James spent his Saturday morning laying around with our little local paper. Imagine his surprise when he opened to page two and found a picture of his kids! (Our paper is published weekly, so the Library Magic Show from last weekend was featured only today.)
The kids were excited to see themselves in print, and have agreed to autograph the article.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
James spent his Saturday morning laying around with our little local paper. Imagine his surprise when he opened to page two and found a picture of his kids! (Our paper is published weekly, so the Library Magic Show from last weekend was featured only today.)
Posted by Amanda at 1:37 PM
Friday night was Family Date Night.
The boys had tickets to the Rangers Game.
They gorged themselves on hot dogs, nachos, and cotton candy
and played token games, wiffle ball, and clocked the pitchers pitches.
Dad came home exhausted and Bub came home excited,
a brand-new baseball expert.
Gracie and I called friends to join us
at The American Girl Boutique and Bistro.
We don't have an American Girl doll
(We're hanging onto that 8-year-old minimum age requirement!),
but we do get the catalog and we've seen Kit Kittredge,
so Gracie knows all the American Girls by name.
She was over-the-moon excited to see them all in person!
Miss DeDe had the forethought to call before our reservations
to let the staff know we were celebrating two summer birthday girls.
Both little ladies were served birthday brownies
complete with candles and a song.
~ More Fun Photos ~
Posted by Amanda at 12:09 PM
Friday, August 22, 2008
So this morning, the phone rang. Gracie was in my bedroom watching cartoons and after it rang a time or two, I called to her to answer it. (She's a chatty little girl and just loves that "responsibility.") She picked it up, pressed the Talk button, and heard only silence. She came out to tell me the phone wasn't working (it had been left too long off the charger and the battery went kaput).
While we looked at the phone and talked about how it died, the phone in the game room continued to ring. Our circa-1983 answering machine didn't pick up after the normal four rings, so instead of answering the phone, I went in to examine the answering machine. Still, the phone kept ringing. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it rang probably thirty-five times before Gracie found it buried in her Barbie house. (The game room phone is often mistaken for a toy.)
She answered the phone upstairs, but the line was empty, so she brought the phone downstairs to me. I clicked on the Caller ID button to see who'd been so diligent in trying to reach us, and absolutely got chills when the name popped up: it was the adoption agency I wrote about at 4:00 this morning -- the one James and I simultaneously felt compelled to work with!
Quickly, I called the number, and when the agent answered, she explained that the phones had been routed to her cell phone yesterday. I happened to be the last call she got all day (though I called her very early), and today, as she slid her phone in her pocket, it must have called me back. "While I have you on the phone, though," she continued, "have you thought any more about our agency?" I excitedly told her we had, and relayed the story of our individual leading and mutual agreement.
We talked for a bit, and she patiently answered more of my questions. Then she told me how we could move forward. After our conversation, it's officially official -- we've taken that first baby step. James is faxing over our interest sheet, and the agent is sending out the first part of the application/education process on DVD. At some point, we'll do an intake interview. Since we're not local to the agency, we'll work on our home study privately (which we're already sort of doing), then provided all goes as hoped for, we'll complete the education process in November. After that, the agency will begin presenting our information to birthmoms.
We cannot deny all the blessings, connections, and forms of provision that have come together together without really any challenge to us. Still, it's quite overwhelming to thing about all the things that have already happened, and all the things yet to be done (read: every last little thing that's totally out of my control -- eek!). I have a feeling I'll be spending a good bit in Philippians over these next (many) months.
"Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-- Philipians 4:6-7 NIV
"Don't fret or worry.
Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers,
letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness,
everything coming together for good,
will come and settle you down.
It's wonderful what happens
when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
-- Philipians 4:6-7 MSG
(Same passage, different translation...)
Photo Credit: openclipart.org
Posted by Amanda at 11:24 AM
Oh my word, I am absolutely turned around. My sleeping schedule, that is.
My mom took the kids last night for one last Nanny Bonanza before the official launch of our at-home education. I had plans to get plenty of rest and spend today putting together bookshelves for our school space. Instead, late last night (already way past my bedtime), I ran across a website that laid out all the information and documents we'd need to complete an adoption home study here in Texas. I spent the better part of three hours printing the list, culling through our file cabinets for all the necessary documents, assembling a binder in which to organize everything, and making a list of the things that needs to be done/copied/completed. When all was said and done, it was after 5:00 A.M. before I crawled into bed.
