Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Baby Story

Things are starting to settle down into some semblance of normalcy...if that can actually be defined with a newborn in da crib. Literally.
Reagan Elizabeth was ushered in, a week earlier than planned, two weeks earlier than was due, on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 4:58am. As was suspected, she weighed between 9 and 10 pounds at 9 pounds, 7 ounces and was 21 inches long.

I went into labor on Sunday evening, with contractions 3 minutes apart for over an hour. I was reluctant to go to the hospital being nearly sure that the contractions would stop. Like they usually do. When the nurse actually captured 2 of them on the monitor, I felt validated. When the nurse told me that I was dilated to a 1, I was ecstatic. I had never been dilated before! This meant that my body was doing something to prepare for the baby...and I wasn't crazy. Unfortunately, my team of medical professionals would not be doing anything to stop this labor. I would not be going home without a baby. At 9:30pm, we were told that we would either have a baby "now" or first thing in the morning.

I was in a dead panic. We (read: I) were not prepared to have a baby. What about the girls? My doctor was not on call. I didn't have any clothes. I couldn't even think of what I might need. I was supposed to get a pedicure this week. My swanky nursing pajamas hadn't arrived yet.

We alerted the media. My parents, scheduled to arrive the following Sunday for a birth that was to occur on the 3rd, would not be able to come until Tuesday. Of Brian's parents, scheduled to arrive Saturday before the birth, only Gran was able to come, and not until Monday afternoon.

For the current problem of what to do with the girls all night while we wait for a decision to be made by those in the know (because I wasn't going anywhere), thank God for Ashlee, our babysitter. She was not working at her regular job Sunday night and was able and willing to come and stay all night with the girls while Brian stayed with me. She even offered to skip her classes on Monday, in case we needed her.

From 8pm until 3:30am, we waited and I contracted every 3 minutes. After hours and hours of watching the clock and trying to rest, my nurse barged in the room and threw on the overhead light. Within 30 minutes, all parties would be there to start the surgery. After hours of "hurry up and wait", their efficiency was nerve-wracking.

The nurse anesthetist showed up and yes, I actually asked her if she was well-rested. I had no problem having a baby during normal business hours, but I've read too many scary medical stories in Reader's Digest about after hours procedures. (And this is not a big city hospital...all these people had been sleeping snug in their beds.) She said she'd had about 3 hours of sleep. In my opinion, that's not well rested. Personally, I can hardly make coffee when I've had only 3 hours of sleep. Honestly, this was my 3rd baby, my 3rd set of doctors and my 3rd surgery and she was by far the best anesthetist of them all. She had very kind eyes, the only part of her that I could see. She had me facing away from all the "equipment" to keep me from being anxious. She had the drape as far away from my face as could be managed and told me that I could have my hands loose. When she saw me using those loose hands to scratch and scratch, she gave me a shot of Benedryl. I never got nauseous, much less threw up. She even held the baby so I could kiss her.

Recovery is always fun...I never know what is going on even though I try earnestly to pay attention. I do remember hearing it took over 2 hours and many, many sticks to start Reagan's IV. Actually, I don't remember much of the first day. People came to visit and later when I tried to remember, it seemed like a dream.

Reagan was not allowed to come out of the nursery because of transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) which is fancy doctor talk for fast breathing. Apparently, it's a condition most often seen in big, fat babies delivered by C-section. Too much fluid in the lungs causes the baby to breathe fast. Normally, most of the fluid would be pushed out during delivery. The problem is not unusual and tends to right itself in a day or two, sometimes less. After 3 days of little improvement (and no nursing....could be too stressful for the baby to suck and try to breathe) our pediatrician called a neonatalogist at the children's hospital in Fort Worth for a second opinion. That doctor wanted her to be transferred to that hospital for an echocardiogram to ensure that there wasn't more to the problem. Apparently, fast breathing could be a symptom of an infection, a heart problem, etc., etc., etc.

Wednesday, my doctor discharged me and Reagan was transferred to Cook's Children's Hospital in Fort Worth. I tried to be strong while the doctor was talking to me...but I was in shock. Just the night before, he assured us that there was only a 10% chance that she would need to be transferred. When the sweet nurses asked me how I was doing, I started crying. Something was wrong with the baby, no one knew exactly what it was and I was all alone. Brian hadn't made it in from the plant yet. Then the transport team showed up with the contraption they use to transport those sick babies and I was inconsolable. It's a gurney with an incubator and machines and leads and oxygen and scary medical stuff. They assessed the baby and took her to Fort Worth. Brian and I went home to get some clothes and things. We had no idea what to expect when we got to Fort Worth.

Reagan was re-routed to Baylor All Saints. The NICU there was spectacular. Everyone from the department head to the baby's daily nurse went above and beyond. The doctor was the same one there every single day. When we weren't there and called to see about her, the nurses never acted like it was an inconvenience to answer our questions.

All tests indicated it was TTN and little by little, her respirations were slowing down. On Thursday, the neonatalogist finally let her nurse and she did great. Until then, they'd been feeding her pumped breast milk and formula through a tube in her nose. Brian and I were driving back and forth to Fort Worth every day to visit her and then coming home in the evenings to Lily and Darcy worn to a frazzle and emotionally exhausted. Thank God for my mother-in-law who stayed with the girls and fixed dinner every night. I don't know how I would have coped.

After another brutal day of driving back and forth to Fort Worth and sitting by Reagan's bedside, I came home to find a large box in the living room. It was a Shower-In-A-Box from our friends back home. That was absolutely the most amazing thing. At a time I needed to know it the most, God used our friends to show us in a very tangible way that people were thinking about us, cared about us and were praying for us. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right moment.

