And we're headed to the beach for the weekend to celebrate.
Learning. I'll be hosting in a few weeks.
I've been thinking a lot about learning these last few days. I'd forgotten how difficult it could be to sit in a classroom all day and have to absorb vast amounts of information. I know I have to be able to do this, (and generous people continue to assure me that it's possible) but it's difficult and frustrating at this point.
Matthew 22: 37 says, "And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'" (New American Standard)That feels like a bit of pressure this week with my mind drained from learning. I think, in general, that most of my learning experiences are difficult and frustrating. I don't know if that says something about learning or about my nature.
I sat in the dark in Griff's room the night of Sept. 11, 2001 and cried. I grieved for those who lost loved ones, for those searching desperately. I grieved, too, for a world of innocence my son would never know. The world he would grow up in was a world that hadn't existed for me before that fateful morning. It was (and would continue to become) a world of distrust and fear.
There's been so much coverage these last few days of Katrina and the current status of the Gulf Coast region. I can just barely watch... it breaks my heart all over again... makes me cry.
For weeks last summer, I grieved for those in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. We were close enough in proxemity to New Orleans to know people suffering loss. And so, while we weren't touched physically, we were cut to the core emotionally at times.
From both experiences, I've learned that it doesn't really matter if a tragedy is of man's making or nature's. I don't believe God appoints people to jihads any more than I believe He sent a natural disaster to cleanse a sinful city and in turn destroyed the lives of so many of the city's poorest residents.
In the end, I think one of the greatest things I've learned is that people will show their true hearts in times of trouble. I have learned that acts that seemed small to me were felt in large ways in people in need. I learned that sometimes all people want is to be treated with some dignity. I learned - beyond a doubt - that faith and love are powerful forces. Maybe what I need to remind myself - what I need to relearn over and over - is that loving God involves faith and trust but that it also involves action. Loving God means that I need to love the people around me, whether those people appear to be in need or not, whether those people were chosen by me or not, whether they seem to appreciate my efforts or not.
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." Matthew 22: 37-40 (The Message)
I made brownies this evening with a new organic brownie mix that actually turned out good (a very rare thing with brownies with no eggs). Brownies are the one thing I miss most about not having eggs (since both kids are allergic). I'm hoping the kids go to sleep quickly, so I can plan something for tomorrow night's dinner and then have brownies and ice cream with Mike. Yum.
In the fatigue of all of this - even in this morning's butterflies - I feel this peace that this is what I'm supposed to be doing at this moment in time. Truly, this is a gift of peace from God.
This was an excellent sermon on joy, given by the best Sunday School teacher I've had in years. I hate it that we missed his delivery of it.
And this was an excellent commentary on the Mel Gibson situation of late. It was remarkably good at pointing out the need for grace in all of us.
Here's my quick Friday post... the Friday Feast...
If you could have a free subscription to any magazine, which one would you like to have? In Style or Bead Style
Describe your living room (furnishings, colors, etc.). High, cathedral ceilings, too much white for my taste (but we're not up to painting a new house just yet), scoochy green sofa, ugly brown recliner, tv, bookshelves, art from Aleece, my brother, John, and Griff
What does the shape of a circle make you think of? infinity and baseballs (Go 'Stros!)
Name 3 things in your life that you consider to be absolute necessities. My immediate family of Mike, Griff, and Eliza; friends; and chocolate
What was the last really funny movie you watched? "Just Friends"
Mike and I were both reared in one particular Protestant denomination, and we have spent all of our lives in those churches. But events of the last few years - both in our lives personally and and within the national organization of that denomination specifically - have led us (me, especially) to want to try something new, to find a church of service not associated with the denomination of our youth.
But that leaves this whole wide range of options out there for us, and it's overwhelming, quite frankly. The other night, I told Mike that what I needed was a quiz to tell me which denomination would be right for me. And I am pretty sure you can Google any kind of quiz, so I did.
We both took the BeliefNet's Belief-o-Matic quiz, and that turned out not to be much help at all. I scored as a Quaker, and Mike scored as a mainline to liberal Protestant. Great. So when that wasn't much help, I kept Googling.
