I need a good chuckle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

As I’m going over our schedule tomorrow, I can feel the stress settling between my shoulders.  Just take a look…

Morning

Get Devyn dressed, ready for school. Complete with costume.  Grocery shopping.  Stop by my old job with the dressed-up Littles. Unload groceries.  Straighten up my disaster of a house.

Afternoon

Lunch.  Get Hudson out the door for school.  Return home, put the youngest Littles down for a nap.  Get back to Hudson’s class in time for the costume parade, help with the Halloween party.  Take everyone to my Mom’s so she can show off the Littles in their costumes.

Evening

Make chili for everyone, try to keep the sugar-high kids from destroying the house, have family over for dinner, get the Littles dressed up (for the 3rd time in less than 24 hours), a mini-photo shoot, and attempt at least 2 blocks of trick-or-treating.

Night

Wrestle sugar-high kids into pajamas, convince them that sleep is a good thing, eventually threaten to take away their candy if they don’t go to sleep.right.this.very.minute, then the sugar coma finally overtakes them, we steal their candy anyway and eventually collapse into bed.

See?  Good times await.  I need a laugh.  You?

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Yesterday Hudson and I were playing camping in his bedroom.  As I looked down at this son of mine, whose heart and imagination are stealing my heart once again, I ran my thumb across his cheek, across the smattering of freckles.  “Hudson, do you know where freckles come from?” I asked.

He shrugged impishly, “No.”

“They’re angels’ kisses,” I told him.  The same thing my grandma told me whenever she admired my freckles.

“What?!” he asked incredulously.  “When they’re done kissing my cheeks, do they fly back into my heart?”

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When we pulled into the church parking lot, I hopped out and reached into the back to unlatch Reagan from her car seat.  She looked at me in surprise.  I don’t wear makeup every day and today, like most every Sunday, my makeup was done in the car on the way to church.

“Mama,” she breathed.  “You have lips?!?” 

Ha!  That’ll teach me to wear makeup and lipstick more often.

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Yesterday we spent the day at my parents house while Jon and Caleb put shelves up in the garage.  (Side note, last night was the first time in 33 years of marriage that my parents parked both cars in the garage.  Seriously.)  Reagan and Elliana are developing quite the relationship, and being only 2 weeks apart certainly helps. 

Reagan was walking around with a pacifier in her mouth (a total no-no in our house), when Elliana walked up to her, pulled it out of her mouth, and tossed on the nearest kitchen counter.

“Reagan, you don’t need that!  You’re a big girl!”

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That’s it for now…  I hope to have pictures of our Mulan, GI Joe, Bumblebee, and Ladybug up on Tuesday.  And for all my complaining of our busy day tomorrow, its going to be a blast too!

Marriage: Its Worth Fighting For

Thursday, October 27, 2011 12 Comments A+ a-

This post is not directed at any one person or situation.  It’s a topic that’s been heavily laid on my heart lately.  Be it the Sacred Marriage study or other reasons, I need to write this post.  And before anyone tries to second-guess my motives or my intentions, I only put this out there for myself and because of my need to write it.

My sisters and I have alluded to the fact that Allison’s battle with anorexia saved our family.  And it did.  In every way possible, Allison’s disease forced our family to take drastic steps to fix some major dysfunction.

Allison’s disease was the result of several different reasons, pieces of a puzzle.  Our great-grandmother had died, years of having a hard time making friends, eating lunches and playing alone at school, and our family life.  In a household where she couldn’t control circumstances, fights, emotions, or her environment, she turned her need to control something… anything… inward.  From the time I was 12 years old, until we were forced to family counseling when I was 20 year old, it as a hard home life.  The details aren’t necessary, I don’t need to explain every fight or words that were said, or some of the memories we still have.  That’s not the point of this post.

The summer of 1999 was a breaking point for our family.  Allison’s eating disorder had been around for a year at this point, we were all living separately.  Never in our eight years of tumultuous family life had any of us felt as alone and isolated from each other as we did during that summer.  It truly was the closest thing to hell on earth.  It was “make it or break it” time.

We’ve mentioned a family week that takes place for everyone at Remuda Ranch, another prerequisite to bring Alli home.  It was during that week that walls were torn down, emotions and hurt laid bare before each other, and raw honesty was shared within our family.  It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done… and the first step towards healing.  Not just for Allison.  But for all of us.

Its been mentioned that some may be envious of how close our relationship is as sisters.  And we are close, sometimes unhealthily close.  They’re my best friends.  This, my friends, is the result of facing the fire together and coming out stronger.  (Hang in there, I’m bringing it back to marriage in minute.)  When you go through an experience like that together, you can’t help but become stronger and closer on the other side.  Its like when 2 strangers go through a horrific experience together, like 9-11 or a plane crash.  A bond is formed when facing dire circumstances, because you survived TOGETHER.

