Zed: Another Ending

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:

a time to give birth and a time to die.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

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Our girl Megan is delightful to be around, all smiles and giggles and full of bright joy. Yes, Megan is a beam of sunshine … that is, until the party is over.

And by party, I mean any activity she is enjoying, whether it is a family movie night or a youth activity at the church or a friend stopping by to visit or company for Sunday afternoon lunch. Whenever the fun is over, Megan deflates like a balloon. You can literally see her wilting into sadness because she just doesn’t want it to be over.

Photo Credit: www.specialevents.com
Photo Credit: http://www.specialevents.com

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Megan does not like endings. Neither do I.

Today is another ending. April is coming to a close. The A to Z Blog Challenge is over. And I’m just as sad as I am glad.

Life is like that though. Seasons come and go.

Babies grow into toddlers and then children. Oh, how I loved those years. And then those children grew some more, turning into self-sufficient tweens and teens who didn’t much need (or even want) my help. Now I find myself wondering if this season of adolescence will ever end.  I have to remind myself multiple times daily that these teens of mine will eventually be adults. This too shall pass.

This spring I have received more high school graduation invitations than normal, and I am amazed at how many of them are coming from the children of friends of mine who I went to high school or college with … talk about making me feel old! Yet, mixed in with all the graduation photos was an invitation to a baby shower. Another beginning because the circle never ends.

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Seasons come and seasons go.

My life sometimes feels so topsy-turvy. I want to drag my feet to slow down the passage of time so that my children won’t grow up in the blink of an eye, while at the same time impatiently wanting Friday to hurry up and get here!

It’s crazy.

But in the middle of my own craziness, I’m grateful for this truth I can hang onto:

God is in the beginnings and the endings … and the in-between moments, too.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. ~Revelation 1:8

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

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YES: Not just another word

Mom, can we go out to eat tonight?

No.

Mom, can I take the day off from school?

No.

Mom, can you bake us some cookies?

No.

Mom, would you drive me over to visit with my friend who lives half an hour away?

No.

Mom, would you mind if we watched this really violent, rated R movie?

Um … Yes! I do mind. No, you are not watching that! Are you kidding me?! Why did you even ask me?

Just checking to see if you were going to say “No” to everything I asked.

Photo credit: http://www.thefrisky.com/2009-08-20/dating-donts-how-to-say-no/
Photo credit: http://www.thefrisky.com

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It seems like I often have to say “No” to my kids.  In fact, we’ve had to say no so much that once Jon told them that No was our favorite word! There have been times when I wished I didn’t have to say no, but circumstances beyond my control necessitate that answer.

Several years ago, I became convicted about how often I tell my children No. I wanted to be a “Yes Mom” … and so I began to look for things I could say YES to regularly.

Yes to hugs and kisses.

Yes to spending time doing something together, like sewing or watching a movie or taking a walk.

Yes to listening to another one of their crazy jokes, even if it is ten minutes past bedtime.

Yes to reading just one more chapter in our read aloud book.

Yes to second helpings of veggies, and sometimes (if you’re lucky) the entree.

Yes to keeping popsicles in the freezer.

The more I looked, the more ways I found I could say YES with a smile and not feel like I was doing my children or myself a disservice. It’s a win-win … and who doesn’t like that?

But more than trying to say yes more often, I make sure that whenever I say yes to my kids, I do everything I can to follow through.

I want them to know that my yes is as good as a promise.

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Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. ~James 5:12

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

eX: Thoughts on Broken Marriages and Dreams

Being someone’s ex-wife was never one of my goals in life. I don’t suppose it is ever anyone’s plan to get married and then divorced, but it definitely wasn’t even on my radar.

Marriage, I knew, was a holy sacrament. It was meant to be a life-long commitment between a loving husband and wife. This was God’s way and to enter into marriage with any other idea in mind was wrong. My parents and grandparents shared their hearts on this subject with me often and I listened to them, fully anticipating that whenever I married it would be for life.

And yet, fourteen years after I said “I do” for the first time, my marriage crumbled apart before my very eyes. Looking back, the reasons aren’t as important as the lessons I learned from the experience.

Today,  I would like to share a post I originally wrote almost five years ago, about a month before I became engaged to Jon and found myself preparing to once again to enter into a marriage relationship. I realized then, just as I do today, that God is never for divorce and yet He took my broken and failed attempt and turned it into something beautiful.

I am forever grateful.

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Seventeen Years Ago Tomorrow

~written Friday, September 3, 2010

Just a little over an hour ago, the date on the calendar beckoned to me and for the first time in a long, long while I remembered the significance of tomorrow. I scribbled numbers on paper and quickly worked out the math to figure out how many years had passed because I no longer remembered. Seventeen. I didn’t realize it had been that long ago now.

Seventeen years ago tomorrow, also on a Saturday, I was a bride.