So we both took the Christian Denomination Selector quiz. My top score was as a Mennonite (much like the Quaker option, not really well represented here in Central Florida). My second score and Mike's top score? The denomination of our youth.
And all of this leaves me still confused. But also still determined. It is so important for all of us to be in a church, to be active and involved, to be learning and sharing. So we'll keep searching... and praying that God will lead us to where He would have us be.
personality quiz (and I do love a good quiz), and I took it yesterday. While the title descriptions don't sound much like me (though they are certainly something to work toward!), the general descriptions sound a lot like me.
Malissa is hosting this week's Carnival of Beauty on music. Not being such a musical girl myself - despite yesterday's post - I look forward to reading other girls' opinions and observations.
book! And when the opportunity presents itself to use reading for a good cause, I'm all about doing that.
Jump Start is doing Read for the Record this Thursday, and we're going to register and participate.
You can also buy a limited edition of the book at Starbucks, available during the month of August (which seems like a fine reason to go in for a chai latte!). Because Pearson and its subsidiary Penguin, the book's publisher, have donated the printing, 100 percent of the purchase price supports Jumpstart's work with at-risk children.
In general, I'm enjoying my new life here in Florida. I miss people and places, absolutely, but I'm also adjusting and finding things to enjoy and celebrate here. But some days, some mornings, I just wake up feeling sad and freaked out and worried and afraid and sad. I said sad twice... probably because that is the emotion that covers all of the others.
This was one of those mornings. I woke up worried about Eliza, who hasn't been feeling just perfect. I know it's just allergies, but I worry about what we'll do when she gets sick and we're both in new jobs and can't take off work. My dad called last week to tell me (again) that he, too, is worried about that. He doesn't have any solutions, just more concern. And all that does is remind me of my own worries and fears.
In the van taking Griff to school this morning, we were listening to the XM, and "Broken" by Seether and Amy Lee came on. I love that song, have always loved it. I find that I'm drawn to music at any stage of life that meets me where I am at that moment (I guess, in general, that's the goal of music). This song met me where I was this morning.
I know from past experience that God carries me and touches me and speaks to me most when I am truly broken. When I cry out to Him that there is nothing left of me that can carry my heart alone. When I beg of Him to carry me, to comfort me. And while that broken feeling isn't any fun at all, it is the place where I am most aware of God's purpose for my life.
A week or so ago, I was telling Mike that "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects was my new favorite song.
Speak to me, when all you got to keep is strongIf I had a dollar for every time I've whispered to myself in the last six months, "just keep moving. If you just keep moving it'll be okay," I could pay off a credit card. In so many ways, that really is all I need to do, even though some days it's difficult. If I just keep moving, just keep focusing on today and not tomorrow, God will take care of the rest.
Move along, move along like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along just to make it through
Back last winter, Mike and I were both in a bad situation that was harming us emotionally, mentally, professionally, and ... in some ways, physically. We knew we needed something better, and we were broken. We knew that God was the One who could provide us with a way out, a path to a better life.
The Goo Goo Dolls released "Better Days" around the holidays, and that song spoke to both of us so clearly (and Mike and I don't usually overlap in our musical preferances). At that point, better days was my prayer for us (and for others in our similar situation). Today, when I hear that song, I smile.
I am reminded that even though I feel broken and sad and lonely, there is a hope within us that was dim before. These are those better days. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Keeping a list of answered prayers was number 20 on my list of 101 Things to do in 1001 Days. I think it'll be a wonderful way to keep answered prayers - even, maybe especially, the ones that God answers but not necessarily in the ways that I'd expected - in front of me. It'll be a reminder that God does hear my prayers and the petition prayers of those going to the Lord on my behalf.
So, here goes.
1. The husband of a friend got a job that seems well-suited to both him and their family. And he got that job just in time for...
