Monday, November 30, 2009

Something a little Personal

So, I think about everything. Most of you have realized that by now. So, I've started writing B letters here and there. I tell him daily how much I love him, how proud I am of him, that he is precious to me, and I realize that he can't understand that right now. He understands that I'm there for him, that I'll comfort him when he's hurt and feed him when he's hungry, but there's so much more I want him to know... even if he has to read it later. So, I've started writing him letters. If something were to happen to me, I'd want him to know what a joy he was in his mother's life. So, don't expect to see many of those, but I wanted to share this first one. Here it is:

To My Precious Baby Boy –

It’s just past your first birthday. I cannot believe how much you’ve grown! I feel like I’ve blinked since I could feel you moving around in my tummy, and now you are walking across the room! You have gotten big so quickly!
I want you to know, Bryton, how much you’ve changed mommy’s life. You have made me a better, less selfish person. You make me want to try new things, invest more in the people I love, and have more fun with life. I’m not as afraid of failure now, as I see the many things you are learning everyday, the many times you have failed, and I get to be there for your ultimate triumph. Had you not failed, you would not have succeeded. Please don’t ever be afraid of failure!
As your mother, I am so proud of you! Your little smile completely warms my heart, and I get so much joy from watching you learn, play, and live. You always make me laugh, and, to be honest, my life will never be the same now that you are a part of it.
B, I also pray for you everyday. I pray that you will find Jesus quickly, that you’ll obey Him and love Him in such a way that it will change the decisions you make in life. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much I love you. The depths of my love are deep, and the love is thick. But much deeper than my love for you is Jesus’ love for you. He will always love you better than I, or any other person, ever could. He’ll always guide you better than I ever could. And, B, as wonderful as I think you are, you need Him. Without Him you can’t do anything. Without Him you have no joy. My prayer for you, my precious child, is to have the joy that we can’t always understand, to have a Savior there for you during every trial and every triumph in your life, and to love God with all of your heart. God’s love never fails, He never grows weary, He does not get tired. Regardless how big or how small your problem, Jesus is enough.
No matter what, baby boy, never forget your mother’s love for you, always try to love the people God places in your life, make good decisions, don’t be afraid of failure, always put God first, and be sensitive to the needs of others. Embrace sacrifice, some of your greatest gifts come from sacrifice. Love those that appear to be unlovable, and pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Especially when you don’t want to. When you think something nice about someone, say it. It’s better to compliment too much than not enough. Choose your battles wisely. Only the ones you’d be willing to die for need be fought.
You are sleeping as I write this. It’s rainy outside. We are two days away from Thanksgiving, and like usual, thoughts of you continually pop into my mind. In just a short year our lives have changed so very much, but dear Bryton, below Jesus it is your daddy and you that fall next on what I’m thankful for this year. God has given me great joy through you, and He has taught me a great deal about the love of the Father by allowing me the privilege of knowing and loving you.
I look forward to all He has in store for our lives together. I love you, precious.