It’s all packed away in a box now … the scrapbook filled with photos, some dried flowers from my bouquet, the white dress, a napkin embossed with two names and a date, cards and letters that span the fourteen years of life shared together now held together by a rubberband. I’m saving those things, not because I need that connection to my past, but because my children need it. Someday they will want to see it and touch it and remember that it wasn’t always broken. They will want to know of the beginning of the story, just as they know the ending.

Just last week, the oldest one asked, “Momma … do you miss Daddy?”

How can that question possibly be answered? There is a flood of history there that I cannot, I will not explain to my child … certainly not now. Too much for his small soul to bear. Too much for him to carry right now … maybe ever. Children are meant to love their parents, not to harbor uncertainties about actions that played out into events difficult for even mature adults to understand.

Besides, the memories of that life have become faded. It’s become harder to recall. And the fact remains that I do not miss their father anymore.

What I miss are snapshots of time, snippets of happiness and laughter that are emblazoned upon my mind.

What I miss is not having achieved what I wanted, for myself and for my children and for my children’s children. The legacy of togetherness. The celebration of something golden in the distant future with my children and my grandchildren all around.

What I miss are the possibilities, the hope of what it could have been.

No one plans to fail, but failing to plan often leads to failure. Life somehow happens and our best intentions are swept away. I never thought the ending would turn out as it did, and sometimes the regrets are so strong that I fear I cannot stand against the rushing tide.

I’ve learned in the past four years that when the waves of pain and regret hit hard, to simply pause and thank God for His mercy in my life, for forgiveness He so graciously spreads all over me, for second chances to try again. And the longer I stand in acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and mercy, neither of which I deserve, the stronger I become, the easier it is to stand tall, the less overwhelming the pain becomes.

In the beginning of the end, someone I love very much told me that soon it wouldn’t consume my thoughts every hour of the day. She said that there would come a night when I would crawl into bed, realizing that the brokenness of my marriage had not been my main thought that day. She said that eventually I would realize that I hadn’t even thought of it at all for several days or weeks in a row. I could only nod my head in response, so deep in my grief that I could not begin to imagine that would ever be true for me.

I realized just over an hour ago that day has arrived, tiptoeing in without any fanfare, so quietly that I never even noticed. The end has been completed and the next chapter of my life is being written, with new hopes and new dreams for a very different future than one I had previously imagined.

And yet, even as I embrace my present life and anticipate my future, my past can never truly be erased. There are certainly many regrets, but I do not regret the life I’ve lived.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have three children.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have friends all over the United States.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have fourteen years worth of life experiences to my credit.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I am who I am today, a better woman in the end for having walked that road.

And I am grateful for seventeen years ago tomorrow and what that has meant to me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. ~Proverbs 31:25

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BaptistGirlConfession
This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Tufflers: A Tale of Kindergarten Love

I’ve been a mother for right at fifteen years now, and while this might be an early conclusion, I’ve pretty much decided that five is the best age ever.

Five year olds are big enough to sleep all night, brush their own teeth, and put on their own shoes (for the most part). They generally eat without making enormous messes, and don’t have to be watched every second, like one has to do with a toddler. Five year olds are developed enough to have some skills to be helpers around the house.Their innate desire to please is still intact. They aren’t typically grumpy, obstinate, or prone to mood swings. Big enough to enjoy a variety of activities and yet still small enough to be pleased by a simple trip to the park, a a lollipop at the grocery store, or a sticker at the doctor’s office.

But mostly, I love five year olds because they are so incredibly funny. Truly, these are some of the world’s finest comedians. You never know what they will say or do. Is it any wonder that Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby both had hit shows solely based on conversations with young children (many of whom were five years old).  In fact, I think that is the best part about having a five year old in the house … the conversations. I could listen to a five year old talk all day long!

Julia ... on her 5th birthday
Julia … on her 5th birthday

Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite conversations that I ever had with one of my children. The discussion took place one spring evening as my children and I enjoyed a walk. The boys had raced ahead on their bikes, while Julia skipped along next to me, chatting away. By the end of the conversation, I had a new word in my vocabulary and a funny story to share for years to come.

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Julia: Momma, you know what I’m thinking about right now?

Me: No … what’s on your mind, sweetie?

Julia: I’m thinking about getting married. I love weddings. The wedding girl wears a big pretty dress and everyone says, “Ohhhh” when the wedding boy kisses the wedding girl. It’s so romantic.

Me: Romantic? That’s a big word! I didn’t know you knew the word romantic, Julia.

Julia: You’d probably be surprised at what I know.

Me: Yes, I probably would. I hope you know that there is a lot more to know about getting married than just the word romantic.

Julia: Yep. I know. And you know what else? I already know who I’m going to marry when I finally get grown up.

Me: Who is that?

Julia: Jonathan.

Me: Jonathan? I don’t think I know any boys your age named Jonathan.

Julia: Oh, he’s not in my class. He’s in Ms. Valentine’s kindergarten. And you know what?  He’s real romantic. I like him a lot.

