Saturday, December 27, 2008

Phrase for the Week at My House:

"It's on the truck."

Our house was packed up Monday, December 15, so we have been living out of suitcases and not in our own beds for almost two weeks now. It's getting old.

Not really to complain or anything, but, we've been sleeping on an air mattress since last Sunday. Tomorrow is one week. My back hurts. We also have nowhere to sit besides two lawn chairs or the floor. And it has become a running joke around here that when we go to reach for something we need, the very next thought that hits is, "Nope, it's on the truck." I really needed an oven mitt the other day, but I couldn't bring myself to pay $16 for the only one I could find at the store we were in when I had several perfectly good ones sitting, you guessed it, on the truck. I made do with dish towels and now I have a blister on my little finger, but it's okay.

Though we have moved six times in our fifteen years of marriage, some from one town to another and some just across the same town, we have never had a moving company do it for us. We've always moved ourselves. Now that we are experiencing it this way, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

This time around I did not have to pack everything myself, woo-hoo!, and Drew and I did not have to impose on our friends, neighbors and relations to help us load all the heavy stuff into a truck. Those are definite pluses. BUT, this time around we are at the mercy of the moving truck driver and his timetable, and throwing in Christmas and the driver's very understandable need to be with his family for the holiday, we are twelve days in an unfurnished house trying not to climb the walls and very ready to sleep in a real bed. Counting the two days our stuff was packed up before being loaded on the truck, it will actually have been 14 days since we've felt any semblance of being settled by the time the moving truck shows up on Monday.

Hence the boring blog fare of late. It will get better. I hope. Judging by the sitemeter stats, readership has dropped to rates almost as low as when I first started this blog, and I haven't really been able to read many of my regular stops much lately either.

Very much looking forward to seeing our furniture again, and really, really, looking forward to seeing my washer and dryer again (I never thought I'd say out loud that I was looking forward to doing laundry, but after spending three hours in the creepy basement laundry room with a light that was on a timer and would shut off leaving me in the dark if I forgot to reset it every 15 minutes, I'm very ready to have my own machines in my own basement.), and really, really, really, really looking forward to seeing my own bed again.

Looking very forward to seeing the moving truck on Monday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Isaiah 7:14
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.'"

Matthew 1:23
"'Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'"

Isaiah 9:6
"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 53:4-6

"Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

Luke 2:14
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

John 1:1-5
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

John 14:6
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"

Hebrews 1:1-4
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

Philippians 2:9-11
"Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Revelation 5:12
"saying with a loud voice:
'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory
And blessing!"

Jesus, our Wonderful Counslor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Our Messiah, Lord and Savior. He is God with us. Ponder that a moment: God with us. He is not a God afar off, but He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. He came into the world, born to redeem His people from their sin. The shadow of the cross is over the stable, and because He bled on the cross, we can be made free, cleansed of our sin, freed to live a holy life before Him. Rescued from sin and the curse of death. Because He suffered, we can live. Because He was forsaken, we are forgiven who trust in Jesus alone. Hallelujah, what a Savior. More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! As we ponder the wonder of the Baby in the manger may we also stand in awe of the Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and may we fall to our knees in worship and awe of the glorious, risen Lord of Lords and King of Kings. May we focus on Him this Christmas and the hope that is found in Christ alone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Cold!

Well, my family is reunited again now that the kids and I have joined Drew at our new house in our new city. Long story, but it ended up that Drew did not come down to drive us up to Missouri and his parents very graciously agreed to drive with the kids and me so I wouldn't have to brave that trip alone with three children. I suppose I could have done it alone, but I'm very, very thankful they were willing to help. Drew has already bought their plane ticket to Charlotte, NC to spend Christmas with his brother and pick up their car which we left there on Friday. We left South Carolina on Friday afternoon- a balmy 80 degrees - and stopped at Drew's brother's house in Charlotte, where we spent the night. My brother and his wife came over on Friday evening and visited with us for a few hours, too, and it was great to see them again.

Then on Saturday, we left my in-laws' car at Drew's brother's house and consolidated six of us into my van with all of our stuff and the things I did not want moved on the moving truck. We had so much stuff strapped on top in our luggage holder that we were joking that we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies driving down the road. All we needed was a rocking chair on top. That van was packed full, too, and when we stopped to weigh it, since the Army will reimburse us for what we moved ourselves, we found that we had added 1300 pounds to the empty weight of the van. Wow.

We spent the night in Nashville, and I worried, a little, that all the stuff in the luggage holder on top of the van might be gone in the morning, but we were so tired at that point and the kids so ready to get out of the car that we didn't worry about it too much. Then on Sunday we finished our journey and when we arrived in town it was a cold, cold 15 degrees, which dropped to 8 degrees when the sun went down. Factoring in the wind, it's really, really, really cold here! We're not on the island anymore!

I could probably write a book, or at least a very long post, about how being cooped up in the car with my in-laws and children for three long days after a very trying week of packing and waiting on the movers and and cleaning our empty house and all that that entailed proved to show how much I still need to grow in sanctification and how it can show up the sin in my heart as tempers get frayed along the way, but I'll suffice it to say that I probably needed that light shined on my heart, but it wasn't pretty all the time. I'm glad we're done driving.

I am very grateful for the hedge of protection and safe travel God granted us along the way. And I have to say a huge, very heartfelt thank you to my mother and father in-law for their willingness to sacrifice and drive with us. I know that it wasn't easy for them, but I am very thankful they shared this burden with me. I'm not sure I could have managed this drive by myself. I also have to brag on my sweet husband. He did an excellent job at making our new house look like a home, even without furniture, which we have learned will not be delivered until the Monday after Christmas because the truck driver needs to be home with his family for Christmas, and how could we complain about that? Drew greeted us yesterday with colored lights all along the outside porch and cute decorations and a cute little Christmas tree with white lights (just the way I like it) and some wrapped presents around the tree. He had even stocked the pantry with a trip to Costco (how we've missed having a Costco close by!), and it was just so good to see him again.

Oh, and I'm typing this on the new laptop Drew bought us. Cool, huh? I'm kind of having a hard time getting used to the keyboard, so kindly ignore my typos, if you please. I have lots more to blog about, but I'll try to get to it soon. Right now, I'm just plain tired. We're going to be having an early Christmas celebration with Drew's parents before they fly out and then a nice time with just us on Christmas day.

One other thing I am also thankful about is that when I was up here a week ago visiting Drew we visited a church together that is just down the street from our house. They were performing their Christmas music program that morning, and it was just so worshipful that Drew and I both sat there with tears falling down our faces. In all the hustle and bustle of this move, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it seemed that the meaningful part of Christmas was so hard to focus on, and that Sunday morning was wonderful. Drew went back to that church yesterday, and, Lord willing, we think we may have already found a church home. What a blessing.

Merry Christmas, everyone. No matter what your circumstances, may you take time to ponder the wonder and hope that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fifteen Years

In some ways it doesn't seem like it could possibly have been fifteen years already, while in others it seems like I've known Drew forever, but today we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. I've often said that I think the best part of my life has been since high school, and Drew is the main reason I feel that way.

We met at church in Gainesville, FL, when I was a junior at the University of Florida and he was a first year graduate student. He says he had to ask me out three times before I realized he really meant it. I don't remember it that way, but, it's been fifteen years, after all. Anyway, once we did start dating, pretty much everyone that knew us at church believed we would eventually get married. Many people told us that after we announced our engagement, and it turns out they were right!

Drew is a truly special and kind man, and I am so blessed and grateful to share my life with him. He understands me in a way no one else does, I think, and even when he doesn't understand, he tries awfully hard to, and that means a lot. He's a great husband, great dad, great provider for our family, and I am so thankful I can really say that my best friend is my husband. God has richly blessed the time we've had together, and I pray I will be the wife he deserves to have.

Thank you for a wonderful 15 years, Drew, and I look forward to however long the Lord grants us together. And thank you for putting up with my stressy self during this move. Once we're all done, I so look forward to having you home more. I love you, Drew!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Move is On

Well, the packers came yesterday and the house is all boxed up waiting for the truck to come tomorrow to load it all and move it across the country. Things have been kind of stressed here, but it won't be long now. I got to see our new house last weekend when I went to visit Drew, and he did good! I like it, and I know the kids will, too. I have a lot of blog posts percolating, but they will just have to wait until we get moved in and settled a bit. So, the blog will be quiet for a bit, except for one I have autoposting on Thursday, and I'll see ya'll later! Please pray for our family as we travel this weekend and try to get settled in our new place.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Boo. Hoo.

