I kid.)
I spent about the first 8-9 weeks knowing I was pregnant trying to convince myself that it was true and that we had an actual due date on an actual calendar. It wasn't a "someday we'll have a baby..." anymore. It was "in July we'll have a baby."
I really struggled with some anxiety about whether there was REALLY a baby in there. Even the 9-weeks ultrasound didn't seem to quell those anxieties for long. I mean, shouldn't I be barfing or something?
I quickly signed up for all kinds of e-newsletters and scanned internet forums for news, tidbits, "am I allowed to eat that?" information, and downloaded the "What to Expect" app for my ipod.
The app updated me on the baby's size and growth milestones, and I began to pray every few days for whatever it was the baby was developing...heart, lungs, eyelids, fingernails, etc.
The day that got me though was the day that it said "His eardrums are developed now, so he can hear sounds like your voice..." What sweetness!!! Here I had known about him (or her as far as we knew then) for weeks and weeks...but suddenly he began to know about ME too! I got misty-eyed.
"Here I am, Baby!" I said aloud. "I love you." I hope he heard me. :) I'm sure I'll tell him again and again.


Special Delivery!

Now that there's a growing boy inside my belly, I am faced with a horrible reality. He has to come out somehow. I am not the woman who thinks delivery of a baby is a magical, spiritual moment. I cannot watch "The Baby Story" or any other show about delivery...never have been able to. I have a weak stomach, as they say. The whole process seems frightening, painful, messy and horrifying. Especially the part when they hold up the newborn covered in...well, goo. I'm getting a little queasy just writing this out.
I hear women talk about the miracle of birth, how the pain connects them to the Earth (or something...I tune those ladies out pretty fast), how it's an honor to bring a person into the world...And I gotta say...on THIS side of childbirth, I am not experiencing any of those lofty ideas. I would be just fine with going old school and being put to sleep pregnant and awoken with a clean, fresh baby in my arms. But, I hear they don't do that anymore.
So here are five things that are getting me through this anxiety:
1. My friend Michelle described labor as one day of really, really hard work. (Um, it is called LABOR for a reason) With that mindset, she says, you can get yourself through it. It's pretty much ONE day that will possibly make you very tired and be difficult, but it will pass and you will have (literal) fruits of your labor. This mindset makes it easier to wrap my brain around.
2. Bazillions of women have done this and lived to tell about it. There's something to be said about history being on your side. Women gave birth in fields and less-than-delightful circumstances. Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll be delivering in a clean hospital surrounded by medical professionals and family. If so many other women can do it, surely I can too.
3. Epidural. I do not diminish those (crazy) women who want to experience all that pain. Everyone has to make her own decision on that. I don't believe I get any extra brownie points for going all natural or demerits for using some meds. Do not send me links to "reasons an epidural will make your child a freak" articles. I won't read them. As of now, I plan to use pain management resources that are available to me. Like most rational humans, I have a healthy fear of intense pain. Call me crazy.
4. The hospital tour. Jerod and I took our tour of the hospital where we will deliver on Saturday. Hearing about the check-in procedure, seeing a room where I might deliver, and getting visuals on everything have been extremely helpful to my mindset. It makes the abyss of unknown a little more real. I was comforted about having a nurse assigned just to me and seeing the sweet little newborns in the nursery. We've also had several people tell us what great experiences they had delivering at this particular hospital. As a planner-type, just seeing locations and walking through the steps a bit have given me some peace of mind.
5. Prayer. God and I have been discussing this whole arrangement. I know my mom has been praying specifically about the delivery. God has never promised to make anything easy on us, but I do think He promises to be THERE and PRESENT with us in our hardest times. So, I am putting some faith in Him to walk me through this, to give the staff presence of mind, and to help Jerod to help me.

So, Mr. Shepard, I will be beyond excited to see you. I just pray that you come out tall and skinny like your Dad, quickly, and in the hospital. Is that too much to ask? :)


Along the Way...

