Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A new decade? Really?

For some reason, it just dawned on me this week that we will be entering a new decade on January 1. I don't know why I didn't clue into the fact that 2009 ends the decade of the 2000s (or "Oughts" as I'm told they're called). I guess I just thought that they all ran together. I'll be ready for 2020, though!

After I started thinking about the new decade, that got me to looking back on the old one. I think it's safe to say that the last ten years may have been the most life-changing for me personally. Back at the beginning of the year 2000, I still had a preschooler (even though he started Kindergarten in August of that year) and I was still married. Over these ten years, I have had five different jobs, not counting being a stay-at-home mom. I've driven four different cars. I've become an aunt. And God has done some amazing things in my life and more importantly, in my heart.

Let me see if I can do a brief recap of the meaningful events of this decade in my life:

2000:
I went from being a full-time stay-at-home mom to having a Kindergartener and working part time (at Lifeway in Adult Enrichment Events). We also started attending Grace Community Church at fall, and haven't stopped since!

2001:
I became more involved as a parent at Daniel's school and continued my roles as wife, mother, and part-time employee. Life was good. No major changes that year for our family, but life in our country changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks on September 11. Having been raised outside of NYC, the World Trade Center attack hit the closest to home in my heart.

2002:
Continued on status quo, with a growing school-ager and a husband. I enjoyed being a part of the Adult Enrichment Events team and helped plan marriage events. We got to travel some to help out with those events, too.

2003:
This was a turning point year for me spiritually. I began to sense God telling me to stop working part time and stay at home again. I started learning to "taste and see that the Lord is good" and now know that He was preparing me for some major life changes in the next couple of years. Our marriage was starting to be in turmoil, but nobody else knew that yet. We probably didn't realize how serious the damage would be either.

2004:
Early that year, I felt God calling me to go on a mission trip with a group from church to an Annual General Meeting of the Central and Eastern Europe missionaries in Poland. The trip took place in March and I loved being a part of that experience. Sadly, things started falling apart in our marriage during that same time period. God used those days to teach me so much about depending on Him and to tell me how much He loved me and would never leave me or forsake me. God provided a part-time job in the library at Daniel's school, allowing me to continue to be involved there while he finished out his fourth grade (and final year) at that school.

2005:
Lots of changes for our family: Daniel started middle school at Meigs Magnet Middle School (across town). I started working full time as Director of Administration at The Pruett Financial Group (Northwestern Mutual). Our divorce was finalized that October. I also went to my 20th high school reunion, which was a fun time of catching up with old friends.

2006:
We settled into the life of me working full time, Daniel being more and more challenged and involved at school, and continuing to be active at church. Jeanette and Russell moved to Nashville that year, too, which put our entire immediate family in very close proximity to each other (a true blessing).

2007:
I moved into a new decade when I turned the big 4-0 in February. I was celebrated by friends and family and didn't grieve that milestone a bit. I have more trouble with the "nines" anyway, so I'd already gotten past the worst of it. I became increasingly discontented with my job, but kept on persevering and trying to be faithful in the place where God was providing for me.

2008:
This year I became the mom of a teenager when Daniel had his 13th birthday. We celebrated this milestone in his life and were blessed to have a relationship with him that is mutually respectful and healthy. We also welcomed Erica Jean Massey into our family on August 22nd. What a blessing to have a little girl in the family and to celebrate this long-awaited gift with her parents!

2009:
I think this year has been one of learning how much Jesus really loves me. I have known this in varying degrees for most of my life (I was born into a Christian home and brought to the nursery as a "bed baby"), but Jesus has really become "everything" to me this year. I think I've recognized my need for Him more than ever, or maybe have finally surrendered to it. Through the study, "Gospel Transformation" and the devotion book, "Jesus Calling," I've come to a new level of realization that the Gospel is real in my life and that Jesus is my ever-present and constant companion who knows me and loves me better than anyone else ever can or will. In April, I was blessed to become a part of the staff of Grace Community Church. I am so happy with my job and it has affected our family in many positive ways. I am so thankful for this gift and know that God has placed me there as a continuation of the calling He has had on my life since I was in college. Also this year, Daniel started high school at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet and made a smooth transition to a new school and to the vigorous schedule and courses.

Well, I guess that wasn't so brief, but hopefully you can see that God has had His hand on our lives over this past decade. I'm confident that the next decade will have challenges and changes of its own. I can already predict some (can you say Hume-Fogg Class of 2013?) and also know that God is going to do "far more abundantly beyond all that I ask or think, according to the power that works within me" (Ephesians 3:20).

To Him alone be the glory!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

igbok

Have you seen those bumper stickers on cars saying "igbok"? I'm probably way behind the times, but I just found out what that means this week. "It's going to be ok." Of course, it was my savvy teenaged son who told me! And it was when I was about to embark on the second or third mini meltdown of the week. He turned to me and said, "igbok." I love that kid!

Once I clued in to the meaning of that acronym, I realized how much that it calms me down. I think it speaks to my innate need for comfort and security and I love to hear someone say to me that it's going to be ok.

Almost eleven years ago, when I was diagnosed with a malignant thyroid tumor, I remember talking to a good friend on the phone, telling him about what we had learned from the doctor. His words to me brought me such comfort when he said, "you're going to be ok." This friend wasn't a doctor, but I believe that God was using him to speak to me and remind me that my health was in God's hands.

A few weeks later, after the surgery to remove my thyroid, I had to spend three days quarantined in the hospital to receive radioactive iodine treatment. I was isolated in a room and couldn't have visitors. The nights were the worst, because my room was on an oncology ward and I would sometimes hear announcements of other patients "coding" and hear commotion out in the hallway. It was a dark and scary time for me. During one of those nights, I couldn't sleep and was afraid, so I turned on the TV to get a distraction. I channel-surfed and wound up on a Christian broadcast station which was playing a Michael English concert. I don't rememember much about it except the words of the song he was singing. "It's going to be alright," he sang over and over. What a huge comfort that was to me in the middle of the night lying in a hospital bed dealing with the word "cancer" being attached to my name! I was able to fall back asleep and was so thankful to God for once again bringing me comfort with those words. Thankfully, the doctors and friends were right. I was and am ok from that health issue (and some people reading this might not even know that I ever went through that experience).

God has been faithful to comfort me through other hard times in my life, some big, some small. I remember when I was going through the difficult days of my marriage separation, God comforted me with His Word in Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

For me, that was a huge "igbok" from the Lord. He didn't say that I wasn't going to go through the pain of divorce or that everything would work out the way I wanted it to. But He reminded me that He was with me and that He would be holding my hand. Igbok.

I did a little research about igbok and found the website of the people who coined the acronym. It is biblically-based and speaks truth that we can believe. At this season of celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace, may we all find comfort and joy in those little letters. Igbok.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The hustle and bustle of Christmas

This weekend (and the week leading up to it) will be my busiest for the month. Saturday and Sunday night we will have Christmas Worship services at church (probably most of the readers of this blog will be participating in some way, but I like to write as if I'm a real blogger!), and I'm singing in the choir. I can't remember how many years this makes for me singing in the GCC choir for Christmas, but it is so much fun (most of the time) and I love the feel of the service. From the minute we start walking into the Chapel singing "Sing Aloud on This Day," it brings the birth of Christ to the forefront in my mind and heart.

Of course, since I'm now working at the church office, my level of involvement has jumped to a new level! Not only did I have the hectic schedule of rehearsing every Sunday afternoon for six weeks and enduring the "dreaded" dress rehearsal (which is a misnomer, since nobody dresses in what they'll wear for the real thing), but this year I got to be involved in the behind-the-scenes preparations (i.e.: the bulletin and helping to line up childcare for rehearsals and getting the notebooks--important stuff!). And yes, I'm tired on this Friday night. But am I any less excited for the actual nights? NO WAY!