I hate to bump my last post with this, but I read this and I just had to say: Do you blame her? I think I'd steer clear, very clear, very very very clear, too. Oprah. UGH. I don't even watch her show (can you say colossal waste of time and I have no desire to fill my head with her weird spirituality) - I think if I ever had the misfortune to be famous enough to be asked I hope I'd decline to be on it, too. And yes, I meant to say misfortune. I relish my obscurity, thankyouverymuch.

Taking Time to Ponder

There are so many things I love about Christmas. I do not love the shopping and the pressure to buy, buy, buy that is pushed at us from the commercials and the hype at all the stores starting the day after Halloween. I’ve already written about how I do not love the whole Santa thing. But I do love Christmas itself.

I like the glitter and shine of the decorations and lights, and I like the smell of the Christmas tree when we get it up. I don’t so much like the decorating, mind you, but I do so like the decorations. It’s fun to pull out old favorites and remember Christmases past as we decorate the tree and to put up the Nativity set each year. I don’t so much like the mess of all the boxes that have to be put away once the decorating is accomplished, but I love the way the house looks once it’s all decorated. I love to sit by the tree in the evening when it is quiet and watch the lights and think about what Christmas really means.

Once the day is over, however, I want the decorations down. I’m talking December 26, I’m ready to pack it all away. Enough is enough. It’s depressing to me to leave the tree up past New Year’s.

But this year I find that it is even more depressing to not put up a tree at all. Given that the movers are coming Monday (Monday I say!) to pack up the house, we did not put up Christmas decorations. I think Drew and I will do something small at the new house this weekend when I go up to visit him so we can surprise the kids when we bring them up in a couple of weeks and there will be some semblance of Christmas cheer and celebration, even though our furniture may not actually be delivered until after Christmas. Things are a little up in the air right now, and you all know how much I hate that, control nut that I still am. By the way, I noticed a gray hair this morning – right up front. Sigh. I hate to forego all the glitter altogether this year, what with it being the first year Boo is really interested in the lights and talking about Christmas every time we pass some house or store with decked halls, but this is how it is this year for the Sweet Tea family.

With our lives in the midst of the upheaval of moving house during the Advent and Christmas season this year, I’m finding it harder to sit still and take the time to ponder the wonder of the Incarnation, which, for me, is the most wonderful part of Christmas. I grew up as a Southern Baptist, and as such, we didn’t do much with ‘Advent.’ In fact, I had never even heard of it until I met my husband and went up north (to Indiana) and saw Advent wreaths in some of the churches. I think we missed something in ignoring that. I like the idea of taking the four weeks before Christmas to think about the prophecies that foretold the coming of the Messiah and thinking about how He fulfills them all perfectly. One of my very favorite Advent/Christmas carols is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is hauntingly beautiful in its minor key as it speaks of the hope of Israel, Jesus, the Son of God, who is “God With Us,” Emmanuel. I love the poetic language speaking of Israel mourning in lonely exile until the Son of God appear, He who is our Dayspring, our Sunrise, who dispels the gloomy darkness and brings us His light, the Light of the World. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

So, today, I’m taking a (short) break from preparing for the movers to ponder again the wonder of Christmas, the majesty of the Incarnation, the glory of the announcement of the angels to lowly, ceremonially unclean shepherds that the Great Shepherd has come. And I’m taking time to remember that it does not end at the manger. The Baby grew to become the Man who took our sin and shame and bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, bruised for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. No longer in lonely exile, but reconciled to Holy God. And His light has been shown even to the Gentiles, that this poor sinner could be cleansed to sing His praise for all eternity. I am no longer blind and lost in sin, but clothed in His righteousness as He is seated at the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for His sheep, who hear His voice and whose names He knows and has written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! May I live in the light of His grace today, growing in the knowledge and grace of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!



Celebrating God's Grace

Sunday was a day of celebration for our family. M was baptized Sunday morning. He had made a public profession of his faith in Christ over the summer and talked with the pastor, who usually likes to have children as young as he is (7 years old) wait a few months just to make sure he really understands, and M truly does seem to and had been waiting for Sunday with much patience. It was such a joy to watch him make his confession public yesterday by baptism.

We are so grateful that God has granted salvation to both J and M and that both boys have made this important step of faith and obedience, and I pray daily that they will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and that Drew and I will have the wisdom and grace to teach them well, by example and with words. I stumble so often at this important calling, and I am praying for God’s mercy and grace as I, too, continue to grow in grace, and I am trusting Him to complete what He has begun in me and in our children and I know that He is faithful to do it. And we continue to pray God will grant saving faith to little Boo in His time.

It is such a blessing to see our children come to saving faith at young ages. We are grateful. May we be consistently faithful in our calling to parent them and train them well.

Matthew 28:18-20
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Phrase for Today:

GO GATORS!







I just couldn't resist.....

Friday, December 05, 2008

Context

I have my alarm clock set to the Christian radio station, and I usually catch the tail end of a through-the-night kind of program that plays music and has little devotional thoughts throughout. Drew and I have a running joke about the man who hosts that program – I used to call him ‘creepy man’ because he has this deep, soothing voice and when the radio comes on and it’s just him talking, sometimes it can be a little creepy sounding, just this sleepy man’s voice droning on in my room as I move into wakefulness. Drew and his boss call him ‘sleepy man’ because of the droning quality of his voice as they would hear him while driving in to run before work.

The other day when Sleepy Man came on he was in the middle of his parting devotional thought, so I only caught the tail end of it. I tell you that to admit that maybe I took him out of context, something I’m about to accuse him of doing with Scripture, so I’m aware that I may have missed something. I’m not sure what he was saying at first because I was just waking up, but I think it was something about looking out for others or not being selfish or caring about others or something along those lines, and as I listened he quoted the first part of Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;” and he emphasized “to his own way,” and said something about looking out for others. I don’t remember his exact words, but at that point I bolted more fully awake and said, out loud, “That’s not what that verse means!” I talk to the man on the radio. I talk to people on TV and movies, too, but that’s a whole other post. I also kept waiting for him to finish the verse: “And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

The reason I even bring this up is that I really hate it when people take a verse of scripture out of context and try to make it say something it isn’t saying to make the point they want to make. Especially in devotionals where we aren’t doing in depth teaching should we be careful about this. And even if the point they are making is, in fact, a biblically accurate point, I have a problem with ripping a verse out of context and forcing it to say something it isn’t saying in context. Why not go to a passage of Scripture that actually is making the point you want to make? Seems to me that would be a more responsible handling of the Word. Again, I was half asleep during most of what the man was saying so I may have completely missed his point, and if so, I apologize. But the reason that particular scripture and misapplication of it jumped out at me is because I have been working to memorize Isaiah 53 and I’ve been thinking about that chapter a lot recently. And there are plenty of scriptures that illustrate the point that we should not be self-centered and should look to the needs of others if that was the point he was trying to make.

In context, that verse is saying that all of us have gone our own way as opposed to God’s way, not that we are merely ignoring our neighbor or not looking out for others, but that we are antagonistic toward our Creator. I’ll grant that a huge facet of our sin nature is the fact that we are extremely self-centered, but the point of Isaiah 53:6 isn’t that we’re ignoring the needs of others, but that we are in rebellion to God and in need of a Savior. I can think of lots of verses that would have illustrated the need to look out for the interests of others, for example, Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

But Isaiah 53:6 isn’t saying that. Isaiah 53 is all about the Suffering Servant (Jesus) who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Isaiah 53:6 is all about how all of our iniquity (sin) was laid on Him. The fact that we have all turned to our own way is in the same way that the people of Israel in the book of Judges were doing what was right in their own eyes. They did what was right in their own eyes, as opposed to what God says is right. We have turned to our own way as opposed to God’s way. This is the iniquity that is laid on Him, this is why the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5) Hallelujah! What a Savior! Meditating on Isaiah 53 has been very meaningful, making me so incredibly grateful for the salvation Christ attained for us in the Cross and His resurrection. The fact that I am clothed in His righteousness, that He went to the cross to atone for my sin and reconcile me to God, granting me peace with God!

So, while part of the going our own way very well may include not looking out for the interests of others, it isn’t the totality of it.

Then again, maybe I just ripped Sleepy Man’s words out of context, too. I was half asleep, after all. I hope so. But that hasn’t been the only instance I’ve found myself arguing with him as I try to wake up in the morning, either, though for the most part what he has to say is okay most mornings. But sometimes I sort of wish it was just music at that hour.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Word for the Day: Procrastination

What do you do when it is only 13 days until the movers come to start packing up the house and there are several things that must be done before then that will require time and energy to complete?