Now until forever –

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

As I write today Bryton is fussing in his crib. Naps don't come easily to teething babies, so I apologize in advance if my thoughts seem somewhat scattered.
I've never been a New Year's Resolution maker. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of failure. Maybe it's because I'm too lazy. Maybe it's because I'm a traditionalist who doesn't like change. More than likely, I'd say it is because it just seems like another trivial thing we do. It's like buying presents at Christmas or trick or treating on Halloween. It's what we do on New Year's Eve while contemplating how to make the next year better than the one before.
But not this year. This year I'm mixing it all up and I'm having December resolutions. Yep, you heard me. I started noticing some areas in my life where I could offer improvement to myself, and I heard myself think, "That would make a great new year's resolution." Then, I thought to myself, "Why do we wait until New Year's to improve? Why don't we do it now?" Well, I think part of that answer is that we don't really want to change anyway. No wonder our resolutions fail so often.
So I decided it's time. It's time for me to take these broad, yet attainable goals that I've set for myself and start on them. So, for all of you who care, here is my December Resolution List:
1. Take more pictures with just me and my husband. We used to take a LOT of pictures together. I treasured them greatly. Since Bryton was born, though, it's just been easier for one of us to be on the other side of the camera so I have some pictures with B, Aaron has some pictures with B, and we have a lot of pictures of B, but we have very few of all three of us and even fewer of just Aaron and I. So this year it's more pictures of me and the hubs!
2. Read my Bible daily. I'll be honest. I expect to fail in this department. I'm not setting myself up to fail, but it seems unattainable. Sicknesses and life just happen and this goal can be hard to achieve. But I know this, I can read it more than what I am. I'm making a good 4 days a week or so, on normal weeks, so you wouldn't think it would be hard for me to step it up another 3 days. If there's been a resolution I've had several times, this has been the one. I'm going to give it all I've got this time, and we'll see where I end up.
3. I'm going to write daily. In honesty, that's what this blog was about. This was that resolution that went through my head. As you can see, I've already 'failed', if you can so call it that, as B had a very rough night on Friday night. My intentions were to blog after he went to bed, and let's just say that never officially happened. But, you know what? I've succeeded in writing several days worth of blogs that would have never made way had I not decided to do this. So, kudos to me. It doesn't have to be 100% to be a success.
4. I want to consistently be reading a book at all times. I used to LOVE to read! For Christmas one year my entire family on my dad's side bought me Waldenbooks (there was no Barnes and Noble) gift certificates. It was almost $300 worth of gift cards. I bought and read a LOT of books. (I spent all $300 in one trip, and had the books read in less than 3 months.) I'm not sure if life happened or the internet happened or what, but I've stopped reading. I'm not setting out to read every day, but consisently enough that I'm finishing and remembering what I'm reading within a reasonable amount of time.
So there it is. I'm not making a bunch of them because, well, who has time for that? But this is what I'm setting out to accomplish. I'll let you know at New Years how I'm doing ;)
Oh, and a picture to show I'm already making strides ;)
Us at Youth Specialties, downtown Atlanta Christmas tree in Centennial Park
Us in front of the fountains (which you can't see, grrr) in Centennial Park.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Hope of the Nations

If there was a place I thought the National Youth Worker’s Convention lacked this year, it’d be in their Big Room worship sessions. They decided to, rather than expose us to different worship leaders from across the country, to have a consistent worship team for the entire event. That is, except for one evening, then they resorted to have a children’s choir lead us in worship. It was more than your average children’s choir though. These children were from Kenya and had been flown to engage us in an amazing worship experience with the Lord.
One of the things I’ve always looked forward to about heaven is the “every tribe, every tongue” verse. Though these children were leading us in our own language, their own language was prominent in their speaking and singing. You could see the zeal they felt towards the Lord. They were eager to share their favorite verses with the 3000 of us youth workers. We could only desire the same amount of zeal in our own children and youth and even ourselves. At the evenings end they skipped down the long aisle, through the arena, slapping high fives to all of us youth leaders who had crowded the aisle to get a better glimpse and even a touch of these blessed children who were so madly in love with Jesus.
I felt a great amount of emotion as they had led us through several songs. As they sang Mighty to Save (“Shine your light and let the whole world see”) I, possibly for the first time, could physically see and touch the importance of missions. And I’m not necessarily referring to our mission work towards them. That is, of course, important. But what they contributed to spiritually for me that night was unbelievable.
As they sang “God of this City, (“You’re the God of this city, You’re the King of these people, You’re the Lord of this nation, You are”), I felt a great deal of encouragement as I allowed these children, who had grown up in poverty and poorer circumstances, to sing over us. It’s amazing how often we, One Nation Under God, can forget about the fact that we are “under” anyone. To hear these children sing this over us was to hear, “He’s still in charge here, He’s still King.” It was encouraging and wonderful to know that though thousands and thousands of miles and cultural differences separate us, we have and worship the same King, and that, in and of itself, is all that matters. Christ is the common denominator... always.
I knew standing there that evening that I had received a little glimpse of heaven. I’m almost guaranteed to never be standing in the same state, not to mention the same room, with the same group of children this side of Heaven. I look forward to worshiping again with them someday, and I can only hope to have the same amount of zeal and passion that they had that evening.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Big Annoying Toys & Spider Veins