Today, instead of organizing the school space, I spent the
morning mid-afternoon calling state offices for information on background checks, central registry checks, and FBI fingerprinting, since that's the slowest part of a home study, and it's something that can be initiated without committing to an independent social worker or agency.
We again briefly discussed looking into a foster-adopt option through the state, but for a variety of reasons, we've decided that's just not how we feel led to proceed. I also talked to people at three or four different adoption agencies (some for the second time), and I think we've narrowed things down considerably. In fact, after talking with an adoption specialist at one agency today, I really felt compelled to move forward with them. I didn't say anything to James about it only because he was at work, and then we did the kid switch at soccer practice before I went to a Women's Ministry planning event at church. Tonight, after the kids were in bed, we had some time to talk and he brought the same agency up, stating that after doing some more research (while I was at church), he thought we should pursue something with them.
One thing that made me hesitant to consider adoption before now was the breastfeeding issue. I know to some people that has to be so silly, but I had a beautiful, extended breastfeeding relationship with Gracie. Zachary in his extreme prematurity and dire physical condition obviously couldn't nurse, and I mourned the loss of that relationship along with the baby. Giving up the option to breastfeed future children was an adoption deterrent for me, until I read a post by another blogger -- a blogger who has induced lactation to nurse her baby. Something like that might not work for us, but reading about it -- just knowing it's an option -- made adoption seem complete.
For the last couple of weeks as we've mulled over the adoption idea, I've contemplated induced lactation. I've not put much thought into it, as we're still so new to the entire process, but I have spent periods of time in serious consideration. I've always thought I'd go about it by using formula in a supplementer, but today, I felt compelled to talk to a friend still nursing her baby. I'd not before talked to her about my heart towards induced lactation, but I wanted to get her opinion on it. I also wanted to ask her to prayerfully consider pumping and storing some breastmilk as we potentially prepare for an adopted child, particularly since her baby could begin to self-wean sometime over the next year or so.
It turns out, about a month ago, she heard a story about milk banks and donated breast milk, and her heart was deeply stirred. She discussed with her husband the option of pumping and storing milk for donation, but felt she'd much rather give it directly to someone who needed it. While I mulled over induced lactation and how to get my hands on some milk, here was my friend mulling over just how to give some away! Without hesitation, she jumped at the chance to share with me.
We laughed and laughed about the timing, and then I cried (several times) about the precious gift she was so graciously willing to give. I cried even more about how God in His faithfulness went before me along this path and made way for a specific something so dear to my heart. Sometimes I'm just so blown away by his goodness!
"... You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!"
-- Psalm 139:4-6 NLT
Posted by Amanda at 4:07 AM
Thursday, August 21, 2008
(Photos generously supplied by my sister who hauled Chelsea and all of her stuff to campus today. I'll take my own pictures on Monday when I check out the new digs and stock her dorm room with all varieties of junk food.)
Posted by Amanda at 11:12 PM
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A couple of years ago, the must-have Christmas item for Gracie was a Love Me Chou Chou doll. It cost over $50 and was sold out everywhere, but I persisted and battled hoards of holiday shoppers to bring my baby the baby of her heart's desire. Gracie was so excited to feed the baby and to change her and to love on her -- for all of two weeks. The the well-won Love Me Chou Chou doll took up permanent residence on the floor of Gracie's bedroom until Bub found it one day and peeled all the skin off it's face.
This year, the must-have Christmas item was a Baby Alive doll. Similarly priced and equally hard to find, I considered the challenge, but instead, decided on a lesson. Gracie has plenty of dolls and didn't really need a new one -- particularly a new one she wouldn't appreciate. I told her she could have that Baby Alive, only I wasn't going to buy it. She was.
She protested that she was only five, and had no way to make money, but I reminded her of the holiday cash and gift card supply she was likely to get. Sure enough, a few days before Christmas, she had enough saved up to buy her -- she was so excited! On Christmas Eve, we were at Wal-Mart picking up some last minute baking supplies and she decided to buy her then.
We put the Baby Alive in our basket and walked around for a while as I explained to Gracie that if she waited just two more days until the After-Christmas sales, she'd likely get her at a discount. It was a difficult decision, but when I explained that the money saved could be applied towards other things she wanted, she got right on board. Baby Alive was on sale after Christmas, and Gracie happily brought her home. Moreover, she's taken such good care of her since the investment was her own.
Today, we spent the day feeding Baby Alive. If you're not familiar with the Baby Alive, she has a misshapen body and big alien eyes, and she eats and drinks from magnetized utensils. She giggles and squeals and sings creepy songs, and then she poops in her pants. Gracie thinks she is just the best toy ever and has literally cared for her baby all day long, even carrying her in a sling in Albertsons.
