Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31st Day

My 31 day challenge has come to a close.

I'll miss this. I've been inspired to think, to remember things and explore ideas that have been floating around in my head. I've enjoyed the conversations that started. I've looked forward to seeing how many people are reading--so many more than I would ever guess! I loved watching one post get picked up by Tim Challies and go around the world.

I've realized that I had a lot more in common with friends than I knew. I've felt like, in small ways, God was using me. I've enjoyed applying my mind for more than trying to guess why the baby is crying. I've poured out my heart. I've written things for my kids. I've loved every minute.

I'll be lauching a new blog in a few days. I don't know if I'll be able to write every day. But, I want to try to keep this routine going. I think it's good for me.

Most days when I sit down to write I stare at the blank screen with no clue what I will say. But, something always comes to me. And God has spoken to my heart through my own words. That seems wierd. But, it's true. I don't know how to explain that. But, I feel closer to Him after this month.

Thank you, all of you who have read. You have blessed me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Did It My Way

I have a tendency to do things the hard way.

When I try to do something, whether I'm cooking or cleaning or crafting or sewing or just doing regular everyday things that must be done, I take the most moutainous, treacherous, dark and lonely path to accomplish the task. It's generally because I don't have the proper tools, ingredients, or materials.

And the reason I don't have those things is because I'm cheap.

Yes, I said it. I don't just appreciate a bargain, I revel and wallow in a bargain. I just wait for people to compliment my clothing so I can tell them how little I paid for it. I feel giddy when I outsmart other people who are paying "too much." I wear contact lenses for six months that are meant to be worn for two weeks. (And, by the way, the rest of you are getting ripped off because they can TOTALLY go six months. With only the occasional eye infection.) I'm using blush that broke apart a year ago (the crumby pieces work fine), wearing shoes that hurt my feet (they were on clearance), and waited until I was on the verge of pneumonia to go spend $25 at the doctor the last time I was sick. My kids know that if we're not at Goodwill, we will shop the 70% off rack. But, that's only really exciting if there's an extra 40% off. I'm telling you, it's a sickness.

So, I'm making my own Halloween costumes and it's been difficult because I bought just a little less fabric than the pattern called for, a little less trim, just knowing that I would somehow fudge the numbers to make it all add up in the end. My scissors won't cut, I'm working with ten straight pins, and I wouldn't buy the $7 pattern cutting board that would've made this task so much easier. And, I've waited until the day before.

See what I mean? The hard way. The cheap way. It's my way.

But, I suppose in some sense I am trying to make up for the fact that I don't work outside the home. My cheapness keeps money in the family account. And it just makes me happy in some strange, twisted way.

The next time you see those cute Justice jeans on Adelade, keep in mind that they didn't come from that adorably overpriced spot in the mall. They came from Goodwill. And, if these costumes turn out cute, appreciate how much sheer determination went into making them without the proper materials.

And if my eyes look a little red the next time you see me, just keep in mind that I do things the hard way.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Political Post

Political seasons are interesting.

Political seasons since Facebook and Twitter are just downright fascinating.

I guess in the past people really didn't have a platform for broadcasting their political views. All they could do was give speeches or talk about it around the water cooler. Now all you have to do is type a sentence or two and hundreds of people that you know or used to know or have never even met get a clear picture of who you're voting for and which issues matter to you. I've seen lots that I agree with and some that has shocked me and a few that have just made me roll my eyes. We try so hard, don't we?

To seem informed.

To seem intelligent.

To seem worth listening to.

And, a whole bunch of much smarter people than me have chimed in through the centuries about how God fits into all of this political craziness. But, here's my political philosophy, in a nutshell:

God is in control.

Yes, we should be informed, use the minds God gave us, search the Scripture to decide where we should come down on the issues. We should vote. We should care.

But, we shouldn't worry.

He knows who will win. He knows how the future of this country will matter to eternity. He's not fretting about Mormons or Democrats or Republicans or Muslims. He's not afraid for America. He has plans that we don't know.

Plans to glorify Himself.

Plans to point the world to Christ.

Plans to win.

Yes, God wins. Not political parties. Not countries.

He is the victor.

Therefore, let's not get too upset if this election doesn't go "our" way. It will go God's way. And He will do with it whatever is best.

Do you trust Him?

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Well, I'm only three days away from the end of this 31 day challenge. I have had so much fun doing this! I can't believe how encouraging you all have been. My blog passed 10,000 views last week, and that absolutely blows my mind. Just knowing that I can write something and someone can instantly read it on the other side of the world is amazing. But, what I really love is just knowing that my friends are reading.

While I've spent many days sitting in front of the computer with no clue what to write, my daily blogging has become a habit that is actually not as difficult to maintain as I imagined. In fact, I think I'm hooked.

I've been working on setting up a brand new blog that should be up and running in the next few days. I really hope you'll check it out! I know not every day of my blogging is a total winner, but I do appreciate you reading. The challenge of writing every day has been really good for my mind and heart.

Thank you so much for your kindness! I'm excited about launching my new blog this week!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dear Heart: Please Hush

Tonight I was telling my English-teacher-turned-administrator mother-in-law about someone's poor grammar. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, she playfully corrected the grammar in my sentence. We laughed about it, but I thought about how often my critiques of people end up making me look foolish.

You would think I would stop criticizing people.

So many times when I open my mouth and speak, I regret it. The Bible tells me that what I say is a true reflection of what's in my heart. So, I should consider my own harsh words about others as a clue that my heart is ailing.

Sure, people drive me crazy sometimes.

Sure, people occasionally wrong me.

Sure, people can be exasperating.

But, I drive people crazy sometimes.

I occasionally wrong people.

I can be exasperating.

Can I expect more grace from others than I am willing to extend myself? My words can be tools that spread the love of Jesus or they can hurt others. It is so obvious to me which one is the better way.

I pray that I will learn to be quiet when I feel complaints about others bubbling up from my heart. Thanks to my awesome mother-in-law for the gentle reminder that I'm not perfect. She is the best.

And her grammar is impeccable.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sweet Mysteries

Last night I heard a woman tell the story of her life. I sat and listened as she told one tragic detail after another--just when I thought it couldn't get worse, it did. She told us with tears about all kinds of abuse, loss, and difficulty.

And I was struck while she spoke by how little hardship I've experienced in my own life. I can't help but wonder why I have been spared tragedy thus far while she and many others have endured so very much. It seems unbalanced. It looks unfair. Yet, I know that at any moment I may be faced with my own troubles to bear.

She said something during her story that really resonated with me. She said that both the bad and the good in this life sift through God's fingers. And, I know that's true. He is in control. And He knows why things happen. I suppose that should be enough for us--just knowing that He knows.

Because what He does is whatever will bring Him the most glory. So, maybe when we face tragedies of all kinds, we should try to be thankful that we are in a position to shine an especially bright light on our devotion to Him. At a time when the world would expect us to walk away, to curse God, to doubt His love and His goodness. When we are in the hot seat, our faith endures and we bring glory to Him as the world looks to see that He carries us through.

And, as we struggle to find this one way that a bad situation brings Him glory, He sees the many, many other ways. Things that happen on Earth and in the spiritual realm that we will not see or understand until we meet Him face to face. Those things, whatever they are, have brought me comfort during my few dark moments. The unknowns. The mysteries of God's glory. All the time, but maybe especially during hard times, we are a part of those beautiful, glorifying moments.

God is so good, even when life is bad. I want to remember that. I want to live to bring Him glory.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oh, Sew You Didn't!

I'm sewing today. I guess that should actually read I'm attempting to sew. My sewing is more like a blind woman throwing needles at a dart board that is 200 yards away, behind a haystack, in pouring rain. I sort of just close my eyes and go for it.

My motto in sewing is third time's the charm, because I generally sew and rip out and sew and rip out and sew and rip out before I figure out how it goes. I've been doing that today. I'm making Halloween costumes, and I attached Sawyer's first spider arm three times before I finally got it. The first time I sewed it the wrong direction. The second time it was too long. The third time, (Hallelujah!), I got it. And I felt accomplished. Forget about the fact that three more arms need to be attached today. By the time I sew and rip those out three times apiece, I'm on schedule to finish by about six tomorrow morning.

