Friday, February 15, 2013

A Modern Psalm

Coffee with the SaviorI’m reading a Bible study called Coffee with the Savior by Kristen Myers. She is a friend of mine, and gave me a copy of her book as a gift. The focus of the study is about turning to Jesus for friendship instead of fruitlessly searching for that one “perfect” human friend to satisfy my deep longings. Oh, that message is so timely in my life right now!

The book compares time with Jesus as if He were a friend you were meeting for coffee. You greet Him the way you would a girlfriend: with a welcoming hello, a hug, a compliment (“It’s so good to see you. You look great! Did you cut your hair?” [Sidebar: could you imagine asking Jesus that?! I’ll bet He would chuckle with me.]), followed by catching up on life, sharing any heartaches or joys, and finishing with a promise to meet again – tomorrow, next week, when?

I’m in chapter three right now, which – in simplistic terms – would be the “compliment” stage. Kristen writes about how we can spend time praising Jesus (and how He does that for us too), and there are Psalm references that demonstrate what that looks like. Kristen asks the reader to write these praises in his/her own words. I wrote my verses as if Jesus had come over to have coffee in my living room, but they quickly evolved into a thank you note I might write to Him after our visit:

_MDS4482Hello, Jesus! It is so good to see you. I love when you visit with me and we can hang out. I always feel better when I’m with you. You listen to me and care for me. You encourage me and tell me how loved I am. Thank you for the gifts you lavish on me: the sunshine you just poured through my window, the quiet in my house, the sweet memories of holding my kids this morning, the breeze rustling my trees in the yard, the warm scent of Dan’s hugs. You always know just what I need. I feel so blessed to be your friend!

Sometimes, I wonder what it must have felt like for the Bible’s authors as they were writing the letters, poems, and first-person accounts that make up our holy scriptures. Since the words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, did the authors feel a certain one-ness as they were writing? Personally, I love writing and can get into a groove – some call it “flow” – when I’m writing. There are times that phrases (praises!) and words just fall out of my head, and I have no idea where they were rooted deep inside me. Don’t get me wrong: I am not comparing my writing to the Scriptures! But I am wondering how it felt for them to feel so deeply intertwined with the Author Himself. My silly “psalm” that I wrote this morning is really just a bit of gibberish, but I felt closer to my Friend when I wrote to Him. Can you imagine how much greater that feels when you’re writing in tandem with Him? Holy, inspired, and knowing without a doubt that He is using you for His purpose in reaching a thousand lifetimes yet to come.

Have you ever written a psalm of praise? Try it, and talk to Him as if you were leaving a comment on His heavenly blog. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we gave Him as much time as we give to our Google Readers? (That’s a rhetorical question, y’all. Something I am directing at my own wandering heart!)

Happy writing!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Birthday Surprises

This post will be light(er) on words and heavy on photos. I had SUCH a great birthday this year! It started with flowers from Dan.IMG_2209

And donuts at breakfast (which caused tears for the kids, because Daddy said they were only for Mommy).IMG_2208

Breakfast cake from my coworkers, who celebrated with singing.IMG_2210

After work, the family went to see Jackson’s new counselor and received his diagnosis (that was the sad part of the birthday). Afterwards, Dan took us out to dinner at Outback (did you know they have a gluten free menu?) and home for cake. My sister Skyped to say happy birthday, and that’s when Dan gave me my big birthday surprise: tickets to fly to North Carolina and see my sister! I asked what we would be doing so I could pack accordingly, and she wouldn’t tell me. Fine by me! So the next day once I was finished with work, Dan drove me to the airport and dropped me off. I only knew where I was going (North Carolina) and who was picking me up (my sister).IMG_2212

My flights were delayed, but I didn’t care because I had time to read and chill out alone in the airport. (Pure bliss for a mom of young ‘uns!) I arrived in NC and was so very happy to see Mary. We drove to her house and went to bed. My only instructions were to be ready to leave the house at 9:15 the next morning. I was and we did. She drove me to one of the nicest spas I’ve ever been to: the Spa at Pinehurst.IMG_2220

We were spoiled with private hour-long baths, hour-long massages, lunch by the pool (with chocolate-covered strawberries), and an hour-long facial. (My breath slowed and my eyes closed in peace simply at the mention of that memory again!) It was all splendid, but my favorite part was sitting in a fluffy robe in a chaise lounge and talking with my sister throughout the day. My spirit was refreshed and so so so happy!IMG_2215

We were complete noodles after the pampering, and went home to Mary’s house to relax on her couch. I love her house because it’s on a tiny lake. I really enjoy sitting on the couch and looking out the window at the lake and scenery… which is what we did when we got home. Mary fell asleep beside me, and I sat with her sweet puppy on my lap and watched the ripples on the lake. Serene and perfect!IMG_2225