This is marriage, folks.  Its not all romance and flowers, it ebbs and flows.  And even when its at its worst, fighting for your marriage IS WORTH IT.  You must have the bad to appreciate the good!  If you can face the worst thing together, just imagine how strong you’re going to be on the other side.  If you never know bad, how can you appreciate the sweetness of the good?!

Watching Allison go through her eating disorder, experiencing the absolute pit with my family, was one of the hardest experiences of my life.  Its an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  But… if we hadn’t gone through it, I can only imagine where my family would be today.  If it took THAT to fix my family, to make my sisters and I as close as we are, then it was worth it.

About a year after we started family counseling, my parents called all four of us girls together.  They had this huge piece of paper, folded up like a scroll.  As they unfurled it, they discussed all that had happened during those last two years.  They apologized for the mistakes they made, what they’ve learned as a couple, and told us they were ready for a new chapter in our family.

The paper was a marriage covenant.  And there, before the four of us girls, they pledged their vows to do it better.  Dad signed under the Husband side, Mom under the Wife said, and the four of us signed as witnesses.  It still hangs over their bed to this day.

8 years.  It was a long, hard 8 years.  But they fought for their marriage and gave us a new legacy. 

I’m so glad they did. 

Sacred Marriage, Chapter 4

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1 Comments A+ a-

I remember a moment during my engagement to Jon.  I was listening to a friend gush and aww her way through the description of her new boyfriend and a reality check set in.  I will never get those first-time emotions again.  I will never get to experience the butterflies of having my hand held, or the giddy thoughts of whether tonight will be our first kiss or not.  I won’t want to stay up all night talking to him because I can’t get enough, because I want to know everything about him.  I won’t get those moments of seeing only the good in him, because I haven’t gotten to see the weaknesses yet.  It was a little hard having that moment, because I love Love and those moments really are the best.

After time, however, these interesting little mysteries become all too familiar – and that’s when contempt can begin to seek in.   Every marriage goes through this stage.  An enrapturing love quiets down to a predictable routine.

Almost 10 years of marriage later, 14 years together as a couple, and I can certainly attest to the truth of this statement.  Jon and I have reached this point in our relationship where I can predict Jon’s reaction, Jon’s routine, better than he can.  Jon knows ME better than I know myself.  We can actually finish each other’s sentences.  Jon will start to tell me something and intuitively, I just know what its going to be about.  And vice versa.  We actually have full conversations with our eyes, without a word said between the two of us.

Some may find that boring, the predictability of it going against everything that is supposed to define the idea of soul mates and everlasting, true love.  It means the opposite of me.  To know that Jon knows me so intimately that he can predict my next thought, my next move, IS true, deep, everlasting love to me.  It’s a love born of an intimacy that few get to experience. 

Giving respect is an obligation, not a favor; it is an act of maturity, birthed in a profound understanding of God’s good grace.

However its within this intimacy, where there is nothing to hide, that my weakness, my failures, my missteps are laid bare to Jon.  He knows ME.  All of me.  He knows that patience is not one of my virtues.  He knows how badly I’ve failed in my worst parenting moments.  It’s a nakedness and vulnerability that I’ve exposed to Jon and I’ve placed in him a trust to love me and respect me through those ugly sides and moments. 

This chapter spoke profoundly to me and I had to cut this post in so many places.  There were so many things I wanted to write about, but decided to keep it to just these two points.  One of the best chapters I’ve read so far!!


