Sunday, July 28, 2013

A weekend of celebrating

Brian and I stayed at home Friday night with Baker,
as has become my new favorite tradition - frozen pizza and a movie.
Either I am getting really old, or it doesn't take much to entertain me.
Because, this is about as good as it gets for me.
Saturday, my mom and I took off early for manicures and pedicures.
I love being back in town with her, spending Saturday mornings together.
It just feels like home.
Brian and I left around noon on Saturday and headed towards Birmingham.
We started off at the Summit with a late lunch and some shopping.
Baker stayed in Tuscaloosa with my parents, and I loved time with just my husband.
The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed walking hand in hand past storefronts advertising this sale and that begging us to take a peek.
We reminisced as we walked, although I was so happy, I may have even thrown a skip in here and there.
There's something about anniversaries that makes me fall in love all over again,
and think about all of our firsts and takes me back to the University of Alabama as a freshman falling head over heels with some country boy from Mayberry Ethelsville.
We played the "what were you doing right this minute six years ago?" game all weekend.
We then headed to Kristen and Nick's house to celebrate Ashley, Trey, and Baby Brock!
Kristen is the most wonderful hostess.
She has a beautiful house, no doubt, but it's more than the structure that makes everyone love to congregate there.
She always leaves something special in our room.
She has mastered southern hospitality, and makes everyone feel welcome.
Ashley and Trey are positively glowing.
I would be a rich woman if I could bottle that pregnancy glow and sell it.
I'm serious.
I love watching expectant couples. 
They way they dote on each other.
And smile at each other.
And sometimes even insist upon multiple dryer sheets when one will clearly suffice!
Baby Brock is already so loved, as was evidenced through conversations, gifts, blessings, and wishes.
This morning, Brian and I woke up to our sixth wedding anniversary.
Six years!
So much life has happened in six years.
We have moved, and moved, and now we've moved again.
We've changed jobs. We've been promoted.
We've stuck together through Master's programs.
And grew our family with a Harley dog.
We've lost.
And we've gained. Oh how we've gained.
We grew our family again with an earth angel we call Baby Bake.
We've shared.
We've made memories in these few short years that will keep a smile on this face for the rest of forever.
We've grown in Christ.
We've made sweet friends.
We've dreamed dreams.
We've ached together, and held each other.
We've celebrated.
We've witnessed miracles.
We've been forever changed
We've gotten stronger.
We've loved bigger.
We've fought harder.
I love this 'we' thing.
This afternoon, we celebrated Baby Brock and his radiant mama again at her tea.
He got so many adorable things.
Leave it to us southerners to plaster a baby's name on every piece of cotton and make it worthy of more ooohhhs and ahhhs than MiMi's pecan pie.

As we were leaving, Ashley passed out hostess gifts.
Instead of some trinket to gather dust, she gave the sweetest, most thoughtful gift.
As a friend, as a mama,
I was grateful, I was humble, I was tearful, I was proud.
Even as we were celebrating Brock, this precious family was honoring my Baker.
How many times can one utter the word blessed before it loses its meaning?
Because we are truly blessed.
Thank you, Most Faithful Heavenly Father.
Thank you for your many, many blessings.
Thank you for your grace, and your forgiveness.
Thank you for another day with my husband.
Thank you for preparing my heart for his and so beautifully writing our love story,
our life story.
Thank you for sweet friends that are your hands and feet.
Thank you for Baby Brock, and his mommy and daddy.
Thank you for their selflessness and generosity.
I pray in the coming weeks that you continue to prepare them for this blessing.
The blessing of a baby.
I ask you to hold them in your hands.
Give them wisdom, and guidance, and peace, and strength.
Place people in their path to encourage them, to show them your love.
Thank you Jesus.
Thank you for your Sovereignty.
Thank you for loving us and giving us so much to celebrate.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Heart Burst

There are no syllables to rhythmically bind.
There is no sentence that could be so perfectly strung.
There are no punctuation marks so strategically placed.

My heart is about to burst right out of my chest.

I was striving for something much more elegant.
Poetic or musical.
Heartfelt and squishy.
Lavish and lovely.
Ooey and gooey to the ick degree.