To make it even better (because my camera makes everything better, you know!), I got out my camera and took photos of the puppy (Jack) curled on my lap. Awww…IMGP4252

And then photos of the lake…IMGP4274

And while I’m showing the scenery, I gotta share this picture of the pine trees my sister hates (and I adore) that surround every street in her town. Being in the middle of these trees makes me feel such awe and peace.IMGP4199

So, back to the sitting on the couch part. We are being couch potatoes and I’m looking out the window at the pretty lake when out of the blue, my favorite Aunt Lucy starts walking up my sister’s steps. I did a double take and my jaw fell open, and then I ran to hug her with tears in my eyes! My second surprise of the day had arrived. I was so very happy to see more of my family. Lucy joined us on the couch and we talked and talked and visited. After a while the dogs started barking. My sister stood up and I stood up, and I saw a car on the driveway (that wasn’t my niece’s). I asked who was here, and Mary just shrugged. I stared and then it hit me: my favorite cousin Catherine had come! I ran down the steps and screamed the whole way, and hugged Catherine. Whew! How happy I was to be with even MORE of my family! Catherine brought margaritas for us to enjoy while we gabbed and got ready for a special dinner out.IMGP4281

Mary took us to this incredible little restaurant called Elliotts on Linden, where we had some of the freshest and tastiest food. Appetizers were a crab and corn fritter and seared scallops. My entrĂ©e was the grain finished filet (yum!) and everyone else had the salmon special (also yum!). For dessert, we literally ordered one of everything. There was a mini chocolate mouse birthday cake, molten lava chocolate chili cake (with salted caramel gelato! Yes!), cheese cake, plus this amazing little pear and apple tart thingy. I thought that tart thingy would be my least favorite, but it was to-die-for good and turned out to be my favorite. We were so stuffed, we didn’t even finish all the desserts. (I don’t think that’s EVER happened to me.)IMGP4292

The meal was awesome, but the people I was with made it stellar. I could have been at Burger King and still had a fantastic meal because I was with these ladies.IMGP4293

Afterwards, we went home and stayed up talking even longer, then hit the hay for the night. The next morning I got to sleep in a bit and we ate my sister’s breakfast casserole. The only thing I knew about the plans for the day was I was flying home late that afternoon, and I should be ready to leave for lunch at noon. When the time came, we all piled in to cars (with my luggage too, darn) and ended up at this restaurant called the Pik N Pig. It’s very near the tiny town where another of my favorite aunts lives, so when we pulled into the parking lot I asked, “Is there a Prius in the lot?” (She drives a Prius.) My sister knew I figured out the last surprise. We had lunch with my aunts, my cousin, my sister, my nieces, and my niece’s friend. Oh, joy! Lunch ended way too soon, and we had one group photo in the parking lot (which is beside an air strip) before saying goodbye.IMGP4314

My sister drove me to the airport and said goodbye. I didn’t even cry. Well, that’s not true. My eyes got wet, but nothing spilled over! I settled in and read while waiting for my flight, and filled my heart a little more by taking photos while on the plane. I had a layover in my hometown of Atlanta, GA… so the photos of Atlanta from my airplane brought me more joy.IMGP4383

I arrived back home that night, happy to be there but also wishing I lived closer to North Carolina. I’m so grateful that Dan and Mary gave me a soul-filling birthday gift. I have missed my extended family so much this past year, and hated being far apart from them. Seeing some of them for my birthday made the ache a little less dull, and helped refuel me until the next time we gather.

There’s only one problem: how will Dan ever be able to top this birthday gift?! (A note to my honey: please don’t even try! This was beyond wonderful, and a gift that will be cherished as long as I live. Thank you!)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Page from My Journal

I wrote this on my plane ride home from North Carolina, trying to process a few days’ worth of a wide range of emotions. Forgive some of the terse grammar (Yes, I realize I’m missing a few pronouns), but this is how I worked out my emotions in my journal. This is how I felt that day, and still do to some extent. Every day is better, but also presents its own new challenges. That’s what life is all about, right? Each day is an adventure! Some more so than others, thankfully.

Jackson diagnosed with ADHD plus depression and anxiety. On my birthday! I expected the ADHD, but not the anxiety and depression. It makes me sad to think he is carrying so much at age five. Too soon. Too early. Too much. That night, I got my birthday gift from Dan: tickets to see my sister in North Carolina. Oh joy! And such sadness, all in the same day. I went to bed overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. The next morning, got kids on school bus and sat in my kitchen and wrote this prayer:

I don’t want anyone to say “It’s gonna be okay” and “It’s not that bad” or “It could be worse.” I want them to say, “It sucks. I’m sorry.” And to sit with me in it for just a little bit, and then we’ll brush ourselves off and continue to live in the Not Yet.