A Jumbled Mess

Friday, October 14, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

  • Its Friday.  My mind is fried.  And bullet points are all I can handle today.
  • First of all, I am overwhelmed by the kinds words from everyone in response to my last post.  Twitter, Facebook, this blog.  Wow, I’m just awed that so many care and are excited with me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • I have to admit, while the first email was exciting, the second email was even more so.  I have names of people to contact, more information about the publishing company, and a greater desire to finish this book.  They want to see a finished manuscript!  MY finished manuscript.  Um, someone pinch me.
  • So I’m hoping to dedicate more time to this book o’ mine.  I’m trying to be realistic in my goals, but I think a book in four to five months is doable.  Right?  I’ll just write when I have free time.  Right.
  • Hudson’s imagination has really gone into overdrive since starting preschool.  I’ve never seen him make up games on his own before.  He usually just goes along with whatever Devyn wants to play.  But yesterday he played hair salon and today it was restaurant.
  • He was both the “cooking man” and the waiter.  He even set up a table with a chair for me, and plates.  He took my order on a coffee filter and scolded me for changing Ashlynn’s diaper in the “restaurant”.
  • He’s really bossy when he plays imagination.
  • Last night was Devyn’s first musical performance and it lasted all of 15 minutes.  Ha!  I’m sure that trying to keep the attention of 80+ first graders is a feat above all feats.  So I completely understand.
  • It was adorable!  Adorable in a way that only a mom (or dad or grandparents) can appreciate.  I didn’t get teary, it just warmed my heart in only a way other mothers can understand.  And to The Grand Ol’ Flag of all things.
  • Afterwards we went to McDonald’s for a treat after the “concert” and I got a brief glimpse into Devyn’s teenage years.  Apparently some other families had the same ideas and there were about three boys from Devyn’s class there, all vying for her attention.  And then there was Devyn… who was both embarrassed and flattered by it.  Oy vey!
  • Does anyone want to come take my place during their teen years?  I’m just not sure how I’m going to deal with it all.
  • Reagan is continuing her streak of not going to sleep until 11:00pm or midnight.  We have tried everything!  Earlier naps, no naps, earlier bedtimes, later bedtimes, earlier wake times.  It doesn’t matter.  The girl is a night owl.  And I’m thoroughly convinced that these Littles are just born with the internal clocks they were given.  School mornings are going to be fun with her.
  • Ashlynn continues to be a morning girl and I’ve decided there’s nothing better than waking up to her ear-to-ear smile. 
  • Her personality is really starting to shine and where Reagan tends to be mischievous, Ashlynn seems to be a clown.  We all think she’s hysterically funny and therefore, she’s constantly trying to make us laugh.
  • And her kisses?!  Oh sweet, open-mouthed, slobbery, baby kisses.  Be still my heart!
  • Have you heard of Pinterest?  I opened a Pinterest account last spring before it really took off.  And while I can totally appreciate the purpose of the site, I just do not have time to devote to it.  I’m sorry to anyone that follows me on there, because I never pin anything! I’m just never on there.
  • Except I will be on there this weekend.  A lot.
  • Apparently when I signed up to “help” with Hudson’s Halloween party at school, I signed up to PLAN it.  This was recently brought to my attention by his teacher, and I assure you, had I known that’s what I was signing up for… I wouldn’t have.
  • So now when you see me pinning a ton of Halloween party stuff this weekend, you’ll know why.  And say a prayer for me.

The one that made me jump up and down

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 24 Comments A+ a-

When I got the email, Ashlynn was fast asleep on my chest and it took everything within me not to squeal out loud and wake her up.  So I slowly eased out from underneath her and got a few feet away before I started squealing and jumping up and down.  I tried calling Jon, there’s was no answer, so I called Christine instead.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as I tried explaining to her through gasps of air. 

“Christian… publisher… interested...” was all I managed and all she needed to hear.  We squealed and I promised to call her back once I’d caught my breath.

I ran upstairs to talk to Dad, I showed him the email, and he begged me not to get too excited.  Um, doesn’t he know its too late for that?!?!  And so I decided that I needed to call the one person who’d understand, who would get it, and who would be just as excited as I was.  Marianne.

As soon as she answered her phone in Utah and understood why I was calling, I could hear her joining me in the squeals, the laughter, the jumping up and down.  I laughed as I imagined her 8-month pregnant belly shaking from her excitement, I could hear the concern in her 2-year-old’s voice as he asked, “Mama? What’s wrong?”  And we got teary.  Because second to my mom, she has believed in me the most, she has encouraged and supported me, and on occasion, has even kicked my rear end when needed.  Its because of her I even started writing again.

I died as I waited for others to call me back… Jon, my sisters, and mom.  And I explained again and again.  I opened my email to find that a Christian publishing company is hoping I’ll consider them when I finish my book.  (As if I have so many other prospects knocking at my door.  Ha!)  And even if nothing ever comes of it, that email means more to me than I care to admit.

I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, trying to process what this means, if it means anything at all.  I’ve been euphoric one minute and negative the next.  Its been a wild ride of emotions.  I got mad at myself for saying anything on Twitter at all, afraid of what others will think, and most importantly, afraid of failing.

My writing is one of the most vulnerable areas in my life, publishing those chapters was/is a terrifying step for me.  I am so insecure when it comes to my writing, so afraid of failing that I’d rather not even try.  In writing this book, I’m trying to prove something to myself.  I never imagined it going further than this blog.

And it still might not.  I don’t know what, if anything, will happen from that email or the emails since, but I know this…  My identity is not defined by either success or failure.  A book on the shelves of a bookstore, or the book on this blog, neither will define who I am.  And as long as I can keep that in mind (I’m repeating it to myself as I write this), I’m ok with sharing this with you.  I’m an open book, my life is an open book, and I’m happy to let you in on this turn of events.  Even if I fall flat on my face.

And now I’m just as terrified to hit publish on this post as I was the time I hit publish on Chapter 1.