All this sewing and resewing would be easier if I had any tools that I actually need to do the job. For instance, a pair of scissors that will cut fabric. Mine (which are clearly labeled SEWING SCISSORS: DO NOT USE on the handle), have apparently recently been used to cut duct tape or maybe toast with jelly on it or maybe already chewed chewing gum. Because they're sticky.

A seam ripper is a really handy tool for a ripping out addict like myself, but I vaguely remember Adelade using it to prop up a doll tent or to torture some poor stuffed animal while playing vet. I never saw it again. So, I've been doing all this ripping out with a kitchen knife. Now you'll understand when I'm missing a couple of fingers when Halloween rolls around. No, it's not a clever costume.

Despite all of my handicaps and lack of ability, I am really enjoying this little detour from my regular routine. It'll all be worth it when my kids are sporting their awesome costumes. If they hold together until the end of the evening on Halloween, I'm declaring myself Queen of the Ignorant Seamstresses. I'll wave and wave like I'm the Grand Marshall of the Sewing Parade, and maybe no one will notice that I'm missing a few fingers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Noah: The Scary Version

Chad and I have talked several times through the years about how strange it is that the most horrifying event in human history has become such a sweet and fuzzy children's story. Noah and his ark are plastered all over church preschool areas, baby bedding, and children's Bibles. There's even a funny children's song that says:

"God told Noah to build Him an ark-y, ark-y
Build it out of Gopher bark-y, bark-y..."

Strange, isn't it, when you think about the terrifying nature of the story? The earth was populated by descendants of Adam and Eve. They had turned their backs on God, and God decided He was just going to get rid of them and start over. But, there was that one fella, Noah. He was faithful to God. And he and his family were saved.

I know we usually focus on the big boat and all the animals and imagine what that must've been like, traveling on that huge floating menagerie all over the earth. But, I can't help but picture what it was like on the ground.

Families, moms and dads who loved their children, babies, toddlers, teenagers, grandparents. They had mocked God. They had decided they didn't need Him. Or maybe they were just indifferent and placed higher priority on other things. Whatever the case, they were down there, living life, thinking they were right, probably believing they were good people.

Then the rain started.

And, at first maybe they weren't that worried. But, it kept coming down. And soon there was no place for it to go anymore--all the valleys of the earth were full and the water began to rise. Imagine the moment when the waters could no longer be held back. When parents and children knew that disaster was upon them. Panic set in. Moms and Dads clung to their children and their babies' cries rang in their ears. In that moment, don't you think those parents wished they had chosen another path? When the terrified screams of their children rose up. When their little ones were asking for help and the parents knew there was nothing they could do. They had made their choice, and it led to this moment. And their children were paying for it.

How often do we consider how our devotion to God (or lack of devotion) will affect our children? Do we send messages that other things are more important than God? Do we rely on our own goodness to guide our kids to the right path?

I pray that we act now, before the storms of this life pummel our kids. We have to be real about devoting ourselves and our families fully to God. It's too late for us to help them once they're already drowning. We will have missed our chance.

The good news is that God can do anything. But, we have a responsibility to prepare our kids for a life that is about clinging to Christ, not some flimsy liferaft that the world presents as acceptable. Nothing the world produces will hold up against the storm. So, do this: take your kids to church. Teach them about the love of Christ. Live your life to show them that He is the most important thing. Then when life's storms hit them full force, you will have no regrets, knowing that you did all you could to throw them the life-saving Truth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Pros Have It

When I first started to realize that I was in love with Chad, I totally freaked out. I remember making a pro and con list about being his girlfriend. I mean, how romantic is that? I was sitting there listing all the bad things about him that I could think of and only came up with two:
1. He might be a democrat.
2. He is opinionated.

I was worried that his extended family were democrats and that he would wake up one day and decide to vote the big D. At 20 years old, this was my big concern. Nerd alert!

Number two came up because during college he had a talent(?) for writing contraversial letters to the university newspaper. I actually think he only wrote two, but the second led to a meeting with one of the college administrators who responded with some wise words: "I wouldn't give a nickel for ten 20 year old boys." And, on the surface Chad was the ultimate poster child for twenty year old boys who would give old men a headache.

He was a passionate about things. He had long hair, a rock band, and a great collection of thrifted clothes. He was funny. His professors loved him despite his 20 year old boy status because he was a nice guy. And, of course, he is the smartest person I had met then or have met since.

The pro list was long. I used up the whole front page of my paper and moved to the back. It was obvious that I was madly in love with him. And, even my reasonable self couldn't come up with enough reasons to deny it.

I ran across that list many years later and had to laugh at myself. I was so cautious. So nerdy. I was so dependent on my own reasoning skills, and hoped that they would trump my undeniably out of control love for this boy. But, there was no hope that would happen. I was blind to Chad's flaws as he was blind to mine. We chose not to see in each other what might be problematic in the future. We forgave shortcomings because we were so in love with all the good things about each other.

And, I've decided that's the key to a happy marriage. Let love overshadow those flaws that come out every once in awhile. Focus on what is good about your spouse and forget about what is bad. Chad and I have accepted so many things about each other that once drove us crazy (especially him, poor fellow), and we are letting love shine brighter than the glaring faults that could distract us. It's not easy to do every day, but it is a day by day choice.

If I had to make a pro and con list about Chad today, I could probably come up with a few more cons. After all, he is so good at Bible Trivia that I am almost refusing to play him anymore. But, I can honestly say that there isn't enough paper in our house to list all the things about him that I admire, love, and cherish. I've watched him grow as a man, a husband, and a father. He has taught me so much about God's love. He has given me three little mini-Chads to live with and for. God really protected me from my own ignorance when I had no idea what I needed or wanted in a mate.

I'm convinced it's God's grace that makes us such a good match. We are imperfect. We mess up. We argue. We laugh a lot. And, the good in our marriage comes from Him. What a miracle that in this world filled with sin, inside once wicked hearts that have been redeemed by Christ, this kind of love can live and endure and extend to three other little dolls who are loved by no one else in this world they way they are loved by us. This love grows and grows as years pass. This love is real. As real as a pro and con list. But, better.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Room for Two

Today my friend shared one of those "Keep Calm and Carry on" signs, but his said, "Keep Calm, They're Almost in Bed!" So funny. I have to admit, I'm almost never sorry to see my kids hit the sack. They have kid-busy days, and by the time bedtime rolls around, I am kid-busy dizzy! I'm ready for a little quiet and for a little conversation with the grown-up I live with.

But, a wonderful thing has happened since Adelade and Sawyer moved into the same room. When I put them to bed, I get to listen to their whispers and giggles as they discuss whatever little kids discuss at the end of the day. They almost always have stuff they HAVE to say to each other when the lights go out. And, even on nights when I am forced to get them quiet, I really hate to do it, because they seem so close, so intimately acquainted in those moments in the dark of their cozy little bedroom.

I recently heard them talking about God. Yes, they were working out some kind of child-sized theology in their little sanctuary for two. I'm glad they have each other.

And, when Adelade gets annoyed because Sawyer keeps asking for a drink or when Sawyer gets mad because Adelade is reading by flashlight, I smile and think that someday they will remember this time as one of their most fun experiences, way back when they shared their space, their air, their thoughts, their everything. Back when they snored through the night side by side. When they woke up every morning giggling. When playing together was their most important goal of the day.

What happy times! Blessings come in all shapes. This one came in the form of a tiny house, a little room, beds gifted by grandparents, and sleeping. When the sleeping happens next to one of your favorite people, all the more reason to thank God for His goodness.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The In-between Years

Adelade has outgrown Disney princesses. She doesn't want to wear poofy dresses to church anymore. She thinks Dora is for babies. Sesame Street is out of the question. She likes to carry a purse. She is dying to wear my shoes.

All signs that my first baby is growing up. But, this seven year old in-between-ness is actually one of my favorite phases of parenting so far. She is in this magical stage of being a fairly independent, fun, reasonable human being who also loves holding my hand in public. Who still likes to sit in my lap even though her feet are almost touching the floor. Who loves playing with dolls and putting on shows and who is begging to get a kitten.

I am still one of her favorite people.

But, her world is growing. She has friends and teachers and, believe it or not, she even has boys who are paying her a little more attention than I would like. I am trying to stop and breathe in each moment that she would rather sit with me than sit with her friends. I try to burn into my mind the image of her reaching out to hold my hand while we walk. I want to remember the way she walks up to me with outstretched arms and simply says, "Hug." I know these days will come to an end, sooner than I can even admit to myself.

