Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jackson's Big Day

We started the morning with a ride on his present from Daddy, Mommy, & Katie: a Plasmacar.

Then a special treat for breakfast: chocolate chip waffles!

He opened a present that Katie wrapped especially for him. It was her old flashlight. And it broke two minutes after this photo when he threw it.

Then the annual measurement for the growth chart.

I had friends and family write notes to him on a dry erase board and took photos of it for our scrapbook. Here is Katie's note:

And every year at my children's parties, I ask (okay, force) people to sign a fabric square that will one day be used to make a quilt.

Grandma made a train cake with homemade icing.

Yay, he blew out the candles!

Caught in the act!

Happy birthday, big boy!

Dear Jackson,

You are a magical, wonderful little two year old. You stun me daily with all the ways you are growing and changing.

I can already tell that you possess a strong mind and memory. You don't forget things easily - and even remember people's names after hearing it only once. Yesterday in the car, you saw busses. You said, "I see a bus." And then you followed it with, "I see 3 busses!" You counted them and you were right. See what I mean by stunned?!

I am enjoying you so much lately. Your personality is so strong and spunky. You are determined and independent. You love to read tbooks and play with baseballs and footballs and soccer balls and basketballs. Oh, how you love them! You can kick like a five-year-old and throw like one too. You love balls so much that you sleep with a tennis ball right now. Funny, isn't it?

You are such a little stinker sometimes too. You love to play games like withholding kisses from me. Then when I act sad, you run up and jump in my arms. You also love daredevil acts and defying my "no!" shrieks when I see you couch diving. You glance at me with a grin as you soar into the air. I'm sure we're on borrowed time until our first ER visit for a broken bone!

You are a loved little boy. You have some great friends and neighbors who love watching you and playing with you. Your sister is also in love with you, and enjoys getting you riled up with a tickle fest or chasing you around the house. The other day you stood with her at the front door, watching me go to the mailbox. I saw you two and my heart finally knew our family is complete and whole. It's been a long road to get to this point, because there were some days in the last two years that I wasn't sure we'd make it. But this two-year birthday marks a milestone for me. I've never been home full-time with a baby, because I worked until Katie turned two. So these last few years have been new territory for me. I'm happy to say we made it - and we didn't just survive it. We thrived and bonded and grew and changed.

You, my son, have changed us, as much as you have changed yourself. You have changed our family with your dynamic little being. You have made us laugh and cry, love and dream. Your sweetness and softness (especially when you tell me you're my Sugar Boy) takes my breath away. And then you turn into your scrappy little self and show me who's boss. I am in love with you, little man. I am thrilled and honored to be celebrating your second birthday with you today. Thank you for making me so full and for sharing your joy with us!

I love you always and forever,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Like a Chicken with Its Head Cut Off

Aack! Where has this week gone?

School is back in session as of yesterday. I had a day without both kids, but full of doctor's appointments and meeting with Katie's principal to resolve some bus ride issues. (NOT fun.) But don't you worry; it wasn't her fault and it's all been handled now. Very well, I might add. I'm pleased with the way the school took a proactive stance. Rather than go into the personal details, suffice it to say that I learned how quickly a child's innocence can be harmed.

So now I'm busy preparing for Jackson's big birthday this Saturday (and watching Dan FREAK OUT as he watches the Mizzou Tigers during March Madness - but I don't blame him!). Back to the birthday boy... I'm going to try to make these yummy little treats for him (thanks for the idea, Jodie!), but I'm a bit nervous how they'll turn out. And, no, they won't be pink!

I realized today that I have way too many projects on the back burner, and need to commit one day to wading through them. I need to catch up on my digital scrapbooking (I got waylaid and stalled in mid-July 2008), paint some frames for displaying the kids' artwork, plus write for my friend Danielle's wonderful website. (Yes, I write a little "column" for her. Betcha can't find my articles!) Oh, I also need to get an oil change and tire rotation. And get comfortable with my new camera. And finish a homemade book for my nephew. And Ryan's Star Wars figurine book. Ugh! Have you noticed how scatterbrained I am as a result?!

Lest this become a blog that exists solely to regurgitate my To Do List, I'll leave you with some photos of my Bubbers today at the park.
This was his first time on a "big kid" swing. I think he liked it!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Mama

Meet Penny, the newest member of our family.
I can't wait to get to know her better. And, yes, I know I have a LOT to learn. Until then, here are two shots I took today. The first shows the busy bees in our tree blossoms, right outside the window as I type.
And this is my own little busy bee. Isn't she adorable?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

All Over the Place

I haven't had much to say this week, have I? It's not for lack of things to say, just for lack of time in which to say it. So, here's a recap of our week.