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 13 Comments A+ a-

PictureCollage1Image-1021PictureCollage2PictureCollage4PictureCollage5Image-1017PictureCollage3Photos courtesy of Becky Young Photography

Sacred Marriage, Chapter 3

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 2 Comments A+ a-



“Love must be learned, and learned again, and again; there is no end to it.  Hate needs no instruction but waits only to be provoked.”  Katherine Anne Porter

Gary Thomas used the above quote in Chapter 3 to solidify his argument that love is not a feeling, it is something to be learned.  I’m referring to the unconditional, Christ-like love that we’re supposed to feel for our spouses. 

Do you know what’s easy for me to do?  Its easy for me to nag and nitpick at Jon, to keep a tally of everything he’s done wrong or how much he owes me.  Its easy for me to point out the ways Jon could be a better husband or dad.  Its easier to believe that Jon’s not meeting my needs or doing his fair share.  The list goes on.

Do you know what happens to me when I get sucked into that line of thinking?  I become impatient and angry; I become bitter and mean.  And the further I fall into this pit, the more our family suffers.  When I’m in this cycle, I notice that my patience with the Littles is low and my expectations unattainable.  In short, I become intolerable to live with.

But its easier than loving Jon the way I’m called to love him.  Because the way I’m supposed to love him requires work.  A determination to turn thoughts from the negative to remembering the times he’s been a good husband and father.  To resolve to keep the focus on everything he does right, and does well.  To take that painful step of asking myself how I’ve failed him and our marriage, and then taking the necessary actions to seek forgiveness.

See?  Its work because it goes against our very nature to love in this way; in a way that puts him above me.  And because I fail, and fail often, I’m resolute in my desire to learn how to love Jon the way Christ wants me to love him.  Again.  And again.  And again.

And PS, I’m thankful for a man who’s always ready with a portion of forgiveness.  He’s had to extend it more times than I care to count.

Chapter 4

Sunday, October 09, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Brooke and Holly were laughing over a joke that Tom, one of the local transients, had shared with them. The three of them sat at one of several picnic tables that dotted the grass of the park sitting on the outskirts of town. They were going through an unseasonably warm period and some from Campus Crusade had taken advantage of it. There were about fifty-five young coeds milling about the park; grills had been dragged out of storage units, dusted off, and taken to the park in the hopes of food, fun, and fellowship. When Logan first heard of the plans, he suggested this park instead of the more popular one on campus. The group had heartily agreed, most having heard both Logan’s seminar last semester and hearing of his rendezvous to this park on a twice monthly basis. That’s how the group found themselves at the park better known for its homeless population than for the young bodies playing Frisbee.

At the sound of Brooke’s laugh, Logan looked up from his place at the grill and smiled. He and a few of the guys had been serving lunch here at least twice a month for the past year. When he’d first lain eyes on Brooke last fall, he’d wondered if she’d ever join them and had instinctively known that she’d be a natural with this outreach. He chuckled when Tom threw out another joke and Brooke laughingly laid her hand on his shoulder and countered with a joke of her own. Tom was one of Logan’s favorites; despite the dire circumstances of his life, he was always smiling and always wanting to make others laugh. It warmed his heart to see Brooke and Tom connecting in the same way he and Tom had.

Logan turned his attention back to the grill and the task of distributing hotdogs and hamburgers to the next in line. Brooke was constantly invading his thoughts these days; he was completely unsure of himself where she was concerned. It was a foreign feeling for a go-getter like himself; he always knew what the next step was going to be in any other situation. He knew where he wanted this to go and he was almost positive that he understood God’s direction, but he was completely out of his comfort zone when it came to what Brooke was thinking and feeling.

While they’d officially met only a few weeks ago, God had brought Brooke to his attention months ago. He’d seen her walk in with Holly, walk up to a new group of underclassmen, and welcome them to Crusade when he heard it loud and clear. That’s her, my son, that’s one the one you’ve been waiting for. While the voice no longer surprised him, he recognized the Lord’s prodding by now, he was surprised at the notion of a spouse, or even a girlfriend for that matter. This didn’t fit his plans at all. Upon his graduation, he’d dedicated his life to serving God and that was his only plan for the next five to ten years. A wife and family just didn’t fit into the equation, especially not now. But with the voice resonating in his head, he started rethinking the original plan. When it became apparent that Brooke and Jason Reed were seeing each other, he took a step back, thinking he must have misunderstood.

Yet week after week, he couldn’t help but be drawn to Brooke and her obvious, sincere love for God and of His children. When God placed them both in Sammie’s coffee shop that night, weeks ago, Logan decided to take advantage of the opportunity. When Brooke revealed that Jason had called things off, he felt his hope soar. In the three weeks since their initial meeting, they’d spent most of their free time together but no lines had been crossed regarding a more romantic relationship. Theirs had grown into a rewarding friendship and Logan was unsure of the next step; unsure of whether Brooke wanted the relationship to cross that line or not.