2. The baby they are awaiting. She had been told she wouldn't/couldn't get pregnant again, but she did. (Jan. 2006)
3. Griffin accepted Christ as his Savior. (Jan. 15, 2006)
4. Mike successfully defended his dissertation and has now fully earned his Ph.D. (Feb. 23, 2006)
5. Mike was offered a new job - a wonderful opportunity for all of us. (Feb. 24, 2006)
6. We signed a contract on a new house in Florida. (April 17, 2006)
7. Mandy and Josh are going to have a baby. (April 20, 2006)
8. We closed on our old house... the first we ever owned... and made enough money on the sale to enable us to live through the summer with no incomes. (May 18, 2006)
9. I resigned my job, trusting that God would provide me with another one in our new location. (May 29, 2006)
10. We all arrived safely at our new Florida home. (June 23, 2006)
11. Our nephew, Hayden, was baptized, and we were able to be present. (July 30, 2006)
12. We celebrated 12 years of marriage. (August 13, 2006)
13. I was offered a job. (August 16, 2006)
On the treadmill these days, I'm reading "Calm My Anxious Heart" by Linda Dillow and loaned to me by Aleece. I found these wonderful quotes this morning and wanted to remember them.
"I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking." George MacDonald
"I say I found peace. I do not say I was not lonely. I was - terribly. I do not say that I did not grieve. I did - most sorely. But peace of the sort the world cannot give comes, not by the removal of suffering, but in another way - through acceptance." Elizabeth Elliott
There have been times recently when I was writing an email or talking to a friend on the phone and when I was telling about my loneliness and yet, I also talked of how certain I am that we're where God wants us right now. It sounds like a contradiction. But it isn't... not in my heart.
I think it's perfectly okay to miss those friends that I've left states away, and I think that fits just fine with my acceptance of this new place, this new period in our lives. I am lonely. I am content. I am comfortable with both feelings existing in the same moment.
There are times when I am amazed at how blue the sky is here, when I stand in awe. And they are often immediately followed by moments of sadness that I don't have any girlfriends here to share my moments. But I think that's okay.
I had a friend in college who said to me once that I was the only girl he'd ever met who could laugh while crying. And yet, it seems perfectly natural to me. I can't imagine any one emotion existing entirely on its own. All of them roll together to create me... just the way God intended.
And so for today, I'm grateful for contentment and for peace and for learning opportunities, even if they mean sorrow and loneliness for a time.
"Researchers at Kingston University in England have found that a tightly made bed is a perfect breeding ground for dust mites that live in mattresses. Just sleeping on a mattress makes it humid, and that helps mites living there thrive. But it turns out that pulling those sheets and blankets tight around the mattress first thing in the morning holds in that humidity... and there goes the neighborhood. Aha! So isn't it time we all give up making beds?"Being allergic to dust mites and not such a bed-maker, this is great news. I'm going to put the newspaper clipping on the fridge and call it vindication.
Friday Feast blog with silly questions before we moved, but this is the first time I've been settled enough to do it. Something quick and silly sounds perfect for a Friday morning.
What color is your car?
Slate grey... a mama mini-van
If you could wake up tomorrow with full training in another occupation and a job in that field, what would it be?
Human Resources... that's where it's at these days.
How many times in your life have you had the flu (or something similar)?
Too many to count, unfortunately
What is something that has happened to you this week that you didn't expect?
I had a nice conversation with an old friend. She and I had a bit of a falling out a few years ago, and so it was really nice to be able to talk with her this week.
How old were you when you had your first kiss?
16... which I thought was way too old. :)
When it comes to my work history, as with all of my relationships, I'm a long-termer. I've held one job since college, and I was there 14 years. I'm loyal. I like the stability of knowing an organization well. But when I arrived here and began looking for a job, I discovered that my having held only one job was a drawback not an asset. And I really had seen this move as an opportunity to do something different, to learn something new. But it seemed that I was pigeon-holed at 36. I had several people tell me that I really needed to stick with PR and not try to branch out too much, which was less than helpful.
On a lark one night at CareerBuilder.com, I applied for a position with a large, national company that has a regional office here in town. They contacted me the next day, and we began the interview process. I went through a series of interviews with different people in the company, and today, they offered me the job.
