Merry Christmas!

Here's a holiday card featuring the little one. Hopefully, we'll get a good family picture over the next few days.


Santa...(not for little eyes)

I've been giving Santa Claus a lot of thought over the past week or so. It's something we'll need to decide by this time next year. I must admit, I'm leaning on the side of THIS. (for real click over and read) 

My friend Michelle said it really well. I'll keep you posted. We won't be in the business of ruining anyone's fun and fantasy, but I think we're going to focus on Christ's birth and let Santa be the mascot, not the omniscient gift-giver. There's only one of those.

We'll still learn about St. Nicholas, get pictures with Santa, and watch Christmas movies. And we're still deciding. Shepard has no idea about all the hoopla this year. There is just a shiny tree in place of his toy box right now. Most of all, I want him to learn about giving, grace and obedience in the context of scripture rather than fairy tales; and we want to create meaningful traditions.

UPDATE: Since I posted this this morning, I also ran across this blog. I'm inclining more and more to eschewing the over-materialization of Christmas. More for me to think about and consider.

Christmas 2011


Working...an update and a history

If I post today, then it looks like I at least attempted during November, right? I had two friends returning to work today and leaving their precious 2-month old sweeties in the arms of another. Both were asking aloud on facebook how that was going to work. Boy, do I know that feeling. I sent up extra prayers for them. It's the hardest thing to do.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I spent months working on our budget, crunching the numbers sixteen different ways, hoping it would magically turn out that I could be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I had been keeping up with our budget, so I knew what we were spending in a given category. There was just no magic. We make fine livings in the teacher-pay-grade category (due to the tanking state economy, I still make the same amount as a teacher with far less experience than I have...yippeeee!). We are comfortable. But, there was just no way to come up with a spare $900-$1000 a month. That's what it would take to cover our bills and basics no matter what I cut out. We live in a VERY affordable 1200 square foot house. It's cheaper for our mortgage than most apartment rents. We drive a 10-year-old truck and a car that will paid off in the spring. We live south of Charlotte, so our gas, taxes and everything is cheaper for us than our northern neighbors. We have the free cell phones with no data plan. Most of the "toys" we have were given to us in random acts of graciousness--cameras, iPad, computer, etc. We do have cable and internet, but cutting that out would not only cut a SAHM off from the world, but would only add about $80/month to the household. Cutting professional clothing from the budget would be maybe an average of another $50-$100 month. MAYBE. I work in town, so my gas costs wouldn't really go down, as there are still errands to run. I might have more time to coupon, so possibly I could save $100/month on groceries and maybe $60/month on eating out. We don't have a home phone, take very few trips/vacations (that's what we already cut), and have been extremely blessed with TONS of second-hand stuff for Shepard.
Even if you add up the maybe-savings, at the most, you're looking at $350/month. There was nothing I could do to make up the other $650/month shortfall, aside from moving to an apartment so we don't have home upkeep expenses. But then, you have no equity, interest write-off, etc. We explored even that. Even taking childcare expense out of the equation, there was still not enough.
I can truly say I want for nothing. I can also truly say that it's sad when you have two people who have ZERO credit card debt and don't live extravagantly cannot afford to let one parent stay home.
I don't know how people do it.
But over the past year, I've learned a lot. I am not super-mom. I am just doing the best I can to juggle all of this. Most days, I feel like I'm not doing anything well. I'll never be organized enough, creative enough or anything enough...and that's ok. I let myself off the hook. Working makes me interesting, forces me to prioritize, and gives me a lunch break to run errands toddler-free. Did you know that you can buy groceries for the week, get the cold stuff put away, eat a sandwich and get back to work in less than an hour? Hmmm?
I do really well with deadlines and expectations. I'm not sure I'd be ME without a job or something to get my day going with a schedule. I thrive in the confines of external responsibility. I long for more time for my family, but God hasn't yet provided me with another alternative. HE (God) is my job. My employment is a way to provide for my family. Until we form a commune or one of us lands the CEO job somewhere, this is what we have. We're determined to make it work. God is helping us. God loves us, and certainly loves Shepard. I'm leaning on Him and counting on Him to work it all out.
If you have any leads on winning lotto numbers or posh part-time jobs, holla at me!  :)


Just a slice of life

I woke up with pink eye Saturday morning (joy). I'd never had it. But I definitely had it. One look in the mirror and I said, "I look like the creature from the blue lagoon."
Jerod: "you mean the black lagoon?"
Me: "Yeah, the black lagoon. The blue lagoon was a movie, wasn't it."
Jerod: "If you looked like the creature from the blue lagoon, you'd look like Brooke Shields..." the prospect made him smile.
Me: "Definitely not looking like Brooke Shields today. Sorry, honey."


Weaving some Christmas threads

I'm going to start this post without knowing where it will end. Perhaps it will iron itself out on the way. This week, I had the surreal experience of having made a debut in a music video. Seriously! It's not like I'm a rock star. I really truly like singing in choirs and singing back-up, so I'm never comfortable 100% with being at the CENTER of the stage. I just like being ON the stage. There's a difference.
Here's the video:

The guy who helped us with this (Adam Hobbs) did such an amazing job on the video! And God did such an amazing job on the lighting! It had threatened rain that day to the point that we thought we might be making a mud-slinging video. Then, about an hour or so before we started shooting, the clouds opened and the farm was bathed in beautiful sunlight. But wait, there's more.
Fast forward to last night.
I was driving home VERY late from a full day in Columbia. We had spent quite a bit of energy and had eaten a fantastic but heavy meal (horseshoes! YUM!). And, to make matters worse, my night owl had taken over my body the night before, and I was going on very little sleep. I was at the wheel, and trying hard to focus on something besides the center line, dash-dash-dash-dash-zzzz and the hum of the tires.
I began thinking through the words of this song (from the Christmas production I'm in in December). When I'm slated to sing something I really like to meditate on the meaning. A lot of the sentiments expressed are directly related to the Shepherd's perspective on the night of Christ's birth. He is exuberance and excitement. When he arrives at the stable, this rambling and rough-hewn guy is all reverence and humility. He packages all of the mysticism of the evening when he and his friends RUN to the place the star is pointing and says, "Open your eyes. Listen." There's so much wrapped up here, but I think what he's so enthralled by is the sheer overpowering nature of being in the presence of God himself. Overpowering and yet, approachable. What's sweeter in the world than a newborn? But still, the son of God.
COME ON RUN, RUN, RUN! To the eye of the storm.
Where all creation calls His name Emmanuel!

