Boo at the Zoo

Sunday night we had a little family trip to the zoo for their annual Halloween event.

We had free tickets from the company Brent works for (which in 2 days will be his former company!) so we took advantage of that. We still spent $16 in rides…money well spent due to the joy on Lily’s face. And the fact that the train ran out of gas so we got to ride backwards on the track back to the station. I’ll be honest with you though, I wouldn’t have paid money for the tickets AND the rides. I’m too cheap and the 3 laps around a small diameter to ride a pony was not worth $5.50.

And now I’m done with my review. On to the fun stuff. Pictures!

Waiting for Daddy to get a ticket to ride the pony!

LOVE the expression on her face! This was just before she realized what was going on and proceeded to get down. 

The best pic Brent could get of us. You know who wouldn’t cooperate…and it wasn’t me or the pony. There is a pic of me with my mom around Lily’s age doing the same thing except I am red in the face and screaming. Dad, if you care to rummage through a bunch of old pics to find it, let me know. 

We danced to the Monster Mash

Yes, she has on bright blue socks. I refuse to battle this. Not important and not worth the fight.  

She asked all night if we would see a witch. We did while trick or treating. She’s overcome with excitement…can’t you tell? Ha!

Lily and Daddy waiting for the Scooby Zoo wildlife show to start. If by “wildlife” you mean a rat, opossum, snake, and crow, then you got it! If by “show” you mean zoo workers dressed in costume with mics that hardly work, you got it!

Family pic on the train: Take 1

Family pic on the train: Take 2
After we left, we went to dinner. Lily wanted CFA until she realized it was Sunday. Then, she wanted to eat at Winn Dixie until we reminded her that was a grocery store. So we settled for Italian!
Happy Halloween!

Keep me desperate Lord

This January will mark 2 years since Brent and I did something crazy.

It was a HUGE step of faith and something that was done in complete obedience to the Lord.

Brent lost his job the same day I quit mine. It was a job that I loved and still miss to this day, but I knew the Lord wanted me at home with Lily. We had already made the decision to tell my principal that day, and even after a phone call from Brent that he lost his job and the GREAT temptation to change my mind, I still quit. (Thankfully, as a teacher, I was paid through August!)

That lasted for 7 months…the whole SAHM thing. Then we moved and I had to find a full time job.

Really, God, you only wanted me at home for 7 months? Gee, thanks. 

I was mad, confused, and full of what-ifs. I trusted that God had a plan, but I did not trust that His plan was actually for my good. Because our situation was anything but good.

For two years, we have quietly thought to ourselves, “Where is our blessing?” It’s not something either of us mentioned to each other until about three months ago. It sounds so selfish to even think of that question. I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought I deserved His blessing for doing what He asked of me. As if I deserve added blessings to the good news of my salvation.

But God promises to bless the obedience of his children. And we are certain that two years ago when we completely altered the course of our financial life, it was an act of obedience…and we just had no clue why things continued to get harder and harder after that day.

The blessing was there all along. Just not in the form I preferred. For two years I could have run from God and doubted Him to point where I ignored His loving pursuit of me. Glory be to God that He made me run to Him instead to embrace His loving pursuit of me!

Being forced to trust Him was the blessing. He pulled me into intimate fellowship with Him that I certainly wouldn’t have had otherwise. For two years I have experienced the comforting reality of a Father who provides for His children. I’ve had moment after moment where I soaked in the Word and made myself believe it to be truth, even though Satan wanted to use my circumstances to leave me with no hope.

I can truthfully say that for two years, Jesus has become my best friend. He’s become my first love. I’ve been drawn to Him like never before. I’ve desired His presence like never before. I’ve learned that all my heart truly longs for is Him. Absolutely nothing else. Other things may cloud this longing, but it’s always there. My satisfaction, terrific or horrible circumstances, is in Him alone.

