Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beach baby, beach baby, there on the sand...

Well, it’s been nearly two months since we went on our summer beach trip, but for the sake of timely blogging pretend we just got back - I’m all tanned up, we are still shaking sand out of our bags, I’m wishing for a crab cake every night, and Harper is still asking to go “fast fast” in the tide pools. My computer is being uber-slow with pics right now so I'll do a second post with more photos, but for now I'll just throw a few in this post here and there for your viewing enjoyment.

Seriously ya’ll, I’m a beach lover. L-O-V-E-R. Beach trips were par for the course for me as a kid, which I now realize is a huge privilege and is something I want very much for my own family. I love it all - the smell, the sound, the seafood, the water, the waves, and just the general sense that there is not much else to do but, well, be on the beach. I’ve been to a lot of different beaches, from Myrtle Beach, to Hilton Head, to Kiawah, to Fripp Island, the Outer Banks, to Sunset, Kure Beach, Florida beaches, Texas beaches, and a few dots on the map here and there and I have to say, I think we have finally landed on the beach the best suits us as the Leathers family, and Ocean Isle is it. Eric and I have spent a week at the beach for 3 summers in a row and they either felt too busy (aka Myrtle) or too fancy (aka Hilton Head), and Ocean Isle was somewhere in between. It’s simple enough that you are not distracted by arcades, lame sportsbars, or 25 stores all named some variation of Wings/Eagles that all sell overpriced pooka shells and airbrushed t-shirts, but it is not so swank that you felt obligated to wear seersucker in excess or capris covered in palm trees or dolphins (sorry Lily Pulitzer but I simply cannot stand behind you and your pastel nonsense).

Eric surprised me with this trip (holla to the hubby) so he did ALL the planning. Now Eric is learning to love the beach but it has traditionally been more my thing so the fact that he pulled it off SO WELL was impressive. My parents and mother-in-law joined us which was awesome because they are great company and it freed us up to play in the water and go to dinner. We went to the beach the exact same week when I was preggo with Harper so the feeling of balancing the boogie board under my belly and digging holes in the sand so I could lay on my stomach was all too familiar, but really doesn’t bother me in the least. It stormed a couple of evenings which made for rough waters the following morning which is JUST how I like it. When it comes to bathing suits while pregnant, there is the “cover your belly as if to deny you are pregnant ” camp, and the “rock that belly you sexy mama” camp and I am somewhere in between. I let that belly hang out via my black Target two-piece (I am so predictable) but it’s no string-bikinni ala Posh Beckham (who, by the way, named her daughter Harper! I mean, I know I do not corner the market on the name but Kelly Kapowski, Doogie Howser, and a Spice Girl now all have daughters named Harper. Cheapens it a little, no? No. You’re right. It doesn’t. )

Harper was a trip. Now, don’t force a girl in the water. She’s not having that. I should have named her Piper because she would scurry around that beach like a little sandpiper. She’s a pipsqueak (tall but tiny at the same time) so watching those little legs go go go was hysterical to me. But give her time and space and push her just a little each day and by day 3 she strolled right into the surf and let the waves break over. I was a proud mama. We really don’t want our kids to live in fear, even if it means they get hurt more often. What’s a broken bone if you foster a sense of adventure in your child, right? Well, at least we think so.

People have asked us a lot how we get such great beach pics of our girl (or just precious pics of her in general) and trust me, I am not even an ameteur photographer. Not even close. But a couple rules of thumb and you can go from ordinary pics to having so many that are what I like to call “frame-worthy” you won’t know what to do with yourself. I am hoping for a digital SLR camera one day, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime our camera is more than nice enough. So here goes tips from a girl who doesn’t know much about photography:

1) Snap Away. We probably took 200-300 pics that week. Of course we will trash a good portion of them, but we ended up with 30 or so total keepers. So click away and sift through them later.

2) Lighitng. I know enough about photography to know that lighting is everything. So make a point to take a lot of pics in the morning and in the evening. The way the sun dances on the surf at those times of day literally captivates me.



3) Close ups people. I’m not saying every shot needs to be of the face or even waist up, but what you don’t want is some wide shot with strangers and beach gear in the background. So create the moment by moving around and zooming in.

4) Styling. Okay, I know this is a little ridiculous to think of how to style your kiddos for a shoot but I do think it matters. For example, with Harper I put her in a ruffly yellow skirt with a yellow flower in her hair and didn’t care that she sat in the water in it b/c it is so worth a the pic. With the boy on the way I’m imagining a pair of tattered khaki shorts and nothing else or when they are teeny tiny just a solid onesie or striped trunks. The point is not to make the most stylish kid but to create a timeless moment and a shirt with a big Disney character on it doesn’t exactly do that.

5) Editing. If you don’t have a Mac, you should. Iphoto is so simple and so good. A boost of color here, an antique finish there, and voila - ordinary pictures become extra special. Now granted, an actual photographer with actual skills would know how to just take extra special pics without the help of editing, but I am no such photographer so in the meantime I have no shame with getting by with a little help from my iphoto friends. I’m sure there are other good editing programs out there for you non-Mac folks (Photoshop, of course, but I’m sure there are less expensive, less involved programs, too).

Now I totally think there is also value to just capturing your kids as they are - playing with their favorite toys, wearing whatever, doing their everyday sort of stuff. But if you are making a point to do a little mini-shoot there’s a few things that can go a long way.

So goodbye warm sand, seasprays, and breaking surf. You called. We answered. And we shall return! And next time we’ll bring a beachgirl and a beachboy along with us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just as You Are.

Well I've had this blog post written for over two weeks but keep delaying posting it b/c I am waiting on pics of Harper from my friend Sharon over at smittenphotography. But I figured I better keep the blog momentum going and post without a pic and will be sure to upload every scrumptious image once they arrive. So if you can bear through a picture-less post (i know, who likes those?), then read on!