The other thing that will make this a busy weekend is that I have not decorated our house for Christmas yet. Usually, we take care of that on the first weekend of December, so we can enjoy the tree all month and so Daniel is at my house and can get in on the fun (and put the angel on top). Well, for several reasons, we decided not to do it last weekend, one big one being that Daniel's drum set was sitting in the spot where the Christmas tree goes. Well, the drums went to their other home for a while and now there's a big, empty spot in the living room, just waiting for a tree. Oh, how I wish that elves would come in the night and get out all the decorations and let me wake up to the twinkling lights and a clean house! Dream all I want, I know that won't happen, so I'll work all day tomorrow to clean the house and put up the tree, and then will go sing my little heart out at church!

Once this weekend is over, my holiday season will get increasingly more quiet. I hope to do some fun things and still have Christmas cards to get in the mail and a few presents to buy, but most of the hustle and bustle will be over for me. And that won't necessarily be a bad thing! I can make a hot cup of tea (or a whole pot), find a good book and spend some time reading by the tree.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Contemplating

Earlier this year, I discovered a blog called Flying Solo by a writer named Denise Hildreth. Basically, she's a single-again, Christian woman who writes about being single and living life to the fullest as a believer. I've gotten some good perspective from reading this blog and while I don't feel like I am at the same place where she is in her journey (content with her singleness), it has been thought-provoking for me.

Case in point: Today's post on the blog asked some questions about finding your passion. I decided to take some time to answer the questions it posed and thought I'd share my answers here.

3 Tips To Awaken Your Life's Passion

1. List 10 things that you liked to do as a child. The age not important. Think about what you liked to do, how you enjoyed spending your free time, serious or silly things. Open your memory to the fun times you can recall.

1. Reading books
2. Playing pretend games with my sister
3. Drawing houses and decorating the rooms
4. Playing with our doll house (decorating it)
5. Taking pictures
6. Watching TV
7. Riding my bike
8. Spending time w/ friends
9. Going on trips (esp. to my grandparents' house and to Ridgecrest, NC)
10. Playing board games w/ my family (no laughing, Family!)


2. List 10 things you like doing as an adult. As above, no restrictions, give yourself permission to be fully true to yourself and honest about what you love to do since you became an adult.

1. Reading books/magazines
2. Making cards
3. Scrapbooking
4. Spending time w/ friends
5. Taking pictures
6. Walking (esp. at Radnor Lake or other park)
7. Going on trips
8. Spending time w/ family
9. Worshiping w/ other believers
10. Playing board games w/ family or friends


3. If you had $30 million deposited into your bank account ... tax free, after you upgraded your housing, made sure all your family and friends were financially secure, bought a new car, went on all the vacations you wanted, gave to all the charities you wanted, what would you do next with your life?

1. Ride in a hot air balloon.
2. Hire a personal trainer and a registered dietician/chef
3. Explore and nurture my writing gifts/abilities


There are really two parts to answering this question. First of all, putting the money to one side. Are you doing now what you love to do, whether or not you were being paid to do it? If you did not need money, would you be doing it anyway? If not, what would you be doing, just for the love and pleasure of it? Open your mind.
Second of all, how would you use the money? How might you be living? Are you called to make a difference in any part of your world?

The Huffington Post/Anne Naylor


After reading back over my answers to the first two questions, one thing that I found interesting was that I had very similar things that I liked to do as a child and as an adult. I think that shows that I have not changed a whole lot in that way since I was born and that I thrive on spending time with people and being creative.

Another thing I realized from answering the final question was that I would do the job I'm doing even if I wasn't being paid for it. I have finally been given the opportunity to have a job that that I feel fits my giftedness and personality. As an added blessing, I am doing something to serve the Lord and the Body of Christ, and that is very rewarding. I give praise and thanksgiving to God for providing this for me this year! Sure, there are times when things get hectic or I have to do a task that isn't as fun, but on the whole, I love my job!

So, maybe you are in a place where it would help you to think about these things. If you feel like sharing them, leave a comment or email (nrryan5100@yahoo.com) me. I'd love to hear about what your passions are!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmastime is here!

It's December! Christmas is coming! Most of the time I'm very excited about the season and look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. Of course, watching Erica discover Christmas this year is very fun! She probably still won't remember this Christmas when she's older, but at fifteen months old, she is definitely engaging more in the festivities. This picture below is my favorite one taken when we were helping Erica and her parents put up their Christmas tree.



I'm also excited about a couple of favorite Christmas season events that I'm going to be a part of again this year. One is the Nashville Baptist Association Toy Store. In the past, I've volunteered as a "shopper's helper" and assisted a mom as she chose toys and gifts for her children, free of charge. This year, I've been able to coordinate the donations and volunteers from our church and am looking forward to being a "shopper's helper" again on Monday. This experience always puts things in a different perspective and I get as much a blessing out of helping the moms shop as I hope and pray that they get in receiving the gifts.

The other event that has become a tradition for me is singing in the choir for our church's Christmas Worship service. I enjoy being able to sing with the group and each year the numbers have grown (I think we have around 50 singers this year). It really helps put me in the Christmas spirit and helps me remember why we celebrate.

There are hard things about this season for me, too, especially on these "quiet" Christmases, when my parents and I will be together while Daniel and the Masseys are away for part of the time. When I start to get sad, though, I remember that I have a very full life and am blessed to have my family and friends and many other blessings in my life. I just need to continually keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. He's the One we celebrate and is our Emmanuel, God with us!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So glad I didn't miss it!

Last night was Daniel's fall band concert at Hume-Fogg. He played snare drum in three or four of the songs done by the concert band, and then there were other ensembles and bands on the program. After a typically busy Friday, and rushing to get downtown to the concert, and sitting in a darkened auditorium, I could have been easily convinced to go home after the portion of the concert that Daniel played in (except that I was his ride home and he had to stay). Just saying what my "druthers" would have been if the circumstances would have allowed.

But, oh what I would have missed if I had left early! As part of the concert, HFA hosted the symphonic band from the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences, in a reciprocal program. They played four songs, the final one being an arrangement of "Amazing Grace". The selection of that song in the repertoire was awesome enough, being in a public school concert, but right before the last stanza, the back doors of the auditorium opened and in marched a bagpipe player (who happened to be the arranger of the piece, a Nashvillian named Jay Dawson) adding a spectacular, standing ovation-inspiring ending to that part of the concert.

I was still tired and ready for bed when we got home after 10:00 last night, but I am so glad I didn't miss all that the concert had to offer!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Amazing bug phenomenon or mystery

This is going to be one of the more mundane posts I've ever written, but I've got a sort of phenomenon/mystery going on at my house. For some unknown reason, we keep finding these ugly, black, beetle-looking bugs in the den. The den is a converted garage (way before our ownership of the house), so it sits at ground level and right now I need new weather-stripping on the outside door because you can see the light coming in (that's a post for another day). That's probably where these bugs (or bug) are getting in.

Anyway, last week, I was sitting on the couch and noticed one of these bugs crawling across the floor. I squished it good and threw it away. Later that same night, I saw another one, so I ran and got a snack-size baggie to put it in to save as evidence for the exterminator. I sealed that bug up in that baggie and put the baggie up on top of the entertainment center and resumed my exciting evening of Facebooking and watching TV. I kept hearing a scratching noise and finally realized the bug was moving around in the baggie, so I ignored it.

A couple of nights later, Daniel was home with me and we saw another black beetle-bug, so I jumped up to get the baggie to let the new guy hang out with his "friend". To my shock and amazement, the baggie was empty! Nada. No bug to be seen. I checked to make sure that the baggie was zipped up and had no other holes in it and neither was the case. I had a few "freak out" moments, in which I told Daniel I thought that we had a nest of bugs under the couch (wrong thing to say), and we ended up checking under the cushions and under the couch and found no more bugs.

Fast-forward to tonight. I happened to see another bug friend crawling across the floor, so I went for the trusty baggie again to capture it. Guess what? THE BAGGIE WAS EMPTY AGAIN!!! I don't know what's happening to these captured bugs, but they must be of the "Houdini" species, because they can escape zipped up baggies! I have now "double bagged" this latest visitor, so stay tuned . . .

(And if you're really that bored that you've read this far or would really stay tuned, maybe we need to look into finding you a hobby!)

