Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whispers In Her Ear

If you've been reading my blog very long, you've heard me talking about my dear friend Gentle. Well, something wonderful has happened to her, and I want you to know about it. Even though I already knew the story, I had tears streaming down my cheeks this morning as I read about it on her blog.

Her story just might make your Sunday:

Whispers In My Ear

If this story moves you, please pass it on to others. I believe Gentle has experienced a real-live miracle, and I'm so excited for her.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pedal-Pedal-Pedal!

When our girl turned four, it was like flipping a switch. Suddenly, she's a grownup. She sleeps in her own bed all night (almost every night). She buckles her own seat belt, though I have to check it for tightness and position. And... last week she decided it was time for her training wheels to come off.

I secretly figured there would be a few days of whining and skinned knees, and then the training wheels would go back on. But apparently I didn't know my little Allyson. She was determined to ride that bike, and she never got discouraged. Instead, she celebrated every milestone, no matter how tiny: when Daddy ran with her for 100 yards, and she pedaled by herself for three feet, she cheered, "I did it!"

Bill worked tirelessly with her for two evenings, during which she seemingly made little progress. Each time he let go of the bike, she immediately put her feet down or rolled up against the edge of the grass. After all that hunched-over running, he complained that his back wasn't cut out for this. Meanwhile, I was happy to just watch and clap from the front porch.

My Turn
On Wednesday the 16th, however, I got my turn whether I wanted it or not. Allyson and I were meeting my friend Laura and her son Samuel at the park, and Laura phoned to see whether we were bringing her bike.

I answered without thinking, despite the fact that it was already over 90 degrees (32 Celsius) at 10:00 in the morning. "Sure! That's a great idea."

It wasn't until I was wrestling the bike into the trunk that I remembered there were no training wheels. "This will be a disaster," I thought gloomily. "There's no way I'm getting her up on this bike, and she'll be bawling when she sees Samuel zipping along on his training wheels."

At the park, we wheeled the bike between us. I had my purse over my right shoulder and two cheap water bottles clutched under my left armpit, their condensation providing a bit of relief from the sweltering heat. But with the awkwardness of our height difference, I kept getting whacked in the thigh by the handlebars.

We were the first ones there, so that gave us a chance to practice without an audience. I held onto the back of her tiny pink seat and clomped along behind her, waiting for her to gain her balance so I could let go. At that millisecond when the bike stopped swaying, I quietly released my hold... and Allyson immediately put her feet down. "I did it!" she proclaimed, though the wheels had made only a couple revolutions.

This went on for about 15 minutes, as rivulets of sweat coursed down my legs and into my eyes. An elderly man passed by on his walk and smiled at me in sympathy. When I turned to call out a greeting, the bike lurched off the sidewalk and into the grass, nearly throwing Allyson off. "You're not doing it right, Mama!" she complained, and I agreed heartily. "Daddy's much better at this stuff," I whined.

Just then, Laura arrived with her mother and Samuel. Naturally, the first thing Samuel wanted to do was ride bikes. "My bike is super fast!" he said, and tore off down the sidewalk to prove it.

"Help me, Mama. Quick!" Allyson cried, throwing her leg back over the seat. I sighed and gave her a little push. She pushed those pedals with all her might, and I had to let go or be pulled over.

"You're doing it!!" I shouted. She turned back to look at me and then veered into the grass. Laura and I both clapped our hands."You went far!" we exulted.

Allyson muscled the bike back around to face Samuel, who was barreling back down the sidewalk. "Let's try again, Mama!"

I helped her push the bike back onto the sidewalk, and she was off. I didn't even have to run with her. Her back contorted to the left and then the right as she fought to keep her balance. After about 30 feet, she rolled off into the grass--and kept going! She put her feet down just as she was about to collide with a tree.

"You should let her try it in the grass," Laura suggested. "Then she won't be afraid of falling."

She rode around in the grass for a few minutes, careening wherever the bike chose to take her. But she soon discovered that she could go much faster on the pavement. She chased Samuel back and forth, back and forth, cheerful even though she never could catch him. Laura snapped a few photos.




Meanwhile, the elderly man came back around. "Look at you!" he exclaimed. "You're riding."

"I can ride without training wheels," Allyson replied.

