Monday, December 26, 2011

Old Writings # 1

I've decided to post a few things that I've written over the last few years about significant things in our life.  The first one is about my little Quinn.  It's her birthday week so I think it's appropriate. This was written not long before Quinn was born- sometime around December, nearly 3 years ago.  This is just a sort of journal of my thoughts during that time--but I dedicate it to Quinn.  She is a treasure.

Quinn's presence in my body has taught me many things.  She is our first baby and she is extraordinary.  I am concerned with her every move, every new change.  I've learned that I can live through vomiting every day.  I have learned that the body is made to stretch in all sorts of creative ways to make room for a tiny little girl.  I have discovered what the other side of 200 pounds looks like.  Enough talk of physical revelations- God has revealed interesting things through this baby girl and she hasn't even made her grand appearance yet. Quinn has a favorite spot in my tummy.  She gets in the top left corner of my tummy and nestles herself in under my ribs.  I have wondered why this spot is favored over others.  I was talking to a friend and mentioned this to her.  She said her nurse told her once that babies love that place closest to the heart because it is soothing to hear mommy's heartbeat.  What a parallel!  My little girl wants to be close to my heart.  She wants to hear what my heart has to say.  Shouldn't it be the same in our relationship with God?  Oh, that we would long for his heart in this way.  If only we would find our greatest rest and comfort closest to God's heart.  Sometimes when she makes herself at home in that special place near my heart, it becomes uncomfortable after a while.  I feel the need to move her from her place of comfort to a place where Mommy can have a moment of relief.  And so I nudge and push gently on this baby girl and try my best to force her move.  As soon as I make contact with her tiny frame, maybe an elbow or a knee, she jerks away.  It's as if she's trying to say, "No way! I've found my comfy spot and I cannot be moved!"  I continue to press gently until she gives in.  I like to consider this molding her will before she's even born.  Doesn't God want to do the same in our lives?  Just as we've found that comfortable spot where we can put up our feet and hang up a "WELCOME FRIENDS" sign, he gently nudges us to get us moving.  Complacency and apathy are bred in places of too much comfort and he loves us too much to let us stay there.  Like Quinn, as soon as we feel his gentle nudge, we quickly pull away and dig in our heels.  With gentle love he continues to push.  We slowly release defenses and let go of, at least for a moment, that secure place.  Once we give in, we find that God has been moving us to a place that is much more spacious and comfortable all along.  He only needed our cooperation to get us there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making Memories.

This pic has little to do with this post, except that it was taken during this season.  They're just so dang cute.

So far, with the help of the Lord and my sweet husband, I've made it through the majority of the Christmas season without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.  This has been a VERY memorable Christmastime so far and I just love that.  The Christmas parade in our little community was super sweet this year.  The little kids made adorable green peas.  Quinn was able to participate and rode along in the truck cab with some precious friends and her little buddy, Maggie.  They had fun giggling and listening to Veggie Tales sing "Feliz Navidad."  I did get a little stressed out preparing the float decorations, but I recovered and really enjoyed the day of the parade.  In the end our float won an award, which was a fun little add-on to an already great day.  Chris and I had a night out Christmas shopping and my mom-in-law kept the babies OVERNIGHT.  This is the first night we've had without babies in the house, I think since Quinn was born nearly 3 years ago.  It was very quiet and I slept well.  At least until I woke up thinking I needed to get up and check on Judah.  I realized that he was safe with Lonita and went back to sleep. Ahhhhhh.  One night a couple of weeks ago, Chris, Quinn, Judah and I went through a drive-thru Bethlehem.  I wanted to cry as my babies rode along and watched the story of the life of Jesus.  I explained the story and tried to answer questions as Quinn wanted to know, "Why did John the Baptist baptize Jesus?"  She was very interested in John the Baptist; he had a wild black beard and big, bushy black hair.  She later told my Mom that he "looked like my Daddy."  Today we went to the local nursing home to sing for the residents with the little guys from church and some of the adults from the senior's ministry.  It was great.  I was so blessed by the entire visit.  Watching the kids bring joy to these folks who were sitting alone quietly when we arrived was amazing.  Quinn just talked and smiled when the little elderly ladies oohed and ahhed over her.  She introduced them to "Red Nose the Reindeer" on her dress.  Watching my little girl, my sister's children and the sweet kiddos that I have the pleasure of teaching in kid's church minister to these people just warmed my heart.  I believe that God's heart was warmed too.  More thoughts about loving the elderly to come later- until then, IT'S SO IMPORTANT.  This week I'll prepare to be out of the office next week and to be with family all weekend for Christmas.  I was challenged early this December to commit this Christmas to Jesus, stress less and invest in creating "Jesus-centered" memories with our family.  I am so grateful; this season has been incredible.  It really has been "just what I've always wanted."  And Christmas isn't even here yet!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas!

Our little Christmas Princess.  First Christmas. 2 years ago. 

