The Morning Mom

Every morning since I've been married, I have started every day with coffee and the "Today" show. While at times there has been questionable content, it's never been anything outrageous. Not at 7:00 a.m.

This morning, between 7:10 and 7:20, there was a story about some senate lesbian party sex scandal, a story about a topless party (or it could have been a topless lesbian party), complete with pictures, followed by yet another story about Tiger and his lovahs, again complete with pics of scantily clad women.

7:10 in the morning. While my children are having breakfast and getting ready for school. Even for the adults, who wants to see soft core porn in the a.m. with my toast and coffee?

I suppose the answer from many would be "don't turn on the TV in the morning." I wish I were the type that woke up, made my family a big homemade breakfast, and sang a few hymns while they ate quietly. However, I am more of the frozen waffle, cereal or oatmeal type of mom. I try to channel my inner Michelle Duggar, but more often the Kate Gosselin in me comes out. "Boys, we have to leave in 5 minutes and you're sitting in your underwear. Let's move a little more quickly!"  "BOYS! LET'S GO!! ARE YOU GOING TO SIT THERE ALL STINKING MORNING?????"


By the way, Griffin announced that the lesbian sex party sounded like fun.

I think I need some more coffee....

I'm still here....just had a little makeover.

I've been wanting to re-vamp my blog for a while and finally took the 12 hours time to do it.

Which explains why it's after midnight, the dinner dishes are not done, and I'll be half asleep while driving my children across town to school tomorrow...

I think Big Daddy thinks I need a blog intervention.

Tucker wants me to have a cutesy name for every day, like "Magical Mondays", "Totally Tuesdays", Wacky Wednesdays"....well, you get the idea. He's 8. What can I say?

So I'm off to bed to dream of what I could have, should have, and might do tomorrow.

See you on Totally Tuesday!

Daniel --- week 10

Girls, I cannot believe we have been studying Daniel for ten weeks. Ten weeks! We've nearly made it though an entire trimester. That exciting, nerve wracking first trimester. I had no idea when I signed up for this safari that I would be changed so much by it. No idea. Can I be honest for a second? When my friend Robin suggested this study and I looked at it, I really didn't want to do it. I had no interest whatsoever in studying Daniel, and frankly at the point I was at ten weeks ago, I was hoping for something that would speak to me. To change me. And, sorry, Amber, I didn't think this was it. I couldn't see how God could use a book like Daniel to do anything other than make me a smidge smarter in the theological world of prophecy and visions and 7's.

Wow. Did God have some surprises in store for me. From the very first week I've been humbled, convicted, and changed. Marvelously changed. This has been the best study I've ever done. I'm not just saying pretty words. I'm being truthful when I say that God has used this to get me to open my eyes and see -- really see -- my life and my world and what needed changing.

I am venturing off path a bit this week, only because when I read chapter 10 this week, I was struck by a few things over and over. I tried to keep bringing my thoughts back to the suggestions in Amber's study  guide, but I finally gave in and realized the Holy Spirit was leading me in another direction. So here goes my tangent...

Daniel 10:10 (ESV): "O Daniel, man greatly loved..."

How I want to be addressed one day as "O Jennifer, woman greatly loved!" I am nowhere near the state of righteousness that Daniel was. When I look at his life and his testimony, I am humbled and ashamed that I am not even in the Daniel league. But I am reminded that I am still a work in progress. I have a long way to go, and I'm already 44. I hope that I can at least get somewhere within a gazillion miles of the Daniel ballpark before I die.

Daniel 10:12 (ESV): "...from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before you God, your words have been heard."

I needed to hear this. This very week. I pretty much read this verse and sort of landed on it. Just parked my jeep right there and built a fire. From the first day, his words were heard. God isn't silent. He isn't too busy listening to the words of those that are more righteous, more important, or just flat out better than me. From the first day....

Ahh, yes, but there is a disclaimer: from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before God. So I cannot just pray. I cannot just cry. I cannot just journal. I have to set my heart to understand and humble myself --- which led me on several day trips to Proverbs and some sightseeing over in the neighboring land of Psalms. The verses I read and clung to and wrote down and underlined and prayed were too many to list here. But the picture that I come away with on this leg of the journey is a beautiful landscape view of God the Almighty, hearing me. Hearing my words. He. Has. Heard.

So....why is it taking so long to hear back? I mean, I am in some serious need of a callback here. A voice mail. A text. Anything, God. And then I read...

Daniel 10:13 (ESV): "The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me 21 days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there..."

2 stinkin' ugly words: Spiritual warfare. The messenger that is speaking to Daniel tells him that he got there as fast as he could. He was caught up in a war that we cannot see. A war that rages around us in the spiritual realm. He was sent to give Daniel a message, but he was just a wee bit busy. Fighting a freaking demon!

