Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In sunshine and in the storm

I grew up in Tuscaloosa.
Home of the University of Alabama and the Crimson Tide.
Where the Black Warrior River runs and Cypress Inn sits proudly on its bank.
Where puddles were made for splashing and parks were made for picnicking.
Where backyard campfires blazed and marshmallows were roasted.
Where mosquitos and fire ants were the only potential home invaders.
Where Friday nights were made for football.
Where roses and hydrangeas and magnolias and gardenias perfumed the yard.

Where severe weather threatened to disrupt all.
Where tornado sirens were as commonplace as the familiar ring of Denny Chimes.
Where anniversaries of past storms were acknowledged.
Where hope in the Lord and fellow neighbors was restored.
Affectionately, and appropriately, named Tornado Alley.

I was no stranger to bad weather.
Our family spent many nights hunkered down, barricaded by pillows and mattresses. Heads covered with bicycle helmets. My mother always made it a party. I never remember being scared. All we knew is that we were having a slumber party.
On a week night.
In the basement.
I'm sure there was popcorn and Oreos and cherry Kool-Aid.
Our favorite party guest, and weather extraordinaire, James Spann, was always first to be extended an invitation.

Fortunately, our family always weathered the storm safely.

Several years later, from another state, I watched as the April 27 storm demolished my hometown. Buildings were ravaged. Lives were lost. Families were broken. People were displaced. Schools stood no more. Churches crumbled. I felt helpless as I watched that mile wide tornado tear through my precious city.

Then, something amazing happened. Tuscaloosa began to rebuild. Bigger and stronger. People united. Christians shared the love of the Lord. It was incredible to watch as peace was restored.

Fast forward three years and one day.

School was dismissed early due to the threat of severe weather.
I picked up Baker, my almost two year old, and we headed home.
The familiar voice of James Spann echoed throughout our home.
We prepared supper early, in case power was lost.
We watched in horror as a tornado tore through Columbus, MS, the place we lovingly called home for 5 years.
About 8:30, they issued an all clear for all areas surrounding Tuscaloosa.
Not knowing what the rest of the night would bring, we decided to call it a night.
We strategically placed flashlights within reach, made sure our weather alerts would sound, and prepared for bed.
Around 10:15, our phones screamed warnings in south Tuscaloosa.
They called the name of the community college and elementary school within a mile of our home.
We lost power.
I grabbed Baker and headed to our safe place.

With my entire being, I covered him. I soothed his cries and calmed his fears.
My mind immediately ran to trivial things.
My purse was still in my car, the cash Brian had picked up on the way home was sitting on the kitchen table, my wedding ring was beside the sink.
I sat unmoved.
I began covering our space, our bodies, our home, our neighborhood, our city in scripture.
I quoted my favorite ones.
I quoted ones from memory that I don't remember memorizing.
They just came oozing out.
Flooding our hearts, flooding our home.
I prayed with a fervor I had not previously known.
It got eerily quiet.
We were safe.
Praise the Lord for His hedge of protection on our family.

We got back into bed, this time with Baker clutched tightly in my arms.

I wept. I held it all in during the storm. But then, I wept. I realized this was something not even I could protect my family from. I text one of my dearest friends to check on her and her five children. They were safe. As were we. I responded with, "This is different when you're a mama."

And I wept some more. I began to hear of reports of entire neighborhoods destroyed. Pictures flooded social media. Pictures that told of the strength of the storm, of the terrors of the tornado.

In all the things Brian and I can shield Baker from, a tornado is not one of the them.
We can batten down the hatches, we can cover his little body, we can put us in the safest place in our home, we can use pillows and mattresses and bike helmets.

Then it hit me. I need to teach Baker to call upon the Lord in times of need.

Sure, I can hand him his milk, I can bandage a skinned knee, I can kiss a tear away, I can hold his hand. But the Lord is our strong tower. He is our protector.

I want Baker to know we are his biggest fans.
We love him oodles and oodles.
We will always do our best to keep him safe and healthy.
But there are things out of our grasp.
Mommy and Daddy cannot fix everything. We cannot shelter him from every one of life's storms. As much as it renders me positively helpless, there are some things bigger than us.
Things in which he will need to call upon His Heavenly Father.

I pray I raise a son who clings to Jesus.
In the sunshine and the storm.

"My God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior.
From violence, You save me."
2 Samuel 22:3

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Baker meets Coach Gene Stallings


 My mother and father, like all good parents, raised children who love Alabama football.
We learned the names of the Alabama coaches and players like we learned the name of Jesus and his twelve disciples.
Like all good Bama fans, we paused for a moment of silence every time we passed Bryant Denny Stadium and football Saturdays were a day of reverence and one to be regarded with the utmost respect.

Talking about Auburn was like talking about the devil.
And wearing Tennessee orange was the unforgivable sin.
This picture was hung very prominently in our living room.
I knew Coach Stallings was important, because there wasn't another picture in our house as big as this one. Not even one of our family. And my mama really loved us. So I grew up knowing this man was really, really loved. And this man was really, really important.