Our dear friends Nancy and Jonathan got married at the end of May and everything surrounding that wedding was so special for Eric and I. From walking though premarital counseling with them, to Eric performing the wedding, to the amazing stay at the AMAZING Primalnd, it was full of so much of what we love - the privilege of walking through life with dear friends in hopes of knowing Jesus more because of it, and the inevitably sweet memories that accompany this kind of journey. And speaking of walking, it’s a good thing Harper started to just a couple months before their big day because she had her first go at being at flower girl in their wedding. Nancy has fabulous taste so together we landed on a style of dress we found online at J.Crew (which, btw I just learned there’s such thing called J-Boat, so the crew of a J-boat would be called the J.Crew. Oh wait, everyone knew that but me? Typical.). Anyways, Nancy’s tailor-friend was able to whip together an exact replica of the dress for UNBELIEVABLY cheap and we ended up with the most delicate, ivory, satin, shift dress, with subtle pleats and a navy ribbon around the waist. The first time she put it on I lost my breath. It was as if the dress enhanced her innocence.

We didn’t stress too much about practicing for her trek down the aisle (which was a long one at First Baptist Church). Eric taught her her to walk while saying “hi” to friends, holding her basket, and to high-five her daddy at the end of the aisle (since he would be standing there with the groom already). We arrived to the church in time to take pictures beforehand and when I took Harper back to the room where the bridesmaids were getting ready, she took one look at the room full of people and lost it. I mean melted down, crying “no dress, no, no, no.” As much as I knew I needed to get her in her dress and ready to go, my heart hurt for her. She was overwhelmed, overstimulated, and I couldn’t help but think she felt pressure. I was compelled to do whatever I could do to convince her that she did not need to perform. With the help of my wonderful mother we managed to get her dressed and then it was my job to pull her away to a safe place, a place where she knew she could just be a little girl and play. We spent nearly two hours before the ceremony wandering around the church, smelling flowers, throwing rocks, playing with water fountains, blowing candles, just she and I. And I realized in that time that part of my job as her mother is to create safe spaces for her. To recognize when she is collapsing into her surroundings and to carve out space for her to feel safe and to feel joy.

I remember when we were going through the security check at the San Antonio airport a few months and it was absolute chaos. I mean like herding cattle chaos. I could see my little girl on the brink of a breakdown. So she and I spent the next 30 minutes (the time it took to make it through the line) talking softly to each other as I made a game out of picking out all the employees in blue shirts, or finding all the backpacks, etc. It was our own little world. She needed a space within a space. A concentric circle of peace within a bigger circle of chaos.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the same as sheltering. I do not feel compelled to protect her from the reality of a tough, noisy, and often overwhelming world. I just want her to know she does not have to fall prey to it and be a product of it. The cross of Jesus has afforded all things good, namely abundant life lived forever with Him, and a thousand blessings in the meantime. One of those blessings is the opportunity to find quiet places, if not in our surroudnings, in ourselves, where we stay grounded and unburdened. Carving out these kind of spaces is what I can do for her until she can do that for herself.

The moment arrived when all the birdesmaids and the lovely bride herself were ready to walk down the aisle. I casually walked Harper into the church and showed her how all the other girls were walking towards her daddy. She smiled (her coy smile which is my favorite of all). I asked her if she might want to walk down to daddy too. She said “sure.” Do you want to carry your basket sweet girl? “Sure,” she said, confidently. And she did. She launched down the aisle with joy and light, stopping to say hi to our friend, saying “cheese” to the photographer and doing a little dance once she got down to where Eric was. I wept. Despite myself, I wept. Not because she was the cutest flower girl that has ever strolled an aisle (which she was). It was so much more than that. She was free. Free from the pressure to perform. Free from the confines of expectations. Free to walk to her daddy, just as she is, not as she should be.

Abba, Daddy, will you carve out quiet spaces for me in the midst of a very noisy world, so that I too can be free. Free to come to you just as I am, not as I should be. And in that freedom, make me as I should be. Make me more like Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Folks call me Dill.

Boy, oh boy, it’s a boy! I’m about 24 weeks into my pregnancy with what appears to be (according to the extra little somethin’ somethin’ on the ultrasound) a little boy! We are so pumped. We have heard the most hilarious theories as of late as to what contributes to whether you have a boy or girl - such as that if the father is an “alpha male” that he won’t produce boys because then there would be a male in his household that could challenge him. Ahem…lame! Heard another theory that whichever spouse is the most emotionally supportive in the relationship around the time of conception will determine the gender (so if momma is carrying the emotional load, you will have a girl, etc). Again, lame. But don’t lie, you know if you have kids you just mentally tested those theories out in your own life…..”yeah, I was sort of the more emotionally stable when when little sally was born!.” Anyways, last time I checked it is strictly a matter of God’s design and we are glad that He designed for us the opportunity to parent both a daughter and a son.

And now onto the name. I know what you’re thinking…”Don’t tell people because what if you change your name.” Well, we won’t. We are naming our son after a beloved family member in our lives whose wife passed away just over a year ago. We told her just before she died that we would name a son after them if we ever had one. Not that we would want to, but that’s not exaclty something you go back on. Anywho, his name will be CHARLES BAKER LEATHERS and we will call him BAKER. Lewis and Delena Baker have been a part of Eric’s family for, well, ever. He pastored Eric’s mom and then Eric and his brother at Antioch Presbyterian Church in Eric’s hometown. They really KNOW and really LOVE Jesus and the rivers of blessing that have flowed through them reach to places and people too numerous to count. Lewis is quiet, funny, wise, full of the Word, and charming. Delena was a deeply loving firecracker of a godly woman. They did our premarital counseling and Lewis performed our wedding. Our prayer is that our sweet son will set his gaze on Jesus, above all else, as the Bakers have done. Eric is the 9th generation of first-born males named Charles (he’s Charles Eric). My prayer is that Baker will love like his daddy loves - first Jesus, then others. No one does it better.

One of the only belly shots I have is from our June trip to Ocean Isle. We didn’t know yet if it was a boy or girl so wrote both names, and no, you can’t see the girl one because if we have ever have another girl we will totally use it!