Me: Why do you like him so much?

Julia: Well, he’s cute. I love his spiky hair cause it sticks up everywhere. He wears real nice shirts … oh, and he smells nice because his mom makes him take a bath every night.  And, (she lowered her voice a little), he is a tuffler.

Me: A tuffler? What on earth is a tuffler?

Julia (sounding incredulous): You don’t know what a tuffler is?! A tuffler is a boy who is real tough. If anyone is bad to me at school and does something I don’t like, then he tuffles them up! And that takes care of that.

Me (stifling a giggle): Oh, yes … a tuffler. I see. Ahem. Well, I do hope he isn’t hurting people and getting in trouble for fighting at school.  

Julia (pausing with one hand on her hip in mock aggravation): Now, Momma, if you don’t stop laughing, I am going to call Jonathan right this minute and then he will come tuffle you, too!  (She took a little breath, before continuing.) Oh, I almost forgot one important part. Jonathan is a superhero. But I am the only one who knows about it because his mother won’t let him wear his costume to school. None of the other kids know he has superpowers … just me. If I ever get to go to his house, he is going to show me all of his superpowers. But I told him that I still believe him even if I don’t get to see.

Me: Well, that’s interesting, Julia … I’m really glad you like Jonathan so much. But right now I think you shouldn’t focus on Jonathan. Getting married to anyone is a long, long way off. You should be friends with all the kids at school … okay?

Julia (gasping in shock): Momma! I’m not marrying him tomorrow! When Jonathan asked me, I just told him that I’d marry him after I’m all grown up. He knows he has to wait a LONG time. But he already gave me a ring, so it is for real.

Me: He gave you a ring? Hmmm. Well, I’d like to see this ring. Where is it?

Julia: You can’t see it. I lost it. But he told me he was going to get me another one. This time it will be a pink ring because that’s my favorite color.  Momma, do you know why I like pink? I like pink because…

Julia with her beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Amanda McGuffee. The tuffler conversation happened during the spring of her kindergarten year at school.
Julia with her beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Amanda McGuffee. The tuffler conversation happened during the spring of her kindergarten year at school.

And with that, my little chatter-box took the conversation in a totally new direction.

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The story of Julia and the tuffler is one of my favorites to tell. She’s nearly 12 so I’ve been sharing it for more than half of her life! Thankfully, she doesn’t mind me sharing it with others because I never get tired of telling the story as it never fails to make me giggle with delight.

But more than just a funny story, the word tuffler reminds me of a truth about God.

So often I feel beat up and bullied by this hard old world. I get defeated and wonder how much more I can take. In fact, this past week has actually had me feeling a lot like that.

And yet, God is my tuffler. He is right here with me, protecting me. And I can trust Him to keep me safe from all the bullies of the world.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.   ~2 Thessalonians 3:3

State Fair: A Letter to My Dad

Today’s challenge is for the letter “T” … but yesterday I was a slacker and never posted for the letter “S.”

That’s lucky for you. Now you will get a “two-fer” … you know, like a two-for-one deal. Two posts on one amazing day. Yay!

It’s unlucky for me. I have to write TWO blog posts today, instead of just one. One post is hard enough. How on earth will I manage two?!

Well, thankfully I came up with a plan to help me write two posts in one day. It’s called “recycling.” (Too bad today is “S” day and not “R” day … I could write about recycling. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.)

This morning, I woke up early and started searching through old writings and blog posts in search of either an S or a T story to recycle, when I came across a letter I emailed to my Dad back in October 2005. Almost ten years ago. Wow.

Initially, I just planned to read over the words I had shared with him so long ago. Naturally, that made me feel lonely for my dad. But, as I wiped away the last of the tears, I realized I could use this for my “S” post.  I pondered that idea for a few moments, wondering if how he might feel about that if he were still alive … but the longer I thought, the more I figured he wouldn’t mind me sharing it on my blog.  It’s just a letter sharing some sweet memories from my childhood. Surely, I concluded,  he would want to help me catch up and stay on track with my A-to-Z Blogging Challenge.

So here it is, what should have been shared yesterday, my “S” post about the Louisiana State Fair in the form of a letter to my dad.

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October 25, 2005

Dear Daddy,
It’s late October. Tonight the weather is chilly, with a drizzling rain falling. Do you know what I am thinking about?

The Louisiana State Fair.

The State Fair was always in late October. Some years it was chilly and rainy. But most of the time, it was hot and muggy. Either way, we were miserable spending long days outside in the uncooperative weather.

Can you believe it’s been 15 years since I last showed any 4-H lambs?  Me either. But I can still remember like it was yesterday.