The trees are blossoming and the weather has been awesome. Katie and I sat in the window and looked at the tree outside, and watched at least a hundred bees swarm the tree for nectar. The tree was literally humming with noise.

On Tuesday, we went to the park for an outdoor St. Patrick's Day party. Katie made a Froot Loop rainbow.

Jackson was a madman, running wild around the park. He didn't stop for at least an hour. There was an empty baseball diamond too, and he thoroughly enjoyed digging in the dirt with sticks.

Dan and I got an unexpected night out on Tuesday when our neighbor gave us tickets to see Cirque Dreams at the Fox Theater. It was pretty cool. There were contortionists, dancers, jump ropers, balancers, acrobatics, trapezists, and even a hairialist. Yep, you read that right. (She was suspended above the stage. By. Her. Hair.) I loved being at the Fox again. It is one of the most beautiful, ornate buildings. The photos I took don't do it justice. There's only one other Fox Theater, which is in my hometown of Atlanta. So being at the St. Louis Fox makes me feel like I'm back at home.

Wednesday, Grandma took Katie to the Science Center while Jackson was at Parents' Day Out. I had the day to myself! I got a haircut and had an inspiring meeting at church, discussing how I can use my creative passions and writing.

Today, I took the kids to a nearby gymnastics center with my mom's group. All three of us (me included!) enjoyed it immensely. They jumped and ran and bounced and hung from bars, and Jackson screamed his head off when it was time to leave. This is a photo of him laying in the foam pit where I couldn't reach him. He refused to come to me, so I had to climb in to get him. And then when I took away his "baskeh-gone" and "pooball" (basketball and football), his screams turned into hysteria.

So, we've been busy. And happy. And blissfully enjoying the early spring weather. Let's hope it continues, because I am so tired of being cold and losing circulation in my extremeties this past winter. I am looking forward to sweating and being hot this summer! (I never thought I'd hear myself saying that!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Ever have a period in your life when the same theme keeps repeating itself? I keep bumping into the same idea lately. It comes to mind during conversations I have, in books I'm reading, in songs I hear, in my prayer time, and even in those random thoughts that assault me as I am quieting my mind before sleep. It just came up again, about an hour ago in a conversation I was having with someone after church. I think God's telling me to pony up and dig in deep and explore it.

First, let me start with this:

It is a quote by Nelson Mandela. I first read it in July 2001, when I went for a job interview. This exact painting was in the stairwell of the company where I was interviewing. I was nervous about the interview, and took the stairs up to the receptionist's desk. There, on the stair landing, this painting stopped me dead in my tracks. I read it and a sense of calm spread over me. I knew I was where I needed to be at that time in my life. It was a tumultous point in my life, as I had just been fired (from a ministry, no less! Ouch!) and I was lacking confidence in myself. Truly, how would you feel after being rejected by an entire corporation full of Christians? I was in pain.

"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." Those words by Nelson Mandela have been so inspiring for me. I have revisited them in my mind over and over. And, recently, they have been churning in my head yet again. Here's why.

I am afraid. Of being disliked. Of being unlovable. Of being alone. Mostly, I am afraid of putting myself out there (especially in this blog) and being rejected. I want to write. I feel called to write, but so afraid to put myself out there. There are things in my head and in my heart that I rarely share with others. I'm sure this is true for almost everyone. For me, I am afraid of stepping into the unknown and fully becoming the person I feel God is calling me to be. How did Paul (Jesus' disciple) do it? Or Jesus himself, for that matter? How does one decide to stand alone when the world is against him? Where do you find the strength? And I don't even face a tiny bit of the persecution that Paul or Jesus faced. What I'm talking about something is so small. My fears are mainly that my friends might not like me. Or what if I offend my family? What if they think I've become a *gasp!* Bible thumper? Yikes! I say that in jest, but also with a little bit of trepidation because I truly don't want to make enemies or alienate anyone.

And yet.