The next day as we were preparing to go visit Reagan, her nurse called and told us that she would be discharged the next day if we'd like to "room-in" that night. I jumped at the opportunity. We ended up in a tiny little room in the corner of the NICU for nearly 24 hours. I got an extremely uncomfortable twin bed and Brian slept on a chair that folded out...standard hospital fare. No meals were provided. At least we did have a TV. I thought we'd end up playing 20 questions all night. I understand why they do this rooming in thing, but Brian thinks it's a racket. They charged us another day's room and board even though we did all the work and I provided all the board. Brian thinks that if she's well enough to "room-in" then she's well enough to go home and save us the money. I think they see a lot of sick babies and need to know that the parents know how to care for the babies before they send them home. Some of the babies go home with equipment. It just so happens that we've done this kind of thing before.

Finally, on Saturday, December 1st, on our 5th wedding anniversary, Reagan came home from the hospital. So far, she's doing well. Her stump has fallen off and she regained her birth weight (and then some) in the allotted time period. Her sisters are interested in her and don't like her to fuss for any reason. Our next goal: sleeping through the night. Last night, she went from 12:30am until 5am so we are well on our way.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

True Texas Religion

I am always surprised when evidence of true Texas religion is brought to the center of my mind. Even though I grew up in a small Texas town, a few blocks from the high school (which I attended all four years), I am still surprised that high school football has such an impact on a community. Especially this community that can actually boast of other attractions: a 4-year state university (whose football team has its own impressive record), a bowling alley and a movie theatre, a Chili's and if those don't suit, Fort Worth looms only an hour away.

But this town has a mind of its own when it comes to football. Last year, I saw little girls at Lily's preschool dressed up on game days in miniature cheerleading uniforms, complete with big bow hair. Never, in all my years of growing up in small town Texas, did I ever see anything like that. Football is such a big deal here that I wondered if I was ruining my children's lives by not dressing them up like cheerleaders and having them patrol the sidelines on Friday nights. I've been told by those in the know (okay, it was my hairdresser) that I should be thankful that I don't have boys. The pressure to play football for Mudville High School starts in 4th grade.

Earlier this season, Brian and I actually took the girls to the Hamburger Scrimmage. It cost us $1 to get in and $5 each for some very poor hamburgers and fixin's. And everyone was there. I mean everyone, including the surgeon who did Brian's hernia repair. Maybe that's not such a strange thing. I guess I just didn't expect to see him there. I figured he'd be at home on a Friday night doing "surgeony" things. But there he was...wearing his Bumblebee hat and eating his overpriced, burnt burger and off-brand Oreos. As for us, once "play" actually started, we stayed about 20 minutes. I'm not a football fan in the first place, but watching a scrimmage where the coaches were on the field on every play, there was no score and and no band, well, that was just mind-numbing. Not to mention the other part of me that was numb from the aluminum bleachers.

Everything else aside, the culmination of my disbelief was brought to its peak this week. Last Tuesday, people lined up outside the high school for hours to buy tickets for Friday night's football game. One of the men who successfully purchased his 3 tickets said he's been attending Bumblebee games since 1966! On Friday, the Mudville Gazette reported the Athletic Secretary's "stunned" reaction to having nearly 500 tickets remaining. It seems that those 100 people who waited five hours outside the school only purchased 300 tickets. There was a reason for this: the powers that be put a limit on the tickets at 3 per customer. But all was not would be sold at Thursday's JV game as well. Thank goodness.

I am not completely heartless; I will concede that the tickets were for the district championship game and the Mudville Bumblebees are undefeated, but still...high school football?

Well, they were undefeated.

There was no joy in Mudville after about 10:15pm, Friday night. The Mudville Bumblebees lost their quest for the District Championship in overtime, 31-28. All is not lost, however. They are still have a playoff seat and will be trying to go the distance again this year.

The September issue of Texas Monthly had an article touting the top twenty Texas high school football programs of all time. Schools were assigned ten points for each championship and five points for being a runner-up. To reward consistency over the years, three points were awarded for each district title using overall wins as a tiebreaker. This formula yielded the top twenty teams and helped ensure that a small program had just as much of a chance as a big one, since schools play in classes that are based on enrollment.

Weighing in at Number 19 of the top 20 programs of all time.....the Mudville Bumblebees! Texas Monthly had this to say about them:

Known as the state's most prolific quarterback factory, [Mudville] has produced nine top recruits for Division I-A college programs since 1989 (including Jevan Snead, who bolted from the University of Texas last year to play for Ole Miss). Much of the credit for this talent goes to former head coach Art Briles, who led the [Bumblebees] to all four of their state titles. The best known quarterback of the crop, Kevin Kolb, followed Briles to the University of Houston, where he started for four straight years. He was also the thirty-sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, taken by the Philadelphia Eagles.

This year's star quarterback has already verbally agreed to play at Oklahoma State University and become a Poke. I have been told, by a very dear friend and former alumna, that I am not allowed to call them the Slow Pokes.

I know a guy who transferred his son to Mudville High School so that he would have an opportunity to play for this team. I actually laughed out loud when he told me this. That was definitely the wrong response. He assured me that this football program was top in the state and even if I hadn't heard of it, he was sure that Brian had. I told him that Brian and I both come from 5A schools and that I would guarantee Brian hadn't heard of this Podunk 2A group. That was an even worse thing to say...Mudville is, ahem, a 4A school. Who knew? I am laughing to myself right now recalling this very serious conversation. This family has been nurturing this child's athletic abilities, apparently since Day One. I think they believe that if their son plays for Mudville, he might have a chance to go all the way.....all the way to the Cowboys. And we're not talking about the Slow Pokes.

And then I really have to laugh. Because there is this very wicked part of me that wants to stand up wherever I see men gathered...especially when the Cowboys are playing...and say really, really loud: The Cowboys Suck. Just to see what would happen.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Preparing For Baby

We now have less than a month before the newest arrival to our all-girl collection.

We've been adding meals and meat to our freezer, stocking up on long-sleeved onesies and warm jammies and perusing catalogs to get Christmas shopping done without leaving home. (Shopping becomes problematic when the closest mall or even a Target is an hour's drive away.) I've ordered my cradle set, a case of diapers and a 300 oz. bottle of Dreft. We only lack a bouncy seat since our previous canine companion ate the one that was purchased for Darcy.