Emmanuel. God with us. We are able to escape the storm by seeking His presence. In the eye of the storm ("Nothing moves. Nothing breathes. Even silence keeps silent."). He came to the storm called earth and changed the course of history by creating a place of quiet rest. The stable became a true sanctuary. One of my favorite passages in all of the Bible is Psalm 63.
1 O God, you are my God;
      I earnestly search for you.
   My soul thirsts for you;
      my whole body longs for you
   in this parched and weary land
      where there is no water.
 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
      and gazed upon your power and glory.

 3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
      how I praise you!
 4 I will praise you as long as I live,
      lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
 5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
      I will praise you with songs of joy.
 6 I lie awake thinking of you,
      meditating on you through the night.
 7 Because you are my helper,
      I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
 8 I cling to you;
      your strong right hand holds me securely.

All of THAT to say, I am singing this invitation, RUN TO THE EYE OF THE STORM, to invite everyone who can hear to "the shadow of His wings." A place where we can find rest, restoration, joy, peace, praise, help, security...this song is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard. I am honored to sing it this Christmas as I invite folks along to engage the baby whose birth changes everything. Not changed. Changes. Can I get an AMEN!?


Walks Among the Trees

I admit it. I have always had a weakness for tall men and an aversion to shorter ones. I mean, short dudes are fine, but I wasn't attracted. My college roommates faulted me for this. While THEY were allowed to think a guy had cute eyes, nice knees or perfect hair...yes, you see my point. I couldn't help it. When I entered a room full of folks, I was immediately smitten with tall ones. And not because I am brushing 6' myself, mind you. I'm only hitting 5'5" in my low wedge heels.
These girls (whom I love) assured me that it would be just like God to send the man of my dreams packaged in a 5'6" body. I did have a fleeting crush on a 5'8" guy once. He had a heck of a personality and great wit.
You can imagine my sheer delight when a certain 6'10" cutie/smartie entered my life armed with cooking skills, a college degree, and a sweet heart. All this and tall too!? Shut the front door.
Our friend Elisabeth gave him the Native American name 'Walks Among the Trees.' (Mine, incidentally is 'Shops Among the Shoes')
I truly enjoy watching little kids in stores crane their necks in wonder and adults watching him walk by and talking about him as though his ears are too far up for him to hear...not to mention the short tag-along trying to keep up. He takes it all in stride, with his easy demeanor.
Sadly, he met a taller fellow (7'2"!!!) at a festival on Saturday and walked over to strike up a conversation, figuring they could have a laugh, commiserate, pelt things at unsuspecting folks' heads...but the poor dolt soured his face up and promptly walked away without even a word. Apparently, his height and all the attention has made him a little bitter. His girlfriend was kind enough to share a few words and even coerce the mean giant into a photo op. The guy still never said anything.
Bizarre to me, really.
My Tall One isn't necessarily one to grab the center of attention, but at least he knows how to smile, talk, and make the most of the height that God gave him. It's really a gift. I mean, how else would I get down my crock pot, blender, ice bucket, etc.? I'll tell you how, the glass blender would fall on my eye and bruise me. It's happened! We don't have a step stool b/c I can usually count on Jerod to fetch the stuff above 5'9". He can always see the stage at a concert, and can navigate crowds of people with ease. I can always find him in a store. And he makes me feel petite. That's worth a lot!
I can't believe we're closing in our SEVENTH anniversary. Seems like just yesterday he was remarking that our furniture, etc. work work well together on our FIRST DATE (ha ha ha!).  ;)
Love you the ocean, Jerod Jones.


Identity Crisis 102 or version 3.6

I seem to be in the midst of a small identity crisis. I definitely had one around 27 years old as I began to realize the person I was in my head really didn't match up with the person I actually was. I pictured myself as a young professional who spent evenings at the opera and on the town, vibrant and married-any-day to an equally young, hip, smart guy. Or sometimes in my head, I was an outdoorswoman, adept at the finer points of camping and hiking. Or a gourmet cook, just waiting for a crowd to cook for.
I realized that what I was actually DOING was working with youth...a lot...falling into bed late at night tired from dreaming up ways to connect these students to God...planning outreach and dramas and camps and occassionally having my own fun with them and with friends in the midst of it. And despite the fact that the person I had dreamed up along the way didn't actually match the person I was, I was ok with it. I felt that I was making a difference, or at least trying to. While I enjoy the outdoors quite a lot, it wasn't the centerpiece of my free time. And I still haven't magically morphed into a cook of any good repute. I cook when I have to because we need to eat. I am a pro at following directions, but there should be some warning on recipes that you can follow the process to a "T" and some invisible curveball can still sully your soup.
Here I am in my mid-30's feeling all weird again. Now in an academic environment, I feel as if I could keep pace with the academic-types who surround me, but I don't really have the background or academic "pedigree" to do so. I'm also swirling with ideas that I should write--as in more than self-centered blog posts--but am not sure exactly what I should be writing about or when to do that. Additionally, I miss those days of missions trips and outreach to folks in different circumstances than I was. I miss meeting real needs to actual needy people. It can be sometimes unfulfilling to meet needs of privileged, well-fed and well-heeled folks all the time. It has its place, as those folks can often fund outreach; but I miss getting in the thick of life.
Time and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I always intend to squeeze more out of it than it will actually allow. Even as a child, I juggled Brownies (the kind with badges, not chocolate), piano lessons, bike riding, gymnastics, cheerleading, band, and on and on. I have always been a multi-tasker. I'm trying diligently to streamline myself these days. To focus on what's really important--my awesome husband who far exceeds the one I dreamed up, my sweet son who seems to learn 14 new things a day, getting to work on time and getting my job done well, loving God, investing in others (why is this so hard for me!?), and figuring out where I'm supposed to be GOING. I don't want to just stop and hang out. But right now, I am trying to reconcile these lifelong dreams about where I thought I would be and where I actually AM. Do you just take one step at a time and hope you end up where you're "supposed" to? Or do you lasso God and ask Him to intervene and shake things up?
These are my questions today. I simply cannot imagine that I will have to keep wondering. I need these notions answered. I really need to be doing something bigger than myself and my dreams. Stay tuned.