Does it sound crazy to say that I was sad when Brent accepted a new job? Of course, I was thrilled for him. His new job involves everything he’s ever wanted in a job. I was thrilled for us as a family because it is a good opportunity for all of us. I am even thrilled about moving again. This job will hopefully end these two years of hardship. At least for now…I’m certainly not going to assume this will never happen again.

But I’m sad to see the hardship go. It’s what brought me to my knees so many times, what made me desperate for God, what taught me to pray specifically and without ceasing, what taught me to be content with God’s plan, what taught me patience, what taught me to be Brent’s helpmate and encourager, what taught me to believe that my Father is my provider, what taught me that He IS good! What didn’t it teach me?

I felt like I was leaving my Jesus behind. That sounds weird and I’m not even sure I can explain what I mean by that.

Once Brent accepted the job, a huge fear sunk deep into my heart. What if I don’t see my great need for Him anymore? What if I don’t fall to my knees in desperation anymore? What if I don’t seek Him with all my heart anymore? What if I allow the things of this world cloud my longing for Him? What if I stop modeling to Lily a genuine and deep fellowship with my Savior?

I know my relationship with Jesus doesn’t have to all of the sudden become shallow because my circumstances are looking up. I’m just fearful that my flesh will want to let other things be my first love. I pray to still see my great need for Him and model for Lily what it means to truly be a follower of Christ.

Father, thank you for the ultimate blessing of your presence and thank you for the material blessing of a new job. May what you have done for us never become a fleeting thought, but always a deep conviction of your love for us. May your work in our lives always be a fresh memory. Keep me desperately waiting on You, Lord, regardless of any blessing you give me. 

God’s Crazy Plans (aka Big News)

So sorry for my lack of posts over the past week. We received some news that kind of threw us for a loop and will soon create a little chaos. What is it you ask?

We are moving again. 

Oh my good gracious. Did you read that?

We are moving AGAIN. 

{I had to re-type that so that I might actually believe it.}

That is a true statement. One that I’ve gotten used to saying. I really should have known when we moved 679 miles south right after our wedding, then abruptly moved 766 miles back north after being married for 6 weeks that the whole concept of moving would be our norm. This brings the total count of moves to 7 since May 2007. That number is actual moves from one apt/house to another, not actual cities. Thank God!
But there is a phrase I never ever imagined would be true.

Are you ready for this? 

We are moving again to the place we left just over 11 months ago. 

No you are not dyslexic. You read it right. 
No judging necessary. We already know that we are crazy. Absolutely positively crazy. Quite frankly, it’s God who is the crazy one. It’s all His doing anyway. 
To make a long story short, Brent has been completely unhappy with his current job the past few months. Like, it’s been really bad, y’all. Another job that he applied for back in December finally contacted him…5 weeks ago. Guess they like to take their time??? I mean, I guess God likes to take His time?
But we were sure that God would say no again because He has said no quite a lot the past two years. We still fervently prayed every day, all day. We specifically prayed that Brent would get the job, and we also prayed for us to just be content with the Lord’s plan. Trusting Him no matter what was the bottom line. 
The job was offered to him, after 15 lllooonnnggg days of waiting to hear back. And the offer was too good to resist. 
So, you know what that means. Packing up the boxes again. Why did I ever unpack in the first place? 
Oh wait, I know, because we had plans to stay in Birmingham for a lot longer than a year
I’ve always known deep down that Birmingham was just a middle ground. A place to live in between North AL and wherever the Lord prepared us for after Birmingham. I just assumed this in-between-season would last longer and that the place He was preparing us for was not the place we left!

I guess this would be the perfect time to quote some Scripture that is oh so true right now.

The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

If that ain’t the truth, then I don’t know what is!

Of course, we have both wondered why in the world the Lord is bringing us back. Or why He moved us to Bham in the first place if He knew we would be right back in North AL a year later.

We’ve also wondered if, like the Israelites, God let us have our way for a little while.