The Christmas season is here again and there are several things I want to do differently this year.  They're all related to enjoying this season, as I have somehow avoided that the last few years.  My thoughts follow. 

1.  I do not want to feel like breathing into a paper sack for 30 days.  The last couple of years I have felt like the Christmas season has sent me into a near asthmatic attack.  I don't have asthma, but I think I know what it feels like when I hear the silver bells ring.  As the Children's Director for our church, we have a few activities related to the holidays that are a little bit involved.  We have multiple family parties and church parties and friend parties and party parties that just leave me feel like shouting, "NO MORE FLIPPIN' PARTIES!"  It shouldn't be this way.  This year, I am going to work really hard to not feel this way.  I'm determined to take it easy and enjoy the Christmas season.  I am going to plan ahead, learn to say "no, thank you," and probably just take life less seriously this year.  I don't like the feeling of anxiety and so I'm not going to feel it.

2.  We will have Christmas lights this year.  The last few years, at the hands of holiday busy-ness, our house has not had Christmas decor outside.  This has made me sad.  Not this year.  We are going to put up lights this coming weekend and it's going to look great. In fact, I went to the feed store this morning and got tomato cages to make into little trees.  This is part of my holiday relaxation therapy; wrapping lights around tomato cages.  You should try it.  For the sake of our little kiddos, we will have lights.  And I guess for my sake too.

3.  I'm going to enjoy buying gifts.  Last year I got kind of stressed about gift buying and then in the end I kind of "over thought" the whole thing. We have exchanged names on both sides of our families now. Our limit for both sides is like $3.  That should be easy, right?  Gum, shoe laces, a bag of peanuts?  Actually the limit is $15, I think.  That is a good round number that won't break the bank, but should provide lots of shopping options.  

Ahhhh.  I feel relief coming over me.  I am going to enjoy this Christmas season. I really am.   

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our first Halloween in our house. Literally.

(THIS IS NOT OUR HOUSE, thankfully.)

Here is my story of the first Halloween spent in our house.  We have lived in our house for three years now, but this is our first to actually be home on Halloween night.  The last two years we have been a part of facilitating a Fall Fest for the kiddos at church.  This year we did the fest a night early, thus leaving us the night of Halloween free to be as festive as we'd like.  So, here's how it went.  We live in an un-gated  neighborhood.  There are a million children that crowd the streets of our neighborhood to trick or treat on Halloween night.  The last two years I've only seen them on my way out of the neighborhood and their remnants (candy wrappers and other things) in the streets the next day.  I am a Children's Director.  I love kids.  I spent the last several weeks preparing for a fall festival with an awesome team of folks.  It went great! You would think I would have been dressed up like a fairy, sitting out at the end of my driveway passing out candy to all the kiddies walking by.  What really happened was this: while it was still light I didn't answer the door to the two knocks that we received.  The only candy that I have is the good little Hershey's candy bars and the candy Quinn got at the festival. I didn't feel right about giving out either.  The Hershey's are too yummy and I bought them for Chris and the other candy is Quinn's.  Why, you may ask, did I not BUY candy for the hordes of hungry children?  Money, folks.  Candy costs money.  Candy doesn't grow on trees.  You see, it's the end of the month.  God takes care of all of our needs; He is our provider in every way.  We are well taken care of and content.  While saying that, at the end of the month we have several large outflows, ie. house note and other necessary things.  So, the money to fork over for candy for everyone in our small town is needed for food and gas and diapers.  NOT CANDY FOR THE WORLD.  I'm laughing at this because it sounds really sad.  It's really not that sad, except that I hope none of the children that we pick up in our neighborhood for church were the ones that knocked and I didn't answer.  I just couldn't bear to see their disappointed faces.  By the way, after those two kids knocked with no reply, Chris put out a sign that read, "SORRY, NO CANDY."  I did put a smiley face on the sign.  Chris wasn't sure if the smiley face was a good idea.  If our cars are egged in the morning or our rose bushes are adorned with toilet paper, I'll blame that little smiley face.  I'm sorry, kids.  I really am.  I do believe one day you'll understand.  Food, diapers and ELECTRICITY are "just what I've always wanted."  In my spookiest voice and a creepy laugh, "HAPPY HALLOWEEN, and sorry about the no-candy thing."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Birthday Bride

