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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Naughty

My kids were crazy yesterday.  They are always a little crazy but yesterday they were bananas.  I don't know if it is post-birthday party let down or pre-Christmas morning madness but they just could not get along.  They would play nicely for a while then explode.  I think there was more whining, crying, slapping, and toy throwing in a single eight hour period than in their entire past lives combined.  They seriously earned their ways onto the naughty list.

Mid-afternoon, exhausted from coming up with new and interesting consequences (they had already had a couple time outs a piece and lost their outing to Half Price Books to hear The Polar Express and see Santa), I told them that quite frankly they had worn their mother out.  The next time anyone hit anyone else they were both getting a spanking.  Since those don't happen in our house with any kind of frequency, I explained that this meant I was going to hit each of them on their bottoms.  Baby Boy looked at me and giggled.  "That's a good story, Mom," he said.  Somehow I managed not to laugh.

I prayed I would not have to follow through with my threat.  I don't spank and I was a little disappointed in myself for resorting to it even as a threat, since I would have to follow through if they earned a consequence.  Luckily, there was no more violence.  There was some more whining and general bad behavior shortly thereafter and I determined that perhaps everyone needed to spend some quiet time in their beds.  Baby Boy promptly fell asleep.  Baby Girl calmed down and announced, "Mommy, I happy!" after twenty minutes or so of quiet time.  The rest of our day was without incident and, thankfully, without spankings.

Today my children are the precious, if precocious, little munchkins I know and love rather than the mini monsters of yesterday.  I'm a grateful mommy, not only since I have hope of a happier and less tiring day, but because of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks to Him, yesterday was an unremarkable day, not even distinguished by a rare spanking, much less by the full-on melt-down fit that I at one point was tempted to throw. I did not say or do anything to my children that required so much as an apology.  It is nothing short of a miracle, since, like any parent, there were times when I really, really, really wanted to blow my top and/or run screaming down the street.

I'm an awful person, really.  I have an explosive, ugly, rage-filled temper.  I'm terribly impatient.  I'm selfish, the kind of selfish that would abandon all responsibility to pursue my own pleasure above all else and not look back.  It's true.  The reason I bring it all up is that my children have no idea about any of that.  They know I can get mad (or "cross" as Baby Boy puts it), but they don't know I'm capable of a berserker kind of rage.  The idea of me inflicting harm on them, even something as mild as swat on the bottom, seems far-fetched and downright silly.  If they had a concept of patience, I think that they would attest that I am full of it. And I love them way more than myself and I think that they know it.

None of it is in my power.  I shudder to think what kind of parent I would be without God's help.  I'm not proud of myself for my reactions yesterday; I'm grateful to God.  Grateful for the ability to take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask the Holy Spirit for a next move.  Because that is what I do, everyday and so many times on days like yesterday that I can't even count.  I'm not a perfect parent.  I say things I shouldn't say, model behaviors I shouldn't model, just like everybody else.  But I'm perfect-er than I ever thought I could be, because I am guided by One without flaw, with all wisdom, with keen sight and perfect judgment.  No matter how many parenting books I've read (and I've read a lot) none of that knowledge is equivalent to having a manifestation of God living within me, just waiting to tell me what to do, how to respond, what words to say.

I'm going to mess up sometimes; there will be days when it is Mommy who is decidedly naughty.  When that happens I'm going to apologize.  Then I'm going to show myself grace, because I want to teach grace.  I want to model it.  I want them to learn what it looks like and how it feels on good days and on bad ones.  Because God gives us grace, whether we deserve it or not.  He doesn't keep a naughty or nice list; His gifts are without condition.  He wants us to behave because we love Him, not because we fear Him.  We're all going to have days where we are terrible and we need some quiet time to get right.  Then we'll have those days when we are good and make the right choices.  God's love is the same both days.  I want to get a revelation of that and pass it on to my children.  So this is my prayer this morning:  I want my children to know that my love for them is changeless, on the challenging days and on the easy ones, whether they be naughty or nice, so that they might learn by example the character and nature of God's amazing grace.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Peaceful Abode

Peace is a big concept around this time of year.  We see it written in fancy script on snowflake-laden greeting cards.  We sing, like the angels, "Peace on the earth, goodwill toward men."  There are images of cozy fireplaces and old-fashioned Christmas trees shining in dimly lit rooms.  The idea of peace is big at Christmas.

But, as we all know, while popular, peace is not very prevalent.  Ask most people how they are during this time of year and the answer is:  STRESSED OUT.  "How are you?" is replaced by "Have you finished your Christmas shopping?" or "Are you ready for Christmas?" as the most frequently asked question.  And people out there are nasty.  They are cutting each other off in traffic, laying on their horns, pushing past fellow shoppers to get to the latest sale item. In the air there's a feeling of grumpiness.  I took my kids to see the big Christmas tree at the Dallas Galleria and it was downright scary.  It made me want to hide in my house and order food from the Schwans man until December 27th or so.

I was given a gift early this year.  God graced me with illness just before Thanksgiving, so I would take a step back and reevaluate my holiday priorities.  He gifted me with financial difficulty so that I could opt out of the consumer-driven American Christmas madness.  And, you know what?  It's been awesome.  Fun.  Peaceful.

It's not that we've toned down this Christmas.  Our house is the most Griswald-like on our block with our brilliant yard decorations that shine so brightly by night that my children no longer need a night light in their room.  Their window is filled with a incandescent glow reminiscent of an alien landing.  There is not a room in our house where you will not find something Santa-related or a snowman (my personal favorite holiday friend).  We've watched Elf, The Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman... repeatedly.  My kids have sat upon Santa's knee and told him what they want for Christmas:  two babies and a school bus, respectively.

So it's not that I'm not participating in Christmas.  It's that I'm not worrying about Christmas.  I'm not stressed.  I'm happy.  I have moments where I start to panic with upcoming preschool parties, play-dates, and both children's birthdays thrown into the mix.  But I take a deep breath and remember that if I don't have time to make a cookie tray it's going to be okay.  If I don't have time to make those really cute reindeer treats I saw on Pinterest, I can bring candy canes from the Dollar Store.  My kids would rather have a happy mommy than a domestic diva.

A year or so ago I read a scripture that really struck me.  It is Isaiah 33:20 and says:  "Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken."  At the time, I looked upon my home, the "city" of my festivals, and what I saw seemed neither peaceful nor permanent.  Though we were putting on a good face, things were tense at the Espinoza house and it seemed at any moment either Phillip or myself could pull up stakes and move on, breaking a rope or two on our way out.  I wept and prayed.  I asked God for our home to be a peaceful abode.  I made those words, "a peaceful abode," my computer screensaver so that I would remember to be intentional in this prayer.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at the computer (probably looking up those aforementioned reindeer treats) and my screen saver popped up.  There were the words "a peaceful abode," spinning slowly across my screen, and I realized that my prayer had been answered.  I don't remember the moment we went from grumpy to grateful, from pissed to peaceful, but somewhere in the past year, by God's grace, it happened.  Looking at those words as a promise answered instead of a petition was a wonderful moment for me.  It was like God winked at me and whispered, "Merry Christmas."

The most important of our Christmas traditions happens each evening.  We light candles for Advent, sit together as a family and sing songs.  We read books and then we tell the story of Jesus' birth.  We laugh and rejoice together.  While the kids may not understand fully that the birth of this one little baby boy is the reason our house is filled with joy and peace, my husband and I do, and we know that we are planting seeds of faith even while singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of our lungs.

On Christmas morning, my children are going to have gifts to open (at least two babies and a school bus), but the greatest gift has already been given to them.  And because of this greatest gift, the gift of a Messiah who loves us without condition, they have spent this holiday season in a home characterized by peace.  By joy.  By love.  This Christmas I re-gift my children a peaceful abode and I know that it is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  So on this "one week until Christmas" morning, I wish you a merry Christmas, but beyond that I wish you a peaceful Christmas.  I wish you lots of hugs and laughter.  Lots of moments where you are more aware of the peaceful, beautiful, wonderful presence of Jesus than you are of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas crowd.  Peace in your home, goodwill toward men, and a hosanna in the highest to the One whose birth we celebrate and whose love is never ending.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Matter What

So on the spiritual front, things have been pretty extreme lately.  Not bad, per se, just challenging.  God's been growing me and growth is painful.

For starters, since Thanksgiving my asthma has been flaring up.  I cough; I have difficulty breathing.  At the end of the day I am exhausted from a day full of shallow breathing but can't sleep because I can't stop coughing.  It's awful.  My emergency inhaler is offering little to no relief.  I remember that this happened last year at the very same time and I went to the doctor a few days after Christmas to get back on Advair.  I don't like Advair or any of the other regulating steroids prescribed for asthma.  If you choose to take it I'm not judging; they just have some long term effects that make me shudder.  Still, I need to breathe, so I've almost called up my D.O. several times.  When it comes time to pick up the phone, though, I feel a Holy Spirit nudge to put the phone down.

I think God wants to heal my asthma.  Not just temporarily relieve the symptoms, but actually take the condition away from me entirely.  And I think He wants to do it on faith alone, no interventions either traditional or holistic.  I rejoice in this revelation.  When it came down to praying on it, though, God opened up a whole can of worms in my spirit that we needed to address.  Because I believe in healing.  Radical, miraculous faith healing that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit and the holy name of Jesus Christ.  It would be really strange if I didn't considering how many times I saw God lift my son out of illness and medically certain death.   But I find that, since Eddie's death, doubt and disbelief have invaded my spirit like a cancer, stealthily and without my even realizing it.