And she has already had a few rolling-the-eyes, glaring-in-disbelief moments, though they have been few. When I see that side of her coming out, I think of three year old Adelade, who, believe me, gave me a run for my money on more than one occasion. I figure I will have to deal with that iron-willed little attitude again in a few years.

But, right now. Right now is just beautiful. She amazes me with her insight and challenges me with her faith. I am loving watching my first born, my "original baby," as Chad calls her, grow into an original young lady.

Isn't it wonderful, getting to know the people that you birthed? Then my baby, now my companion, someday my friend. I feel blessed.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Searing Letter to My Parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing to let you know that as I've grown older I've realized that I missed out on a lot of things in life because of your archaic parenting philosophies. I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but you deprived me of lots of things.

First of all, you didn't buy me a new car when I turned 16. In fact, you didn't buy me a car at all! You made me drive that disgusting work truck that Dad bought VERY used in the 80s. I started driving in 1993! Because you did that, I now drive a used car that has peeling paint on the hood. Are you aware that the driver's side window doesn't even roll down? And, I am actually PROUD of this car? I love it and feel spoiled because it has a sunroof? You made me that way!

Another thing. You made me come home before midnight. Do you realize how much fun I missed out on just because you couldn't sleep when I wasn't home? Do you know how many opportunities to get in trouble passed me by while I was sleeping in my bed late at night? And now, here I am, a grown woman, with no exciting jail story to tell. Your fault!

You know what else? You took me to church all the time. I mean, all the time. I never got to sleep in on Sundays, you sent me to all these Christian camps and enrolled me in Vacation Bible School and took me to Christian concerts. Do you realize how little chance you gave me to get diverse religious teachings? You didn't expose me to all the world philosophies and let me choose my own path! You passed your faith right down to me! And, now I'm married to a pastor and our kids love church. You are very much responsible for this turn of events.

Are you catching my drift yet? On top of all this, you spent loads of time with me and took me camping and carted me around on vacations and fed and clothed me. You played board games and taught me to sing and made me love music and bought those piano lessons AND those art lessons and let me try out for cheerleader (even though you knew I didn't have a chance) and let me be dramatic and listened when I talked too much and only got slightly annoyed when I stood between you and whatever you were trying to look at in the grocery store. You laughed a lot and made me feel important. And because of all these things I grew up happy. Do you hear that? I had very little teen angst to work through! You robbed me of my chance to be miserable!

And, the real kicker is that because of your crazy, passe child-rearing ideas, I am now trying to be the same type of parent to my own kids! So, the vicious cycle is perpetuated!

I hope you're happy with yourselves. Maybe someday you will realize what an impact all of this deprivation has had on my life.

Your daughter

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Underwear Under There

I think when Sawyer starts kindergarten his most difficult adjustment will be wearing clothes every day.

He is just an underwear-only sort of fellow. He gave up pjs about a year ago. If we don't go anywhere in a day, he will hang out in his underwear all day long. If we do go somewhere, he strips down as soon as we walk in the door.

We live in a church parsonage, so we have our fair share of drop-in visitors. You might think that he would be in a panic when he hears the doorbell, scrambling to pull on some shorts, at least. Nope. He strolls on out like nothing's out of the ordinary and chats with our company. He loves to dance, eat, play video games, watch TV, pretend he's a dog, clean up his room, read books, and color in his skivvies.

I used to try to get him dressed by lunch. It's the principle of the thing, I thought. He should learn that civilized people wear more than just tighty whities during the course of their day. But, then I decided he's got plenty of years to join polite society. He should be able to enjoy these special days of Underwear Heaven.

The real upside is that I have SO many pictures of him doing different things in his underwear, I'm going to be able to make a fantastically funny slideshow to embarrass him someday. One of my favorites is him, in his underwear, riding a spring horse. On the back porch. Hey, we do things CLASSY in this family.

Underwear and bare feet he's cool with, but for some reason he feels totally humiliated when he has on underwear with shoes. Go figure. So, in his most natural and happiest state (underwear only), he is missing BOTH of the criteria to get into even the worst convenience stores in town. That's my boy!

So, when August rolls around, I won't have to give him pep talks about making friends or behaving himself or getting up early. Our only real issue will be his insistence that he should wear nothing but Thomas the Train underwear on the first day of school. Don't worry, I think he'll adjust. He will be able to function wearing clothes every day. And no one will ever know that he is doing his homework every afternoon in his drawers. That's just between you and me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Strange Way to Nominate Your Husband for President

In every family, there should be one person who doesn't mind cleaning up vomit. Single people, this is seriously something to consider when choosing a mate. Some important questions to ask your boyfriend or girlfriend:

Do you like going to movies?

Do you enjoy traveling?

Do you want children?

How much experience do you have cleaning up barf?

I never asked that question of Chad when we were dating. Oddly, it never came up in conversation. But, boy did I luck out! God blessed me with a vomit cleaner. I knew I had hit the jackpot when we taught middle school together in Nashville. When a kid tossed his cookies anywhere in the building, Chad was the go-to guy to mop, wipe, and disinfect it away.

Our kids have a special talent for losing their lunch in the middle of the night. As the mom, I get to comfort the child, give him a bath, wipe away the tears. As the man with the iron stomach, Chad gets to clean up the mess. It's true that he usually gags all the way through his task, but he gets it done.

This is just one of the many reasons I love him.

I'm thinking that asking the all-important puke-cleaning question might be a good way to find responsible employees as well. After all, if you have an entire staff full of people who are committed to cleaning up that kind of mess, you have a group of good, humble workers who will go all out for you in the worst of times.

Someone should ask the presidential candidates this probing question. I can just see it now. Townhall debate. A young girl stands boldly with her microphone: "Mr. President, if someone vomited in the White House, would you be able to clean it up?"

No? Sorry, you're just not our man.

In short, you can trust a man who cleans up vomit. I'm so glad I live with one of those fellas.

Chad Edgington for President!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Picture Perfect

We just had family pictures taken. Letting someone take pictures of me is not my favorite thing in the world to do. I look at the picture, and I usually hate it. The advent of the whole digital picture thing has basically meant that most pictures of me have ceased to exist because I delete them for one reason or another.

But, then I discovered the world of REAL photography. Not just snapshots, but talented photographers who have all these great tools for erasing your flaws, brightening your lips, making your eyes amazingly beautiful shades of seafoam green. They can remove wrinkles, erase freckles, and basically make you look like a million bucks. I get pictures of myself back from these magicians/artists and I am totally wowed by my rock star appearance. And then I remember.

That's not what I really look like.

Really, in the world of Facebook does it matter? I can put those pictures up and everyone will think I'm aging well. They'll nod in approval as they observe that, yes, Melissa is holding up ok after all these years. And, if I run into them sometime, they'll be surprised that I don't look quite so refreshed, quite so bright and youngish. Maybe they'll just think I'm having a bad day. Honestly, if I could put nothing but professional pictures of me online, I would be pretty happy with that. I like putting my best (and sort of false) foot forward to make you believe that I really don't have bags under my eyes because I have a five month old. And a four year old. And a seven year old. I like it when areas of my body that have taken a hit through all these pregnancies are craftily cropped. But, it's not reality.

And, I've got to tell you the truth. The same is true of my faith. I work really hard to make it look like I have my heart in order. I try to leave an impression that will make you think, yes, Melissa is really walking with the Lord. She is depending on Him, looking at her circumstances with spiritual eyes, letting nothing but pure and noble thoughts enter her mind. I want you to look at me and be inspired. I want to look like a great wife, mother, and Christian.

But, the truth is that I struggle to keep my tongue in check. I constantly war against fears and worries in my mind. I am drawn to the world. I complain and grumble. My true spiritual portrait is actually quite ugly.

HOW WONDERUL that I know an excellent artist. He painted the sky. He thought of tiger stripes and three toed sloths and rainbows. He made this beautiful world from nothing at all, and he imagined every detail of every being on this planet.

And He can take my ugly heart, stinky attitude, and rotten desires and do some extreme Photoshop work. But, it's not just an illusion. He really can change me. I'm so glad that I know a Friend who can help me look, no, who can help me BE, good. And on those days when He has a little more clean up work to do than usual, He loves me anyway.

May my spiritual portrait grow more and more lovely as time goes on. And, as for my physical portrait, praise the Lord for Photoshop!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Pornography Problem

One of the most devastating things going on among Christians today is pornography addiction.