My biggest fear before becoming a parent and experiencing pregnancy was having large, annoying, brightly colored toys littering the adult space of my home. Honest. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Many, many months later, and slightly more intelligent, I don’t mind those toys now at all. I would be lying if I said that I don’t make sure they are hidden in “their spots” when Bryton is in bed for the evening, but I am definitely not paranoid about them being out.
Needless to say, however, when about six months of pregnancy had passed I was more concerned and worried about the large, annoying, not so brightly colored, in fact, rather pale, physique I was beginning to see staring back at me in the mirror every morning. I had a difficult time with self-esteem and confidence with the pre-pregnancy person I saw staring back at me in the mirror months prior, but this was an all new level of... wow.
On one hand I loved and appreciated pregnancy. I enjoyed, for awhile, how I looked and being the growing ground of this precious child who would one day be my son. Towards the last six weeks or so, when I swelled up like balloon from my face to my blocks of wood (also known as feet), I was standing in the mirror wondering who that person was, and if I’d ever see that other person I’d given such a hard time before.
My belly sat like a lopsided pumpkin on my legs while sitting. I had not only outgrown my wedding rings, which I cried about, I had now outgrown my own shoes too. In fact, I’d outgrown all of Aaron’s shoes besides his Crocs. When I touched the widest part of my belly, I couldn’t feel it because my skin was so stretched. Though I will admit I did make it through the entire pregnancy stretch mark free, the already hideous spider veins on my legs were creating an even larger web, and the linea negra (the brown line that goes down your stomach), was developing to be darker and darker. I had no idea how that body would ever become the one previous.
But it did. Kinda. Just one year later I have not only met, but beaten, my pre-pregnancy weight. I am no longer swollen, thank you, Jesus, and I have my energy back. I can successfully wear my own shoes, my old clothes (most of them), and require no belly band to feel comfortable in them.
In the same turn, a year later I still have my linea negra running down my stomach, my jeans don’t quite fit the same way as they used to, my hips are wider, the spider veins are there and worse, and though probably not noticed by others, I can still tell the change in my stomach. The changes don’t stop there either.
All of that said to say this... I have never been happier with my appearance. I’ve never felt more confidence, and I’ve never had greater self-esteem. I don’t completely understand it. I’m further away than I’ve ever been from that “super-model” look that we all strive to achieve. I have more “flaws” and “blemishes” than ever, but to look in the mirror I’m satisfied.
Maybe it’s God, and my being satisfied with what He has created me to be. Maybe it was the low expectations I sat for myself during my pregnancy, believing I’d never be able to move or look at myself in the mirror ever again. Maybe, just maybe, it is the respect and appreciation I have for my body for being part of the wonderful miracle (okay, not theologically, but seriously, experience it) of carrying a baby and childbirth. I loved being pregnant, thus, I appreciate my body for what it allowed me to experience and I appreciate the “flaws” for being my souvenir of such an opportunity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With Sin Came... Clothes