I've been praying for healing, but it is with this internal shrug like, "Well, I'm praying for it but I realize it's probably not something you really want to do."  That is nothing but disbelief clothed as acceptance, a wolf in sheep's clothing.  I started reading a book by Bill Johnson (love it, by the way) that a friend gave to me.  Not five pages into this thing, I'm reading about a radical healing miracle, where God re-grew a man's bone in his leg and healed cancer in his neck.  I burst into tears.  I believe, I know, God did that and does other things like it all of the time.  I believe that the miraculous should be common place among followers of Christ.  But it hurts.  Because at the end of the day, Eddie did not receive a new liver.  His small intestine didn't grow a few feet and start absorbing nutrition.  He's not sitting in my lap right now as a living testimony to the healing power of Christ.  And that really, really hurts.


So I've been avoiding the pain.  I don't go to churches where they lay hands on people as a matter of course. I don't pray the Holy Spirit down on my family when they are ill; I just say a perfunctory "Please God touch and heal {insert name here} in the name of Jesus Christ, by whose stripes we are healed" and then wait for the virus to take its course.  I'm embarrassed to admit that, but it's true.  I pray for my kids but I don't believe anything out of the ordinary is going to take place after I do so.  They haven't had any crazy, life-threatening stuff (thank you, Lord) so it's been easy to be in mediocre belief for their health.

God doesn't want my faith to reside in mediocrity.  I know that.  So I kept reading.  I kept crying.  I kept throwing myself on the mercy of God.  This is spiritual warfare and my battle cry became the cry of the father in Mark 9:24 who shouted out to Christ, "I believe!  Help my unbelief!"  I began to pray in earnest over my lungs, crying down the power of heaven into my circumstances, standing on God's healing promises, feeling His power enter into my body, physically, like a fire raging through me.  I haven't prayed like this since my baby died and it was hard and done with weeping, both of gratitude and pain.  It was like God was entering into me, searing me with Holy Fire, cauterizing the gaping wounds that I didn't even know were there.  Every time I prayed like this, my lungs would open and I would breathe.  By that night, though, the symptoms would be back.

I accepted it.  I accepted that God was working something so much more powerful in me than just a simple physical healing so, although it is inconvenient and uncomfortable, I'm bearing with it.  I'm praying on it.  I'm believing on it because He said He wants to heal this so HE IS GOING TO.  I don't have to know what the hold up is.  I can believe and accept that His timing is perfect and going to bring about even more growth, more glory.

It was with this mindset that I went to Sojourn church this past Wednesday morning.  There is a ladies group  there that I love to meet with whenever I can.  They love the Lord so much and lift each other up in Him so powerfully.  I knew there would be women there who would lay hands on me and pray, so I went with the intention of asking for prayer, of receiving.  As soon as I walked through the doors of the prayer room, though, I heard a conversation going on between two women about healing.  About what does it mean when you pray for the healing, when you believe, and when you don't receive.  At first I was just going to sit and listen, thinking God had a word for me from these two women.  Then God spoke to my Spirit and told me to get in there.  So I joined the conversation.

Something miraculous happened.  All of a sudden, God began to pour out of me from all that He has been pouring into me over the past week.  Words began coming out of my mouth, words of faith, words of comfort, words of Truth.  He wasn't only speaking to this woman who needed to hear what He had to say, He was speaking to me through me.  It was a rather out-of-body experience.  What she needed to hear and I needed to reiterate is that God is good no matter what.  If He seems to be withholding something it is not because He is mean, unloving, or doesn't care.  It isn't because we aren't praying right or believing enough.  It is because He wills something so much greater for us than the thing we are asking for.  It is because He loves us too much to grant our request.  She said she just needed to see the Hand of God in her situation, that she needed His hand, and I was able to say with all confidence, "No, you don't, you only need His Presence."  I told her if I had been healed of asthma this week, I would not have been positioned to talk to her and that I was grateful that God had placed me in her life that morning, exactly as I was, dealing with the same issues and able to share His Truth.

Bill Johnson talks about "thy kingdom come" being about calling the power of heaven down to earth and thereby performing miracles in His name.  I believe that.  He is speaking Truth.  It is also truth that the next line is "thy will be done."  So if you have asked for His intervention and you do not receive, you can still trust that there is something greater in the works for you.  Our will is hopelessly flawed; His is infinitely good.  What I shared yesterday and what I believe, totally, completely, and with my whole heart, mind, and spirit is that God is good no matter what.  All the time.  He loves us all the time, in every circumstance, in every affliction, in every trial.

It is God's will that I be miraculously healed from asthma.  I know this because He told me so.  It was also His will that Eddie die on that early Saturday morning in August 2007.  I don't know all the reasons and I don't need to.  I believe that it was for a greater good, not just for others but for me as well, because God only loves me.  This much I do know:  because Eddie died, I am positioned to be a light to people who prayed and lost.  Who believed and then suffered.  I am able to speak about the amazing, overwhelming goodness of God from a position of strength because I have been there.  I know that this has great value and enables me to serve my Lord in a radical, wonderful way that brings me great joy.  I know I have peace, I know I am beloved, and I know I have a grateful heart.  I know I have a little boy waiting for me who will be pleased that I took the gift that was his life and held it up as a beacon of God's love.  So, I'm going to wait on the Lord, not in impatience, not with an entitlement attitude, not in fear, but in grateful expectancy of how He is going to shower me with love.  I'm going to praise Him for sealing up those cracks in my faith, those wounds of disbelief, through whatever means was necessary.

After my powerful, Spirit-filled morning on Wednesday, I promptly developed food poisoning.  I know what this is.  It's the enemy's pathetic attempt to make me throw my hands in the air, disavow everything I just told that woman, and go back to an attitude of, "Really, God?  Seriously?"  It didn't work.  I laughed at satan and told him how pathetic he was.  That disbelief had no power over me.  I praised God for an excuse to be still and spend time with Him.  Don't get me wrong; physically I felt like death warmed over.  But it has passed and because of it I spent hours with God that I otherwise would have spent in business.  What satan meant for evil, God used for good, because I trust Him.  No matter what.  And that is all I need to do.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crazy for Him

I have a confession to make.  I have been holding back a little when it comes to this blog.  Not a lot, but a little.  I've tried to discuss my faith and my experiences candidly but sometimes when I get to saying or sharing certain things I balk.  Not because they are too personal (I am the self-proclaimed queen of the over-share) nor because I'm embarrassed or ashamed.  No, it's because I don't want people to think I'm crazy.  Like, certifiably nuts.

I used to not care about this at all.  In fact, shock-value was something I highly prized.  But I no longer like to shock just for the sake of shocking; I don't like to make people uncomfortable if I can avoid it.  And to be honest, when you tell the average person something like, "God told me..." or "God said the funniest thing the other day..." you get a reaction that ranges in subtlety from a mere double blink of the eyes to an all out recoiling in horror.  I talk to God and, here's the cool part, He talks back to me.  All the time.  Some times in a still, small voice in my head (see, I said "voice in my head"; the men in white coats are on their way for me as we speak), sometimes in a deep sense of knowing in my gut, sometimes audibly.  Yes, audibly.  And some people might think that is crazy, but it also happens to be true.

God talked in the Bible all the time.  I'm not sure why the feeling in modern day is that He suddenly just shut up and let other people do the talking for Him.  He spoke so clearly to Samuel that he got up several times to ask Eli what he wanted from him, only to discover it was God's voice, not Eli's, he was hearing.  God talks.

He also does lots of other crazy things.  He heals.  He raises people from the dead.  He casts out demons (I believe in demons; angels too... wow, this is getting fun).  He makes cars pass through each other rather than wrecking.  He causes the blind to see, the lame to walk, and makes babies hearts beat when before there was none.  And He does it through people who are crazy enough to believe He does it.  That know that when the last apostle  died, the miracles didn't end.  That hear His voice and do what He says, even if it sounds crazy.

When Eddie was about nine months old, we moved back to Austin after a six month stay in Dallas.  While in Dallas, Eddie's care had been badly handled by one of his primary providers, but when I tried to switch to a different hospital I was told that his liver disease had progressed so far that it would be pointless to change.  No specialist wanted to take a patient that only had a few weeks, if that, to live.  It was a fair prognosis; Eddie was extremely yellow, his blood had no clotting factors to speak of, his systems were failing.  I didn't want to stay where he had been mistreated, however, so I called his original GI in Austin and he took him back.  Thanks to generous friend who offered let us stay in their home in Bastrop, we were in Austin a day or two later.

During our hospital stay upon our return, a preacher came to visit us.  One of his parishioners had met my husband, heard our story and passed it on to his pastor.  With Phillip's permission, Pastor Scott paid us a visit.  He laid hands on Eddie and prayed for his healing.  What I witnessed was crazy.  My sick little baby threw his arms in the air as if he'd been electrified and laughed, obviously feeling a flood of Holy Spirit power course through him.  We were discharged a few days later.  His numbers were improving.