You always made sure to get us up early, well before it was light outside, dragging us out of our beds so that we could get our sheep ready for the show. The city was still sleeping, but when we arrived the show barn was already buzzing with activity as kids of all ages milled about the pens, tending to their livestock in the dim pre-dawn light. Adults stood around in groups, cupping their hands around styrofoam cups of coffee. Sometimes you would go get us hot chocolate from one of the concession booths, but more than the hot chocolate, I looked forward to the donuts. Nothing ever tasted better at 5 am than warm donuts and a cup of hot chocolate!

Before it was good and light, you would send us to wash the lambs and get them ready to show. Off we would go, leading two or three lambs across the big barn to the washing pens, where there was nothing but a water hold and cold water to use to get those lambs show ready. By the time we were done, my teeth were chattering. I’m sitting in my warm house tonight, yet as I think about those State Fair mornings I can almost feel how cold my hands would get from washing those lambs.

Oh, and I can smell the Wool-lite! Dad, it still makes me laugh right out loud whenever I think about how you always bought us Wool-lite to wash our lambs! I guess in a round about way it makes perfect sense, but it also seems so silly to think about using an expensive laundry soap on a bunch of stinky sheep! To this day I cannot wash clothes in Wool-lite because the smell reminds me of sheep! (Good thing I don’t wear much wool!)

The State Fair was an overload for the senses! I can recall the smell that livestock barn, a mixture of hay and feed and animal droppings. And the noise … all the bleating of the lambs and the squeals of the pigs, mixed in with the old intercom screeching out announcements, the hum of the overhead lighting, the calliope tunes floating over from the midway carnival rides.

Do you remember that crazy out-of-control lamb that the Crawford girl had to show for me? It was the lamb that bucked and kicked and knocked me down, threatening to take out every other kid and lamb in the show ring, too. I was perhaps 10 years old, certainly was not confident enough to control my freaked-out lamb. Thankfully, that older teen girl took pity on me, helping me out by switching lambs. I’m sure she figured that if she didn’t do something to help me, there was a great likelihood that someone would be injured by my insane lamb.

Me with the crazy lamb ... scattered sawdust and overturned plants caused by his wild rampage prior to the photo. No wonder I was scared to death!
Me with the crazy lamb … scattered sawdust and overturned plants caused by his wild rampage prior to the photo. No wonder I was scared to death!

Oddly enough, that crazy sheep placed 3rd in its division. Off we were herded to go have our picture taken. Of course, the lamb acted just as erratic in the photo op area, kicking up sawdust, knocking over plants, and coming as close to destroying a professional photographer’s camera without actually doing it as a single lamb can get. We laugh about how scared I look in the photo, but is there any wonder as to why?!

Truth be known, I don’t think I ever really got over feeling nervous whenever it was time to step into the show ring. My stomach was in a ball of anxious knots as I got ready to show my lambs, and I was grateful that you never left us in those moments before the show. In fact, you walked with me every step of the way, from the holding pens all the way to the show ring gate. Most of the time, you would even led the lamb on the halter, never actually passing the lamb over to me until it was time to enter the ring.

During the show, Mom would be high up in the stands, watching and encouraging us. But you were always ring-side, offering soft words of advice or cheering us on with big grins. As the show ended, you were always standing there, just outside the show ring gate, ready to  greet me with encouraging words and smiles. There was comfort in that because I knew that no matter how great or how bad my lamb and I might have performed in the ring, you were going to be right there.

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I think the hardest part of going to the State Fair was leaving to go back home. Walking out the barn, ribbons hanging out of the back pocket of my blue jeans, I knew it was the last time I’d ever see those lambs again. Funny how I complained all through the summer and fall, thinking that caring for them was the world’s biggest burden.Yet whenever it came time to sell them at the end of the State Fair, I found that all the sweat from the months of hard work turned into tears of grief as I said goodbye.

Tonight I’m sitting here reminiscing about the State Fair … and, Dad, I  wanted you to know that not only do I remember all of these things, but I treasure them in my heart. I appreciate so much more now what you were trying to share with us then. Thanks for putting up with my rotten attitudes about caring for my 4-H lambs, and for not understanding what a gift you were given me so long ago. I didn’t get it then, but I see it so clearly now. You’ve given me a lifetime of love and memories, and I’ll cherish that for as long as I live.

I love you,
Paige

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Return: An Unexpected Weekend Guest

Last Thursday I got a surprise phone call from our former foster care worker. “Would you please consider taking in K. for a few days?” she asked. “There’s situation where his mother needs some help in caring for him and we thought about asking your family first.”

Would I? You bet! I didn’t even have to stop and think twice.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one elated about K’s return. My entire family was excited about the opportunity to spend a few days loving on our favorite two year old once again. It has been a little over two months since Mr. K and his baby sister left our care, and while we weren’t expecting to see him again, we quickly began to prepared for his sudden return into our home.