But all I can come up with....

This past Saturday, we had two separate play dates that would not have happened if not for the birth of my precious baby boy. 

His extra chromosome has proven to make this a life full of extras.
Extra blessings.
Extra love.
Extra support.
Extra goodness.
Extra friends.
Extra, extra, extra!

We started the day with Wren and Mollie.
Mollie and I go back to high school. 
We played junior varsity softball together in middle school.
Then, she was affectionately known as Mollie Ruth.
I graduated a year ahead of her.
But, remember looking up to her.
She was always positive.
Always encouraging.
Always a blessing.

Over the next several years, life took us down different paths, 
but we were reunited last October.

And I am so glad we were.
Her Wren is a doll baby.
And Mollie hasn't changed a bit.
Always positive.
Always encouraging.
Always a blessing.

I know arranged marriages are not common in our culture,
but we may or may not be working on something to keep these two close.
And this picture may or may not be the first shown on the slideshow at their Rehearsal Dinner.

Heart bursting.

Later that afternoon, we trekked to Birmingham to spend the evening with The Club, as they have dubbed themselves.
Mind you, we had never met anyone at this shindig.
But, by the grace of God, and His perfect plan, we now have a new group we are honored to call friends.
But I'll call them family.

Sally, Walker's mommy hosted this most wonderful event.

Heart bursting.

Have you ever seen more cuteness in one picture?
That's a lot of extra special goodness right there.
Watch out folks, big things are coming from these little ones.


When we got there last night, I felt an immediate connection to each of these families.
Each had been through the emotions we have felt.
But more so, each has experienced the joy we have been blessed to have fill our hearts with our sweet Baker.

I was so encouraged to see each child developing so beautifully.

The mamas shared and laughed and loved.

As I closed my eyes last night, exhausted from such a wonderful day,
I uttered prayers for each of the mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters and our littles who have brought us all together.
What an incredible blessing.
What an incredible gift.

With the love for Baker, and each of the friends we made yesterday, 
friendships that I am certain will last a lifetime, my heart is about to burst right out of my chest!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A boy and his pup

We became pup parents in May 2009 to the most precious little Golden Retriever.
We named him Harley, because I joked with Brian that this dog was the only Harley he would ever have.
Except for I wasn't joking.
At all.
We got him when he was only four weeks old.
He was so tiny!

Harley was our one and only until Baker arrived.
And was treated like royalty.
He spent his afternoons and weekends at the lake,
and feasted on steak while his humans ate chicken.
Once Baker made his debut and topped the charts at Number One,
Harley assumed his rightful role.
As dog.
He was extremely jealous of Baker.
And Baker wasn't really sure what to think of Harley.
But, finally, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are beginning to get along.

Baker even signs "dog" now when he sees Harley.
I love it!
I have a feeling these two will be thick as thieves before too long.
I see Baker spending many afternoons riding on Harley's back,
Giddy up, pup!
brushing his hair,
giving him baths,
chasing him around the yard,
and playing with Harley until he begs for mercy!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life Lately

I so enjoyed writing the Humbly Grateful posts.
Did you get a chance to read each of them?
I am still striving to maintain a humbly grateful attitude and allow my thoughts and actions to portray one that acknowledges the blessings of a mighty God.
Life lately has been full of those blessings.
Thursday afternoon, we celebrated fourteen months of Baker Bell.
Fourteen months.
Can you believe it?

And Thursday night, I left for a beach trip with my girlfriends.
Can you believe it?
We stayed at a friend's condo - the same one we visited for my bachelorette party six years ago!
Then and Now.
Top 2007.
Bottom 2013.
Yes, we will sell our anti-aging secrets.
For a very hefty price.
Start saving now.
I kid.
We had such a blast.
Sans kids. And husbands. And worries. And agendas.
Just friends, food, sun, sand, and lotsa fun!
On the last night, I sent Baker a video of me blowing him a kiss.