I can remember a picture from my childhood of my neighbor friend, a boy, wearing an old pair of my mom’s high heels. The thought of it makes me smile. Apparently I won out in choosing what it was we’d play that day. (In his defense, he had a book on his head so it was more like a balance game and not completely just dress up.)
Those were the days, when little girls dressing up meant mom’s old clothes, jewelry, and shoes. Dressing up meant shiny fabrics and shoes that made noise when you walked in them. I loved dressing up. I’d walk in my high heels around the 4’ x 4’ square of hardwood we had in our house, just to hear the noise they made.
Dress up is different now, though. At the recent convention Aaron and I attended we were surprised to find that the convention center we were frequenting was also being frequented by many, many cheerleaders and dance group members for a competition they were having. (Short side note: I’m not against cheerleading or dancing. I think they are both sports in which a participant must be both athletic and talented to perform well. I just disagree with what it is teaching our daughters.) The attire of these specific cheerleaders, age 5 – 15, was extremely short, tight skirts, with a slit of course, a top that covered just slightly more than a sports bra, tennis shoes, a bow as big as their head, and a face layered with make-up. The attire was the same regardless of the age-group.
I was appalled.
When I was growing up, daddy’s still sat on the porch with shot-guns, they didn’t hold the hands of their half-naked five year old as they walked them around downtown Atlanta. In our day of age I would be terrified to walk around with my daughter dressed in such a way. You just don’t know what creeps are out there lurking around.
Just as importantly, though, it irritates me the message that we are sending to these little bitty girls about their bodies and what it takes to earn approval. Their value is not based on character or personality, unfortunately, it is not even based solely on performance. Their value is based on glittery make-up and showing lots and lots of skin. We wonder why girls lack in the self esteem category... well, parents, what are you doing to aid in your daughter’s struggle? Are you purchasing her more revealing clothing to help her self esteem, or are you taking the road less traveled and teaching her the value and wonder that comes with just being her.
God willing I ever have a daughter, I can be honest and say I’m already fearful of the arguments to come regarding clothing. However, I will say that I’ll lay down in front of the check out counter before I’ll let my daughter settle on clothing that devalues her as a human being and as a woman.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Innocent Plea for a Solution to an Ironic Problem

We get a piece of paper at graduation. Seriously. In fact, we don’t even get the paper anymore. It is mailed to us after graduation just in case you don’t pay all of your fees to graduate. So, in reality, you get handed an empty glorified cardboard folder to walk across a stage after paying a University an amount of money that will take you an undisclosed amount of time to pay back. Fun.
We, as a church and as Christians in general, tend to send our graduating high school seniors out with Bibles. That is their graduation gift from us. I think it goes something like this:
“We’ve loved having you for the past six years in our youth ministry. We know you are getting ready to encounter possibly the hardest years in your life. We know that God’s Word will get you through. So study, study, study! You have three months before life gets rough. Sorry we didn’t give it to you sooner, but hey, you need to get used to cramming for tests, right?”
Seriously, we may as well just hand them the cardboard folder if they have survived in our youth group for six years and we give them a Bible when they graduate. One way or another it isn’t an amazing gift. If they already have a Bible, chances are they probably don’t need another one. If they don’t have a Bible, shame on us for waiting until graduation to give them one.
So here is my question... aside from the six years of preparation we should be providing for our youth students, what is it that we could physically give them on graduation to encourage them and help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.
(Though all answers are welcome, please don’t say the obvious: devotional or Christian cd. I’d like something that they may utilize to help them through college.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Start of a New Blog

My dad had a friend who died when a tree fell on him, literally. The man was in a forest and a tree fell on him. I didn't know that really happened outside of a poor attempt to get laughs during a really bad movie.
I had always heard the 'brain-teaser', "If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, was there any sound?" I hated that brain-teaser. Of course there was sound. How narcissistic are we, really, that we believe that sound doesn't exist apart from our hearing it?
What if a deaf man saw the tree fall and felt the vibrations of what was, indeed, sound? Was there sound? Of course there was, and the deaf man would probably agree, although he himself had not heard it.
I've recently been inspired to start a daily blog. (Yes, daily, hang with me, I'm going to make this work!) I need a place to air and vent stories and ideas of life, love, faith and frustration. As I began thinking about this particular blog, and praying about and pondering a name for it, I thought about this saying. The idea of the tree falling and no one hearing it is my analogy for writing and no one reading it. As much as I hate that saying, I understand how it can apply to my life. Writing is how I share my life and thoughts with the world. In arguments, I'd prefer write than talk. I do well getting my ideas and thoughts gathered and presented properly while writing, where I tend to ramble while talking. But writing without a reader, for me, is pointless. I want to know when I've been disagreed with or when someone completely concurs. I want to know if I'm alone in my thoughts or if my thoughts ever spur those thoughts of someone else. I want to share my life through writing!
So this is my feeble attempt to grow a reader following. I don't want to be that tree that falls and and is not heard. Thanks for joining me for what will be the first post of many many to come!