Not surprisingly we began to attend this church.  At first it was so awesome to be around these people who believed in signs and miracles.  In radical, crazy healing miracles.  I wanted so badly for my baby to be made whole and had already witnessed God's healing power at work in him time and time again.  I wanted this to be the place where his healing would be completed.  Where he would go from being terminally ill to perfectly well in the blink of an eye.  I just knew it was going to happen.

And great, miraculous things did continue to happen.  Eddie's numbers had improved so much that even his gastroenterologist was beginning to think differently.  Then, suddenly, he was in terrible shape again.  The gastroenterologist wanted Eddie have a liver biopsy, the first step toward transplant.  After much, much, much prayer, we had decided not to go the transplant route.  It would be a terribly painful process for Eddie with very little chance of helping him.  His best case scenario was a liver transplant that would allow him to live long enough to have yet another liver transplant and an intestinal transplant.  Long shot does not even begin to cover it and his quality of life would suffer greatly.  Every time I brought "transplant" to God the answer was "no."  (Remember, He talks.)  So, I bit the bullet and told his doctor our decision.

It wasn't pretty.  Eddie had miraculously recovered on so many occasions that his doctors, who from the beginning had thought his case was completely hopeless, were beginning to think he had a fighting chance.  He did not understand why I wouldn't want to try the only medical option that was left.  My answer wasn't easy, but I said it.  I said, "Because I think it is what God wants and I believe Jesus is the Healer.  If he wants to heal Eddie He will and, if not, there is nothing we can do about that."  He responded diplomatically but I could see it in his eyes.  CRAZY.  I called a time out and asked that he schedule us for an appointment in a week's time.  During that week, we would pray and be open to God changing our minds about the transplant. He said that a week from now Eddie could be in the ER dying of an esophageal bleed.  I said then that would be God's will.  CRAZY.

A week later we were back.  The doctor had spoken to a transplant specialist and, having gotten a realistic look at Eddie's chances of merely surviving the surgery, had reconsidered his opinion and encouraged us to talk to hospice.  The transplant pressure was off, but, better than that, Eddie was better.  Lots better.  He had gained weight and his liver numbers were the best they had been since we had moved back to Austin.  Shocked by the improvement, his doctor asked, "What did you do?"  I answered the only way I knew how.  "Nothing," I said, "We just prayed."  He shook his head but smiled.  Crazy.

We did not attend Pastor Scott's church long.  We found out that part of their theology was that, if you didn't get a miracle, if someone's cancer didn't disappear for example, it was from a lack of faith.  They believed that we have complete control over everything in life -- disease, death, finances, etc -- so if you were poor or sick or if you died, it was because you lacked faith.  One pastor actually said in a sermon that the recent death of an elderly member, who had a heart attack while mowing his yard, was because he didn't pray the right prayer when Satan brought that heart attack against him.  I could go on for several paragraphs citing scriptural examples of why this is faulty logic, not biblically based, and just overall bad ju-ju, but I'll just say that it's...crazy!  Phillip and I actually affectionately refer to that as "The Crazy Church."

I am grateful for The Crazy Church, though.  They were bold enough to pray for my baby with a mad, radical kind of faith and God used their hands to restore him, to buy him time.  They emboldened me to speak the truth, no matter how crazy it may sound.  To speak with boldness that God was going to heal my son and then, when He did, to give credit where credit was due.

When the time came for Eddie to receive the ultimate healing, God didn't blind side me.  I knew it was coming.  Eddie had been a living testimony of God's grace, love and His crazy, miraculous, healing power, but he wasn't going to have to do it forever.  He was going to get to go home and rest as a good and faithful tiny servant of the Lord.  God spoke it to my heart a month or two before he died and, while I fought and prayed against that truth, I knew.  By the time it came, I was as ready to let him go as any mother can be, I guess.

There were probably people back then who had heard me talk crazy -- heard me cry healing, miracles, hope and restoration -- and felt sorry for me.  Thought I probably felt foolish once he died for all that hope that I had carried for so long.  But I didn't; I don't.  Hope sustained me and, through me, it sustained Eddie.  Crazy faith, crazy love, crazy hope carried us through the craziest, most wonderful adventure of our lives.  Our journey was lit up by miracles, by signs, by the Holy Presence and Voice of God and I think it was in large part because we hoped.


God is calling my attention to the crazy people again.  He is surrounding me with them; He is placing them in my path and in my ear.  To the ones who know that the kingdom of heaven is in part a state of mind and we get to live in it and experience its power.  That you don't just learn about God, you experience Him.  You can encounter Him in miraculous ways while you are just hanging out doing ordinary things.  I need that kind of crazy again.  I want to be bold in speaking about the power of God.  Not just talking about it, but exercising it.  Believing, against all odds, full of all hope, unafraid of looking foolish if things don't go the way I thought they would.  To pray radical, bold prayers, sometimes even  out loud and believe that they will be answered.  I want to lose face to gain the kingdom.  I want to make a total ass out of myself for God.  Crazy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bliss

I'm just going to start this post out with a revelation that is so simple but so true:  God wants you to be happy.  Truly, deeply, radically happy.  Down to the marrow of your bones.  He desires for your natural state to be one of pure, child-like joy.  As Eastern traditions phrase it, He wants you to be "in bliss."  Really, He does.

To clarify:  that does not mean He wants you to be rich, powerful, famous or even particularly successful.  He could not care less if you are popular.  He doesn't rate your productivity and dole out joy in relation to your output.  In fact, if your modus operandi is the pursuit of the above-listed goals, you are probably pretty miserable.  I'm not saying you don't have your moments, but more likely than not you are most often stressed out and dissatisfied.  At least I was.

I lived the majority of my life exercising my Constitutional right to pursue happiness.  In my younger, wilder days this involved mostly the pursuit of selfish pleasure which, I promise you, ironically leads to abject misery and possibly suicidal depression.  I had lots of money and a successful career:  unhappy.  Lots of friends:  still unhappy.  Lots of stuff:  unhappy, unhappy, unhappy.

I'm not talking about the fleeting sensation of happiness.  I enjoyed lots of that; I had good times.  What I'm talking about is how you feel when you wake up in the morning, even when there are challenges in your life.  How you feel when you are stuck in a traffic jam or inconvenienced in some other way.  If you feel despair, anger, or irritability more often than not then, no matter how much fun you are having, you're not really, truly happy.  To put it another way:  if your happiness is dependent on your circumstances, then you are not experiencing joy and bliss on the level you could be.  On the level God wants you to be.  On the level you were made to be.

Don't believe you were made to experience joy everyday?  Blow some bubbles for a toddler.  Really, go to the dollar store, pick up some bubble stuff and, if you don't have your own young child, visit a friend's.  Blow and observe.  That is who you are, deep down inside, who you were created to be.  After all, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children.  That delight, that wonder can be yours again.

I know because I live in delight and from a worldly perspective, I shouldn't.  I don't have very much money (to put it mildly) though I have many debts to repay.  My life is far from glamorous.  My child, who I loved as if he was my heart itself, is dead.  I could go on, but I think that is enough to cause most people to complain or be unhappy.  But, as I was driving down the highway yesterday morning, I realized that when I'm in neutral, not really thinking about anything in particular, just sort of hanging out and "being," I'm really crazy happy.  Deep down joyful.

I don't worry about stuff any more.  I don't fret and if I find myself doing so I am pretty good at cutting it out.  I have momentary irritations but they resolve quickly.  I don't dislike anyone.  People get on my nerves less and less.  Things make me smile.  I notice how pretty trees and clouds are.  I know it may sound corny, but it's true and I want to share it.  Because in a season where people tend to be busy, stressed out and downright mean (for example, check out some Yahoo! footage from Black Friday... eek!), my home is peaceful and filled with a contagious joy.

What did I do to achieve such a state, you might ask?  I stopped "doing" anything.  I took God's nudging and put on the brakes.  I got still and knew that He was God.  I spent a lot of time breathing.  I stopped systematically going down my prayer list and just got quiet and lifted up my heart to Him.  I didn't get up early to do this.  I didn't find time away from my kids.  I did it while I was driving to the store, as I drifted off to sleep at night, while I gave the kids a bath.  I stopped having rules for my spiritual pursuit of happiness and started just being spiritual whenever I thought of it, just thanking God while I did the dishes.

This isn't the first time in my life that I've come to this realization.  I think, actually, it's the third or fourth.  But it's nice to know it never loses its efficacy.  That if you lose your serenity it is always re-attainable.  Because I'm really, seriously, at peace again.  I'm goofy with happiness.  I'm floating around on a little pink cloud, Buddy-the-Elf style.  And while my feelings are hurt-able, I'm not ever off course for long.

Another amazing thing that is happening is, now that I'm in this state of bliss, I find myself doing more.  Effortlessly and from desire, rather than obligation.  I cooked a huge Thanksgiving meal from scratch with tiny children underfoot and loved every minute of it.  I reorganized my closet and it was fun (really, it was).  I'm having a great time writing this blog post.  I'm not trying harder; I'm praying more and God is doing more.  I'm less of me and more of Him and it's stinking awesome.

