Monday, June 30, 2008

The Michelin Man & Jesus

Guest Writer: Eric; Ghost Writer: Mary Beth

The girls and I drove past a new Discount Tire Store recently that has a blow up of the Michelin man on the roof. He was holding up two fingers, so Annabelle commented:

"Daddy, he's two, like me!"

Then, Saturday, we were driving through Cincinatti on our way to Michigan and saw the following church from the highway:

Annabelle's comment: "Hey, Daddy, look! That same guy from the tire store!"

The Michelin Man and Jesus; sounds like the title of a great book...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Welcome, Baby Allison!

Our niece, Allison Vaughn Powell, joined the world this morning at 6:09! 7 lbs. 6 oz. and 19 inches long~born to Jon & Nichole and Big Brother, Noah!

Your big girl cousins are excited for another girl to join the adventures and Katie is excited for a cousin her age! We can't wait to meet you, sweet girl; I'm going to cover you in kisses!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

101 Uses for an Empty Box

Everyone who is a parent knows that there is no greater toy than an empty box. One advantage of moving into a new house is that we have BIG empty boxes that have provided hours of entertainment. Here's a little of what we've done:
The obvious: built a fort!

Drawn/colored lifesize self portraits!

Raced cars!

Built a bigger fort!

Taken naps (yes, she's really sleeping)!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Behavior vs. Relationship~Part 2

Most of us who grew up in Christian schools learned catechisms. Remember those? In the past few weeks, one has been brought to mind in a few different settings; it goes like this:

Why did God make me? God made me for His own glory.

Again, this weekend, I've been thinking about this catechism. In my previous post, I asserted that God wants nothing more than a relationship with us. Thanks to the challenge of a friend, I'm rethinking that statement. Here's what I'd like it to read: God wants a relationship with us in order to show His glory. Allow me to share how I came to this conclusion.

I started in Genesis. I wanted to know the basis for the answer to the catechism I learned as a kindergartener. Ironically, written in the margin of Genesis 1 in my Bible is "The earth is God's gift to me so that I would glorify Him. Is. 45:18" Following that lead, I flipped to Is. 45. Here are some snippets:

"...I am the Lord, and there is on other; Besides Me there is no God...That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me...The One forming light and creating darkness...I am the Lord who does all these...Drip down, O heavens, from above. And let the clouds pour down righteousness; let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it..." (As a former English teacher, I love the imagery!!)

It's obvious that creation was meant to bring glory to The Creator. Being a part of that creation, it logically follows that I am meant to bring glory to The Creator. Going back to my previous post, I believe that God's pursuit--no fight--for a relationship with me is the way that He seeks to bring glory to Himself in a way that no other part of His creation can.

Paul David Tripp says it better than I in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:

"'The goal of God's grace is his own glory, as he calls out and purifies a people that belong to him alone. When he owns their hearts unchallenged, these people will be eager to do what is good in his eyes.' that people place their perosnal stories in the larger story of God's kingdom, for his glory."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Few Recent Favorites!

Katie @ 4 months
Ella Grace and Katie
Annabelle reading to Katie
The Girls

Friday, June 20, 2008

Behavior vs. Relationship

"Dear Jesus, thank You for this food. We love You. Amen!" is often heard at our house before mealtimes. Usually, though, it sounds more like: "DearJesusthankYouforthisfoodweloveYouamen!" After Annabelle's "prayer" this morning, I said, "Now, let's take a minute and really talk to God." Ella Grace volunteered and prayed a slightly more thoughtful prayer. She finished and said something like, "God sure likes it when we talk to Him, huh?" "He does," was my response, "In fact, there is nothing He wants more than a relationship with you." As soon as the words left my mouth, the thought crossed my mind, "How often do I teach my kids something that I don't really believe?"