Nathan and Megan eagerly pulled out some of the old toys he loved most, while Julia went on a search until she found his favorite Barney DVD. Maddie pulled out the board books and put them into a box on the lowest shelf in the room. Joel got the booster seat set up at the dining table. Meanwhile, I made a quick trip to the story to buy goldfish crackers and popsicles and o-way-hoes (bananas) because I knew exactly what this little guy likes to eat. It didn’t take us long to get everything prepared and ready for K’s return to our home.

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K. opening the big dump truck on his birthday. It quickly became his favorite toy. Our entire family was sad that he wasn’t allowed to take it with him when he left us.

 

Friday morning, the social worker showed up with K. in tow. Initially, he was a little confused, but it didn’t take long before he warmed right back up. Soon he was happily playing with the big dump truck and the train tracks. Later in the afternoon, the bigger kids eagerly took turns watching him play outside. K had everyone’s complete attention and delighted in lots of walks around the block and pushes in the swing.

K. had been at our home less than two hours when he grabbed my hand and walked me over to where I used to keep a hidden stash of lollipops and other tiny treasures. He pointed up to the box high up on the shelf, flashed me his biggest smile, and said, “pwease?”  Immediately I felt myself grinning back at him, amazed at his fantastic memory. But as soon as I remembered that the box was totally empty, I felt awful. How could I have forgotten to replenished my box of surprises?

We had such a fun few days, going to the park to play and taking K. to church with our family.  But now all the excitement has come to an end. This morning, little K. returns back to his mother. Our five-day visit is over and I’m sad to see him go once again. Chances are he won’t be returning to our home …

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But I can hope that perhaps one day he will return to visit again.

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Behold, I am coming soon. ~Revelation 22:12

I am anticipating another return … the return of Jesus Christ to collect His bride. The Bible teaches that no one knows the day or hour of his coming. But just because we aren’t expecting it, doesn’t make the chances any less likely.

You see, I may not be able to count on K. returning back to my home. I love the little guy, but I have to accept the fact that when he walks out of my door today he might not ever return to me.

But it’s not that way with the return of Christ. His return is 100% guaranteed.

Though I may not know the day or the hour, I can be prepared … by choosing to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus through daily prayer and studying His word, by forming encouraging relationships with other Christ-followers, by choosing to live my life in a way that honors Christ.

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. ~Matthew 24:44

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Q Words: And a Recipe to Share

Q is not my favorite letter. 

All weekend, I’ve been in a quandary, wondering what I could blog about that starts with Q.  I got so desperate that I started quizzing my children, asking for suggestions.  Not one of them had a quick answer … or a slow one either.

By the time I went to bed last night, I was ready to quit the challenge.

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Just after 3 am in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up to discover Jon was up. I questioned him about why he was awake, expecting we might spend a few minutes chatting before going back to bed. However, our quibbles turned into a minor quarrel which left me feeling somewhat queasy.

Though the concerns have since been quelled and things are good between us this morning, the queer midnight discussion definitely didn’t help my writing mood. If anything, my quest to write about the letter Q has been somewhat quenched.

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 So instead of continuing to quiver over today’s Q challenge, I’m going to quash my fears and quickly share one of my favorite healthy recipes.

I love it because it is so easy and versatile.  Jon, who can’t have gluten or dairy, can eat this delicious side dish. It goes great with a wide-variety of main courses. Best of all, no one in my rather large family has any qualms about eating it.

Perhaps your family will enjoy it too.

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“Everything but the Kitchen Sink” Quinoa Salad

Two cups (or more) cooked, cooled quinoa (prepared according to package directions)

Mix and Match from the following: *use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup unless other quantity is given*

1 box grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), halved

*thinly sliced celery (the hearts with the leaves are the best)

*diced bell peppers (any color)

*shredded carrots

*diced cucumbers

*diced purple onion

1 small can sliced black olives (or may substitute Kalamata or green olives)

1 can of beans (black beans, canelli beans, garbanzo beans, etc)

1 can of corn

1 can of artichoke hearts

Dressing Ingredients: 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is amazing), 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions:

Gently toss any of the vegetables with the quinoa.  In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir gently to coat.  Serve immediately, or chill until time to eat. Makes 6-12 servings (depending on how much of the salad ingredients are added).

You can see how versatile this salad truly is, so it’s easy to experiment with a variety of salad ingredients. It’s almost like you can put everything but the kitchen sink in this recipe and have a tasty addition to your meal. Don’t worry about the fact that it makes so much … the next day, after the flavors have had time to meld together, this salad tastes even better!

I hope you enjoy the quinoa salad, as well as today’s Q post.

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So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  ~1 Corinthians 10:31

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

 

The Princess Dinner: A Guest Post by Megan

Megan, age 13
Megan, age 13

Introducing … Megan, my beautiful thirteen year old daughter. It is seriously hard for me to grapple with the fact that this super sweetheart is turning fourteen years old in just two weeks. I met Meg when she was a shy eight year old girl. A year later, I married her dad and had the blessing of adding this amazing young lady into my family, but she has had a place in my heart long before she ever became my daughter.