Well, I don't know about you, but I spent the whole day bubble wrapping my Precious Moments and other special things that the movers will not be packing, getting my hair cut as a means of getting out of the house while our realtor brought someone to look at the house who ended up deciding they aren't ready to buy anything right now, (Well, I really did need the haircut, too, it wasn't just a ploy to get out of the house but that worked out pretty well, and it was the last time I'll have it cut while living "on the island" so I had to say good-bye to the sweet lady who has cut my hair for the past five years), writing my Christmas letter (yes, I am one of those annoying people who writes a Christmas letter almost every year), skimming a few blogs, playing with and reading to Boo in the hopes she would take a nap (she did for a little while), playing around with formatting the Christmas letter to try to get it all on one page with two pictures (managed it, barely), addressing Christmas cards while boys did homework, going to McDonald's for dinner with the kids (not my favorite, but grandparents invited and were buying), addressing more Christmas cards, getting Boo to bed for the night, finshing reading The Hobbit with the boys, saying good night to the boys, addressing the last of the Christmas cards, and blogging about addressing Christmas cards.

All in all, aside from the bubble wrapping this morning, not much that needs to happen before the movers arrive on my doorstep in less than two weeks!!!!! got finished today. I procrastinated.

But I got my Christmas letter written and cards addressed. Now I just have to buy stamps, make copies of the letter and wait until Drew can get into the apartment next week and get the phone turned on so I'll have a phone number to put in the Christmas letter along with our new address.

And the sad thing is I'm ready to do the dance of joy because I'm actually managing to get Christmas cards and a letter out this year. Maybe. They aren't completely finished yet. But the end is in sight. Impressive, huh?

Monday, December 01, 2008

And the Winner Is......


Thelma has won the drawing for Just Enough Grace!

I used the oh-so-scientific method of putting the names of those who entered on slips of paper and shaking them all together in a straw hat and my assistant, my seven-year-old son, drew out Thelma's name. Thelma, please e-mail me at sweetteablog@yahoo.com with an address for me to send your book and I'll get it in the mail to you.

Thank you to all of you who entered, and now I'll make another shameless plug for Heather's book. Please visit here for more information about the book and how to order a copy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't Forget....

Don't forget about the book give-away.....until 8PM today is the last day to have your name added to the drawing! I'll announce the winner on Monday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!



Psalm 118:1
"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Told You I Cannot Write Short Posts

I typically avoid vampire stories. There are spiritual themes you can’t avoid in them, and, vampires being what they are, it’s a safe bet that I’ll probably have a problem with the directions those themes take. It isn’t so much that I don’t like vampire stories, exactly, because the fallen part of me actually finds them quite intriguing, but I usually find them so disturbing that I have to say that ultimately I don’t really like them. I am also not a fan of young adult romance fiction. Ugh.

So, how did I end up reading a whole four book series about vampires and teenage/young adult romance, you are probably asking. I’ve gotten to know some of my neighbors this year as we wait at the bus stop in the morning, and that has been a good thing, seeing as how I tend to be something of a hermit and am kind of quiet and find it hard to climb out of my shell and meet people. One day at the bus stop one of the ladies told another lady she had stayed up until 2am to finish a book she had borrowed and really wanted the second one, and I was intrigued. She said this book was really good, did I want to borrow it, too? I asked what it was and she told me it was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I remembered that I had heard something about that author and that she was becoming very popular, but I couldn’t remember what I had heard, positive or negative, so I said, “Okay.” When she handed me the book and I started walking home and looked at the back cover, my thought was, “Oh, yeah, it’s a vampire book. Ugh.”

Before I continue, I need to warn you that there will be spoilers in this opinion piece. This is not a formal book review, per se, it’s just me sharing my thoughts. Actually, it’s just me trying to work out my thoughts so I can think through it better as I interact with my friends who are enjoying discussing this book and, hopefully, to come at it from a biblical worldview and provide a different viewpoint and hopefully have an opportunity to be a good witness in the process. I don’t have the books in front of me, and I’m working off my impressions and memory of the story as it unfolded throughout four books, so I won’t have direct quotes to illustrate my points – I borrowed the books, and to be honest, I don’t want to buy them and have them sitting on my shelf. All that to say that there will be much plot spoilage in this post. If you think you want to read these books, be warned that I’m just sharing my impressions of the overall story, so if you don’t want any of the plot revealed, don’t keep reading. And if you haven’t read them and aren’t planning to this probably won’t make much sense, and I can already tell this is going to be another one of my impossibly too long posts. Basically I’m just writing this post for me as a way to hash out my thoughts. You’re welcome to look over my shoulder as I do if you wish, but if you’re one of the obsessed Twilight fans, be forewarned that I am not one also. I’m also going to link to another review that pretty much nails my concerns much better than I could have stated them. So, is that a fair enough warning? If you don’t want spoilers, stop now.

Anyway, when I got home with the book I read the front flap and was interested enough to start reading it and as I did I realized I was enjoying the story. It’s a different twist on the vampire story, and I did become intrigued by Bella’s (the main character) experience as a new student at her high school and the angst that goes with that. In a nutshell, the books are a story about a 17-year-old girl who moves from Phoenix to the town of Forks, Washington to live with her father after her mother remarries and moves to Florida with her new husband. Most of the books are written from Bella’s point of view, as we follow her first days at her new school and as she meets new friends and tries to find her way in her new surroundings and reconnecting with her dad. Bella’s world is drastically and forever changed when she meets Edward and the Cullen family. As it is gradually revealed that the incredibly gorgeous guy (Edward) that Bella begins to have a crush on is actually a vampire, the tension mounts. This revelation comes about slowly and, that is one reason the books are so hard to put down. Of course, from the time she meets Edward, we are drawn into the ever unfolding story of their growing romance, and the obstacles that surround it. The strength of the books (at least the first three – I REALLY didn’t like huge parts of the fourth but I probably won’t get into all of that in this post) is that as I read I found it very difficult to put them down once I started, because I did want to know where the author would go with these characters, even though I didn’t really like Bella all that much after she got more and more obsessive about Edward. .

If you’ve suffered through this post to this point, I suppose you’re still reading because you want to know, did I like the books? Here’s my honest answer. On one level, I found them very entertaining. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that was so hard to put down. I found myself reading while I cooked and running over to my friend’s house for the next books once I’d finished the first, second and third, and once I was done with the series, Drew was pretty glad because I finally was able to quit reading. The story is interesting and there are a lot of interesting plot twists and, I’ll admit, the ending ties things together very nicely (well, most things….I found the father’s acceptance of what happens to Bella – or his acceptance of the suggestion that he just not ask too many questions - in the end just plain odd. I don’t know any sane father who would just say, “Okay” to the idea that he just take a “need to know” approach to the fact that all kinds of very strange and unexplainable things have happened to his daughter which make no sense at all to him). The book ends just the way the reader has been conditioned to want it to, and I suppose most people consider it a blissfully happy ending.

However….you knew I’d have a ‘however’ didn’t you? Here’s where I tend to get flak from people who often tell me that I tend to over think things and read too much into everything. But, as a Christian, and in the case of this book, as a mom, I can’t hang up my worldview and just read it as entertainment and leave the spiritual elements out of my evaluation. And that is because the author herself brought some of those things up in the story and because I filter everything through my worldview, even entertainment. This leads to people often thinking I am too serious or that I can’t just enjoy myself. This is not true. As I told my neighbor when we were discussing the series once I’d finished it, I don’t have to like the ending or everything in the book to find it enjoyable, and I actually have found lots of things to think about from reading them, and it has been a platform for me to share a little bit about my faith with my friends, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to share more as we continue the conversation. So, don’t hear me saying that I think a Christian should read only ‘Christian’ books. What I am saying is, be careful and pay attention to everything you read and know that an author’s worldview will influence how and what they write and it will influence you as you read, even if it is just entertainment. On a certain level, I did like the books, but I also have to honestly say that there was A LOT about them that bothers me, and what bothers me most is that I am not at all sure they are appropriate for the target audience of young girls who are gobbling them up and loving them so much. There is a lot in there that I would have a very hard time feeling good about handing over to my daughter (or son) to read without any caution. I think, as a mom, I would want to be sure my daughter was spiritually mature enough to be able to discuss the things that bothered me about these books, and I would be sure to discuss them with her. And I don’t think they are books I would recommend that teenage girls read. That will get me in trouble with a lot of fans and moms, but it’s my honest opinion.

Here’s some of why I think I would be very hesitant to recommend these books. First of all, when I first heard about these books, I thought that since the author was a Mormon, how smutty could they be? So, I thought they would be okay. Well, on the surface, they are pretty clean, compared to many of the young adult type of books. The high school students are all pretty clean-living – no drinking, drugs, or sex before marriage is portrayed among any of the kids Bella hangs around. Kissing is pretty much as far as anything goes, and even as the romance between Bella and Edward grows, he refuses to consummate their relationship until she marries him, in spite of much temptation from Bella. So, again, on the surface, the first three books are pretty clean. However, there is a lot of flirting with the line – Edward very frequently stays all night in Bella’s room without her father’s knowledge, and his reasons for protecting her purity seem to be more that he is afraid he will hurt her because vampires are so superhumanly strong and he is so attracted to the scent of her blood than for more noble reasons, though that is hinted at, too.