Another ultrasound last week verified two things. First, we are still having a girl. Even with my limited medical training (read: none), I was able to identify the parts as female. After finally accepting that we are going to be a family of all girls (at least for now), I would really be put out with medical science if I had to return all my newly acquired girly purchases for flannel shirts and overalls. Secondly, there is only one baby in there. I was reasonably sure of this, but it is a popular question that I get asked when I venture out in public.

I've been limiting my public appearances of late. Mostly, because I feel like a freak at a side show. My shirt and pants don't match up very well and everywhere I go, people point and whisper. Some people don't even bother to whisper. I am constantly harangued by women I refer to as "old wives". They believe I should already be in the hospital, know it's a boy, and assure me that I'll never make it to December. They tell each other that I must be about to pop or I've got twins. They even speculate on the actual weight of the baby at her birth. One clerk at Kohl's predicted 8 pounds and 5 ounces.

According to my latest ultrasound, the baby currently weighs 7.5 pounds. With a month to go. The doctor (whose opinion I actually value) is predicting a baby in the 9-10 pound range...and he doesn't seem alarmed. As for me, I was a little alarmed, especially when I realized that this baby could gain a pound a week for the next 4 weeks. Yikes. However, I'm scheduled for a C-section on December 3rd, so I guess it doesn't really matter how big the baby is. Except I'll be carrying her around between now and then and honestly, she's starting to get heavy.

I'm just grateful it's not the middle of summer. And I have a reasonable expectation that I won't have to evacuate the week before this baby is due. In fact, hurricane season will officially be over before this baby is scheduled to arrive. And that is a relief. Now, if I could just get that bouncy seat.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's A Girl!

It's official...we're having another girl. With this third girl, I have finally resigned myself that I am going to be the mother of girls so I'd better get used to big bows and doing hair and all those sorts of "girly" things that seem to confound me.

I am not a "girly" person by nature and so this whole "mother of girls" thing has been especially difficult. It does not help matters that my daughter with the longest hair has the finest hair that won't hold a curl on a bet, has about 40 cowlicks and her hair does not grow in straight. Ponytails and especially pigtails are an exercise in frustration.

I have determined that I will have to get a short haircut just so I won't have to get up at dawn in order to do all the hair that this current brood (and however many other girls) will require.

Brian does not approve of my having short hair. In that case, I have full confidence in his ability to learn how to put pigtails and bows in cow-licky hair.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


We are nearly at 19 weeks and tomorrow is our sonogram. For some reason, I am anxious. It is very likely that we are having a girl, but I am feeling in my bones that this baby is a boy. I can't explain it...I don't understand it. I don't think I'll cry if I find out it's not a boy, but I really believe it is. I have asked God to prepare my heart for what we will find out tomorrow, but I am nervous. I think it's because as long as I don't know, I can pretend that it's a boy. To that end, Brian and I have already picked out a name for a boy...but have thought nothing about naming a girl.

Lily has already put in her request for a brother...probably because she has already witnessed the damage that a sister can do. We tell her it might be a sister, but she replies that it might be a brother, too. You really can't tell 3-year olds anything.

When my mother was pregnant with my younger brother (who turned 21 yesterday), someone told me that sisters take your things. So I said I wanted a brother. No one told me that brothers take your stuff, too.

Even though I'm nervous, I can't wait until tomorrow. The suspense is killing me!

Monday, June 18, 2007


On Friday night, I received an email from my best friend from high school with a link to a blog and a note. She was writing to tell me that a girl that we knew growing up from our church youth group (only a year older) was in the hospital in a coma...and that things did not look good. Her husband had found her Monday night unconscious and not breathing on their living room floor. Some person or people had thoughtfully put together a blog to inform people of Wendy's condition and I read everything that was posted.

Over the course of the weekend, several times a day, I checked the blog to see what the updates were on Wendy's condition. An EEG on Saturday morning reported no change in brain activity and her family struggled to determine whether to send her to hospice or remove physiological assistance.

I have been deeply and personally affected by this...even though I have not spoken to Wendy in years. You see, Wendy would be leaving behind her husband, a 4-year daughter and a 3-week old son. And I thought about our little family. Wendy was a healthy woman...and one day after a shower, her husband walks in and finds her on the floor. As far as I know, doctors still aren't entirely sure what had caused this coma, except for the lack of oxygen to the brain...other contributing factors are unknown.

Saturday night, Wendy was removed from all support at almost 7pm and at 10:05pm, she passed away holding the hand of her husband, never having regained consciousness.

This morning I read a post about Wendy's husband telling their daughter about her mother and I just cried. Not that I hadn't been crying and hurting for this family all weekend...and wondering if our family could survive something like that.

I know that God is sovereign and that He is in control of all things and that this would happen has been known since time began. But even though I should derive some comfort from that, I'm not...I'm thinking about those poor children.


Things are going well here these days. We have recently moved into a rent house, while roomier than our former domicile, still has its problems. We are grateful for the room.

I have successfully made it through the first trimester of this pregnancy...a day I thought would never come. Brian expressed concern over my pickle consumption just yesterday. I believe in my heart that this child is going to be a boy...although the odds seemed stacked against us.

Recently, we traveled to Houston to attend the Homeschool Conference. It was definitely an interesting experience in which we learned lots of information. Well, we were exposed to a lot of information. Some of the most exciting parts of the weekend were sitting down one-on-one with my husband and discussing what we had learned in a non-confrontational way and trying to figure out how best to move our family forward in a God-honoring way.

For over a year, I have felt God's call in my life in one particular area: management of my home. For the last several months, I have been reading through a book called A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George and that has been the most eye-opening thing to come my way on this topic this far. I have found it to be a practical book with many suggestions on how to implement God's priorities for women's lives. Reading that book with a friend that has the same convictions as I do has been encouraging, but the pruning that has had to be done in my heart has been excruciating, but invigorating. Truthfully, I am beginning to feel quite strongly that the church at large has been remiss in explaining the true place of wives and mothers...which is for us to be busy.... at home. The Bible is clear on this point. We are to be the caretakers of the family; the heart of the home. How can that be possible when we are rarely at home? The care of our families and support of our husbands are to take precedence over any other activities. How in the world can we give away to others what we have first not given away at home? I have felt strongly convicted in this area and have made drastic changes to my life to support these new changes. The change has been slow, but encouraging as I am beginning to actually prefer to spend time with my family instead of believing that I "deserve" to be out and about as much as possible.