I'm a little over halfway to the big day when we meet this little guy. I was able to hear the heartbeat again last week and heard some significant kicking on the handheld listening machine. Still not feeling significant kicks, but as I understand, those will come soon enough. I'm trying to prepare myself to fit about 14-20 inches of baby in my eight-inch torso. In many ways, it would be easier if Jerod could carry the baby, what with his four-foot torso and all! :) Thanks to my genetic sponsors for making me short-waisted.
On the symptom side, I really still can't complain. I mean, I haven't even BARFED yet! (thank you, LORD) And I don't have any additional food aversions to my usual. Though I have had a disturbing uptick in ideas about sausage biscuits. I have not given in to these ideas, however. I could eat lemony-limey-citrusy things like crazy. If it's tart, I pretty much want it. If it's chocolate, I couldn't care less (bizarro!). My mouth is watering just thinking about the lime-pineapple bars in my freezer.
Sleeping has already become a challenge. The purchase of the body pillow radically transformed my hip/back comfort level, so bravo on that. Sadly for Jerod, I have developed the pregnancy SNORES! Of course, they don't bother ME at all...but I am wearing a breathe-right strip every night to alleviate the sawing sounds so he can get some sleep. And...my worst symptom thus far has been the onset of carpal tunnel in both wrists. According to the doc and my "what to expect" app, symptoms are due to swelling in the wrists that put pressure on the nerves in the wrist. So, I've been sleeping with these wrist splints. Makes me feel like I could put ninja-karate moves on anyone who would dare attack in the night! It's just annoying, as I can't even get my make-up on the in the morning without my hands going all tingly pretty much constantly.
BUT, people who have kids say being a parent is great...so I'm choosing to believe and focus on that. Ha! For now, I just have to look a fright when I go to bed with all my paraphenalia.
More later on our hospital tour!


Introducing...Baby Shepard Giles Jones!!!

Sorry, Shepard...I won't make a habit of showing everyone your personal parts...
just this once.


Facing us. And waving. He's friendly.


Baby, Baby...I'm taken with the notion...

...to love you with the sweetest of devotion.

So, we're having a BOY in June! (maybe July--we'll see if he's timely) I've been waiting a while to write about it and letting it all sink in. I can't begin to fathom all the changes we'll undergo as a family this year. I just don't think you can know until you do it. So, here's to the unknown, chaos, crazy love, learning about baby gadgets/toys/shows/clothes/diapers!!

There seems so much to learn that sometimes I get very overwhelmed with it all. Thankfully, we have a great network of folks who are ahead of us on this river of knowledge and will help us along the way. I understand what they mean when they say "it takes a village..." We've already been blessed from every side with giveaways/hand-me-downs/cast-offs, and we're only halfway through the pregnancy.

Last week, we did our ultrasound and were able to see sweet baby boy squirming and moving around. I'll have pictures of that up as soon as I can get my scanner reconnected. (more on that in a minute!) By the grace of God, I've had a remarkably easy pregnancy thus far with no sickness or discomfort (yet), so I was beginning to wonder if he was still in there! He is! We saw his little fingers and toes and his heartbeat...and his boy parts. All such a wonderful and reassuring sight of the gift God has given us.

We're doing fruit-basket-turnover at the house...consolidating our office and guest room. And by the magic of IKEA and some creative thinking, we are working toward two very cool rooms. One to welcome visitors and one to welcome baby boy. It will really make you re-think junk you've been holding on to when you have to make room for a new human. Of course, in the move, the scanner seems mad at me that we left it unplugged for so long and doesn't want to cooperate with me currently. I shall send it to bed without paper and see if it straightens up! Next post will hopefully be baby Shepard's first photos. :)

And a few words from Psalm 139...which we had read at our wedding:

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.


Don't forget Haiti...

The dust has settled, so to speak. But let's not forget that they are still in need of prayers, food, water, and medical help.

I gave. Can you?