And the way Bella becomes literally obsessed with Edward is disturbing in the extreme. She gets to a point where she just about cannot function or breathe if he is not in her sight, and that is just creepy. Both of them decide that if the other is not living, then life is just not worth living. Bella basically makes an idol of Edward, at one point saying that she doesn’t need Heaven if Edward is not there. And she also is very self-absorbed and pretty much just uses her human friends and isn’t all that concerned about them. In fact, something I found to be a glaring weakness in the books was the flatness of the ‘extras’ in Bella’s life. The human friends were boring and not fleshed out at all, while all the supernatural characters, the vampires and her shape-shifting wolf man friend Jacob, as well as Bella herself, were much more fleshed out. Basically, the human friends function to move the story along and Bella calls on them when she needs them, but she discards them when she doesn’t, and, in my opinion, it makes her much less likable as a character. Her world quickly revolves around Edward, and Edward only, and she has no concern for her other friends. This is not a message I think we ought to be giving our teenage girls. Her attraction to Edward is portrayed as true love, but looking at it as a mom, I would be so concerned and grieved if my own daughter were acting like this.

This gets us to some more serious issues I had with this book. Edward is not sure if he has lost his soul when he became a vampire and he does not want Bella to change because he doesn’t want to be responsible for her losing her soul, too. Another character says that he just can’t believe that God would not do anything for someone like Edward because he is so ‘good.’ And here we get to the problem of worldview. Edward and his family are seen as good because they do not feed on human blood. But they still drink blood. This is what vampires are. And I have a problem with that, but for the purposes of this very long post I won’t go there at the moment. There are enough other concerns with these books without my going into the obvious ones associated with all vampire legends. Anyway, good as opposed to evil is presented as relative goodness. Edward is good because he is not as bad as the bad vampires. He is good because he loves Bella and protects her and tries to live inconspicuously and not let the humans know he is a vampire. But the problem is, relative goodness is still not good, in the ultimate sense. They may be better than most, but the characters are still sinners, as are we all. They need salvation, atonement. And, of course, this is not part of the story. Instead, Bella increasingly comes to see everything human as boring and not to be desired and to desire to be like Edward and his family. The vampires are painted as impossibly beautiful, strong, and desirable. Even when they tell Bella that they would not have chosen this life and that she should stay human, she wants to be as they are, even if it means it will cost her soul.

Bella increasingly makes unwise decisions, going against the counsel of her father, mother and others who she should recognize are wise enough to know that she is acting dangerously. In fact, Edward himself tells her he is dangerous and she should stay away. Throughout the book, Bella’s mother is presented as scatter-brained and that Bella is the responsible one. There is a very, very subtle disrespect of parents portrayed throughout this series that I found disturbing. Even though the author seems to want us to think Bella really loves her father, Bella’s attitude is more one of patronizingly tolerating him and mothering him than it is of respecting her father.

Also, the ‘good’ things that the main characters do are only good to a point. Almost every one of them, once you examine the motives, are done for selfish reasons. Edward is constantly saving Bella because he cannot live without her. That’s his real motivation. I kept thinking throughout the novel that the way he could have shown true love would have been to leave her alone. That would have been the only thing he could do for her that would truly be in her best interest. But, of course, then we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we? I also kept hoping that Edward would find some way to become mortal. To me that would have been a better ending than what actually happens with Bella finally becoming a vampire in the final book. As I told my friend who asked how I liked the ending, eternal life left in a sinful state without Jesus is just not a happy ending to me. And for all the talk of Heaven and hell during the discussions about whether or not they had souls, I got to thinking. Heaven is NOT just the opposite of hell. Heaven without Jesus is not Heaven. It is all about Him. So, for Bella to say that just being with Edward is heaven enough gave me the creeps. Big time.

And another thing….the love that is portrayed between Bella and Edward is not real love. It is obsession and lust, pure and simple. I had a hard time figuring out what it really was that they loved about each other besides the draw of the mysterious – for Edward the fact that she was the one person whose thoughts he could not read and for Bella the whole immortal thing – and the ad nauseum obsessing about Edward’s physical beauty. And once they were married, a huge big deal was made about the physical nature of their relationship – especially once Bella was immortal, too. Sorry, but there is just more to love than only that.

One thing that came out of reading these books for me was that I got to wondering just how much of an impact the fact that Stephenie Meyer is a lifelong Mormon might have made on what she has written. I did some research and realized that it actually made quite a lot. Though the books are by no means evangelizing for the Mormon religion, Mormon thinking is all over them, as you would expect from a Mormon author, whether she intended it or not or even whether she is even aware just how much is there even. And that helped me to better understand the subtle things that bothered me all throughout the series and which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The research I did also made me even more appalled that certain evangelicals are willing to embrace the Mormon faith as Christian. The more I learned, the more I realized just how tragically far from orthodox, biblical Christianity their teaching actually is.

So, bottom line is, I would not feel comfortable recommending this series without strong cautions. On the surface, sure it’s entertaining. But there are deeper issues and they are serious, and I’ve only scratched the surface in this too long post. I could have said a lot more. What came to mind when reading them and digesting them and thinking about them, was that throughout the series, as it is written you find yourself wanting Bella to be with Edward and that the immortality he has is to be desired. The vampires are beautiful on the outside, strong, gifted, talented, intriguing and desirable, and honestly, the dramatic climax in the final book was fun reading, on a strictly entertainment level. But that's why it bothers me. Really, they are dead on the inside. Their hearts stopped beating when they were transformed. And isn’t that an apt description of false, works-based religion? It may look shiny and good on the outside, but apart from faith in Jesus Christ, there is only death on the inside.

I think what I am saying is that what makes these books so disturbing to me is that they are so very likable, and that in being so, they are more subtle in how disturbing the disturbing things actually are. I guess I would say, “Moms, know what your girls are reading. If you have a teenager reading these books, be prepared to help her see the deeper issues and help her think through them.” As my neighbor and I were discussing, we think one reason these books have become so popular is that Stephenie Meyer has hit on the kind of thing that teen girls can really relate to in her Bella. A lot of us felt a whole lot like she did in high school – kind of awkward, not really fitting in with the ‘in’ crowd, having a secret desire to protect those we love and to be the heroine in a great story. That’s why it’s so easy to get so very involved with the story. You find yourself really liking and relating to the characters. These are just some of the things that struck me, as a Christian, as I read these books. If you liked them, okay. I’m not going to argue with you. If you have something to discuss regarding the issues of concern that I raised, good, I might interact with you. If you just want to rave about how great these books are, there are lots of fan sites devoted to that. This isn’t one of them. If you want to lambaste me for not liking the books, I’ll probably delete the comment. And that’s my very long-winded opinion.

Oh, yes, and here is a link to a review that sums up my concerns way better and much more succinctly than I just did here. Thanks for the link, Barbie!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Give-Away

My friend Heather has written a book and I want to share it with you all! Heather and I were roommates in college at the University of Florida, and we have kept in touch over the years and I have followed her journey on her blog. I would love to share her book with you.


From the book's website:

"Just Enough Grace is Heather’s journey through parenting, homeschooling, cancer, her husband’s job loss, the subsequent cross-country move (in the midst of cancer treatments), and the on-going changes and challenges of everyday life with four kids. Yet through it all, she sees God’s hand and hears His still small voice. One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is that God gives us just enough grace—just enough for the moment, for the specific situation that we’re in right now."

I have a copy of Just Enough Grace that I would love to give to one of my readers. If you're interested in being entered in a drawing for this wonderful book by my sweet friend, please leave me a comment on this post by Sunday, November 30, 2008. I'll put the names in a hat and choose one commenter and announce the winner on Monday, December 1, 2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Will I Ever Blog Again?

My friend Lisa often will blog status reports, and I am blatantly plagiarizing the idea from her today as I realize here it is Friday and I haven't posted anything, substantive or not, since last Friday. Is it still plagiarism if I give her credit for the format idea? I’ll let Lisa decide the answer to that.

Sitting...at my computer desk wishing a substantive post would materialize on the screen. Also sitting on my hands when I'm not typing to try to warm them up. It's cold this week. And my hands freeze all winter. And it's only going to get colder in a few weeks when we move.