But the sentimentality doesn’t stop there. Harper was not necessarily named after Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, but we certainly do love that book and read it to Harper when she was teeny tiny. Check out this exerpt from page 7 of our copy.

“That was the summer Dill came to us…We stared at him until he spoke. ‘Hey,’ ‘Hey yourself,” Jem said pleasantly. ‘I’m Charles Baker Harris, I can read.’ …Jem brushed his hair back to get a better look, ‘Why don’t you come over here Charles Baker Harris,’ he said, ‘Lord, what a name.’’Folks call me Dill,’ said Dill, struggling under the fence.”

Lord, what a name, is right! And what a boy you will be. And what a spectacular big sister awaits you. She is more captivating all the time. We cannot wait for your story to unfold, Charles Baker Leathers. Folks will call you Baker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So much. Still good.

Hello long lost blogging world. I have officially missed you. I just went back and read over my last blog post from like 26 years ago and realize it sounded very mysterious, cryptic, and a little dramatic. Sorry about that. But really, a lot of life has been going on around here and I am dying to process it via blog and bring you all up to speed on Leathers life, complete with lots of sweet pics of one seriously hilarious 21 month old. Just yesterday I was telling her that Jesus was God's son (sacred moment, right?). She responded in kind by making fart sounds on her arm and laughing in appropriately.

All that said, here's a rundown of all the once-cryptic stuff that has been going on with us. Well, I'm pregnant. No surprise there. I realized we weren't telling folks last time I blogged and I'm now 6 months along with a little boy but as many of you know, realizing you are pregnant sort of, well, heightens things. In addition to that we decided to try and sell our house (in order to buy a one story in town) in sort of a "less is more" approach. We also made the impossible decision to put down our hound dog, Cota. In a nutshell he didn't exactly love our child and was incredibly difficult and we decided he could never survive anywhere but with us b/c he had a plethora of issues. If you are sort of neutral on dogs you probably just skimmed over that statement, and that's fine. But if your dogs are part of your family then you can feel me on that one. He was only 5 years old and the day after we decided to put him down we found out our rescue dog had aggressive cancer and had only weeks to live. Okay, give me a moment. A little emotional still as I re-tell it and I'll have to dedicate an entire blog post to our sweet dogs, but for now just a recap. All that said, we put them down within 2 days of each other. It was beyond heartbreaking. All while my new job continues to be bigger than we had planned and Eric's job was becoming more demanding by the moment. So demand was GREAT, resources were FEW, and emotions were SPENT.

My plan is to offer a lot more thoughts and insight into each of these areas as I get my blog-legs back because truthfully the Lord has been weaving in and out of every nook and cranny of these experiences which, in isolation don't seem that big of a deal, but in conjunction with each other were crazy-making at times.

So I need to go organize pics and my thoughts to begin rolling out the posts because much has happened (in addition to the crazy stuff)....we went to the beach for a week, Harper was a flower girl (be still my heart), my belly is becoming more bulbous by the day, I revisited by therapist (God bless you jayne lessard), we took high school kids to camp, have made some more definitive plans for the Fall, and on an on.

But let's just say this I know for sure:

He IS the blessing. HE is the blessing. He is the BLESSING. While driving around one day, feeling like I was going crazy for all the shifts going on in our life and cursing my broken AC in my car on a 99 degree day, Jesus made that clear. You do not need your air fixed. You do not need to sell your house. You do not need your dogs to live. You do not need more support. You do not need less demands. You need more of me. I am the blessing. Knowing me. This is the blessing.

This I know. To this I can surrender.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hiatus continued...

So I feel a little weird writing a quick blog post about why I've not blogged in a bit, as if it's that much of a concern, but a couple of you dear people have asked why it's been so long so I'll briefly explain.

Not to get too dramatic, but I promised myself when I started the blog that I would never do it out of obligation or pressure to keep up with it. If life got crazy I would let it go for a while, even if it meant everyone and their brother would cease to read it. So be it. Well, such a time is this.

I'll go into way more detail when the timing is better but basically our life just feel a bit heavy right now - lots of changes (not many of which have found resolution) and it's not so much that time is of the essence as it is that I simply have not found the energy or inspiration to sit down and write. As someone who finds much release in writing, I am not exactly encouraged by this process, but I also know that pressuring myself to just do it anyways is not the healthiest thing for me either.

That said, don't give up on me just yet. To the blog I shall return. When the time is right. In the meantime, just pray that we would seek God and Him alone - not what He can do for us, what He can give us, or even the peace or presence of knowing Him - but simply Him. We want to rest in this above all else.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and play the video below. My friend Millie's hubby threw her a surprise "i just love you and appreciate you" party (way to go J) the other weekend and musicians jenny and tyler came - this was my favorite by far. listen all the way to the end to hear the Mac powell cameo (guy from third day) His lines are my favorite.

The hiatus continues,
K

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This is How We Do It...

This picture cracks me up. It's not that great of a shot - just a few Mt. Airy high school kids at a little kickball tourney we hosted a few weeks ago. Look a little closer though, and you will see a little girl clad in a pink hoodie and striped sweatpants in the background, and if you could "hear" this picture you would hear the word "ball" pronounced by Harper as a Surry County native as "bawwwlll."

If you have ever read this blog or received one of our christmas letters then you have heard us talk about how we just do what we have to do to "make it work" when it comes to juggling full-time Young Life ministry and full-time parenting and part-time other stuff. Eric says to me at least 5 times a week "we'll make it work." I haven't yet decided if he's saying this to convince me we can do it all or to convince himself, but either way, I believe him and we press on and end up with images that look like this one. Both of us are trying to be present in the lives of these high school kids and so we tote our toddler along with us. The rest of the story is she and I left at halfway into the game because she needed to go to bed and I let her feed herself a piece of pizza in the car on the way home giving new meaning to the phrase pepperoni face. But hey, we are making it work and this is how we do it...please press play on your throwback playlist of Montell Jordan..."Ever since I was a lower-case G, but now I'm a big G, the girls see I got the money, hundred dollar bills ya'll."