However, we can look back on the past year and see a very specific, big way that God used me while we have been here. To think He orchestrated all this crazy job/moving stuff so that I can be used by Him for one specific purpose blows my mind. Why does He want to use me? I am so unworthy to be used by Him for His glory. But, that’s why He made me. He takes great delight in me, a filthy flawed human that He made and sees as His righteous Son. I am humbly grateful. He had a purpose for us while we were here. The purpose has been fulfilled. It’s time to go back.

We can look back on this year and see why many things didn’t work out (things that irritated us at the time) so that this move would be possible. We can look ahead and see how God is preparing the way and working out the details so that this move will be possible.

This year in Birmingham has been rough. Other than being closer to our families, there hasn’t been much about this year that I have enjoyed. It’s been super crappy for several different reasons. I’m thankful that the Lord has carried us through the rough waters and is hopefully bringing us to a peaceful shore for a while.

Sorry Birmingham, family, and friends. I do love you. You will always be home. Maybe we can try again later, but my track record in moving says that I can’t make any promises.

One thing I know is that everything that has happened has been proof that we are held in His loving hands and nothing has happened that He didn’t cause or allow. We have plenty of evidence of God’s faithfulness to share with Lily. His protection and provision in our lives has never been more evident than it is now.

The time frame of the actual move is uncertain. There is a house we found that fits the bill all the way around (with a few extras we like). We are meeting with a realtor this weekend to see it. We have a lot of details to sort through and decisions to make. And we are about to be in the middle of the holiday season, Lily’s birthday, and one of my best friend’s wedding in January (that Lily and I are both in!).

Time for things to get crazy…again!

As always, I’ll keep you updated. 

Beach Trip with my Cohort C Girls!

This past weekend Brent held the fort down so I could head to the beach for a girls trip. I got to spend four days with my best friends from my days at Auburn. We all live in different cities now, but we have kept in touch since college through the phone and social media. I am so thankful for social media. I know there are some negative things about being connected to the world 24/7. I’m not too fond of it myself. On the flip side, there are awesome things about being connected to your friends 24/7 when you see them maybe once a year. Thankfully, we’ve had wedding festivities and babies over the past 5 years that have brought us all together again several times.

This trip was a repeat of a trip 5 1/2 years ago, only this time we added a friend :). We call ourselves the “Cohort C” group because that was the name of our education cohort at Auburn. We went on a beach trip our senior year because two of us were about to get married and we were all headed to different cities after graduation.

This was us post-Chi Chi, but pre-marriage and pre-baby. Let me break that down for you…we were relieved to have hard-to-please Chi Chi and her nearly impossible Gee’s Bend quilting/paper mache class behind us and our bodies had not yet been stretched for 9 months to accommodate a human. Hence the two piece bathing suit, full length shot. 

Rebecca, Ashley, me, Allison, Jessica
Gulf Shores 2007
We were there for three nights and managed to find a reason to go to Publix every night. We ate breakfast and lunch in the condo and ate out for dinners. The food trucks in Seaside are tasty and Red Bar is a DELICIOUS place to eat.

Yes, we took a 4 month old to a bar. Yes, we got lots of looks as we pushed our way through the crowd with her infant carrier. No, Jessica, you are not a bad mother. We all drank water for cryin’ out loud! 

We rented movies, played Nerts (or Nurts? or BooCow?), ate way too much, stayed up too late, took naps on the beach, put Aubrey through sleep training, and discussed what DHR might do if they hear we eat Sour Patch Kids Cabbage Patch Kids.

Now we are all married and among us we have four children, one more on the way, and three worshiping Jesus in Heaven. Three of us are teaching full time (Terri Leigh, that includes you!). Three of us are SAHM’s. Two of us are pastor’s wives. Four of us are very crafty (Jessica, I excluded us from this bunch!). Three of us live in our hometown. Five of us have iPhones and one of us (ahem, me) has the world’s dumbest smart phone. But, after this weekend we are all on Twitter and Instagram :). It’s just that five of us will be able to use those apps more efficiently than that one other (again, that would be me).