Friday, November 6, 2009

In a NY state of mind


Lately I've been having a desire to go to NYC. There are a few factors that have contributed to this and I can't seem to get it out of my mind.

First, just in case someone reading this doesn't know that I spent most of my growing up years living 15 miles from Manhattan, it's not that I'm wanting to go visit someplace I've never been before. I recently had the realization that it has been four years since I was there, and I miss it.

Secondly, with the Yankees being in (and now having WON) the World Series, New York kept getting into my radar. I'm not one who watches baseball all season long, mainly because I have a lot of other things taking up my time, but when the play-offs start and then it's time for the World Series, I just get in a baseball mood. It doesn't hurt when one of the NY teams is playing . . . makes it more interesting for me. And for a random fact: my high school marching band had the honor of playing the National Anthem for at least one Yankees game and so I, as a distinguished member of the color guard, got to twirl my flag in the outfield, as well as stand at attention during the song.

The third factor that is making me want to go to NYC is the upcoming holiday season. Christmas in NY is just plain fun. From the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center to the decked out department store windows to the Empire State Building lit up in red and green lights, I love experiencing Christmastime in the City. When I was a little girl, our family used to go see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and for many years had a tradition of going into NYC on "Christmas Eve Eve" to see the sights.



I don't know if I'll get up there this year, but if anyone wants to get a group trip together, I'll be the tour guide!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lessons

God is so good! He gently reminds me of His Truth and how His way is the best way. Today, He gave me multiple lessons,from multiple sources, about living close to Him and about how He is a creative God who does only what is best for His children.

First thing this morning, reading in Jesus Calling, I was reminded from Psalm 32:8 how He constantly shows me the direction which I should go and watches over me. I just have to stay in communication with Him.

This was reinforced when I read the devotional from Joni and Friends in my inbox today. Below is a portion that spoke to me:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.'-- Isaiah 30:21

If you are intimate with the Lord, if your communication with him is close, he will tell you which way to go. But if your ears are dull to his voice, and your heart unyielding to his nudging, you won't have a clue as to which direction to take.

(Taken from More Precious Than Silver. Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530)

The second lesson, also started for me this morning in Jesus Calling, was the reminder that God, as Creator of the universe, the most creative Being imaginable, will never leave His children running in circles, getting into ruts. He leads us along "fresh trails of adventure, revealing to us things we did not know."

My friend, David Atchison, then reinforced this thought for me in his weekly devotional for people in the workplace, "Higher Call". Titled "The Creativity of His Calling," David reminded us that God can use us in mighty ways, and in different scenarios, many times very different than what we could have planned for ourselves. His prayer at the end especially made me think about what I'd read in Jesus Calling:
Lord, Your Word tells me that all of my days have been ordained and written in Your book. What a thought! You have given such care and attention to the details of my life, more than I will ever realize. I am so grateful for Your creativity and Your thoughtfulness. It gives me confidence in the future You have mapped out for me, and it gives me such great anticipation of the possibilities that lie ahead. Thank You for Your presence and companionship in my journey.

I'm not in any real quandaries right now, or facing any huge decisions, but I do think about my future and wonder what's in store for my life in different areas. I'm so thankful that I serve a faithful, loving, creative God, who never leaves me and who is always whispering in my ear the way I should go. As long as I stay in close communication with Him and keep my eyes fixed on Him, I can know that He will bring about His best for me!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Break Fun

We had a little bit of a "stay-cation" for the first part of Daniel's fall break this past week. We got some good "at home" time (read as: Daniel got to watch lots of ESPN and play his drums) and also got to go on a couple of fun, fall outings.

The first one was last Monday, which was Grandpa's birthday. We went out to the Loveless Cafe for a late breakfast and had some of their famous yummy biscuits. We decided to act like tourists in our hometown and take some pictures by the sign and by their fall decorations.





Then on Tuesday afternoon, we went with Jeanette and Erica to Walden Farm, down in Nolensville/Smyrna, and had a fun time walking around the pumpkin patch and seeing the farm animals. Erica was actually more interested in the Fisher Price farms they had set out for kids to play with than the real animals, but that's OK!




Friday, October 16, 2009

Long lost friends

As the weather has finally turned cooler this week, I've been reminded of some old friends that I hadn't thought much about over the summer months. Here are some of my favorite things that are best experienced in colder weather:

* scarves

* warm drinks like tea, hot chocolate, pumpkin spice latte (yum!)

* fleece tops

* cozy throw blankets

* warm slippers

* soups and stews

* my "bed buddy" that I heat up in the microwave and wear on my neck

* down comforter

* sweaters

* boots

I wouldn't say that I really missed these friends when it was hot outside, but I'm sure glad to know that they're still around, ready to come out and play when the temperature drops!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Erica time!

I think it's been a while since I've done a blog post about sweet Erica! Today I got some good "Erica time" in when we went to Maxwell Brothers produce stand and to walk at the greenway. Very fun!!!





Friday, October 9, 2009

Mickey or Minnie?

I've had some interesting characters come through the church house in my almost six months of working there, but today's visitors were most UN-welcome. I guess I should say Thursday's visitors, because we only found evidence that they'd been there today. First thing this morning, I noticed some little black dots on the counter in the kitchen. Showed them to my coworker and we thought they were dead bugs. Five minutes later, I noticed some of those same little black blobs on my desk. "Uh, Amy, these aren't bugs! It's mouse droppings!" YUCK! EWWWW! NO!!!!!

We (OK, it was mostly me) freaked a little bit, then called the exterminator, who came and verified that we had, in fact, had visits from Mickey and/or Minnie, and maybe Mighty, too. Actually he said that what we saw could have only been done by one mouse. He also proceeded to use some exterminator "humor" by asking if we knew how to tell if the droppings were fresh. (EWWWW!!!) Then continued to tell us some of the physiological functions of mice and what we'd see if he shined a black light in the room. (I said, EWWWWW!). He investigated further, found the probable entry point under the sink, left a bunch of glue boards in strategic places, and left us to the task of cleaning up the office.

Since two of the glue boards are by my desk, I will be MOST unhappy if I come in on Monday to find Mickey or Minnie hanging around. And let me tell you, that glue is industrial strength! Later in the day, I accidentally stuck the leg of the step-stool on one of the glue boards in the kitchen and it was not easy to remove it!

My morning devotion this morning was an admonition to do everything without complaining, so I've been trying to find the positives in this experience and tried to look for ways to be thankful in this circumstance. I've been hoping that maybe the no complaining thing didn't count when you found mouse dookie on your desk and counters, but somehow, I don't think that's the case.

So for starters on the positives:

1. We have an incredibly clean kitchen at the church house (not that it was that awful before, but it's Clorox clean now).
2. And we got rid of mustard packets that expired in 2007 and various and asundry other things that had been stashed in those vintage cabinets.
3. I was not stressed out with other pressing matters this afternoon and was wearing jeans, so it could have been a lot worse.

I hope that Mickey and Minnie don't bring their friends to party at the church house this weekend, and if they do, that someone else finds them on the glue boards before I get there on Monday. I'm pretty sure that if I do see evidence of them, I'll need another reminder to be thankful and not complain!

Monday, October 5, 2009

God's grace is amazing!

Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound
Amazing Love
Now flowing down
From hands and feet
That were nailed to the tree
As Grace flows down and covers me

I hesitate to even write about this, but it's on my mind and heart, so I waited until the day is almost over. It's not about pity or sorrow, as much as I just have to tell you about God's amazing grace to me.

October 4th and 5th are days I will always remember. Four years ago, on October 4th, my divorce became final. It was pretty anticlimatic for most everyone involved. It had already been a year and a half since the marriage had broken up, but it became official on October 4. Ironically, October 5th is the day the marriage began. Today would have been the 18th anniversary.

I won't tell you that I didn't think of these dates coming up and that they went unnoticed in my mind. Thanks to my gracious Lord, He brought me through these past two days with true joy in my heart. Not joy because of my circumstances, because I still hate divorce and what it did to my family. But true joy because of the grace that I have received from the day I was born, and because of the grace that God has shown me over these past years of being single again. He has truly upheld me with His righteous right hand and has never left me or forsaken me. I can believe those promises from Isaiah more now than I could five or six years ago.