It may seem a little harsh to read that I don't really believe that God desires more than anything else a relationship with His creation--me. I believe it with my mind, with my words, intellectually, I believe it's what Scripture teaches. It's obvious that Adam and Eve were created to live in perfect fellowship with their Creator. When that didn't "go as planned", God sent a flood, then made a covenant with Abraham, then sent His only begotton Son. I see it, but I don't get it. I believe it in my mind, but not with my heart. I deny that belief daily with my actions.

Again, sounds a little harsh, huh? There's not really much in my life that you could say flies directly in the face of God. But, for much of my life, I've been focused on behavior. My behavior, other's behavior, my kid's behavior--and how that behavior indicates what I, or they believe about God. In fact, when someone said to me a few days ago: "Maybe, your focus should be on relationship more than behavior." My thought immediately was: "Oh yeah! If I focus on relationship then my behavior will change!" This may be true, but I don't think it was what my friend was driving at.

Not sure what it all means, or where to go from here. I'm not sure I've even got my mind around what it would look like to pursue relationship rather than good behaviors. I do know that it's a humbling realization that, yes, He really does want my love, my attention, my affection. Mine. In spite of my sinful, ugly heart--the one that He's forgiven--and now chooses not to see.

Your grace, Lord, Your grace is amazing!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rockin' and Rollin'

Katie rolled over for the first time today: first from back to tummy and a few minutes later back to her back. I have a feeling things around here are going to quickly change!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

To the Fathers in My Life

Happy Father's Day to three of the greatest men I know: my husband, my daddy, and my father-in-law!

Eric, the father of my children: as a girl I dreamed of what my life would be like. Never could I have pictured it as it is. That is in large part because you are my sweetheart. Thanks for giving me our girls and for loving them with a love like no other. You are the perfect daddy to them and, as it should be, they adore you. I often pray that they are blessed with a husband who leads like you do and loves like you do. I love you beyond comprehension!

Daddy, the father of my childhood: those dreams I dreamed as a little girl were centered, in large part, around the love I had for you. Because of the man you are, I looked for a husband who had a heart for the Lord, a heart for his wife, and a heart for his children. Thanks for making my childhood sweet and for loving my girls enough to make theirs sweet too. I love and adore you!

Dad, the father of my husband: you and Mom raised a boy who should make you so proud! Thanks for teaching him to love the Lord and for instilling in him a sensitivity that is rare. Your grand daughters are blessed to have you to love them--they certainly love you more than imaginable! I love you too!

And, to the Lord, my Holy Father: Your love surpasses my understanding. The idea that You allow me to be a part of Your story is both humbling and powerful! Thank you for men to love me and my girls that first love You with a bold love. Thank You for loving me enough to give me so many blessings, but, more than that, thanks for loving me enough not to leave me who I am! I love You, I love You!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big Number 4!

We're currently offline (it's driving me crazy!), but I'm going to write about my oldest darling while borrowing from someone else's wireless connection...try to picture her in her sweet birthday outfit; we can't find which box our camera is in, so you'll have to use your imagination!

Ella Grace's birthday was all about the number this year. She is so excited to be four! For me, four seems a little like we're leaving the toddler years behind and embarking on girlhood. Of course, with this view, my emotions are mixed, but I am looking forward to new experiences we'll have together. Yesterday (which was her actual birthday) we passed a manicure place and she asked if we could go get our toenails painted together. I said maybe when she was a little older; she came back with, "I think four's prob'ly good, Mom!"

Ella Grace, there are more than four million things I love about you, but here are four to mark your fourth year being my biggest little girl:

1. I love your sweet spirit. You truly want to please others not because of what they think of you, but purely because you have a sweet heart.
2. I love the way you love your sisters. They are so blessed to have you to look to as their big "sissy"! I pray that you'll be best friends for always!
3. I love your sensitive heart. My prayer for you is that you'll always be as sensitive to the Lord as you are right now.
4. I love the way you love me. Your love is unashamed, lavish, and makes me feel so special. Thanks for being my noodle bug!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Moving Out & On

What a week! What a month! I'm going to recount the events of the last several weeks for the benefit of those who don't know what's gone on and so that it is recorded for our family for posterity. This is bound to be a long one!