Who am I to be "brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" And, to paraphrase, who am I to think I am not loved by God, not put in a certain position for a purpose? In my prayers lately, God is calling me to step up and own it. Step fully into the person He created me to be: faulty and loving, giving and selfish, joyful and enthusiastic, raw and full of pain. Because "as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

The burdens I have carried in my life may seem light to some. To others, they may seem overwhelming. I have lost a brother, mother and father at early ages. What some may call "the worst thing that can ever happen" (death) has already happened to me. Three times. But I've walked through that fear and I've found that I'm still me, still whole, still loved and loving on the other side. My responsibility now is to own that so I can help others walk through their fears. And not just the fears that grief brings with it, but the fears I faced in other times in my life: postpartum depression, anxiety attacks, diagnosis of a chronic disease, job loss, etc. I have taken Galatians 6:2 to heart: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I might not be the best at bearing other's burdens, but I at least try to help others know they are not alone.

So, this is where the rubber meets the road. Am I ready to walk through the fear and to unapologetically become God's child? Jesus' friend? Am I ready to live it? Even though it means I'll probably mess up a few times? Or that I might look hypocritical? Or that I might need to ask forgiveness? The one thing I know for sure is that I am not alone. Just like I try to show others they are not alone, I need to turn this truth back onto myself. I am not alone.

  • "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
  • "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said." (Matthew 4:19)
  • "Over time you've healed so much in me/And I am living proof/That although my darkest hour had come/Your light could still shine through/And though at times it's just enough to cast/A shadow on the wall./Well, I am grateful that you shine your light on me at all." (Who Am I by Watermark)

I am Yours. Let Your light shine through me, Lord.

EDIT: My friend Mary found out a little bit of news that is mildly alarming to me. It turns out the words that I quoted above were not written by Nelson Mandela. Humph! They have been often incorrectly attributed to him, but were actually written by Marianne Williamson. Here's a link to the explanation. I apologize for the misinformation and for not crediting the correct person. But no matter who spoke them, the words are still beautiful and God-inspired. Thanks for the info, Mary!

Friday, March 13, 2009

All aboard!

I had a mini photo shoot at home today, in an effort to get some photos of Jackson before his 2nd birthday. And since he's into trains lately (Thomas especially), I dressed him up like a little train engineer. Here are some photos of him and Katie. I am thrilled with how they turned out. Give me your feedback, please!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Status Update on the Kids

This is my post where I take moment to pause and capture life as we know it right now.

Jackson will turn two in sixteen days. He is a lot more fun lately. I think one major factor in that is his growing ability to communicate. Yes, he still has screaming fits when he doesn't get what he wants or when he can't express it to me, but he's learning to communicate so well. He talks in full sentences. After dinner he told Dan, "I wan go Costco." We told him we were going to Target instead. He said, "I wan Mommy go too" and stalked me until I got my shoes on. And just now, he looked out the window and said, "It dark outside." He is lots more fun too because he likes to be silly. He does this little dance of shaking his body side to side. Maybe one day I'll be able to catch it on video. Jackson also LOVES shoes right now. He often walks over to the shoe rack by the back door and steals someone's shoes to wear through the house. He especially loves wearing Katie's shoes. I caught him in her boots the other day.

It also helps that Jackson is sleeping much better these days. He still has night time wakings a few times each week, but they are usually short-lived. He's taking gloriously long naps from about 1:00 until 3:30 or 4:00 each day. Hallelujah! The only worry I have is that we plan to get rid of the pacifier in a few weeks. I'm afraid it's going to throw our little piece of heaven into a tizzy. Anyone have good pacifier removal tips? Jackson also loves to help around the house. He loves to help me take the dirty clothes to the laundry room and put them in the washer. He loves it so much that we usually have a tantrum when I try to get him to leave the laundry room. Jackson also likes to Dustbuster the floor, and he helped me with the trash the other night - even dragging it to the garage!

Jackson is definitely on the move lately. I picked him up at Parents Day Out one day and was getting ready to carry him to the car. One of his teachers asked me why I don't just let him walk, and I explained that I can't keep him close to me because he moves too fast. She commented that he does really well with them when they go from outdoor play or playing in the church sanctuary. He is usually the line leader and leads the kids from their room to the play area. And he doesn't bolt. Wow! Unfortunately, I can't get him to do that for me. And inside the house, he is a wild man too. His new favorite thing to do this week is throw the couch pillows on the floor and jump from the couch onto the pillows. He has no fear. But, thankfully, he has gained depth perception. He no longer looks clueless when he's up high and ready to step off. The difference is that now he knows how high it is but wants to jump off it for the thrill. We went to a playground last week and he wasn't as bad as I expected, and pretty good about jumping off things and landing on both feet. He continually amazes me in his ability to survive these daredevil feats unscathed.