Some evidences of His grace that I've seen and felt over the past couple of days are:

* Being able to be with friends and fellow church members for worship on Sunday
* Being told that just seeing me is an encouragement to a friend who is going through a marital separation
* Receiving unexpected compliments
* Receiving a text from my sweet sister today
* Reminders from scripture when reading today's devotion in "Jesus Calling"
* The fact that these days being in October don't ruin the whole month for me

So, I just had to write about this tonight. I didn't want to make a big deal about these days, but wanted to let others know of God's wonderful acts and encourage others to seek His face and His strength. It's His amazing grace that covers us and gets us through the tough things in this life.

"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always."
1 Chronicles 16:8-11

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I love Fall!

Fall is my favorite season! I know that it means that Winter is right around the corner, but I like the change of seasons and think that fall is a refreshing change after a hot summer.

Here are some of my favorite things about Fall:

* Clear blue skies
* Brilliant colors of the changing leaves
* Walking on crunchy fallen leaves (especially at Radnor Lake)
* The cool, crisp feel of the air
* Pumpkin Spice Latte!
* Pumpkin Pie
* Memories of being in the high school marching band
* Fall decorations
* Hay rides
* Colorful mums
* Mountain vista views

What are some of your favorite things about this season?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

She would have been 100 years old today!



One hundred years ago today, on September 22, 1909, my grandmother was born in Grassy Creek, NC. Edna Ophelia, or Maw-Maw, as I called her, was the next to youngest daughter of Willis and Sally Walker. She had older brothers who fought in the World Wars. Her father owned a general store and she went to high school at Virginia-Carolina School. She only was able to complete part of her teaching certificate because her parents died. She moved to Maryland as a young woman (above photo is probably from before she moved away from NC), and there met my granddaddy, Gwyn Blevins. They married and had three children, the oldest a daughter who eventually gave birth to me!

I was born in Maryland and was blessed to have spent lots of time with Maw-Maw when I was young. Even after we moved to New Jersey, we still got to go visit Maw-Maw and Granddaddy four or five times a year. I have so many memories of being at their house and cherish the things that I learned from them. In fact, Maw-Maw is the one who helped me remember when I first accepted Christ as my Savior. Since I did that early in my life, as I got older, sometimes I couldn't remember the exact details and asked her to tell me what she remembered. It was a sweet assurance when she said that I loved Jesus from an early age and that I had asked questions and made a decision to ask Jesus into my heart.

Maw-Maw outlived her husband, and eventually moved to Tennessee to live close to my parents and our family. She lived a long life, passing away in February 2003, at the age of 93. I am so thankful that she got to know her great-grandson, Daniel. He didn't know her like I knew her, since she was not as active in her later years, but she made an impact on his life and he has memories of her as well.

When Maw-Maw died, I wrote down some of my memories of her. In her memory and to honor her life on what would have been her 100th birthday, here are some of the things I remember about Maw-Maw:

. . .She was in the back seat of the car with me when we went to pick up Mom and Baby Jeanette from the hospital. Maw-Maw gave me Ritz crackers out of the long, wax paper sleeves they came in then.

. . .In the kitchen, cooking: She would make big breakfasts and have “dinner” for lunch and snacks for supper. She made “hotcakes” not “pancakes” and made delicious, melt-in-your mouth yeast rolls that she taught me how to fold over "just so" on my hand before putting them on the pan. The rolls were usually for holidays and special occasion meals.

. . .In the kitchen, washing dishes: She’d run the soapy water on the left side and the rinse water on the right. She’d get it as hot as she could stand. She’d bring the dish drainer up out from under the sink and put the wet, clean dishes in it to drain a bit before I dried. I (or whomever was drying) had to dry very thoroughly and not put anything away with any water still on it. She’d put away the dish drainer after every dishwashing.

. . .Making apple pies. They were my favorite and she made me at one as a “birthday cake” the year I was five.

. . .Making salmon cakes. That was a favorite meal she made and when I grew up and got married, one day I called her to ask her how to make them. She told me how to make the salmon cakes (“Use Old Bay seasoning”), she said to make sure I made homemade macaroni and cheese and cooked some lima beans to go with the salmon cakes. I already had that in my mind because that's the way she had done it.

. . .Humming. She would often hum hymns as she worked, either in the kitchen or down in her basement where she did laundry, ironed and canned.

. . .Doing laundry on Mondays. In the warm weather, she would wash the clothes inside in the washing machine and hang them out to dry on the clotheslines out back. I’d get to help her hang things up and take them in when they were dry. She folded clothes sometimes on the kitchen table upstairs or in the basement on a table down there.

. . .Ironing on Tuesdays down in the basement. She had spray starch and would iron everything except socks, even blue jeans, unless we stopped her from putting a crease in ours. She’d turn on “The Price is Right” and other morning game shows and talk shows while she worked, but never wanted to see those old “stories” which is what she called the soap operas in the afternoon.

. . .Gardening her small plots (Granddaddy did the big garden), until her skin couldn’t handle the sun and pesticides and she had to leave the gardening to Granddaddy.

. . .Canning and freezing strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, beans, peas, that they grew in the garden or got from the orchard (peaches, apples). She’d fill up the shelves behind the stairs that led to the basement from the kitchen and at least one whole freezer and we’d usually get some to take home to NJ with us every time we came, anytime of year.

. . .Sitting in her recliner in the living room in the evening. She’d read, talk to Granddaddy, sometimes watch some TV. She had a more feminine recliner-rocker chair and Granddaddy had the big, comfy, well used, recliner. She also had the reputation of buying things and them not being to her liking once she got them home (Granddaddy was a saint for being her courier on many a return to the store). She even returned recliner chairs if they "threw her neck off". :-)

. . .Sewing in the extra room that we slept in. She used to make Jeanette and me dresses and jumpers and she made most of her own housedresses and pantsuits. She taught me how to stitch and to sew a button. She’d let me have scraps of fabric and an old purse to use as my sewing basket. She taught me to make some small doll clothes and coin purses.

. . .Going to church. She or Granddaddy would take me to the appropriate Sunday School class and make sure the teacher knew who I was. I always loved it when people told me they knew my grandparents (which was most people at Oak Grove). In “big church” when I was small, I’d sit with her and listen to her sing the hymns and when I got older, she let me sit with my friends that I’d made there. After church we’d stand around and visit and wait for Granddaddy to finish counting money or seeing to what he had been doing. If Mom was with us, I loved to hear people greet her and catch up with her on their lives.

. . .Having morning Bible readings with Granddaddy in the kitchen. They would read the Bible and the missionary birthday list and then pray together for their family and the missionaries before they ate breakfast. When I was visiting, I would join them, or if I weren’t up yet, I’d hear them and listen in from the guest room, which was right next to the kitchen.

. . .Sitting on the back porch on summer evenings. After supper she’d sit down and rest a little bit and we’d visit or she’d visit with her neighbors. Sometimes we’d walk over and see Mrs. Holloway, Mrs. Gilley or Mrs. Duncan.

. . .Going to Harford Mall or Thrift Drug store. We’d usually see somebody that we knew when we were out in Bel Air like that and I liked it when she would say, "and this is Nancy's girl." Granddaddy did all of the grocery shopping, but Maw-Maw liked to go on other shopping trips.

. . .Keeping butter mints or small pastel mints in the glass candy dish with the metal lid that clinked when you touched the lid to the glass, no matter how carefully you tried to take it off or put it back (and she always knew!).

. . .Making the beds each morning after breakfast. She also didn’t like for us to sit on the bed to play or whatever, but that was mainly after she thought she’d ruined a mattress by sitting on the edge of it when she talked on the phone.

. . .Talking on the phone. She’d visit with her church friends and kept up with what was going on.

. . .Going to the beauty parlor. She’d get a perm every few weeks and every week would go get her hair washed and set.