Sipping...nothing at the moment, but thinking strongly about going out to get a Coke zero from the fridge in the garage. Speaking of the fridge in the garage, did you know that if you set your refrigerator too cold and a case of diet A&W cans happens to freeze you will have a whopping explosion of a mess in said refrigerator? I didn’t either. But, wow, you should see the mess. The cans actually exploded. That’s one more job I’ve got to do now.

Eating....an apple, and wishing it were a giant chocolate bar. Still trying to shed some more pounds. Slow going these days.

Missing...my dog. I still find myself looking at the couch when I get up in the morning and am always disappointed when he isn't there. I guess that will fade once we move.

Also missing... my blog and my blog friends. Wishing I had more to say to keep it up. Wondering what is wrong with me these days. Must be the move. I’m not great with big changes, even when they are so incredibly obviously the right changes.

Incredibly grateful...for the manifold providential ways God is showing us and comforting our hearts that this move is right. There are more than I can count. God is so kind and so good and His mercy is everlasting, and His peace does pass all understanding. May I rest in it. And I am thankful for His word and how the time spent studying it is never wasted time, but brings refreshing to my soul.

Mulling...over a series of books I just completed and which I can’t seem to quit thinking about and about which a blog post is screaming in my head to be written, but I am thinking I just might be too chicken to jump into that water and name the series just now since they are obscenely popular with a certain young adult female audience and the first novel has a movie based upon it opening today and it deals with a new twist on the vampire story, (Have you figured it out yet?) and what I’m thinking about it is not all positive, glowing, obsessively wonderful thoughts and I’m not sure I want to face the backlash for sharing my thoughts if I do mention the name of the books and the Google hits bring obsessed fans here, so, should I write the post or not? What say you?

Wimpy... You’re right. See above. But that as-yet-unwritten post is about the only substantive thinking I’ve got going at the moment, too. Sigh.

Enjoying...my two-year-old daughter. She is just so much fun.

Also enjoying...my two boys. They are fun, too. But I am also constantly reminded of my total inadequacy at this parenting job at times. Parenting is hard work. Really hard. God is gracious. Really gracious. He grants wisdom when I pour out my heart to Him and for that I can never be grateful enough.

Stressful...the time is quickly barreling down upon us for our move to St. Louis. Today is Drew’s last day working at the hospital. That is really surreal. Drew’s boss and his wife, who are also dear friends, are taking us out to dinner tonight. I’m dreading the tears. I surprised myself on Saturday at M’s last football game when a friend’s mom came up to him and told him how much they are going to miss him when we leave. I got all misty-eyed. And I want to leave the low country. But it is still hard. Drew leaves the Saturday after Thanksgiving to start his new job and the movers will be here in early December to give us a better estimate of our actual moving date when we can go on and join him there. It is real now.

Procrastinating...filling out the forms for the boys’ new school. I hate filling out forms. But it needs to be done before next week. Drew will be taking them with him to get them registered for next semester. Have I mentioned that I’m not great with change?

Irritated...with incompetence. One example among many that we've experienced recently: I guess literacy is too high an expectation for our mail carrier. We keep getting mail for neighbors who don’t even live on our street, and other neighbors keep having to walk our mail over to us. When we went to Disney, I had the post office hold our mail for that week. It was supposed to all be delivered to us on the Saturday we got back. We didn’t get it until the next Monday. When I went through it, there was a large stack of our next door neighbor’s mail in with ours which had been held all week instead of delivered to their box. I hope their mail doesn’t get forwarded to St. Louis with us when we move. Also, there was a two inch thick stack of mail for different people all over the area here – not even close to our neighborhood, some not even the same zip code. That all got held for a week with our mail, too. We put those in one of those big blue mail boxes. Hope it got where it was supposed to. That’s just one more aspect of Island living I’m fairly sure I won’t miss too awfully much. Looking at the bright side, with all of us neighbors walking misdirected mail to each other, at least we are finally meeting each other.

Not progressing...with the writing project. I started outlining a little of the story, but I haven’t had time or heart to get into it much yet. I also need to get moving on the story I promised M I would write for him a very long time ago.

Thankful...for Jesus, who is the Light of the world. That has so much meaning for me right now. Maybe I’ll explain more when I get up the courage to write that book post.

Done...blogging for the moment. Diapers and daily duties are calling.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Santa Thing

Warning, minor rant ahead. I don't seem to be able to write short posts, and this one, long as it is, probably doesn't say everything I want to or say it as well as I should. Take it for what it's worth, I guess.

At the bus stop about a month ago, some of the moms stayed a while talking after the bus took the kids to school. One of the moms filled me in on an ongoing discussion that was apparently being continued from the day before. She told me that her (third grade) son came home the day before telling her some things he had heard on the bus about s*e*x and that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I keyed in on the first concern because that’s a big deal but kind of blew off the second because that’s a non-issue to me. However, as the conversation continued, it became obvious that several of the moms were as concerned, if not more concerned, about the Santa Claus revelation than they were about the other topic. That kind of surprised me. In fact, I told them that my boys don’t believe in Santa because we never really made a big deal about him at our house. It’s not that we’re legalistic or anything, the boys know the Santa stories and have seen some of the movies about him, but we never played up believing in the fairy tale. That’s just not Christmas to me. So I told the moms that I knew my guys weren’t participating in the s*e*x talking because they are still pretty innocent there, but that they very well could shatter illusions about Santa.

Let me back up and say what this post is NOT saying. I’m not making any judgment on a family’s decision to ‘do’ Santa or not. I don’t really care one way or the other. I think it’s one of those things you can do if you want or not do if you don’t want and not something to get all hyper about. I’ll share our opinion and convictions regarding our own decision that we made early on in our family, but it doesn’t bother me if other families play the Santa game or not. I don’t think it makes us more or less spiritual than anyone else because of our decision not to do much with him, it just is what it is, and I don’t really care if anyone else agrees or not. So don’t get all offended if you just love the Santa thing. Cool beans. Go for it, I won’t intentionally Grinch it for ya.

But, here’s our philosophy at our house. When I was growing up, we had stockings and Santa presents, but the game was never played to the extent where my brother and I really believed that some fat, jolly old elf man truly came into our house on Christmas Eve and delivered presents. I don’t remember ever taking it seriously, and my parents didn’t make a big deal out of Santa. It was just a story. The real point of Christmas was to celebrate Jesus. Drew says it was pretty much that way for them, too. So, we kind of decided that when we had kids we weren’t going to do the Santa thing, either. We put up stockings and all, and my kids knew the stories, and we even put out reindeer food for fun when M brought some home from school, but they never believed it was anything real. We thought it through and realized that at Christmas we wanted the focus to be on Jesus and the fact that He came to earth, stepped into time and took on human flesh, to reconcile us to Himself. Christmas, to us, is really about the Cross. So we didn’t see the point in muddying up the celebration with an over-the-top fantasy world Santa myth. In fact, my kids didn’t even really know who Santa was until they went to school. M called him “Ho, Ho Man,” when he was little and we thought that was funny.

Anyway, when the kids went to school, I told them that some kids did believe in Santa, so just don’t make a big deal about it and try not to spoil their fun. That has not been a problem, as far as I know, until this year.

A few weeks after the bus stop conversation, one of the moms very apologetically asked me if she could talk. She said, “You guys don’t do Santa, right?” And we talked a little about that. Then she hesitantly said that her son told her that J had told him that there was no Santa and could I talk to him? Ugh. I told her that we had already told him not to bring it up, but if someone point blank asked him, he shouldn’t lie, either. But I told her I’d talk to J. One of the other moms said, “Yeah, I know it’s Jesus’ birthday and all, too, but we just want to preserve the magic of Santa for our kindergartner. She just has so much fun with it.”

So I talked to J. Turns out this kid had asked him. So, J didn’t lie. The other mom and I talked again today and she asked if I’d talked to J. I told her it looked like her son was asking. She said this was probably his last year anyway, because he’s asking all those logical questions, but she wanted to give me a heads up because the other mom will be upset if her kindergartner finds out. I said that we weren't trying to be jerks or anything and I'm sorry if my son's answer was causing problems but I also didn't want him lying. And then we kind of joked about, well, if you’re that upset about it, show them The Polar Express. Whatever. She laughed and admitted that they were probably going to have to talk to their son this year since he's pretty much figured it out and since he's going around asking all his friends. By the way I HATE that movie. It totally shows what Christmas without Jesus is. Depressing empty vanity – ultimately it’s all about the presents and 'believing.' But 'believing' in what? DEPRESSING. And the North Pole scene where everyone is worshipping Santa really, really bothered me, and no, I do NOT think that I’m being hyper sensitive. No wonder people get so depressed during the holidays. Just sharing my honest opinion. Feel free to differ, but that’s how it struck me.