Is it my ideal job? No. But it will give me new things to learn, and it will certainly put me around a large group of people, giving me lots of opportunities to show Christ through my actions. I am terrified that I won't be able to actually do the job (which Mike says is me just being me), but I am also very excited about the opportunity to be used by God in this new venue. Another answered prayer.
Through those 12 years, we have had good times and bad times, happy and sad. Today, we have two kids, a mortgage, a car payment, one job, one no-job-yet, friends, family, and more love than I would have thought possible all those years ago. I would rather be with this man than with anyone else. I am forever grateful to God for placing us together, for knowing that the two of us would make a good team.
I've also seen my kids thrive in their new environments, which is an answer to the prayers of many dear folks. I spent the day today in one interview after another, and I am encouraged that I may be able to get a job after all.
Today, I am proud of a friend of mine who worked hard to earn her master's degree after having two children. That's an accomplishment that is full of encouragement.
And then this evening, I read the sweetest post by Josh. It's a precious testimony to our little Eliza.
I know there are going to be hard days and weeks just like there will be exciting and wonderful days and weeks. It's nice to know that God is there with me in both knds of times and that He will sustain us all.
Today is the annual Miracle Treat Day at Dairy Queen. The proceeds from the sale of all Blizzards today goes to each local Children's Miracle Network hospital. Eliza spent a very short amount of time (compared to lots of other babies) in the NICU when she was born, and we are now big fans of the CMN. And this is a fabulous excuse to go get comfort ice cream.
Everyone go get a blizzard tonight and help care for a baby or child.
My folks bought us a new dishwasher since the one in the house was crappy, and it arrived today and is fab! I'm going to start using real glasses and cooking again. And yet, even that wasn't enough to take away the heart sadness of being without familiar faces.
Anyway, so I don't just whine about being lonely, I'm going to give the latest Carnival of Beauty - Chocolate! - link and let today's post go at that. I'm hoping to get the kids in bed and get to read all of the entries myself before watching this week's "Project Runway."
I'm looking at fall colors, holiday stuff, things I hope will be interesting. I'm also trying new techniques, which isn't always easy for me.
I'm trying to work with some wire these days, and these are some of my first attempts. In this one, I used red wire with red and white beads. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and it's really easy to wear because the wire is super light.
This bracelet was made with silver wire and glass beads. They're some of my favorite beads because they're fun and versatile and just plain groovy.
It's been good to have the beading hobby this summer. It gave me a sense of balance in the craziness of moving, and then when we arrived, it gave me a sense of self. This is something I love, and it's important to me to have something that I'm good at right now.
My nephew loves to ask everyone what his or her favorite this or that is. He recently asked me what my favorite food was & I responded, 'chocolate.' Hayden said, 'no, not dessert, food.' Griff said, 'that's going to be her answer either way.' And he's right.
I love chocolate. I admit it, I do. I'm eating chocolate chips as I type this, waiting for time to put the kids to bed so Mike and I can have the chocolate brownie hidden in the back of the fridge (gotta hide the egg treats from my allergic children).
For almost 15 years, I lived in Louisiana and was surrounded by the Catholic culture of the Cajuns. I love the way that Protestant churches in that area have adopted some of the more Catholic traditions. Our church celebrated Advent with a passion and Lent with a purpose. And each year, I would give something up for Lent.
The last two years, my friend, Linda, and I did our Lent together. It was wonderful to have one another there in the office for support, and I'm sure this Lenton season will be more difficult for me as I go through it without her.
Two years ago, we each chose one thing to give up, and we gave up both things together. That year, we went 40 days without chips and chocolate. Last year, we gave up candy.
Both years, I missed M&Ms like an old friend. When the kids offered to share, it was hard to say no. I admit that I sometimes smelled Griff's chocolate bars. I didn't eat, but just to inhale that lovely aroma was luxurious.
It is truthful of me to say that giving up chocolate was difficult. It is also truthful of me to say that I feel ashamed of that fact. I was humbled over and over again on a daily basis by what Christ gave up for me. That's the point of Lent, I think.
So much more did Christ long for me than I longed for M&Ms... so much more did He give up for me than I let go for 40 short days.