Now, on to our Katie. Oh, she's a firecracker. I am dreading the day when the two kids realize they can join forces and conquer me. Because I know it will happen. They are both so strong-willed and almost kill me separately. But add them together? Be. Very. Afraid.

The good news is that Katie is usually pretty concerned about pleasing us. The times she gets into trouble are for things she doesn't think through first. (Of course, that's typical for a five-year-old.) On Tuesday we went for a walk together and there was an elderly woman slowly creeping down her driveway to her mailbox. When we were about ten feet away, Katie said (in an old lady voice), "Oh, look at me. I can't walk." "WHAT did you say?!" I hissed back at her. She was fearful and immediately tried to say she was talking about herself because she knew it was wrong. But I told her I knew what she was doing, and we don't make fun of other people. She was immediately remorseful and said, "I wish I hadn't said that." I told her it was too late, and she lost all 12 marbles from her marble jar (she was only 8 away from a big treat). It was a rough lesson for her.

Usually, Katie is eager to please and loves to cuddle and read books together. She and Dan have lots of special time together. She acts like anything he does is a total blast, even mopping. She is a one-woman art show, and can spend hours writing in her notebooks and cutting and pasting creations at the kitchen table. The sheer volume of her artwork is mesmerizing. She is reading on her own now, and writing very well. Of course she still can't spell everything correctly, but she writes exactly like the words sound and it's easy to figure out what she's trying to communicate. This afternoon she practiced drawing flowers and wrote, "All cinds uv flowrs" beside it. [Translation: all kinds of flowers.] She got a great third quarter report from her teacher, whose only complaint was that Katie is afraid to try something new if she has any possibility of failure. (My dad is in heaven, chuckling at the payback.) When we're in the car, Katie loves to get her dry erase board out and color. She also loves it when we are at a stoplight and I write some simple addition problems for her. Sometimes she spouts out math quizzes for me from the back seat, yelling things like, "How much is 20 plus 20?" I so enjoy watching her little mind make sense of the world.

Katie has a giving heart and loves to make presents for people. She wraps things up in paper and straps it closed with Scotch tape. We go through rolls of that stuff because she uses enough to shellac the thing closed. Right now there's a package sitting on the counter for Jackson. I have no idea what's inside. I think we'll find out on his birthday. Katie is really into board games (we played about 8 rounds of Guess Who this afternoon) and also LOVES the I Spy books. (But I already blogged about that here.) She is so independent these days: dressing herself, setting the table, showering, brushing and flossing her teeth on her own, and entertaining herself when needed. It's such a weird feeling to have been needed and consumed by her so deeply the last few years, and all of a sudden realize the need has shifted to someone else (Jackson) and she's off on her own, beginning to spread her wings.
When the going has gotten tough in the past, Dan and I have often mumbled to each other, "Be the wall." We believe that sometimes kids just need something to push up against to learn their boundaries, and the parents need to be the strong wall that kids keep throwing themselves against. I'm now realizing that Katie isn't pushing as much (yes, she's still pushing but not as much), but have I stopped being rigid? I don't think so... and I think it's time to lighten up. Not stop altogether, but just dial it down a few degrees.

The big picture in our family is this: we are happy, blessed, and love each other without a doubt. We're imperfect and learning the ropes together. But, thankfully, we forgive each other and keep trying day in and day out. And we talk about that forgiveness too, which I think is important. We have some great times together, and really do enjoy each other.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mommy Daughter Day

Jackson went to Parents Day Out today and Katie is on cycle break from school. That means we got to have a girls' day out together! We started the day with a visit to the local Krispy Kreme store. My mom's club had a personal tour of the donut shop, and we watched donuts being made on their in-store machinery.

After the kids watched the donuts be made, they got to go in the back and decorate their own donuts with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Yum!

Then, of course, we got to eat our donuts. Oh, baby!