Terri Leigh, Rebecca, Jessica with baby Aubrey, me, Ashley (with a baby on the way), and Allison
Seagrove Beach 2012
I had to crop the above picture because as soon as this pic was taken, Rebecca yells, “Nothing below the belly button is allowed to be on the internet!” Haha! Funny how things change as you get older :). 
All I have to say, girls, is at least we don’t look like these ladies yet. 

We met these ladies on our first beach trip in 2007. They were oh so very classy with their cigs hanging out of their mouth. The cigs weren’t the only thing hanging out. 
I’m so thankful for my years at Auburn, getting to know and spend time with these friends. I’m also thankful that we haven’t skipped a beat in our friendships with each other, even though we hardly see each other! God is good :). Love y’all!

Shots in the Butt and Trapped Gas

In light of yesterday’s super serious post, I want to make you chuckle just a little if I can.

For the record, I got my first ever shot in the butt today. My entire lower back is in pain. Is this normal or am I a baby? And my heart has been racing ever since I left the doc office. On the upside, I am talking like a normal person now. Not like a whispering old man going through puberty. Which reminds me of this episode of Friends…

Now, on to the topic of discussion that causes multiple arguments in this merry little household.

Trapped Gas. Yes, I did just type that publicly. I can’t believe it either.

Let’s just get over our reserved selves and laugh together.

I’m not even going to attempt to describe to you what it is. So, I will resort to a reliable source: The Mayo Clinic.

Anything that causes intestinal gas or is associated with constipation or diarrhea can lead to gas pains. These pains generally occur when gas builds up in your intestines, and you’re not able to expel it. On average, most people pass gas at least 10 times a day.

Built up gas that can’t get out. Sounds like trapped gas, right?

Well, Brent does not believe in it. He thinks trapped gas is a big fat myth. Can we please get a Mythbusters episode to prove that it’s true? If they can prove it, he’ll believe it.

Because apparently me laying in bed burping incessantly and complaining of pain in my shoulder blades is not enough proof that I have gas that was trapped and is escaping with each belch.

Or maybe Brent should visit Las Higuerillas, Mexico for a week with the most awesomely unreserved people I know, eating unrefrigerated leftover spaghetti, authentic greasy Mexican food, and drinking water that may be contaminated with parasites, then gorging ourselves on the biggest burger Whataburger sells in celebration that we survived the heat, food, lack of electricity, lack of running water, and lack of plumbing for a week while living in tents on the sand.

{Aren’t mission trips the BEST?!}

Then, maybe he’ll know the enormous pain of trapped gas. If you are in denial too, it looks like the picture below. Can we please recreate this trip down to the very last detail?

Y’all, it’s a real medical issue. It can cause pain up into your rib cage, back, and arms and make you feel like you’re having a heart attack. 

It can happen when you are working out on the treadmill at the St. Vincent’s fitness center and your left arm starts hurting. You get sent to the ER for a heart attack only to find out it’s trapped gas. Yes, Brent, even the medical professionals claim trapped gas! 

And it can rush you to the ER in your turquoise t-shirt that hits just at your hips so that your hot pink panties can be seen and when the paramedic finally gives you medicine to relieve the REAL pain of trapped gas, you grab him by the collar and say “I love you” with every horrid particle of your 3am morning breath. 

Can I get a witness? Or is my mother the only other one that has experienced this? Because I really need your support to convince my in-denial husband that trapped gas is a reality. {Yes, I had her permission to tell her trapped gas stories. And I have another super embarrassing one to tell about that one time at the YMCA that has nothing to do with trapped gas…but I’ll need extra permission for that one.} 
Trapped gas anyone?

My rebellious non-trendy parenting style

Disclaimer: I typed this post a week ago and it’s been a debate in my head over whether or not to post it. I’ve been under this conviction for such a long time. This is MY conviction. Please understand that. I do not expect anyone else to follow in my footsteps. I just want to share. That’s all. 