He looked over at Brooke, mesmerized as she engaged Reagan, a thirty-something year old woman with Down syndrome who called the park “home” in a conversation. He smiled as Reagan told Brooke about her friend, Jesus, Brooke smiling knowingly and listened to Reagan’s plans for the following week. Just then Brooke looked up, as though sensing Logan’s anxious thoughts, and caught his eye. She lifted her hand in a wave and sent him a sparkling smile. He felt himself blush and he groaned inwardly.

One of the most charming things about Brooke was the fact that she was so unaware of her own beauty. But the kicker, the thing that really drew him in, was the way she shined every time she talked about her Lord. It was obvious that her every thought, every action, every move was an extension of a real, fulfilling, and deep relationship with God. He’d never met anyone whose life was wholly dependent on being and giving their best for God. And just by being Brooke, she was challenging him to grow stronger. Yes, he knew that he wanted Brooke for his wife; it was no surprise since he was utterly fascinated by her. He swallowed the lump in his throat; he had no clue how to go about this.

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Brooke swung the Saturn into the left lane, barely missing the truck’s fender and Logan dug his fingers into the seat, trying desperately to hide his fear. Brooke bit the side of her cheek to keep from laughing; Logan looked as though he could bolt from the car at any moment… if she’d slow down long enough for him to open the door. The two were headed to her parents’ house for Easter dinner. When she’d heard that Logan was planning to spend the day alone, she’d insisted that he join her and her family. He’d look thrown at the invitation but hastily agreed to come.

“I truly enjoyed yesterday,” she told him. “It felt so good to get out and really do something for a change. Most just want to sit around and talk about reaching out to those in our community.”

He closed his eyes as another semi came within inches of his window. “That’s the idea. How can we save the world, when we can’t even fix the problems here?” he asked hypothetically.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye; so many guys she knew had such grandiose ideas, yet rarely acted on them. Jason had been such a guy, often blaming his lack of action on lack of time or resources. Logan was such the opposite, starting his twice monthly barbeques for the homeless with one grill, 10 hamburger patties, and two other guys from Crusade. Brooke was certain she’d never met another like him.

Her eyes clouded briefly as she thought of Jason. Rumors had floated through Campus Crusade for a week or so; Brooke paid no mind to them, determined to give Jason the benefit of the doubt. But when Holly confirmed that yes, he was engaged to a woman from his hometown, Brooke closed her eyes in preparation for the pain she was sure to come. She was surprised to feel nothing. Maybe it was the company of Logan that had brought her a distraction. Maybe she had prepared herself for such news when he’d first broken things off with her. But truth be told, she knew that her feelings for Jason had dissolved quickly because they’d never been real to begin with. Once again she was thankful for a praying mom and dad, knowing that through those prayers, she’d been spared a broken heart.

Brooke again jerked her car into the right lane, and looked down in surprise when Logan grasped her hand that was sitting on the console. With tightly shut eyes, Logan mumbled, “I’m scared, all right? And if you tell anyone about this, I’ll deny it to my dying day.” Brooke chuckled as she sped past the slow Camry, giving a cheerful wave as she did. The driver looked up in surprise as the Saturn passed her. “That’s it,” Logan groaned. “If we get there safely, I’m driving back.”

Brooke laughed out loud, carefree as could be; what an incredible, joyous day to be alive. She couldn’t help but think how right it felt to have her hand in Logan’s. Inwardly, she giggled like a school girl, anxious to get her mom and sisters’ opinions on Logan. She pressed her foot on the gas and urged the Saturn a little faster.

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Jessica was shocked at Abby’s appearance and wondered what could be causing the shadows in Abby’s eyes. Abby had walked into the kitchen with her infamous egg salad and seemed to melt into the stool at the counter. Jessica exchanged a look with her mom but stayed at the stove to finish steaming the asparagus. Aubrey left her peeled potatoes in the sink and crossed the room to her middle child. Without a word, she drew Abby into her arms and smoothed a lock of hair from her brow. Aubrey smiled, memories of rocking Abby as a child sweeping over her. She felt Abby object at first, ever the independent one, but slowly she relaxed until Aubrey felt like she was being used as a life vest. Aubrey frowned, wondering what was bothering her child. She drew back, kissed Abby on the temple, and murmured into her ear, “I’m here… whenever you need me… I’m here.”

Abby responded with a weak smile but turned the attention to her older sister. “So, Jess, how’s the moving plans progressing?”

Jessica groaned, not even bothering to hide her displeasure at the idea. “Let’s see, the company wants Rob out there in three weeks, we haven’t had any interest on the house, and just by looking online, I highly doubt we can afford anything as nice as what we have here.” She sighed, trying to lower her rising voice. The last thing she needed was for Rob to hear her; things were still a little strained between them, especially now that they were making plans for Rob to go ahead of them.

Aubrey resumed her position at the sink and continued peeling the potatoes. “What happens if you don’t sell in time?” she wondered.