"You were right, Mommy," she said today, as I was washing baby dishes and she was giving her crying baby a bottle again. "It is hard work being a mommy. I even have about twenty babies [insert various stuffed animal names here]. You're pretty lucky you only have two, or you'd be very tired."
As I spent time playing with Gracie and her fake baby, I couldn't help but think about the adoption home study and some of the information that will be required of us, for example, the entire history of our infertility. I think it's a pretty standard requirement to explain the process of all we've been through so the social worker can determine if we've worked through it enough, "gotten over" it enough, to effectively care for a child not of our own making.
But how do we (I) wrap our (my) experiences up in a tidy little package? I don't know that I can. I will never get over my babies who have died. I'll never forget hearts beating on monitors, followed by black stillness later on. I'll never not remember Zachary's sticky new skin against mine and the rhythmic rise of his chest until his baby heart beat no longer. I'll never forget handing off his itty-bitty body and picking up an even smaller urn. I can never forget just how many times I told the funeral director we weren't meant to be there. Can I dismiss the days I lost, the tears I cried, the heart that broke and is being restored even still? I cannot.
And yet, I do not think these things prohibit me from parenting.
Am I disappointed that we're considering adoption instead of bearing another child? No, absolutely not. Adoption is a lovely and wonderful experience in its own right. It's a process we're privileged to be a part of. Adoption has always been part of the plan, part of our plan, and is separate from the babies lost. But how do I convey that? How do I reflect that readiness to move forward in light of the ones I've lost? How do I convey that this is not a replacement, but rather an addition to our hearts and our home?
I know ultimately, the whole of this matter is out of my hands -- how I feel, how I am perceived. We may or may not ever be chosen to parent, and that will be contingent upon all sorts of things. Above all, we're willing to walk this path and are truly hopeful to be transformed -- to be made holy -- along the journey.
Lord, let me lay bare my heart and to let go of the fear I feel. Help me to rely on you, even in these small matters. Let your will be done in our lives and in our family, and guide us along the path of your intention.
Posted by Amanda at 5:54 PM
Last night, I finished a layout for my blog friend, Happy Mommy. Happy Mommy -- or rather, Olivia -- was looking for something pink and chocolatey. The scripture I added to her header was one that has encouraged me time and again throughout our fertility journey, and I hope it brings some joy to her heart as she and Happy Daddy continue to try for their fourth.
Posted by Amanda at 1:21 PM
Monday, August 18, 2008
To wrap up the summer reading program at another local library, we attended a kid's magic show on Saturday. The magician was so funny and my two had a wonderful time. Bub was chosen to be a helper, and Gracie was picked by another little boy to be his "beeeautiful" assistant.
They finished the day with prizes of dinosaur eggs and miniature cars and a photographer snapped pictures for free photo bookmarks.
Posted by Amanda at 2:59 PM
The last time I saw my podiatrist, he was extremely pleased with my progress. So much so that I'm off crutches and now in only one dork shoe (or two, depending on your position on Crocs and/or mismatched shoes). He thinks I'll be healed before Hawaii.
As for progress of another sort, I e-mailed an independent social worker to ask questions about completing an adoption home study. A home study is often available through an adoption agency, but not always -- especially if you adopt from another state. I'm thinking by having one done independently, we'll expand our options. At this point, though, it's little more than communication (and an itty-bitty baby step).
Posted by Amanda at 1:14 PM
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Cinderella and Tinkerbell get arrested outside of Disneyland :: CNN.com
Enslaved by a Blackberry :: CNN Video
Filling the gas tank with poop :: CNN.com
The simple, frugal life offers freedom :: MSN Money
Create your own knit pattern with KnitPro :: www.microrevolt.org
Texas districts will let teachers carry GUNS (or, Thank goodness we're homeschooling!) :: CNN.com
"Mommy Blogs" attracting advertising, getting paid :: NYTimes.com
Share your organizing tips to win a free planner :: momagenda.com
Beloved badger, Frances, comes to life on PBS Kids Sprout (Frances is one of my favorite characters in children's literature) :: The Muppet NewsFlash
Posted by Amanda at 12:27 AM
Friday, August 15, 2008
We talked to the kids about the possibility of [maybe perhaps thinking of considering] adoption and asked for their thoughts. Since Bub is adopted and we have friends who are adopted, they have an understanding of what adoption is and how it works. Our conversation was really more about their thoughts and feelings. I've recorded their responses for posterity, but I ask you, could my children be any more honest?