. . .Washing my hair in the basement sink. She said my hair was like a duck’s because water would roll off of it at first.

. . .Telling me about her growing up years and especially her special relationships with her sister, Iola, and her brothers, Cicero, Challie and Jim.

. . .Going to visit Uncle Don and Aunt Iola, Uncle Challie and Aunt Hazel, Uncle Cicero and Aunt Winnie and cousin Ethelene.

. . .Wearing dark sunglasses and having special tinted film on the car windows that Granddaddy put there to keep the sun out of her eyes. She also had a leather seat so she could slide in easier than on the fabric-covered seat.

. . .Coming to my graduation from college in 1989 and then my wedding in 1991 with Granddaddy. They loved coming to Nashville because they watched “Nashville” every night on TV (they watched The Nashville Network on cable).

. . .Living in the condo and then mobile home. I missed their house on Prospect Mill Road, where all of the things I wrote above took place.

. . .Living in the assisted living or nursing homes. She still loved to visit with others and liked for people to come see her. The workers always loved her and said she was sweet.

. . .Seeing Daniel, her first great-grandchild, for the first time. I knew she loved babies and had seen her with my younger cousins and other children, but it was such a special thrill for me to present her with my sweet baby boy and let her hold him. Later, seeing Daniel “sing” into her pronged cane and play around her or out in the park at McKendree. . . .She loved to see Daniel when he came to visit and he would talk loudly to her and give her hugs and kisses. He interviewed Maw-Maw for a school project and wrote an essay about her.

. . .Drinking a Coke and eating crackers during afternoon visits at McKendree Village in Hermitage. She also liked thin crust sausage pizza from Pizza Hut and liked to eat it with Pringles on the side.

. . .Having her tell me I was one of her special girls and giving me a kiss and a smile.

I've been told that I'm a lot like my Maw-Maw. Sometimes that hasn't necessarily been given as a compliment, since she was particular in her ways (the recliner incident being one example), but I am glad that I have some of her traits. She loved her family, was a hard worker, and loved her Lord Jesus. If I can be like her in those ways, and live as long as she did, I will have had a good life!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life Without Sugar

It’s been a little over a week since I took on the no-sugar challenge and I will say that it hasn’t been as bad as I anticipated. With the exception of last Friday night, I haven’t been miserable in craving sweets or carbs (although I did have a Chai latte and a zucchini muffin over the weekend). For the most part, I’m feeling better without the sugar in my body and am really only missing fruit, which I get to add back in my diet next week (yay!).

This journey is about more than sugar for me, though. It’s not even really about food, although that seems to be my trouble spot. What it’s about is obedience and idolatry. I’ve had weight issues for most of my life. I have had many victories along the way and have tried to desire a healthy body over looking a certain way or fitting into a certain size jeans. I have known the right things to do to stay healthy, but many times, it came down to not doing what I know to do. That’s an obedience issue, not a food issue.

As I’ve struggled this year with my weight, I found myself wondering if making an effort to eat healthy foods was not still a form of idolatry for me. Just this morning, I was crying out to God, asking Him to help me not to be so consumed with the process of losing weight, but to keep Him in the forefront of my mind. When I am consciously making an effort to eat healthy foods, it takes a lot of thought and planning. When I choose to not to put so much thought into eating healthy foods, I gain weight, because I let myself eat whatever feels good at the time. Either way, I think it’s idolatry.

I don’t really have any good answers or solutions at this point. I believe that I was created by God to do good works (Eph. 2:10). I know that I was formed in my mother’s womb and that I was “skillfully wrought” by a God who loves me and wants good things for me (Ps. 139:13-16). So, I will continue to start each day by turning my thoughts to Jesus and how I can live for Him. I will continue to try to make smart choices about what I put in my mouth and will keep praying for strength to be obedient without making food an idol.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jonesin' for carbs

So, I decided that the day after Labor Day seemed like a good time to start getting back on track with healthy eating. I'd been letting weight creep back on after several years of sort of maintaining weight loss. In the past, I'd lost 30 lbs two different times, once in my twenties and once in my thirties (a few years after having a baby). Now that I'm in my forties, the weight has not been as easy to get off and I've been back in a rut of not wanting to do what I know works, which is to eat healthy foods and controlled portions.

I've heard several people recommend the benefits of the South Beach Diet. I wasn't too crazy about the prospect of giving up carbs and sugar for the first two weeks of Phase One, but I decided that I can do anything for fourteen days, so I decided to try it. I really need something to jump start my body into losing weight again. My type of metabolism (called non-existent) doesn't like any effort to get rid of fat and poundage, so I knew it would need a huge jolt.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday went pretty well. I planned ahead, packed healthy meals and snacks to take to work, and had nary a carb for three days. I didn't miss bread hardly at all, but fruit is another story. I love berries, apples, grapes . . . almost every fruit except for bananas. But again, I can do anything for fourteen days, and then I'll get to reintroduce fruit back into my eating plan.

Well, welcome to Friday! Day Four. My craziest day at the office. I had plans to meet a friend at Starbuck's before work and I planned to get herbal tea or a sugar-free latte with nonfat milk. When I got up to the counter, I don't know what I was thinking, but I ordered a Chai Latte. It was nonfat, but it had sugar. I didn't get a yummy-looking pastry or scone, and after I got to work, I ate the food I had packed for the day (not all at once).

Fast-forward to the end of the day, the start of the weekend! I got home and started thinking about what I wanted to have for dinner. Nothing sounded good, except for things I couldn't have right now. Commercials for pizza and burgers mocked me. I couldn't go to the Greek Festival either, unless I wanted to just look at and smell that delicious food. So, here I am, jonesin' for carbs. I haven't given in yet, but I don't know how long those celery sticks and hummus are going to last. HELP!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Celebrating Jeanette!

Today is the anniversary of when I became a big sister! On this day, just a few years ago (I'll let her tell you how many), God blessed me with a new playmate, friend, and confidante, although I didn't always see it as a blessing all of the time! I do now and that's what counts! I'm so thankful for my sister, and am glad that she has put up with me as her big sister all these years!

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Attitude adjustment

I woke up early this morning dreading a task. My car a/c has been out for a few weeks and I needed to take the time to take it to the Honda dealership to find out the diagnosis (actually, to get a second opinion) and see how much it was going to cost to fix it. My hope was that it would be under warranty and that it could get fixed today, but I still dreaded the time it would take to go there and wait and I doubted that I would get out of there without a huge repair bill.

Before I left, I read today's entry in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which said, from Jesus' perspective, "I am your best friend, as well as your King. Walk hand in hand with Me through your life. Together we will face whatever each day brings: pleasures, hardships, adventures, disappointments." My first reminder for the day of how closely Jesus wants me to walk with Him.

I got ready and posted a fairly negative status on Facebook, still feeling defeated before I even got out the door. In the car on the way, I turned on the radio and heard a string of songs (on two different stations) that continued to remind me that Jesus is with me, holding my hand: Rich Mullins/Step By Step, David Crowder Band/Holy, Phillips, Craig & Dean/Friend of God. Then the song, Savior, Please came on the radio. I happened to know it, even though it is by up-and-coming artist, Josh Wilson, because he goes to my church and I have his CD. Here are the lyrics (written by Josh Wilson and Ben Glover) that spoke straight to my heart as I drove up I-65 this morning:

Savior, please take my hand.
I work so hard. I live so fast.
This life begins, and then it ends.
And I do the best that I can,
But I don't know how long I'll last.

Chorus:
I try to be so tough.
But I'm just not strong enough.
I can't do this alone,
God I need you to hold onto me.
I try to be good enough
But I'm nothing without your love
Savior, please keep saving me.

Savior, please help me stand.
I fall so hard, I fade so fast.
Will you begin right where I end?
And be the God of all I am
Because You're all that I have.(chorus)

Bridge:
Hallelujah!
Everything You are to me
Is everything I'll ever need.
And I'm learning to believe
That I don't need to prove a thing
'Cause You're the One who's saving me.(chorus)


When that song came on, I had tears in my eyes, realizing how good God is to me! How many more reminders do I need to get it through my head that I can't do this life alone--and that I don't have to! Jesus is with me. He's my friend. He loves me. He's holding my hand, every step of the way. Yes, God's grace astounds me!