Anyway, I’ve kind of gotten tired of being looked at funny every year for not making much of Santa. Every year someone at church or somewhere will ask the boys if Santa brought them anything, and my concrete thinker J will look confused and say, “No…” and the kind hearted soul will give me this weird look, to which I apologetically explain that yes, they did get presents and mumble about not really doing much with Santa, which doesn’t usually erase the weird look they’re giving me. There’s some version of that conversation every year.

I’m trying to be understanding, but, really, why is it that our family is the bad guy here? I don’t care if other people want to play the Santa game, but to get all bent out of shape when your kid hears on the school bus or from a neighbor kid the TRUTH that Santa is just a fairy tale is just, well, life. Sorry. I’ve told my guys not to be jerks or obnoxious about it because we don’t want to hurt our witness by being unkind or coming across in a legalistic way, which is NOT how we look at this, but, at the same time, it isn’t my responsibility to keep the lie alive for everyone else. I’m responsible for how I raise my own kids. We decided in own family to try to downplay the materialistic, secular side of Christmas as much as we could, though I still think there’s too much emphasis on the presents, truth be told, and put more emphasis on the Savior. We did nothing wrong in the way we handled Santa with our boys. I’m tired of the judgmental attitude we’re getting for not lying to our kids. So there. Play the game if you wish, preserve the magic, whatever. But you’ll have to figure out for yourself what to tell them when they bump into people who opted out. What really bothers me is that we’re being treated like we have destroyed someone’s faith in something real. You’ve got to know that if you play the Santa game, the day of disillusionment will eventually come. That’s what happens when you take the fantasy that far. Sorry to be so blunt, but, that right there is a major reason why we opted out in the first place. I wanted them to believe what really matters, not be confused with the fake stuff. I want them to be able to discern the difference and not intentionally tell them confusing things along the way.

And, just for the record, the fact that God stepped into time and became a man and reconciled those who believe in Christ to Himself is wondrous enough for me. I don’t need the headache of jumping through a bunch of hoops to make my kids believe in a made up elf in order to keep the wonder alive for them. I’d rather they be impressed with a sense of wonder at the awe their mom and dad feel toward a God who would condescend to the humility of the Cross on our behalf. That’s where I want our energy to be focused.

But I also understand that many of my neighbors are not believers, so they do not have that sense of wonder about the Savior. I hope I can look at this as an opportunity to be a gracious witness, and teach my children to be the same.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Miscellaneous Things of Varying Importance

* I voted today. Boo and I stood in line for an hour this morning at 8:00. Not too bad, considering the record turnout everywhere for this election. Boo was remarkably patient during the entire wait, too. Anyway, while waiting in line the person behind me happened to be a close stander. Let me back up and explain that I am one of those people that kind of likes a decent personal space radius. I’m not even much of a hugger except with people I know, though I’ve gotten much better about that. But when standing in a line or standing in a crowd I usually leave a little bit of space between myself and the next person if I can. Not so with the guy behind me in line today. I kept feeling the toes of his boots on the heel of my shoe and he kept bumping into my back. I know the line was long and all, but there wasn’t a need to be quite so close. There was lots of space for the line to stretch back while we were outside the polling place. And every time we moved forward, he kept that same non-distance. I kept wondering if I turned around suddenly if we’d be nose to nose and why exactly that was necessary? Kind of like the ‘close talker’ from Seinfeld. Remember that episode?

* How was that last paragraph for a frivolous commentary on this very important election? Please don't take that to mean I'm being flippant about the election. I have been following the issues closely and am praying for our country. I'll still be praying tomorrow, regardless of the outcome tonight. (Excellent thought here, by the way.) I have to tell you that I've been hearing very disturbing things about how people vote and why (for just one example look here - HT: Deo Volente). Please be informed and know the issues involved. Our form of government relies on an educated, informed electorate, and sometimes I fear that many of us are willfully uneducated and uninformed. That's all I'm saying there.

* I’m thinking of taking a semi-blog break. In fact I’m only writing this post right now because I feel like I’ve neglected the blog for so long I don’t want to leave the impression I’m quitting. I’m not quitting, but I am slowing down. Want to know why? Several reasons. One, major idea block at the moment – too much to do and not enough time to think about blog posts. Two, we’re moving next month – part of the reason for number one. Three, I had a major burst of imagination regarding the book I want to eventually write and I think I want to take some time to brainstorm it – I started this thing back in high school and it has sat on the back burner for lo, these many years, and I finally am wanting to get back to it. Whether or not anything will ever come of it, I don’t know, but I want to try to at least get it written. I need time to think through the plot line and characters and develop the hook it still needs, but to do that, I need to take a slow down with the blog. I’m hoping that by writing this little aspiration out publicly I will really knuckle down and get to work on my story instead of just talk about getting around to it eventually like I have done for so long. My husband says it’s about time – he’s been encouraging me to get writing for a long time. It's nice to know he has so much confidence in my meager writing ability.

* My brother forwarded a message to me the other day from someone I went to high school with. She had found him on Facebook, a place I have not ventured to understand yet, and wondered if he was my brother. Turns out our 20th high school reunion is being planned for next summer. No way am I old enough to be having a 20 year reunion yet. That just cannot be. Clearly I am in denial. Anyway, I need to send her a message and let her know I got the info. I checked out the website they have set up and there’s a place where classmates are writing little blurbs and putting up pictures. It is just plain WEIRD seeing people that I last saw when we were 18 as adults, married, with children – or not, but adults, anyway. I don’t know why it is so weird, but I guess when you don’t see someone for years they seem to stay the same age in your mind even though you are aging and married with children. It’s kind of depressing reading some of the stories, too – lots of divorces and sad tales along with those who claim (some just a little too enthusiastically methinks) that they are ‘living the dream!!!!’ And lots of people who are still living from party to party, just like they were way back in school. Those are the saddest to me, I think. I don’t think I’ll be going to “Party Like It’s 1989.” Depressing. Most depressing are the entries from people who seem to wish we were still there in 1989. Not me. I told Drew that I think that the best part of my life has happened since high school, and I don’t really want to relive those memories, many of which weren’t all that great the first time around with people I wasn’t really friends with then. Most of my friends were in different classes, not in ‘The Class With No Class,’ which was our unofficial class motto, no kidding. I did go to our 10 year reunion, and I think I’ll just pass this time, though there are a few people I would like to catch up with. None of them came to the 10 year, however, but a couple have posted on the website. Maybe I’ll just post a little blurb and then get on with living in the now. The ‘then’ isn’t really where I want to be anymore. It’s really, really strange to think that I’ve been out of school now longer than I was in. I don’t usually feel old……I also don’t feel old enough to be this old. Anyhoo….

* Well, that last paragraph came out sounding kind of like a real downer. Maybe I need to be taking a blog break. I seem to be complaining a lot. I really don’t feel critical all the time, regardless of the tone of recent posts. Anyway, I’ll just plan on posting when an idea hits and not pressure myself to keep up daily, which I’d kind of realized a while back, too. I’m trying to keep up with blog reading, but, due to our recent vacation there are almost 200 unread posts in my Google reader. So, sorry for not commenting much recently. I’ll get back to blogoville soon, I hope. I am really excited about getting back to my writing. I hope to let you know how it’s going soon, if anyone is interested or even still reading. Sorry there hasn’t been much of substance on here in so long.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Been There, Bought the T-Shirt(s)....And Sweaters, And.....

We had a wonderful family vacation this past week, starting with a weekend visit with my parents, even getting to go to church with them and sit in on the Sunday School class my dad teaches. J got to hear his Grandma teach his Sunday School class, and the kids enjoyed bonding with their Florida grandparents again. Then on Sunday afternoon it was on to Walt Disney World for the Sweet Tea clan, where we enjoyed a week with park hopper passes for all four of the optimistically themed parks, “Where dreams come true.” We got to meet my friend Heather for lunch on Monday at Downtown Disney, and it was so good to see her again and catch up a little, though it was loud in the dinosaur-themed restaurant we chose to keep the kids amused while we chatted, loudly, amid meteor showers and animatronic dinosaurs. I'm sad that I forgot to get a picture with her, though.

The kids totally loved their first Disney experience, Boo was beside herself when she met “Winnie-a-Pooh” and ran up and gave him a huge hug. The boys were busy acting cool a lot of the time, but they had a blast. We can tell. They were both tall enough for all the rides, so Drew took them on lots of them and Boo and I spent a lot of time at the tamer shows and musicals and rides and wandering around waiting for the men of the family to meet back up with us. I did get to ride Big Thunder Mountain with the boys, since that was the one roller coaster I really, really wanted to ride. The rest, I’m just not as into fast and motion-sickness inducing rides anymore. Just one more legacy of motherhood, I’m afraid, is that I am much more prone to migraines and motion-sickness than I was before pregnancy changed my body forever.