Bub: I think it would be better to have a baby from the tummy, except they pop out of you a lot.
Gracie: I'd really like an adopted child because then it won't be dead or anything.
Beyond that beautiful conversation, I've been looking at more agency websites. I found one tonight (well, last night -- gosh, it's late!) that was for an adoption facilitation group. It seemed to be an online operation primarily, with classified ads for waiting families and prospective birthmoms. Somehow there's a matching process, but I didn't get that far into it. I spent the majority of my time on the site reading "Dear Birthmom" letters, and noted that all of the letters had perfectly posed pictures of beautiful couples plastered right at the top. What do you think our success rate would be if I put this picture on our profile?
Posted by Amanda at 1:51 AM
"Even though many and perhaps most adults today dislike and distrust children, there is at the same time a growing minority of people who like, understand, trust, respect, and value children in a way rarely known until now. Many of these people are choosing to have children as few people ever before did. They don't have children just because that is what married people are supposed to do, or because they don't know how not to have them. On the contrary, knowing well what it may mean in time, energy, money, thought, and worry, they undertake the heavy responsibility of having and bringing up children because they deeply want to spend a part of their life living with them. Having chosen to have children, they feel very strongly that it is their responsibility to help these children grow into good, smart, capable, loving, trustworthy, and responsible human beings..."
-- Patrick Faregna
Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling
Posted by Amanda at 12:21 AM
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Yesterday, we had such fun with our friend Rachel, who is turning six. She had a pool/luau party at a new activity center, where the amenities were fantastic. Rachel and her mommy were surrounded by many dear friends, and it turned out to be such a sweet celebration. My kids had a blast and agreed that the goody bag they came away with was the best ever (which it was -- thank you DeDe and the Oriental Trading Company). They even asked to have leftover cake for dinner (as if it was ours to take home, or as if I would allow that. They know that leftover cake is for breakfast*).
As for pictures, I thought I had more. Because I'd just been to the podiatrist, I didn't get in the water. Instead, I snapped photos the whole time. It didn't occur to me until now that I had DeDe's camera all along.
Happy Birthday, Rachel!
*I'm kidding about the cake. Leftover cake is only for my breakfast. Tee hee!
Posted by Amanda at 12:31 PM
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Earlier in the week, I had a little free time -- no kids, traveling husband -- so I spent the evening running errands. James asked me to be on the lookout for a new Bible for him. He really enjoys a devotional Bible, but he's sort of beyond the devotionals in his current Bible, so while I was out running around, I stopped at Mardel to browse the selection.
I thumbed through several Bibles, and found a devotional answering questions raised in a discussion we recently had, so I dropped it in my basket and headed towards the education department. On my way over there, I read this adage:
Marriage is not meant to make you happy.
It's meant to make you holy.
Friday, I went to the wedding of my very dear friend, Lois. For as long as I've known her, which is now over 15 years, she's been waiting for the one. She had a few ideas for a spouse, but the thing that topped her list was that he be a Godly man. I believe she knew marriage would be challenging, and to have someone praying and trusting God alongside her was huge.
As far as my marriage goes, in and of itself, it's been okay. Pretty great, really. James and I have had our ups and downs, and have been through marital situations now and again, but as a whole, the marriage itself has been super. Compared to the struggles we've seen some of our friends walk through, our marriage has been very easy. It's been the fruits of our marriage that have sent us to the very edge of the happiness/holiness conundrum. In particular, the "fruitfulness" aspect of growing our family. We have not conceived, borne, or brought home a child without some kind of nightmarish circumstance.
My story has been told time and again, so I won't rehash it (that's what the archives are for!), but when I read that particular proverb, it really made me think. I know I often feel like such a victim. When I try to recount my experiences to others for the sake of lifting them up, I often find myself spiraling downward, questioning time and again, "Why?" Once I sink to that deep, dark place, it's difficult to come back up again, to be useful in the least. That saying made me think about how pitiful I often am or feel or behave. It made me reconsider my attitude in the midst of my situation.
Not one part of my current circumstances (with regards to recurrent birth loss) makes me happy -- but am I allowing it to make me holy?
Holy, by definition:
1. specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated.
2. dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion.
3. saintly; godly; pious; devout.
4. having a spiritually pure quality.
5. entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred.
7. inspiring fear, awe, or grave distress.
8. (noun) a place of worship; sacred place; sanctuary.