This post is bound to be a little controversial. Older moms may think I’m crazy for having such extreme expectations, younger moms may be irritated or intimidated by this post. Some of my mom friends may even think I’m crazy. Well, this is just me. These are my thoughts today, as a late 20-something, with a young daughter, who just has the conviction that if I am not careful to be set apart from the standards of this world, there will be a high price to pay for me and my family. I do not have a “holier than thou” attitude. This is just me and my words, with all humbleness. 

During my adolescent years, I discovered that I don’t enjoy being like everyone else. I didn’t give in to trends. I have never in my life owned a pair of Birkenstocks. I only owned one shirt from Limited 2 and it was a hand me down from my best friend growing up. I never begged for a Tamagotchi.

{Some of you are like, what the heck is that? It’s a hand-held toy pet. I remember sitting at lunch in middle school surrounded by high-pitched dings reminding my friends that their electronic pet was hungry or wanted to go for a walk.}

Without intention, I did not get on the trendy bandwagon. I have parents who indirectly and discreetly taught me, by our buying habits, that I don’t have to have what everyone else has.

Of course, there were a few exceptions. I did own a red anorak from Gap. And I did have some Timberland boots and Wallabees (that I still own and wear…yes ma’am I do. The Wallabees that is, not the Timberlands!). I bought a pair of Chacos this summer and returned them. And I’m still in debate over getting my first pair of Toms.

When it came time to buy my prom dresses…oh my, what an incredible amount of time that took! I was absolutely opposed to wearing a different shade of what every other girl would have on.

And I was super picky about my wedding dress being timeless, not trendy.

It’s really a far stretch…but the way I feel about trends is the way I feel about parenting. I don’t have to parent like everyone else does. I have come to learn that that means I will have shallow friendships with many moms and deep ones with very few. What the world accepts as good parenting is WAY different from what the Lord accepts as good parenting.

Becoming a mother has made me realize even more that I just do not want to be like everyone else. It’s not easy to go against the grain, but when it comes to Lily it’s absolutely worth my attempts to be different.

Since before she was born, I have wanted to raise her in a way that she understands that the world does not revolve around her. I want her to be aware of the needs of other people. I pray for her to have compassion and the desire to serve others. I have no desire to have a worldly, materialistic, or popular “all about me” daughter. Like I said in my last post, I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. I pray daily that she will not be influenced by the world and her choices, even down to which dress she picks out for school, will be based on pleasing the Lord and just simply doing what she wants to do because it’s her decision, not a decision that the world or her friends made for her. I want her to have an intimate fellowship with her Savior so that when she thinks for herself and makes her own decisions, they are the fruit of her relationship with Him.

Here are some of the things I (we) do to foster godly character in our little girl:

She does not wear a two piece swim suit. Quite frankly, I’d be okay if she never wears one. And as long as I’m not allowing her to wear one, I won’t either. I mean, I’m just dying to show off my post-baby body, but I’ll show some self-control for her sake. JUST KIDDING! What kind of example would I be setting? Our beauty is found in our heart for Jesus. Not in our flat stomach, skinny thighs, and tan skin. The same rule applies for what I wear vs. what I allow her to wear. We will be modestly dressed, even now when she doesn’t even really understand the whole clothes issue. I wear very little, or no, makeup. Fortunately, I loathe wearing makeup. But, I want her to see that makeup complements our beauty, it is not a necessity for beauty.

I don’t say yes every time she asks for something, even if she says it nicely and ends with “please”. That may mean I leave the store with a mad child, but it’s good for us to deal with that. It teaches me patience and self-control and it teaches her that she can’t have something just because she asked for it. Guess what? Sometimes I beg God for things and He still says no.

I rarely buy her something just for the sake of it being cute and I know she would love it. I’ll surprise her every now and then. In fact, I love to surprise her! But, I don’t buy every Dora toy I see. I don’t want to wear out the surprise factor. I don’t want her to come to expect and demand material things from me.

Lord help me, I will not go overboard with her birthday parties. We will celebrate, yes. We will make her feel oh so special, because she is. But, I will not use every idea I pin on Pinterest.