I mean....what do I even say to that? Here I am, waiting, strumming my fingers and pacing back and forth...and all around me there is some serious crap  stuff going down. And all I seem to think of is me and my family of 5. Pretty selfish, huh? I'm here screaming "C'mon, GOD, where the heck are you? Do you hate us? Why are you silent?" --- and the whole time, He is saying, "Oh, but if you only knew...."

I have a lot of notes jotted down in my Bible. Several years ago, Chuck Lawless came to our church to lead us in his study of spiritual warfare. I have at least an entire page of notes in my Bible from that study alone. A few of my favorites:
  • Our trials become the hammers and chisels that carve our character.
  • God does not deliver us from trials but through them.
  • Warfare is for a season.
  • From satan's perspective, the only hope of victory for him is for us to cave in to discouagement and lose faith.
  • Jesus is the model for overcoming the enemy: know the truth, trust the truth, memorize the truth, love the truth.
This chapter was rich for me. Copiously rich in encouragement, in instruction, and in reminders. I am almost afraid to look ahead to chapter 11! I can't imagine what else God has in store for us this next week. I know one thing.....

It'll be good.

It's know what that means!

Girls, I'm not gonna kid you. This has been, honestly, a not-so-good week. I can, however, still find blessings, even though they seemed to be sort of hidden from plain view. With the exception of one totally awesome Wednesday blessing, which shall top my list this week:
  • Tucker won a school wide art contest! He won some Cold Stone Creamery gift cards and a nifty certificate. We were able to go to the lower school assembly and see him presented with it. It was a surprise, so it was fun to see the look on his face when they announced it! (I would upload the video I took of it, but it is so bad that you would need to take Dramamine prior to watching. I sort of forgot that one cannot properly video while applauding wildly.)
  • I read another great book this week. He Speaks to Me by Pricilla Shirer. I know in the past months, especially the past few weeks, I have felt a cold silence from God. This book helped me to find the reasons for God's silence and how to effectively listen more closely. I started a book called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. So far, so good. I'll let you know next week what I thought of it.
  • While at the Lower School assembly, we were treated to a fantastic African music and dancing presentation. I couldn't help but whisper to Paul, "This is why we pay such big bucks to send the boys here." In past assemblies, they've heard an opera singer, a jazz musician, watched several theatrical performances, and viewed works of art by famous men and women as well as pieces by upper school mates. Our boys have learned more about the arts in their first years of school than what Paul and I learned in our collective years of public schooling. 
  • My sweet, sweet friend Gretchen is on the mend. She was rushed to the hospital earlier in the week and was so sick they had to intubate her and put her on a vent. She had baby #4 just  a few short weeks ago. She is off the vent and doing better. Her sisters were able to come be with her, and her sister has been able to breastfeed the new baby until mama Gretchen is home and better!
  • I adore my children and my husband. Really I do. I may have moments of frustration and secretly want to run away take a little break, but when all is said and done, I am very lucky to have such a loving, funny, and kind house full. 
  • I am blessed to have a job. In this economy, with the job situation what it is, I have a job. Thank you, God, for your provision for us!
That's it, amigas. Hope your week was blessed and that you have a wonderful weekend.!
As Miss Maude would say,
Shalom, Y'all!

So who doesn't love Jane Austen?

I admit. I adore all things Jane. I have a beautiful collection of her works, thanks to my sweet Pablo. I have read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can count. Of her not so popular works, I love Northanger Abbey. It's very satirical and I love Jane's quick wit.

Imagine the thrill when I received a complimentary copy of Jane Austen, a biography by Peter Liethart, written as part of the Christian Encounters series by Thomas Nelson Publishers. This series of books includes famous (and a few not-so-famous) people in history and tells how their faith affected their lives and their work.

The book goes into a lot of detail about Jane's extended family and friends of the family. At times, I honestly got lost in who was who. It can be said, however, that Leithart did his research. I did enjoy reading about Jane's immediate family. Jane was a preacher's kid who grew up in a house full of brothers and one sister, Cassandra, who Jane loved dearly. Jane's early works were written to make her siblings laugh. From reading this biography, I got a sense that Austen was incredibly similar to her most famous character, Elizabeth Bennet. Funny, sarcastic, and yet proper and moral.

I would encourage anyone who considers themselves to be a real, honest to goodness fan of "all things Austen" to pick up this book and read it. It gives a historical (though at times dry) account of Jane's life and death.

Now. Off to re-read Pride and Prejudice. Again.