So let go and let God.  Be still and know that HE IS.  Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I'm here to testify that it is true!  Spend time with Him and you'll discover that it is so easy to delight in Him; He's delightful.  Burn your to-do list, shoot your TV.  Take sick leave if you have to and get with God.  You don't need fancy meditation, just sit with Him and breathe His name.  He's going to delight your heart and fulfill every desire.  My heart's desires were to walk in faith, to have a peaceful home, and to be happy.  Voila!  Done, done, done.  I also desire to raise my children to love and serve Him, to share His love with others who do not know Him or could know Him better, to pay off my debts, and to provide a healthy lifestyle (food, exercise, environment) for myself and my family.  I don't have to do anything to achieve these goals.  I'm just going to continue to delight in Him, to seek His will, and these things will be added unto me.  It's happening already and it's going to continue.  The desire in my heart to take the actions necessary on my part will grow and grow until it's harder not to do these things than it is to do them.  I don't want a bowl of cereal anymore (those who know me well will recognize this as a miracle); I want to bake a loaf of homemade bread and cook a strata.  I don't want to go shopping and accumulate more stuff (another miracle); I want to go for a walk in the park with the people I love best.  I'm serious.  It's happening and I'm loving it.  I'm loving Him, I'm loving you (really, I am; whoever you are out there), and I'm loving life.  Join me; let's get blissed together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time

Having children is terribly inconvenient sometimes.  There are so many things I would like to accomplish, so many gorgeous little DIY projects I see on Pinterest that I think I might actually be able to create.  They do not care that I had images of Martha Stewart dancing through my head as I planned this year's Thanksgiving meal.  No, they decided it was a great time to get the flu.  And to pass it on.  There is just no reasoning with them.

So now as  I sit trying to write a blog post, there is a charming little girl wallowing in my lap whining, "Mommy, I want more cookies."  There is a suspiciously quiet little boy somewhere in the house no doubt undoing some of my previous tidying if not worse.  In the time it took for me to type those sentences, Baby Girl left my lap and I caught her about to add her own embellishments to our ottoman with a pen she swiped from the desk.  Artistic endeavor thwarted, she is back begging for cookies.

It's times like these that I really need a break or at the very least a nap.  My flu is lingering longer than theirs did because I do not have the time or ability to rest.  The endless cups of echinacea tea and the soothing baths upon my husband's return from work are lovely respites but no exchange for the hours of undisturbed slumber that I crave.  Add on top of all of this that all I have done by way of Thanksgiving preparation is to move my turkey from the freezer to the fridge, you will see that I have something of a problem.

Or do I?  I remember once when Eddie was sick.  It was a similar situation, flu symptoms that he happily shared.  Sleepless nights, fatigue heightened by a sense of helpless worry.  As now, it was a few weeks before Christmas and my mind was on the holidays ahead.  His timing was inconvenient and, what was worse, I was beginning to feel the onset of illness myself.

Toward the end of the evening, I really needed a break.  Needed to get out of the house.  Eddie was lying on our living room floor on a blanket, surrounded by toys as always.  I was headed out to the store to get something that seemed essential at the time, something in the "bread, milk, toilet paper" kind of category.  As I neared the door, Eddie turned toward me and with his cutest Cabbage-Patch smile, patted the top of his "Where's Elmo?" peek a boo book.

Let me make something clear.  Eddie didn't just like his big, puffy cloth "Where's Elmo?" peek a boo book.  He loved it.  I had read that book and lifted those flaps more times than I can possibly count.  I had seen a variation on his wordless request time and time again.  And I needed a break.  So, I passed.  I told him Mommy had to go to the store but that Daddy would read it to him, which he began to do as I was leaving.

When I came home thirty minutes later, Eddie was asleep in his crib and I had a fever.  I slept on the couch that night so I wouldn't make Phillip sick or Eddie sicker.  When I got up to check on him the next morning, he was gray and hardly breathing.  Phillip and I rushed him to the ER.  In the car I had to hold him forward, out of his car seat, so that he could breathe.  As I gently urged him, "Breathe, baby" Phillip's foot got steadily heavier and heavier on the gas pedal.

We were rushed into the back immediately and they began to bag him, or manually help him breathe.  After a flurry of questions and answers, he was admitted, sedated and put on a respirator.  He then spent the next thirteen days in the PICU in a medically induced coma from which he was never expected to awaken.  (I wrote about this PICU stay in my post "The Sprinter" if you would like to find out more details.)

While Eddie was out and while his prognosis worsened, I kept seeing the same image in my head again and again.  That beautiful little smile, those sparkling little eyes, as he patted the top of his favorite book, asking me to read to him.  I cried about it; I agonized over it.  What would it have taken for me to delay my trip to the store by ten minutes?  To watch his eyes light up, the delight on his face as we "found" his Sesame Street friends one last time.  I prayed that God would give me a second chance to have that moment with my baby boy.  That the last smile I saw from him not be right before the moment that I had said that I didn't have time to spend with him.

Thank God, Eddie didn't die in PICU.  We had dozens if not hundreds of more occasions to read "Where's Elmo?" together.  I got to see that Cabbage Patch grin again and again.  I got to remember that no matter how tired I was, no matter how long the day had been, that I was lucky to have time with him.  That every single moment was precious, no matter what.

So, I don't have a problem.  I have blessings.  Two of them that are feeling better and therefore tearing the house apart.  That are whiny, unreasonable, demanding and wonderful.  They can't imagine that my time has any greater purpose than being spent with them and in some ways they are right.  Chances are they will outlive me, but there is no guarantee of that.  Even if they do, they won't always be in my lap, asking for a cookie.  Before I know it, it will be drivers licenses and prom dates, then colleges and careers, hopefully marriage and their own families.  The time I have with them now is precious and ticking away.  So it doesn't matter that it has taken me the better part of the hour to write this short post.  It has been time well spent.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Thursday Sabbath

Wow!  It has been a long time since my last blog post.  Apologies to those who look forward to them.  Time got away from me.

In fact, I haven't been managing my time very well lately.  I have felt caught up in a cyclone of activities.  It seems that every day there is something on the schedule to do:  school, birthday parties, church events.  I haven't taken the time to just sit, to just be, and for me this can be lethal.  Being busy is good in many ways; it is distracting to be sure.  But I find that when I'm busy-busy, I lose touch with God.  He hasn't gone anywhere; I just can't sense His presence or hear His voice because there is far too much noise in my heart and in my head.

When I start to feel separated, unable to sense God's will in any given circumstance, I start to panic.  This is extremely unhelpful.  It is similar to asthma.  When I have an asthma attack, the worst thing I can do is panic.  It makes breathing all the more difficult.  I know when I'm suddenly alarmingly short of breath (or out of it altogether) that I need to calm down, relax and try to breathe deeply.  It is the same thing with my "spiritual asthma" if you will.  When I am short on God and I panic, it makes getting into the quiet, peaceful place where He is always waiting for us all the more difficult.  You never see someone meditating and hyperventilating at the same time and there is a reason for that.  God meets us when we are still.

Don't get me wrong.  He can meet us in our panic.  He can do anything He wants.  But I have found that most often He wants us to get still and quiet to draw near to Him.  And I wasn't doing that very well.  Although I had already decreased my activities significantly, there was still more and more that "needed" to be done.  I was freaking out.  So as another busy weekend began, I felt ill-prepared and irritable.

Friday was another activity filled day.  We spent a wonderful Saturday with my stepdaughters at the zoo in Waco.  Toward the end of our visit, Baby Boy fell on the playground and hurt his mouth and teeth pretty badly.  So the hour and a half ride home was less than pleasant; he had a sore mouth and was sad to leave his sisters.  The Operation Christmas Child Thanksgiving potluck our Life Group has every year was scheduled for Sunday.  We had been so busy over the weekend that we had not prepared for it at all.  Nothing to cook for the potluck, nothing to put in the boxes.  We didn't even have ink in the printer to print out labels to accompany our boxes.  We were completely unprepared.

The prospect of getting all of it done that evening was overwhelming.  Both kids were tired; one of them was injured.  I told my husband I just needed a day off on Sunday.  I needed a Sabbath, a true day of rest.  His lack of enthusiasm was palpable.  We look forward to doing Operation Christmas Child all year long and we love the fellowship with our Life Group as well.  It seemed inconceivable not to do it.  But I was at the end of my rope.  We shelved it, deciding we had time in the morning to take care of everything if we decided to go.

I awoke Sunday morning feeling like the world's biggest wet blanket.  How could I have nixed our plans for the potluck?  True, Baby Boy's lip was swollen and his tooth was loose.  True, I was worn down to a frazzled little wire.  But I could rally.  It would be fun once we got there and I would be glad I pulled it all together.  Anyway, Operation Christmas Child benefits underprivileged children and charity work is always a good idea.  Right?

I have heard it said:  "Not every good idea is a God idea."  Baby Girl woke up with fever and, although I was sorry she was sick, I also breathed a sigh of relief.  Maybe I was in touch with God's will after all.  Maybe it was time for us to opt out, even from something fun that we were looking forward to, in order to reconnect with Him and with each other.  We took our Sunday as a true Sabbath, doing nothing but resting together as a  family.  Aside from the stress that accompanies a sick child, it was a pretty good day.

