Friday, May 20, 2011

Take My Breath Away

These are my littles on their last day of school. It will be three years before they are in the same school again.

This picture just took my breath away. It was the one I took on the first day of school.

Abey was just a baby!

Here's an attempt at a pic that was going to be so precious in my mind. This was at the school at the end of the day. Annabeth was too excited about the punching balloon Jackson had been given to care about a picture. He really didn't want her to play with it, but I was trying to avoid a meltdown on the way to the car. Carrying a screaming, kicking child to the car sideways - along with her backpack and nap mat - is not real fun.

What's awesome is that when we got into the parking lot, Annabeth let go of the balloon and it went flying off. We went running after it like fools. When we got to our car I put the balloon in the floor board and tried to get the kids buckled in. Then the wind blew the balloon out of an open door and there I went chasing that darn thing again! Like a fool! I seriously looked like a cartoon.

It's heart-warming to know that the other parents' enduring memory of me will involve me chasing after a $1 punching balloon like my life depended on it. With my daughter's backpack on my back, I might add. I suppose that's better than Jackson's enduring memory of preschool being when Mommy let Sissy play with his brand new thing and she let it fly away with the wind.

After that we all felt a bit like this.

It was time to celebrate the last day of school with a ding dong cake.

Fun dessert to begin and end school is a tradition passed down from my mama. I can't deny my heritage.

Happy summer, everyone!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mini Grad

Jackson had his preschool spring program and graduation last night. Somehow I managed not to cry my eyes out. I guess I'd gotten it out of my system when I saw his little graduation portrait, which I had no idea was coming. I've never burst into tears so quickly in my life. Anyway, enough with the emoting!

Last night was great. My boy was asked to be one of the kids who recited a Bible verse on camera. This is his little clip that was shown during the program. He was a baboon. Ha! He was terribly cute. He told me he didn't want me or Bibby to look at him as a baboon though.

Here he is walking across the stage. He walked slowly and with a huge smile on his face. The people up close were laughing a bit because he was so darling.

Here he is with his sweet teacher.

The kids were presented with Bibles by the school director.

He clutched it in his arms like it was the greatest gift ever. I pray that when he is 18 and wearing an adult-sized cap and gown, he will know that the Word of God is the greatest gift ever.

Between this and the real thing he will become a man. What a thought.

These two are best friends.

We celebrated afterward with frozen yogurt. Some teenage girls wanted to take a picture with my mom because they had just finished Breaking Free. Jackson was like, "Why they wanna take a picture of you, Bibby?" It was so hilarious. He has never had a clue who his Bibby is, except that she is his grandma. My mom's face was priceless, but she didn't miss a beat. She said, "Because they heard I'm the grandma of a preschool graduate!" He loved it. My mom is so great with my kids.

Happy mini graduation day, Jackson! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you, buddy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Fear of Man

A few months ago Curtis and I got to attend a church planting conference. It was a great weekend and you should see how many pages of notes I took. We learned so much.

At one point I joined all the other ladies in a session led by some pastor's wives. I sat at a table with a leader and we had some small group discussions. I spoke up about something and I remember that sweet, wise pastor's wife responding to me about the sin of the fear of man. I was kind of confused because I didn't see how what I said would have led her to believe I was struggling with that sin. But she pulled some index cards out of her Bible with verses that had helped give her freedom from the fear of man and she handed them to me. (I've lost one of them but the other one has Leviticus 26:4-13.) I didn't quite know what to say at that moment, but I stuck them in my Bible and brought them home. Honestly, every time I thought about it for the next few days I kinda scratched my head and said, "That was weird!"

We had our vision casting meeting for our church plant just two weeks later. That night was incredibly exciting. I couldn't even sleep for thinking about it. It was the climax of a year-long journey that changed the direction of our lives.

Then Monday morning came. We started hearing from those in attendance. Some were already in 100%, others were interested in taking next the step with us to see, and still others had questions. There were some that we didn't hear from right away. My mind would wander into the "what are they thinking?" zone.

I suddenly felt naked and vulnerable in front of everyone I knew. It was a very emotionally charged time. Positive things that people said made us feel so great and anything the slightest bit negative made us feel very low. It was a struggle to keep my mind steadfast on Christ and not be swayed one way or another by what so-and-so said or what I imagined they were thinking. It was hard.