“The company puts Rob in a furnished condo and we’ll stay here until the house sells.” Jessica was torn; part of her was ecstatic at the thought of staying a little longer, the other part fearful of being apart from Rob.

Aubrey raised an eyebrow; she was sure she didn’t like the idea of a husband and wife living separately from one another. A number of verses came to mind but she wisely tucked those away until she and Jessica could talk privately.

Just then she heard a car pulling into the driveway and the toot of the horn as Brooke announced her arrival. Aubrey looked out the window to see Emily skipping across the yard, dressed in her Easter finery, to greet her beloved “Aunt Ookie” – short for Brookie. Brooke emerged from the car and swept her niece into a hug. When a young man surfaced from the passenger seat, Aubrey bit her lip in concentration. Brooke had never brought a guy home before and had wondered what made Logan special enough to do so. Even when Brooke insisted that the two were merely friends, Aubrey had felt a small nudge at the back of her mind. She watched as Brooke introduced Emily to Logan and Aubrey was surprised when Emily reached out her arms to be held by him. Surprised because Emily was rarely that friendly with strangers, let alone a man, but there she was, content as could be.

“Watcha looking at, Mom?” Jessica wondered as she made her way to Aubrey’s side. She raised her eyebrows in surprise at the sight of her baby girl being held by a very attractive man. “Uh oh,” she breathed.

“What?” Abby asked as she joined them at the window. “Who’s that?”

“That,” Aubrey whispered, as she dried her hands on the kitchen towel, “is Logan. He’s a friend of Brooke’s.”

“Friend, huh?” Abby asked incredulously, watching Logan casually take Brooke’s hand into his own. They both watched as Brooke’s face lit up in laughter at something Logan had said. The older sisters exchanged mischievous, leering smiles. “This is going to be fun,” Jessica conspired with Abby.

“Hush you two,” admonished Audrey. She snuck another look out the window, thought that they did make a beautiful couple, and then called for her husband. She moved to the front door to welcome her baby and her baby’s… friend.

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The dining room table was littered with the evidence of a meal that had been well enjoyed; a half-eaten ham sat at one end of the table, while empty bowls of side dishes littered the length of the table. Emily had snuck off to enjoy another movie, this time the sounds of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato could be heard from time to time. Every so often, she tiptoed back into the room to steal a bit of chocolate from her Easter basket, but would hurry back to watch VeggieTale’s The Easter Carol. Thomas sat at the end of the table, with Aubrey next to him. Both had eased their chairs back from the table and in spite of the fact that Thomas was carrying a conversation with Rob and Aubrey was discussing Kyle and Abby’s upcoming trip to Mexico, the two of them held hands. It was an action that neither of them registered; it was a move that was so routine, so natural. On the other side of the table, Jessica was feeding bits of egg salad to Wyatt while engaged in a conversation with Logan and Brooke of Crusade’s plans for the rest of the semester. To an outsider, it was a room full of chaos and noise, but to the Cooper family, it was the norm.

Abby half-listened to her mom and Kyle discuss their plans for Mexico; she’d heard plenty already about the trip from Kyle. He was so excited to leave in a couple of weeks; he had every minute of their vacation already planned. They’d be busy the moment their plane touched down. Half the time she wasn’t even listening, she just nodded her head from time to time and it seemed to pacify his need for her attention. She looked over at Wyatt, who had thrust his mother’s arm away. Jessica was so intent on her conversation, that she didn’t even notice Wyatt rubbing his eyes. Abby smiled to herself, he was precious, that nephew of hers.

As Wyatt’s eyes continued to droop and as Jessica continued to be oblivious to the growing pile of egg salad on the floor, Abby excused herself from the table. She grabbed a napkin to wipe Wyatt’s hands and face. Jessica looked up in surprised when Abby removed Wyatt from the highchair; Abby motioned for her to stay seated. “Wyatt’s tired,” she explained. “I’m going to put him to sleep.” Jessica nodded her appreciation and returned to the conversation.

Abby shifted Wyatt against her chest and could feel his head growing heavy on her shoulder. She disappeared into the back corner room; the room that used to be Jessica’s had been turned into a nursery, complete with a rocking chair. Abby smiled, knowing that there was nothing her mom enjoyed more than rocking any baby, especially the grandbabies, to sleep. She crossed the room and pulled down the shade. The nightlight cast shadows across the crib and changing table; Abby eased herself and Wyatt into the rocking chair.

She rocked back and forth, singing some of the same lullabies that her mom had sung to her as a child. Wyatt’s head seemed to fit so perfectly in the crook of her shoulder; she felt his body get heavier and heavier as he drifted to sleep. She ended with ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and continued to rock. Abby moved Wyatt from her shoulder to her side; there were times when she couldn’t bear to be in the same room with him. Those were the times that she felt like God was mocking her; dangling the proverbial carrot in front of her nose. And then there were times, like now, where holding Wyatt was a balm for her hurts.