Did you know that some studies have stated that the average age that a child is first exposed to pornographic images is nine years old? That's third grade. Others say it's more like 11 years old.

About half of all divorcing couples cite pornography as a major issue in their marriage.

In one poll, 40% of pastors interviewed admitted to having a problem with pornography.

Two-thirds of kids age twelve to seventeen said that they regularly erase their internet history so that their parents can't see where they've been online.

So many Christian women are struggling with pornography addiction that support sites are popping up all over the internet so they can hold each other accountable.

Pornography addiction is a dark and shameful secret, and there's nothing Satan loves more than darkness. As long as he can keep Christians struggling with this sin, alone, too ashamed to come forward and admit that it's an addiction that they cannot control on their own, he keeps them in a constant state of sin, guilt, and spiritual darkness.

Meanwhile, their marriages are falling apart.

Children and teenagers are taking in hundreds, maybe thousands, of images that will plague them for the rest of their lives.

Parents are blindly allowing their kids to carry around phones that offer 24/7 access to pornography in a million different forms.

And Christians are too embarrassed to talk about it.

The church must accept the truth that many, many of the congregants who worship in our sanctuaries week after week are desperate to be free of this destructive habit. To ignore the problem is to allow this sin to continue to cripple the spiritual life of our people.

I know it's an uncomfortable topic. I know that you would rather not know who is struggling with this problem. But, burying our heads in the sand will only ensure that the problem persists and grows. Wake up, Christians! Be aware! Help your brothers and sisters! Help your husbands and wives! Be open to talking about this issue with your children, your spouse, and your friends. We must admit that this issue is real, not just among men who drive to an adult bookstore (like they used to have to do), but among men, women, and kids who are dealing with this destructive secret in the privacy of their own homes.

My heart breaks for them.

Please check out these resources if you need help:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cowgirls Do Cry

Today was western day at Adelade's school. She loves western day because one of her favorite things in all the world is horses. Oh, how she wishes we had a horse in our backyard! At one point I think she almost had my parents convinced that they needed to buy a miniature pony for her to visit when she comes to their house. So, needless to say, when the girl has an opportunity to dress up like a cowgirl, she wants to go all out.

We had planned her outfit. She was going to wear a plaid shirt, a red cowgirl hat (with braids, of course), a neckerchief from Katy K's in Nashville, skinny jeans, and, the cherry on her sundae, the icing on her cake--her brown suede kickback heeled cowgirl boots. Yee haw! She was going to look like a riding, roping superstar!

When it came time to slip on those awesome cowgirl boots, it was something like the scene in Cinderella when the stepsisters are furiously working to squeeze their gigantic feet into the tiny glass slipper. We pulled. We pushed. We reassured each other that the boots still fit. We tried a different angle. We checked the size on the sole of the shoe. We shoved her overgrown foot in there as hard as we could, with no regard for pain, clearly denying the shape of a foot, with that pesky heel sticking out there. But, it was all for not. The shoe simply didn't fit anymore.

Even after I had given up, she kept trying, tears streaming down her cheeks, desperately pulling on the bootstraps, determined that she would smash her foot into the boot somehow. I finally took the boots, set them aside, and presented her silver Converse sneakers. Not exactly the look she was going for. I perched that little red cowgirl hat on top of her blonde braids and watched my sad little cowgirl, with tears still flowing, gather her backpack and lunchbag and head for the door.

And I thought about how often that life is like this. We are so filled with expectation. We have plans. We look forward to things working out the way we believe they should. We get everything lined up, and just when we think that things are about to be perfect, the darn shoe just doesn't fit anymore. We ought to be healthy, but we're sick. We should be happily married, but we're struggling just to stay together. We thought our children would make us proud, but they're embarrassing us. We were sure the house would sell, but no one's interested. We believed we were overcoming that addiction, but now we're right back where we started. We tried. We failed. We gave. We got nothing in return. And we feel like sitting down for a good cry, but we have to keep going because life just doesn't wait for us to have a good breakdown.

One thing I try to remember during those I-need-a-breakdown moments is that God is not surprised by anything that happens. Sure, we made our plans, but the Bible tells us that we can make all the plans we want to--God determines our every step. That makes me feel better. I like knowing that He sees not only what I'm going through but how what I'm going through matters to His kingdom. He sees the big picture, and He works things out for good. Always good. Even when we only see what's bad.

Well, Adelade survived her crisis. While Chad drove her to school, he convinced her that she was actually going to be the coolest cowgirl at school today because she was no ordinary cowgirl. She was The Silver Sneaker Cowgirl. She liked that. The sniffling stopped. A little smile appeared. She was going to make it. And that didn't surprise God at all.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Generations of Faith

Since coming to this church, Chad and I have had the special privilege of spending time with senior adults in our congregation. We've sat and talked with them, visited their homes and looked at their photographs, momentos of their younger days, awards and newspaper clippings. We've seen very first love notes and wedding photos and men with more hair and women with more curves, all spelled out in black and white dream-like photos and yellowed crinkled paper, carefully preserved. We've marveled that they have stacks of things waiting for us to look at. We feel honored to be allowed to see their past and hear their stories.

One thing I've learned from these encounters is that older Christians have such a faith story to tell! Many have endured tragedy after tragedy. Some have lost children, buried spouses, dealt with mental illness and children gone astray. Others couldn't have babies at all. Many have been sick--really sick--for a long time or have been miraculously healed. Listening to their stories and seeing their enduring belief has strengthened my faith.

Often we get frustrated with older generations. We criticize them and berate them for being "out of touch." We giggle when they don't know how to use technology or when they don't seem interested in popular culture. But, we are so busy acting superior that we miss the lessons that their lives can teach us. It's true that sometimes older people can be ornery, and usually they are quick to admit it, but when we learn all the ways that God has moved in their lives through the years, and when we witness a faith that has endured, it changes us for the better.

Young people would be wise to be a little more humble when presuming to tell older Christians how to be. They have endured much, and their faith remains. I feel blessed to be able to get a small taste of what that long-suffering trust in God looks like. I pray that when I am put to the test like our older friends have been, my love for God will hold fast, and maybe someday I will be able to share a long and beautiful faith story with the younger generation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Secrets Mothers Know

1. No child ever cried himself to death.

2. "Because I said so" is a wise and complete reason.

3. When Daylight Savings Time ends, we can put the kids to bed way earlier.

4. Bribery is a necessary and legitimate part of child-rearing.

5. A period of mourning is appropriate when our favorite Nick Jr. show is cancelled.

6. Fruit snacks are more important than cash money.

7. Tools needed for potty training: cool underwear, a TV set, M&Ms.

8. We sometimes go an entire day without looking in the mirror.

9. Sleep is a non-essential.

10. Birthday parties for other people's children are a special form of adult torture.

11. Birthday parties for our own children are a highlight of our year.

12. Christmas is more fun as a mother than it was as a kid.

13. Time speeds up when a child is born.

14. Our kids are the brightest, coolest, most beautiful, and most talented.

15. The final answer to the question "Why?" is "Because that's the way it is."

16. We hope the tooth falls out on its own.

17. A wildflower presented in a chubby little hand really does make us happy.

18. Loud is a subjective term.

19. "I would never..." is no longer part of our vocabulary.

20. Kids are not annoying. Grown ups are annoying.

Friday, October 12, 2012

All on the Altar

I grew up in a small town Baptist church. I have experienced my fair share of altar calls. In fact, when I was a small child my pastor gave some of the most awe-inspiring altar calls I've ever seen. The sincerity, the honest pleas with the lost to repent. His voice still rings clear in my head.

I've always been a fan of altar calls. I think that they give real opportunity to some people to make a move toward Christ. But, the older I get, and maybe the more times change, the less effective I think they really are in bringing lost people to Jesus. I know that God uses many means to bring us to Him, and the altar call is one way that many people I know took their first step toward God. But, I have begun to notice a certain irresponsibility in the use of this mode of evangelism.

Tonight I had an interesting experience with an altar call at a revival-type service. Chad stayed home with the baby and I took the kids to a local church for the program. The service was filled with entertaining acts and heartfelt stories of encouragement, ending with a mini-sermon during which the speaker offered several anecdotes which were designed to point to the hope that Jesus Christ offers. Then he asked everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes, and he talked for a while longer before asking anyone who wants the hope of Jesus in their lives to raise their hands. Then he asked everyone in the room to repeat a prayer. He prayed, asking for forgiveness and telling God that he was giving his life over to let God be in charge. I listened as the many children in the room, including my own seven year old daughter, sweetly repeated the prayer, obviously just doing what the nice man told them to do.