And ya'll, we have so many precious people in this town who help us make it work - dear friends who are in our corner and love our child and want us to make it work. Grateful for that. I also know we are not alone in this. I am sure that everyone who juggles more than themselves has to "make it work" in some sense. We do what we have to do say YES to God's calling on our lives, to grow our home into what we always hoped it would be, and to, well, make it work.

So for all you out there who feel like you have to do everything but stand on your head and sing yankee doodle in order to pull off your life, I get it, I feel ya, and press on. Our striving is never in vain!
Right Montell?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Way of the Divi.


Aruba's Divi Divi TreeThis is a Divi tree. I have actually stood at this very divi tree in Aruba where Eric and I honeymooned there almost nine years ago. What’s cool about the divi tree is they grow in the direction the wind blows - so for most divis in Aruba they grow towards the west. You could try and straighten them out, I suppose, but they would likely bend, crack and break because they were meant to go with the wind.  This is what makes them unique, what makes them beautiful, what makes them free.

There is much talk in the Christian parenting world about training your children, as in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I totally get it. My child is, among many things, teachable, and it is our charge as her parents to teach her well, to prepare her to walk with Jesus. A brilliant professor of mine, however, challenged my understanding of this verse.  One translation of the original Hebrew says something more like “Train up a child according to their natural bent, and when they are older they will not depart from it.” In other words, encourage them to become the most true, saturated version of who they were created to be, rather than your version of who you wish they would bccome.  Give them roots in Christ and in His word, and then watch how they grow, how they bend, and train them to do so all the more!

This past weekend my sweet parents took my sister and her brood and me and Harper to Discovery Kids in Huntersville. It was so clearly designed by people with little ones - Harper was the most entertained/enthralled as I have ever seen her.  Before I knew it it was as if I was witnessing Career Day toddler style. She went from station to station, tinkering in these mini occupational set-ups. It was hysterical!
on the back of a firetruck - adorbs

taking care of the "meow meow" at the vet's office
trying her hand as a paramedic
driving a mini-mustang, not sure what this profession is? professional loafer?
marine biologist?
H and I after her Nascar victory lap. Her daddy would be so proud.
We have a couple of decades before we start thinking about my child’s career path, but I do recognize that every moment in the in between is a chance for me to encourage her to become exactly who she was created to be, to grow like the divi tree, or a chance for me to impose my own expectations on her, causing her to bend, to crack, and to break. My hope is that I will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to discern the way she bends.  If she is shy, let me not force her to be more pleasing.  If she is introverted, let me give her the space for her thoughts. If she is opinionated, let me give her a voice that can be heard.  If she runs slow let me not quicken her. 

Sweet girl I pray that you would have roots that run deep in the deep, deep love of Jesus. I pray that you would know the joy of obeying Him. I pray that I would see how you bend and whisper love like the wind so that you would become the uniquely, hand crafted wonder that He has created you to be.  I pray that you would go the way of the Divi. Wildly beautiful and beautifully free.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Texas Part Dos.

Harper's first pedicure!!
If I don't do it now (blog about the rest of our Texas trip that is) I never will. Eric's got a mean poker game going on downstairs and I am battling a nasty cold upstairs so blogging it is.

We had precious time with my cousins (Angela and Allyson, two of Margaret and Lee's daughters (the third is Audra who I looovveee but who had to be at a counseling conference because she is a serious counseling guru).

My dad is 11 years younger than his sister (my aunt Margaret) and so he is actually closer in age to my cousins than he is to his sister. So their children (Ryan, Ross, Aron, Kelsey, Sydney, and Katie) range from 9 to about 21 (i think).

My family jokes that I look nothing like them (mostly b/c I tan on a whole other level during the summer months and have dark hair and dark eyes where my mom and sister sport blue eyes). I believe my sister's words during our youth were "me and mom's eyes are sky blue and yours are poo-poo brown." Ouch. Eric says I was switched at birth and feels sure there's some white little girl running around in some border town having her white skin scorched by the mexican sun. Don't worry, mom, I no longer ACTUALLY think this is true. That said, you could say I look a little more like my cousins.

We played at the park, ate great food, talked and caught up, and the girls (Kelsey, Sydney and Katie) mothered Harper all the livelong day. They were precious about it an I am so thankful for the time we had with them.
Angela swinging H
H with Katie - she was such a little momma!
H with Sydney
H with Kelsey
After soaking up as much of Austin as we could we headed to San Antonio (where I was born) to meet up with my Uncle Steve and Aunt Sandy and cousin Isaac (precious, Jesus-loving people and I CANNOT believe I did not get a picture with them! Shame on meeee!!!) and my Nana (my mom's mom and last living grandparent). This was the first time she got to meet her great granddaughter! So thankful for that opportunity. Here is a picture of 4 generations of women - my Nana, my mom, myself and Harper. Can we talk a moment about how lovely my mom is? Seriously, she is a classic beauty.

So there you have it. A drive to Charlotte, a flight to Austin, a drive to San Antonio, a flight back to Charlotte, and a drive back to Mount Airy. Phew! Who said having a baby slows you down?

Apparently, not us!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This Guy.


I have much more to blog about Texas (including pics of Harper getting her first pedicure care of her 3rd cousin Katie), but I have to take a moment to shout out to this guy. 

For all of you who do the obligatory “finger in the mouth gag me sign” when someone sings the praises of their spouse, no need to read on.

There are a few big changes going on in our life, namely a new job for me and thoughts about growing our family of 3 to a family of 4, plus the normal craziness that is life in full-time ministry.  It’s a little overwhelming at times. 

In all of this, there are a few things that are constant.  Jesus. He is constant.

 (For you Lost fans please feel free to take a moment of silence if you just recalled one of the best Lost episodes ever about the constant. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you are not a real Lost fan.  Shame on you.)