 I (chris) have hijacked Laurens blog. But I figure it's ok since it's her birthday and I'm writing about her. Where do you start when talking about someone so amazing? I guess right there, with the fact that she is, so amazing! She can do it all. Run a house, raise two kids (or three if you count me), have a job, run a small business (maybe two), and PUT UP WITH ME! And even above all of those, she loves Jesus so much more than she loves me or our kids, and that is what I love about her most. Lauren is my best friend, my most trusted companion, and my biggest fan. She brings out parts of me that I never really knew I had. She challenges me to love deeper, to smile more often, and to be free in life like never before.
 The great thing about that is, I'm not alone, Lauren has an impact on everyone she meets. I have met few people like her. It's not possible to spend time with Lauren and not feel better about yourself. I think that is something she gets from my amazing mother-in-law. She also has a deep and profound knowledge of Jesus and His word. She blows me away with this very often. That I believe comes from my equally amazing father-in-law. For those of you who know them, you will know how true these statements are.
 I am eternally grateful that God brought them together, and as a result I have been blessed with the most amazing wife (and three pretty awesome sister-in-laws) I could ever dream of! I know that the things Lauren saw from her parents growing up, both good and bad, are a huge part of why she is who she is today. She is a very good combination of sweet-as-can-be hard headedness. And I love every bit of it!
 I could easily write into the morning hours about her and how I feel towards her, but since she is just in the other room and really wants to come back into the living room, I suppose I shall end this soon. I love you Ren, and I always will! Like I told you today, I am so thankful that you have a birthday, because otherwise I would not have you. Happy Birthday to the LOML and my Fairy Tale Princess!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quinn Girl.

The last couple of weeks I just haven't had any writing in me.  I've been busy with home and work and that has taken all of the creativity that I have had to give.  However, today I am going to go ahead and break the block and write about my little girl.  We chose the name Quinn because it means queen, intelligent and wise.  We picked the right name.  She is the cutest little girl you could ever imagine.  She has a precious little voice and dainty little ways.  She has a great imagination and I'm watching it become even more alive.  She says funny things all the time.  My sister says she should have her own TV show.  I know that I would watch.  Chris was telling her something silly the other night and her response was, "That's ridiculous."  It sounded more like "ridicalis."  The other day we were playing and she wanted me to drive some animals from one place to another and so I loaded them up in the back of the little pickup and drove them to what I said was their house.  I unloaded them.  Quinn said, "No, mommy. That's a terrible place."  She is not quite three yet.  She is very smart.  She was reading the instruction manual to the alarm clock today and said, "It says to plug it in, push some buttons and it will work."  She is red-headed, but doesn't fit with any of the red-headed stereotypes.  She is sweet and gentle.  That is, unless you push her buttons.  She doesn't mind standing up for herself or someone else or whatever is right.  She is just a precious little ray of sunshine and I thank God for her every second of the day.  There's no one like her and I'm so glad.  She's "just what I've always wanted."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Completely.

There's something that always seems to make me cry.  I'm not typically a very outwardly emotional person, except for a few things that just always seem to bring on the tears.  Anything related to my parents can make me cry without a doubt.  I guess the daughter part of me is just hard wired with the crying part of me.  The other thing that always gets to me is the thought of God's love being equal for everyone.  Yesterday morning at church I was singing and just letting the words of the song echo in my head, "I know your love for me is good....completely."  While I was singing I looked up and saw the back of someone's head that looked just like that of an old friend of ours.  We haven't seen this friend in years and I know that he is now in prison.  He made some mistakes and got down a bad road and that's where his choices took him.  For a split second I thought that he was in church.  In that same second I realized that it wasn't him.  It did make me think of him and how God's love for him is good..completely.  I then saw the back of another head far up front that I recognized.  This guy is a pastor who has just retired from his church after many years of faithful service.  He's a precious, awesome guy who has just done everything in his power to love God and serve him.  There's no question that God's love for him is good....completely.  By this point I was crying and thinking about how God's love for both our friend in prison and the sweet pastor is EXACTLY the same.  His love is a rushing river that shouts, "Come on! I want YOU! Jump in!"  He loves us.  He really, really loves us.  I don't think I will ever loose my gratitude and amazement about this love.  It is complete and rich.  It doesn't search out the best to love.  It is available for every single one.  This love is "just what I've always wanted." I know his love for me is good.  Completely.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Most Amazing Woman Alive.

I've been thinking about my Momma a lot this week.  See, I like to cook Southern food. I like to make chicken nuggets, the real kind, not out of a box, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar. I like hamburger steaks and white gravy on my real potatoes.  Now I do like to eat fancy food and if you want to cook me up some, go right ahead.  Southern food seems to be "just what I always want."  As long as I'm the one cooking you might think you're eating with Paula Dean, y'all.  I've been digging Southern Plate for a while now.  Christy Jordan seems to be a really nice gal and her food takes me back to days around the table at home.  Back to my Mom.  All this Southern food thinking makes me think of my Mom.  She's a really good cook.  When we were growing up she cooked every night.  She wouldn't just buy a bag of chicken breasts that were all ready to cut up, bread and fry up.  She would buy a package of chicken with the ribs, de-rib it and THEN bread it and fry it up.  She is a real woman.  I was thinking, "how did she learn to cook that way?"  My Grandma Paulsel is a great cook too, but she's from Ohio. I don't think they fry in Ohio.  The deal is she learned to cook for our family because we had to eat.  She cooked good, hearty meals that fed us all so that we could be happy and healthy.  And we were.  And we are.  She's just amazing that way.  You know what else?  She is also the most lady-like woman you'll probably meet.  She's beautiful and gracious and loving.  She has taken care of my Dad through the last year of a stroke and heart attack like a personal 24 hour-a-day nurse.  She reared me and my sisters, teaching us how to be good wives and moms.  I'm still working on being completely good at being a wife and a mom.  I still need Jesus to help me get over me.  But, she did teach us.  She taught us well.  She homeschooled some of us at different times when we needed more attention and to be in a clean environment.  She potty trained us as babies.  This is a very big job, you guys.  I never knew.  She is super-mom.  I talk to her pretty much every day on the phone and I love that. She's my best friend besides Chris.  She is everything that I want to be as a woman, a wife, a mom, and a person.  I love her and I think that she is the most amazing woman alive.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