Where am I spiritually after every trying month of trying? How do I love God and serve others after yet another negative pregnancy test? What about after a painful and humiliating exam? Does my doctor know that I'm trusting God? Am I even trusting God? And then, what if I do conceive? Am I then suddenly more spiritual, more pious? Probably not. I'm more consumed my fear and worry, made certain by yet one more loss*. And then, how worshipful am I? Sadly, not worshipful enough. Same story, told again.
Even though I know Biblical truths about God and His love and mercy, and the enemy and his wily ways, I still choose to project my pain onto God, blaming Him for not doing things the way I thought they should have been done. And then I allow that sort of self-induced sorrow to spill over into other areas of my life, other pursuits, and I think God will be found unfaithful there, as well. Another blogger brought it all back to my attention. She wrote this in a post:
"My mother in law and I flew to Missouri in July and I wanted to ask God soooo bad to keep us safe, but I was so scared that if I did, that the exact opposite would happen. I have had a couple of other moments that I wanted to ask for something along those lines, but stopped because I was way to scared that it would jinx me."
James and I have been discussing and exploring the adoption option, and while he's been gung ho for quite some time, I've resisted for this very reason. With our history (and not just the history of complicated pregnancies and birth loss, but also our very challenging adoption experience with Bub), I'm quite convinced we'll be the family who never gets picked to parent someones baby.
Though we're stable people in a loving marriage who long to serve God, though we're parents who spoil children to the point where they emit a nefarious odor (all the while keeping them on the straight and narrow), though we have room in both our home and our hearts, though we have the financial ability to provide for many more children, and though we have a documented case of infertility (which is a requirement for some agencies), we will not be picked. Because I'm crazy, and full of doubt.
Listen, I don't have any idea what in the world we're meant to do here on this Earth with regards to children and/or having any more. I feel like this is the one area where I consistently have a bag pulled over my head. But I do know that God has a heart for adoption, and adoption has always been near and dear to our hearts -- even before we adopted our first child.
We've always been open to and excited about adoption, but there was a plan -- we'd have a few and then adopt. (You know, cause we're so in the know and have our five-year plan all written out and such.) Instead, we began our parenting by adoption (well, by fostering, then giving birth, and then adopting, which really is a whole chicken/egg debate in and of itself).
When we adopted first, our plan changed to just include that -- we'll adopt first (because we already had), have a few, then adopt again. Until our attorney at the time offered two more children who were becoming legally free. Then we prayed about it, brought our family up to speed, agreed on the matter, and began to move forward with our adoption worker when the director of the shelter the children lived in said we couldn't "pick and choose." And then we were back to having a few before another adoption.
After birthing one biological child, we spent the next several years working on or being available to the continuation of that part of that plan. Yet still being the parents of just two children on Earth, we feel like it's either time to move on to the adoption phase again, or to just move on altogether.
At this point, there's nothing to report, other than the fact that we're considering our options. We've talked to a couple of people in the know. We've read a few adoption blogs. We're calling agencies for brochures. We're narrowing the field with respect to domestic and international adoptions. We're talking about having a home study done just in case.
I embrace this new challenge, and am willing to wholeheartedly consider it completely. I might even be willing to do something about it -- time will tell. But even as I move forward in this potential new venture, I know how I want to end it. Perhaps even more than I hope to come out of this consideration with a baby in my arms, I hope to come out of it holy.
"Always be joyful. Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will
for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said.
Hold on to what is good.
Stay away from every kind of evil.
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful."
-- I Thesselonians 5:16-24 NLT
"... I’m not asking you to take them out of the world,
but to keep them safe from the evil one.
They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth."
-- Jesus' Prayer, in John 17:15-17
"Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord."
-- Psalm 134:2
* Just to be clear, I've not had another loss. I'm still at four, not more.
** photo credit: Celebrity Baby Blog
Posted by Amanda at 7:54 AM
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
... scientists say they're closer to developing invisibility material.
Seriously? Cancer is still an issue, there's a hole in the ozone, and gas prices are higher than ever, and this is where scientists are spending their time?
I'm just sayin'...
(Courtesy of CNN.com)
Posted by Amanda at 12:37 AM
Thursday, August 7, 2008
So, I have this issue with my foot, and until it is totally healed, I have to see the podiatrist once a week to have it debrided. Essentially, that mean that the doctor takes a scalpel and hacks away at my wound in order to promote healing. It doesn't make a lot of sense -- I know -- but it works.