Be my guest, Tracey Rouse

My friend Tracey Rouse recently moonlighted as a guest star blogger on my Pastor's amazing blog. Her post so aptly describes what I feel my own calling is, that I decided to have her be a guest star blogger on MY blog too! Welcome Tracey Rouse, everyone.

I have been Executive Pastor at Renovatus for all of six months and feel fairly unqualified at this point in my career to impart inspiring leadership lessons. However, in racking my brain over what to blog about, I realized that what I do have is a lifetime of experience in following. I also happen to think that concept of followership is an understated precursor to leading well, so maybe it is a good place to start!

My all-time favorite TV show is The West Wing. Fortunately for me, Pastor Jonathan knows the show well and appreciates (or at least tolerates) the unending references to it that I make on a regular basis. There is a scene from the show that sums up the roles of the Lead Pastor and the Executive Pastor at Renovatus well, I think, or at least it does for me! The Deputy Chief of Staff says to the President of the United States in a particularly poignant moment, “You know what the difference is between you and me? You wanna be the guy. I wanna be the guy the guy counts on.”

I’ve never aspired to be “The Guy.” It is of absolutely no interest to me in any context, really. I always want to be “the guy that the guy counts on.” (This is one of the reasons my current occupation is like living the dream!) I’m guessing growing up as the daughter of a Brigadier General might have played a part in some of this. Honor and respect were non-negotiable in my house. We placed a high premium on dependability and integrity. And naturally I developed a profound respect for uniting under one vision, for trusting in a chain of command, for following the leader. Orders are not optional and commands aren’t up for consideration. In the military, these principles literally protect lives and protect the mission. And while it is an imperfect analogy, it still translates into our context of church leadership. Do you take seriously the ministry you have been called to? Do you recognize the high stakes of what it means to actually be the church?

If so, I implore you: Strive to be the guy that the guy counts on, no matter what your ambition or calling. Follow your leaders. Trust in God’s lordship over your own life and over their lives, as well. They will not lead flawlessly, but extend the same grace given to you when you do not follow flawlessly.

Follow your leaders as they follow Christ (I Cor 11:1). Follow in such a way that inspires and empowers others to follow you.

Tracey Rouse is Executive Pastor of Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation.


How I know I'm old...at 36

I'm no spring chicken. This is all surprising to me since I feel about 28. However, I noticed some crow's feet on my latest round of photos. They should call them "happy feet" since you probably get them from smiling a lot. Which is why I'm ok with getting older. I'm in a good place for the most part. There are sooo many more things I still have on my life's to-do list, but I've checked off a lot too.
I was thinking about things today that are unique to folks in their upper thirties and above. I tend to be among the oldest in my friend circles these days (geez!).
So here's a list for kicks and giggles:
  1. When I took TYPING in high school, I learned on an electric typewriter and with a real book. No computer keyboards for us! We turned in our typing tests to be hand-graded by an actual human, too.
  2. I did not have a method by which to watch a movie in my home until I was 14 years old unless it came on TV and I found it in the TV guide or newspaper or happened upon it with a remote. We were a little late on the VHS-wagon, to be sure. But most everyone I know has been able to "rent" a movie or view one at will since they were little kids.
  3. Speaking of movies, it was a big fat hairy deal when "The Sound of Music" or "The Wizard of Oz" would come on once a year...since I had no other way to watch them.
  4. I did not have a cell phone until college, at which point, it was still a major novelty to my friends. I only got it because I was working a swing shift in Charlotte over the summer. It was for emergency use only. So, I didn't REALLY have a cell phone until after college to use for real.
  5. I never used the internet to write a research paper. We had email and online library systems, but the internet was still a bit of a mystery when I went through school. Imagine my learning curve when I took a master's class in English in '06! I had to learn how to do that kind of research (hint: it doesn't involve Google searches).
  6. And since we didn't have internet and had not really used it much, the idea of HOLDING IT in the PALM OF YOUR HAND was redunkulous. We used phone books made of paper that doubled as seat boosters if you were short.
  7. And it's not all technology stuff, since of course that all changes at the speed of light. I was never a princess, had no desire to be a princess and didn't even understand the allure of ballet class since they had to wear those silly tutus and tights. I wasn't exactly a raging tomboy either. Just a regular girl doing gymnastics, piano, Brownies, etc. The princess culture drives me bananas for soooo many reasons. But, back in my day, it just wasn't the thing. We pretended to be actual things that could earn an actual paycheck one day, like teachers and book salespeople (another story for another day).
  8. I rode a bike. A lot. And played in the woods. A lot. And I watched reruns of the Flying Nun and the Brady Bunch. I get very excited when I see kids in our neighborhood playing outside. I wonder what the world will look like in 20 years when children of the '00's grow up and discover they can't zap their boss with a Wii controller or wave a magic wand to make the world a better place.
  9. The last reason I know I'm old. I just basically used the phrase "kids today..." with a wistful shake of the head and slightly disapproving air.


Trash or Created in His image?