To Tennessee and back.

We've been planning since last December for our week trip to Tennessee.  We planned and saved and saved and saved and then we went.  And it was great.  Sweet Chris drove through torrential rain from Tropical Storm Lee nearly all the way to Tennessee.  All 19 hours of it. Yes, 19 hours.  The rain slowed us down a little.  My sweet Mom-In-Law, Lonita, went along too.  The babies did great!  We ate yummy food, mostly from The Old Mill Restaraunt.  That place is great; if you ever go to Pigeon Forge skip all the rest and go straight there.  They have a super lunch for $10 that includes corn chowder and fritters.  YUM!  We hiked a mile up a mountain while pushing a double stroller.  Mostly Chris and Lonita pushed.  I think they think I'm weak.  That's okay with me.  We also visited Cade's Cove.  This made me long for more simple times.  Can't I live in a little mountain community and just cook and tend the young'ns?  Well, maybe for a week anyway.  More to come later on my longing for simplicity.  We did a lot of other fun things, like hot tub sitting, candle and wood thingy looking, and Wonder Works visiting.  Oh yeah, we also had bears come and sit on our porch two nights in a row.  That was pretty amazing.  Next time we will put out some tuna so they'll stay long enough for a picture.  The best part of the whole trip was just being able to look at my kids.  Life can be so busy.  Between work, trying to maintain our home, helping Chris run a small business and just running around like crazy people, I feel like I miss some things about our kids.  Last week I was able to just enjoy holding my babies and looking at their faces.  It was really, really good.  It challenged me to slow down and stop running.  I still have a lot to do, but surely I can settle down a little and enjoy.  Also, at the beginning of the week I determined that I was not going to have the normal stress breakout that Chris and I sometimes have when we spend days together.  You know, it's like when you spent too much time at a friend's house when you were a kid and you started to get hostile toward your friend.  Well, usually that is me, the one getting hostile.  It usually takes about two days for us to break-in to being together 24-7.  Not this time.  God really helped me to chill out and appreciate the time.  And I did.  I suppose this was the Tennessee vacation that was "just what I've always wanted."  All but the part where we couldn't get a picture of our porch guests.  Next time- tuna.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On riff raff and how amazing God is.

This post may sound a little snooty.  I assure you that it is not.  I've had a few experiences the last two days that lend to the writing of this post and so I just had to write it.  Yesterday morning started off beautifully.  We had a photo shoot in Cy-Fair with a very sweet family in a beautiful neighborhood.  They were nice people and it was a nice place.  We were there early and parked at the tennis courts to look over some e-mails and just chill before we went and met the family.  As we were pulling out Chris said, "That lady is calling the police on us."  And I really think that she was.  There was a lady standing on her porch, spying us out and wondering what in the heck these ruffians were doing parked at her tennis courts.  As we pulled away, Chris saw here mouth, "They're leaving." This just made me laugh.  She was afraid of US.  In our MINIVAN.  We do have tinted windows and Chris does have a goatee.  Other than that we look harmless.  We then went to a certain large retailer (left to your imagination to guess) at the end of the day yesterday.  I avoid this certain retailer at all cost, but it was the one-stop shop I was needing.  We went to the toy department and were strolling along when I heard someone behind me say, "Did you play with Barbie when you were growing up?" The answer was a loud, echoing, "HE**, yeah." I should preface this with the fact that Chris and I had been having a heated discussion on the way there and I was already a little on the edgy side.  I turned around slowly and met eyes with the woman who had so crudely and irresponsibly shouted out dirtiness within ear-shot of my precious babies.  We met eyes and I stared her down.  I didn't look away and honestly wondered if were about to tussle.  Side note- I would have gotten the beat down if we had "tussled."  Based on her looks, she probably knew all kinds of street fighting techniques.  It makes me laugh to even imagine for a second me "tussling" with this lady in the toy department.  Now back to reality.  I have never stared anyone down like this before.  I was determined that if she said anything at all to me, I was going to let her know how ridiculous it was that she had been so crude.  Of course, we didn't fight.  For my good, I'm thankful that we didn't.  For my families honor, I'm glad that we didn't.  It doesn't change the fact that I was and continue to be frustrated by the roughness of our society.  This afternoon, while Chris was helping the folks who bought our treadmill load up, there was a fist fight out in the road on our street.  Wow.  Those folks must have thought they were in the ghetto.  We live in a pretty good neighborhood and yet people are fighting in the street on a Sunday afternoon.  The thing is, this is normal in our society.  People are rough.  They talk rough, live rough and just share their general roughness freely with anyone who can see or hear them.  Here's why I am amazed.  God still loves us all. We may not cuss in public or fight in the street, but he knows when my heart is trashy after arguing with Chris.  He sees the yuck in me that no one else sees.  And he continues to love me.   He extends himself to us.  He doesn't lock eyes threateningly, he looks at us with mercy and compassion.  This doesn't change my disappointment with how dirty the world is and my deep, aching hunger to protect the eyes and ears of my kids.  A clean, safe world is "just what I've always wanted" for these little guys.  Because that's just not a reality, we'll work to shine the light of Jesus, not fist fight, and hopefully teach them to do the same. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Sad Story :)