After our Krispy Kreme tour, Beth and I took our two kids out to lunch at White Castle. They sat at their own table and which made them feel like big kids, and they enjoyed being silly and playing I Spy. When lunch was over, I decided to take a drive to The Container Store so I could look for some bins to organize our garage (our latest project). I was worried that Katie would be bored and I wouldn't be able to shop much for what we need, but I was pleasantly surprised. She actually liked The Container Store... even as much as I do! (And let me tell you, me likey! Me likey!) I was so proud of my little girl for getting excited about anal retentive things like organizers. Be still, my heart! And then I realized, oh no! WHAT am I thinking? I don't want a little Type A tyrant running around. Lord help us! I know it's inevitable that some of me rubs off on her, but yikes! What are we in for? Katie kept finding organizers she wanted to buy and I told her she could pick out one thing to take home at the end of our shopping trip. She chose a tiny cardboard ring box, and then proceeded to tell the cashier all about the ring she is going to keep inside of it. The cashier gave her a little shopping bag to put the box in, and she also carried a HUGE bag full of baskets for our garage. I tell you what - The Container Store is heavenly to me.

After The Container Store, Katie and I stopped by my old old office (where I worked when I was pregnant with her) and said hello to some former coworkers. My real plan for stopping by was to take a photo of a special painting that's there, which I'll blog about later. But it was very enjoyable for me to stop and say hello to a whole bunch of people I haven't seen in years. And seeing their amazement at how much Katie has grown really made me stop in my tracks and see her with new eyes too. It was good for my soul. On the way home, we dropped by Dan's office for a quick visit too then went to pick up Jackson. I really enjoyed our Mommy Daughter Day, and liked being with my sweet girl.

Wordless Wednesday - Bubbles!

This photo of Katie was taken in 2007. Go here for more Wordless Wednesday or click here to enter Angela's Bubble Photo contest.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Thank God it's Friday, and it couldn't be any more splendid! The weather is fabulous today, with a high in the 80s. Katie's school cycle break started today, so we went to a park for lunch. We had a picnic with friends and then the kids ran around so much that they were sweating. Glorious!

We came home for Jackson's nap, and Katie wanted to build fairy houses outside. I opened all the windows and let her go in the front yard while I caught up on emails. Pretty soon, the neighbors came to ask her to play in the cul-de-sac. I stood on the front porch and watched them walk down the road, so happy that she has a street full of kids to play with. My hope is that they will grow up together and consider each other lifelong friends. How cool would it be for them to get their own kids together and play one day? Ah... I can keep dreaming and see what happens. In the meantime, how sweet is friendship?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beep Beep! UPS Just Arrived!

Yep! I got my Favorite Things Swap package from my swappee (or swapper?) Angela, and I was so excited! Oh, wait. I guess I should explain first, shouldn't I? Our Mamarazzi's Favorite Things Swap is a swap where we buy about $20-$30 worth of our own personal favorite items, and send them to our swap partner. They, in turn, also send us a package of their favorite things. Got it? Okay, on to the goods! First, I couldn't believe what a BIG box it was. Holy cow! Do you see that sucker?!

So, enough wasting time with the camera. I want to dig in!!! I scrounged through all the packing peanuts and found three separate gifts full of all kinds of things.

And then I found one lonely little bottle floating in the peanut sea. It was a bottle of Sam's Choice Kiwi Strawberry drink. The tag attached says, "This is ALL I drink! ALL day! EVERYDAY!" So I'm thinking maybe it's a big favorite? Ha, ha.

First, I opened the plastic-wrapped gift basket. JACKPOT! There are two treats I am trying hard to restrain myself from eating RIGHT NOW since I haven't had lunch: one is a chocolate Easter bunny and the other is my favorite candy bar, a Snickers! (I found out that Angela has the same favorite candy bar as me!) Angela says she loves Easter for its meaning, getting to dress up her boys, and also for the candy. She gets to eat her son's bunny every year because he hates chocolate. (Sneaky!) Also in the basket is Chapstick. Angela says she never goes anywhere without some sort of lip balm like Blistex or Chapstick. (This is funny. You'll see why when you get my package, Angela!) It's the shimmer kind, which I've been curious to try and now I can! Angela also sent me her favorite mascara because it separates the lashes so well. (This is also funny. I have no eyelashes, so maybe I can use it on my daughter? Just for special occasions, I promise. She is only five, right?) There's also a set of Uno cards, which is awesome because we love to play Uno in my house - and so does Angela. I'm thinking I can keep this set in my car to play when we're out at the park or hanging out. Angela also sent me her favorite laundry stain remover, made by Dreft. She says she is a sucker for stain remover and this one works really well. How did she know a stain spray was on my grocery list to buy? Thanks for saving me the trip! Angela sent her favorite Dial body wash, which I have never tried before and am looking forward to because she says it smells so good. And I also get to try a new facial cleanser that she sent, Olay dual action cleanser + pore scrub. Angela says it has worked wonders on her skin. But what's the thing I'm most excited about in that basket? It's the book Angela sent, Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson. First I have to finish about 3 other books I'm procrastinating on (including Parenting with Love and Logic and You: The Owner's Manual) and then I'm starting this one. I have been wanting to read a book on raising boys for a while!