I have a friend from college that posted on facebook something about a recent trial in our area. The woman was convicted of killing her newborn. He said something to the effect of "this trash deserves the death penalty."
I have a heart for justice; don't get me wrong. I think it is a basic instinct and God-given (since we are created in His image) instinct to see consequences to misdeeds--our own or other's.
I didn't engage with this friend, since facebook isn't always the forum to start a war of words. Instead, I'll spend a minute here working out my thoughts in the relative privacy of my blog.  :)
I was convicted a few years ago about calling people "White Trash." And as much as I want to describe folks like this to you for the potential humor value, I'm not even allowed to do that. Because it's demeaning and I think horrifies God when we call His children "trash."
I still believe that it is God's heart to redeem humanity. The good, the bad and even the horrifying ones. I think he showed us His great grace and mercy when He forgave the thief on the cross and gave Him an assurance of joining Him in paradise.
As Christians, we have placed ourselves in His seat as judges of human trespasses. Can I understand why someone would kill a sweet, innocent baby? NO. Never. It hurts my heart, as I really literally would have taken the baby to raise. I do know that the enemy our souls is always at work, and the residue of a sinful world can be hard to escape. I don't know what kind of world this mom grew up in. She might have been so broken and scarred that she had nothing to draw from in the way of God's goodness. She deserves a punishment in the natural world, to be sure; but I would love to see her healed and whole.
We are called to love all people and see them as God sees them. I don't have any forgiveness passes to give out. All I can do is point to the cross. It changed the course of history. It changed my life. It can change ANY life. Jesus died for ALL sins. I simply can't believe that we can call anyone "trash" and carry the cross at the same time. We all deserve to be tossed into a pile to be crushed and burned. But Jesus said "NO. I will side with them. They are not trash."


When you fall off the blog wagon, you just keep getting back up.

We went to the beach. I didn't used to love it, but now I do. The sweat, the sand, the breeze and birds...the people watching! What's up with old guys, speedos and being way-too-tan?! "Sir, you look like a baked potato wearing an indecent red diaper."
I digress.
I realized on my last two trips that I have a significant fear of walking on a dark beach. A fear that I find not at all unreasonable. There are so many things to step on! Jellyfish bodies, living creatures with tiny pincers, sea shells, broken glass, bottle caps, seaweed, fish, leftover lunches...perhaps it's because I was never allowed to go barefoot. I can barely stand to be barefoot in my own house. I always always have something on my feet. ALWAYS. I really can't stand to step on something squishy or slimy or alive. The idea of stepping on a jellyfish sends me into mild convulsions. So, what may seem like an unreasonable and insignificant fear to say...Jerod...is an absolute terror for me.
Our late-evening walk down the beach then became a highlight for my foot-squishing-fear. We had a small flashlight with us, but I could not focus on the sound of the ocean or anything else because I was lurching with fear. The wind was also so stiff that we couldn't hear each other talk if we were turned just the wrong way. There was a family out searching for creatures...and finding them (!!!) which also didn't help my state of mind. This issue went on for a full thirty minutes. Finally, I commandeered the flashlight and was able to walk in peace. Why didn't I think of that earlier? Now I knew just where to step and could relax some.
Of course, the Lord can use our fears to teach us more about Him. Jerod and I even discussed our fears--big and small--as we walked. As we finished our walk and headed back up to the boardwalk, I had such a great understanding of the words in Psalm 119 that promise "My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path."
Knowing, reading, and studying God's Word reveals His character to me. I have faith that he will not let my foot slip...and He will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121) When His Word illuminates my path, I will know where to step next. Granted, a lamp at my feet--much like our piddly flashlight--only illuminates a few steps at a time. I'm not privvy to what's a year down the road. I do get so caught up in wanting to know what the big master plan is! God promises to give me safe footsteps. If I keep following him day after day, I'll end up where I need to be. Safe and sound. I may have to jump puddles or scale some walls, but He will be there every step of the way.


Bliss and Chaos

I took my journey to the mountains. And it was lovely. Except for the little traffic snag through Shelby, NC, which I ameliorated with a Cookout milkshake. I have oft heard tale of the Cookout milkshake and their 40 flavor offerings. Peanut Butter Fudge kept me happy while I drudged through stop-and-go. The nice lady on my GPS took me up a road I'd never traveled, complete with farms, antique stores (I lost any extra time in that traffic. SHOOT!), barns and sprawling ranch homes. I would momentarily become whistful about living in the country and then remember that these people had little to no access to a Target or grocery store. I love rolling fields, but am just not quite ready for loss of amenities.
Where was I? Oh yes, winding up the foothills toward Marion. I arrived in Montreat just in time for a light rain. As I waited for the group to arrive, I listened to the rain dripping out of the mountain laurel and smelled the mossy-dirt smell that instantly makes me want to throw a tent in the woods and cook something yummy over an open flame. And listen for bears.
Then I met my companions for the weekend. Pretty much all of us are mothers of pre-schoolers, with a grandparent or two enlisted in helping "Dad" with childcare so we could make a quick escape. I instantly felt at home with these ladies, after we cleared up that I was not the housekeeper. I might have laughed so hard I peed. But I won't tell.
Life has been so full of hurry and the mysteries of pre-toddlerhood lately that I hardly knew what to do with myself upon being given the option to shop or sleep/read. In the instant I had to decide, sleep/read won. Boy, did it win.
The group after our killer hike up Lookout Mountain. I won't lie. I was dying. But I did it!

I loved our retreat study, Loving Well, by Beth Moore. I hate to tell my Baptist friends, but that lady is all-out Pentecostal!  :) In any case, it was so evident that she is a woman of prayer and love above all. We really dove in to divine love, loving beyond our capabilities. Anyone can love those who love them back. But we are called to love the unlovable, the unloved, our enemies and the stranger. An by love, I mostly mean "serve." That's what love really is when it comes down to it. Am I willing to give up some of my "me..." my time, my resources, my energy and spend it on "my neighbor?" Very challenging. I need to continue drinking from the loving well to love well.
Of course, wee little dude decided to really take off walking AFTER I LEFT on Friday. I mean, I was home until 2:30 pm! Daddy and Grandma got to watch him do 7-8 steps at a time. Oh well, he put on a walking show for me when I got home by walking from the front door to the sofa! And don't ask me why I put exclamation points all up in this paragraph. His walking means more mommy running--hopefully outrunning. And that sneaky momma-fear that creeps over you when things get a little too quiet. I will always be wondering where he's going to go next and hoping like heck the bathroom door is closed and he isn't discovering what his rubber ducky looks like in the toilet bowl.
The mountains were bliss and peace...but so is my current chaos.