I'm having a bit of a breakdown.  I've realized something about myself that is not "just what I've always wanted."  In fact it is something I have never wanted.  I am oficially frumpy.  I am that mom in the grocery store with the pony tail, t-shirt and shorts.  I haven't gone to sweat pants yet and don't plan to.  That is a little too far, even for my currently style-challenged self.  Somedays I don't even get dressed until 2 o'clock.  I work from home a lot and the rest of my time is occupied by caring for our home and our babies.  I love my life.  I do not love, however, my un-fancy self.  I remember growing up and thinking that I never wanted to become a frumpy mom.  In my naive 12-year-old mind I would think, "how much time and effort does it really take to fix yourself up a little?"  Rude kid.  Anyway, this doesn't just happen overnight.  It is a steady and gradual happening.  When you start out romancing your guy, you are all about how you look. You have time to and work hard at looking great.  When you get married you  realize that it's inevitable that he's going to see you looking crazy.  The decline begins.  The battle is being lost at this point.  Frumpy has started to take ground.  When your children come along you gain weight and lose sleep and appearance is the last thing on the priority list.  Your old, cool clothes don't fit anymore and so you get rid of them so that you don't have to be disappointed about carrying extra pounds.  Cue the sad music.  Blare it loud right now.  Then the next child comes along and you find yourself sliding, like an avalanche, down the mountain into frumpy land.  Sad, but true.  Now that I have discovered this about myself, I can only go up from here.  I am going to work hard to do a little better.  Maybe I'll iron my clothes some days.  I probably won't because I am the WORST at ironing.  Forget that part.  Maybe I will ask CHRIS to iron my clothes some days.  He's very good at ironing.  Maybe I will go and buy a pair of cute shoes.  Maybe I will start small and slowly work back into the much more presentable person that I used to be.  We'll see.  I'm not claiming to have ever been a stylish diva.  When I was in Junior High I wore Winnie the Pooh shorts, a CAT SWEATER complete with faux fur and snap pants. Of course I didn't wear those things all together.  I was a style disaster.  But somehow I always had friends.  And they were cool people too.  I think this must be a tribute to my personality.  Thank you, Lord, for giving me a personality that exceeds my cool factor.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Boy.

When we found out that we were expecting a second baby, we were super excited.  We loved Quinn like crazy and knew that the addition of a second baby would just add so much more love and joy to our home.  We were right.  I wasn't sure about how I would do with a boy.  I grew up in a house of girls, other than my Dad.  So far I think we're doing just fine.  We named the little man Judah because somehow, since the day that I very first heard that name, I knew that one day I would have a Judah of my own.  And Chris liked it too. :)  Judah means PRAISE.  I like the fact that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.  Although we are not Jewish, I feel like this name was made for our little round-headed baby.  Quinn was a very mature baby.  She would observe things before making a move.  She would check out all of the possible effects of her decision and then make a mature choice. As mature as a 9 month old could be, I suppose. Judah, on the other hand, is a wild man.  We have a Dora car that rocks.  When Quinn was a little baby, she would ride it and push the buttons and then get off like the dainty little princess that she is.  Judah gets on and rides and then when it's time to get off he just throws his arms out to the side and falls off.  No tears.  Carry on.  It's hilarious.  Quinn got teeth at a year old.  I was getting concerned that baby dentures would be in our future.  Judah had them at 4 months-six of them.  It just makes sense that a little "shark-man" would need teeth to attack with.  He is also the gassiest baby I have ever known.  I have a lot of nieces and nephews and never have I known a baby with as much gas as this kid.  As much as Judah is a little wild guy, he is a Momma's baby.  Both of our babies have been.  I'm completely okay with that.  He is the sweetest natured guy.  You might not know this if you didn't know him well. He is a very rough and tumble baby.  His slapping, twisting, biting, kicking, and head butting is really just a result of him being such a manly little baby.  Judah has been and continues to be such a great blessing in our life.  This baby boy, gas, sharp teeth, wildness and all, is "just what I always wanted." 