On February 13 we welcomed Katherine Loren into our family! On the 15th we came home to 14 C*** ***** **--the place Eric and I have called home for the past five years. Probably around the 16th, Eric started considering a move--putting our current home on the market and purchasing a home with more space! Over Spring Break, we met with an agent and started staging, de-cluttering, and cleaning! A few days before we were set to take pictures and put a sign in the yard someone called and wanted to see the house. Not wanting to turn away a potential sale, we said okay! That evening we got an offer, countered, etc. and "sold" our house! The kicker was that the buyer had to be in the house by the end of April, so we had less than three weeks to pack up and move out. The next two and a half weeks were spent packing boxes and the Saturday before closing we moved our family into a three bedroom apartment. April 30th, our closing date, rolled around and a sell that had seemed so perfect fell completely apart. Because of the buyer's situation, her financing fell through.

It's hard to pinpoint what emotion was the strongest at that point. I had literally emptied the last box that day and was now faced with the task of packing all of them back up for a move back into our house. To us it made the most sense to move back into the house for several reasons: houses sell better when they're full of furniture; we didn't want to pay rent and a house payment for the month of May; obviously, it's easier to get the girls in and out of a house than an apartment. However, the prospect of moving back was daunting: we'd already had a tearful good-bye and the girls had been shifted around so often in the past few weeks that their question each night was becoming, "Where are we sleeping tonight?". We did move back and spent a month or so showing the house to prospective buyers with little or no interest.

Just as our frustration was starting to peak, we heard from the original buyer who still wanted to buy the house pending paperwork finalizing a divorce. We were optimistic, but not hopeful, that everything would go as planned this time around. On June 3, we closed on 14 C*** ***** ** and tomorrow, June 7, will walk out of the door for the last time.

Throughout the packing, moving out, packing, moving in, we'd found a lot we loved in a new neighborhood; found a floorplan that we thought would work for our family, and started negotiations to build a new home. The process was frustrating and wasn't really working out the way we'd hoped, so this past weekend we started playing out different scenarios: Should we go ahead with the build and move into an apartment? Should we look for an existing house while living in an apartment? Either way, we knew we needed an apartment so we began looking for somewhere to live. We seemed to hit a roadblock each time we had a lead! On Sunday afternoon we decided to make an offer on a home we'd walked through a few weeks prior. It is a home that is built by the builder we'd met and been talking to, but it's obviously on a different lot than the one we'd picked. Our offer was countered and we accepted early this week; on Tuesday Eric met with a morgage broker and, unbelievably (less than a week later), today, Friday, June 6, 2008, we closed and are the owners of 103 A***** *****!

For me, looking back over the past several weeks, things are a blur. Why God chose to play things out this way is beyond me, but Eric and I are both confident that He has a purpose. It is clear that had we closed on April 30th, we wouldn't have made an offer on the house that we will begin to call home tomorrow. A few weeks ago, if asked what God uses to change His people most often, I'd have said circumstances. I now realize that just as often He uses people. Had I gone through this experience void of people there are two things I know would be true:
1. I wouldn't have seen my heart (i.e. my sinful heart) in the way that I responded to people that I dealt with in the midst of moving things in and out; cutting power, cable, water, etc.; re-hooking power, cable, water, etc.
2. I wouldn't have been blessed by the outpooring of tangible love shown to our family through: meals, childcare, muscle, encouragment, prayers, and on and on.

And now we take the next step: leaving our first home! Forgive me, the next few paragraphs are going to be sentimental, but there are a few things I don't want to forget about living here.

Eric and watched this home being built from start to finish. We picked out the carpet, countertops, etc. We've planted every tree that's in the yard and most of the flowers and bushes. Eric has turned what used to be South Carolina red clay into a carpet of the greenest grass on the street. We've painted, hung pictures, bought furniture and made this house, both inside and out our home. Those are all the things that you can see.