Drove to work. Sat at my desk and finally took my first moments to read Jackson’s evaluation from the counselor. Started crying at my desk. My kind coworkers asked if I was okay, and I said no, but I wasn’t ready to talk yet. Finally, they were all in the office for a weekly meeting and I hijacked the meeting to tell eight of them the news. I said I know in the grand scheme of life, it isn’t a big deal (and may even be a blessing). Yes, I know it could be worse. And then I started crying because it’s my baby this is happening to. They held their tongues. They held my hand. They held my shoulders, and they let me cry. And when I could breathe again, two people in the room said they have had the exact same diagnoses. And I felt my burden shared – not lifted and not easier – but colored with more hope than worry. These eight people drew in close, laid their hands on me, and prayed out loud for me, my son, my husband and daughter, our doctors, our faith, our future, and the regrets we don’t even have yet but we know are unavoidable. They prayed for guidance and that God would help them help me. Oh, Jesus – I felt such love!

Each proceeding minute that day was incrementally filled with a little more hope and a little more joy. I shared my story two more times with two more coworkers before leaving work, and got more encouragement.

I have a church and a job that encourages me. I have one of my best friends whose career is helping kids like my son, and who has been beside me each step of this so far – sending me recommendations for doctors, diets, and research. I have a sister who is a teacher (and my parental surrogate) and knows how to advocate for my son and teaches me how to do so. I have a husband who cries with me and carries the burdens along with me, and knows me better than I know myself. I have a daughter who is amazingly kind and generous and a defender of her little brother. And him? He’s a joy, and a challenge at the same time. He has changed my life and will continue to do so.

I don’t know in what ways our lives will change in the coming year, and I’m sure it will be full of highs and lows, adjustments and lessons. I’ll be bombarded with well-meaning advice, and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of all the information I’ll be learning. But today, I have hope: we have a diagnosis. I am thankful for that, because it means we have resources and options.

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 Review

January started with a big surprise party for my neighbor. Since I don’t know a lot of her friends and family, I became an observer and photographer of the party. It made me so happy to sit back and watch her enjoy the people who came to surprise her and shower her with love. This photo captured the moment she realized her son had flown in town from North Carolina to surprise her. As she was going in for a hug, her eye caught the presence of her daughter, who had flown in from Florida. Such exuberant joy! (And this photo is just another reason why I love photography!)_MDS3609

Dan’s cousin, Craig, got married in mid-January in Belize. Before the big beach wedding, the couple had a pre-wedding reception. It was in a beautiful and funky art gallery I have never even heard of. (But wish I had! It’s called the Randall Gallery.) There was great food and lots of dancing, including Gangnam Style. Sheesh!IMGP3992

This winter’s weather has been all over the place: really cold and really warm. On one of those warm days, Jackson and I went to the zoo for the first time since the new sea lion exhibit was built. It was a nice, unplanned Mommy-Son day. Katie and Dan were serving on our church Outreach team that day and had their own Daddy-Daughter day.100_2805

Another big deal for January: Jackson’s reading skills have dramatically improved. This was the first (long) book he’s ever read completely on his own. I don’t have a photo of it, only a video. Womp, womp.

One Saturday morning, I was at the kitchen table eating breakfast and saw a hawk land on our tree house. He sat on the rail for almost an hour, devouring a bird he caught. I took photos of him the entire time. Gross, yes… but amazing too. (Can’t you just hear The Lion King song playing? “In the circle of life…”)_MDS3857

My birthday comes at the end of January. On the Sunday closest to my birthday, my boss had all of our ministry volunteers celebrate by bringing me sweet cards and showering me with hugs. There was a homemade cake and silly princess tiaras for us to wear. But the most memorable part of the day for me was when the power went out between our 9am and 11am services. We ended up canceling the 11am worship service, which was a bummer. But on the bright side? I got a half day off work. Here’s a (bad iPhone) photo of people waiting in the lobby with the power out.IMG_2203

I’ve been learning and reading a lot about sensory defensiveness and ADHD lately (because of Jackson’s diagnosis), and came across an inexpensive running trampoline. I decided to buy it and give the kids a spot to work out energy inside the house. They love bouncing on it. On a side note, we also started the kids in gymnastics because our karate dojo closed. Katie has been in gymnastics since first grade but we took a break for fall of last year, and she picked it back up very quickly. Jackson is loving his new gymnastics class, and it gives him so much happiness to know he has his own class to go to and his own buddies in class.IMG_2205

Remember that crazy weather I talked about? January 29th was so warm that four kids at our bus stop wore shorts/capris to school. (Two pair of shorts/capris are blocked in this photo.)IMG_2207

And then? January ended with my birthday. I’ll have to write an entire separate post for that, because it was epically fantastic. Stay tuned!


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