My Passion....His Purpose

On a parenting board I frequent, a mom posted that she was struggling trying to find her purpose...finding that "thing that makes your heart sing." I thought about this for a couple of days actually before I responded. I had to ask myself what *my* passion and purpose were.

I am a nurse and a lactation consultant. That is what I do. It's what I've always done. I take care of babies and mothers. I go to deliveries, I start IV's, I help get breastfeeding established and encourage moms to continue breastfeeding....I breastfed my own kids for years. Years, I tell ya! I am a firm believer in the power of the ta-ta's.

But if you asked me what my passion was....that thing that makes my heart sing? I'd say it was writing and teaching women. I haven't done any teaching or speaking since we left Mississippi. In many ways, our days here in New Orleans have been rather dry, spiritually speaking (which is ironic since we are at seminary). Prior to coming here, I taught a women's Sunday school class, led women's Bible study, and spoke at MOPS meetings and other women's fellowship gatherings. That is who I am. That is where I felt the most alive and purposeful.


Psalm 57:2 says "I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me."

His purpose.

Psalm 138:8:"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord , endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands."

His purpose.

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand". ~ Proverbs 19;21

The purpose of the Lord.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

I believe God has gifted each of us with different skills, talents, and abilities. And it is up to us to determine what they are and what to do with them. For instance, I have promised myself that I will write more. While I am incredibly lucky to get paid to be a nurse, I think God has been leading me to do more to encourage women. To tell them that God has given them all the tools to be the woman that He designed them to be. Don't we all need to hear that and really digest it?

I would love, love, LOVE to go to this conference this year. I would adore the opportunity to learn how to be a more effective communicator to women. I entered a contest to win a scholarship to it.  With 3 small kids, a husband, and a job, it's difficult to find the extra money or time to do anything for myself, so the mere idea of a few days away...with just other women who share the same passion as me....sigh.....

But I digress.

My challenge for you today is to take a look at your heart and decide what it is that God is leading you to do. And then to bravely, courageously, follow through. He has given you everything you need.

Now it's up to you.

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Why so fantabulous today? Well....
  • It's payday! Around here, that is cause for celebration!
  • We made it through another week without any injuries or illnesses.
  • I found knock-off Lelli Kelly shoes @ Target! Woo-hoo! (Scout has seen the commercial 9874 times and sings the song repeatedly. She asks for them Every. Single. Day.) I was not about to spend $70 on glittery, beaded sneakers for a 3 year old. So I was thrilled when a friend gave me a tip about some look alikes at Target. 
  • I'm sitting here drinking coffee. That in itself makes today a wonderful blessed day.
  • I have a job. So does Big Daddy. 
  • Gretchen had her baby! Welcome Johanna Lillian to the world!
  • We had another week of blessing some homeless folks. They, in turn, blessed us. My kids hearts are growing every day. I love to see the compassionate side of them. 
  • I read a great book this week. "Same Kind of Different as Me" -- I strongly suggest it. Have a box of Kleenex neaby. Just sayin'.
  • Most of all, it's fabulous because of Jesus.....who said, "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Thirsty, anyone?
Have a perfectly fabulous Friday yourselves, and tell me....what are you thankful for today?
Shalom y'all,

Priestly Garments

*originally written and posted in October 2007.
Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, {as} a boy wearing a linen ephod. And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "May the LORD give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD." And they went to their own home. The LORD visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD. ~1 Samuel 2:18-21

When I worked in NICU’s, we always had volunteers from churches that would knit baby hats, booties, and blankets for the premies. It was a wonderful ministry; one that fulfilled the volunteers by knowing that their gifts were being put to good use, and one that blessed the parents when they would see their sick little baby in a cute and colorful cap. Sewing as a ministry. It has been used throughout generations to bless others. I think Hannah’s is the most personal and intimate example; she was, after all, making priestly garments for her own son.

When I think of Hannah I can’t help but grieve for her and the pain she must have felt when she took her first baby, Samuel, to Eli and left him there. I’m sure had it been me, I’d have tried to bargain with God. She so desperately wanted this child, and now here he was, a newly weaned three or four year old, and she’s leaving him at the temple. My heart actually aches when I consider having to do that.

Fortunately Hannah was not like me. Hannah was obedient to her promise. 

But can you imagine her emotions each year as she sewed him a new robe – I love how the NASB calls it “a little robe” – wondering how much her boy had grown in the past year, wondering if this robe will fit well. I suspect when she got to the temple and was able to present it to Samuel, she had a few alterations to make.

I wonder what she said to him as she presented him with his new clothes? Did she remind him of the high calling on his life? Did she just hold him close and remind him of how much she loved him and missed him? Did she try to hold back the tears? Or did she just let them flow, saturating her son's robe with her bittersweet tears?