A Culinary Tour of Charleston

We made a quick getaway to Charleston this weekend. Kind of a "last hurrah" before we are hauling a stroller, diaper bag, four changes of clothes for spit-up/poopy, wipes, bottles...well, you get it. Just in case we didn't have another opportunity to take a trip before June. Now I'm trying like crazy to save all my leave for post-baby.
We had a blast, despite some pretty good rain, and pretty much wandered about and found a few great places to eat. We may be a little too obsessed with Anthony Bourdain, who has a show on the travel channel called "No Reservations." He's a chef who travels about and eats good food. We ended up at three places in Charleston where Anthony ate when he was in town.
Our first, Cru (on Pinckney) was our big night out. Fantastic. We even topped things off with a bread pudding...rare for us, as I'm not a huge sweets person. A cheese-and-poblano stuffed chicken for me and grilled swordfish for the boy.
Saturday morning, we geared up for a two-mile walk to Hominy Grill, umbrellas in tow as the forecast was not promising. We were going to walk since parking in downtown Charleston is a beast, and our car was happily tucked away in the hotel lot. And, if you're going to eat what we ate, you'll need the exercise to justify the calorie intake! Jerod got some kind of low country omelet that involved rice, shrimp gravy, etc. I won, though, with my intake of "The Big Nasty." A buttermilk biscuit, topped with fried chicken breast, white cheddar, and sausage gravy. Sweet Lord in Heaven. The Big Nasty was breakfasty goodness. Be prepared to get hurried along though, as the Hominy waitstaff hovered over us, and scooped up our spare butter before we were done. I thought Jerod was going to poke the waiter with a fork when he swooped in for the mostly-eaten plate before J was done. :) Worth the walk, and we got to see some great streets and houses along the way.
Two miles there meant at least two miles back. Whew!
We made our way back to a cool cemetery we had seen on our Friday carriage ride at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Bless their hearts, I'm not sure why the UU's meet and call themselves people of faith, but their church was BEAUTIFUL. And their cemetery pretty cool too. There were graves dating back to the early 1800's. Perfect for picture-taking on a gray and drippy day.
Since the outside wasn't offering much in the way of good weather, we struck out for "South Carolina's Largest Aquarium store." Bust. Nothing compared to our own Fintastic right up the road. Oh well. As Jerod said, he would have wondered...
But then, Cinebarre!!! And no, that's not where you can get a cinnamon roll with a beer! It's a movie theater where you can sit in the theater and order food and drink! Hallelujah! We had just had a snack before entering, but what fun! They had pizza, sandwiches, burgers, popcorn (of course) and a whole host of things to eat. And they serve you on a small bar that sits directly in front of your theater seats. And...they're building one in CHARLOTTE! SWEET! We'll be hitting that up if we can find a babysitter in the Fall or Winter later this year.
Oh, Sherlock Holmes was pretty darn good, too. Everyone keeps telling us to fit in our movie-going now, since we won't see any again for a long while. So, we did.
A so-so burger at a local dive capped the night.
Sunday is for soul food. I love that sentence so much I want to write a book with that as the title. The much-bally-hooed Jestine's Kitchen was on our must-do for lunch. After driving around the same eight blocks for thirty minutes looking for a parking spot, I finally suggested "let's go RIGHT" and Voila! a spot. I just couldn't bear the thought of going left once again, and J's patience was running low. He actually threatened to skip Jestine's, so I knew that I must act quickly to revive my hopes of delightful fried okra.
Thankfully, the sun came out in time to keep us pleasantly bathed in warmth while we waited on the corner of Wentworth and Meeting for the promise of southern home-cooking. Not too long...then we were greeted with a basket of corn bread and honey butter. We both ran into people we knew there from the Charlotte area (crazy). I had the Sunday pot roast, topped with potatoes and carrots, mac-n-cheese, and fried okra. Jerod had the fried catfish with collards and fried okra. (You'd never know he was a transplanted mid-westerner!). Everything was FANTASTIC. And I hereby declare Jestine's Kitchen the winner of my life-long quest for the best macaroni and cheese. And I should admit that we ended things with some peach and blueberry cobbler (crisp), which was good because it had a serving of fruit for the health-conscious.
That about knocked us out for a good Sunday nap, as it was well after 3 by the time we finished up.
Now that we're home, it's back to real fruit smoothies and salads, and I hope that I didn't gain 12 pounds. I ate like a queen there, but I surely sleep like a baby here. A great getaway!! I highly recommend any of these places if you should find yourself in Charleston!


Not just the road less traveled...

Well, it's a new year, so I guess I need to get back on the blogging "horse." Surely there will be a lot to say this year. I mean...our family is growing. My belly is growing. Our house already looks like WWIII has hit. And everything is in transition. If that's not cause to pray and write, I don't know what would be!
So a quick tidbit about some reassurance from the Lord...
Our service on Sunday had to do with different seasons in life and how the Lord uses you and speaks to you and through you. It was also a call to us as a church that as the Lord uses us in our community, that we need to always be sure and remember our "first love" as described to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. We need to be focused on our relationships with Jesus first, and not only our good works.
That's the jist, anyway.
As I was praying, I could see in myself in my mind's eye in the middle of a large open field...you could see forever in every direction. I was standing in the middle of an intersection with lots of roads going out like spokes on a wheel. There were no road signs or direction, and seemingly I needed to choose which way to go. I pictured myself with a clipboard, trying to take notes on each way and reason out the best route. I was quickly overwhelmed.
I looked up, as if to pray, closed my eyes and breathed deeply and stayed like that for some time.
When I opened my eyes and looked back towards what was before me, there was now only ONE road. The Lord had heard my prayers, and didn't want me to toil and work for the answer. He wanted to show me the way.
So, Lord. Show me the way. The best way. The God way.