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Dad is 60 today.

This has been a really weird week.  It went completely different than I planned even as late as Monday evening.  We started the week just like normal.  A full day of cleaning house, taking care of babies and getting ready for a fresh week with my CK responsibilities.  Lists.  Bills paid. A few groceries picked up.  Planning in motion.  We planned to end the week in Newton, celebrating my niece's 12th birthday tonight and my Dad's 60th tomorrow at lunch.  They share the same birthday- August 5th.  Monday night around midnight the plans drastically changed.  We received a series of calls informing us that my Dad had been taken to the hospital, where he flat-lined multiple times and was now being taken by ambulance to Beaumont.  Around 3 a.m. we gathered our thoughts and got moving toward Beaumont.  That day we almost lost him, several times.  Today is his birthday.  He's in a deep sleep in ICU in Beaumont. And it's his birthday. I know that God is good. I'm so glad that I have that established in my heart and that I know for a fact that He is good no matter what.  Still, life just really bites you in the rear sometimes.  We've been through this before, many times, but never to this extent.  We're praying and trusting God for His help, His will, His mercy.  I just couldn't go without writing about this.  It's one of those weird times that I just feel like the words can bleed out and it somehow makes things feel a tiny bit better. We decided that we'd better catch up on rest tonight so that we can start fresh tomorrow. Tomorrow we're going to go and see him.  All we can do right now is look at him.  If we touch him or talk to him he begins to come out of this deep sleep that he needs for healing.  We don't want that.  We want him to heal.  We want him to come home all well.  For tonight, I'll just try not to think too deeply about how heavy this all is.  I'll just rest and pray for Dad while he rests.  I don't have any smart "just what I've always wanted" lines for this one.  God remains good.  We remain filled with hope.     

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Dreamin'

I love summer.  I always have and it seems like I just always will.  I thought it was just because I liked being out of school and then because I liked having the summer off from college.  But now, five years out from graduation, I still love it just the same.  Last week I went to my hometown and spent time with my family and friends there.  It was great!  I love that I can work from wherever I am most of the time and still get out and stretch my legs a little bit.  I don't know what I'll do if I'm ever back at a desk full time again.  Thankfully, I don't have to think about that now.  Last week, on the way to Newton, my nephew and two nieces riding along with me and my two little monkeys, I had a funny thought.  As the kids were talking about how much they like our minivan, Seth said something profound.  "Do the seats all fold down in here?"  I told him that they do.  "Wow," he said, "If I had this van I could build a whole Lego city back there."  This got me to thinking about how unfortunate it is that children don't have money.  I remember that when I was a kid I had so many ideas for money that I would one day have.  I would buy a farm with Melissa and we would have all sorts of animals.  We wouldn't get married though; we would just grow old as farming sisters.  She didn't like that part of the story and so I conceded that she could bring her husband if she had to.  We are grown now and neither of us live on a farm and certainly not together.  Too bad.  Maybe one day we'll have to work this out, because it really does still sound fun.  As a little schemer, I would always think of ways to make enough money to buy things like candy or snow cones.  It seems like every summer my friends and I would come up with some way or another, selling lemonade, dewberries, collecting change from around the house, to get a little something that we wanted.  We would hustle up a few dollars and then proceed to the gas station or snow cone stand to procure that thing for which we had worked so hard.  And then, bliss.  Could you imagine what joy there would have been if we had had ten dollars, twenty dollars, fifty dollars?  Those times were saved for birthdays.  Fortunately for my weight and health, I didn't have a lot of money as a kid. My sweet tooth would have gotten the better of me and I would have squandered it all on Long Johns, root beer barrels and green apple syrup and ice. These days money goes toward electricity, diapers, shampoo. These are much less glamorous choices, but definitely more responsible.  Even though those days of dreaming "farm" or "Lego city" dreams are over, I'm still glad it's summer.  When it comes to seasons, summer is "just what I've always wanted." 

And by the way..thank you to my sweet husband for posting last week.  Great job at making the whole world cry.  lol.  I missed this guy terribly and almost didn't let him go back to work this morning.  Couldn't you just stay home and hold my hand all day instead?  Okaayyy.. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

I think "Kitties, Cookies, Puppies, and Cake!" are gone.