This week when I saw the doctor, he was quite displeased with the progress I'd made. He said some healing had occurred between appointments, but because of some callousing, he was certain that I'd been walking around putting all kinds of pressure on the wound. I assured him I had not been -- that I'd been wearing the horribly ugly surgical shoes he prescribed, those that are packed so full of pressure-shifting padding that my bones creak and my back aches at the end of each long day. I showed him the indention in said shoe to indicate that I spent my walking around time balancing on my heel. I showed him the muscles on my shin and how they've grown stronger by spending two solid weeks with my foot in flex. Even that did not make him happy.
"You need to spend more time on your crutches," he said.
I'm telling you, the man might as well have kicked me in my sore shin, because I don't know if you've ever been an overweight mama balancing herself on two sticks trying to wrangle two kids who've realized they can now outrun you, but let me just assure you:
It ain't fun.
But I was determined. The longer I've dealt with this foot thing, the more time I've had to spend on those scary medical websites, and not a one of them beats around the bush. They all blatantly state in some way or another, "Get this taken care of, or go around on one leg forever."
Now, I'm not at all, at all, in that position. Honestly, I could probably stop seeing the podiatrist at this point and everything would heal up eventually, but my seeing him will speed up the process. My following his orders will make the healing happen that much faster, so crutches it was.
It just so happened that the day I was commanded to be on crutches was a day with a very full schedule. From the podiatrist's office, we drove across the entire state of Texas to Presby Plano for Bub's opthamology appointment. Since we moved way west some time ago, we've considered changing doctors, but his doctor is just so fun and easy-going that we haven't. In retrospect, I should have just rescheduled the appointment, but I have this irrational idea that I am invincible and capable of doing it all -- even on crutches.
As it turns out, I am not invincible.
I didn't account for the bad parking and uphill
walk hobble, nor did I account for the fact that the opthamologist offices at the very end of the furthest hall on the very uppermost floor of the hospital. Needless to say, it was not a happy day. After all the physical exertion it took to get in there, the doctor, kind and tender man that he is, asked me to not fall over until I left the building. So sweet!
By the time the appointment was over, I was exhausted. I'd propelled myself a long distance in a challenging environment, I'd hopped over an untold number of children in the waiting room, and I was partway through the journey back to to car when I felt this overwhelming sense of being done. I could not go any further. My hands ached from gripping, my armpits were bruising, my hip hurt, and my ankle felt like it would just give way any time. I teetered on my crutches, took a few deep breaths, and gulped back some tears. I thought of calling James to cross the Metroplex and come to my rescue, but instead, I decided to press on.
I marked out my path, and took the rest of the hospital in sections -- just to that corner, now to that doorway, a little more to the desk. It wasn't long until I reached the exit door and made my way out onto the circle drive. I leaned against a column, looked out onto the expansive parking lot, and thought, "I can't do this. I can not do this." I wasn't just that I felt I couldn't make it to my car on crutches, but moreso that I couldn't do what it would take as a whole to get well, totally well.
About that time, a woman walked by me pushing a man in a wheelchair whose leg had been amputated at the knee, and that was all I needed to make it to the car. Once I got there, however, I really thought about my struggle and my near breakdown there at the Presby Plano.
When Zachary died, James and I were ministry leaders of the Celebrate Recovery group at our church. Every week, we stood before people as examples of God's grace and healing power. When he died, obviously, we took a couple of weeks off, and during that break, I spent a good bit of time on my face asking God how I could once again stand in front of others and be an example of anything good. I had been absolutely obliterated. I was a worthless mess. It was during that time that this scripture became especially poignant:
"So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but become strong." -- Hebrews 12:12 (NLT)
That scripture acknowledged that I was at the point of exhaustion. It saw me as I was there in the hospital, unable to go on. Ultimately, that scripture helped me to understand that it wasn't my responsibility to make sense of things for other people, but rather in my fatigue to hang on, to take hold again, and to keep moving forward.
And so I did. For a good, long while, I actively worked through various degrees of pain and frustration. In my grief, I cried and I wrote. I felt supported in my confusion and encouraged in my quest for comfort. But at some point along the path, I became overwhelmed by my shaky legs and decided to stop moving forward. I threw my tired hands up in the air and gave up. I leaned against some imaginary column and said to myself, "I can't do this. I can not do this."
I was too worn out to move any further, and no one was coming along to pick me up, so I stayed right there, feeling sorry for myself. I thought it would be ok to set up camp along the way -- God would see that I'd tried. That would be enough, right?