I could go on and on with this particular topic, but think now is not the best time to load up onto my soapbox. I do think that God is rewarding my obedience by changing my stone-cold heart which Brian says is 3 sizes too small under the best of circumstances.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lamentations of the Father

Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles;
Lamentations of the Father

OF the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.
Laws When at Table

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke. Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you. Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

On Screaming

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.

Concerning Face and Hands

Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.
Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations

O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, "Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you may not come out." And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know.

For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.

Ian Frazier

Monday, February 05, 2007

Walk To Emmaus....After The Fact

Last Sunday night, I returned from my Walk To Emmaus. I had spent 72 hours away from my family, with no watch to record the passing of time and no cell phone to check on their progress. I had to trust things were going well. Not to mention, I was much too busy "drawing near" to God to worry if my girls were taking naps or if Brian was sticking to the menu.

In a nutshell, the core topic is God's grace poured out on us and coming to an understanding of that. Personally, in our hearts, not just in our heads.

If I were talking to someone about going, I would give my mini-testimony over the last couple of weeks. How I read a book that finally made my heart figure out what my head has known all along...that God loves me and seeks me out to be His and I don't have to worry about what anybody else is doing (something I struggle with immensely). I used to think that brown eyes were the leftovers that God gave out and you couldn't be "beautiful" unless you had blue eyes. Isn't that crazy? I never thought brown eyes were attractive. But to realize that God loves brown eyes and that he gave them specifically to me....well, it might seem stupid, but it changed my whole way of thinking. I quit thinking of myself as junk.

I could look in the mirror and think to myself, "God thinks this (stretch marks and extra pounds and everything) is hot." Who in the world was I to say that what God thought was hot, was ugly?

I sent this response to a friend who told me that when she looks in the mirror, she feels like throwing up:
It's almost as if knowing that God was wild about me, so who cares that the kids are acting up or that I've got another zit or that my hair is doing a weird thing or I don't have any makeup on. GOD THINKS I'M BEAUTIFUL. Not just loves me, but thinks I'm my sweats and no shower all day. I think when you realize won't want to throw'll be prancing in front of the mirror saying to yourself, "The Sovereign God of the Universe thinks this looks GOOD!!!"

So when I went to Emmaus, I was (finally) on the right track that God actually loved me, not just tolerated His idiot, wayward daughter.

Although I had finally realized how God felt about me, one thing hindering me was believing sincerely and truly that no one else loved me (except for Brian). I felt tolerated, at best. I didnt' think anyone cared about me or even thought about me when I wasn't around. All in all, I thought that people were generally just trying to be "nice" when they spoke to me at church or in Bible study or at MOPS. But what about when I wasn't in the room? Did anyone even care?

But praise God, while I was coming to grips with the depth of God's love for me, I received a huge object lesson regarding the love people have for me. People all over the world were praying for the Pilgrims on last weekend's Walk To Emmaus, and had been for two years. Someone who didn't even know me had been praying for me for two years. People in prison had been praying for me. IN PRISON. As if they didn't have more problems than I did that they would be praying for me. That got my attention.

One of the things I was able to do on my Walk that was so healing to me was finally being able to lay down the burden and guilt of sins that I'd been carrying around for years. I'd only asked forgiveness for it a million times, but I could not forgive myself. Since I couldn't do it, I felt for certain that God couldn't either. To finally believe that God's grace was for me, and even for my "terrible sin", was empowering. God really is who He said He is. Jesus would have died if had just been me and my sin. When I asked Him to take the guilt away (something I had never done before) He did.

I feel so renewed. I never felt comfortable putting my hands up to worship God, because of what other people might think. "Who does she think she is? She's not a good enough Christian to do that....quiet, gentle spirit? She doesn't have a quiet bone in her body." But at my Walk, I decided what other people thought didn't make a lick of difference. I know in my heart that God is riveted to me...not just glancing my way when He gets bored with everyone else. I learned that my own selfishness is what keeps me from having God's best and the best that I could have in my family and marriage. God has been really working on my heart in the submission area and I finally feel like I have a grip on that after a while of thinking I was doing it right. And the funny thing is...Brian has noticed...without me saying, "Hey, did you notice I was being submissive there for a second?"

Of course, I want Brian to be the spiritual leader of the household. So I came up with this great idea. Why doesn't he pick a book of the Bible for us to read through and study and then we'll discuss it. So he picked James. Then I told him I didn't want to read James. (Pretty submissive, huh?) But I read it anyway. Every day for a month, we read it. We never did discuss it really, but I think that's okay. The Lord was talking to me anyway. I can use a passage of James to describe my experience at Emmaus.

James 4:7-10 NLT
7: So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. (Right out of the gate, going to Emmaus is very humbling, because you don't really have any idea what's going to happen or what to have just give it up to Him. You are sharing a room with people that you may have never seen in your life, sitting at a table with even more new people. There are no watches and no cell phones. Every day there are 5 speakers that speak on different topics. The Devil doesn't want us to know about God's grace and love or any of the other subjects discussed. He wants us to think that we are too bad to be loved by God or people and our sins are the sins that can't be forgiven and the more you hear, the more you learn that's just not true. So the Devil has to go...)

8: Draw close to God and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. (You can't help but draw near to God...and then there's the promise...He will draw near to you. We learn about purifying God purifies our hearts and our lives.)

9: Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. (We have an opportunity to lay our burdens down...and I did. I had unfinished business with God. I was carrying grief and guilt that I should have put down a long time ago. I was broken for the wrong I had done and the ugliness I had harbored in my heart and how far I'd let myself get from Him. I was upset that I had allowed Satan to let me think I was not worthy to raise my hands and praise God.)