One thing about Disney that isn’t so magical is the waiting. Lots of waiting. But not so bad this trip. October was the time to go, the crowds were smaller and the wait times not so much. The ‘Fast-Pass’ option is a great innovation that has come along since my youthful Disney trips. There are some rides that we agreed were worth a Fast Pass, but definitely not worth a 40 minute wait in line. (The Peter Pan ride? So not worth wasting a long wait time, which our experienced selves were still amazed that people would waste their time doing, but fun enough with a fast pass.) The boys like to say that “It’s a Small World” should have been a Boo and Mommy ride only, but I caught them smiling once or twice during that one. They just have a cool image to keep up. Don’t tell anyone.

Our finicky digital camera died on the first day (could have guessed that one, yes?). That dream of easy pictures didn’t come true. The camera has not been the same since Boo decided it needed a dunking in Oliver’s water bowl some time back, and I think it is now time to be looking for a replacement. But we did take lots and lots of pictures with disposable cameras, and Drew is taking them now to be developed, so I’ll probably have some to share later. Another cool innovation that has come along is the Photo Pass card. You carry around this little card and whenever one of the Disney photographers takes a picture of you, they scan the info onto your card. This was especially helpful when we met and greeted the characters. (By the way, we finally found Minnie and Mickey and Goofy on our last day and somehow managed to get to them before the line to meet them was a hundred miles long. Boo was thrilled, you can imagine, though Goofy was a little scary for her). Then you have thirty days to go online and look at the pictures and choose some to purchase (for a hefty price, I am sure – nothing Disney is cheap). But that was cool, too, and we are getting some great pictures that way as well.

Speaking of meeting the characters, another thing that has changed since the last time I went to Disney is that now the characters have stations throughout the parks where you can have pictures taken. It used to be that you would just look around for them to be wandering through the parks during your visit and hope to see them, but now you could spend the whole day waiting in line for pictures if you so choose. We chose not to wait in a lot of those lines because, well, there are rides and shows to be experienced and most of the time the lines were just too long, except for the Minnie and Mickey thing I already mentioned. We did make reservations on Tuesday to have lunch with Pooh and friends, and that was cool. Pooh, Tigger and Piglet all stopped by our table for pictures, and Boo thought that was great.

Boo had a great week, much better than we actually expected from our 2 ½ year old. She typically had about one major meltdown per day – and that first thing upon arriving in one of the parks. In fact, Heather got to experience the princess in all her tired glory after lunch on Monday. Thankfully, being a mommy of four, she understood perfectly, and staying in a Disney resort meant we could go ‘home’ and rest a bit when Boo got too overwhelmed, and the boys could hit the pool or the arcade with Daddy. On our Magic Kingdom day (Tuesday) there was a cold snap, and we spent our first part of the day in shops looking for Disney sweaters for the kids so the rest of the day would be warm enough. Boo hated that part. Once we got her onto the rides, though, she decided it was good to be there and enjoyed the day, and it was so much fun seeing Disney through the kids’ eyes all week.

Best way to do this kind of trip: we planned ahead, saved up and purchased the whole package ahead of time and it was paid off before we even got to the resort. We were able to relax and enjoy the vacation and pay cash, not credit, for any souvenirs. Best pre-trip purchase: a little monkey back pack with a long tail that is used as a leash to keep my little wanderer close in the crowds, but free to walk along without holding hands when she wanted her freedom. I used to laugh at people who used kid leashes, but that was before we had Boo. Now I understand. I make a deep apology now to anyone I ever laughed about before. I get it now. Worst decision made during the trip: on Tuesday we decided not to take Boo’s stroller for our Magic Kingdom day since she had spent almost all of Monday walking and very little of it strolling in the stroller. She decided on Tuesday that she didn’t want to walk and only Mommy would do as the carrier. My back and arms are still tired after toting her little 30+ pound body all over the Magic Kingdom. But, I got some great exercise! Always looking at the bright side…..After that, the stroller went with us everywhere, and, though she hated it, she learned to ride along when walking was too much for her.

There’s lots more I could share, but, the thing about vacations is that once your dreams have come true (hee, hee), you have to come home and unpack. And, no matter how much fun we had, and it was tons and worth every penny, it’s still nice to be home.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

See Ya Real Soon.....

I'm taking a blog break. We're heading to Disney World, and I probably won't get around to much blogging while we take time to visit my parents and then spend time enjoying all things Mickey Mouse with the kids next week. I hope everyone has a nice week, and I'll probably have pictures to share when we get back and recuperate from so much fun. We're really excited about this trip!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Blogging

What do you know? As of today my blog is two years old. That’s hard to believe. Two years of me babbling away on my blog with, hopefully, a few interesting posts scattered amid the rest to show for all the typing.

I’m enjoying my blogging experiment. I have ‘met’ lots of interesting bloggers along the way, and I think it is really cool that blogging has introduced me to a lot of neat people I would not have met this side of Heaven any other way. Very cool. Who would have thought two years ago when I started out with a totally different blog name, by the way, that I’d still be typing away and have met so many interesting people along the way. Thanks to those of you who have commented and e-mailed over the past two years. I’m really glad to have connected with you through our blogs. There are a lot of people out there writing such great and thoughtful posts, sometimes I wonder what in the world I’m thinking by blabbering away in my little corner of cyberspace, but I have enjoyed the outlet, and thanks to those of you who are interested enough to stop by once in while – known and unknown. I guess I’ll go on enjoying my little blogging adventure for a while longer, though I have to admit I have been in a bit of a posting slump lately. Maybe I’ll even get back to more thoughtful posting eventually. Maybe once life settles out a little bit, I hope to, anyway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Randomly Boring Me

Jules at Everyday Mommy has tagged me with a meme. I’m supposed to share 6 random things about myself. I hope I can come up with six things that won’t just bore the socks off of you, but here’s my attempt to complete the meme.

1. I find coloring in Boo’s coloring books to be a very soothing activity when I’m feeling stressed or in need of a mindless occupation when I can’t settle my brain enough to read. I colored a nice scene of Elmo’s birthday party while watching the last presidential debate.

2. I don't watch a whole lot of TV anymore. There are just a handful of shows I still follow, and with all the available channels, there just isn't much I can stand to watch these days. And I don’t turn the news on much anymore, either. For one thing, I'm really tired of politics at the moment, and besides, with 24/7 news channels, just how many different ways can you spin the same few news stories, anyway? I’m pretty much “news”-ed out.

3. I crave diet cherry Cokes from Sonic all the time. Drew knows what to get when he feels like a Sonic run on the way home from work. I also like their unsweet peach tea. Sonic happy hour half price soda drinks from 2-4 is a winner with me and the boys.

4. I can’t wait for LOST to come back. That's one of those handful of shows I mentioned, and I am pretty much hooked on it. I clicked on the ABC website the other day and piddled around just to fill my craving for a LOST fix. Does anyone else think these really long hiatuses are too long? How much longer will we have to drag out the suspense? Will the ending be satisfying, or have I wasted all these years following the Losties? Drew and I were laughing that we will be getting off our island before they resolve the mysteries surrounding theirs. I’m not good at waiting. As Inigo says in The Princess Bride, “I hate wait.” Me too.

5. Speaking of The Princess Bride, that’s one of my all time favorite movies. I had a friend in college who would go back and forth with me quoting lines from it when those lines would apply to various situations around campus. It was funny. Drew and I find ourselves spouting out Princess Bride quotes a lot, too. Especially the clergyman from the wedding scene. That has got to be one of the funniest movie scenes ever. “Mawidge. Mawidge is wot bwings us togevah today.…..”

6. I love Autumn. It is my favorite season, and, growing up in Florida where we didn’t really have much differentiation in seasons, I am looking forward to moving a little further north where we will have a true Fall, with colored leaves and that crisp feeling in the air and pumpkins and all that goes with Fall. Except for Halloween, I'm not such a big fan of that, though in years past we have let the kids dress up and trick-or-treat. I'm just as glad we'll be at Disney World this year (oh, yes, we're going to Disney!! The kids are beside themselves in anticipation). I'm so not good at the whole finding a costume thing.

7. Okay, we were supposed to only list 6 random things, but my brain is randomly firing now and I have one more, but it’s about the boys, not about me so much. Both of the boys have been reading our old Calvin and Hobbes books, and they can’t wait to live in a place where we’ll have leaves to crunch and snow for building snow men, just like Calvin. M is already planning how he wants to build his snow men. I’m a little worried that he’s adopted Calvin as a role model in this endeavor….