Driving Alone...God and my iPod

I am heading to the hills tomorrow because it's just too hot to breathe. Literally. My asthma and the ozone are at odds. I have been planning to go on a ladies' retreat to the mountains with a bunch of ladies I don't even know. Not sure what would possess me to do such a thing, other than mountains in June sounded very enticing. I mean, I know ONE person, my sister-in-law who invited me to tag along. I have yet to spend a night away from Shepard, so this will be a test run. Daddy and Grandma will hold things down with the munchkin, so he's in good great hands.
I realized this morning that I haven't been alone in a car for more than about an hour in probably more than a year. I've hardly gone anywhere without tag alongs! What will I do with five delicious hours with God and iPod? I will probably sing myself hoarse, since I LOVE to crank up my tunes and belt it out. And I'm taking the scenic route through the hills. And I might just stop and take pictures of anything beautiful I see, just because I can. I will plan a little extra time for that. I may or may not stop and get a milkshake. I'm not telling.
I do dearly hope that the heat doesn't follow me. If I could be an X-Man mutant, I would have the ability to create weatherproof forcefields around my body and provide that service to anyone else who wanted it. I would call myself SHIELD. (Rain-X is probably copyrighted)
Here's to an adventure! Here's to new friends! Here's to scenic routes in the mountains and milkshakes and singing at the top of my lungs because I can!
See you on the flip side!


Dream Jobs

Don't you ever wonder what you might have been if you weren't what you are? At least in the employment division? I am currently an event planner. I make sure that we have a venue, flowers, candles, food, chairs, tables, lights, clean restrooms, guests, happy guests, traffic flow, parking...and do all of that perfectly so I'm ready for curveballs...like the table catching on fire in the reception hall right as the bride was walking into the adjacent room for her wedding (yes, it happened).
It never gets dull.
But, I often muse about made-up jobs I could have.
1. Editor of social media and blogs. I'm not all judge-y about grammar. (Clearly. I just used the word "judge-y.") But, I really like for people to use the right version of their/they're/there; here/hear; your/you're; loose/lose, etc. If I could surreptitiously edit folks' status updates without their knowing, I would sleep better at night. Some people are better at a myriad of things and spelling may not be at the top of their list. It's ok! I just love to read well-written and correctly spelled sentences. Call me crazy. And if you find misteaks on this here blog, you are welcum to coment.
2. Professional Sleep-Trainer
I am very good at sleeping. I have slept through numerous large storms, tornadic activity, (Is tornadic a word? My spell-checker says no. A quick visit to my online friend says yes.) dogs barking, etc. I go to sleep depths heretofore unknown to mankind. Even with a child. For a small fortune, I can train you to sleep deeply and well! (I make these claims with no knowledge as to whether they are true.) Wouldn't it be a DREAM job? (pause for pun-induced laughter)
3. Pizza Taste-tester.
I'm sure someone employs folks to taste their pizza. Unfortunately, my waistline has little tolerance for carb-loading. But in a dream world, I could do this job every day; NOT gain weight, and get paid.
4. Optical Center Opinionista
I recently had to go alone to choose some new frames for new glasses. I had my infant in tow, but he was more curious about his cheerios and the familiar-looking child in the mirror. He was no help, really. I guess I didn't HAVE to go alone, but I had an hour or so unaccounted for and needed to get that marked off the list. I'm good at eliminating the ugly. I narrowed it down to five. I nixed the red ones. Too Sally Jesse (if you were born after 1982, just keep moving...you don't get it) But what I needed was the OCO. Someone who will tell you if the frames make your cheeks look like the fourth member of the Chipmunks. Or if you suddenly look like Sarah Palin or Woody Allen. I chose. Hubby likes them. But my friend Cristina would agree, you need someone there to tell it straight. "Honey, those frames bring out the yellow in your complexion. Why don't we try a nice tortoise shell?" I could be that person.
5. Travel Book Writer
I suppose this one could be within reason and my reach. But Fodor's never called. And my non-profit/education salaries never afforded a hobbyist approach. I can hardly imagine a more interesting job, though. Go to museums, dives, and landmarks on someone else's dime and write about it? Yes, please! Maybe one day...
6. Tour Guide...of? Hmmm. Just about anything.
Yes, I realize this too could be within my reach. But fate has me settled in Rock Hill, SC, at the moment. There's not much to tour around here. I did give tours of my college campus for the admissions office. One summer, I did at least one tour every day for them. I loved it. I love talking with people, sharing history, answering questions...it never got old. When I'm old and gray or have the luxury of retirement, I am trotting to the nearest museum or historic site and will be a volunteer docent. I will make visual aids and sing songs. I have no shame...all in the name of TOUR GUIDE! One of the best tours I ever took was at Sainte Chappelle in Paris. The guide was mesmerizing. And though I had visited there twice before, she utterly changed the experience. She made the 12th century chapel come to life. I am inspired just thinking of her.
7. Floral Designer
Aside from allergies that may or may not be to flowers, and no idea how to get into it...I adore looking at floral arrangements and all the possibilities of modern floral arranging. I'm not really talking about FTD online. (ugh) I mean beautiful simplicity like this:

That level of floral design is stunning and creative. I am in awe. In my dream world, I can create such designs.
8. Finally, online Scrabble or Words with Friends player
I really could play all day, every day. I don't. But I could. Each turn is a puzzle, a challenge. My pulse quickens with the K or J pops up in my rack. I am a geek. I am an unashamed word geek. Last I checked, word geek doesn't pay very much. Our payment is a triple-word score bingo using a "Z." Cha-ching! Or should I say SHAZAAM?
We'll just leave it at that.
What would YOU like to be??