Megan is an organized wonder. She is adept at cleaning out closets and rearranging furniture. A bundle of energy, I quickly learned that if I didn’t keep Megan busy doing the things I wanted her to do, she would keep me busy doing the things she wanted to do. This girl wakes up every morning ready to tackle the world … and she does, but thankfully in a pleasant sort of way. She kind and thoughtful and just as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

Today, I’m pleased to share Megan’s essay on a recent trip to Disney world with her mother. She is the last of my five children to guest post for me during the month of April. But I think you’ll find her story was well worth the wait.

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The Princess Dinner

When I was a little girl, my favorite Disney princess was Cinderella. I thought she was the prettiest of them all, with her blonde hair and sparkly white dress and dainty glass slippers. Oh, how I wished for a fairy godmother of my own so that I could be turned into a princess, too!

Last summer, my mother took me on a week-long vacation to the “Happiest Place on Earth” … Disney World. But I didn’t have a completely happy experience while I was there. Thankfully, it all turned out okay in the end, but for a while I was pretty miserable.

From the moment I first heard we were going to Disney World, I started looking forward to the Princess Dinner at Cinderella’s Castle. My mom had already said that we would stop on our way to buy new dresses and matching jewelry to wear to this fancy feast. I chose a floor length sundress with a pair of beaded sandals to match. As I rode on the long car ride to Florida, I passed the time by planning just how to fix my hair, how to do my makeup, and which colors to paint on my fingernails and toenails.

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Dinner at the Castle … I could hardly wait!

 

The Princess Dinner was going to be on our last night in the park. I just knew it was going to be an amazing end to my fabulous Disney vacation. On that last day, we woke up extra early. There was still so much to see and do before we went home, and we had to fit it all in before our Princess Dinner at the Castle.

We started the day in the Animal Kingdom. My little sister Sadie want to go to a petting zoo, where we fed more animals than I could count. We also went on a water raft ride, and got completely soaked. My mom suggested we eat an early lunch, knowing that we would have a very large dinner later in the evening.

Shortly after lunch, it started raining so hard that all the rides in Magic Kingdom were shut down for safety reasons. All afternoon it rained off and on, stopping long enough so that we could take one ride before the rain would start again. We spent half the afternoon standing around in the rain, trying to find someplace where we could stay partly dry. Finally the rain passed over, but it still felt very humid and wet.

This was our last day, so everyone in my family agreed that it was worth it to slosh through deep puddles of water, getting our shoes and socks completely water-logged. We really wanted to ride the roller coasters and to see every little thing that we could before it was time to leave. All day, as I walked around in wet clothes and squishy shoes, I reminded myself that soon we would head back to our condo to get all dressed up for the fancy Princess Dinner.

I guess because of the rain and also our desire to try to do it all, no one paid much attention to the time. Suddenly it was 6 o’clock, and we had to be at the castle by 6:30pm for our dinner reservations! In order to change clothes like we were planning, it would mean having to catch the monorail, ride over to our condo, unload and get five people dressed in nice clothes and then catch the monorail back to Cinderella’s Castle in just half an hour’s time.

My mom looked at my stepdad and said, “There is no way we can do all of that in 30 minutes! We’ll just have to go like we are.

I couldn’t believe my ears! Not change for the fancy Princess Dinner? Was my mother serious? Surely not!

Unfortunately, she was. Somehow I managed to hold my tongue. I didn’t say anything to my mother about how I felt, but on the inside I was fuming mad.

To make matters worse, my stepfather decided to buy my little sister Sadie a brand new $80 princess dress to wear, so she got to change clothes and look all pretty, while the rest of us looked like a bunch of drowned rats.

SadieDisney
Sadie looking beautiful in her Sleeping Beauty dress bought for her just before the fancy Princess Dinner

 

 

As I walked into the castle, with my shoes squishing with every step I took, I felt as dejected as I looked. There I was sweaty and stinky with wet, tangled hair. “I am anything but a princess,” I murmured, but I don’t think anyone heard me complain.

Everywhere I turned, there were beautiful women, wearing dresses with lots of jewelry and makeup. Each time I saw another lady dressed up so fine, I remembered how I looked and hung my head in shame. I couldn’t believe my mother hadn’t let us go change clothes! This was not turning out to be the grand finale’ I had hoped it would be.

While we were standing in line for our dinner, my mother wanted us to take a picture with Cinderella. That was the last thing I wanted to do! There I was, looking like a piece of trash, next to the beautiful Cinderella. I faked a smile and as soon as the picture was taken I rushed back to my spot in line.

MegMaddieCinderella
Meg on Cinderella’s left, and Maddie on the right

 

Finally, after a tremendously long wait, we were led to our table. As we approached out place, I could hardly believe it. We had gotten a table right next to the big glass windows, the most perfect spot for viewing the fireworks. For a few minutes I forgot all about my ragged appearance, but then something else happened to make me remember. While we ate, each of the princesses came over to our table to take photos and sign our autograph books. Of course, my mom wanted me to get in every picture. I tried to look happy, but as I posed next to each beautiful princess all I really wanted to do was slouch a little lower in my chair.