And by the way, my car still isn't fixed and the bill is high, but after my attitude check, I have my joy back and I'm going to continue to trust Jesus to walk with me as we figure this one out!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Joyful Day!



I love Sundays! I usually wake up in a good mood, looking forward to going to church to worship with other believers. Today was no exception, and in fact was even more joyful because it was a special day for our family. Today was the day that Jeanette and Russell publicly dedicated Erica to the Lord! What made it extra-special and reason for thankfulness was that all of Erica's grandparents, Nana and Papa Massey and Grandma and Grandpa Ryals were able to be there.



At our church, this time is called a Parent-Child Dedication, and the entire congregation, as well as family members, are called to covenant with the parents to raise the child in the ways of the Lord. As Jason Miller, the Director of Children's Ministry, says to each child, "We care about the outcome of your soul." I love that!

We knew that with Erica being almost a year old, she'd probably do something cute during her time up on the platform (either that, or she'd just stare at the congregation, and I'm glad she went with the first option!). Before the service started, Jeanette let Erica play on the steps in the front of the church and Erica would look over at us sitting on the third row and wave. When it was their time to go up on the platform, Erica was pretty calm in Jeanette's arms and then reached over to try to "help" her daddy read from Ephesians 3, verses 16 through 19. Then it was time for Jason to say a prayer for Erica with his hand on her head. Erica just looked at him for most of the time and then, as if to say she was ready for it to be over, moved Jason's hand away. And she didn't disappoint us in the cuteness factor either. As they were coming down the steps, Erica clapped for herself and got some chuckles. And then for her grand finale, she waved at everyone as Jeanette carried her down the aisle to take her to the nursery as we all stood to sing!

Erica's parents have committed her to the Lord's keeping ever since they found out that they were pregnant with her, and today's public dedication is just an extention of that for all of us. I'm thankful that we have a legacy of faith, coming down from grandparents and parents, that we can pass on to the next generations!



"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:5

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I (Heart) NC!


Most of my childhood took place in a suburb of New York City, so I know the slogan is "I (Heart) NY", but in my case I also have a love for North Carolina, namely, the NC mountains. I have many happy memories of time spent with family and friends at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in Black Mountain, outside of Asheville. Another reason might be that my maternal grandparents were raised in the NC mountains. Not to be worshiping my ancestors or feeling like I'm one with the mountains, but whenever I go across the state line into NC, I just feel happy. I think it must be that NC heritage in my blood!

This past weekend, my friend, Kelly, and I went to visit our friend, Michele, who lives in the mountain town of Jefferson, NC, in the northwest corner of the state. This little town, along with West Jefferson, are in Ashe County, which is where my grandparents grew up. I remember doing a family history report in high school and having my grandmother tell me that she was from Grassy Creek, NC, and that she also counted West Jefferson as "home". My grandfather also grew up in that area, but they didn't meet until they were young adults in Bel Air, Maryland, where they had moved to find work during the Depression.



Today, Grassy Creek is not much more than a wide place in the road (and maybe it wasn't then either) near the North Carolina/Virginia border. We found a Baptist Church and a Methodist Church and a Post Office. I'm sure if we dug around some more, we'd find some cemeteries where my relatives from both sides were buried, and there might still be someone who remembered hearing stories of my great-great grandfather, Dr. Manly Blevins, who doctored in Ashe County, or knew where the Virginia-Carolina School had stood, where my grandmother graduated.

It was a fun weekend, getting to drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and spend time in Boone and Blowing Rock. I'm sure I'll go back to visit there someday and who knows, maybe I'll actually live there one day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birthday Boy (make that, Young Man!)


I'm a little behind in posting this, but better late than never, right?

And it's still his birthday MONTH!

Daniel turned 14 on July 2 and had several celebrations over the next couple of weeks.




On his birthday morning, I gave him a portable DVD player and we treated him to Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the church office (where he was privileged to hang out for the morning and even got to go shopping with Josh, the youth minister, to get things for youth camp)! Daniel said, "I'm only fourteen and I've already had a birthday party at work!"




That afternoon, Cary took Daniel and some of his friends camping at Montgomery Bell State Park. Thankfully, the weather was unseasonably "cool" for early July, and they had a great time being guys out in the woods. I decided that they didn't need me tagging along for that adventure!


Later in the weekend, we got together with Grandma, Grandpa, Jeanette, Russell and Erica at the rehab hospital to have a family celebration. We ordered pizza, ate cake and ice cream and had a fun time celebrating Daniel!





Daniel also got to celebrate with his Ryan grandparents and Aunt Dana up in KY when he was there last week. He really knows how to stretch out those birthday celebrations!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Water Baby

It's been a while since I posted any pictures of Erica and these were some fun recent shots I took of her in her pool. She's nine and a half months old and is crawling, pulling up, waving and corners the market on cute!










Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer reading

Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed reading. And then you give me the lazy, hazy days of summer, throw in some good books and a cold drink, and you have one happy chick! Some of my favorite times growing up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, involved walking the three or four blocks to the public library, where in the summertime, they always had a Summer Reading Game for the kids to participate in. I would bring home stacks of books each time I went and can even remember our family making a stop on our way out of town for my sister and me to go in and do our oral reports to move our places around the game board. It was that important!

Fast-forward a couple of (OK, three) decades, and you can still find me relaxing with a good book on a lazy summer (or winter, spring or fall) afternoon, and most evenings before I fall asleep. My favorite books to read are usually Christian fiction, and I love a good series that doesn't end for at least four or five books. My favorite author is Jan Karon, and I have read her Mitford series all the way through at least twice, but I have other faves: Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn (Sisterchicks), Dave & Neta Jackson (YadaYada Prayer Group series), to name a few. My newest "finds" have been Angela Hunt and Denise Hildreth (they don't collaborate, they write separately).

I just finished a series by Denise Hildreth, that I'll call the "Savannah" series, which I highly recommend. It's about a girl (recent college graduate) named Savannah, who happens to live in Savannah, GA. It's funny, quirky, thought-provoking, and makes you want to visit that city (or go back, if you've been before). The third book in the series is set in Seaside, FL, which is also a fun location to read about!

I also have been reading a new series by Angela Hunt (who has written lots of other stuff, including The Nativity Story, which was made into a movie). The series I found most recently is about a divorced mom who inherits a funeral home in central Florida, and decides to move her family (two sons and her mother) from Washington, DC, to start a new life in the small town. I just bought the third book in the series because I was tired of waiting for the public library to get a copy for circulation.

So, what about you? What is on your list to read this summer? I know some people prefer to read nonfiction over fiction, which is fine, too. I personally love to "escape" into a good novel and tend to feel like I'm supposed to "get something out of" nonfiction, so I get bogged down (unless I'm reading it as a group book study). Whatever your pleasure, share some of your favorites. Here's to a great Summer of Reading!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!


Growing up in Glen Ridge, NJ, many of our Memorial Day holidays were spent marching in the annual parade. First as a Girl Scout, and then later on as a member of the flag line in the high school marching band, we'd assemble at Hurrell Field and march a couple of miles through the center of town to the Glen Ridge Middle School, where a ceremony took place to honor those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

The whole town would come out to line the streets, wave flags and watch as the Scouts (Cubs and Brownies, all the way up to Eagles and Seniors), the Police and Fire Departments (I remember our friend, Mr. Thorpe, drove the vingtage ambulance representing the Volunteer Fire Squad), marching band and squads of veterans marched along Ridgewood Avenue. My sister was once one of the wreath-bearers in the ceremony, maybe even the year the above photo was taken (isn't she so cute, standing at attention and wearing her digital watch above her white gloves!). My dad, along with many other residents of our town, would display the American Flag from the front porch.