This is how he responded.
And I responded by:
a. driving 127 mph all 300 miles home
b. sobbing hysterically - testing the strength of my newly purchased Falsies mascara
c. counted the hours until we would be reunited and vow separation never again
d. put on my big girl panties, savored my last few hours of friend time, and eagerly awaited that tight, two arm squeeze he has recently mastered
You choose.
We made it safely home.
I survived being away from Brian and Baker for three whole nights.
And the girls promised, no matter what, to do this again next summer.
Being a wife and a mommy are my life's two greatest joys,
and after a wonderful getaway, I returned refreshed,
with 1631 new freckles and a burned scalp,
because apparently I thought that would be fun 
with strength and patience and sweet memories of a wonderful weekend ready to be an even better wife and mommy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Humbly Grateful - Part Three

I had to read a book in AP English, many, actually.
But this one I read while doing a mini exchange program in Germany.
I hated it, except, I sort of loved it.
It was a book written in stream of consciousness.
And, while it was difficult to follow, especially while my mind was overtaken with the sights, sounds, and exquisite tastes of Western Europe, it is exactly how my brain operates most of the time.
I have written two Humbly Grateful posts. They are much more coherent and I invite you read those here and here. This one, I will write just letting my mind wander. Which, ashamedly is how many of my prayers go. Bear with me. Or if it's too unbearable, you have my permission to lose yourself in one of my other spectacular posts.
I kid! Sort of.
Harley is sleeping soundly at my feet. Providing the socks my barefeet have forsaken on this summer day. For this, I am most grateful, since last night he decided to take a jaunt around the neighborhood and couldn't be found for hours. I was terrified I would never see my sweet pup again. Also terrifying, tomorrow night, I will leave my Baker Boy (and husband, too) for a much needed girls getaway. Will he remember me? Will he miss me? Will I survive? While terrifying, I am thankful for a reprieve. To go to the bathroom by myself will be a welcome change. For fellowship, fun, and friends. Fellowship is good. Fun is good. Friends are good. My mom used to sing a song, "Make new friends, but keep the old ones. One is silver and the other gold." I don't know about silver and gold, I personally like both. But I am thankful for friends new and old. Ones that have stuck by my side, and others who are just joining the ride. It makes me think of the game Red Rover. There are some who have broken through hands intertwined, but others....others we cling tightly to forcing them to join our team. Stand by our side. Hold our hands. Sing the songs of life right alongside us. Singing, I more make a righteous racket than a joyful noise. But I love to sing. And I love to lose myself singing. And I am thankful for singing and songs. Nursery rhymes with Baker to see him smile and hear him laugh and, if I'm lucky, join right in. Worship songs. What a privilege to be able to sing these any day of the week, and not just on Sunday. Duets. For Brian and I to pretend we are Tim and Faith and belt it out making a complete fool of ourselves and falling even more in love by doing so. I am thankful for love. For the love of my husband. The love of my baby boy. Friends. Famiy. Jesus. Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, most precious Jesus. The baby is waking. I hear him over the monitor as I stretch my legs slightly longer to reach the end of the chaise to try jostle Harley from his sleep. Back asleep. The baby, not the dog. He is already off chasing a squirrel. Nope. Distracted. Has to leave his mark on the newly budding bush. I'm free to let my thoughts wander for a few minutes longer as Baker wakes slowly from his slumber. Lots to do today. Nothing to do today. The glorious life of a teacher. I can accomplish my lengthy to do list, or I can rewrite it completely. I'm thinking the second. We'll trade grocery store runs and laundry and packing for time on the patio. Sprawled out, taking a cue from Harley who is warming in the summer sun. Sun, sleepy sun. Summer breeze. The sweet smell of gardenias. The hum of Baker snoring. The scorching rough concrete surface, a nice contrast to the cool grass. My feet dance across both. And my eyes threaten to shut.
I come back to this, several hours later, after a short snooze, lunch, and playtime with Baker. My thoughts are much more streamlined, and I threaten to delete each word.
How awful.
Certainly not a piece I am proud of.
But, as I reread it again and again, these are my thoughts.
My humbly grateful attitude today.
So, instead of deleting to start again, I am perfectly content with my obviously imperfect piece.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Humbly Grateful - Part Two

Our pastor challenged us to start each day giving thanks.
I began the challenge here.
If you haven't read Part One, start there.
Pretty please with sugar on top!
Brian and I have very busy days.
Wonderful days, but very busy days.
One thing we try to do each night before going to sleep is to read Jesus Calling together, find the scriptures, meditate on them, and then pray together.