When I sat down in the middle of my misery and refused to go further down the path before me, the wound in my heart became infected and began to fester. It bubbled over with anger and bitterness, fear and mistrust. I became weak and my heart became hard, atrophied. I doubted that healing was available to me, and I doubted the One who could heal me.
I was called to honesty this weekend at church, and I acknowledged the position I'd put myself in. I John 1:9 reads, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," and that's what happened for me. I acknowledged to God, and now acknowledge to you, that I put myself in a position of complacency, being eaten alive by subtle sin -- anger, bitterness, pain, disbelief. Fortunately, God is gracious and was waiting for me, ready to forgive, and because He is merciful, He hacked away at those dying, infected parts of my heart. He helped me to stand once again, and I believe He walks beside me as I continue along the path ahead.
I don't know what that looks like, but I know God is faithful and will be present in my times of pain and times of triumph. That same mercy and forgiveness, comfort and grace is readily available for all who find themselves in need.
Red Cards from Keystone Church on Vimeo.
Posted by Amanda at 4:45 PM
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
On my porch today, I found an adorable package covered in slugs...
... a fun little blessing from Evelyn at I'm a Sew Sew Girl.
My sluggish new friend is super cute with rosy pink cheeks and itty-bitty beady eyes. He sports a tag that reads, "Garden Slug, c/o Amanda -- Texas or Bust." Flip the tag over, and it states that slug food is included, which must be the beautiful fabric leaves Evelyn hand-crafted and sent along.
(This woman's talent and creativity is beyond me -- I am not even kidding.)
Thank you, Evelyn! I love him already!
Evelyn's slug is named Doug.
What should I call my new little friend?
Posted by Amanda at 12:52 PM
In honor of our eighth wedding anniversary,
here is a list of eight things I love and/or appreciate about James.
** James is a Godly man. One of the things that first attracted me to James was his desire to know and love God. Different things about James and his personality have changed over these last many years, but this one thing has never changed. James loves God and longs to be like Jesus, and I know with absolute certainty that there is no better quality under the sun.
** James is an excellent husband. Long before I ever became a married woman, I had an idea in my mind of what a good husband would be. Little did I know, I had no idea. At various times in our lives together, I've realized he's much more than I ever knew I needed. James is kind and generous, loving and reliable, funny and compassionate. I thank God for bringing him to me.
** James is a family man. There is no place in the world James would rather be than somewhere with his family. A slight disadvantage to this is that his friends often think I'm keeping him home or somewhere else with us, when that is not at all the case. However, that disadvantage is far outweighed by the fact that he loves to spend time with us, just to be with us.
** James is an incredible provider. He works hard and without complaint to make sure we have all we need and much of what we want. He works long hours, spends a lot of time in traffic, travels often -- all for us. Fortunately, James loves his job and finds great satisfaction in his work, but I believe he works as diligently as he does as a sacrifice for us.
** James is an amazing father. James is not a perfect father, just as I am not a perfect mother, but he loves his kids deeply and makes them a priority. He is diligent to spend one-on-one time with both Bub and Gracie cultivating their relationship, and helping them to understand just how special and loved they are. His qualities and capabilities as a dad make me long even more for that "quiver full" of children.
** James is exceedingly generous. James gives of himself and of his resources without question. More than once, he's opened his heart, his home, his checking account to others in our life. He has given hours and hours and hours to others who struggle with various habits and hangups. He didn't hesitate when we had the opportunity to adopt Bub. He didn't hesitate when we had the privilege of taking in Chelsea. He doesn't complain when our house is filled with people and our pantry is rapidly depleted. He actively looks for ways to give.
** James is devoted. Primarily, James is devoted to God; secondarily, to me. Beyond that, he expresses intense devotion to a few select things -- to our children, to our church, to our extended family, to our ministry opportunities, to his job. When he sets his heart towards something, he is completely devoted to it in an unswerving, unmovable way, and I respect him deeply for it.
** James is the love of my life. Before James, I missed out on a lot of love. I came from a very complicated family situation where love and affection wasn't really available, and followed that with dating relationships with men who were quite self-centered. From the time that he knew he loved me, James has never been shy or reluctant to express that to me, and his tenderness towards me has brought healing to very deep wounds in my heart. Throughout the course of our lives together, we've had ups and downs and dramatic challenges, but whether through actions or by spoken words, James consistently reminds me of his unending love.
Happy Anniversary, James!
Here's hoping you can stand me for eight or eighty more years!