The other constant - Eric. His love for Harper and I is so steady that it is easy to take for granted - like breathing or wind or the ticking of a clock, anything that goes on steadily, rhythmically, unnoticed.

We are his priority - when he is home with us and when he is out doing his thing - we are his priority.  What a great thing to be able to say. 

Eric, you are my prize.
Thanks for loving us easy and loving us hard.
We love you. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

You will be my Texas.


Well, we did it. Traveled to Texas and back in just five short, whirlwind days.  If I were to try and cram all of our experiences and pics into one blog post it would be, as some would say (ahem…Eric), like Texas - a little too big and a little too full of itself. So I will break this up into a few installments. There is much to see and the more I allow myself to settle into the inevitable nostalgia of going back from whence I came, the more I want to say...

Let me quickly mention what a fabulous traveler my sweet girl was. Seriously, she played contently in my lap and the laps of my parents for both flights (Eric began a newfound romance with soduko so was a little preoccupied, a welcome distraction as he does NOT like to fly). I took only a couple of pics on the plane or in the airport and this one is only noteworthy because what you can’t see is that she is asleep! I prayed that she would nap on the flight, I just didn’t expect the prayer to be answered so abruptly. One minute she’s awake, the next she is in an in-flight coma and thankfully a pretty deep one because our semi-obnoxious flight attendant could not read my lips as I tried to politely scootch her past our aisle so she didn’t wake my child trying to convince me to buy some $7 blueberry-flavored cashews. First of all, gross. Second of all, whatever happened to complimentary snacks??!!

Let me also give a huge shout out to my parents. Seriously, for a hundred reasons we could not have made the trip without them and DEEPLY enjoyed spending those days with them, better known as RaRa (my mom) and B-dog (my dad), which Harper shortened to just “B.”
H with RaRa and B - look at that face!
shoulder ride with B
We spent the majority of our time in Texas in the lovely city of Austin, namely in the lovely and BELOVED home of my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Lee. How do I accurately capture in a few words how rich my memories are in their home and how deep my love for them runs?

I was nine when we left Texas so, unlike my parents and older sister, I don’t remember details like street names and landmarks. My memories are more vague, like snapshots, of oaks trees and swimming pools and summer heat rising from the asphalt. But some are more vivid than others.  Some are rich with detail - technicolor, familiar smells and sounds, and the accompanying feelings of safety and joy.  Such are the memories I have spent in the home of Margaret and Lee.  And I was thrilled beyond measure to bring my own husband and child into the fold of these memories, joining the past with the present in the form of homemade pickles, playhouses, and meals around their table which has welcomed countless guests with unmatched hospitality.

H with her Great Aunt Margaret and Great Uncle Lee
For several summers my sister and I spent a week in the home of Aunt Margeret and Uncle Lee.  Undoubtedly, much of that time was spent letting our imaginations take the lead as we played and tinkered in the playhouse.  Complete with real windows, a play stove and sink, and pint-sized dishes, untensils, and food items, I think my love for all things domestic was birthed in the playhouse with the yellow table.  It was there that we pretended to be little mommas, making pretend brownies out of dirt and homemade soup out of berries from a nearby bush.  Little mommas no more. This time I brought my own daughter to the playhouse with the yellow table.





Sweet girl, I pray that you will have your own space in this world for your innocence and imagination to stretch out and breathe.  I pray that I can give you enough idle time to be a child, a dreamer, and a little girl who can make brownies out of dirt and soup out of berries.  I pray for you playhouses with yellow tables.

There is much to say about our trip out west, but it seemed fitting to begin in the home that is rich with memories for me, and now for my husband and child. I love love love the movie Spanglish (stay with me here). It is hysterical, endearing and well-written.  The story is narrated by a girl named Christina, daughter to Flor (they are the “Span” in Spanglish). Having left Mexico when she was only five years old in a less than legal fashion, Christina knows that she would likely never return to her homeland.  Her memories and connections to Mexico would all be tied up in her mother as she notes, “she would be my mexico.” Great line.

Aunt Margaret and Uncle Lee - I have spent over two-thirds of my life outside of Texas.  My memories of the state are few, but are all good. Every memory I have of growing up in my home with my parents and sister is more than fond - full of unconditional love and joy. But they have gone with me, or I have gone with them I should say, from state to state, milestone to milestone.  They are past, present, and future.  You two, on the other hand, represent so much of what Texas means to me, what draws me back from time to time.  
You will be my Texas. 
I love you. Ich liebe sie.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A river, a garden, and a must-read.


Long time no bloggie! Life called and the old blog, as infantile as it is, did not make the cut when it came to how I spent my time. I have missed it though! I was talking with some quality women yesterday and we talked about what energizes our soul when it comes to how we spend our free time. I have a hard time pinning down what this is for me. For Eric, it’s being on the river. Period. I just don’t really have a “river” equivalent. I love being with and laughing with friends and having great conversations with them. But something that just I do? To feed my soul? Not sure. I’m not saying that blogging is my river, but I do really love having somewhere to my put thoughts and it does sort of feed my soul in its own weird blogosphere kind of way.

Aaaannnyyywaaayyy…

So in the Young Life club “talk sequence” we sometimes dedicate a whole talk to debunking some of the misconceptions about Jesus.  We have to expose who Jesus is NOT in order to tell them who He really IS.  So you gotta know, that there is some REALLY BAD representations of Jesus out there. I mean, bad. And now that I have a child and we have been infiltrated with “Jesus for kids” paraphenalia, and I have had a little time to sort out the bad from the ugly. Just because a book says Jesus or Bible on it does not a quality book make! Case in point - please feast your discerning eyes on the following pictures from one of the paraphrased bibles given to Harper:

Image 1: ‘Roids Adam

What? You didn’t know? The forbidden fruit was actually human growth hormone. Nice pecs, Adam. Can’t you just hear him, “Hey Eve, make me a friggin’ sandwhich would you? And you could thank me for that rib every now and then!” Not to mention the squirrel perched on his overgrown forearm. I doubt squirrels were indigenous to Eden, just saying.