I loved the devotion on July 5, and think it speaks perfectly to this attitude of giving thanks.

"Draw near to me with a thankful heart, aware that your cup is overflowing with blessings. Gratitude enables you to perceive Me more clearly and to rejoice in our Love relationship. Nothing can separate you from My loving Presence! That is the basis of your security. Whenever you start to feel anxious, remind yourself that your security rests in Me alone, and I am totally trustworthy..."

I had a lot of time to meditate on this throughout the night last night. And found that I am thankful even for wakeful nights with little rest. Time to spend with Jesus. Time to savor with my little one. Just time. Something I often forsake in the hustle of everyday.

On this Tuesday, I am especially thankful.

1. Church family. From my small group Bible Study and Bunco group, to my pastors and worship leaders, to the brothers and sisters in Christ that join throughout the week to praise our Savior. This group epitomizes the Bible's calling for Christians to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We pray together, serve together, love together, laugh together, hurt together. Thank you Jesus for this precious family.

2. Down Syndrome. Eighteen months ago, there were no two words that scared me more. I feared the unknown. What would this mean for our family? For our dreams? For our hopes for the future? And then, with Baker's diagnosis, the fears and worries began to fade, as God once again evidenced His faithfulness and His plan for our lives. I am thankful for Down Syndrome. I am thankful for the friends that we gain through this journey. I am thankful that I get to see prayers answered every single day. I am thankful for the Lord opening my eyes to His ways and His truths and His path for Baker, for our family. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good. Can I get an AMEN?

3. Transitions. Oh how scary transitions are. We are smack dab, ankle knee hip shoulder deep in a transition, and have never been more unsettled or uncomfortable. But, I find it amazing, that sometimes in the most unsettling and uncomfortable situations are when God provides the most comfort. I am thankful that God pulls us out of our comfort zones, and provides a new stability - in Him. I have also found, when God provides the opportunity for a transition, He orchestrates the path, guides every step, holds our hands, and carries us throughout.

4. Summertime. This time of year is so sweet. Laughter of children echoes throughout the neighborhood late into the night, crickets chirping, fireflies darting this way and that trying to avoid the fate of the Mason jar, watermelons, afternoon thunderstorms, blueberries straight off the bush, squash that travels from the yard to the table, freckles, tan lines, lemonade and sweet tea, lazy days off celebrating family, the smell of fresh cut grass. I am thankful for this beautiful season where God makes all things new.

It's amazing how this attitude of thankfulness trickles about, permeating my thoughts. Interrupting negativity. Ceasing bitterness. I kinda like it.

What are you thankful for today?
A person who has blessed your life?
A season?
A difficulty God has used for His glory and your growth?
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalms 100:4-5