When the prayer was over, he congratulated them on having made the biggest decision of their lives. Then he invited everyone who had prayed the prayer to come to the platform and stand there to watch the final act, which was going to be performed "in honor" of the little ones standing on the stage. Music started, and slowly the children made their way to the stage, more and more coming with his encouragement in the microphone. He said that he was willing to bet that no one would want to stay in their seat.

My sweet daughter, having no idea that the man believed he was leading her to say anything other than a regular prayer, looked at me expectantly, and I told her she could go to the stage to watch the final act up close, which she was obviously dying to do. The kids were so thrilled to be close to the stage and you could tell they were super excited to see this final act in living color, only a few feet away from them.

At the end, the pastor of the church took the microphone and asked for a round of applause for the children on the stage. Then he told the kids that they should head to the back of the room to pick up a booklet the church was providing to help them grow in their "new faith." My daughter didn't bother to head back there. She came and sat down again, excited to have been allowed to get so close to the stars of the program, and raring to come home and tell Daddy all about it.

Will she be counted as one of the many who accepted Christ tonight? Were any of those children coming forward for any reason other than: 1. They were told to. 2. They really wanted to see the stage without obstruction? Maybe. God can use any means to save us. But, the revival team and the church will never know because they offered no counseling or questioning of any kind. And, tomorrow night when the revival continues, how many will they claim came to know the Lord tonight? To claim even one would probably be dishonest.

And in ten years, when those children are really being dealt with by God, will some well-meaning pastor assure them that because of tonight's altar call, they must be Christians, and they should stop worrying about it?

I know that many of us have emotional attachments to altar calls. I am probably one of them. But, what I witnessed tonight makes me more convinced than ever that unless reasonable counseling is available, the altar call should probably be nothing more than an invitation to meet with the pastors after the service to seriously sit and talk about what's going on in the heart and soul. An altar call should never be flippant or manipulative. While I'm sure their hearts were in the right place, tonight's team seemed to care little for the genuine conversion of those sweet souls. True evangelism is more than collecting clueless prayer repeaters. I pray these children have someone in their lives who will sincerely counsel them.

My daughter seemed totally unphased by the whole experience. In fact, both kids are begging to go back tomorrow night. I'm willing to bet that if we did go back, words would once again be put in their little mouths all in the name of getting kids to say a prayer and checking them off the list as headed for Heaven. This type of altar call looks nothing like the ones I remember from my childhood. And, I honestly believe that this type of irresponsibility, no matter how well intended, is a bad practice that leads to confusion and empty assurances.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Math + Mama = Misery

"Homework, O homework, I hate you. You stink!
I wish I could wash you away in the sink..."

Wise words from the great Shel Silverstein. I don't know if John Mart Stephens ever reads this blog, but I vividly remember him reciting this poem for U.I.L. Poetry Interpretation one year. I think he took first place. That was the year I read an excerpt from The Canterbury Tales, in seventh grade, the brainchild of my English teacher. No one was a big fan of the poetry or my terrible British accent. Sad, but true, old chap. But, I digress.

I have never been a fan of math homework. Not in elementary, junior high, high school, or college. I think I danced a jig the day I finished College Algebra with a passing grade and knew that I would never, ever have to do math homework again. Oh, my simple-minded naivete! How did I not realize that only a few years later I would start the process all over again WITH MY OWN KIDS?

Yes, I have literally given birth to a whole new lifetime of math homework. And I am not enthused.

Not only am I struggling through math homework with my second grader, I am sending her to an elementary school with an accelerated math program. What was I thinking? I have honestly already had to Google some stuff just to figure out how to do it. The terminology has changed, the methods have changed, and the expectations have dramatically changed. I don't even know how her little mind is figuring all this stuff out.

I find myself dreading that hour to hour and a half after school when I have to sit at the table, feigning interest in what has always been the most boring subject in the world (in my mind). I can't even think of any ways to tell her that this will come in handy in the future. Except that it will help her be able to do even more homework. For the next twelve or so years. Ugh.

I think I can settle all the speculation about what the thorn in Paul's flesh was. It was math. And I sympathize with him. Let's hope Adelade inherits some distant relative's penchant for mathematical equations, because if it's left up to my genes (or her daddy's), she's in for a lifetime of hurt.

But, I'll go on acting like math is the greatest thing that ever hit second grade. And I'll start praying now that Adelade becomes a math genius so that maybe she can help Sawyer and Emerald with their homework.

My expertise lies more in the area of British accents, anyway.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Be Careful, Little Eyes, What You See

Today I shoplifted at Target.

Adelade picked out some mint M&Ms. By the time we shopped the store, checked out with three kids, got three kids to the car, unloaded the packages, and deposited three kids, I had completely forgotten that a package of mint M&Ms had ever entered our lives. But, then I looked down at the tray on Emerald's stroller, and there they were, in their bright green package, the glaring proof that I had ripped Target off for exactly one dollar and eight cents.

I knew what I had to do. After all, my seven and four year olds were sitting there staring at me, the woman who is always giving them tidbits about being honest, being nice, doing the right thing. But, all I really wanted to do was throw the candy in the car and drive home.

And, there was a small part of me that was secretly excited by the idea that I had "gotten away" with stealing that bag of M&Ms. I was truly tempted to take my prize and run. Isn't it interesting that something like that could be so tempting, especially in the face of unloading three kids, lugging the stroller back into the store, all to pay for a package of candy that Target didn't even know I had?

The Holy Spirit often works on me through my children. They are such amazing little reminders of what God has called me to be as His follower, as their mother. I'm so glad that I have the three of them to drag back into the store, so in a moment like that I can show them what obedience looks like, and God can remind me how obedience feels.

He is so good to give me these three little sets of eyes, three little hearts, three little souls. They are constant reminders of His workings in my life. May I strive to be all the things I want my children to be. If not, my words are only noise in an already noisy and insincere world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old People Like Me

I've reached an interesting time in my life when I am actually confused by fashion. I find myself going shopping and truly not UNDERSTANDING the clothes. I wonder how I'm supposed to wear it. Is it a dress or a shirt? Who would look good in this?

Does this mean I'm old?

Where does a girl shop once she shouldn't shop in the junior's section anymore? Where is the happy medium between skin-tight leopard print and embroidered cat shirts? It must be out there somewhere.

Recently I was talking with a college-aged girl and a high school boy, and I felt compelled to compliment the girl on her adorable red skinny jeans. I mentioned to these two sweet kids that I just HAVE to get myself some colored jeans this fall since it's such a big, cute trend. They both kind of laughed nervously. Then one of them mentioned in a slightly encouraging type tone that his teacher had worn colored jeans to school, as in, "Isn't that amazing? Old people!" Then they proceeded to tell me about an 85 year old woman they had spotted in hot pink jeans.

And it dawned on me that they were putting me in the same category as the "old" teacher and the 85 year old hottie.

Shock and dismay.

And I started looking at the evidence stacked against me. I HAVE been drawn to the mumu dresses in KMart lately. I DO love it when everyone trots out their sparkly Christmas sweaters. I WAS recently caught complaining about how scantily clad young girls are these days. I AM currently awaiting the return of shoulder pads to our society.

Yep, old person.

But, there's hope for me yet. After all, I also have a very hip and happening seven year old who will soon become my fashion consultant. It is possible that God brought Adelade into this world in part to help save me from my own love of huge, sparkly costume jewelry. One can only hope.

In the meantime, I will find myself a pair of colored skinny jeans. And, if I happen to see an embroidered cat shirt that would compliment them nicely, who can blame me for buying it? Fashion is confusing for old people like me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

To My Teen-aged Self

Dear Teen-aged Melissa,

Whoa! Having some hair issues today, huh? Oh, right. Everyday. Remember when you decided to get bangs? And then you decided to grow them out? Tough times. Truth be told, it'll be quite a few more years before you begin to get that hair under control. Just so you know, the advent of something called a flat iron really changes your life.

Some things I wish I could tell you:

Your dad really does know a few things.

There are mean people everywhere, but they'll get fewer and farther between the older you get.