Hey...what happened?

I promised more posts. I opened posts last week and watched the cursor blink. I had nothing to say. My head was full of {insert whatever delightful word you prefer for "snot" here}. I was coughing up a lung (literally!), and I generally felt pretty crummy. Thoughts were not forming in my head. Shepard was sleeping like a dream, but I was having some trouble between all the nose-blowing and wheezing.  If there's anything I know from the last year or so, lack of sleep makes me a zombie. I cannot form thoughts and see them through. I wonder if that's how dimensia feels. As though you know there are some thoughts in there somewhere, but you can't access them no matter how hard you try.
My asthma and allergy meds have kicked in, and I'm working on evicting the snot.
That's all I have today. Just wanted to drop in and wave the flag of life. I'm still sad that I will never be on Oprah. It's her last week of shows. Not sure why she never invited me. We would have had a blast on a road trip.



To sleep, perchance to FEEL HUMAN.
One time, I went nearly a year without a full night's sleep. There were a few sprinkled here and there, but never more than two in a row. I have some kind of new respect for that Duggar lady with the 200 children. She has basically been breastfeeding for 20 years now. How does she seem so nice and normal? I knew that I didn't do well without proper sleep, but I had no idea what it was going to do to me over the long term.
I remember staying up all night in college to both read the book AND write the paper (in one night, yes...go go Gadget Speedreader...made a B on that, thankyouverymuch). And I remember being utterly fascinated by my rice krispies the next morning. You'd have thought I was on some sort of illegal substance.
Thankfully, Shepard is seemingly on track now for sleeping through the night. He still has a little spell here and there, but is really learning to self-soothe. I am on the road to feeling like a productive citizen of the earth now, and he's on the road toward independence.
While it's difficult to teach him this little lesson of independence, I know that it's for his well-being, both now and in the future. All I really want to do is go pick him up, squeeze him in reassurance that Mommy will always be there and rock him gently while gazing at his eyelashes in the low light of the nursery.
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave to me was the gift of independence and self-control. They allowed me to make decisions within my age range knowing I might choose unwisely. But they gave me tools all along the way, talked to me continually about right and wrong, better and best, and most of all...God. I had a strong sense of God watching me, not to smite me upon the first sin I committed. But watching OVER me and knowing what I was up to. I didn't want to hurt His heart. Now, I certainly wasn't perfect. I told my share of lies and half-truths (those are lies, too, I know!) and gossiped, etc. etc. But I do feel that my parents equipped me for making good life choices. I can only hope and pray to give Shepard the same tools.
This is my mother's heart for Shepard. To raise an independent, compassionate and God-fearing man. There are so many things I want for him; but if we can't get those going, anything else will be for naught. So, we'll start with sleep. And I imagine, we'll move on to table manners soon...if I can just keep that half-toothed grin from melting my resolve and giving in to every indulgent squeal...


Who's in Charge Here?

When I thought about what might comprise my meditative Monday post, I reflected on what my pastor spoke about just yesterday. We did an introduction to the book of Revelation. No, he's not crazy. Yes, we're all excited. There was a lot of background and context, and some disclaimers. The main thing I walked away with is that just like the rest of the New Testament, Revelation is about Jesus Christ--who He is, His character and nature. The first sentence of Revelation tells us that. Everything else in Revelation continues to let us know who is in charge. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He's bigger than our fears, smarter than any terrorist, outside of space and time; and he has already conquered death, hell and the grave. He's in charge. The world doesn't look like it yet, but it's still true.
What I didn't realize is that Osama Bin Laden would turn up dead last night. I watched the news with mixed emotions today. When did we as a nation decide that it's ok to dance and celebrate over death? Did Osama deserve death for what he's done? Probably. But I am not the judge of the universe. Don't all of us deserve death for our sins? That's what my Bible teaches. That's why we need the cross, the sacrifice.  I am not comfortable with rejoicing over the death of a human. You can reduce him to sub-human if you want, and justify your bloodlust. But we have not conquered evil. We have not overcome the true enemy through our military force.
Revelation says that we will overcome through the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and loving not our lives unto death. We destroyed the face of evil, but not evil itself. Only when Jesus brings the Kingdom of God to fruition on earth will evil be eradicated. Until then, we can pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus taught us to pray this prayer because the Kingdom of God CAN be realized on earth through our living out our lives in love, deference, compassion and forgiveness...NOW. I am reminded that Jesus died even for the lowliest, even Bin Laden.

I leave you with the Beatitudes and the picture Jesus himself drew of a world upside-down. A world that paints peacemaking and meekness as strength. Blessing enemies, turning the other cheek and all kinds of ideas that are counter-intuitive in our current world system. Imagine a world that worked like this:
(Matthew 5)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


In the spirit of Easter...a Resurrection

I sense the Lord calling me to two things right now. Worship and writing. And the need to do those things in a disciplined fashion--to remind me who's Who and why that matters. One I'll likely do in the privacy of my car, office (office?), home...and one I'll share with you.
Some things won't be for "public" consumption, four readers, but there are so many things yet to work out on my journey and funny things to share and musings to post. I'm working on a sort of framework to give me some guidance. Flashback Fridays are coming. And probably Meditative Monday. Let's all hope that the actual posts are more interesting than the alliterative topic-starters.
I'm building altars here. Reminding myself of the works that God has done. I'm laying groundwork for faith, working out what God is doing. I'm dreaming big dreams and resting in a hope that is bigger than I am.
There should also be laughter and the occasional sharing of sorrow. These are things that life is made of. Mountains and valleys, as it were.
File this one under meditative Monday. Since the sleep fairy has laughed at me tonight, we'll start here. Resurrecting a blog. Hallelujah!