10: When you bow down and admit your dependence on Him, He will lift you up and give you honor. (There could have been nothing more true... after I was able to lay those heavy burdens down and admit that I couldn't even trust my feelings about things, He was able to prove to me that He [and others] cared about me in a way I could finally understand. It was during the "lifting up" part of the weekend that I really felt the love of others (something I had not ever grasped)...and realized that it was okay to have that love, even though I hadn't done anything to "earn" it. I could have cried for days and days and days after that realization. You don't have to "earn" love, the way I'd grown up believing. People don't just tolerate me. People genuinely would go out of their way for me...which I have never thought in a million years.)

Recently, I was told by several people that my bluntness/honesty was my best trait. Yikes. I've decided that I don't want that to be my best trait. I can still be honest and open, but I'm going to be open about my struggles and what the Lord is doing in my life. I am done pretending that everything is okay when it isn't. The Lord has already answered a prayer of mine and is using me. Telling everyone in the world what I'm thinking every minute of the day or making sure everyone knows when I'm not happy about something doesn't seem like the embodiment of a quiet, gentle spirit. And that's what I want. I don't want to laugh out loud when I'm told that I have a quiet, gentle spirit. I'm still going to be me, just a sweeter version of me.

In all of this I've finally learned...I don't have to prove anything to anyone. Even if I was right and people really don't like me or think about me when I'm not there, it's okay. I'm the "apple of His eye" (Psalm 17:8 NLT).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Submission and The Walk To Emmaus

Tomorrow I leave for my Walk To Emmaus. Because every "spiritual" person I know in Stephenville has done it, I thought I needed to do it, too. So I could be more spiritual. Earlier in the month, I think I realized that may have been the reason (although I couldn't put a name to it) and so I procrastinated and procrastinated getting the paperwork done thinking that maybe I would lose my spot and I wouldn't have to go to this thing that was guaranteed to bring me closer to God. But here I am. Instead of facing it with dread and wondering if I was going to have to play nice-nice or share personal information with people I didn't like or didn't know, I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to God meeting me there. God has been moving and working in my life for a while now. He has taught me some incredible truths about Himself that have completely changed the way I do business everyday, not just when I think someone is watching.

I know a few things about The Walk:

"It's awesome."

"You really need to go."

"You can't understand it unless you've been there."

There are no watches and no cell phones. No watches! (Side note: I am obsessed with knowing the time. Ask about my wisdom teeth removal sometime or having both my children. Absolutely obsessed with knowing the time.)I know that I'm supposed to get letters. I know this because I was asked to write a letter to someone who recently completed her Walk. I was honored to be asked to do it, but a little disappointed because that aspect of it wouldn't be a surprise when my turn came around. I think Brian has tried to do a good job of being mysterious and I have tried to do a good job to not ruin any surprises.

My attitude has changed about a lot of things lately. Since coming into the full realization of who God really is and the role He's anxious to play in my life...a lot of things became a lot easier.

Submitting to Brian's authority, for one, became easier. I thought that being submissive meant obeying...and clearly, that's a part of it. But not the only part. My problem was that when he and I disagreed, instead of accepting his answer and going on, I was like a dog with a bone. Brian, worn down with all my "reasons", would relent and we'd go on our merry way. Except I'd just shown him that I will only submit myself to him as long as he leads my way. And I also proved to Brian that I didn't respect him. Of course, right off the bat when I stopped arguing with him and finally started accepting what he said (knowing in my heart that whatever he said or did, he thought was for the benefit of our family...because Brian always thinks about our welfare before his) anyway, it threw him for a loop. The whole time we've been together, I've made no qualms about my opinion on any topic and if I didn't agree with something, I was loud about it. If I couldn't get him to come to my side, I would get mad, pout and say he was narrow-minded. So when I stopped doing all those things, he thought I was mad (because for once in my life...I was silent). I am learning that I don't have to be nor am I responsible for telling Brian what we (read: he) should be doing. It's up to God to tell Brian what to do in a way that Brian can understand. God doesn't need a translator named Georgia. Not that He can't use me...but I think my use is better served in being quiet so Brian can hear. It's fairly interesting...Brian can concentrate deeply only when it is very quiet. So how can he hear what God's telling him to do with me loudly going on and on about what I think? Who cares what I think? I would hate to think that I was the one keeping us from God's best for our lives because I was inundating Brian with my opinion instead of allowing him to listen for God's very small, quiet voice. The more I think about it, the more I realize how important it is for me to listen. Clearly, I'm not trusting God to instruct Brian if I'm right there telling Brian what the right course of action should be. Whose job am I trying to do here?

I think I'm finally learning my place. And it's not nearly as bad as I thought.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No More Spanking In California?

I guess it's only a matter of time before they make doing what's right illegal everywhere.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Book You MUST Read

Ladies, in case you didn't get the email:

I'm at a loss as to how to start this, so I'm just gonna jump right in....

I have just finished the most amazing book written by a Christian author who has her thumb on the pulse of woman...Do You Think I'm Beautiful? by Angela Thomas. You must read it. You must read it.

You must read it if ever in your life you wondered if someone (anyone) could think you were beautiful (yes, in the physical sense). I struggle with this every day of my weight, the fact that I'm not a foo-foo type girl, did I mention my weight? I never thought brown eyes were beautiful...I never thought anything about me was beautiful. I was constantly comparing myself to everyone else...and not measuring up. I never accepted myself for who God made me to be...until now. I thought that God thought I was beautiful in the cosmic sense like He thinks tarantulas are beautiful...not that I was beautiful to Him. Beautiful for me. There is only one standard for me: The Georgia Standard. I learned that God likes brown eyes. He loves them on me.