I remembered those index card verses that were sitting in my Bible and I pulled them out. I realized I had taken a big, giant plunge into the waters of the fear of man. God was showing me how miserable I would be as a pastor's wife if I did not get victory now. Needless to say, I was very grateful that God had revealed this issue to the woman I'd met at the church planting conference.

I would like to tell you that this stronghold has been conquered and I am free of it as I sit here typing. But I am struggling! I've felt so weak in my belief that God is going to build this church. I begged Curtis to pray with me this morning. During prayer the Holy Spirit showed me that my faith is being held captive by the fear of man as well as by my desire to justify myself and my family to others in everything we do. I started weeping and confessing my sin as we prayed. I told God I'm finally letting go.

Curtis spoke truth to me that I have been trying to find a template that we can copy for our church. If we could just do that then it would answer some questions for me and I wouldn't have to operate in faith. In my search for this template I am bumping up against all kinds of conflicting ideas and it is stealing my peace. Conflicting ideas don't have to steal your peace, but for someone with fear of man issues, that's how it goes. It's like I want to line up behind someone who's already doing this successfully and have them pat me on the head and say, "Yeah! You're doing it right! Good girl!" What am I, nine years old? It is hard for me not to be disgusted with myself after writing that.

I have been a first born people pleaser my entire life. I did not recognize myself under the description of "one who fears man," but now I see that it is the same exact thing. It's also idolatry. Yikes!

As I finish this post it is a few days later. Praise Jesus, I feel free of this sin. My faith and joy are back. It seems like the stronghold has been disarmed. I'm sure I could re-arm it but I am desperately clinging to my Savior and my freedom. I wouldn't trade the lightness of heart that I'm feeling for anything. Even for approval. Please pray that God will seal this victory in my soul.

When we are bogged down and held captive to sin, the thought of ever being free can seem impossible. I think of when I was about 18 years old and living in major disobedience in a relationship God couldn't bless. I did not want to give up my sin. I saw no way out of my situation, so I just wanted to manage it and keep it. I thought freedom would be too costly and difficult. It took a long time for me to be miserable enough to repent and surrender. But when I did, Jesus's forgiveness was sweeter than anything I'd ever tasted. The freedom from guilt and fear was glorious. It was like losing 100 pounds off my body and 10 years off my age.

Maybe you have felt that way before. Or maybe you are suffering in captivity to your sin right now. My friend, I want you to know that Jesus is ready and willing to set you free. Your freedom may come overnight, but it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes our freedom comes when we keep confessing and keep confessing and roll out of bed onto our knees in prayer before those chains can get a grip on us for the day. That is how it was for me when God brought me out of that relationship.

Friend, He is able.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19).

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-31)

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Weekend Recap: Mother's Day Fabulousity

Mother's Day weekend was fabulous. I'll back up to Thursday afternoon when Melissa came over to visit. Our mom was taping a new video series in Nashville for the whole week and we were both lonesome for her. The best solution? Sister time!

I keep having these "She lives here now!" moments. They make me so happy.

On Friday evening we met Kristy and her family at Berryhill at Memorial City Mall. We ate on the patio and they had a guy singing and playing the guitar. It was a really nice evening and great to be with friends. Bonus: Kristy, Baby Annika and I made a mad dash to Francesca's before we left.

On Saturday morning I made breakfast tacos for the kids (which, sorry to brag, I have now perfected) while Curtis slept in a bit. Yes, it was Mother's Day weekend and perhaps I should have been sleeping in, but I was going out that night so I wanted to bless him.

That afternoon my mom arrived home from Nashville and we all went over to her house to welcome her. We were soooooo glad to have her home. Tapings are hard because there's not really time to talk on the phone. Mom works her tail off. So we had lots of catching up to do.

I got to spend Saturday evening with a few girlfriends as we celebrated Heather's birthday. It was such a treat. We ate at America's and I made Heather try tres leches cake for the first time. I don't think she hated it. Then we went to the Water Wall by Williams Tower, but as we were walking up to it they turned it off. Blast! We laughed so hard and tried to take some pictures anyway. I'm not sure they turned out, but Heather sent me these.

The birthday girl and me.

Me and Kristen.

Me and Tiffany.