 I soon learned there were some other things that made this man one worth admiring.
And it had little to do with the events that transpired between goalposts on Saturdays in the fall.

Coach Stallings was a man who loved the Lord and loved his family.
I remember watching him on the television and seeing pictures of him in the newspaper.
He was rarely photographed without his son, Johnny, by his side.
Johnny had Down Syndrome.
I see this picture daily as I walk Baker through the halls of Rise,
also known as the Johnny Stallings Center.

When the opportunity came today for Baker and I to meet Coach Stallings,
I could not contain my excitement.
This man, a National Championship winning Alabama Football Coach,
was also a parent of a child with Down Syndrome.
 This man opened doors and paved roads and created opportunities we are benefiting from today.
 Baker is a recipient of his loving kindness.
Our family is blessed by his.

When I met him today, emotion erupted.
The only words I uttered, "It's an honor to meet you, Coach Stallings."
And on our way out, the most sincere, heartfelt "Thank you," ever to have passed through my lips.

Baker knew, and I knew, it was a true honor to meet such an incredible man.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


My brain is running in a thousand different directions.
Not uncommon for a Sunday night.
There are thoughts of what everyone will wear on Monday,
and what we will have for breakfast, lunch, and supper.
There are thoughts of schedules and school.
There are thoughts of setting alarms and preparing my house for the upcoming week.
But no matter the chaos that is my brain at any given moment, my heart is content.
My heart is still.
My heart is worshipping.
My heart cannot forsake the cross.
I see it so vividly.
Not the cross we have come to see as a charm on a necklace or emblazoned on a shirt.
But the cross the Bible portrays.
The cross where Jesus was nailed.
The cross where His blood was shed.
The cross where thorns pierced His head.
The cross where sorrow and love flowed.
The cross where He was bruised and beaten and shamed and scorn.
The cross where my sins crucified my Savior.
The cross where He cried out to heaven, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
The cross of Calvary.
The cross of death.
Oh the wondrous cross.
Thank you for the cross, Lord.
Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound that saved me, the very worst wretch.
This beautiful Easter weekend, we celebrated a risen Lord with our family.
 Praise Jesus for an empty tomb!

"He is not here, He is risen!"
He is risen indeed!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

13 Thoughts for Thursday

Thursday Thoughts

1. Mommy of an almost two year old brain is way worse than pregnancy brain. I frequently walk to the bedroom in quest of something, and as soon as my feet rub the coarseness of the familiar carpet, that thing I was so desperately searching escapes me. Unable to be retrieved. A foreign thought.

2. Some verses inspire. Some encourage. Some convict. And some challenge the heck out of me. Thessalonians 5:16-8 cover them all. I am wrapping the words around the walls of my heart. Painting them on my hands. Scribbling them on sticky notes. Praying them over my day. Arguing with them. Pleading for them to encompass my entire being.

3. Our Advocare order arrived today. I am equal parts thrilled and terrified. Brian and I are in full on meal planning, exercise scheduling, Spark slurping mode. Bring on April 21 and the start to our 24 Day Challenge.

4. The thought of embarking on a new anything with my husband at my side makes me giddy excited. He's my person. Whether it's walking down the aisle, having a baby, buying a home, or just setting fitness goals together, he's the one I want holding me accountable and encouraging my every step.

5. We had Baker's IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) yesterday. We got to eliminate three goals he's mastered. Whoop, Whoop Baker Boy! We also added a few developmentally appropriate goals. I refrained from bear hugging everyone on my way out the door. I was so filled with encouragement and admiration and appreciation for the people who work so diligently to help him reach his full potential. They work so tirelessly, and love our boy, and educate our family, and equip us with strategies and tools and confidence and hope for the future.

6. I have started planning Baker's second birthday party. How in the world my baby boy is almost two is beyond me.

7. My favorite picture from his first birthday.

8. All winter I prayed, pleaded for summer. Begging for longer days. Wishing for warmth and sunshine. Craving lemonade off front lawns. Drinking sweet tea out of mason jars. Slicing juicy watermelon and sinking my teeth into its delectable goodness. Sand and seashells and sandals. Barbeques and picnics. Hammocks and slides. Lightning bugs and hummingbirds. Sucking honeysuckles from the vine, popping blueberries and muscadines. Until today. Our air conditioning went kaput. Down for the count. Belly up. Bumma. Big time bumma.

9. I have one container of peanut butter in my pantry, one in my office, one in my car. I have a problem. And one I don't plan on addressing any time soon.

10. The Scandal finale comes on tonight. There are no words.

11. My sister is currently in Queensland, Brisbane. Yup, Australia. I'm using my best Aussie accent right here in Alabama and pretending to be down under with her. I love her adventurous spirit.

12. Easter candy is the best candy. Starting Advocare the day after Easter was not by coincidence.

13. I love Easter. I love the bunnies, the candy, the chicks, the pastels, the dying eggs, the coordinating outfits. I love the hype surrounding Easter. It gives me the warm fuzzies. It gives me the warm fuzzies until I look past the glitz and glamour and clutter clouding the seasonal aisles at the grocery store, and see the man on the cross. That part of Easter is not about glam, or festivities, or a specially planned outfit. It's about the ultimate sacrifice. It's about a beautiful love story. It's about the crucifixion and the resurrection. It's about an empty tomb. It's about grace. It's about the Savior.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I am challenging myself to becoming more of a yes mom.