I am thankful to have been taught to remember those who bravely served our country. I have uncles who fought in both World Wars (some I never met) and Daniel's grandfather, Dan Ryan, served our country in Vietnam. My cousin, Mary, recently returned from Iraq and currently serves in the Air Force at the Pentagon. Today, I will be remembering the families of those who are currently serving and of those soldiers who lost their lives serving our country. Thank you, Lord, for giving us true freedom through Christ and for allowing our country to be protected and blessed through the service and sacrifice of many.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Applause, applause!

There's been a lot of clapping going on in our family lately. Last week, Daniel got all decked out for his eighth grade dance, "An Evening of Black and White." I was just killing time at the computer desk while he got ready, and suddenly heard him say, "Let's give it up for Dan-iel Ry-an!"

I looked over to see him strutting down the hall in his black pants, white shirt, black tie, and new black dress shoes! He was thankfully in a mood to pose for some pictures, so I got to get some good shots outside (and had him reenact the hallway "runway" scene!).


And as a side-note, can I just say that the difference between boys and girls was highly evident in the amount of time it took for Daniel to get ready. We were on a tight schedule, and walked in the door at 5:00 and needed to be back in the car by 5:30. If girls were involved in our scenario, I'm 100% certain that we couldn't have made it to the dance on time! ;-)

The applause continues, as Erica has learned to clap, and loves to clap for herself and then look around to see if anyone else will join in (which of course, we do!). Her big achievement lately has been that she can get herself up on all fours, and then back into a sitting position. That's when she smiles and claps!



As a mom and aunt, I am one of Daniel and Erica's biggest fans, so I'll gladly give applause and standing ovations, probably to their dismay on some occasions!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

They shine like stars in the universe

I'm talking about Ed and Doris Knight. You probably haven't ever heard of them, but I wish you could meet them. Mr. and Mrs. Knight, as I have always known them, were in the church that my dad pastored in Freehold, NJ, in the early 70s. In fact, if I remember the story correctly, they were there to meet our moving van when we moved into the parsonage, and helped take care of my sister and me while my parents got settled. I had just turned three and Jeanette was only six-months-old and cried a lot (sorry, J, just had to throw that in there). The Knights had three kids, but since their oldest child, Eddie, was in college, we didn't get to know him like we did his teen-aged sisters, Kayla and Pam. I remember spending time at their house and being baby-sat by Kayla and Pam. Jeanette was the flower girl in Kayla's wedding. One of our favorite games was to be Kayla and Pam when we were "playing pretend".

The Knights are originally from Arkansas and are now living back in Little Rock in their "retirement." In the 70s, they felt God calling them to be "tent-making" church planters, so they packed up and moved their family to Lincroft, New Jersey, where they continued their careers in education (Mr. Knight was a school principal and Mrs. Knight taught in the classroom). After helping to start West Monmouth Baptist Church, where my dad was pastor for four years, they moved on to help start Colts Neck Baptist Church, and were an active part of the work in the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association for thirty-some years.

After the Knights retired from teaching, they didn't move back to Arkansas or go to Florida to live out their "golden years". Their permanent residence remained in New Jersey, but they went global, traveling to China, Viet Nam, and many other countries, teaching English and sharing the Gospel with their lives.

Now in their 80s (but you would never guess that by looking at them), they are continuing to make a difference in the lives of internationals in Little Rock. Mr. and Mrs. Knight teach English classes once or twice a week and have their students and their families into their home for meals on a regular basis. They chose to teach the most basic class, and are touching lives from countries all over the globe: China, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq.

The Knights came through Nashville last night and stayed with my parents. I joined them for dinner and for some time at Jeanette's house (so they could meet Erica). We sat around and reminisced about our years spent together in central New Jersey, and they entertained us with stories from their world travels. I could have sat all night listening to the Knights!

Two stories that stood out to me last night. One was about a missionary named Jim, living in China, who was out on his bicycle one day. Among all of the chatter of Chinese daily life, he heard someone call out to him in English, "Hey you, come here!" He looked and saw an older Chinese man sitting on a chair, beckoning for him to come talk to him. When Jim went over to see what he wanted, the man said, "When I was a little boy, an American soldier told me about Jesus. Can you tell me about him again?" Jim shared with the man about Jesus and how to become a Christian and the man received Christ into his heart that day. Jim offered to return with a Bible and to disciple the man, and over time, the Chinese man's entire family came to know the Lord. Mrs. Knight explained how that small seed that was sown by the American soldier in World War II, sixty years earlier, had come to bear fruit in that Chinese man's heart and had impacted his whole family for the Gospel!

The other story that impacted me was about some students in Viet Nam. The Knights taught English for four months at an agricultural college in a rural area outside of a major city. They would invite their students to come to Bible study in their apartment on some evenings. One day Mr. Knight had gone to get some sodas and snacks to serve the students that night. He met a young woman and invited her to come to the study. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend and both of them arrived that evening. Before the study began, the girl said that she couldn't stay for some reason, but asked if her boyfriend could stay. The boyfriend stayed for the Bible study and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior that night! If Mr. Knight had not met the young woman and invited her to come to the Bible study, her boyfriend would probably not have been able to make that life-changing decision that particular night!

The Knights are an inspiration to me. I have struggled throughout my life (and still do) with boldly proclaiming the Gospel as I live my life. I have known that you don't have to be a career missionary to bring someone to Christ, but have had a hard time getting out of my comfort zone in my everyday life, in order to tell someone about Jesus. The Knights have lived their lives in such a way that the Gospel pours out of them. They were obedient to God's call on their lives to move to New Jersey and to faithfully serve in their churches and in their community. They have been continually obedient "to be witnesses to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They truly "shine like stars in the universe" (Phil. 2:14) and I am so thankful that God brought them into my life and has allowed me to be impacted by their example.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Couldn't be a more proud mom. . .

. . . if Daniel had hit a home run!

On Thursday night, the Burros had a late game (8:00 p.m.) and I was a little reluctant to go (and wondered if anyone would notice if I came to the game in my pj's). As it turned out, I would have been kicking myself if I'd missed it and it was worth sitting through almost two hours to get to see what happened at the end.

I think it was the sixth inning (there wasn't a working scoreboard, and that's the only way I usually know the score, inning, number of outs . . . you get the picture). There were two outs and it was Daniel's turn at bat. I was a little worried for him in that scenario, because I didn't want him to be the last out for his team, even though they were winning. Daniel swung and hit . . . right down the middle of the field, giving him a solid base hit. We all cheered, knowing that despite his best efforts and lots of hits throughout the season, this was the first time he'd made it on base this year. His hit even brought in a run (yes, I know it's called an RBI).

I think it was the next batter that got the third out, and Daniel started to make his way back to the dugout. When he got back there, I could see his teammates gathering around him and congratulating him, which was great to see. His team had to get back in the field to finish the inning, but when the game was over, Daniel's teammates surrounded him, patting him on the back and then lifted him up on their shoulders and carried him off the field! They also gave him the game ball and the celebrating continued all the way to the parking lot. Daniel was totally suprised and amazed at his team's reaction (and all I got was a blurry picture of it on my phone
. . . darn!).

At school on Friday, the news quickly got around (thanks to the morning announcements, where Daniel was given credit for making a game-winning hit, even though they won 8-2). Then, during the pep rally, the excitement happened all over again, with Daniel being cheered for and carried out of the gym on his teammates' shoulders. As Daniel said, "Now everyone seems to know who I am . . . WHOA!"

So, of course this mom is proud of her son and couldn't resist telling the story. But, what you need to know is that what I'm most proud of isn't the hit, although that was a big deal. What I am most proud of is the real reason that Daniel's team was celebrating with him. They recognized his consistent 110% effort, his team spirit and his great attitude (which he showed even when he didn't always hit the ball like he wanted to or didn't get to play the position he wanted or as many innings as he'd like). They were celebrating his personal victory and his character and their actions demonstrated how well-respected Daniel is among his teammates and friends.

That was better than a home run any day!

Monday, April 13, 2009

In case you haven't heard . . .