I will never be on the Oprah show

I realized late last night that I will never be on the Oprah show. It was a sad realization. Mind you, not that I've done anything great or had any bizarre or horrible tragedy befall me. I haven't worked really, really hard to achieve something in particular. Without any pretension whatsoever (I hope), I just kind of always assumed I would be on the show someday. I know. Crazy talk. Kind of like when I was a kid, I thought that there were filmmakers outside my bedroom window capturing footage of me as a child that they could use to make a documentary about me when I got older. Yeah. I would perform plays and songs for them so they'd have good stuff to use. Yeah. Really.

Confession is good for the soul.
Again, I don't think I have these amazing talents or have anything special going on...I always kind of assumed I'd be in the Olympics too! For some reason, as a kid, when I watched the Olympics I imagined myself there. Now, I never took up a sport seriously or trained...but I was still a little disheartened at the age of 25 when I realized during the Sydney games that that ship had probably sailed for me. I think I went to the Y a few times more than normal in those next few weeks, but to no avail. I was too old for gymnastics and swimming, and had no interest in taking up archery or professional weightlifting.
Destiny is such a silly word in a lot of ways. I think we build it up to be something bigger than it is. I don't think anyone ever TOLD me that I would do grand and fabulous things, but I was certainly encouraged to do the best I could do at whatever I did.  As silly as it looks when I write it out, it was always a given that I would be or do something noteworthy. Not necessarily to be famous, but to be...at least something to report about in my hometown newspaper...and be on Oprah.
So, here at my new age of 36 (ugh), I wonder about all those dreams and visions of grandeur. Did I miss something along the way? Is this it? Is it ok if it is? I mean, I am crazy blessed. I know Jesus and was able to get married and have a healthy sweet baby boy. I love my church. I'm trying to live out Kingdom of God principles.

I wonder if I will stumble into something larger one day, or if I could already be in the big middle of it and not see it now. There is only one way to proceed, of course. Love God and serve others. If something "bigger" comes along, I'll be ready. If it doesn't, I'm doing what I ought to be doing. This is actually a pep talk to myself. Thanks for listening in. And if you know Oprah, and want to see about getting me on the line-up for the final season for doing...nothing of remarkability (except making up the word remarkability) lemme know. Today I told God that he could really truly have every part of me (again. I have to do this often) and turned over whatever dreams and desires I have. His dreams will be so much greater than anything I can concoct. No matter what His plans involve, whether I ever get another mention in the venerable Newnan Times-Herald (GA), and whether anyone else perceives me as successful...I must daily give over my little plans and walk in His ways.


His grace is sufficient for me

( 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

For the record, I realize my life is nowhere nearly as difficult as most of the world. I know that I am not living in nuclear fallout-land in Japan or in the slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. I am truly thankful for the "mansion" we live in. Though not anything near a mansion by American standards, most of the rest of the world would be thrilled beyond measure to have electricity (anytime of the day or night), clean running water (anytime of the day or night), a refrigerator, sewage system, multiple rooms with beds and clean sheets, internet access, a pantry full of food, etc.
With that said, we still sometimes find ourselves ill-at-ease in our circumstances. I think this is God's way of keeping us dependent upon Him and looking to Him for answers. It's no game. Our obedience and dependence on Him and walking out the steps He lays before us will help us to walk in His will and lead to our fulfilling His purpose for bringing His kingdom to earth.
(I might have just matched my long-winded pastor for a long-winded introduction!)
I had to lay groundwork.
I have been restless. And I still don't know why or exactly for what. I feel so much lately that I "just can't take it anymore..." What? Exactly? I don't even know. There just seems to be this time and energy and resource pressure that nearly takes my breath some days. Like I don't have the reserves to carry out all that is required of me, rather less give anything "extra" to anyone. I've become claustrophobic in my world. Aside from dreaming of making off in the middle of the night with my boys for some remote cottage in the corner of France with our slender savings account (seriously, not even sure we could get the plane tickets and a sandwich at the airport)..and asking God to show me what to do next...I have nothing.
Except an overwhelming call and unction (is there a better word for it?) to worship God. To just open my mouth and sing something. To be in His presence. To demonstrate my dependence. To open the eyes of my heart (groan for the 90's worship over-cliche) and listen for His voice.
You see, he almost ALWAYS talks to me during worship. I mean, I hear the words of sermons and they nourish me and cause me to think. But when it comes to a word of encouragement or admonishment, it really always happens while I'm singing. Sometimes it's the small voice, reminding me of a truth and sometimes it's just the actual words of the song.
Sunday was just such a day. The sermon was about God touching us through others, physically touching us for healing as James speaks of having the elders of the church lay hands on the sick and weary. And as Jesus demonstrated over and over in his walk on earth. The altar call was for the weak, weary, broken, etc. I was at the computer to run the words for worship. We would sing while folks were being prayed for, so I really didn't feel I could "abandon post." "Oh, but I am weary," I thought. Just. So. Weary. Overwhelmed at every turn. Physically tired. Mentally pooped. Spiritually crawling. So I sat there and just sang. Sang a song about being weary and tired and coming to the "rock" and the "fountain" for healing. OK. I'm hearing ya. But I still just wanted to be prayed for. (I was so close to enjoying my pity party)
And then we started singing that simple song, "Amazing Grace/how sweet the sound/Amazing Grace/now flowing down/from hands and feet that were nailed to a tree/His grace flows down and covers me..."
It COVERS ME. Covers. Not splashes a little on. Not drips. No flecks of grace. It COVERS ME. The doubting parts of me. The mean parts of me. The ugly parts of me. Impatient and disobedient parts...oh couldn't we all go on and on with that list? And his grace, the grace that Jesus embodied as he died, is sufficient to cover my doubts that God is working out something on my behalf. It is enough to cover that feeling that I've been left to do all of this alone. It is enough, or I say that what Jesus did on the cross is not enough. So, it is enough to believe that God will cover me with enough grace to get me from this life-claustrophobia into a place where I feel like I can be used by Him again and that I will not crumble to bits at any moment. It's enough. It just must be. For when I am weak, then He is strong.