Image 2: From Eden to Sacramento

Apparently when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden they strolled onto the set of Grease 2. Poor Eve - she screws things up for all of us and then has to get a hickey from Kenickie. Sheesh.

Image 3: Virgin is to Mary as Elephantitis is to Joseph

The poor guy can’t catch a break - not only are his hands grossly disproportionate to his body, the Inn (it just straight up says Inn - culturally accurate I’m sure) pictured behind him has no room.

Image 4: The Original “Old Guy in the Sky” God

There are many out there who envision God to be old, irrelevant, distant, and Santa-esque, and with this image out in publication, can you blame them??!!! Since when does the eternal God go bald and need a cane? Bonus - look at the giraffe, craning his neck, trying to get his spotted mug in this picture. His face is all “am I in the frame? Are you getting me in this shot?”

As frustruating as these images are, don’t be dismayed! There is a light! A big, bright, beautiful, precious, bring you to tears light! And it’s called the “Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name” by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
jesus-storybook-bible.jpg

I cannot say enough about it. The heart of it is to use every bible story,  paraphrased into playful yet poetic kid-friendly language, to point kids to Jesus. And it does so better than I have ever seen, read, or heard. We bought the deluxe edition, only around $16 on amazon, which includes an audio set and Eric and I have both wept as we drove around listening to it. True story.

If I have yet to convince you,allow me to give you a little sampling of this goodness:

It offers a quick-witted, yet accurate, account of the tower of Babel, which ends this way:

“You see, God knew, however high they reached, however hard they tried, people could never get back to heaven by themselves.  People didn’t need a staircase, they needed a Rescuer. Because the way back to heaven wasn’t a staircase; it was a Person. People would never reach up to Heaven, so Heaven would have to come down to them. And, one day, it would.”

Or how about this ending to the story of Abraham and Isaac:

“Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away. Who was he? God’s Son, his only Son - the Son he loved. The Lamb of God.”

Come on, people!

So I am sure that plenty of faulty, lamb-toting, sandal-wearing images will continue to run amuck. But as for me and mine…we will stick with what’s good.
And this book is really good.
Go get it - whether you have kids or not.
Because every story really does whisper His name.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Discipline of Cuddling.


i took this pic after she put herself to sleep for the first time

I have a new addiction. My old ones, including diet coke, BravoTV and catalog-browsing, are all still in tact. This latest obsession, however, actually yields a return for the time and energy I put into it. Each night for the last week or so I steal away. I disappear. My husband and dogs continue on with life as they know it while I sit in darkness, the darkness of my daughter’s room. To cuddle.

In the not so distant past I would dare not even think of rousing her for  fear that she might not fall back asleep, which may disrupt her night which would inevitably disrupt the next day and a vicious cycle would begin! 

Yes, I know, proper perspective has not always been mine as a young mother.

But now her sleep is deep and predictable, and my desire to hold her close outweighs my fear of waking her.  So each night I tread lightly into her room and scoop her up into my arms. She stirs a bit and then lays her head on my shoulder, fast asleep. 90% of her room is made up of hand-me-down pieces, yard sale finds and things made by hand, which I treasure. One of the exceptions is a plush, chocolate brown glider that looks like an overstuffed chair. It was our one splurge, and is the perfect spot for she and I.  She lays against my chest. I put my hand in the curls in the curve of her neck. And we cuddle.

When I was pregnant and at least once a week since she was born, someone with kids older than mine tells me to “enjoy it because they grow up so fast” or some variation on this sentiment. I nod and smile. It’s not that I don’t agree. Of course I do. What’s to disagree with? It’s tough to do sometimes when the days go by slowly.  There are moments when you think you may have actually collapsed into your child and  you have to pull back, delineate between you and them, for your sake and for theirs. But I also see the value in this whole idea of “savoring” their youth, their baby-ness

And so I wonder if, like all other things we aim to do but don’t always do and then regret not doing, if this kind of “savoring” requires some discipline.  I can’t just hope to enjoy my baby and future babies. I must make it a point.  A choice. A discipline.

Being disciplined is not in my repretoire of well-honed skills. I am more apt to fly by the seat, wing it, roll with it and go with the proverbial flow. But I do desire to live intentionally, as a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and ultimately as a child of God.  And so I will practice the discipline of cuddling. 

The darkness and the stillness, the rhythmn of the gliding chair, afford me not only a chance to savor my child, but a hiding place as well. A place not to hide from anyone, but to hide with someone, to sneak into quiet places where God has been speaking all along and I simply have not slowed myself enough to  hear Him. 

As I hold my daughter my whole being is pleased with her. 
I too am held. 
The goodness of Jesus blankets over all that is lacking in me.
He, too, is pleased with me.
His whole being is pleased with me.

My best attempts and greatest triumphs as a mother will always trail distantly behind the way I have first been loved. I am thankful for that.  I do not initiate love. I love in response , a reaction to an action.  And I want to love well, to steward well all that is mine in Christ.  There are days when I crash and burn and my efforts to do anything past getting out of bed sort of crumple into a pile of good intentions. And at the end of these days that begin and end in frustration, you know where you can find me…

Hiding. In darkness. In a brown chair. Practicing the discipline of cuddling.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Uncluttered.

I am pretty easily amused. I seriously cannot remember the last time I complained of being bored, mostly because when in doubt I take a nap. But truly, I can tinker and putz my life away when given the opportunity. One of my favorite things to do with an extra hour or two is de-clutter…closets, drawers, countertops, medicine cabinets. You name it, I’ll chuck it. I mean…ahem….reduce, reuse, or recycle it.  I don’t have the determination to have a yard sale or the creativity to reuse, so I mostly hand it over to the loving people at Goodwill who will even unload it from the back of my car. 