‘Why Lord?’ she wondered. ‘Why am I denied the pleasure of becoming a mother? What have I done to deserve such a nightmare? Please Lord, please! Kyle and I just want the opportunity to become parents; surely we’ll be good ones!’

Abby looked down at her baby nephew, in awe that he would be celebrating his first birthday shortly. She watched as he murmured in his sleep; his cheeks rosy from lying on his aunt’s shoulder and the hair on his head curling from the sweat. She wondered what a baby of theirs would look like. Would he have her blue eyes, her button nose? Would she have Kyle’s brown curls or his almond-shaped eyes? She felt the pressure building in her chest, the pain becoming so unbearable she could barely breathe. Before she could stop them, tears coursed down her face and she wept. Why was the one thing she wanted more than anything else, the one thing she couldn’t seem to achieve? For the next hour, while 11-month-old Wyatt slept in her arms, Abby wrestled with the Lord.

-----------------------------------------------

Thomas was lying in bed, the nightly news was playing in the background, but his mind was on other things. He’d enjoyed the day with his family; he always did. He smiled at the memory of Emily squealing with delight during her Easter egg hunt; he’d enjoyed explaining the meaning behind each item in the Resurrection Eggs; and his heart had leapt for joy when Emily had announced, “He is Risen” when they’d come to the empty egg. He may have been too busy as a father to stop and enjoy those small details with his girls, but he’d learned his lesson and he was making up for missed opportunities with his granddaughter. He sighed deeply; the thought of them moving so far away was a little more than he could bear. But after talking to Rob, he knew they were doing the right thing. If only Jessica would jump on board; it was obvious she was dragging her feet every step of the way. He frowned when he thought of the discord that was evident in their marriage right now. He prayed that this rough patch would be short-lived.

Aubrey was just getting out of the shower when the weather came on the news; he listened to the weatherman predict a continuation of the warm spell with one ear and listened to the clatter of his wife’s lotions and perfumes with the other. He laughed when he heard Aubrey knock some off the shelf and the annoyance in her huff as she picked them back up. His thoughts returned to the day. His concern for Abby was growing stronger each time he saw her but Kyle assured him that she was just tired and overworked. He hoped the relaxation and sun would chase away the shadows and bring back the happy, content daughter he missed. He trusted Kyle; now there was a man who loved his wife with every breath he took. Thomas had no doubts that Kyle would move heaven and earth to make Abby happy. There was no need for concern in that marriage relationship.

Just as his thoughts turned to his youngest and the young man she’d brought home, Aubrey finished in the bathroom. She bounded into the room, lighting it up with the energy that he loved, even this late at night. He smiled at her as she literally bounced into bed. She tucked her legs under her chin, cocked her head, and with a gleam in her eye, asked, “So what did you think?”

“The question is,” he countered, “what did you think?”

She smiled, thought of answering with a cryptic response, but knew he was searching for a sincere answer. When Jessica and Abby had each brought Rob and Kyle home to meet them for the first time, her sixth sense had kicked in and she had known after spending one evening with them that she and Thomas had just met their future son-in-law. Thomas knew about, and respected, the gift that God had given her and often deferred to her intuition on such things. Even though an opinion had already formed in his own mind, he was anxious to hear her thoughts.

She smiled at him, “I liked him. I really, really liked him.” She paused, thinking about the sparkle in Brooke’s eyes and the ease with which they had interacted with each other. “I wasn’t able to get him alone, but when Brooke and I did the dishes, she couldn’t stop gushing about him.” She laughed, “I think I know more about him than I do my own daughter!”

“Well,” Thomas began, “I did get him alone for a little while and you need to brace yourself.” Aubrey felt her breath hitch and her heart stutter. “He wants to marry her.”

“Marry? They’re already talking about marriage? How can that be? They’ve only known each other a short time.” She paused for a moment, thinking back on their conversation in the kitchen. She shook her head, “No, you must be mistaken. Brooke would’ve mentioned that to me. I’m sure of it.”

“Whoa, Tiger, slow down. Don’t get in such a tizzy.” He held up a hand when Aubrey opened her mouth to interrupt. “He was pretty straight forward with me; he said that Brooke had no idea how he felt but that he was sure that this is where they were headed. He wondered how I’d felt about it.”

“And…” Aubrey said impatiently, eager for him to continue.

“I told him the same thing I told Rob and Kyle when they came to me. My hope that they’d both always put Christ first, that being best friends was more important than the flash and heat of passion, and that she was my baby, and as such, I expect her to be treated like a queen.”

Tears filled Aubrey’s eyes and she reached across the bedspread to clasp Thomas’ hand, “Oh Tommy, our baby.”