You must read it if you ever wondered if people notice you...see you. If you've wondered what in the world you're doing here (like I have as I change diaper after diaper after diaper or do load after load after load of laundry). Angela writes:

But God answers and says, "I see you. I see you stumble through the night to care for the sick and afraid. I see you day after day in the bleachers, on the sidelines, in the balcony, prayingand caring and cheering. I watched you prepare the food no one ate. I was with you when you worked past exhaustion. I knew the truth when you felt misunderstood. I cried with you in disappointment. I held you when you thought you were alone. I never take My eyes off you."

When I read that, I cried. I am moved even now. I have tried to take care of Lily only to be told that she wants her daddy. I have prepared food that my children have turned their nose up at. So many times I feel misunderstood. I have shed many tears in disappointment...upsets and heartbreak I couldn't share with anyone because I was pretending. And all along, God was with me. In my head, yes, I know this. But Angela Thomas, for some strange reason, finally made my heart understand it.

Pretending is no way to live. It keeps us from God's best, which according to Angela, are all the things we've been looking for. The things I've written about here...well, she covers this in the first chapter. (I am calling her Angela like I know her, but it's because she writes like she knows a trusted friend who knows all my ugly secrets and still loves me enough to tell me the truth...gently and in love....because she's been there.)

And if she could make me understand it...well, maybe I'm not the only one. I will say this...reading this book has changed my life because it has changed my view of God and the role He wants to play in my life. I am more at peace than I have ever been in my life with more joy than I ever thought possible. (My natural tendency is not to joy or peace.) Nothing has really changed either. I'm still changing diaper after diaper and doing much laundry. I am still cooking meals that don't appeal to toddlers and Lily still wants her daddy. But I have peace about it. Peace. I finally understand...with my heart...what that means. I can't even get into how this has affected me at home with my family It's not such a crazy thought that I have a quiet, gentle spirit now. I feel it. I don't feel like I'm pretending anymore. I want to read my Bible and pray not because I hope that God wants to hear from me...because I know He's sitting right there waiting for me.

I never have to worry if what I'm doing is going unnoticed. For once in my life...I know it's not. There is freedom there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Death In The Family

This week I received an email that my father's mother had passed away. I'm wondering if I should be sad, but I don't feel anything. I had only met her once or twice. Bertha wasn't even on the outermost fringes of my life, much less in my life. My dad was raised by his grandmother in Iowa and considered Grandma to be his mother.

This topic of conversation about my dad going to Iowa for this funeral have been discussed many times over the years without an ending. Until now. In his words, "I won't be going. I realize all this might sound cold to you, but that's just the way it is and it's better left alone." I encouraged him to go, but this is the response that I got. I fear that he will regret his decision later, but it's too late now.

The obituary, easily found on the Internet, was very sad. No family listed, visitation to be held an hour before the service, memorials to be given to the Humane Society. At this writing, the funeral has been completed and she's either already buried or waiting for the ground to thaw...without anyone from her oldest son's family in attendance.

Why Did LifeWay Dissolve Its Homeschool Division Last Year?

This article claims to have all the answers:

What is going on in the Southern Baptist Convention? Especially the money-making portion known as LifeWay?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Adventures In Parenting

While staying with Brian's parents in Beaumont, Lily slept in the trundle portion of a day bed with few problems. Upon returning home, we thought it might be a good idea to turn her baby bed into a toddler bed...because she was so grown up.

Bad idea. No amount of consequences or positive reinforcement will keep that child in her bed. This week has been the worst. Usually, she does get up and down, but at some point she finally goes to sleep. Not only has she been getting up and down, but she's been keeping Darcy entertained, which keeps Darcy awake. So now I have two children who have not had naps and a husband that needs to work late. Did I mention that everyone is sick this week? Including me?

Lily's entertainment this week has resulted in removing all her clothes, baby lotion all over every stick of furniture and the carpet, a whole box of Kleenex emptied, a box of wipes emptied and Darcy being given a thermometer with Vaseline on the end. Darcy apparently thought was a comb and promptly put in her hair. Have you ever tried to get Vaseline out of hair? It takes more than a shampoo or two. It takes a miracle. After two consecutive days of Vaseline in the hair, I knew something had to be done. Way back in my pre-baby brain, I thought I recalled reading a trick in either Glamour or Cosmo about how to get rid of the "greasies" : baby powder. So this morning, I powdered Darcy's head. Now Darcy kind of looks like a 50 year old baby which is interesting. I am pleased to report: I think it's working. Of course, I'll know more when I give her a bath this afternoon. If it doesn't work, I don't think we'll be any worse off than we are now.

As for Lily, we were parenting outside of the funnel. We gave her a privilege that she was unable to handle which resulted in big trouble for her and us. We are now back to the crib. She didn't get up at all last night...imagine that. I guess she's not ready for a big girl bed yet. This is the second time we've tried this. I think she might be ready for it, but we are still trying to get back on track from our vacation. Somehow, Lily has forgotten her manners and that Mama and Daddy are in charge. Surely we'll get back on the straight and narrow before long.

The thing that hurts me the most is that I'm here with Lily all day and it's my responsibility to see that she minds and I have to be the one that administers discipline when Brian's not here. And everytime I spank her or make her do something that she doesn't want to do, she tells me "I want my daddy to come home." She's not kidding about that, either. It isn't as though when Brian spanks her she wants me. She wants him all the time. I run a very distant second. When we took her to the Emergency Room to have her head stitched up, we left the room while they did the work. The doctors and nurses told us that all she did was scream for her daddy. My mother and I have a strained relationship and always have, but even I wanted my mom when I was sick or hurt. I hope this isn't the way it's always going to be.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The New Year

Things are moving right along.

The two previous months before our visit to Beaumont found Darcy sick and at the doctor's office repeatedly. A week in Beaumont, she was right as rain. Now, sick again. Except this time, Lily and I have it, too. I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't something in the air up here that's making her sick. The doctor said that cedar is bad this time of year. Cedar? Who in the world is allergic to cedar?