 As a dad (obviously this is not Lauren) I have found that I don't always get the chance to see the little things that go on with our children. Lauren and sometimes Quinn, will tell me about them, but it's just not the same as being there first hand. So when I do get to be part of a habit or ongoing story or an everyday event in our kids lives, I do my best to never miss it. Those things are special little pieces of who Quinn and Judah (to a lesser degree, he's only 10 mths old) are, they are their own people and do their own things. So when one of everyday special moments comes to an abrupt halt, I take notice. Even if I didn't want to notice, and most of the time I don't want to, I don't have a choice. It's in those moments that you realize, she/he is getting bigger, I'm never going to have this time back with them.
 So that brings me to the title of this post, "Kitties, Cookies, Puppies, and Cake!". One of the things I look forward to the most, are the days where I get to either wake Quinn up, or get her out of bed after she wakes up. There is just something so sweet and innocent about a child waking up. They always seem to be expecting to see something amazing when they open their eyes, and if that "something" they see happens to be you, that is one of the best feelings in the world! Those are moments that I try my best to make special and to remember. When I was riding to work with pastor Jerry, he would tell me to make "kodak" moments with my kids, and I try my best to take his advice. This is one of those moments. So I have made a point to always ask Quinn what she dreamed about while she was asleep, and for as long as she has been able to hold a conversation (which if you know her has been a LONG time) she has given me the EXACT same answer. "Kitties, Cookies, Puppies, and Cake!" I always knew those words were coming no matter if she were crying, or smiling, or jumping around on the bed. The answer was always the same, until a few days ago. I asked the same question I have for months on end, "What did you dream about when you were asleep Quinny?" and the reply was not what I expected "I didn't dream daddy". Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe she was just still a little sleepy. The next day I asked the same question and I got the same reply "I didn't dream daddy". It was not a fluke, she was not just sleepy, I believe those "kodak" moments are now "kodak" memories.
 This is no surprise, we know that children are only children for a while. We know that God has not given them to us as ours, but has given them to us to watch over for Him. We know that memories are called memories for a reason, and that something has to end for it to be a memory. It would be easy to be sad about this, and sometimes I am, but God is full of blessings. There are still so many moments that I have with Q and J! I am grateful for those moments! I still greet Quinny the same way I always have anytime I walk into some place she is, with a loud (sometimes too loud) "Quinnyyyy". And almost every night after we eat together, I still lay on the floor with Q on my arm, and do absolutely nothing. And I love it! And who knows whats in store for me and baby J, my little man? I can only imagine what two Swonke boys living in the same house can come up with! So I will continue to make those "kodak" moments that turn to "kodak" memories, and I will love EVERY second of it!
 So what about you guys? What are some special moments you had with your kids? Feel free to share them in the comments section, I'm sure people would love to read them. I encourage you, if you still have your kids at home, write this stuff down because it is to easy to forget. Lauren and I have notes all over the place, although we have a hard time finding them sometimes, of things that we want to remember. And we will make it a priority to make moments to remember.

P.S. Thank you to my sweet wife for letting me guest post on her blog!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Emptied.

A few weeks ago in children's church I told the children that I wanted to be poured out in this life, to be emptied.  I don't remember why we were talking about this.  It seems deep to talk about with 5-12 year-olds.  I guess maybe we were talking about God's plans for our lives.  I told them that I didn't want to end my days with anything left undone. I said that I want to make sure to use everything that God has put in me for his glory.  Since then I've thought of those words several times.  Do I really want to be poured out?  Do I really even know what that means?  Every once in a while I'll think of a random chapter and verse in the Bible and then go and look it up.  Today I thought of Exodus 3:10.  Exodus, huh?  I was sure that it must have been just my own thoughts leading me to this passage.  It would probably be some kind of genealogy or something.  I would read it and then close the book and go on about my day.  It's funny though.  I think it means something for me, like right now.  Crazy thought, huh?  That God's Word could be ALIVE and relevant for me right this very moment.  Carry on.  So, I read the scripture and here's what it said; "So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."  I think God was wanting Moses to be poured out.  I think He wanted to use the things that He had put in Moses and the things that He would put into Moses for this very task.  A huge task, by the way.  Setting free a nation is no small feat.  Moses answered back with a list of reasons why he would not be able to complete the task. God simply blew back his hair with this response, "I AM WHO I AM.  Tell them, I am has sent you."  Even now the remembrance of this scene in The Prince of Egypt makes me tingle.  Being poured out or used up for the sake of God's purposes is not easy.  It sounds really good.  It sounds like, "Hey, yeah. I'll be poured out for something important.  I want to make my life count.  I want for God to use me."  It's more like, "I'll give my everything.  I'll take up my bloody, heavy, splinter-laced, sin-laden cross and follow you daily.  I'll carry the burdens that you carry.  I'll walk the way that you walked.  I'll love people who are mean. I'll give up my days to do what you want me to do.  I'll get hot and sweaty, when it's easier to stay cool and clean.  I'll pack my babies around on my hip, doing whatever in the world you want me to do.  Because... I love you.  I just want to show how much I love you."  Jesus gave it all.  He was 100% poured out on my behalf.  And as I sit here thinking about how selfish I can be, I'm challenged again.  Do I really want to be poured out for Jesus?  DO I?  I think that I do.  I want to live life fleshing out what that really means.  I'll continue to work to determine if what I told the kids that day, that I wanted to be poured out, really is "just what I've always wanted."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lead me and I'll come runnin'.