Monday, July 8, 2013

Humbly Grateful - Part One

As a child, I knew a song.
Our children's choir performed it many, many, many years ago.
The words are catchy, as most children's songs are.
And for me, I often lose the lyrics in singing and clapping along.
But not this one, 
certainly not this one,
my mother used to make my sister and I sing this one when we argued or got caught in cycles of complaining about this or that.
And even today, I find myself humming it as I fold laundry,
or clean out the dishwasher, or do some equally as thrilling chore.
The chorus goes like this, 
"Are you humbly grateful, or grumbly hateful, what's your attitude?
Do you grumble and groan, or let it be known you're grateful for all God's done for you?"  
Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to our home church in Mississippi.
About midway through the service,
I scribbled a note to Brian asking if there were any other members of the congregation present, because the message spoke directly to me.
Brother Breck preached out of Colossians.
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him,
strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness."
Colossians 2:6-7
And with each audible word I heard from our pastor,
the Lord spoke many more to my heart.
I consider myself a joyful person.
I am optimistic.
I have happy heart.
An eager smile.
And consider it a privilege to leave others better than I found them by brightening their day.
But not lately.
Lately I have been walking around, living life exhausted.
And not just physically.
My heart has been bitter.
I have done a lot of complaining.
And wouldn't you know, the Lord provided these words for our pastor to share,
"Do everything without complaining or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe."
Philippians 2:14-15
I want to shine like stars in the universe.
I want to be a light for my Jesus.
But, in my negativity and exhaustion, with my complaining and bitterness,
I wasn't even lighting my way, much less anyone else's.
I was challenged throughout the service to call upon the Lord for strength.
To be thankful in all circumstances.
To count my blessings and name them one by one.
At the close of the service, our pastor issued homework to each member present yesterday.
It is twofold.
1. Start each day this week thanking God for His many blessings.
2. Thank someone each day this week for who they are or what they have done in your life. Write a note, send a text, make a phone call, or visit. In whatever capacity you choose, thank someone each day this week.
Now, as far as I know, we won't be turning this assignment in, or presenting it before the congregation, but I am giving it a try.
What could it hurt?
To start the day thanking the Lord for his blessings?
To share a word of encouragement with someone who has blessed you?
My goal was to do this before my feet hit the floor this morning, but a certain thirteen month old said otherwise.
So now, as my little one is napping, and the house is quiet,
I am reflecting on my many blessings.
And here, I will name them one by one.
I will try to include these on the blog as much as I can this week, but more importantly, each day, I will do this in my heart.
I challenge you to as well.
1. Grace. The most precious gift given to me. Thank you Jesus for loving me, for dying for me, for saving me, for saving me a spot in Heaven to spend the rest of forever praising you. "Amazing grace how sweet the sound the saved a wretch like me."
2. Brian. My best friend. The one my soul loves. He is solid and strong, and as many beautiful physical attributes that are obvious to everyone he meets, he has twice as many that are not seen. Not until you get to meet him, at least. He is courageous, and bold, and thoughtful, and loving. And I am so thankful he loves me.
3. Baker. Oh my sweet angel. Everyday, he is evidence that God is still in the miracle business and answers prayers far bigger and better than we could ever fathom. His first name, William, means strong willed warrior, and that he is. With his contagious smile and determined heart, he blesses my every single day. I strive to be more godly so that I am the example he needs to grow up in the Lord.
4. Family. Each of these - my parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, in-laws - has shaped me, molded me, given me sweet memories, fabulous recipes, belly-aching laughs. They are each a part of me, and are each a blessing from the Lord.
5. Forgiveness. From my Jesus, and from people. I am thankful for fresh starts and do overs. New days and wonderful opportunities to love God and love people.
What are yours?
If you paused, counted your blessings, and named them one by one, what would they be?
If you took time today to thank someone, who would you thank?
If we approached each day with a humbly grateful heart, how much different would our day be?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Top Weekend

It was a top weekend, y'all!

In the many inconsistencies in our world right now, 
we are trying to keep a few things consistent for Baker's sake, for our sake.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is currently one of his most favorite books.
We read it at least two, sometimes ten times a day.

We love Saturday morning play time!

Love the baby.
Baker "loves" loving. 
Blows kisses, kisses to everybody!

And I love, love how he points.
With his thumb.

Corn on the cob.

I love the way they look at each other!

Oh. Em. Gee.
Be still my Baker Bell loving heart.

With his Nana and a spoon.
Can life get any better?

We loved helping Papa celebrate his 90th Birthday on Saturday.
In 90 short years, this special man has touched many lives.
We are so grateful for the impact he has had on ours.
My favorite thing about my Papa is how he prays.
He has a special relationship with the Lord and it is evidenced every time they talk.

Papa and his kids.

Three generations of handsome.

After the festivities in Tuscaloosa, we packed up to go back to Columbus.
We had some special friends in town and loved the food and fellowship.
Our "Columbus Crew" is growing. 
And I love it!
I love these special families!

Sweet Elly.

Babies, babies everywhere!

The mamas.

And the daddies.

She almost makes me want a baby girl.
Seriously. How adorable!

Taylor Grace. 
Her daddy, Kyle, and Brian were college roommates.

Peek a boo, pretty girl!

And the newest member of our crew, Baby Brant.
For this baby boy, we have prayed and prayed!
Love him!

Those blue eyes.
He's just pretty.

A great weekend of family, friends, food, and fun. 
A top weekend!