"I can ride, too," Samuel interjected. "My bike has extra wheels."

"Why yes, it does," the man answered. "That looks like a very fast bike."

"Yes, see?" Samuel raced down the sidewalk again, with Allyson in distant pursuit.

The kids could have ridden all day, but the adults were ready to get out of the heat after about an hour. We headed over to Chik-Fil-A to enjoy the air conditioning and a few waffle fries.

After dinner that night, Allyson couldn't wait to show her daddy what she could do. I was glad to let Bill help her out while I filmed some video. Because the battery was dead as a doornail, I was tethered to the porch, and my field of vision was pretty limited. Still, hopefully you can get an idea of how cute she looked. This was her fourth run out of about 20....


video


Since then, Allyson hasn't missed a single night of practicing. After two days of riding, she began to work on starting herself out. It took about two more nights, but she did master it. Now she's fine-tuning her steering--she still terrifies me when she rounds the corner--and stopping.

Tonight I remarked that I couldn't believe how quickly Allyson has learned to ride a bike, and at such a young age. "I was seven when I learned to ride," I said, "and then it was only because Dad threatened to spank me if I didn't ride my new bike."

Bill smirked at me. "She may LOOK just like you, but she does have a little of me in her," he gloated. "I guess she got her athletic abilities from me."

"Yes, she did," I agreed. I'm so glad!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

There's Dog Poop in the Pool

Yesterday while Allyson played in her new waterfall pool from Nana, Bill gathered bits of lumber and laid them out in a rough oval on the ground. Then he dragged a patio chair over to the near edge and sat down, deep in thought.
Allyson at the Lake Last Summer

Allyson paused in her splashing and ran up beside him. "What are you doin', Daddy?"

"I'm imagining that I'm sitting in front of the pool," he replied.

For the last few weeks, we've been trying to decide on a design and a builder for our new pool. Bill's been very scientific about it. Last weekend he chalked out his favorite design, using a pretty accurate scale, so that he could envision the finished pool and see the clearance on both ends. The main thing that I noticed was the three trees encompassed within the perimeter. It would seem Bill has it in for ALL my trees.

This week he was focusing on the deck, trying to determine whether there would really be room for lounge chairs between the pool and the iron fence that will separate the pool from the rest of the yard.

Allyson climbed onto the closest piece of wood, balanced for a moment, and jumped off.

"I'm imaginin' that I'm jumpin' in the pool," she explained. She splashed around in the imaginary water for a moment and then drug herself back out. Then she jumped back in, landing precariously close to a pile of doggy doo that Bill had missed on daily poop duty.

"Watch out for that-"

"Hey, why does the pool have dog poop in it?" Allyson demanded indignantly.

"Well, it's only a pretend pool," Bill laughed.

At that, Allyson went back over to her inflatable (poop-free) pool, and Bill resumed sunning himself in front of his imaginary pool.

Lola (The Culprit) Running Through the Deep End

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Courage

I'm going to try to explain why I needed to take a break from blogging, and how God spoke to me during that time....

To say I've always loved to write would be an understatement. I believe I was made to write. There's this word I learned recently that says it all: funktionslust. It means finding delight in doing what you do best, what you were made to do. For cheetahs, it's running. For eagles, it's flying. For beavers, it's building a dam. Funktionslust goes beyond achieving a goal like catching the prey; it's about reveling in the doing, because you're doing what you do best. That's how I've always felt about my writing.

Up until I started blogging, writing was something I did for myself, and very few people ever read what I wrote. But my blog changed all that. I was surprised to learn how many people were interested in what I had to say, and how many people enjoyed my stories. Over the last couple of years, maybe ten blog readers have told me, "You should get paid for this" or "You should write a book."

Writing a book had always been a dream for me, but it was a dream almost on the same level with winning the lottery; I never thought I would actually do it--until I heard other people telling me I should. There was only one problem: I didn't have any story ideas. I prayed about that and gave that desire to God. "I'd love to write a book," I said, "if you'll give me the story."

In January, I had a terrible bout of insomnia due to a nasty cold, and I while I was wallowing in misery and self pity, something amazing happened. A story idea literally dropped into my head out of nowhere. I thought and thought, and soon I was too excited to sleep. This went on for days and days, and I was utterly exhausted. For the next several weeks, I constructed the entire plot in my head without ever putting it to paper.