I will not sit around on my phone all day long while she plays and I ignore her every attempt to get my attention. Yes, I do use social media on my phone. But, I carefully protect my one on one time with her. If it’s just the two of us (or even the three of us), my focus is on her and not my social life. Spending lots of time on social media shows her that my social life and promotion of myself (which is all that stuff really is anyway) is more important than quality time with her. I never want her to think that something trumps her…other than Jesus and her Daddy.

I don’t like her looking at People magazine (just an example) or anything on TV/radio that would promote worldly thinking or an “all about me” attitude. I’ll be honest, she loves the song Call Me Maybe and I hate that she knows it. It’s cute and all, but I don’t want her to hear the song so much that she learns the lyrics.

I don’t talk negatively about my physical appearance around her. If we go walking or running, I tell her it’s because God gave us our bodies and we take care of them by eating right and exercising. I never express to her that I’m “fat” and “need to lose some weight.”

When we say “no” we try to stick to it, no matter the battle we face as a result. Even if what she wants is really no big deal at all. The fact of the matter is, Mommy and Daddy said no, therefore it won’t happen. We do offer grace though :).

I know I sound like a complete snob. Or a mean parent. I promise I’m not. I’m not perfect. I don’t know how to do the whole God-centered parenting thing flawlessly. Who does? But, by golly, I’m going to diligently do my best according to the strength and wisdom from Him that is within me. I can’t protect her from the world. We live in it. Sin is everywhere. We are sinners. But, I can be very careful to set boundaries that foster a heart for Jesus and a desire for His approval and no care to meet the world’s standards.

Being intentional in parenting is not an option. It’s an obligation to my responsibility before God to raise the daughter He put in my hands. I love Lily with a love that I can’t comprehend. In that love, knowing that this world can never satisfy her, I want to offer her Jesus. Therefore, I have no desire for her to desire this world.

I know that not every mom does things this way. Even some Christian moms are less concerned about this stuff than I am. That doesn’t make you a “bad” Christian. You don’t answer to me and I am not the standard. And if you have a boy, the list may be completely different things. I don’t claim for my style of parenting to be what’s right. These are just the convictions I have and how they flesh themselves out in our family.

I also know that I can do everything “right” and Lily can turn out to be completely rebellious and resistant toward God. All I can do is pray against that, set the example for her, and honor the Lord in my parenting. God is sovereign over her life. I trust He will use my efforts to glorify Himself and bless my family how He chooses.

I was so blessed by Vicki Courtney at the dotMOM conference. She said what I imagine I would tell younger moms in 15 years. It was on narcissism and how we as moms can add to the problem of creating little me-monsters. Here’s my notes straight from my notebook:

Are we raising a little narcissist? Are we buying into the world’s definition of a good mom?

How to create a me-monster (aka what NOT to do):

1.  Make your child the center of your life.
We can make our kids a counterfeit god. We are putting our  kids where only God should be. Our children are not the center of our home. Christ is!

2.  Do whatever it takes to protect your child’s “fragile” self-esteem.
All you are doing is making them think they are better than everyone else.

3.  Rescue your child from the consequences of poor choices and life’s injustices.
We are teaching them that the rules don’t apply to them.

4.  Teach your child to put themselves before others.

One day our children will leave our homes. The time they have in our home is very short, compared to the long life they will hopefully have outside of our home. We can’t spend our child-rearing years of our marriage focusing on them 100% and neglected God and our husbands. The result will be a truly empty and lonely nest. We must be in the process of letting go little by little so that we as moms (and dads) still have an identity when they are gone.

To conclude this ridiculously long post…

Keep doing what you are doing, moms. If we are keeping in step with the Spirit, he will convict us where we are wrong and will encourage us where we are right. We have to take this whole parenting thing seriously. We are raising a generation of people who will one day be die-hard disciples of Christ, passive Christians, or rebellious enemies of God. Ultimately, God is sovereign over who they will become. But, it starts in our homes and we must daily be on our knees asking Him how He wants us to do this. Please Him, and have no regard for the foolish and fleeting standards of this world.