So, on to the second package. I went to the pink gift bag next, and opened it to find the cookbook Deceptively Delicious. I've heard good things about these recipes, and need to try to sneak more nutritious ingredients in my family's diet. Now if I can just figure out how break the chicken nugget addiction... Angela, tell me your favorite recipe inside of it!

And the last package in the box was a GREEN gift bag, which I mean in two ways: the bag was the color green and full of Green ideas. Angela wrote that her son's passion for animals and the environment started making her go Green. She sent things to help with that: a reusable shopping bag (love those!), baking soda, vinegar, two condiment squirt bottles (I'll explain in a second), and her own homemade cleaner. She suggests I fill one condiment bottle with baking soda and the other with vinegar then use them to clean things like toilets and sinks. And her homemade cleaner is good for everything except glass and wood. How thoughtful and cool is that?

I just love getting mail on a daily basis. I'm one of those dorks who runs to the mailbox right after the mail is delivered to see what we got. Even if it's junk mail or advertisements, I am still excited to see what arrived. So having a HUGE package delivered by UPS makes me want to break out in "The Wells Fargo Wagon" song from The Music Man. " could be something for someone who is no relation, but it could be... yes it could be... something special... just for me!" (Sing along, y'all!) So, thank you so very much to my new friend Angela. I love all the favorites you sent me, and I can't wait to start using them all and having some of your world overlap mine. Now let me know when you receive my package, so you can laugh about how our favorites are so similar. Enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where Do I Begin?

I think I mentioned recently here and here that change is coming in my life. I can talk about it in two ways: change with a lowercase "c" and Change with an uppercase "C." But I guess it all amounts to the same big C, right?

Okay, enough hemming and hawing. Let's just get down to the nitty gritty, the thing I've been hesitant to discuss lately. Well, see... it's God. And, yes, you are correct in saying, "Elizabeth, you've blogged about God before. This isn't anything new." But I feel like the way I'm about to lay it on the line is new. For me at least.

Here's the deal. I can look back over my life and see all the times that I was lost in confusion or despair or anxiety or joy or happiness, and hindsight has given me the benefit of knowing it was All. For. A. Reason. Yes, even the worst of the worst - cancer and death and all those awful things that I've gone through or lost people to. I've been able to look back at so many of those things and maybe not know THE purpose, but know there is A purpose.

And now I find myself in a similar situation. I was granted a beautiful moment of clarity, when I was able to look back at my recent history (namely, since Jackson's birth) and see A purpose. God put me on a path I didn't even see until I was quite a ways down it. And that path is leading directly to Him. Now, hold the phone a moment. Yes, I think my life has always been on that path towards God. But now I'm finding it is so much more deliberate and intentional.

Need an example? How about this. I used to truly dislike (I'd use the word hate, but that's pretty strong) any contemporary worship music at church. Guitars and drums really turned me off. Ugh. And those people who clap to the music at church and raise their hands in praise? Uh, no way, dude. Not for me. I'll stick with my traditional hymns and passive church services, thankyouverymuch. And then Jackson came along. And our old church changed their service times. So my traditional service wasn't working with nap time. Darn it. That meant we had to start attending the late service, the (horrors!) contemporary service. Slowly, over about a year or so, I started to really like it. And I started to even (gasp!) download some praise music. AND THEN GUESS WHAT? I even clapped to the music. Egads! God was working internally on my heart, massaging it for growth. (But I'm still not ready to raise the hands just yet.)

And then, growth started coming from external means too. Our old church started going through some tumult, and I did too. Adapting to life with two kids took a toll on me. I lost touch with some friends, grew deeper with others, visited a new church, decided to lose some weight, and then the bomb was dropped last fall with my lupus diagnosis. I discovered a need to start prioritizing my life. If I was giving myself to something and not getting much in return, it was time to cut it out and let it go. I made the conscious decision to step down from some groups I was in, limit time with others, and start pursuing the things and places that made me feel most alive. I wanted to focus on a sense of calling and not a sense of obligation.