Yes, you can feed yourself oatmeal. Before school. And make a mess.
Yes, we will sing "Wheels on the Bus" for the forty-eighth time. With hand motions.
Yes, we can high five everyone on the way into school. Yes, he can get ten. Yes, she can get thirty.
Yes, I will kiss you goodbye one more time before I leave for work. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, we can stop at our favorite park on the way home.
Yes, I will push you higher.
Yes, you can ride on my shoulders to check the mailbox.
Yes, we will check it one more time just to make sure he didn't come again as we were sorting today's loot.
Yes, we can stay outside five more minutes. Okay, six.
Yes, we can walk around the block one more time.
Yes, you can smell those flowers.
Yes, we can have a picnic on the living room floor.
Yes, we can build a fort out of couches, blankets, and throw pillows.
Yes, we can read that book, too.
Yes, we can blow bubbles in the bathtub.
Yes, I will chase you around the house in the tug of war bonanza it takes to put on your pajamas.
Yes, I will rock you a little longer.
Yes, I will sing your favorite lullaby.
Yes, my darling love, I will love you through the night and we will do it all again tomorrow.

Yes becomes more difficult when I am tired.
When shortcuts are easy.
When the days are long.
When I'm wishing for the weekend.
When my brain hurts from thinking so many thinks.

I am a better mom when I am a better me.

I am a better me when I am healthy.
When I am rested.
When I eat well.
When I am energized.

So, here goes.

Starting April 21, I am taking the Advocare 24 Day Challenge.
Twenty-four days of being a yes mom.
Twenty-four days of being a healthy me.
Twenty-four days of fun!
And, I've even gotten my husband to join the party!

If you are interested in learning more about Advocare or joining us on the 24 Day Challenge, you can visit my Advocare site https://www.advocare.com/130853419/. I'd love to have several friends go through the Challenge with us. We can share ideas and recipes, hold each other accountable, and say YES!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

They speak my language

I wrote last week about my need for words of affirmation.
My husband knows this about me, and he married me anyway.
He does a wonderful job praising me in my roles a wife and as a mother,
complimenting my cooking,
speaking approval and appreciation and accolades,
acknowledging clean laundry,
leaving sticky notes in the most peculiar places,
showering me with encouragement and affirmation and love.
I think Baker has learned this about me also.
The Lord gifted him with such a joyful, loving spirit.
And he uses it to bless my every single day.
Baker loves hard. He loves big. 
When my doubts arise and I question whether I am doing any of this even remotely right, he affirms his love for his mommy.
He smiles a make me weak in the knees smile.
He leaves his toys very briefly to crawl in my lap and steal a quick kiss.
He gets my attention and signs love from across the room.
He gives a hearty, "Yum yum" whether I've thawed a frozen PB&J or cooked homemade mashed potatoes for him to eat.
He pats my shoulder.
He snuggles close.
He sings with me.
He chooses me.
He trusts me.
He depends on me.
He reaches for me.
The language he speaks is not heard by ears, but by the heart. 

Today, I am especially grateful to be surrounded by boys who speak my language.
Boys who love me big.
Boys who love me like I need to be loved. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The worst love language ever

As a college student, I read Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages and it was confirmed.
I have the worst love language ever.

If you aren't familiar with the book, there are five love languages. Each of us has a language we speak fluently, and a language which our hearts crave to hear and receive.

One. Words of Affirmation
Two. Acts of Service
Three. Receiving Gifts
Four. Quality Time
Five. Physical Touch

You can take the quiz here.
It will change your life.
Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mine, unsurprisingly, is words of affirmation. All of the others are woven intricately with that one to create an ornate, albeit tangled quilt.

In my opinion, people whose love language is words of affirmation are similar to puppies.
We need our head patted and to hear a lot of atta boys.
We hoard written notes and strategically place them to breathe in their sweet aroma time and again.
We save voicemails that speak life and exude love.
We highlight all of the feel good scripture God breathed over our beings and whisper-sing their lovely melodies from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same.
We are delicate creatures. Words can build us. Words can break us.

For my fellow love languagers (is that even a thing?!?), here are a few words for you. For us.

One. You are beautiful.
"You are altogether beautiful, my love. There is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7

Two. You are doing a good work.
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Proverbs 31:29

Three. You are worth dying for.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that He should lay down His life.." John 15:13

Four. You are loved.
"For God so loved the world (YOU), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Five. You are valued.
"Indeed, even the very number of hairs on your head are numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

Six. You are chosen.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

And, one more teensy word of affirmation from the fabulousness that is Proverbs 31 women. I could hug their necks and kiss their face right off for this. Preach, ladies! You do it so well.

And one more thing, when we receive these words of affirmation, we are armed and dangerous and ready to conquer the world.
Bring it, Tuesday!