. . . I'm going to be changing jobs at the end of this week! Starting Monday, April 20th, I'm going to be working as Office Manager at Grace Community Church! It still feels a little surreal to me right now, and there are going to be some logistics to work out and new routines to get used to for me and Daniel, but I AM SO EXCITED!!!! Thankfully, I'll be able to shadow Jennifer Stadler for a few weeks since she's not going to have her baby quite yet (we hope!), so it will be fun to be able to work with her until the end of May. And, I'm so looking forward to working with Amy G. and the other staff. What a new adventure it will be!

I felt a little strange today at my current job, knowing it was my "last Monday" and that at the end of this week, I'll be packing up my pictures and cubicle "decor" and closing out my time at Pruett Financial Group. Everyone there is being so kind to me and I know it will be an adjustment to not see that group of people every day. I'm thankful that they have been so encouraging about my taking this step.

So, that's my big announcement. Sometimes, I still can't believe it's really happening!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This amazing God we serve

In case you are needing a good dose of God's amazing faithfulness, and a reminder of how much more amazing than words our God is, read this from my friend Elaine, and this from a girl I've never met, but have recently found her blog (we have mutual friends and her life is a huge blessing and inspiration--you are going to want to read more about her, I promise). There are no coincidences, friends, just God's wonderfully amazing and inconceivable sovereignty at work in the world that He has created and has allowed us to live in. To Him be the Glory always!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!

In case you ever wondered what forty-something-year-old moms like to do for fun on a Saturday night, here's a clue: it probably will involve eating out at a restaurant and going shopping. Both of those things are usually more fun without the people who call us "Mom" (although we love them dearly).

Tonight was a case-in-point. My friends and I made plans to go to eat at California Pizza Kitchen and then shop around in the Green Hills area, maybe even take a "field trip" to Trader Joe's (yes, we know that's a grocery store!). In spite of the tornado whistles that were going off in Williamson and Davidson Counties at the time we were leaving to go on our night out on the town, we headed to CPK and got seated right away (maybe it was the "early" hour, maybe it was the weather, either way, it worked in our favor). Neither of my friends had been to CPK before, so I suggested that we order a Thai Chicken pizza and a Field Greens salad to split between the three of us. It was delicious and the perfect amount of food.

Thankfully, the storm passed over while we were eating (and we didn't get blown to the Land of Oz), so we went on with the rest of our planned outing. First stop: Anthropology, the cool store where we couldn't really afford anything, but just enjoyed walking around and seeing all the stuff they have. After that, we went to Trader Joe's (another "first" for one of my friends). It was pretty hopping for a Saturday night and we helped ourselves to a free cup of coffee and a cookie and then proceeded to walk up and down every aisle, probably more than once (can you stand how exciting a life we lead????).

After we'd done our shopping, I had the idea that we needed a picture to document our night out on the town. Where better place to take it than in front of all the pretty flowers at the front of the store? (I would have also loved to go back to CPK and Anthropology and take pictures there, too, but don't think I would have had a following). So, there we stood by the flowers, all ready to pose, but nobody was really in close range to ask to take the picture (there was one lady, but she conveniently ignored me when I tried to ask). We were just about to try to get the one with the longest arm to hold the camera out in front of us when in walked two of our favorite friends! They were just coming in to get a few things and unknowingly were our next target to ask to take our picture. It was so funny when we recognized who they were and we all started laughing at the perfect timing of seeing these friends walk in the door. (I think they wondered about our sobriety levels.)

The sad end to the story is that just when the picture was being taken, the battery pack died on the camera. I had hoped that our picture was the last one on the memory card before the camera died, but we weren't so lucky. So this painting with words will have to suffice.

The evening had a happier ending though, involving Starbuck's and Cheesecake Factory! We moms like to "live it up" on our nights out on the town!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A perfect day!


In my opinion, Tuesday, March 17th, was pretty much a perfect day. For Daniel, it was a "lucky" day, because he caught his first fish ever (although his patience and skills came into play as much as luck).


Here's what contributed to it being a "perfect" day for me:

  • I woke up early enough to go out for a walk on the beach very soon after sunrise
  • Had some lazy hours to read while lounging in a beach chair
  • Got to jump and ride the waves in a perfectly clear ocean (to those of you who are "Gulf Snobs", you really can see the bottom in the Atlantic Ocean sometimes!)
  • Celebrated with Daniel on catching his first fish
  • Found a bargain on a newly released Christian fiction book (only $5!)
  • Enjoyed a picnic at the park for supper
  • Ended the day with ice cream and a chick-flick

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Break Report

Hello from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida! We are having a great time . . . wish you were here (really!). Doug and Leanne are the wonderful hosts that they always are, opening their home to us and making us feel very welcomed and comfortable. They are as close as family to us, and Daniel even calls them PUD and PAL (Pseudo Uncle Doug and Pseudo Aunt Leanne, which goes back to when he was six years old.)

On Sunday, we hung around the condo and went to the pool. Daniel kind of had a stomach bug. It wasn't too bad, but enough to keep him indoors most of the day--or maybe it was the access to ESPN that he doesn't normally have at home! ;-) Daniel was celebrating his Louisville Cardinals winning the Big East Conference title and securing a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, Doug's team, UT-Knoxville, didn't pull out a win in the SEC tourney, but did get a spot in the NCAA brackets.

Today, we drove up to Jupiter, Florida (about an hour north), to go to a Spring Training baseball game. We saw the Washington Nationals vs. the Florida Marlins. It was a beautiful day, with a slight breeze, and we sat out in the bleacher seats right behind the Marlins' bull pen. We had great access to the players, although Daniel didn't ask for any autographs. One of the pitching coaches tossed Daniel a baseball that had been used to warm up pitchers, so Daniel got a souvenir from the game. After the game was over, we drove to a nearby mall to visit Leanne's niece, Laura, who works there, and then drove back to Ft. Lauderdale via Highway A1A, which goes along the coast. We got to see the sunset, sort of, and stopped at the Hillsboro Lighthouse for some photo ops (I'll have to post them later).

Tonight, Daniel got to have the pool to himself and had fun swimming the length of the pool and diving for diving sticks that Leanne and I took turns throwing into the pool. It was a nice, relaxing evening and a great ending to a fun day.

I'll try to post some more again soon, and definitely will share pics when I get a chance. Well, now I'm off to go shower and wash off the sunscreen so I can start again tomorrow!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A week from today . . .

. . . this is where I'll be!
Daniel and I are going to go visit our friends, Leanne and Doug, in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida, for part of his Spring Break. I think I can make it through one more week of work, knowing I have THAT to look forward to on Saturday!


Friday, March 6, 2009

Look what we found in our yard this week!



I don't want to ruin anyone else's surprise, but just remember this: you never know where Gertrude will show up next! :-)





Monday, February 16, 2009

Moses and I had a Monday

In yesterday's sermon, our pastor taught from Exodus 18, about how right after a wonderful time of reuniting with family and telling what God had done to deliver the Isrealites from the Egyptians, Moses had to deal with the everyday crises of leading a large group of people. Scott compared it to a Monday morning after having spent a great time worshiping and being with fellow Believers on Sunday.

Well, today, I could really relate to good 'ol Moses. It started on Sunday night (as it often does) when I started thinking about having to go back to work. Hallmark's Hoops & YoYo characters call it "Spastic Colon Sunday" (look that e-card up sometime on hallmark.com). I don't have those types of symptoms, but I often have the Sunday night "dreads," which today, turned into the Monday Morning (and lasted all day) Blues. Of course, it didn't help any that it was a holiday for some people (Daniel included), so I felt slighted that I wasn't getting a three-day weekend. Then at work, I got to deal with a fax machine move (and subsequent connectivity problem, which I solved), a jammed printer (which I unjammed), and numerous other mundane, Monday-ish things. And I stayed in a funk most of the day.

God used Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, to help him deal with the crisis he faced and gave him a lesson on wisdom in the process. Today, I did a lot of praying and asking for wisdom to help me get through my day. In some ways, it was comforting to realize that the very same God who spoke to Moses in the wilderness also cared about what was happening in my life today.

Thank you, Lord, for being a God who sees and cares!