Yesterday was necessarily busy.  I had to take care of a traffic ticket and take Baby Boy to the dentist to assess the damage from his fall at the zoo.  But I could do it all calmly, because I was back in touch with the source of all peace, all serenity, all direction.  Last night Baby Boy ran a fever so we could not go to school today.  He awoke happy and healthy so I'm taking it as another Sabbath gift from God and despite the fact that there are lots of things we could do today, lots of busy little things that need to get done, I'm not going to do any of them.  I'm going to read my Bible and praise God for His goodness.  I'm going to snuggle my kids, build with blocks and color in a coloring book or two.  I'm going to take lots of deep breaths and I'm not going to panic.  Because God is good, all the time, and I'm going to be still and enjoy Him today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Days Like This

It has been one of those days.  I woke up early enough to have my quiet time with God which usually makes for a better, brighter day.  No so today.  I really needed to drop the kids off at Mothers' Day Out, go home and crawl back under the covers.  Since I teach Mothers' Day Out, however, that was not to be.  My little pupils were great today; I was just really tired.  So at the end of the day, I felt like I needed a nap or at least some "me" time with a relaxing cup of tea.

Have I mentioned that my children are two and three years old?  I don't get a lot of "me" time.  And Baby Girl was in a mood when I picked her up today.  Not hostile or angry.  She was very pleasant about the fact that she was unwilling to do anything that I asked her to do.  By the time we got to the car she had earned a consequence.  Baby Boy got a pack of Dora fruit snacks, but she had none.  As I was explaining to her that her brother had made a good choice by listening and that Baby Girl had made a bad choice by not and therefore there would be no fruit snacks for her, she took my face firmly between her hands, looked me straight in the eye, and said earnestly, "Mommy, stop talking!"  Yes, it has been that kind of a day.

The last thing I wanted to do was go grocery shopping.  I did, however, want a hot, yummy meal tonight and as we are on a budget it seemed wise to cook it myself.  I did not want to go to our local Walmart (just a personal preference) but in the interest of time and budget, I decided to bite the bullet and go.  Both kids were feeling a little tired and cranky, which always makes a trip to the store extra special.  I shopped for an hour in a crowded and hectic store.  I managed to do all of this without yelling at either child.  I was praying a lot.

Finally, I was in the home stretch.  The check out line.  Both children were contained and behaving relatively well.  I managed not to get irritated at the person in front of me who really had every right to buy fifty eight  cans of Fancy Feast which had to be rung up individually.  I unloaded my items onto the belt, fished out my wallet and looked for my debit card.  And looked again.  And again...

After apologizing to the very nice check out lady, I pushed my cart, empty except for my wiggly two children, to the parking lot with tears in my eyes.  I know I'm not alone in this feeling.  Those days when, although nothing catastrophic happens, you just feel worn down to the nub.  It is tempting to start an inner monologue that sounds a little something like this:  "I just can't do this anymore.  It's too much.  I'm too tired.  I need a break."  Sound familiar?  There are others available too.  Angry ones.  Like it is someone else's fault, perhaps even my kids', that I left my card in the back pocket of yesterday's jeans.  The thoughts that make it clear somebody is going to pay for how hopeless we feel.

I choose to turn my thoughts to God instead.  Every time something similar to those thoughts above popped into my mind, I would gently tell it "no" and pray instead.  I loaded up the kids in the car, trying my best to explain why we left behind the bananas they were asking for.  I took a deep breath and thanked God that I have choices.  Lots of them.  And the ability to choose what is right.

Because I didn't have to be angry about what had just happened.  As tired as I was I didn't have to yell at my kids.  I didn't have to curse either on the inside or the out.  I could take a moment and give thanks.  I could realize what a privilege it was to be able to go to that annoying store, to load up all that food, and to have the means to pay for it if not the immediate ability.  I drove home reflecting on the two wonderful characters strapped into their car seats, slowly but surely getting over their banana disappointment.

The Bible says not to grumble or complain about anything.  How tall an order is that?  But we can do it or God wouldn't ask us to.  It also tells us to focus our thoughts on lovely things.  It was hard to find something lovely about my fruitless trip to Walmart, but I did it.  And what I found was within myself.  I focused on who I am in Christ.  The old me would have been horrible today.  I would have been nasty to my kids ever since picking them up.  The Walmart trip would have been the straw that broke the camel's back and I would have been unbearable to live with, not just on the way to the car, but all evening long.  I would have taken all of my fatigue and all of my frustration out on my family and then justified it by my mood.

I'm not my mood.  I'm better than my mood, because I have the light of Christ within me.  I came home already feeling brighter.  I did not feel up to another trip to the grocery store and the kids were already hungry.  So I raided the freezer and scored some chicken nuggets.  I stirred up some Tang and called it juice.  Perfect parenting?  Hardly.  But my kids are happy and that makes me smile.

My husband just called to ask if I would like for him to take me out to dinner this evening.  I would and I'm glad I wasn't cooking when he called.  I feel like God is smiling at me right now which really makes it all so worthwhile.  Sitting here, listening to two hyped up kids making a big mess and failing to share their toys, I don't feel tired or overwhelmed.  I feel happy, a warm, secure kind of happiness from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  What can I say?  It has been one of those days.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What God Loves

I would like to take a moment to brag about my Baby Boy.  Most of these blog posts are about Eddie, which only makes sense.  It helps me to share him with you, to give him honor since I can't give him hugs, and his story is pretty much the meat and potatoes of my life's testimony thus far.  He witnessed to me the power and majesty of God's love, wordlessly and in an incredibly unique way.  All that being said, however, we all have as much to learn from our living children as I did from the one who has gone home before me.  As I've said before, our children are our greatest teachers, if we are willing to set aside our pride in ourselves and all our "grown up" knowledge and just learn from them.

I was five months pregnant with Baby Boy when his big brother died.  Not surprisingly, two weeks later I had a pregnancy crisis and ended up on partial bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I say "partial" but really I was on bed rest.  I think my lovely midwife was afraid I would slip into a terrible depression if I was told I could do nothing for the next four months.  She therefore avoided the term "bed rest" but was very insistent that I seriously limit my activities for Baby Boy's sake and spend every moment I could at rest.  So I was already a little worried about him.

I was also worried about how my heart state was going to affect him.  I am a firm believer that the experiences of a baby in utero are human experiences.  We "welcome them into the world" when they are born but, especially by the time they are third term fetus, they really are already in the world, hearing and experiencing things through the hopefully safe filter of their mother.  I wanted my womb to be such a safe place.  I sang songs to my unborn children, told them stories, played them music.  I told them how much I loved them and how their Daddy and Jesus did too.  I only wanted good things to go on in there.  But, I am a human being, and I had lost my child.  So while I knew Baby Boy heard the words of love and soothing songs, I knew he was also there for the keening cries and racking sobs of a mother grieving for a lost son.  I was afraid he would come out already emotionally damaged, sad, anxious and moody.  I prayed about it a lot.

I shouldn't have worried.  Baby Boy is characterized by joy more than any child I have ever known.  He is just a really, really happy guy.  He smiled when he was just a few days old (and, no, it wasn't just gas; I hate it when people say that).  He loves with open arms, smiles so big you can see every single tooth, and laughs with great abandon.  He loves to sing and dance.  Now that he is a "big boy" who will be all of four years old in December, he is also our great encourager.  We call him the life coach.  Whenever we are doing any activity like a dance party or some family exercise, he says "great job, great job" and often suggests the next move, like a tiny personal trainer.  When his sister is having a meltdown, he sometimes tells her to take a deep breath "like this" and models the behavior for her.  He's just awesome.

He also has an uncanny grasp of spirituality.  Some of this I attribute to the church we attend, where he now goes to preschool twice a week as well.  Part of it I know is because of our practices at home.  But there is a lot of it that is just Baby Boy's spirit.  When I pack his superhero backpack to go see Nana I have to be sure that his Bible goes along, because at some point he will ask for it and want to hear some of his favorite stories.  He gets so excited when he sees pictures of Jesus and can recognize him from a variety of images, from the baby in the manger Jesus to the bearded guy in a robe Jesus.  He talks about him with the same enthusiasm as he discusses Thomas the Tank Engine or Spiderman.

But beyond that, he is getting the concepts.  He shares with his sister, even when I can tell he doesn't really want to, because it is the right thing to do.  He shows empathy and concern for the well-being of others.  He never fails to amaze me with his retelling of Bible stories and explanations of what they mean to him.  But the other day he just blew me away.  We were getting clothes that they have outgrown together to take to a women and children's homeless shelter in Dallas.  While we we packed them up we talked about what we were doing, that some friends might not have clothes or shoes to wear so we could give them ours.  So he and Baby Girl were very happy about our mission on the ride over.  When the time came, however, for Baby Boy to hand over his beloved Lightning McQueen slippers, he balked.

I was not surprised.  For one thing, he is three years old and he loves those slippers.  Although they are too small, he still carries them around sometimes or shoves his feet, toes curled, into them for a few moments.  He was the one who surprisingly enough added them to the pile in the first place.  For another, isn't that how we all are?  It is so easy to give the stuff we don't really care about.  The clothes that don't fit us anymore or are out of style, the broken household items, the furniture with stained upholstery.  These items get sent to Goodwill with glee as we make room for better, nicer stuff.  And we count that as charity and give ourselves a pat on the back.  After all, it might all have brought us a few bucks at a garage sale and we gave it away.  Yay us!