Now, on both Easter Sundays, I beat the kids to the Easter basket (and it was amazing how the Easter Bunny filled them with MY favorite candies). But when I think about giving up chocolate and when I think about sacrifice for a purpose, I cannot help but think of Christ and the love He showed to me.
In this, too, God is taking care of us. Griff's school is nicer than the magnet school he attended before, and the school is equipped with a fulltime nurse and three-bed health clinic. On Wednesday, we'll meet with Griff's new teacher, the nurse and some of his specials teachers to establish a plan for his health care in the event that he has an allergic reaction at school. I am pleased beyond words.
As we were filling out forms in his classroom at orientation last week, another mother and child were doing the same, and she told the teacher that they needed to meet about her child's food allergies. I listened in, and her child has multiple allergies like Griff, and while I hate that for their family, it is great for Griff. For the first time, he won't be the only one in his class with allergies. And I now have the name of someone who can point me toward doctors who specialize in the problems with deal with regarding the kids.
I still don't have a job, and I still have moments of fear associated with that, especially now that we won't all be home together (I've decided to volunteer at Griff's school until I get a job). But just as everything else with this job has fallen into place, I am waiting on the Lord to provide, as I am sure He will.
August 2, 2006
Since I was so late with my last Mama Mandy email, it seems like this one's coming too soon. Children do that, too, you know. They make you late for one thing, early for another, and forget to tell you about another altogether. Children take your life and put it in a blender. You're never really going to be sure if they're going to hit the pulse button or the puree button. You never know if you're going to be chunky salsa or a smooth margarita.
But it's okay because most of the time whatever you turn out to be is pretty groovy. And the fact that you and Josh are starting out pretty groovy improves your chances.
In another week or so, you're going to know if you're having a boy or girl. It's exciting and terrifying. I remember crying both times when the ultrasound tech told me one way or the other. Of course, both times I was crying because I was sure the baby was the opposite gender. But that's just me. :) By that same token, we were thrilled both times, as will you and Josh. Turns out, it really doesn't matter if it's a girl or boy... a healthy baby is a good answer either way.
It'll be an amazing thing to be able to envision this baby that you carry as a son or daughter. For now, it's just this entity... a lovely, miraculous entity to be sure, but still. There's not a lot of ... well, identification with the baby. But as soon as you settle into it being a boy or a girl, you'll be amazed at how quickly the baby will take on traits and a personality, even if only in your minds and hearts.
You're feeling less sick, and soon you'll notice your energy level rising. Enjoy this mid-point... it'll be your high point, most likely. That lovely baby tummy is going to be showing here soon, and I can hardly wait for pictures from Josh. And soon, if not already, you'll be feeling the baby move, and Josh is going to be jealous beyond belief that you get to feel the baby for weeks before he'll be able to do so.
For my monthly advice tip, sleep. Even though your energy is going to be rebounding, sleep. Even though it's Josh's nature and not yours, sleep. Trust me on this one. You are at the height of your sleep potential for, I don't know, the next two years. Sleep. And eat anything you want. And contrary to general reports, a Coke now and then won't hurt the baby. And a Sprite might even be considered beneficial.
Beauty of Philippians, and I was blessed by them. I remember why I enjoyed the Carnivals in the past. I'll make a note to begin submitting posts for the weekly Carnivals.
Philippians is such an encouraging book, and the different perspectives on it were wonderful.
My parents flew in from Arkansas on Saturday to spend a few days with us, and we had a really nice visit. They are on their way home today... God's timing allowed them to spend some good time with us before heading home to support my brother and his wife.
As I search for a job, I am reminded over and over again that God's timing is perfect and mine is not. If I already had a job, I wouldn't have had this wonderful settling in time with my family... I wouldn't have had that great visit with Mandy and Josh... I wouldn't be able to go on the beach trip this weekend with Chuck, Stacy and the kids. God's timing is perfect.
I'm sure that on her anniversary, saying goodbye to her mother doesn't feel like very good timing at all to Nicole. I'm going to be praying for her and her family and John today... praying that God will carry them all in His strong, loving hands.