The place I felt most called to be was Windsor Crossing. The music was the first thing to grab me. Now isn't that funny? Remember, I disliked (okay, hated) praise music. And guess what this church has? ONLY a praise band. No choir, no hymnals, but a stinkin' praise band. Ha! (God is cracking up now.) The first time I visited the Crossing, I couldn't BELIEVE that people weren't jumping out of their seats and dancing to the music because it was so uplifting. Then I went back again and heard the lead pastor preach. And I couldn't BELIEVE that people weren't jumping out of their seats and... you get the picture. Seriously, the place moved me. Dan and I started visiting off and on last summer and early fall, but were still planning to stay at our old church and see it through (to help solve some of the issues there and not to abandon our commitment). But every time we visited the Crossing, I felt compelled to return. I was torn between two places. And then I got a swift kick in the butt: lupus. Ever heard that saying, "It's time to fish or cut bait." Well, I decided to start fishing. And, yes, Dan was in on it with me too.

I spoke to my old church and parted ways, and we started attending the Crossing and calling it home. And only then did things start to crystallize for me. As hokey as this sounds, God started calling me into something deeper with Him. How do I know that for sure? Well, every single time I attended the Crossing, I was crying and finding parts of my hidden heart exposed. Parts I thought were buried, and parts I didn't even remember I ever had. Lots of figurative talk, huh? Well, let me be specific: I no longer just wanted a life in God's presence. I NEEDED it. I also started to examine my beliefs about Jesus, and realized it's a hard concept for me to grasp. (There, I said it.) And I realized how very starved I am for depth and relationship and forgiveness and confidence.

I think back over the last few months of my blog, and realize there's not much there that would lead anyone to truly believe what I'm saying right here right now. I haven't let on much to any turmoil in my soul, have I? Not really. I've barely even discussed it with anyone, besides glimpses I've let a few select friends see. I was testing the waters. And then last night, I gave full disclosure to Dan for the first time. Turns out we're not as different as I used to think.

It's a scary thing to do - to admit that I am weak and unworthy and unlovable, and that I need something that seems so intangible and invisible to many people. It's countercultural, isn't it? We Americans are taught to stand on our own two feet. And my daddy didn't raise no wimp! He told me to buck up, little camper! My faith was just what I was taught to DO, not what I was taught to NEED. So it's kind of embarrassing, even now, to come clean about all of this. But I know it's necessary, and I know it's time.

Doesn't mean I'm going to hit the "publish post" button with lots of confidence though. I'm still afraid. Afraid to admit these changes publicly because I might be called to live it. I might be scrutinized. And what if I can't live it? Oh, but dear me... isn't that what it's all about anyway? I am not being called to live it. I am being called to surrender to it, and to let Someone Else live it through me. I have no idea how, other than to beg daily for help with it. And then to listen. Listen, Elizabeth. You'll hear what to do. You'll know.

I am trying to be more open as God talks to me through all of this. I know He uses my experiences, sights, sounds, and conversations to talk to me. For example, my Body Life class at church last week was all about conflict resolution. Something I didn't really think pertained to me very much. Well, maybe a little but not much. And within 36 hours of the end of class, I had my first of two conversations with people that called me on the carpet for my personal behavior. In the first conversation, my gut reaction was to defend and attack. I started to do that, and then pulled back and shut my mouth and listened. And I realized she was right. Ouch. I apologized, and we talked about ways to handle it in the future, and then I thanked her. Yeeow! Can you believe it? I actually said, "Thank you for helping me practice what I preach." That makes me crack up even now, just thinking that I could have that kind of response to an "attack." (If that ain't proof for you of God's existence, I don't know what is.) The second conversation happened about 36 hours after that. It wasn't quite the same and lacked the hostility, but it brought me up close and personal with some errors I've made in the past. Again, I acknowledged the mistakes and apologized for them and I took what she said to heart. Both conversations are God's way of speaking to me about living my life with more direction, more intention, and more depth.

The joke among my friends at church now is how many tissues we'll need for worship. Honestly, I have never left that building without some sort of moisture welling up in my eyes. Some days, I am drenched when I leave. I told one of the pastors that I'm going to start wearing a poncho to church. He said it's all part of the melting. That phrase has stuck with me, because it encapsulates all I'm experiencing in one word: melting. My preconceptions are melting, My grief is melting. My fears are melting. My independence is melting.

What will be left at the end of all of this, the lifelong journey? I am not sure. But I know that it will be truly, honestly me.


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