High school isn't that important. In fact, in a few years you'll have a hard time remembering all this stuff that gets you so upset.

Enjoy. The. Shopping. You are at a prime time to go out and spend your parents' money, and you don't even appreciate it! And, stop to really soak up these moments with your mom. Someday you'll really wish the two of you could just go to the mall together.

Don't waste time being lovesick over some imaginary boy you're holding out for! Stop worrying about boys! In a couple years you'll meet the coolest guy you've ever seen. And you'll marry him!

You are skinny. I mean, so skinny!

Lighten up a little. Don't be so hard on people. Show love. Be kind.

Go easy on your parents. When your first child is born, you'll realize that they really, really, really love you.

When you are 35 (ancient, I know), remember how to laugh a lot. Laughter really does make life better.

God is going to show you that He is faithful. Don't give up.

Did I mention you are so skinny?

Your Future Older Wiser More Humble Less Skinny Self

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weak Moments

I have had my failings and victories as a mother. I have questioned myself again and again about decisions I've made, how much therapy my kids are going to need, and whether going a whole day without a single fruit or vegetable will scar them for life. I've worried that I've taught them to be too assertive or too weak. I've wondered if my advice was wrong. I've fretted about how much or how little they sleep, if all they'll remember about their childhood is a messy house, and sometimes I truly marvel at how they're turning out so great despite all of my shortcomings.

This is motherhood.

I have to admit, having a third child has knocked me down a peg or two. I thought by baby three I would have this thing down, have that kid sleeping all night in two weeks, no nursing issues, very little crying. I thought I'd be back on my feet in no time and show everyone how it's done. That hasn't exactly been the case.

I'm tired. She still doesn't sleep that great. She cries quite a lot. And, all the regular newborn madness is multiplied because of two other children each needing just as much in their own ways. I've had my fair share of "Calgon, take me away" moments in the past five months. (If you're too young to remember that, Google it.) I've felt weak, overwhelmed, and downright exhausted at times.

But, then I remember something: In our weakness, He is made strong. Isn't that an amazing thought? The truth is, when I have to depend on Christ (and when I HAVE to is the only time I really will), it brings Him the most glory. Thinking about that has helped me through a few hairy days. When I'm right in the middle of a house that is exploding with toys, blankets, books, clothes, a kid needing help with homework, a kid wanting dinner, a baby wanting to be held, and a husband who just wishes he had some clean underwear, I can take comfort in the fact that I am bringing my Savior glory. Even if I'm still in my pjs.

God is so good to design this life where my naturally weak state is just where He wants me for His glory and my sanctification, and eventually my kids do all get fed and put to bed. Glory to God.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Houses, Marriage, and Ax-murderers Have in Common

Chad and I once lived in an enormous house. I mean, huge. It was our very first rent house when we were married back in 1999. We lived in Nashville, Tennessee, and Chad had somehow run across this gigantic vacant house and managed to find its owner to inquire about renting it.

The house had been abandoned by the owner's deceased parents, and it was sitting exactly as it was when the man had carted his mother off to the nursing home. I mean, this lady's tissues were still in the trashcans several years later. The man agreed to rent the two story, hundred year old home for $500 a month if Chad agreed to clean the place out. The man had no interest in any of the furniture, artwork, clothing, or anything else in the house.

So, Chad jumped at the deal. I still lived in Texas in those months prior to our wedding, so he gathered some seriously dedicated friends and they began the task of cleaning out the place.

When I arrived at our new abode a few months later, still tear-stained from saying goodbye to my family in Texas, I was a little overwhelmed. He was so excited about bringing me into the house, giving me a tour, and showing me all the quirks of the place. The most obvious quirk was the fact that the driveway of the house also served as a parking lot for the tiny, old, filled-with-out-of-date-food grocery store next door. We literally parked between the yellow lines when we pulled up that day.

Another of the house's quirks was that it had one window unit, in the living room, so we spent our first summer together pulling our mattress into the living room at night so we wouldn't melt away while we slept.

The second floor was a little quirky, too. Still filled with the old couple's things, it consisted of a couple of rooms (one with a sink and toilet), and a little storage area. It was basically unliveable at the time because of no air conditioning, so we rarely went up there--really only to look through the old couple's things, and there were some neat things up there. Chad is still wearing some of the old man's socks. There were boxes of brand new socks up there, still packaged. You know the kind, the black dress socks that go all the way up to the knee. Chad has always been a bit of an old man.

Anyway, there were also really neat documents up there, Bible commentaries, and old publications from the church around the corner where we attended. The old man had been a deacon there for years. I think their marriage license may have even been up there. We felt like we had a weird connection to this couple we had never met, who had raised their kids in this house, attended our church, and had probably had many wonderful times and heartaches while going through life here. Aside from occasionally looking through their things, the only time we even opened the door to that part of the house was to grab the ironing board, which we kept on the stairs.

By far the biggest quirk of the house was the basement. The basement of this house was so large that when I descended the stairs to do laundry, I couldn't see the back wall of the dark, cold space. Usually I was running because I was terrified. The first time Chad took me down there I was fascinated by the large bomb shelter the man had built, complete with home-canned food and supplies. Chad was in a rock band at the time, so this place was perfect for the band to practice. They had a permanent practice spot set up down there, and eventually they strung Christmas lights around the beams and railings and made things seem a little less scary. But, I still hated going down there alone.

The house had a way of coming alive at night. Not in a good way. We spent some scary nights in there, each of us jumping up at different times whisper-screaming "What was THAT?" We were always hearing weird things, thinking someone was in the house, or imagining that something or someone was in the room with us. We often heard what sounded like an old telephone ringing. Sometimes we heard something like a football game broadcast on an old radio. It didn't help matters that I drove a cute little sportscar my parents had bought me in college that was constantly getting broken into. The house was so big, it seemed like there were lots of ways for bad guys to get in, and lots of places for scary spectres and ax murderers to hide.

It got so bad that one day when Chad picked me up from the bank downtown where I was temping, he told me he had a surprise for me and pulled out a pistol he had just bought at a pawn shop. We were serious about getting some sleep!

Shortly after we got the gun, we heard something in our front yard. Chad jumped up, as usual, and ran to the window. Once again, someone was inside my little car, working as quickly as possible to rip out the dashboard. Chad was instantly incensed and ran to get his gun. Before he managed to get the front door open, he in his underwear, presumably ready to scare to death the kid who was in my car, I convinced him that my stereo was NOT worth getting shot over, so we went back to the window to look at the kid. Then the craziness started. A car came careening around the curve in front of our house and slammed into our neighbor's fence. Naturally, the commotion scared the kid in our car, and he took off running. At about the same time, the kid in the (we later learned stolen) car jumped out and started running. So, we watched these two unrelated criminals go running down the street together. You could almost see them looking at each other, thinking, "What are you doing here?"

Another weird night post-gun-acquisition started when we were awakened from a dead sleep to the sound of a huge crash on the stairs leading to the second floor. I was always the type who would rather investigate than lie there terrified, so I grabbed our gun and headed to the stairs. I approached it like the awesome female police officers in the movies. Gun close to my chest. Back against the wall. A quick turn around the corner with my gun up and ready to fire. The ironing board had crashed down a few steps and out the door at the bottom of the stairs. But, of course, I wanted to know WHAT had made it fall. So, I went up the stairs with my gun. At this point I was kind of having fun. I was being quiet like a ninja, feeling powerful enough to take out whoever or whatever had run up the stairs. Naturally, nothing was there. The ironing board just slipped and made our already sensitive imaginations go crazy.

Lots of other things went on. Like the day I was home alone and distinctly heard someone walking around the second floor over my head. Depsite the fact that I didn't believe in ghosts, I couldn't help but wonder if the old man was up there rummaging through his things, possibly looking for the socks Chad had highjacked.

Another night, Chad was convinced something was pulling back our blankets all night. I slept through that one.

There were evenings when Chad was out of town and I moved the TV into our bedroom, cranked it up, and locked my bedroom door so that at least if an ax murderer was coming in I would be happily oblivious.

We were absolutely counting the minutes until our one year lease was up and we could move. We moved out one beautiful spring day to a small house in the same neighborhood, a house that was tiny and manageable, with no basement or weird connection to old deceased people. Of course, that house was in the backyard of the crotchety old landlady who got miffed if we didn't let her know where we were going every day. But, that's another story.