We spent the next couple of hours chit chatting at Empire Cafe over tea and coffee. We had a great time.

On Sunday morning we went to church. We stopped by a donut place and got the obligatory Mother's Day donuts and kolaches. During the second hour of church I got to work in a preschool room with four-year-olds. It was a really fun room of kids and teachers and I had a blast. The kids got to make stuff for their moms and it was sweet to see their excitement when they were picked up and gave their gifts.

Last year we went to an amazing brunch at the Omni Hotel on Mother's Day. This year I did not have the energy to plan something like that. I blame it on having a two-year-old. So we drove through McDonald's (just Donald's according to Annabeth) and you would have thought I'd given my kids a shopping spree at Toys R Us. They were thrilled. I pretty much went straight to bed after we got home and took a nice little Mother's Day nap. Hooray for moms!

Later my sister and Colin and my mom came over for a celebratory dinner. We provided garlic bread (the frozen variety - I worked hard) and drinks, my sister brought two casseroles and the best salad I've ever had in my life, and my mom brought a homemade pound cake. We ate until we were nearly miserable. I nearly rededicated my life, it was so good.

Jackson looks so little in this picture. That's why I love it.

If you are surprised to see my man with a bottle of beer in front of him...well, that would be surprising. I got lucky and actually found IBC Root Beer at HEB for once. It was like finding buried treasure. Also, I love how there are four different beverage vessels in this picture.

I have no explanation for what is happening here. As for the outfit, I took off her pretty Sunday dress and was going to leave her in bloomers while we ate. But she absolutely freaked out and wanted a shirt, so I just grabbed a pajama top out of a laundry basket. The rubber band that had been in her hair was MIA. She was a mess but so funny.

I took this picture through the window after Annabeth locked all the adults in the back yard. Thank God Jackson was inside and unlocked it for us. To our shame, this was when it happened for the second time. By now Annabeth had added her brother's Crocs to her ensemble.

Here's Bibby consoling AB after she got in big trouble.

Here are the Fitzpatricks. They made it such a fun and delicious evening.

Lis and Colin gave mom and me both a huge bouquet of flowers. Colin actually picked them out. They are gorgeous and smell so good! Below them are some things the kids made for me at school.

Today has been a great day with the kids. I definitely feel energized in my role as a mother after such a sweet day of affirmation. Many thanks to my family!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

As A Jay Bird

I nearly checked myself into the Spring Shadows Glen last month over my daughter's new habit of removing her diaper while in bed. It was bad, y'all. Real bad.

(The Spring Shadows Glen lives forever in my mind as the magical place my mother always threatened to go when we were driving her crazy. It sounds like it might be a nice retreat center, but no, it was a mental hospital. It exists under a different name now, but it makes me happy in my stressful mothering moments to say something just like my mama used to say. Also, one time when I was a kid I took a phone message for my mom - probably from someone who wanted her to speak at an event - and said that she was unable to come to the phone because she was at the Spring Shadows Glen. Bless my mom's heart. Maybe they thought it was a hotel.)

Okay, back to Annabeth. Y'all, she would not leave her diaper on to save her life, much less my sanity. Thank our God of mercy that we never had a finger painting on the walls with you know what incident. But in a span of five days she soaked her sheets and all her blankets four times. I was on the brink!

I'd heard of the duct tape solution and, y'all, I truly did not want to try it. It seemed wrong. But I was moments away from the Spring Shadows Glen and I had no other options. The duct tape belt, however medieval looking, proved to be very effective. But I hated it.

I mentioned our problem on the day I began my blog revival. The Lord heard my cries and a company called EscapeeJays found my post. They offered to send Annabeth some free escape-proof pajamas to try. Score!

(Seriously, how often does that happen?)

Here they are, people.

The zipper goes up the back.

They're terribly cute, I'm afraid. Adorbs, as my friend Molly Piper says. One look at my little wannabe escapee in her jailbird PJ's made the pain of her diaper rebellion flee.

The best news is that these jammies work. When she wears them I have absolutely no dread about what I'm going to find in the morning. Will she have soaked the bed? Nope. Will she have figured out how to take off the duct tape? Duct tape no longer needed! Will she have done the magical "diaper is still on and dry but the bed is soaked" number? Impossible!

This is a victory, people.