I am not saying that we should not engage in this kind of giving.  It is a blessing to others.  I've been on the other end of it on more than one occasion and felt incredibly blessed by what someone else had given up, probably from their garage, attic, or the back of their closet.  But I think Jesus calls us to give beyond this comfortable kind of giving.  Let me rephrase that:  I know Jesus calls us to give beyond it.  He said so.  We are supposed to be willing to give up everything we own to Him.  He even wants us to give to those who take from us.  In Matthew 5:40 He says that if someone sues us for our coat we are supposed to give them the shirt off our back also.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Not only do we give until it hurts, we are supposed to do it cheerfully.  2 Corinthians 9:7 says that God loves a cheerful giver.  

Anyway, it was a very human moment when Baby Boy clutched his slippers to his chest.  I want to teach my children to give, but I want them to give the way God wants them to:  not reluctantly, not under compulsion, but cheerfully.  There is no value in learning,  "I give because my mom makes me."  So I gave him the choice.  I reminded him that we were going to give those to a little boy who did not have slippers, but that it was up to him.  If he was not ready to give his slippers to a friend yet, he did not have to.  They could come home with us and we would put them back in his closet.  He looked at them long and hard for a moment.  Then with a sigh and a smile, he handed those cherished little red slippers to the shocked and impressed volunteer who assured him that she knew a little boy who was going to love them.

As we left the shelter, Baby Boy was skipping and smiling as usual, asking where we were going next.  In the car a very choked up Mommy told them both how proud I was of them.  That they had given clothes and shoes to people who didn't have clothes or shoes, just like Jesus asks us to.  Then Baby Boy said, pointing out the window, "Yeah and He make the clouds and the flowers and He give 'em to me."

Wow.  Can I get an "Amen?"  You see, I struggle with the whole concept of giving.  The fact that we reluctantly hand over a ten percent tithe (or not) and grumble at the toll it takes on our bank account.  Yet, when asked, Christ said the path to true discipleship is to sell all of our possessions and follow Him.  Indeed, when He called His disciples they dropped everything in an instant, leaving their lives behind and starting on their new exciting journey without so much as a carry-on bag.  That kind of thing seems unheard of in our day, but the nature of God has not changed.  The question is:  are we willing to give up our stuff, not just our junk and hand-me-downs, but the stuff we still love and cherish for the sake of the One who gives us everything?  To the one who makes the clouds, the flowers, and the air we breathe?  If someone sued us for a thousand dollars, would we willingly give them the title to our house for His sake?   Are we capable of trusting that the One in whom we believe is going to bless us and provide for us above and beyond our greatest expectations in exchange for our radical obedience to His call to us to give freely, openly and happily?  What if, when faced with a person sitting out in the cold, we gave them the coat of our backs instead of the spare change in our pockets?  It seems so radical to us, because very few people do it.  Nonetheless, it is what Christians are supposed to do, who we are supposed to be.

I am so grateful to have little people in my life to teach me big truths.  To show me what a cheerful giver looks like.  Not someone who hands over something he doesn't want anymore with a smile, but rather someone who feels the uncomfortable tug of a selfish desire to keep for himself, but then voluntarily surrenders to the greater call with a heart full of gratitude for what has been given to him by a generous God.  Because while God will use our easily given gifts to bless others, He will use our sacrificially given gifts to bless us.  To give us hearts for gratitude and eyes that see blessings.  I see one right now, wearing camouflage pajama pants and a big grin, my little cheerful giver, who I love.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter

I love Simon Peter.  For those of you unfamiliar, he is one of the twelve apostles, the twelve guys who hung out with Christ on a regular basis, also known as the disciples.  He is far and away my favorite of the twelve (Judas Iscariot running a far 12th) but beyond that he is one of my top five favorite Bible characters.  If they had posters and trading cards for apostles, I would have the Peter collection.  I'm a big fan.

I'm a fan because he is so enthusiastic and yet so imperfect.  He is the "ready, fire, aim" member of the group.  He pops his mouth off inappropriately all the time but it stems from an overwhelming enthusiasm for what he is doing, for who he is following.  He is impulsive and passionate and he makes huge honking mistakes.  I identify with Peter.

He is one of the first called by Christ.  He is fishing with his brother, Andrew, and drops everything, his nets, his livelihood, his plans, everything, in a split second and follows Jesus.  He is the one who, when he sees Jesus walking on the water, has enough faith to step out of the boat and begin walking to Him on the waves.  He is the one who, boldly and without hedging any bets, answers the question, "Who do you say that I am?" with "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."   The the one who, when Christ has risen and appears on the shore, loves him so much that he jumps out of the boat and swims to Him.  He is vehement about his love for Christ.  He asks questions, sometimes stupid questions, but he always is wanting to know more, always seeking.  And he is greatly rewarded.  Jesus says to him, "...you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom..."  Peter gets to go up on the mountain and see Jesus transfigured, see Him glow in His glory, meet with Elijah and Moses, and hear the voice of God.  Jesus asks him questions and confides truths to him.  The honor and privilege Peter must have felt at these moments is unimaginable!

But, still, he suffers massive failures.  The Lord who he loves with such abandon and who blesses him so richly, also rebukes him when he speaks foolishly.  Although he does step out of the boat and walk toward Christ on the water, eventually his fear overtakes his faith and he has to cry out, sinking, for Christ to lift him up.  He accompanies Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane, right before Jesus is arrested and sacrificed.  Jesus, being both fully human and fully God, asks for steadfast friends to keep watch for Him while He prays.  It is a simple request, but despite any good intentions, Peter falls asleep not once but three times rather than being vigilant and steadfast for the Lord.  Finally, against his violent protestations and insistence that he would die rather than deny Jesus, Peter denies Him three times after His arrest, just as Jesus predicts.  I don't know about you, but after all of that, I think I would be questioning Jesus about the whole "rock" thing.  I would feel shaky as sand and completely inadequate to act as the cornerstone of anything, much less the entire Christian faith.

God isn't looking for perfection.  He is perfection.  He doesn't require us to be.  What is he looking for?  I think the answer is found in His conversation with Simon Peter after the resurrection.  He makes the apostles breakfast (seriously, he does; isn't that cool?) and, after they are done eating, He talks to Peter.  This is the first one-on-one conversation they have had since Peter denied any knowledge of Jesus, much less that he believed He was the Christ or that the was one of His followers.  After Peter, who had loved Him, followed Him faithfully, and promised that he would die for Him had looked at Jesus, arrested and disgraced, and said, "I don't know that guy."  Peter knew Jesus knew about that.  He must have felt so ashamed.

But Jesus doesn't look at him and say, "So, have anything to say for yourself?"  He doesn't say, "I told you so."  He doesn't say, "You remember all that stuff about the keys to the kingdom?  Yeah, you can forget about that."  He doesn't call him out.  Instead, he asks Peter, not once but three times, if he loves Him.  The repetition hurts Peter's feelings; he keeps saying, "You know that I love you!"  And Jesus does know it.  He isn't repeating himself out of disbelief, but for emphasis.  Because this account is going to be read for some two thousand years and counting and He wants us all to know:  this is the question that counts.  A three time repetition is the Biblical equivalent of a double exclamation point!!  See what I mean?

Jesus doesn't keep score.  He doesn't care how far you've fallen short or how many times you have failed.  He doesn't care if you have denied His very existence either by word or by practice.  What He cares about is,  now, in this moment, do you love Him?  I know I may be beating this topic to death right now, but it is on my heart:  It's about relationship.  Not rules, not dogma, not good works.  It is DO YOU LOVE GOD with all your heart, your soul and mind?  He wants nothing more and nothing less from you.

I think that is why He chose Simon Peter be the rock, the foundation, of His church.  Because Peter wasn't the wisest man in the world.  He didn't have Paul's gift for words.  As discussed, he was far from perfect.  But he loved Jesus, passionately.  He loved Him so much he flung himself into the water, on two occasions, while everyone else stayed on the boat.  It was because of this love that he had the boldness to say what the rest of them knew:  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  He stumbled and fell, he failed and he sank.  But he loved.

I love Jesus.  I mess up all the time.  I say stupid stuff; I have too much pride.  I want things He doesn't want for me and sometimes, when things get uncomfortable, I "tone down" a little and thereby deny Him.  I fail.  But I love Him.  I love Him so much it makes me weep to type it.  I love Him because He doesn't care that I'm not perfect.  He sees my heart and smiles.  I love Him so much that I just want to fling myself into His loving arms.  I don't care if everyone else in the boat thinks I'm crazy.  I just want Him, more of Him, everyday, all the time.  If you don't love Him this much, get to know Him.  Because you know that crazy feeling you get when you first fall in love with someone?  Yeah, it's like that and it never has to stop.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  I invite you to get to know my Jesus, Peter's Jesus, and fall in love all over again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bread

I baked bread yesterday.  Not in the bread machine or a quick bread from a mix.  I made Scots baps... from scratch.  (And, yes, I am disproportionately proud of myself for this fact.)  I haven't attempted anything quite this ambitious in the kitchen in a while.  I usually cook from books that involve short cuts and quick fixes.  I heat up a frozen entree prepared by Stouffer more often than I would like to admit.  I have an excuse; I have preschoolers.  Still, every time I serve up Shake-N-Bake chicken with a side of Rice-A-Roni, I feel a twinge of guilt.  Because I know that even though my days get busy, I really can cook.  I'm good at it.  No matter what the excuse, if something comes out of the freezer or a cardboard box, I'm being a little lazy.