Ever since then we've managed to squeeze ourselves into tiny house after tiny house. You might say that we have an affinity for small living spaces. The house we live in now is a church parsonage. Five of us are squeezed in here like sardines, but we love it. Sure, I almost killed myself the other day falling over baby equipment, but I much prefer death-by-baby-equipment than death-by-ax-murderer.

In many ways, when I look back on it now, that big old house was kind of like the first year of marriage we spent there. We were figuring out each other's quirks (old man socks, anyone?), facing our problems head-on, and like we often reminded each other that there are no such things as ghosts, we were reminded daily that we were in love, we were meant to be, and we would survive that crazy, scary, fun, and beautiful first year. The house that was the site of so many heart-pounding creepy moments was also the place where we learned to be married, young and silly as we were. The day we moved out, I was relieved, but also a little sad to be leaving behind our big, rambling old house with its little elderly couple and dance parties in the basement and first burned dinners and long talks about the future.

Several different combinations of our friends have lived in that big old house since we moved out. None of them have ever heard anything strange. I can only assume that our near-teenaged minds were just tricked by the settling noises of a hundred year old house.

I think we'll continue to stick with the tiny houses. Even if our family of five doesn't quite fit anymore, little houses still fit us just fine.

Friday, October 5, 2012

When Technology Takes Over

I came a little late to the cellphone game. Well, sort of. When I was in college, my parents bought me one of those big car phones in the black zippered bag. I thought it was awesomely amazing technology. It was only for use in emergencies because each call cost fourteen dollars or something like that. I think I used it three times: once to call the police when another driver was scaring me, once when I had an accident, and once when my car broke down.

After college, I married Chad and moved to Nashville. Living on a private school teacher's and a starving artist's salary, cell phones weren't an option, even if they had been on our radar.

So, I didn't get a cell phone until the year after Chad started law school. We were still starving (so to speak), but we were leaving to live in Washington D.C. for a couple of months and my mother couldn't bear the thought of us going with no phones. So, she bought us some. Our phones did one thing--phone calls.

A few years later I got a Blackberry. Whoa, Mama. The internet was literally in my pocket. All the information I could ask for, at my fingertips. Communication with long lost friends suddenly skyrocketed thanks to Facebook, email sent directly to my phone, and texting. It was awesome.

Finally I got a touchscreen smart phone that does everything except make my toast in the morning. It's an amazing piece of technology. I don't need a GPS anymore. I don't need a TV. I don't need a computer. Why carry around a camera, video or otherwise? We even got rid of our home phone. I love my smart phone.

But, I'm about to get rid of it.

I'm giving up my phone because I keep catching myself having to ask my kids to repeat what they just said to me. Because I realize after several moments that one of them is trying to tell me a story. Because even while Sawyer is asking me to watch his latest dance move, I am engrossed in something a stranger wrote online. Because Adelade automatically brings me my phone if she finds it in another room, knowing how often I look at it. Because I have glanced down at Emerald while reading Facebook to see her smiling up at me, just waiting for me to pay attention to her.

I've thought that I would do better. I've tried. Apparently, the pull of the outside world is just too much for me. I don't really need to know this instant where the oldest tree in North America is. I can wait to learn who has posted Facebook drama today. When my children are standing right in front of me, changing every day, wanting me, needing me, and I'm giving them a half-hearted effort because of a silly piece of technology that I can do without.

I'm really looking forward to the liberation.

Sawyer grew an inch and a half this summer. Adelade is into carrying purses now. Emerald has figured out how to pull my glasses off my face. I want to be 100% present for all of it. I'm going to slow down, push the world out of my relationship with my kids, and go back to good old talk and text. I'm pretty sure my family will be better for it, and if it's nightfall before I learn whose relationship status changed, I think I can live with that.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Love Not Lost

Having babies is quite a journey.

Ours started way back in 2004 when I finally saw that little plus sign on the pregnancy test. So many tests, so many hopeful moments, and finally, our dream was coming true. We would become parents. Chad was just days away from beginning finals during his last year of law school, so I drove to Target and bought a little pink bib that said "I love my daddy." I remember my excitement was about to bubble over, walking around that Lubbock Target, holding my secret inside me, my secret living being like a tiny time bomb just waiting to explode into our lives.

I wrapped up the bib and gave it to him as motivation to power through his finals. He was so excited he picked me up in a bear hug and we giggled while we stared at those tiny pink lines that mattered so much.

Life went on. We moved. I grew huge. Adelade fought her way into this world on January 2nd, and she looked it. We recovered. Life was hard and wonderful and more fun than ever.

A few years later we started hoping for another baby. I got pregnant right away. We took the test while staying with Chad's parents one weekend. We were so excited to be able to tell them in person--I think we even videotaped it so we could capture his mom's happy tears. But, weeks later problems surfaced. We lost the baby. Reading those little pink lines was never really fun after that, just scary and nerve-wracking and tiring. Every pregnancy afterward started with sighs, hopeful little smiles exchanged, and months of waiting before telling anyone anything.

That's how my third pregnancy began. Complications set in and we were fairly certain another miscarriage was beginning. We went for an early ultrasound, and there was Sawyer, a little peanut of a person, heart flickering brightly on the black screen that just months earlier had confirmed that our second child was gone. His little flashing pulse was like a beacon of hope for me.

A thousand prayers went up.

Sawyer showed up in January, easy-going from the start, his personality like a billboard that said, "Why worry?" It was hard for us to even remember the panic we felt in the beginning when he seemed so fragile.

Years passed. Two more miscarriages. The first was an agonizing, months-long process of ultrasounds, hope, hope lost, and hope renewed. We prayed, cried, and it was finally all over twelve weeks in. The second was early, and not even surprising. We had become so accustomed to the fear, it almost seemed better to expect the worst. The ultrasound tech's demeanor at each appointment was slumped, uncomfortable. She would ask us again, "Now, HOW far along do you think you are?" No heartbeat. Life come and gone so quickly, we didn't even get a chance to witness it.

Finally, I became pregnant for the sixth time. We waited in agony for the eight week ultrasound that would show us whether the baby had a heartbeat. As soon as I saw that beautiful flicker, I knew she would be okay. Emerald entered our world in May, our little miracle baby that I thought might never be. Three children. Six children. I feel blessed to have experienced all of them.

I learned so much about God during the agonizing times. Ever-present. Life-giving. Faithful. Sovereign. Patient.

And I learned that I really can say of a God so good and so caring that when He chooses to give me what I feel I can't live without and when He chooses to take what I desperately prayed to keep, I can trust Him.

I have no doubt at all that one day when I leave this world, three children I never met will be waiting to greet me, their only mama, and I can't wait to see if at least one of them has red hair. :-)

He gives and takes away. I choose to bless His name.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Too Cool for Ski School

Once I went skiing. My wonderful in-laws invited Chad and me to tag along right after Christmas one year. Chad's sister came along, too, and I was really pumped about my first skiing adventure.

The Edgingtons skiied a lot while the kids were young. Chad and his brother and sister are all excellent skiiers. His dad is, too, of course, and even his mother, who took a lot of ribbing for stopping the ski lifts as she tried to get out of her seat every time, was good enough to go up on the mountain and enjoy herself.

Chad and I went to a used sporting goods place to stock up on clothes and supplies. I pictured myself turning out like the women you see on TV in their tight little black ski pants and coordinated jacket, gloves, hats, and cool goggles. How I ended up looking was something akin to Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story--puffy. As in, three times my normal size. Not at all coordinated. Not even remotely cool. It turned out that uncoordinated was a pretty consistent theme of the skiing trip. But, at this point I was still naively confident that skiing would make me look cool, regardless of my lame apparel.

Our first day "on the slopes" (see how I picked up cool skiing lingo) was my introduction to ski school. I learned how to put my skis on. They showed me how to snowplow and (theoretically) stop myself when I needed to. The very first time they put me at the top of a tiny incline I skiied directly into a crowd of by-standers, completely powerless to stop or change direction.

I probably should've taken off my skis then, headed for the lodge, and enjoyed a view of the mountain with some hot chocolate. But, I was determined to be a good sport and I really wanted to show Chad that I can be athletic. (By the way, I can't be athletic.) So, I pressed on, through several more rounds of plowing into strangers, through being literally skiied around by four and five year olds in ski school. I would've shaken my fist like an old lady and hollered at them to slow down, except that would've definitely caused me to fall on my face.