If you have a little diaper escapee who wants to be nekked as a jaybird, I think EscapeeJays are a really great, practical solution. You can find them here.

P.S. We have the purple ones too and they are also adorbs.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Now I Know

Before I became a mother, it was easy to pick out a Mother's Day gift for my mom. I had the privilege of ignorance. But on February 17, 2006, that ignorance flew out the window of Baylor Grapevine Hospital when a baby boy was placed in my arms. Now I knew.
Having heard on my birthday every year about the 14 stitches my mother suffered during childbirth and how many months she felt that pain, I now felt it.
Having heard my mother say that having a child is like carrying your heart outside your body and letting it walk around, I now carried it. I now saw it take first steps.
I had never loved my mother more. Now I knew. The magnitude of what my mother had done for me all my life started to sink in.
So how exactly am I supposed to say thank you to my mother now that I know?
For countless meals fixed or fetched, for hairdos perfected before school and messed up before the bus got us all the way there, for refereeing more sibling battles than one can count, for pretending and being silly, for enduring back to school shopping with two daughters year in and year out, for carpooling, for taking us on vacations to places we wanted to go, for protecting us from harm, for comforting us when kids were mean, for correcting us when we were mean, for listening to kids’ music in the car, for teaching our VBS classes, for volunteering at the school, for confidentially counseling our friends, for cheering us on from the bleachers even when our team couldn't win a game, for enduring our adolescent mood swings, for playing basketball in the driveway, for teaching us about Jesus Christ, and for doing all these things with love and a smile on her face. HOW? How do I thank my mother for raising me? And for doing it without letting on how hard it was?
Mom, truly, I thank you. Now that I know, I don't know how you did it. But I'm grateful. And I hope I can raise your grandchildren in such a way that they remember me with a smile on my face. Even if I put all my money in my purse and spent a year doing nothing but shop for the perfect Mother's Day gift to accurately reflect your worth to me as a mother, it would elude me. Nothing in a store could ever measure up to your value.

I may have a little gift in my hand for you on Mother's Day, but I also want to give a gift that means something more. I want to show you your value to me by showing a little girl in India how much value she has to Christ. She is living in a very dark, unsafe brothel and her own mother is a slave to many men. Her mother is unable to care for her because she is not free to stop working. Her mother could sell her young daughter to the brothel and escape a living hell. But her mother wants freedom, protection and life for her child. Her mother is saying, "Help me by helping my daughter."

With a financial gift made in your honor, God is providing a means of rescue for this little girl through As Our Own. The little girl's mother will entrust her to their care. When she visits her daughter she will see her thriving and healthy and she will know that she has given her child a priceless gift. The child will be raised by loving women who will nurture her like their own daughter. She will go to school and be educated, which will change the path of her future. She will be introduced to Jesus Christ, who loves her and gave Himself for her. For the rest of her life, a family of believers will devote themselves to her well being.
Rescuing children from horrific exploitation and eventual death from AIDS does not come without a cost. For those of you reading this, the cost is financial. For a team of believers on the ground in India, the cost is spiritual and physical. Today I am looking for people who will partner with us by giving sacrificially to As Our Own. Let's equip them to do the work God has called them to do. They are anointed for this work. They are even training pastors to take up this cause so that the church in India will become a mighty advocate for these children. The momentum is building and I ask you to please be a part of what God is doing.
Honestly, it is easier not to know about these things. I could have written details in this post that would have made you sick for the rest of the week. What happens in that red-light district haunts me daily. But I will not turn away because it's easier. I will consider what is happening, how I can help, and I will take five minutes to go to As Our Own's new web site and actually do it. The beauty is that right now you and I can impact a child's future and honor our moms (or a special mother figure in our lives) at the same time. Who is with me?
Donate in honor of Mother's Day:
About As Our Own
The extreme poverty in India places girls at great risk for exploitation, enslavement, and neglect. Girls are regularly abused and degraded, forced into lives of bonded labor, either in organized begging or the sex trade.
These girls will face a dark, horrific future—unless someone intervenes.
God has opened the door for As Our Own to rescue girls before they are exploited, giving us the privilege to care for each one as our own—for life. We are building strong communities through our Lighthouse church network and training strong leaders and pastors at our Hope College, all to break these cycles for girls in future generations.
Your gifts make a lasting difference for these girls. Thank you!