I wish I could say that my attitude changed that night, but it really didn’t. However, eventually I did stop focusing my thoughts on my appearance and began to enjoy the actual experience of eating a nice meal with my family and watching fireworks from Cinderella’s Castle. Later, however, as I began to look back over my experiences and memories from my week at Disney World, I started to think differently about that princess dinner.

When I was a little girl, I thought being a princess was all about having the right look. All the Disney princesses wore gorgeous dresses and had lots of jewels. Their hair was perfect. Of course, their Prince Charming was as dashing as they were beautiful. To my childish way of thinking, beauty was all about the outward appearance.

Yet, this was very different than what I learned from my parents. They taught me what the Bible says about beauty, which is that beauty comes from the inside and is not at all based on the outside appearance of a person. In 1 Peter 3: 3-4, it is written: “Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.”

I thought about this for a long while. I don’t think this means that beautiful clothes or wearing jewelry is wrong. However, it is important for me to remember that these are not the things that will make me beautiful girl. Instead, having qualities such as a gentle spirit, loving attitude, compassionate heart, an inner joy and a peaceful disposition will bring out my true beauty.

The best thing is that them more I pondered those fancy Disney princesses, the more I realized that each one displays at least one quality of inner beauty, too. For example, Cinderella is so kind and loving. She beams with an inner joy, despite her circumstances. Snow White has a gentle spirit and a compassionate heart. And Sleeping Beauty has such a peaceful personality. Even without their fancy dresses and elaborate jewels, they are beautiful … beautiful on the inside.

I may not be a fancy princess who lives in a castle, wears puffy dresses and has a handsome Prince Charming. But I can have the heart of a princess just by choosing to be the kind of person who strives to have those special qualities that sets a girl apart. And I’m grateful that real beauty always comes from the inside out.

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Operation: Not Just a Game Anymore

operation

Operation.

Whenever someone says that word, I tend to think of the board game. Maybe you had one when you were a kid. Perhaps you currently have one hanging out in your game closet.

My brother and sister and I used to play Operation when we were kids. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to lose half of the pieces. When the batteries wore out, I think my parents claimed we didn’t have the correct-sized batteries to replace them … which meant that the operating doctor was on the honor system for admitting when he or she had messed up.

I was never very good at this operating game. I tried so hard to pull out the tiny bones, but my hands were always too shaky.

For a brief time in my younger life, I thought perhaps I might like to be a doctor or a nurse. After all, I liked biology class. Then I realized I was not a blood person. I don’t even do well with tiny scraps. I have fainted at the sight of my own blood several times.

Between Operation (the board game) and the problem with blood, I soon figured out that I was not cut out to be employed in the medical field.

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I’ve had two operations in my life. Three, if you count my wisdom teeth being removed under sedation, but since that was at the dentist’s office and not in a hospital I don’t normally include it among my actual surgeries.

The first operation was a tonsillectomy when I was not quite four years old. I have a lot of strange, strange memories about that event. For example, I remember the nurse telling me she would look like a frog when she came to get me for my surgery. All night long I wondered how she was going to turn into a frog. I was surprised to see the next morning that she still looked rather human to me. I suppose she thought the green mask covering her face made her appear frog-like. I actually can remember waking up in the recovery room, as well as feeling a little miffed that I didn’t get to count all the way to ten before I fell asleep for the operation.

My second surgery was just two years ago. I had my gall bladder removed. Oddly enough, I don’t recall much about that operation. The one thing I do remember is that just prior to putting me completely under sedation, the anesthesiologist asked me if I liked the music selection. Already feeling a little inhibited from the happy cocktail I had taken half an hour earlier, I told him that I didn’t really like his music choices at all. The man laughed and said, “Well, I don’t guess that matters much at all.”  That’s really the last thing I can actually remember before waking up at home in my bed two days later.

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Two of my five children (Nathan and Megan) have had their tonsils and adenoids removed. Nathan has had five sets of ear tubes, and a tympanoplasty (ear drum patch), as well.

None of them has ever had a surgery that has required an overnight stay in the hospital. Even my own gall bladder surgery was out-patient.

All of that is about to change.

On May 4th, my son Joel will be having major surgery to correct a chest deformity, pectus excavatum. While many people have this deformity and choose to have it surgically corrected, most of the time it is purely for cosmetic reasons. For Joel, this is not the case. His sternum sinks so deeply into his chest cavity that it is now compressing on his heart and pushing it to one side. He simply doesn’t have room in his chest for normal heart and lung function.