Finally they let us just go up and down the bunny slopes on our own, and I started really enjoying myself. The surroundings were beautiful. I could go at my own pace. I could snowplow my way all over those tiny slopes.

Then came lunch. I met up with the whole family at the lodge, and they suggested, now that I had mastered ski school, that we should all go up on the mountain together. You know, a real bonding moment. Ignorant as I was, and still eager to be a good sport, I agreed, and we went and got on a lift.

This lift was nothing like the one I had been taking all morning. This one was really, really tall. As we started moving, my stomach got all knotted up. I realized that we were going way up the mountain where things are steep. Where there are trees. I pictured myself falling, rolling, taking out half the skiiers on the mountain with me as I tumbled all the way to the bottom.

Another issue was the speed of the lift. I knew without any doubt that when I was supposed to stand up out of that seat and ski forward, I was going to fall, big, with injuries and a shut down of the whole place. My fall off of this lift was going to make Chad's mom look like an Olympic skiier. I was completely panicked by the time our "stop" approached, and Chad was frantically trying to coach me on how to get off of this lift. The ground came up to meet us, my stomach dropped to my knees, and I somehow awkwardly managed to get into an upright position without causing too much commotion.

But, that was just the first ten feet.

I looked around me and realized that I couldn't see the bottom of this mountain. I couldn't see anything but lots of snowy death traps that were supposed to lead me back to safety, to a lodge with a fireplace, hot chocolate, laughing children, kittens, musicals, happiness, and all the things I thought I would never see again after I perished somewhere on this huge snow-covered rock.

We started out, the whole family gathered around me as if they could help, but we all knew that skiing is like birthing a baby. It's just something you've gotta do yourself. They watched me fall. They tried to coach me. They knowingly glanced at each other over my head as my rear hit the snow. I literally got up, skiied two feet, fell, got up, skiied two feet, fell. Everyone on the mountain was watching me. Thank goodness no one had smart phones back then or I would have definitely ended up on Youtube.

Finally, this blessed angel of a woman who was patroling the mountain told my mother-in-law that if they didn't get me off the mountain I would never want to ski again. ("Too late," I thought.) She walkie-talkied some very compassionate people who came and picked me up and literally carried me, little puffy me, with skis in hand, back to the lift, which they put me on and sent me back down the mountain.

I refer to this part of the story as "The Ride of Shame." The really humiliating part about riding DOWN the lift is that you have to pass all the people who are riding UP it. So, here I was, meeting all these skiiers eye to eye. Tight black pant wearing, coordinated skiiers. Easily one of the most uncool moments of my life. I didn't start tearing up until they started shouting out encouragement.

"Bless your heart!"

"It's alright, honey."

"You poor thing."

Some just pointed and laughed. But, you know what? All I cared about was that I made it to the bottom of the mountain SOMEHOW. In one, teary, puffy, non-broken, non-dead piece.

It took a little time before I developed a sense of humor about the whole experience. I recall possibly asking Chad and his dad if something was funny when they giggled about it at the end of the day. They were wise enough/scared enough/kind enough to stop laughing and help me get my ski boots off.

The next time someone invites me to go skiing, I will definitely go. And sit in the lodge with a good book, sipping hot chocolate by a big roaring fire. I'll leave the skiing to the cool people.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Letter to my Five Month Old, on the Occasion of her 154th Day of Life

Dear Little Beauty of Mine, Emerald,

Well. Here we are. I, your 35 year old mother, bleary-eyed. You, your adorable pudgy little self. Lately I've done a lot of figuring up how old I will be when you do this or that. Did you know that you will graduate high school in the year 2030? And, God-willing, I will be 53.

Fifty-three is young, you know. I plan to be totally hip and with it. Ok, so I'm not hip and with it now, but that's the great thing about you. You think I'm awesome, all-knowing, goddess-like. "Heidi Klum's got nothing on MY Mama," you think in your genius brain. Oh, stop! Heidi has her good points, too!

You, little Darling, have made the past five months of my life better. And worse. But, mainly better. Sure, I don't sleep as much as I used to. But, who needs sleep? I would honestly gladly get up every hour to see your little face smiling up at me. But, for the record, I am also entirely happy to just see your face once the sun comes up. (Think about that at about three in the morning, m'kay?) Some of those mid-night moments, when it feels like the entire world is sleeping, are some of the most magical. That's when I feel like you are completely mine, when I thank God for you and try to really FEEL you in my arms in an effort to remember someday what this feels like, someday when I'm 53 and you're in a cap and gown and I want to go back this place, this golden moment in the middle of the night when I am so tired, so blessed.

You are beautiful.

Motherhood never gets old, that I can tell you.

You're already changing. You may be forgetting what you knew of Heaven and all the things the angels whispered while you smiled and dreamed. I've always had that theory, you know. That you sweet babies smile in your sleep because you see things we grown ups can't, not with our cynicism and our "knowledge" of what is possible and what isn't. How I love to watch you with your deep, wise eyes, so bewildered by this world, but so full of the Truth of God and His love. I may be dreaming myself, but I like to to think about these things.

Thank you for enduring the journey into this world, for facing the lights and the cold and the harsh everything that goes on out here. You are a miracle. You are mine. Thank you for clinging to me. It really means a lot. You, my third baby, still as mysterious as the first. How I love you!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Lonely Hours

I have been a stay-at-home mother for almost eight years. Typing this just now it's hard for me to even believe it's been that long. This job is without a doubt the most rewarding, beautiful, fun experience of my life. But, I have a confession to make.

This is lonely work.

Now, I know that you may wonder how this is so. After all, aren't we professional mothers always talking about (complaining about) how we never have a moment to ourselves? How many Facebook funnies have featured a mom's desire to just go to the toilet alone? It's true. I am very, very rarely alone. I'm surrounded by bubbling life, laughter, and slight chaos at all hours of the day and night. Yet, I'm still lonely.

Along with all the fun, all the sweetness and the unforgettably precious moments, there is lots of frustration. Lots of concern, debating in my own mind how best to care for and train these little humans. Lots of messes. Lots of wonder-if-I'll-have -a-chance-to-brush-my-teeth-before-noon times. Lots of trying hard to look good for my husband when he comes home for lunch, all the while knowing that the extra pounds, the unwashed hair, and the spit up stains can't really compete with women he has probably interacted with during the course of his workday. And there's worry that I'm not doing enough. Enough for the kids. Enough for my husband. Enough volunteering at school or at church. Frankly, while all of this is swirling in my heart and mind I feel that I'm barely keeping my head above water as it is.

And then there's the internet. Oh, Pinterest. Oh, Facebook! How can so many stay-at-home mothers manage to make after school snacks in special shapes that their kids will love? How do they have craft time with their preschoolers while the older kids are at school? How do they decorate and redecorate, write wonderful blogs, keep up with fashion, always have their kids looking like a million bucks? How do they wow their husbands with their talents and abilities? It's enough to send an average mother like me into a tailspin.

When I can't even keep up with my laundry.

When I never really learned to cook.

When my house is almost never company ready.

When my biggest concern of the day really and truly is whether the baby has pooped.

And then the day comes to a close. The kids are in bed and I try to think of one interesting thing to discuss with my husband. I try to tell him about something cute the kids did. But, it was really a you-had-to-be-there kind of moment. I talk about something I saw on Facebook. I talk about an idea I have for redoing a piece of furniture in our house that I'll never redo. And then I'm officially out of conversation. So, I ask him questions and try to get some details about his day out in the world. And I clean up the kitchen and restart that load of laundry that I already washed twice before getting it in the dryer.

There are no promotions to shoot for.

There is no feedback on how I'm doing.

And, oh yeah, there is no paycheck.

Yet, I'm happy. Yes, really and truly, and I know without a doubt that I am in the middle of God's will even while I'm in the middle of the chaos, the loneliness, the jokes about soap operas and bons bons. This life, this Motherhood Experiment (my poor guinea pig children), this is my calling. And, even when I'm not that good at it, even when I make mistakes and burn dinner and forget about a spelling test and let my kids watch too much TV, I am still their favorite mother. Imagine that.

So, I persevere. Not every moment of full time mothering is ideal. But, every moment is important. The next time you consider making a joke about how easy stay-at-home mothers have it, consider the lonely hours. There are many. But, these sweet little lives are worth every minute.