I finally started the manuscript in March, and I've written six chapters so far. I'll tell you more about the story later, but for now I'm just going to say that it's a story about sisters. Working on the book has been a roller coaster ride. I love the writing part, but I find myself thinking way too far ahead: What if I can't find a publisher? What if no one reads it? What if they read it and they don't like it?

Or... what would it be like to be famous? Wouldn't it be awesome to write the next Great American Novel? 

When I have those ambitious thoughts, my conscience pricks me. I don't want to be motivated by pride, or seek my own glory. That's why I needed to take a break from blogging and spend some time praying about God's plans for my writing.

Making the decision to be obedient to God's leading gave me such peace. Sometimes I did worry about when I'd be able to write again and whether I would lose all my readers, but every time I worried I prayed about it. I knew that God had given me a gift and that His plans for me were so much better than my own. For a couple of weeks, I really didn't hear anything at all, but I was able to keep the peace I'd felt at the start. I made up my mind that I wasn't going to make any decisions about my writing until I felt an assurance about what I should do.

Back in March and April, different friends had given me two devotional books. Melissa gave me Whispers of Hope, by Beth Moore, and my prayer group gave me New Day New You by Joyce Meyer. On two occasions, both books had the same message, and the message seemed personally directed to me! It boggled my mind to know that God would lay it on different people's hearts to give me books that would speak to me, and that I would somehow be on the right pages at just the right times for Him to give me the same message twice. The Meyer book has dated devotionals, but the Moore book does not, and I just read it on the days when I have more time. I really don't know how God does that!

Here were some of the verses and commentaries that spoke to me:
  • Galatians 1:10 "Now am I trying to win favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ." Meyer admonishes, "Stop trying to build your own reputation, and let God do it for you." 
  • 1 Cor 10:31: "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
  • Psalm 40:6: Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, nor have You delight in them; You have given me the capacity to hear and obey." 
  • Philippians 4:13: "I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me." Meyer says, "We do not need confidence in ourselves--we need confidence in Jesus!... When the devil lies and says, 'You can't do anything right,' your response to him can be, 'Perhaps not, but Jesus in me can, and He will, because I am relying on Him and not on myself. He will cause me to succeed in everything that I put my hand to.'" (Joshua 1:7)
  • Psalm 27:8: Meyer's commentary: "I have found that when I seek God's face to get to know my wonderful, loving heavenly Father better, His hand is always open to me." 
  • Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Moore says, "As we make ourselves available to delight in God, He slowly revolutionizes our approach to finding fulfillment. Those who seek to delight in the Lord will ultimately develop a delightful relationship with Him.... Anyone who truly delights in the Lord will one day realize that God has become the desire of her heart. When He is our delight, we begin to want what He wants.... When we struggle with self-seeking desires, we hit our knees in prayer."
  • Here's one that was perfectly timed for what I was feeling that day (5/24/10). Moore says, "If our heart's desire is the will of God, we will wait for His timing even when the pause is long and uncomfortable.... Do we truly believe God knows what is best for us? Then we can also believe God knows when is best for for us.... Use every second of the wait to allow the Father to increase your faith and deepen your trust.

The most exciting thing that happened during my time of waiting is that God revealed my next memory passage! The text from a sermon at church really spoke to me, and I felt a tug in my spirit. "Is this for me, God?" I asked. That same day, my friend Kristi commented on my "Last Post For Awhile" blog entry and quoted the same passage! She said she'd thought of me when she heard the passage at her church that morning (a different church). I was so excited that God would give me a passage and a confirmation in the same day, and even though the passage focuses on attitude correction--no, because it focuses on attitude correction--it made me realize how very much the Father loves me. He isn't going to just let me sail along doing my own thing and following my own desires, but he's going to discipline me. And this isn't just a momentary rebuke, but a weapon I can use every time I am tempted by pride. Here's the passage:

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 8And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

I learned the first verse immediately, and I've quoted it to myself more times than I can count--every time I've have a prideful thought about anything. 
After a couple of weeks of working on the memory passage and feeling that I had laid my desires on the altar, I started wondering when God would give me the green light to start blogging again. I was anxious to share what I'd learned, as well as many fun stories (like Allyson's first ballet recital!). I kept watching for a sign, but I didn't know how to recognize it. During that time, I received many messages from friends and family to let me know that they were praying for me and that they hoped I'd start writing soon. Many of them gave me journals (nearly ten in all!). Some of them told me how my blog entries had inspired and encouraged them in their faith, and this brought tears to my eyes. 