A surgery is definitely necessary. But it won’t be the out-patient variety. Joel will be going through something very similar to open-heart surgery, except the operation isn’t on the heart. His chest cavity will be opened. He sternum cut way from the ribs and repositioned with wires. He will need to be hospitalized for 3-5 days before coming home, and then it will be 4-6 months before his has a full recovery.

This is a really big and scary sort of operation.

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Sometimes God surprises us, even in the middle of difficult and trying circumstances. That has definitely been the case regarding Joel’s surgery.

Four years ago, Jon was dying from a heart infection. Dr. Tedesco was the many doctors God used to save Jon’s life. He surgically removed the infected mitral valve and gave him a brand-new teflon mechanical valve. I’ve been forever grateful to God for sending Dr. Tedesco to be a part of Jon’s medical team.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Joel’s surgeon would also be Dr. Tedesco. It was almost as if I could feel God put His arms around me and say, “No need to worry over this one, Paige. I’ve got it too.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not worrying. I am. I’m the mom. I still see my 6′ (and still growing) boy as my baby. But, even I have to admit that there is peace in the middle of the unknown.

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Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. ~Psalm 30:2

Jon & I humbly ask if you would remember Joel in your prayers.

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BaptistGirlConfessionThis post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

No Naps: Not Now, Not Ever … Never!

“No, Daddy! Noooooo! Please no! Don’t take a nap! PLEEEEASE! Don’t take a nap!”

Nine-year old Megan lay spread eagle across the bed, trying to prevent her father from laying down as she pleaded with him in a loud voice. “I hate it when you take naps! Don’t take a nap, Daddy! Please don’t take a nap!”

Jon gently shoved her to the side and lay down anyway. “It’s just for a little while, Megan. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to lay right here.”

And as Jon closed his eyes, Megan crossed her arms and stomped off to her room.

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During the time Jon and I were dating, I heard many stories like this, both from Jon and from Megan. It seemed to be a repetitive scenario that played out again and again in their home.

Jon told me how Megan hated naps, practically from the time she was a young baby. He said he would lay down next to her when she was a tiny toddler, using his arm to gently pin her down, making her take a nap with him. “No wonder she hates naps, Jon,” I would say in a mildly amused manner.

Often, Jon mentioned how even as a child he was known for napping. Once he fell sound asleep in the backseat of his mother’s car on the ride home from school … a ride that was approximately 3 city blocks total and took less than five minutes to drive.  Another time, he shared how on family trips he would climb up into the back dash of his father’s big car and sleep to pass the time. This was, of course, long before seatbelt laws were in effect.

I heard all these stories while dating Jon, but I figured they were exaggerations. That is until I started experiencing Jon’s napping for myself.

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Jon and I had been dating nearly a year when my birthday rolled around. He invited me to come spend the day with him and the plan was to go antique shopping. I arrived at his home around 9:30 am and we quickly headed out for what I assumed would be a day of leisurely browsing in several stores. By the time we were eating lunch, Jon said, “Do you mind if we go back home so that I can lay down for a while? I’m feeling tired. I think a short nap might help.

Reluctantly, I agreed. After all, I knew Jon was ill (though at the time I had no idea it was a serious heart infection). But still, it was aggravating as his short nap turned into a two hour nap fest. I really understood how Megan felt!

Still, somehow I was convinced that once Jon had recovered from his illness, the napping would stop.

I was wrong … four years later, Jon still loves napping.

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Jon and I often joke that if there was an Olympic event for napping, he would have the gold medal all wrapped up. The man can nap anywhere, anytime, in just about any situation.

He naps in cars (thankfully not when he is driving), on planes, and I’m sure if he were given the chance he would nap on a train as well. He is able to sleep sitting up, reclined or lying in a more typical prone position. He has no problems sleeping while fully dressed, even with his shoes on his feet. Jon likes morning naps, afternoon naps, and even catnaps after dinner. He has napped on floors, in parked cars, and doctor’s offices.

Truly,for Jon, napping is not a problem.

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Megan hates naps of all kinds, but mostly she hates her father’s naps.

Personally I don’t mind the occasional Sunday afternoon nap, but I’m definitely not as fond of napping as my husband. In fact, I detest many of his favorite naps, such as the after-dinner-in-the-recliner nap or the interminably long Saturday afternoon nap (especially when my to-do list is a long as my arm). I’m sad to admit that more often than not, I only begrudgingly allow my husband to take a nap, while I wait for him to wake up, my arms crossed and my bottom lip poked out in a petulant pout.

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As I was writing this blog post, I remembered that God rested. He created the world and then He took a rest. God, who does not sleep or slumber, does everything with a purpose, so the fact that He rested is  huge.

Rest is good for the human soul. We need time to relax from our work efforts, in order to give our minds and bodies a chance to rejuvenate. Looking at it from this perspective, even Megan and I must admit that taking a nap here or there really isn’t such a bad idea after all.

But please, we beg you … don’t tell Jon.

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By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. ~Genesis 2:2

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  ~Matthew 11:28

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.