Well, I hope my lame attempt to play along hasn’t bored you to tears. Sorry, I’m just not all that interesting.

Have a nice Friday, and feel free to consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Just One More Reason Why I Love My Husband

If you all can stand one more sort of dog-related post, I think I’ll be finished after this. Probably.

Anyway, I really love my husband. He is a kind and gentle-hearted man, a good husband, and good dad. He also has a servant’s heart and takes wonderful care of our family, and I am honored and grateful to be his wife. This is one reason the upcoming move is such a good move, because it is allowing him to be home more than he has been able to be home in the past five years, and we are looking forward to it, let me tell you.

I am truly glad that he was able to be home yesterday. I am so grateful for what he did, and I hate it for him that he had to, but he handled the whole Oliver situation so well, and he helped our boys, too. Oliver had been our dog since before the kids were born, and I know it was really hard for Drew to have to go and fish him out of the lake and see him like that. But he did it, and he buried him quickly before the boys even knew that he was in the yard at all.

Then when he talked with the boys, he managed to comfort them without lying to them by giving them bad theology about animals. He was careful to tell them that animals do not have souls and that we weren’t praying about where Oliver was or anything now that he was buried. But that God does care for His creation, and animals are a good part of that creation and that it is good that we can have pets and love them and take care of them and that God cares that we were sad, too, but that animals were not created in God's image like people are. And then he prayed and wept and thanked God for the 12 years we had with Oliver and thanked Him for letting us know and know that he had not suffered, but that it was quick. I am glad for a man who is a strong enough man that he can show his boys it is okay to cry when his heart is hurting and to hug them when they cry, too. Because of the beautiful way Drew handled the boys’ grief and good-bye to our little dog yesterday, we got to talk a little today about how when Adam sinned, the whole creation came under a curse, and death is the result of sin. Then we talked about how Jesus died and rose again so that we could be made clean from our sin. We talked about how the pain we feel over the death of our animal is a reminder of just how awful sin is.

And Drew took time to talk to each of the boys individually last night, too. After M’s football practice, he took M around with him to take down the signs and when M asked if he could have one to keep, he gave him one.

Today Drew flew to St. Louis to meet his new boss and find us a place to live and get some information about a church we are planning to visit and go by the school where the boys will attend.

I love my husband. I respect him for the way he is able to put aside his feelings and do what has to be done, even when it is hard. And I am blessed by his tender heart toward me and how we cried together when he told me the news he knew I would have a hard time hearing and he was having a hard time sharing. This recent trial is just one example of the way he demonstrates his love for me and for his family all the time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good-Bye, Little Buddy

With much sadness, we found Oliver today. A Terminix man was doing his rounds in the neighborhood and came up to the door this afternoon and asked if we were the family looking for a dog. He had seen our sign and he told me that he had seen a dog floating in the duck pond around the corner and wanted to let us know because it might be our dog. It was really nice of him to go out of his way like that.

I called Drew and told him, and he asked if I wanted to come early to pick him up from work since he had sold his car today and the title transfer from the car he is buying hasn’t been finished yet. On the way there, I drove by the pond and stopped, and the size and color were right, but the dog was way out in the middle of the pond, so I couldn’t be sure. Drew borrowed a friend’s kayak and went out to get the body, and I tried not to let the kids know what was up when they came home from the bus stop.

It was Oliver. Drew said it looks like he was hit by a car because his neck was broken. That means either someone hit him and dumped him in the pond or the birds dragged him there. Either way, we’re pretty sure it probably happened on Thursday. At least we know he didn’t suffer – it really bothered me when I thought he might have fallen into the pond alive and struggled. I am thankful that God, in His great mercy, chose to answer my petition that we would at least know what happened to our little buddy.

Telling the boys was very hard. Drew buried Oliver first, because he said it was pretty awful to look at his remains, then we told them to come in the back yard with us. He showed them Oliver’s collar and we told them that a nice man had told us where he had seen Oliver this afternoon. They are very sad, but are already talking about when can we get another dog. I’m not ready for that yet. Maybe after we move.

I'm trying very hard not to be angry with my neighbor who told me, "Oh, I seen that dog on Thursday. He came up on my porch and came up to me when I was getting in my car. I didn't know he was your dog." (Unnecessary aside, I hate when people say, "I seen...", but that's beside the point.) But she didn't bother to look at his tags when he came right up to her. And they have two dogs of their own, so it's not like they aren't dog people, but she didn't bother. I wish she had just not told me....

So, I’m crying as I type this, but it is good that we know and can say good-bye and move without that awful wondering. Poor Oliver.

Oliver

July 1996-October 2008

I Didn't Know Adrian Monk Moonlighted as a Realtor

They say you should never say “never,” but one thing I never, ever want to do for a living is work in real estate. Or any kind of high pressure sales, for that matter. I hate the games they all play and I hate the process of selling a house. These “Where I Am Right Now” posts are becoming all too common for me recently, but here’s another one, because, well, because my blog is an easy place to vent and I’ve about driven my husband crazy with this and still need an outlet, so aren’t you lucky to have stumbled across the boredom that is my blog these days?

So, anyway, we had a realtor’s open house yesterday. In preparation, I scrubbed the bathrooms, dusted, vacuumed, straightened up everything and generally got the house as clean as possible when there are still five people living here (and sadly no longer a little dog – we’re still crying and hope has dwindled, by the way – more on that later, maybe). I took Boo and we went to the school and I made Mrs. G’s copies like I do every Monday (fun times with an antsy two-year-old along for the ride since Gram was sick and couldn’t watch her), then to Chick-fil-A for lunch, Blockbuster to return a movie, and a 45-minute drive to Target for some time consuming shopping. I bought Boo a Disney princesses sleeping bag. Very cute. Hopefully we will be able to teach her how to sleep in it before our trip to Florida in a couple of weeks. But I digress.

When I got back that afternoon, our realtor had left us some of the delicious gumbo he had served for the lunch time open house and it was yummy. Also, there were some anonymous feedback forms. Most of the comments were constructive, most we knew, but one has me flummoxed. Now I will demonstrate just what I mean when I say that my oldest son’s tendency to obsess comes naturally to him by way of his mother. On one form, the only comment made was this: “Needs cleaning (bathroom).” Friends, that one has me all in a dither. Ask my husband, who is having to live with me. I scrubbed those bathrooms that morning, and there was not one spot anywhere to be seen. I even Windexed the faucets so they were waterspot-free and shining. Those are clean bathrooms. They are cleaner than the professional maid service left them. You may recall an earlier post when I mentioned I had been less than thrilled and had to go back and clean things to my satisfaction. So, I have to tell you, I am dying to ask our realtor who the obsessive compulsive is who came into our home and, of all the legitimate things that could have been commented on, chose that one. I’m wondering if they were thinking of a different house. Seriously. That was my thought.

I did not know that Adrian Monk had left San Francisco and was now working as a realtor in our neck of the woods. Interesting. Drew tells me I need to let this go. He’s right. But, though our house is not perfect, and we know that, the bathrooms are very clean. I know this because I have been busting my tail every morning to make sure they remain so.

I’m done now. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Memory Work

Our AWANA leadership has been issued a challenge to memorize some suggested scripture passages. When we were in the car after AWANA last week, J asked me if I had to memorize the verses to be an adult helper. I told him, no, there’s no have to about it, but that I am really excited about it. It’s just a way to encourage us as leaders to hide God’s word in our hearts the same way we’re encouraging the children to do. Actually I’m really glad to have that challenge because I find it very encouraging to memorize scripture and it’s easier to do so if I have a goal.

So, the first two passages were Psalm 1 and Psalm 23, which I had memorized earlier in the year on my own, so I brushed up on them this week and have now moved on to Isaiah 53. I have gotten through the first six verses so far, and let me tell you, there is something extremely special about memorizing scripture that I can’t really explain. I’ve read Isaiah 53 many times before, but taking the time to really think about it as I work to memorize it has been very meaningful because my love and awe for Jesus and what He has done for us is growing. Memorizing a passage forces you to really think about what the words mean, and to think more deeply about the meaning than you tend to do when you are just reading it through. I am really enjoying working to hide this chapter in my heart.

So, my answer to my son is that I see it as a blessing to be encouraged to memorize passages of scripture, and I hope he will begin to also. If you haven’t ever tried to memorize passages of the Bible before, I would love to encourage you to join me in thinking through and memorizing Isaiah 53 and pondering the great love and grace our Savior has shown to us in that while we were still sinners He died to reconcile us to God and to save us from our sin. I am telling you the truth that my love for Jesus grows the more I think about what He has done for us, and as my gratitude grows, I pray my day to day actions will reflect it.