There are other things that happened here we'll just remember and treasure:

~The wonder of planting the maple trees Granny bought us when we moved in (she's been in Heaven for 4 years) and watching them grow.
~The fun of eating the best tomatoes--grown in our vegetable garden each summer.
~The memories of hanging out with dear friends.
~The excitement of conceiving our first child and the grief of saying good-bye when the Lord took that child into His arms.
~The blessing of bringing three healthy, beautiful little girls home.
~The joy of growing in understanding and relationship with our Holy Father.
~The miracle of falling deeper in love with one another.

Moving, like most change in life, is bittersweet. Excitement is mixed with sentiment, and laughter with just a few tears. Thanks, 14 C*** ***** **, for great memories; 103 A***** *****, here we come!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Growth in Service

In the past few weeks, God has introduced a new concept to me. I shouldn't say it's a new concept--I'm sure it's the way He always intended it to be--it's just that I've never looked at this particular part of life in this way before.

A little history before I get started: Most of you know that I grew up blessed to be in Christian home, school, church, college, etc. Nothing on earth could ever make me wish that I'd grown up differently, but somewhere along the way I got caught up in what I was doing for Christ instead of what He had done for me. I knew all the right answers, but deep down in my heart of hearts I thought God was pretty lucky to have me on his side. Recently, He's shaken my world by showing me a fresh picture of His grace: that nothing I've done, am doing, or could ever do changes how He feels about or looks at me. That knowledge is precious, but, when it comes how it makes a difference in my day to day, things get a little blurred for me.

Recently the realization that growth comes from service to others has come to surface. In the past, I've always thought of service as something I'm supposed to do because the church needed it or poor people needed it or a friend needed it, etc. Again, it fell into the category of what I was doing for the Lord. However, as I look more at the situations God uses to sanctify this sinner, I'm convinced that service isn't as much for the one(s) I'm serving as it is for me.

This ties back into seeing God's grace in the day to day: Obviously my greatest place of service at this point in my life is here--serving my husband and my girls.

I had been up with Katie once or twice a few nights ago and she was up early wanting nothing more than some Katie & momma time in the form of a feeding. I was mad--there's really no other way to put it--I wanted to sleep and she was keeping that from happening. This is what the Lord (graciously) brought to my heart as I sat that early morning nursing my sweet baby girl:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another [Katie] as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others [Katie]. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus..." Phil. 2:3-5

The passage goes onto explain the attitude Christ had:
He was God.
He came to earth as a man.
He obeyed to the point of death.
He set the standard for setting aside your own interests.
Suddenly the few more minutes of sleep I was longing for at that moment seemed silly.

I'm not going to tell you that suddenly doing laundry, picking up toys, and wiping little bottoms have suddenly become enjoyable tasks. I will say that the realization that God is "working out my salvation" (also found in Phil. 2, oddly enough) through those tasks make them a little more bearable, even a little more precious.

As Paul David Tripp puts it in his book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: "God never intended us to be simply the objects of his love [What I've been learning]. We are also called to be instruments of that love in the lives of others [What I'm now learning]."

Would love a little dialogue on the subject if anyone has any; you can leave any feedback in the comments. For now, I'm off to the sanctifying task of making dinner!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Change

Something has happened at our house in the past few days. I can't put a finger on when or where it happened exactly, but it's definitely happened. Katie has passed from infant hood into babyhood. She's no longer that helpless little blob of a girl, she's a sweet baby girl with a lot of personality!

Here's some signs that the change has taken place:
~She's content to balance on your hip instead of being cradled in your arms
~She prefers the exersaucer to the bouncy seat
~She can hold her pacifier in her mouth for more than 10 seconds at a time
~She grabs toys, hair, paci's, pretty much anything in her reach
~She "talks" constantly--which is saying a lot in our very verbal household
~She growing the "William's cheeks" in quite nicely
~She smiles with her whole self and is working on a sweet little giggle
~She has an opinion and makes it pretty clear to whomever will listen

My favorite change? The way she lights up when she sees my face!