Thomas felt his own grow misty and he cleared his throat. “Well, I have to say I was impressed with his thoughts on the problem with the disappearing generation in the church.” He chuckled at the memory of Logan’s enthusiasm on the subject. “Yes, I think our Brooke may have met her match.”

He gathered his wife into his arms, and she willingly allowed herself to be held. She had no doubts that a Cooper wedding was in their near future; she just never imagined the hollow feeling of watching her youngest take such an important step. She drifted to sleep with memories of Brooke playing “Bride” with her older sisters.

Thomas looked down at his sleeping wife and tightened his grip. He absently brushed her hair, smiling at the gray that lay interspersed with the auburn strands. He was a bit alarmed at the speed of which Brooke and Logan seemed to be progressing toward the altar but he trusted his girls implicitly. They knew their hearts and little could be said to deter them once minds had been made up. He rubbed his temple in concentration, unsure where the uneasy feeling was coming from. It could be stemming from any of his girls’ situations but he had a strong feeling that it had nothing to do with them. ‘Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is there something you want me to do?’ Silence was the only answer, so he turned on his side, pulling Aubrey against his chest, and fell asleep.

She’s a sly one

Saturday, October 08, 2011 6 Comments A+ a-

Reagan came up to me, blue eyes as round and innocent as possible.  “Where’s my paci?” she asked.  She lifted her shoulders in question.

I smiled and pointed to the kitchen.  “Its on the counter.”

“Can I have it?”  I watched as she blinked once, then twice.  All sweetness and seemingly without guile.

I shook my head no.  “You know the rules, Rea.  Its only for naps and bed time.”

She formed her mouth into a pout, then her eyes brightened.  “But I just want to hold it.”

So NOT a Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 18 Comments A+ a-

At this time last year, we met our talented friend, Becky, for a maternity shoot.  The photographs from that day were amazing, and I’m so glad that we have them to remember that time in my life.

Becky was kind enough to meet us for another family shoot yesterday, and while I knew we’d had our pictures taken in October of last year, I had no idea that we were getting photos taken exactly a year later.  To the day.  October 4, 2010 and October 4, 2011.  One year and one beautiful baby girl later, our family is complete.  It feels good.

Becky sent me a few sneak peeks of our session yesterday and oh, I just love these faces.  My people.  My blessings.  God is so good to us!

FamilySixCourtesy of Becky Young Photography

Thank you, Becky, for these gorgeous photographs!  They turned out beautifully and I can’t wait to see the rest!

Six Years and Counting

Tuesday, October 04, 2011 10 Comments A+ a-

Six years ago, on October 4, 2005, I hit publish on my very first blog post and never looked back.  It has been one of the greatest things I've endeavored and I can’t begin to explain all that blogging has meant to me.

It has been with me through the announcements of three of my four pregnancies, two sisters’ weddings, post-partum depression, my sister’s struggle with infertility.  It has allowed me to journal my lessons as a mom and wife, its given me a place to voice frustrations and rants.  Its become the scrapbook of each child’s milestones and stories and pictures.  Its given me nights of reading through the archives and making me misty from the forgotten moments.

This blog chronicles our story.  My story.

6 years.  It’s the longest I’ve kept a journal.  I can’t begin to tell you how many journals I have in storage.  I’d run my hands over the new cover and dream of the things I’d fill its pages with.  I was so inspired that I’d write in it every day… for a month.  Then it would drop to once or twice a week, then once or twice a month.  Then not at all.  And my half-empty journal joined all the other half-filled journals in the bottom of my dresser drawer, underneath my shirts and jeans.

The fact that I’ve maintained this journal for six years is beyond my comprehension.  Yet, somehow I’ve done it and I’m so happy I did. 

6 years…  Wow.

And if I’d known then what I know about blogging, I would say this to my past self.

  • The friendships made through blogging are very real.  Some won’t understand and will think you’re crazy, but Amy in Washington is every bit as real and authentic and loved as those with I have history with..
  • And some won’t understand the desire or willingness to be so open and transparent with the world wide web.  Just smile and nod.
  • Make sure you have approval from anyone who might be affected by a post… especially Jon, the sisters, and your mom.  Sigh.  Lesson learned.
  • Figure out why you’re blogging and remain true to that reason.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  • lf you’re willing to put yourself out there, just be aware that there will be judgments whether its asked for or not.  Shake it off.
  • If a post is ever questionable, sleep on it.  You’ll thank me in the morning.
  • Remember that there’s a chance that anyone you’ve ever met might stumble upon your little corner of the internet.  And don’t be surprised when you’re introduced as “…this is the lady whose blog I shared with you.”
  • This will become one of your greatest treasures.  Its worth is immeasurable.

Thank you for following along on this journey of mine.  I don’t know how you found me or if you know me through the internet or in real life, but I hope that this blog has touched you or made you laugh along the way.  It certainly has shaped my life.