I did not make any resolutions this year, just recommitments. Is that the same thing? We recommited to our budget and the first ten days of the year have gone pretty well. We had a problem that was affecting two areas of our life: money and eating habits. We were eating out too much. I mean scary, too much. I mean the wait staff knew the names of my kids, too much. And it was hurting our budget/bank account/waistlines. Stop eating out, kill two birds with one stone. The first ten days have gone well. We've only eaten out once and that was with money that was specifically set aside for that purpose. And it felt good in a way that I cannot describe to pay with the allotted cash. Of course, what didn't feel good was finding out that the trip to the doctor today cost nearly $200 instead of the $100 that was budgeted. My kids always need their shots in January, but it always helps the deductibles get met fast. But with a little "creative accounting" all is well again.

And since I am cooking more, I am personally eating less. I am actually thinking about what I'm eating. I'm not officially doing WeightWatchers or tracking Points, but I have a fairly good idea what I should be eating and I am mostly sticking to that. It's working a lot better than my usual method of eating everything in sight and wondering why I can't seem to lose any weight. In addition to "watching" what I eat, I am working out again. I didn't go tonight because there were multiple meltdowns going on and I intended to be in bed long before now. I should have just gone. However, I have lost 6.5 pounds in the first week which makes me feel good. My muscles are busting out. Now, if I could just tolerate enough cardio to slim down so the muscles didn't have anywhere to hide. All in good time, I think.

And FlyLady. Can't forget her. I am actually shining my sink. I did it a couple of times in Beaumont, but I never did it here. Now, I'm doing it here. FlyLady wrote a big long thing about not "skating" by. She said that if I wasn't going to shine my sink then I shouldn't even be a member at all!! Well, I couldn't stand for that. So, I started shining my sink. I've even got Brian doing it, too. If I could just get him to wipe the cabinets and the table, but housework done incorrectly still blesses.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

And now a word from our sponsor...

...or "What I Did On My Christmas Vacation" by Brian, age 34 (but still younger'n summa you!)

While we were driving to Beaumont, Georgia and I discussed that we were likely to be invited to visit the "Church of What's Happening Now" (as we had come to refer to it -- long story and not intended to be derogatory) when we had dinner with Scott and Carrie.For several reasons, we had reservations about this, and were equally sure we would decline the invite. After 6 1/2 hours of driving, we got to my parents' house at 2 am on December 18th.

Monday, we spent recovering from the drive. We went to Carmela's for lunch, despite their obvious support of the so-called "Day Without Immigrants" last May (let me be clear: I derive from immigrants, and some of my favorite people are first-generation Americans; but they, like my ancestors, came here legally) and my subsequent boycotting of them. We have no decent Tex-Mex places within 60 miles, so I gave in to Georgia on this one. Greg and Shanon brought the girls over for a big family get-together. Macie (my Granny's name) Jeanette (my Grandma's name) is so much bigger than the first and only time I saw her before we moved, and cute! Despite the fact that she's the spittting image of my big bro'.

Tuesday, Georgia got to spend the morning with her friends from our old church's women's bible study group, and I got to spend time with my beautiful daughters (much-needed: I had just gotten back from two weeks on the road before we left for Beaumont). Later, we had SUSHI :) with Aaron and Amanda, who we had missed so very much. I couldn't believe how much bigger Sammy was (or the fact that he slept through the entire meal) and then regrouped at Rao's. Let me explain: we do not live within 400 miles of open sea; and of the only two decent coffee shops in the area, one is only open until 6 pm on the days it's open, so I've never even been there, and the other is two towns away. So I don't get sushi, and I don't get good coffee served to me. I love sushi and good coffee... though not together. There is a Starbuck's here, but let's be serious. And I'm not sure but I think if you asked for Gellato around here, you might get shot.

Note: Every time I think of Aaron, I have to chuckle 'cuz I remember the book he said he wants to write about his walk with the Lord. He wants to call it "Half-Assed Christian" but doesn't think Lifeway, etc., would carry it if he did. I don't know about you, but I'd buy it. (Of course, if you know Aaron, you know it'd at least be interesting)

Wednesday was my oldest neice's THIRTEENTH birthday. I remember Greg holding her with her head in his palm and her bottom against the crook of his elbow like it was yesterday! How can she be a teenager??? We did get to visit with the "cast of thousands", excluding my baby brother and his girlfriend, who, by the way, is now our closest relative (geographically speaking) and the only close family we didn't see on this trip. Georgia's not used to big gatherings like that, because her family (who we visited that morning for the first time since the Suzie fiasco) never really got together with extended family. But I remember uncles, aunts and cousins coming to Granny and Grampa's (mostly just Granny's -- Grampa died when I was 5, and I have only a few fuzzy memories of him) house in RV's and packing tents so there would be enough room for everyone at their VERY SMALL 4-room (that's room, not bedroom) house.

Thursday, we went shopping for Darcy some new shoes, because now she's walking. Go figure... I leave, no walking. Two weeks later I come home, walking like a champ! We also had the aforementioned visit with Scott and Carrie, which we had both been looking forward to. We both had really missed them, too. And the kids seemed very excited to see each other. Scott and I talked about a great many things; I think Georgia and Carrie did, too (but I don't kow what... frankly, I'm doing good to remember what little I'm writing here) We talked about concrete construction, because I'd just returned from two weeks of training on the subject, and Scott had done some reading and/or research into concrete housing.

Just an aside: if you have a something to build, and you're going for durability and utility... or anything else, frankly, go concrete. This is an amazing and versatile material that is just phenomenal in virtually any application. Wow! They even used to build reactor vessels from concrete! ...of course they stopped, presumably due to structural decline under high neutron flux, but that's only a guess. And not too many houses fall under a high neutron flux.

But I digress...

Scott and I did talk a good while about the basis of the family integrated movement, often misnamed "home churches," which is not the same thing. they do meet in one of the members' homes, but that's not by design. I told him some of my reservations about it, which didn't really cover the main reservation, but I'll get to that later. In case you're wondering, this is not like that nut in Ohio who shot the family in his barn. A great resource, if you're interested, is , or any of a number of Google results. Anyway, they did invite us, and we didn't give a final answer. I did ask them to pray for guidance for us.