I approached this weekend with an eye toward rediscovering my inner Julia Child.  I cracked open my nicer, fancier cookbooks and picked out recipes that I wish someone would cook for me.  I almost skipped over the book entitled The Art of Bread, thinking that would be biting off way more than I could chew.  But you have to know something about me:  I don't just love bread, I luuuurrrrrrvvvvve bread.  Not the pre-sliced stuff from the supermarket.  Rather the kind displayed in row after delicious row at Central Market or local bakeries.  I love to thump the bottom of a gorgeous artisanal loaf and hear the glorious, hollow echo.  I love the crispy crunch noise when you rip into a fresh baguette.  Good bread is something of an obsession.

So I found a recipe that not only seemed simple, as far as bread goes, but also brought to the surface lovely memories of my childhood years in Scotland.  Baps, these flour-dusted little ovals rolls, that were often served  when we dined at people's homes or that my mother would bring home fresh from Robertson's bakery on High Street.  I said a little prayer that my rusty culinary skills would not fail me and I got to baking.

They were wonderful.  Just as I remembered them.  It was awesome to be able to share them, both with my nuclear family, who had never had them before, and my family of origin with whom I also share those fond memories.  But the process was wonderful too.  The kneading, the shaping, the wonderful yeasty smell as they rose and baked.  There is just something magical about bread.

Eddie's first New Year's Eve was celebrated in the NICU of Brackenridge Hospital, Austin, Tx.  It was a big day for me.  I love New Year's anyway with its promise of fresh beginnings and new leaves.  And I was ending the most dramatic year of my life:  the year I got married, had my first baby, and came to know and trust God in a way I had never imagined possible.  It was also the first year Austin would be having a First Night celebration.  It was to be a family friendly parade, an alternative to the party scene at galas or bars.  It was modeled after a similar celebration in Boston and was a celebration of life, the city, and the arts.

Phillip and I decided to go.  Eddie had his primary nurse assigned to him that evening, an angel named Francesca, who we loved and trusted.  We knew this trust was well placed when she arrived for duty with a miniature top hat and party blower for our little Ed.  We spent very little time away from him in those days, the odd dinner out here and there, but mostly our time together was either in the NICU or sleeping at the Ronald McDonald House.  So our decision to head down to Congress Street early that evening before returning to NICU for the official ringing in of the New Year was a big deal for us.

The weather was beautiful.  Short sleeve and jeans weather but with a brisk wind that kept whipping down the wide avenue, bringing with it a cloud of black birds that perched in the trees only to be swept up in the next great gale.  I was exhilarated even before the festivities began, my soul dancing in the wind with those little birds, thrilling in the majesty of God.

The young woman standing next to me felt differently.  Every time the birds would take flight, weaving and creating patterns with their flock, she would cringe and say things like, "Eww!  Flying rats!"  (I feel this way about bats, as you may know, so, really, I'm not judging... much.)  But I didn't let her lack of enthusiasm dampen mine.  The parade began and my husband and I rejoiced, enjoying the colorful performers and floats.

One group was carrying a sign ahead of them that said simply, "Bread."  They were dressed in neutral colors but looked rather medieval and festive all the same.  They were handing out big, fat loaves of artisanal bread to those of us in the crowd.  As I held my hands up hoping to gain a loaf, the bird-hating lady next to me did as well.  She went as far to say:  "Give me some!"  One of the ladies from the parade walked over and placed a generous loaf of sourdough in my outstretched hands.  I smiled and thanked her and then, Christian that I am, offered to split it with the woman beside me.  She recoiled as if I had just offered her a pet black bird.  "Oh, no," she exclaimed, aghast.  "I don't eat it."

This experience sticks with me for a number of reasons.  As a whole, the First Night parade stands in my memory as a time when I was able to celebrate with an open heart.  I was able to embrace life at a time when mine was very hard, to throw my arms open wide to a world that God created and love it with every fiber of my being.  To laugh, to soar, to dance.  When the parade was over, we walked down Congress, enjoying our fill of delicious sourdough before passing half of our loaf along to a man who most likely had missed a few meals.  He smiled and took it with as much joy as we felt in offering it.  Then we went back to our first born son, counted down the minutes to a new year with him and with a staff who loved him like one of their own, and raised a glass of sparkling juice in his honor.  It was a wonderful, beautiful night.

I am grateful that God gave me a moment of contrast in the midst of it all.  I think it was no mistake that I stood next to this young woman, who could not have been older than thirty, attractive, dressed fashionably with great hair and makeup.  I don't know what her life looked like on the inside, but she certainly wasn't impoverished and I feel rather safe in assuming that she did not have a terminally ill child in the hospital a few miles away.  But still she had so little gratitude.  She was so imprisoned by her life that she could not see majesty in nature, that she would ask for a loaf of bread but recoil at the idea of eating it.  I pray for her every time I think of her.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."  I know Him and He is not the 89 cent, pre-sliced sandwich variety.  He is sustenance, but beyond that He is rich, dense, organic, and beautiful.  He is sweetened with honey.  He can be experienced with every sense.  Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."  And He is.  All the time.  He is the Bread of Life.  And I feel that there are far too many people out there like the bird hating, bread eschewing woman, who recoil from experiencing Him, fearful of what would happen or who they would be if they let go of all of the rules and embraced a living God.  Who are standing with their arms out and hands open, needing to be loved, needing to have peace, wanting to be happy, but then rejecting the free gift that God is offering them.  Not realizing that if they would only taste and see, they would know a freedom and a joy that is unimaginable and inarticulable.

He is with us.  He was with me yesterday, smiling I think, while I was kneading the dough for my baps, while I was allowing the first taste to fill me with precious, comforting memories of days gone by.  He was with me, laughing, on that First Night when I told my worldly circumstance to go to hell and worshipped God with complete and utter abandon.  He is the Bread of Life and there is just something magical about bread. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Space Between

Until recent years, I have always considered myself something of a thespian.  Drama was my passion in high school and in early college.  Even after college, I pursued acting, taking classes and even participating in the odd audition here and there.  I scored some minor roles and some offers to be part of the crew and work my way up with various companies.  I had not only an inflated ego when it came to the word "crew," however, but a busy schedule, what with practicing law and all, so I actually performed very little.  If you don't count jury trials.  Those tend to involve some high drama.

Once Eddie was here, all my aspirations to the stage faded into the background and my life's drama became the focus.  And what a drama it was.  Enough triumph and tragedy to inspire any playwright and enough angst for any good Method actor.  Unfortunately, I was not portraying a part and returning to a gentler, easier life when that performance was over.  I was living it, trying to play my part as well as I could, to comfort my little one and glorify my Creator.

In the first three years after the curtain went down on Eddie's final act, I had no desire for theatrics of any kind.  It has been a quiet period, soul-wise.  I have been busy in the task of raising two small children which brings much joy and hilarity, but can at times seem rather mundane and, let's face it, downright pedestrian.  I love my children and I'm grateful for the privilege for raising them myself.  But if someone were filming my life right now, it would not draw much of an audience.

For the most part, I have been content with this new reality.  But I have moments of longing for the excitement of younger days.  Recently I went to see 25th Anniversary production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera."  It was a one time performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London but they were simulcasting it to select theatres in America.  So my sister bought us tickets for a Dallas showing and we were able to experience it in all its majesty (sans jet lag).  

Sitting in the crowded movie theatre but seeing and hearing the sounds of people taking their seats in Albert Hall, my heart began to beat faster.  I knew what was coming.  One of my favorite life experiences:  the moment after the house lights dim, just before the curtain rises and the play begins.  There is such delicious anticipation in that moment as an audience member, an electric current in the hush that falls over the crowd.  I love it as a spectator.  

But, even more, I love it as a performer.  The thrill of that moment defies description.  The fear and excitement.  The fact that at that one moment you cannot recall a single line but you know that in mere seconds you will be in action.  That all eyes will be on you and you will become someone else, the words you so arduously memorized will become your words, the stage directions your actions, the emotions your feelings.  It is like jumping from a cliff.  It is the breath before the first kiss.  It is intoxicating.

For two beautiful hours, I vicariously lived through the madly talented actors on stage.  I reveled in Webber's powerful score.  I wept, I laughed, I was transported.  It was a magical afternoon.  I watched as the actors took their bows before the sold out crowd, who were on their feet, applauding wildly (standing ovations are rare in Great Britain and therefore a tremendous honor).  I thought of how that must feel.  What a pinnacle moment that must be:  to deliver the performance of a lifetime and receive a standing ovation at the Royal Albert Hall.

I began to feel an unhealthy yearning for a life other than my own.  But I caught myself.  Because I know those actors left that stage to return to rather ordinary lives themselves.  They have troubled relationships, ordinary tasks to perform, worries to overcome.  Life is life all the way around.

What is extraordinary about life are those moments when it transcends itself.  When you take one step away from the world and one step closer to the divine.  We have the opportunity to experience these moments every day.  To live more and more in the moments of anticipation, in the space between what we were experiencing a moment ago and what we are reaching toward and expecting to experience in our future. If we comprehend that God has adventures for us, every day, then every morning we can awake and be excited.  They won't always be pinnacle moments.  They won't always be in a dramatic locale.  We may have to search a little to find them, but they are there.  They are to be found in nature if we will look and reflect.  I find them all the time in music or while watching a great movie or play.  They are in museums and in books.  They are at sporting events.  They are in the eyes of our children.  They are in creating, in doing, in being.  We are just too busy complaining to experience them.