While I was talking this over with my friend Gentle one afternoon, I had an epiphany. The key to overcoming my pride and ambition was to focus on ministering to others. On my next quiet time, I knelt and prayed for all of my readers, present and future. I fervently asked God to speak through me and use me to draw others close to Him. As tears dropped onto the stained carpet on my stairway landing, all traces of pride melted away. I was so humbled, and so ready to serve. 

Send Me an Angel
Still, I didn't feel the urge to write; I wanted to, but I didn't feel the time was right yet. Following Beth Moore's advice, I settled in and relaxed as I trusted in God's perfect timing. And I kept watching for my sign. 

And it finally came in the most wonderful way! When Bill's mom came down for Allyson's birthday, she brought all the birthday gifts that had been accumulating for me, Ethan, Bill, and Allyson. One of the gifts was from Bill's sister Lisa. She gave me a Willow angel to add to my collection, most of which were earlier gifts from her:



The latest angel had her arms raised in triumph. I loved her right away, but I wondered what she meant. All the other ones had been easy: a mother with a baby, a father embracing his family, etc. I wondered if this angel might have something to do with turning 40. Did this mean I could now let go of fear and accomplish every goal I set my mind to? I decided that's what she would mean to me. Of course, I thought of my writing, and it made me smile. 



Turns out, I wasn't far off in my interpretation. Lisa called and asked what I thought of the angel; she wondered if I'd noticed the title of the piece. While I was on the line with her, I trotted down the stairs and turned over the figurine. "It says Courage," I panted. 

When Lisa told me she'd thought of my writing when she saw that angel, my heart quickened with excitement, and tears gathered in my eyes. Could this be my sign? 

I prayed about it the next day, and all of the scriptures I'd been studying over the past weeks came together for me in a whole new way. I realized that my battle wasn't just with pride, but it was just as much with fear--I was wavering between those two extremes. Pride says, "I can do this--all by myself." Fear says, "I'm afraid I can't do this. I'm afraid I'll try and fail." But courage says, "Through Jesus, I know I can do this."

I realize now that even my fear was a form of pride because I was relying on my own strength to overcome the obstacles instead of trusting God to show me the way. Since that time, I've still had fearful thoughts, but I'm choosing to keep my eyes on God. I am making myself available to Him, and I know whatever plans He has for me are good.

Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed, called, or spoke to me with words of support and encouragement. Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed with me and for me about my writing. Please keep praying! I love you guys.




Thursday, June 10, 2010

On a Plastic Horse I Ride

Hello again! It's been only three weeks since I decided to take a break, but it feels much longer to me. I have so much to tell you, but I'll start by sharing just one of the many stories I've been saving up...

Tuesday was the last night of Bill's mom's visit from Canada, and my parents had come by to spend a bit of time with her. All of us sat on the back porch enjoying the relative cool of the evening while Ethan and Allyson clowned around in the backyard.

 My Dad

Allyson and Mom

Ethan rocked on Allyson's old horse, its tired springs creaking in protest. In his twangiest southern accent, he sang his own version of a Bon Jovi song that he knows from Guitar Hero: "I'm a cowboy... on a plastic horse I ride. I'm wanted, (want-e-e-ed) dead or alive!"

He looked so ridiculous in his green Hawaiian swim trunks, gray Spider Man T-shirt, and tiny cowboy hat that I leaped up from the table. "I've got to find my camera."

"I'll take his picture, Mama," Allyson offered, bounding over with her favorite birthday present, an indestructible [we hope] Fisher Price kid's digital camera. She knelt on the grass and clicked shot after shot, from numerous angles. She reminded me of Ray, a friend and  professional photographer who took pictures at her birthday party on Sunday.

Here are a few of the shots she took (along with the two pictures above)...



Bill looked on with a forced scowl.







What is that boy doing? 


Ethan and Allyson's laughter echoed on the night air. This is the life!
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