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.

Writers and Winners

During the month of April, I allowed each of my five children a day to guest post for me. What I didn’t share is that each of their blogs posts were also their entries in our local library’s Writes of Spring Writing Contest.

I’m proud to announce we have winners!

For the third consecutive year, Megan placed 1st in her category (7th-8th grade non-fiction).  Julia was also a 1st place winner, taking home top honors in the 5th-6th grade non-fiction essay.

Nathan, who competed head-to-head with Megan in the 7th-8th grade non-fiction category, took home the 2nd place prize. Maddie also brought home 2nd place honors with her fiction piece (9th-10th division).

Joel was the only one who didn’t place, however our favorite librarian told us that 9th-10th grade non-fiction was the group with the largest amount of entries. She only had the top 3 places before her and couldn’t tell us where he placed within his category. Regardless of the outcome, both Joel and I were pleased with his essay, and remembered how he won 1st place twice in previous years. He’s proud of his siblings, and I’m glad he has such a great attitude over the results.

In case you missed the earlier postings, here are the links where you can find each one of my children’s writings.

Megan: The Princess Dinner ~ 1st place (7th-8th grade non-fiction essay)

Julia: City of Love ~ 1st place (5th-6th grade non-fiction essay)

Nathan: My European Vacation ~ 2nd place (7th-8th grade non-fiction essay)

Maddie: Alayda ~ 2nd place (9th-10th grade fiction)

Joel: In Memoriam of Poppa (9th-10th grade non-fiction essay)

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“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  ~ Psalm 45:1

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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.

Versus: Books and Movies

 The book is always better than the movie.

This is true for me, however I am not a visually-driven person. I’m one of those people who is much more drawn to books than to movies.

Today I am reblogging a post I wrote several months ago about one of my favorite books and the only movie I’ve ever watched  that truly equals the written story. In honor of Jonathan Crombie (who starred as Gilbert Blythe and tragically passed away earlier this month), this is my review of Anne of Green Gables, both the book and the movie.

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In the fall of 1986, two important things happened in my life.  The first event was the start of my high school education. The second was my introduction to Anne Shirley, a kindred spirit if there ever was one.

It was at my mother’s insistence I became acquainted with Anne.

When PBS announced it would be airing the 1985 version of the film Anne of Green Gables (starring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe), my mom encouraged me to watch it with her.  When I resisted, she forced me to watch it announced it would be required watching for me, whether I liked it or not.

Naturally, I crossed my arms, set my jaw, and decided under no circumstances would I enjoy anything at all about watching Anne of Green Gables. Stoically, I sat down for the first night’s segment, already dreading the five more nights yet to air.

Less than ten minutes after the opening credits, I was enthralled … with Anne Shirley, with kindred spirits, and with Prince Edward Island, Canada.

As soon as school let out the next day, I rushed to the library to get the only copy of Anne of Green Gables on the shelf. Before the next segment aired, I was more than halfway through the novel.

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Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1908. The main character, Anne Shirley, is a young teen-aged orphan, who has spent all of her life living between foster homes and orphanages, never being loved.  When elderly, unmarried siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert fetch for an orphan boy to come live with them and help tend to the farm, Anne shows up by mistake. At first, Marilla wants to send Anne back and get the boy they originally requested, but in the end decides to give Anne a try.

From the outset, it seems stubborn Anne, despite her longings to remain at Green Gables, will be sent back to the girls’ home. Within hours of arriving, Anne meets Marilla’s dear friend Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who makes a snide comment about Anne’s red hair. Anne vehemently retorts, “You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling old woman! … How would you like it if I said you were fat and clumsy and probably hadn’t a spark of imagination in you?”   When Marilla forces Anne to apologize for her rudeness or return to the orphanage, it takes quiet, gentle Matthew Cuthbert stepping in to save the day.  

Throughout the novel, fiesty, imaginative Anne is prone to finding trouble. Her antics include dying her red hair green by mistake, getting her best friend drunk by mistaking currant wine for raspberry cordial, and nearly feeding her beloved teacher a pudding contaminated by a dead mouse.  But Anne also endears herself to the reader as she searches for and finds many “kindred spirits” in her new home in the small community of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada, including bosom friend Diana Barry and handsome arch rival Gilbert Blythe.

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The 1985 Sullivan Entertainment movie adaptation of Anne of Green Gables is very true to the book. Throughout the movie, the characters’ lines remain, for the most part, unchanged from the way they were originally written by the book’s author. The enchanting music and exquisite scenery simply add an extra dimension to the already heartwarming story of an orphan girl finding her place in the world at last.

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Anne of Green Gables has become something of a classic chick-flick in recent years, but many of my friends who adore the movie have never actually taken the time to read the novel. If you haven’t read or watched this lovely story, let me encourage you to do so.

I’ve read the novel Anne of Green Gables at least eight times, perhaps more. I’ve watched the four-hour movie an equal number of times. Amazingly, I’ve never grown tired of Anne Shirley whether I read her story or watch it acted out. Perhaps that’s because my favorite part is the simply finding a kindred spirit in the main character.  Her spunk and enthusiasm for life are contagious. Once you meet Anne Shirley (either on the pages of the novel or as acted out on the movie screen), she becomes as real as any person … a sign of both excellent writing and acting.

As an avid reader, I typically find the book to be better than the movie, although occasionally I’ve enjoyed a movie much more than the book.

But every once in a blue moon, if you are lucky enough, you’ll find a book and a movie adaptation which you’ll find to be equally enjoyable. For me, this would be the story of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~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.

Unanswered: A Prayer

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

~Garth Brooks

I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.

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For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.

During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either.  Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.

And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.

You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?

All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”

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Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.

A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”

“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”

Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for.  Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.

That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.

Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.

I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”

Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael,  who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India  … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.

As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.

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There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.

So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:

1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.

2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.

3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.

4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.

5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.

6.  Sin.  It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)

It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14

How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?

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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.