Getting it out of my head

Keep waiting on a change of pace, a change of scenery, a change...of something. I can just about smell it it seems so close.
For some reason, I have been focusing lately on what I'm not. This is dangerous ground. I tend to believe that comparisons are from the devil. Really. From the devil. We are to be imitators of Christ and also have earthly mentors in the faith. I have found myself looking around and wondering how I'm not farther along in many areas.
Just to get it off my chest, I'm going to just get some things out there.
I don't make homemade baby food. I'd like to. "Oh, it's so easy, you just go buy some avocado and butternut squash and cook it all up and keep it in the fridge..." And you forgot the part where I have to remember to go to the store and buy butternut squash then figure out how to get it cooked. Those things are not self-explanatory like some other vegetables I know.
I don't make crafty projects. Crafty projects would be awesome if someone else would gather the materials and give me some inspiration. But what do I do with crafts? We don't need more stuff around the house. And there really just isn't a lot of stuff we need at all. I'm all about trying to find interesting uses for things or repurposing, but crafting just for the sake of crafting is overwhelming. Too many options and too much time. I want to be a mom who makes baby food and crafts, but I'm not. It's all I can do to make sure we have clean clothes, food that doesn't need a decoder ring in the house, make bottles, stock toiletry items, pack a lunch, manage the budget, find clothes that fit my ever-changing body, work all day, and stay up half the night, and fit in the teensiest bits of leisure or anything that might qualify as fun. And I do all of this while praying without ceasing and keeping a song of praise in my heart. I say that last sentence as a true hope and only a tiny grain of sarcasm. When I don't have those items on my to-do list, I usually just end up in a puddle of tears.
I'm hoping one day Shepard will understand that I did not make one-of-a-kind onesies for him and puree organic broccoli with goat cheese. I use Pampers instead of cloth (cringe!). I buy Earth's Best and Gerber ready-made foods. I'm still working out how to do more with less time, but most of all I want to be found faithful and loving and full of grace. My craft paper and sewing machine might have to wait until retirement. And I will always and continually hope for a chef to live with me full-time.


His mercies are new every morning

Sorry for the oh-so-glum post. I just needed an outlet, apparently. I'm trying to re-focus my energy and affections on God and get some perspective. It mostly has to do with feeling like I now I have two full-time jobs: the one that pays and being a mommy. I actually like both of them. But I don't like feeling so wrecked and exhausted all the time. And we've been battling sicknesses...and it's just been plain crazy. Thankfully, things slowed down after the holidays. I need to find some peace and a new rhythm in life. One step at a time. I just need to look at God and not at the problems. He's got the problems under control. And now...to bed I go!


Writer's block

Whenever I try to blog these days, I end up crying and erase what I've written. My head tells me there's no hope in sight. My heart and faith tell me that God is capable of miracles. My tears tell me that I need a miracle. That's all I'll say for now. I also need some sleep, so perhaps if that can happen in the next few days my perspective can change some. Ironically, Jars of Clay is singing "I need Thee every hour" on my iTunes right now. You have to smile at that, huh?


New Year = New Hope

I am a complete sucker for the idea of "New Year." I love anything that's NEW, fresh, clean...like getting a new calendar...with nothing yet filled in. It seems filled with promise. Even though I have lived through 30-some-odd new years now, I still get a little giddy at the idea of turning the page to a new chapter in life. I have my usual list of resolutions...they don't really change much from year to year. I'm ok with that now. I hope I am always interested in living a little more healthfully and desire a stronger relationship with the Lord and others. January just offers me a little respite to order my life a little and take inventory on what needs to be tweaked.
As of today, we have very few commitments penned in to the calendar. That is such welcome relief from the last few months. I have several creative projects up my sleeve that I'm excited to get started on...as soon as my computer gets back from the "doctor" with her new hard drive. Saying goodbye to 2010 is bittersweet. It's the year that brought us Shepard Giles Jones (my little sweetpea!), but also buried our dear Papa Jones. 2011 stands to bring even more change, as we adapt to being a family of three and generally moved forward with life, family, church and friends.
I am focused on finding some rest and peace in the presence of the Lord. Especially in light of a little lesson I learned over our holiday break. First, we had several challenging days and evenings with Shepard while traveling. Our usually happy and routine-loving baby was suddenly replaced with a little screamer. Granted, he was being asked to eat, sleep and play in new surroundings...his usual quiet-ish days being completely disrupted by slightly familiar smiling faces and lots of attention. I don't blame him. I think sometimes we all feel like just screaming or crying in the face of so much change, but we've learned how to cope or at least mask/hide our feelings enough to get through without letting the whole house-full of people know.
As I held him in the nice, quiet sleeping space we had provided and tried to feed him, he opted to wiggle, stretch, arch his back and refuse the nice warm bottle available. As his mother, I was frustrated. There was no good reason for him to refuse the food and sleep being offered. I knew he needed both. I did everything in my power to provide them and gave him every opportunity to accept them. It tried the outer edges of my patience, but of course, I was determined that he would eat and sleep. But what a more pleasant experience we both might have had if he could have submitted willingly to the process. Now, I know he's a baby and has no sense of this...but...
As I traveled I-85 North last week, without my too-sick-to-travel hubby, I listened to some praise music, as that always puts me in a frame of mind to hear from the Lord...and it's just enjoyable. I reflected on our time over the holidays...very challenging in many ways...the Lord let me know that I had been acting much like my little guy lately. Resisting REST in His strong arms and NOURISHMENT by His word and presence. OUCH. Of course, He knows what I need so much more than I do. He stands ready and patient, but He won't hold me down and force me into the quiet place. He just keeps gently trying to hold me and work with me until I comply. How beautifully patient He is. I not only want to enter a SEASON of rest, but also a lifestyle of more faithfulness in this area. Even in a flurry of activities, there can be rest in Christ if I will continually rely on Him for my strength and wisdom in how I spend my time. REST. REST. REST. And not the sitting-in-front-of-the-TV kind (that should be called UNrest).

Two-week-old Shepard rests and praises.
 Deep breath. Rest. Worship. Welcome, 2011. Let's do this.