(Cute, huh?  Corny, yes.  But cute too.)
Chris and I just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary last month.  That makes five years since Chris and I became an "item".  Ya' know what?  We're still learning. In the intelligent words of Nacho Libre, "every day."  I guess this will continue until we depart from this earth either by death or the return of Jesus.  Oh, help us Lord.  Just tonight I fully realized something about myself and about our relationship.  I really WANT to be led.  If my 26-year-old self would have told my 18-year-old self this, I would have thought I'd lost it.  Before I grew up (a little bit), I thought that I wanted a guy that I could lead. I was wrong.  Last night we had a wedding for which we were the photographers.  It was a beautiful wedding and we both enjoyed it a lot.  Chris knows about cameras.  He knows about light and technical stuff like ISO and shudder speed and...now I'm drifting off.  Back to the story.  He is the boss when it comes to Bliss Photography.  I am his assistant.  Within the last six months I've picked up a camera on shoots too.  He has to lead me around like a little blind mouse when it comes to the technical side.  Creatively, I can hold my own.  Technically, "Daddy, help me." So, last night, as I was meandering around, taking pictures of every pretty detail and bobble I could find, I would find myself in a pickle.  How do I get this machine to do what I want it to do? How DO I master the camera?  Ask Chris.  And so I would.  And he would fix it and everything would be back up and running.  Security.  That's what I feel when he leads.  I feel secure when he leads me in just about every area of our life together.  This is shocking to my system somewhat because I am normally 100% comfortable with leading.  And I still am, I suppose.  However, I am finding more and more that when I humble myself and ALLOW Chris to lead me, there's a sweet feeling of safety in my heart.  Please don't misunderstand.  I am still learning this thing.  For every one time that I succeed at being led, there are 1,000 times that I jump up and try to run the show in our life.  God is teaching me "every day" to settle down and let Chris be the leader in our marriage, our home, our life.  And it's so much better this way.  He's great at it.  When I quit trying to arm wrestle the reins from him he does a phenomenal job.  Hmm..  The crazy thing is that I guess this is "just what I always wanted".  And I didn't even know it. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

My day with Dad.

In preparation for Father's Day, I heard a guy on the radio talking about what it means to be a real man.  He said that a real man is a father and a husband at heart.  He said that a real man is burdened with caring for others, making sure others are taken care of.  As he spoke, my thoughts drifted to my Dad.  If that truly is the measure of masculinity, he has it nailed.  He is the real deal.  I spent the day with my Dad, Mom and Grandma today.  Some of that time was spent just hearing what God has been speaking to my Dad.  Everything that he said was about his desire to help others.  He wants to give more, to share more, to be able to make a greater difference in this world.  He had a stroke 8 weeks ago.  He could be sitting around thinking about how tough things have been.  He's not.  He's thinking about ways to make a difference in the lives of others.  He's thinking of ministries that he can give to.  He's dreaming about pouring his life into the lives of other people and looking out for the needs of others.  What a man.  He's the best.  I remember, when I was little, loading up in the truck with my Dad and heading out to the lake.  We would find a neat place to drop in the boat and then we would head out.  I can remember the smell of old life jackets and exhaust.  We would go so fast as we set out for a great spot to cast.  Once we got settled, I would inevitably get my line hung up in the bushes.  After some work, Dad always was able to get it unstuck.  On the way home we would stop in at a gas station and pick up some boudain or crawfish pie. I'm not sure why, except that we were hungry and Dad liked them.  I liked them too.  These were the best days and exemplify only a few of thousands of fabulous days that I've had with my Dad.   Today was one of my favorite too.  Today reminded me that when it comes to dads, mine is "just what I've always wanted."

Monday, June 6, 2011

A blog inauguration.

This is my bloginog.  An inauguration of my blog.  My sweetheart has been suggesting that I start a blog for a while now, so here I go.  These are in no particular order.  I'm a MOM.  It deserves to be capitalized, I think.  I'm a Christian.  I'm a wife.  I'm a daughter.  I'm a Children's Director.  I used to want to be a writer.  I'm not as sure now.  Life seems to have other ideas.  That's okay with me, by the way.  I love life.  I named this blog "Just What I've Always Wanted" because I used to have a lot of ideas about what I wanted.  Now, I am not so sure what I want.  I am happy with where I am.  God is incredibly good and faithful. I adore my family.  I enjoy my job.  I find fulfillment in different things.  But, I'm just a little discontent.  I don't know what it is that I'm looking for.  But, I'm thinking it could be tied to writing.  And so, I write.  I'll be writing about God, food, family, friends and life in general.  You will eternally hear about my beautiful, amazing, brilliant, children.  You will also hear, more than you can stand, about my sweet, scruffy, creative, yummy, husband.  Those are more adjectives than I've used in a long time. I think that's a good place to stop for now.  Welcome.  The fact that you're taking time to read what I'm writing is "just what I've always wanted."