Today I want God to dim the house lights.  I want to hear the voices diminish and a hush settle over my busy mind.  And I want to feel the excitement of something great that is just a moment away.  Something unexpected, beautiful and brilliant.  Because the yearning I feel is for Him and He never disappoints.  Whether I am on the stage in what comes next or sitting gleefully in my seat, I am ready to experience everything He has for me.  I don't have to be bored or dissatisfied; I can thrive in the space between, relishing the peace of the moment and awash with joyful anticipation of what is to come.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For God So Loved The World...

Sometimes repetition renders things virtually meaningless.  Think of the first time you told your spouse or a romantic partner "I love you."  There was so much meaning behind those words, a bit of risk and even a little fear.  We thrilled to hear the words repeated back to us.  Then, later, months or years into the relationship, we use the same three words every time we sign off on a phone conversation... "I love you.  Bye."  Not that we don't love the person or that we love them less, but speaking the words doesn't have the same impact on them or on us.  It has become just one of those things we say.

I think sometimes the same thing happens with God's word.  If you are raised in the church, you probably know the Bible verse John 3:16 by heart.  Even if you weren't, you are still probably familiar with it, having seen it on evangelical  material or even at sporting events.  It says:  "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  It rings so familiar with so many of us that we almost bypass it.  We don't really hear it; we don't absorb it.  We just smile and move along.

I want to pause on John 3:16 today.  I want to soak it in, to let it seep through me like a fine bag of English Breakfast tea in a cup of hot water.  Because there is a reason it is oft repeated; it is terribly, terribly important.  In fact, I think if you never read anything else in the Bible, if you never heard another verse or were told another truth, it would in itself be enough.  It says not only that God loves you but how much.  It says that no matter who you are or what you've done, you have salvation and it tells you what that is and how to get it.  That should give us chill bumps, just like that first time someone we loved told us they loved us too.

When Christians talk about "the world," usually it has a negative connotation.  We are trying to not be "of the world" but rather "of the kingdom."  We sometimes look down on the world.  But John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world.  Every soul in it, from those worshipping in a church, a mosque or a synagogue to those selling drugs or their bodies on a street corner.  He loves people sitting in prison because of crimes they really did commit as well as those who suffer in innocence.  He loves people who abuse children.  He loves women who have abortions.  He loves those fighting in wars and he loves both sides equally.  If you hate any single person or group of people, keep in mind God loves them just as much as He loves you.  He loves the whole wide world.

He loves us all so much that He gave His Son for us.  This part has a special meaning to me, because I know what it feels like to lose a son.  We sing a song called The Stand in church that says in part:  "So I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of the One who gave it all."  I realized the last time I sang this song that when I thought of the "One who gave it all," I was always thinking of Christ, giving His life for us on the cross.  And I think that is a fine interpretation.  We often think of there being no greater sacrifice than dying for someone or some noble cause.  But on reflection I think there is a greater sacrifice.  I would have happily died in Eddie's place and it would not have been sacrificial.  It would have spared me the pain of losing someone I loved more than my own life.  But God choose to sacrifice Himself for us in every way possible, not only becoming a human, carrying the weight of our sin and dying for us Himself but also losing a child on our behalf.  He suffered every single pain for us to save us and to illustrate to us the depth of His love.  When I really think about this I am struck dumb.  I am so humbled to think God would love me that much.  That He always loved me so much, even when I was denying Him, even when I was sinning against Him in abhorrent ways.  He looked down on me then and loved me with a love that would nail its own child to a cross for me.  How can we even comprehend such a love?

When Eddie was just a few days old and his prognosis was already considered terminal, I was asked if I was angry at God.  I answered with the truth;  I was not.  I know that seems impossible, even to me, but it is the truth.  And it was because God had given me insight not only into who He was but how He loved.  I said what I knew and know to be true:  God was not asking me to do anything that He hadn't already done for me.

I prayed for Eddie to live.  Every day, all day, I prayed for healing for my baby.  My faith well exceeded that of a mustard seed.  I consented to every medical treatment that we thought could save his life.  But even with those attempts and in those prayers, I laid my child at the foot of the cross, trusting God and loving Him with a love that accepted His will even if it meant my child's death.  Eddie was going to die whether I loved God or not.  Whether I placed him in God's care or not.  But God still honored the sacrifice of my heart by assuring me of His great and all encompassing love for me and blessing me with a quiet peace that transcends every circumstance.

All of that to say:  HE LOVES YOU THAT MUCH TOO.  His love doesn't care what you have done, how you have worshipped or not worshipped, what sins, great or small, you have committed.  He loves you with a love that broke His child's body and hung it on a cross to die for you.  If you aren't a Christian, I just want you to take a moment and think about that.  I don't want you to think about whatever preconceptions you have about the religion, about its "rules" or its dogma, about the dos and don'ts.  I want you to think about a God that loves you beyond any other love you could ever experience.  He exists and is just waiting for you.  With an open invitation to heal every wound and bring you to a place of peace, hope and joy.

Even if you are already a Christian, I invite you to meditate on this truth.  I know I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating... The pastor at my church once said something to the effect of if we truly comprehended the nature of the gift of grace, all we would be capable of feeling is gratitude.  Instead, I find we as a body of Christ spend a lot of time shaking our fists at God.  At a God who gave us EVERYTHING, who sacrificed His own life in human form and His son's in divine.  I may love you, but I can tell you right now if God had told me I could either sacrifice Eddie's life or you would go to hell, you would be hell-bound.  I would never have given up my child for the salvation of another human being.

Luckily, God's love is so much greater than mine.  Would you sacrifice your child's life so that some random murderer could go to heaven?  How about a terrorist?  The suggestion seems ludicrous.  But that is just what God did.  He sacrificed His only son so that all of us could be saved.  He gave us all the free gift of eternal life bought with the blood of His own child.

All you have to do is believe.  No matter who you are or what you've done, all you have to do is come to God with a heart that knows the Truth.  That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sacrificed Himself on your behalf and that you believe He is your Savior.  If you believe, you won't die.  Your body will go to the ground but your soul will have everlasting, joyful life.  That is a great deal.  And it is all right there in a verse we hear so often that it becomes almost silent:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Period.  If you already knew this, I want you to ask yourself if you are living in gratitude for what He did for you.  Because, frankly, most Christians are running around like a pack of ingrates.  If you aren't a believer, I want to assure you that the details beyond this simple truth are unimportant.  God will lead you and guide you once you allow yourself to know Him.  It's not about politics, it's not about denominations, it's not even about morality.  It's about pure, unadulterated, and inconceivable love.  God loved you so much that He gave His only Son for you so that, if you believe, you can spend eternity with Him.  His invitation is always open, His hand always extended, and His love is everlasting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday


Today marks the sixth anniversary of the day I became a mother.  On September 27, 2005 at 4:45 p.m., Eddie made his grand entrance into the world and my life was changed forever.  While I was looking through pictures today, thinking about him and deciding which ones to post, I realized that, when I remember Eddie, most of the memories I choose to reminisce about are after his three and a half months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  I like to think about our days at home or the fun outings we had together.  I tend to avoid thinking about NICU, about the roller coaster emotions, where a single hour could involve both exhilarating hope and devastating disappointment.  The days where our greatest wish was for him to be extubated (to be strong enough to breathe on his own and get off the respirator) so that we could finally hear his cry for the first time since the minutes after his birth.  The delight felt in the little things that parents of "normal" children take for granted:  seeing the back of my baby's head for the first time, holding him all on his own without tubes and wires attached, or giving him his first feeding of just a few milliliters of milk.

Today I've been thinking about those days.  Not the agony of them, though there were moments of it, but of the gratitude I felt for every single moment that he drew breath.  For every time I could weave my way through the hospital equipment to kiss his head or even just his knee.  For the hope I had every time I saw another critically ill baby go home.  Many of their prognoses were no better than Eddie's, but I knew the joy those parents must have been feeling, loading their tiny miracles into the car seat to take them home, for how ever many days, weeks, months or years they were going to get to share with them.  I remember thinking to myself:  "Someday that it going to be us."  And one day it was.

Eddie was strong.  Miraculously strong.  He never ceased to amaze every single member of his hospital team with his ability to beat the odds.  He was obstinate, ornery, and had an incredibly volatile temper.  God used that fiery personality to allow Eddie to conquer, time and time again.  Even at one month old, Eddie was an inspiration and a testimony, not only to the greatness of God, but also to the triumph of the human spirit.

So today I am going to honor the NICU days.  When circumstances were desperate, but God was ever- present.  When I learned what it was to lean hard on the Lord, to lose control, and to free-fall into grace.


October 4th:  Eddie was eight days old.  Later this night, the doctors would tell us he most likely had one more week of life to live.
After his head had been shaved into a patchwork due to IVs, Mommy and some nurses gave Eddie a mohawk.  One of his doctors said it was fitting for him to have a warrior's haircut, like the Screaming Eagles of WWII.


The first day we saw Eddie's whole face:  no tubes, no tape, no IVs.  Beautiful.

Eddie loved his mobile and would "talk" to the bears on it.  We called them his "peeps."

December 6th, 2005:  Eddie's first bottle.  2 ml of breast milk.  He was 2 months and 10 days old.
Happy Birthday Eddie!  With all the love in my heart, Mommy