Friday, we went out with an old friend of Georgia's and her husband. We had a blast, but stayed out waaaay too late. We gave them a copy of Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and tried to talk to them about it.. We have such a heart for Jenifer and Keny. Please pray for them.

Saturday, we hung out with my parents most of the day, I think -- no, that was the day we got to visit the ER at ST. E; Lily decided to take a header into my parents' coffee table and needed three stitches (you don't need an exercise regimen -- just watch how your heart rate soars when you see your two-year-old stand up screaming with so much blood running down her face that you can't tell if she still has both eyes) but that was one of the shortest ER visits in recorded history, under two hours. We went to Larry's French Market for dinner with the Welch Clan (minus one). I'm not really a fan of this place -- Votreau's is better and closer... and cheaper, too -- but Georgia loves it.

Sunday (Christmas Eve), the day I know you've all been waiting for. The previous day and night, we had spent long hours discussing what we were going to do with Scott's invitation. We talked about what we expected to find at our old church, which we would be expected to go to because my whole family still goes there. What we expected was the same thing that had caused us to seriously consider leaving the church before we moved out of town. We discussed what we might run into (heavily seasoned with what we had learned talking to Scott and Carrie) at the Family Bible Fellowship (not as colorful as "Church of What's Happening Now", but what can you do?) We discussed all the things we could come up with -- reasons both for and against -- and all the "cons" came down to one thing, really. So we went to the family integrated church. Something tells me that's what we would have done anyway, like we had to go. I gotta admit, the curiosity was pretty much driving me crazy, had been for months.

So we went, as I said. Georgia was so nervous about our main reservation that she nearly got sick outside the hosting family's house. Inside, there were three families we knew -- Scott and Carrie, Jeff and Shannon, Aaron and Cathy -- two we didn't. First there was a round of hymns accompanied by Jon, Mark and Kathy's oldest, on the piano. Then Mark, the homeowner, gave the message.. not too bad, either, even for a mechanical engineer. Key was the fact that here, there ain't no nursery. Now, Lily and Darcy aren't used to sitting still for an hour plus, so that was a problem. I'm sorry Georgia missed most of the message due to Darcy's ill behavior. I missed the question-and-answer session, or whatever you want to call it, due to Lily's second spanking. Then there was a family prayer session, led by the fathers, in private. One of our friends explained this to me, saying this would be followed by communion. I told him I could not take communion until and unless I talked to him first.

And so now, for me, we arrive at the true crux of the matter. I already knew the mechanics of the family integrated thing. I had read about it and discussed it with Jeff extensively a year or more ago. For me, this was just seeing the theory put into practice, in this particular location. I think Georgia wanted to see what it was all about, but I was fairly certain I was there for a different reason.

After praying together, asking for God's hand in it, we sought reconciliation with our very dear friends. Suffice it to say, we had a very close relationship which was pretty much broken a while back, through miscommunication and lack of communication, and with God's grace and infinite love, it was healed that day. This was worth the whole trip. Of course, if it had been unsalvageable, I woud have had to leave at that point without communion. (Georgia was very surprised when I told her this)

Communion. I have heard it said of the writers of the Gospels that Matthew saw Christ as a king, Mark as a servant, Luke as a man, and John as very God. I think they're all four right. The only King I have ever sworn loyalty to lowered himself on his last day to not only serve a meal to his disciples, but also to wash their feet. This is the model the family integrated church follows. If Christ is our High Priest, and the head of man, then the husband/father is the high priest and head of the family. If Christ is a servant, how could a husband be otherwise? It was a very moving experience to serve my wife the elements of communion. I wish Lily had been a little older, because I had to sort of let a very ripe, teachable moment slip by when she asked very sweetly if she could have a "cracker" and some "juice". Conviction precedes repentance, and we haven't quite grasped "sin" yet. And she's two. (Later, at our old church, during the Christmas Eve candlelight service they had communion. I insisted that I serve Georgia there, too) This brought the servant-leader role I'm supposed to play into very sharp focus for me, in a way that no long discussion of the Biblical family ever has.

Then there was a meal -- three kinds of lasagna! -- followed by a few hours of conversation, men with the men, women with the women, as the kids all chased each other around the house (It was a cold, wet day). Most of us sat and got to know each other better, talked about what each of us do for a living, and more important stuff, like challenges with raising kids, being a father, homeschooling, etc. Jeff, of course, gave Mark's and Kathy's oldest sons a rundown on how to refine ethylene. (That's the word on the street, anyway) I really don't know why we've gotten so far from fellowship of this kind these days. Oh, wait, yes I do... because our Enemy is very crafty ("the serpent was subtil" -- two bucks to anyone who gets that reference)

In case you're wondering, there were no snakes, and no animal sacrifices.

The point is this: Family... Integration. Letting your kids see you come before God and worship Him. The point is this: nearly every night since then, my two-year-old has been asking to "read stories" before she goes to bed (i.e., the Bible) and asking pretty astute questions for her age, understanding and mastery of English.

But that was the longer-term bennie from this visit. I regained a brother. Praise God, I got to feel just a little of what the host of heaven and all the saints rejoice when a sinner is saved, what the father of the prodigal felt to have his son back. Jeff, I love you and I missed you.

Christmas Eve night, the fam came over to Mom and Dad's and chaos reigned as usual when you have three toddlers (or post-toddlers) in the same house. Plus, our two didn't really get naps.

Next morning, we woke up late, took too long getting ready to go to Georgia's family's house, and of course got into a big fight 'cuz we weren't packed and ready to go -- I mean GO; we were leaving to come home from their house -- on time. Both visits to this place this week were surreal. Georgia's mother was like a pod person. Nothing had ever happened. Nothing was wrong. Everybody was friends. After about three years of the most fun you can have with your boots on, we finally left her parents' house at 4 pm, about an hour ahead of schedule. Got home around 11. Lily fell asleep (finally) about half an hour from home.

And that's all I've got to say about that.