I did a lot of sorting, tossing, and lightening of my loads over the past couple of days and have loved every minute of it.  I feel clear-headed, and more reassured that I will not appear on an upcoming episode of Hoarders on A&E anytime soon. Harper has enjoyed it too as it provides her with countless mysterious objects to pull apart/taste and new items of clothing to “try on.”
H "trying on" clothes
My desk upstairs after being de-cluttered. Big sigh.
Uncluttered is also the word I used to describe a recent church experience.  On my way home after the Lion King weekend I met some dear friends at their church in Durham, called Vintage 21.

Everything about this place was, well, uncluttered. The building was simple. There were no excessive banners, fake flowers, 12-piece bands, drive-in sized movie screens, ominous pulpits, or wingback chairs.  The service was uncluttered. We worshipped. We received the Word of God. We took communion. We worshipped some more. We left. And in all of this, the expressed and unexpressed goal was to lift Jesus high.  So anything that might distract from that, anything that might clutter the mind or heart, was left out, boxed up and put out with all of the other unnecessary trinkets that so often obscure the experience that is “church.”

There are more books, blogs, websites, seminars, conferences, and schools of thought dedicated to exploring and dissecting the modern church than you could even begin to imagine.  It speaks to a lot of things about our culture, but I wonder if what it screams is our deep desire for the bottom line.  We want to know Jesus. We want to see Jesus. We want to experience Jesus.

Simple.
Pure.
Unadorned.
Uncluttered.

The “and how” part of this venture is up for debate. I, for one, would like to go on the record for my brothers and sisters over at Vintage 21.  I was led and fed and I will be nibbling on the nourishment of that experience for weeks to come.

Speaking of nourishment, if you have two more minutes to spare, nosh on this.  This is one of the hymns we sang that Sunday by an artist I love, who sings old hymns made new….Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart.
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I've found…”  

Press play for more…you know you want to!



Monday, January 24, 2011

More Sweet than Bitter.


Lawd. Have. Mercy.
There are no other words.
No, wait, there is one more.
Lawd. Have. Mercy. Child.

These last few days have been the type that will leave us laughing for years to come and with a slight aversion to red gatorade. Allow me to explain.

Eric was the camp speaker at Windy Gap this past weekend. For those of you who know what that entails you know that a lot of hours, a lot of prayer, and a lot of work went into getting ready. Eric is a stud-of-a-hubby and lets me partner with him when he writes his talks, which is really fun for me. That said, being there with him this weekend was a must. A no-brainer. And was only something I second-guessed when my sweet child started projectile vomitting on Friday morning, just hours before we were supposed to leave (and by “we” I mean me and two dear friends and former young life girls - Madison and Liza, who both achieved sainthood by the end of the weekend. Eric went up Thursday night to work on his talks).

For the sake of brevity let me sum things up in the same lightning speed fashion in which it all occurred….Harper starts throwing up on the way to the dog kennel…Cota howls for seven miles straight…Harper continues to throw up….I change her clothes at the kennel resulting in vomit getting in her hair causing it to stick straight up a good 5 inches off her head….we head straight for the pediatrician…Harper continues to throw up all over the four blankets I keep in my car….we get to the doctor’s office and the only thing I have to carry my barf-laden child in is a beach towel….her hair is still sticking straight up…the nurse gives her a hospital gown with pink elephants on it and a pedialyte juice box which she squeezes so hard it sprays all over my face…classic…the doctor she says she think’s she gotten most of it “out” and that it would be fine to go to Windy Gap…we go home…I have my shivering hospital-gown-clad daughter in one arm, barf-covered blankets in the other….we walk in the house to find a nasty, oily black bird trapped in my dining room….we try and catch it with one of the throw up towels while it flaps its wings a little too close to my mohawked child…she screams…I laugh…the bird flys out one of the four windows I opened…I put my child down for a nap…pack our life into the minivan….Harper wakes up feeling all better…and Liza, Madison and I head towards Windy Gap. Big sigh.
Patron Saint Liza and H at Windy Gap
Patron Saint Madison and H at Windy Gap

There is much to say about the good things about the weekend. Because it was so good. But the humor of it was not wasted on me. My dear friend, Millie, whose advice I trust on everything from motherhood to how to make a j.crew-esque outfit with just a few bucks at Target, told me that if Eric and I were to get the stomach bug from Harper it would most likely not hit for 36 hours. She was right. Right down to the hour. At about midnight on Saturday night Eric launched into a violent, nasty episode of the stomach bug. It lasted through the night and he passed the nausea baton to me at around 8am that morning.

In all seriousness, God sustained Eric for the hour that he needed to prepare and deliver his talk on Sunday morning, and then he was right back to misery. Thank God that our sweet friends were there to care for Harper and drive us home. Madison drove Eric. Liza drove me. And we are forever grateful. Card-carrying saints, I’m telling you. And by the way, this weekend has inspired me to create an Anti-Bucket List. Things I NEVER want to do again before I die. Trying to throw up in a public rest area is in the top 5.
Believe it or not, I have spared you some of the nastier details. Sunday evening was rough for us both but today I am officially on the mend while Eric is a veritable invalid. We have laughed a lot. Slept a lot. Drank a lot of gatorade. Bleached a lot. Lysoled a lot.

By the way, having your child tinker in her play kitchen while unnecessarily wearing a snowsuit is perfectly normal behavior when both parents are seriously under the weather. 

Because I am feeling better than Eric is I have been able to start putting our little family back together again today. I’m doing laundry, heating up soup, and keeping Harper away from her still-sick daddy. For a split second as I was putting in another load of laundry I had this sort of empowered feeling. Help me out here, mommas, you know what I’m talking about. The feeling that despite the odds I can do what it takes to keep my family going.  I know what they need and I know how to get it done. The Lord has called me to do a lot of things, namely to know Him and to walk with Him. And THIS  - this mustering the strength to care for my family who needs me - is way up there. I think the Lord allows us this empowered feeling, this sense of pride, to keep us from becoming jaded when the stress of life builds up, to keep us sweet when we could become bitter.

So here’s to all the mommas who press on when they want to lay down.
Here’s to my own momma who loved us this way in every memory I have.
I love you, momma.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Lion King and a Lion Cub.