Posted by Amanda at 12:51 AM
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Today was a very special day for our family. A little while back, Bub made the decision to become a Christ-follower. At VBS this summer, Gracie followed suit. They took the next step in their walk by following Jesus' example of baptism, and both were baptized today at the lake.
Though the experience of baptism was so beautiful and special, I was reminded from the time we pulled up to the property until we nearly reached home again just how importance our reliance upon the Lord truly is. From the time we arrived, I spent the majority of the evening failing in quite possibly every single way. Except for the very moment they were being baptized, both of my children acted like lunatics, which, as I'm sure you can imagine, brings out the sweet mommy in me. Ahem.
As we made our way to the beach, I told Gracie to stay out of the water, but when I looked up after sweeping sand out of the bandage on my foot, Gracie stood before me absolutely soaked, dripping wet, shrugging like she had no idea what happened to her clothes. More than once I said to one or the other of them, "Get off that kid/that jet ski/that jagged, rocky ledge." While everyone was trying to take in the tender moments of the various baptism experiences, I nearly fell on my face in the water trying to get to my son who was kicking mud on the other people waiting in line (not intentionally, but still). Instead of falling on my face, my bandaged foot landed squarely in the sloggy water, and who knows what kind of bacteria I invited into my bloodstream by way of the hole in my foot. (Needless to say, I came home for a heavy-duty scrub with Hibiclens.)
As I had Bub disassemble a grouping of sticks he'd arranged in a way that could have potentially impaled a passerby, I watched another family embrace one another in quiet celebration. For a moment, I felt a twinge of envy. Not one member of that family was kicking mud on anyone, no one was throwing rocks, no one was trying to pilfer the property owner's jet ski. I thought to myself momentarily, "Why couldn't we be like that, for once?" But then my sand-coated girl ran by squealing with glee and I thought, "Eh, nobody's perfect...
Thank the Lord for His grace*."
Our Ministry Staff: Rob, Brandon, and Eric
Confirming their decision
"For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized.
And with him you were raised to new life
because you trusted the mighty power of God,
who raised Christ from the dead.
You were dead because of your sins
and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.
Then God made you alive with Christ,
for he forgave all our sins.
He canceled the record of the charges against us
and took it away by nailing it to the cross..."
-- Colossians 2:12-14 NLT
New Creatures in Christ Jesus
* "So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good.
The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right,
but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate...
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
I want to do what is good, but I don’t.
I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway...
Oh, what a miserable person I am!
Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
-- Romans 7:14-15, 18-19, 24-25a NLT
Posted by Amanda at 11:31 PM
Saturday, August 2, 2008
The kids earned free circus tickets by participating in a local Summer Reading Program, so we took them to the show this afternoon. Gracie loved the performing puppies, while James and Bub preferred the trained tigers. I particularly enjoyed Bello on the Wheel of Steel. He's such a daredevil!
Posted by Amanda at 7:50 PM
While James perused Oahu travel guides,
the kids explored the Barnes and Noble Music Department.
"...And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away."
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done
Posted by Amanda at 7:11 PM
Friday, August 1, 2008
My Starbucks giveaway was a huge success with 286 comments. Whew! It was interesting to see the varieties of summer drinks people prefer, and I now have an extensive list of things to try. Really, thank you all for playing along! I believe it would be fair to say that Southern Sweet Tea was the #1 summer drink, followed closely by Ice Water and Hot Coffee.
(Yes, I said hot.)
As for the winner of the Starbucks gift card, I used the Random Sequence Generator at Random.org. Here are the top five on the list that came back:
Random Sequence Generator
Here is your sequence:
The original winner, number 47, is a woman named Christie who left no e-mail address and who has a blocked Blogger profile. Since the chance of her popping in here again is quite remote, and since I have no way to connect with her, I'm moving on to the second in line. That said, congratulations EB (#52)!
I sent an e-mail to #52. If I don't get a reponse, I'll just move on down the list.
Posted by Amanda at 3:15 PM
On Tuesday afternoon, the kids and I met DeDe for a quick lunch playdate with Rachel and Rebecca. Our busy schedules have kept us apart all summer, so though we both had overscheduled days, we decided it was then or never. All in all, our meeting was little more than quick catching up (we're usually quite leisurely), and letting the kids say hello over chicken nuggets and ice cream.
As a special treat, our friend Hannah came along. Gracie rarely gets to see Hannah, but when she does, she behaves as if they see each other every Tuesday. She talks to her intently and strokes her hair. They act and look like goofy, giggly teenagers trapped in itty-bitty bodies. They're so cute together!
Posted by Amanda at 2:51 PM