This past weekend was jam packed in large part because I went out of town, by myself, for Saturday and Saturday night! Other mothers with young, diaper-wearing, stuck to your hip, precious bambinos can just imagine how I was looking forward to a solo car ride to be able to sing loudly, stop as often as I wanted for ice cold diet coke, and make the absolute most of being in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill by eating at great restaurants, seeing the Lion King with my mom and sister (next post), and seeing great friends.  I did ALL of the aforementioned things, and more, while my faithful hubby stayed home with our girl and had some quality time together (I think they went out for mexican twice and she wore sweatpants or jammies all weekend, but hey, to each their own).

More on the weekend later. What is noteworthy for the moment was the lion cub that awaited me when I returned.  Now mind you, I was only gone ONE night. Not for days at a time. I only missed four meals, two naps, and one bedtime with her. But my child is, among many things, observant, and my absence did not go unnoticed. When I got home Sunday and excitedly went in to greet her from her nap she smiled and then unabashedly LOST it as she called for her "dada!!!" No big deal, I thought, as I quickly put on my big girl pants and tried to not melt in my own insecurities. So I went to change her diaper and she rolled away from me, buried her face in her changing pad, and refused to make eye contact with me. 

I kid you not. I do not kid about abject rejection.

This continued for a good ten minutes complete with cold shoulder, stink eye, and "air swats" made in my general direction. But here's the thing, I have vowed to not play mother-daughter games with her, ever. Ever. What I mean by that is the trap that so many mothers and daughters fall into where the mom takes her daughters jabs personally and then passive-aggressively jabs back. If you don't know what I'm talking about you need to watch more Lifetime TV, and truth be told my mother was above this, and I want to be too. 
So I tried to seem unphased, be consistent, and sure enough, 
she came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. 

She was giggling in my arms by nightfall and my world was right again.
It's me and you, kid. Don't forget it.

And because I get lost in my head sometimes, and because I'm a wannabe counselor, I can't help but comment on the self-protective (albeit sinful) technique my can't-yet-walk daughter used. You know the one. The "you hurt me so I will reject you so as to not be hurt again" technique. You left me. And it hurt. So I will shut you out. Not need you. Because I don't like hurt. 

Reaching? I don't think so. God has set eternity in the hearts of men (and babies) and with that comes our sad and futile attempts to deal with our own pain. 

So yes, I will go out of town again because I know it is worth it. 
And yes, Harper will reject me again in hundred ways, I'm sure.
And rather than make it about me as a mother, I will try through gritted teeth and almost tears, to believe that in all of that, Jesus is setting the stage for her to know Him. 

Strange as it sounds, it is so very important that Harper eventually realize that her daddy and I are simply NOT ENOUGH.
She needs more. So much more. She needs to be rescued. 
And there is only one Man for the job.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter.


Winter is evident. Not only by the calendar but by what I see.  Snow outside my window, school closings, the fact that my car has not moved in 36 hours, and the still-damp boots by my front door. It is rare that Eric and I lay low in our house for very long. Our life is pretty full, by our own volition, but we relish in the opportunity to “have to” stay in for an extended period of time. Granted, I outlast Eric in this “hunkering down” process as he spikes a cabin fever within 12 hours. But still, we burn more fires in the fireplace, we read more chapters of our books, we talk more, sleep more, and just generally shore up the needs of our home and our souls.

I ordered a book, at the recommendatioin of Ann at www.aholyexperience.com (if you do not subscribe, do it now), called Spiritual Rhythmn: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, by Mark Buchanan.



Fittingly, I read today about winter. The winter of your soul.  If you have walked with Christ for any length of time, or even if you haven’t and you simply are aware that your internal experience ebbs and flows between darkness and light, cold and warmth, abundance and poverty, then maybe you can jump on board with the idea of a winter of the soul. Here is what author Mark Buchanan says:

“Winter hides God. It has power to sever my knowledge about God from my experience of Him, and to hold the two apart, so that my theology and my reality become irreconcilable. [The psalmist talks about the goodness of God - His wonders, His faithfulness, His power]…but what he tastes and sees of God (or doesn’t taste and see) mocks what he confesses and proclaims about God….He experiences a God who simultaneously abandons him and punishes him…a God who hides himself and shows up only to vent himself. This is winter. It’s when God seems too far or too near - aloof in heaven, or afoot with a stick. Either way, it’s as though there is no refuge. 
Winter hides God.”

My only response is to say yes! That’s it exactly. I like these sort of moments. When you realize someone else knows what you know. Sees what you see. Feels what you feel.
It is the most basic form of fellowship.

So although I am not currently in a winter of the soul, I have been. And I imagine you have too. If I imagine God to be a lion, there have been times when he has seemed to be in a deep sleep and I cannot wake him.  No matter how I pray, what Scripture I read or even memorize, no matter how hard I tug at his mane, I cannot rouse the beast.

I could go on and on. But assuming you can relate, and assuming it is as frigid outside your door as it is mine, let’s take a second to hope for spring. Not because Winter does not have its place. It does. And its eternal purposes. It certainly does. But because it does not have the final word.

Author Mark Buchanan goes on to say:

“But Christ, the Man for All Seasons, meets us even here, in the depth of our wintertime. He waits with us. He prunes us. He breaks our self-dependency and deepens our God-dependency. He brings us into a fresh encounter with the God who raises the dead. And always, the Man for All seasons, leads us out of winter. And what he leads us out into is spring.”

Amen and Amen.

And let’s be fair. Winter isn’t all that bad. Without snow, I wouldn’t have the chance to:
put Harper in her new pink snowsuit (thanks to her grandma Leathers!) and Barney boots...
cuddle my best girl all the more because baby, it's cold outside....


stick Harper in a tree because, well, that's just funny....
or watch Cota set his sites on the next World Cup. Stupid dog.

And so if you are in a Winter of the soul, wait. Christ waits with you.
And if not, then grab your barney boots and go play.