I think about Hannah and realize that I am so privileged to be a mother. God controls the womb; He opens it and closes it as He desires. Psalm 139 reminds us that “in Your book were all written The days that were ordained {for me,} When as yet there was not one of them.” It was not my timing, or my planning, that brought me my children; it was God’s will that they came to me when they did. 

I would think that when I stood up in front of 3 different congregations and presented my children to be “dedicated to the Lord” it is drastically different than what Hannah did. Or is it? Although I didn’t have to say goodbye to my children and leave them in the care of others, I am to acknowledge that they are not my children….they are God’s children and I am simply a steward of them. After all, isn’t the purpose of bringing children into the world to further God’s plan that the world come to know Him? Part of my job description as a mother is to nurture and encourage the gifts that God has given my children so that they may be used for His glory and His kingdom. 

So next time I am buying clothing for my children, I will remember Hannah. I will remember that although I am not clothing my children in a linen ephod, I am clothing them in “priestly garments” of sorts. After all, we do not need a priest to bring about forgiveness of sins or to offer sacrifices on our behalf. What we need is to raise a generation of young men and women who are not ashamed of the gospel; children who desire that every tribe, tongue, and nation would come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ. 

In that sense, I guess I’m not so different from Hannah after all.

Repentance. Honest-to-goodness, real repentance.

G'day ladies! Here we are, still trudging along on our Daniel safari, and I am here to announce that this week has been the toughest for me so far. Not in the way that I had anticipated, however. No strange prophecies bogging me down, no unusual visions to, this week has been a face to face encounter with God. It's funny how God works. In the past 9 weeks, He has used Daniel, who I never would have given a second thought to, and Amber, who I didn't even know, to get me to a place where there were only 2 paths I could take......outright defiance or full-blown repentance. Wow.

Daniel week #9 bring us to Daniel's prayer of repentance for his people. It's a beautiful prayer,with Daniel beseeching God to forgive the wickedness of his countrymen. In verse 7, he pretty much nails the whole situation on the head with this: " To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame..." 

Open shame. 

In my case, hidden shame. But here, now, I am making it open. My friend Robin says that if you confess your sins aloud to others, those sins lose their grip on you. Satan also loses his foothold once we've said it. Out loud.

But I don't want to. I really, really, don't want to.

For my entire life, even as a child, I have struggled with my weight. I was a chubby kid. I had to work really hard in high school to stay thin, and only managed to because I ran track. In college I started to gain it back, and then started the yo-yo dieting -- gaining and losing literally hundreds of pounds over and over again. I can't explain my feelings or emotions in a way that makes it clear to anyone -- I've tried a few times, casually, to talk about it just to get a feel for whether I'm totally looney or maybe learn that other people think the same way I do.

I've learned no one that I've met thinks quite like me.

I don't know what to attribute my odd thinking to. Here goes...I have a genuine fear that I won't have enough to eat. Ok, this is crazy, I know. I'm fat. Obese, even. I have never exactly missed a meal. Or a cookie, for that matter. But I get anxious and honestly terrified at the thought of not having food to eat. And don't get me started on my kids and my husband. I stress to the point of chewing my nails at the thought of Griffin not having enough food in his snack bag or lunch box. I panic that Tucker's dining account at school will run low and they won't allow him to eat. It's so stupid I cannot believe I'm admitting this here. But, worry is a sin. (And yes, I'm thoroughly in agreement that this is a mental disorder, probably OCD like in some manner.) But, it is still, to me, a sin.

However, my biggest sin, and the biggest area that God convicted me in is something different, yet similar. It's an ugly word. You might want to turn your head away from the screen for a second.



Oh. my. goodness. I said it. 

And I'm still alive.

I know that this is a sin. I have studied it over and over in years past. But lately it's really been, well, bugging the you-know-what out of me. And finally, this week, God just got in my face (relatively speaking) and I realized that I was a perpetual sinner of magnanimous proportions (and I do mean that literally).

God specifically mandates "Thou shall have no other gods before Me." But you know what? I have put food ahead of God on more than one occasion. Sometimes when I pray, I think about what is in the freezer. Instead of writing in a prayer journal, I make grocery lists. Read the Bible? How about a Barefoot Contessa cookbook instead?

Food has become my idol.

No. Food has always been my idol.

Philipians 3:19  pretty much slapped me in the face this week: " ...their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

I am shamed even more when I read over and over in the Bible where gluttony and drunkeness go hand in hand. The common denominator? Lack of self control. Remember that old Lay's potato chip commercial? "You can't eat just one" was their slogan. Just as an alcoholic cannot have "just" one drink, a food addict cannot have just one chip. Or just one cookie. Well, truth be told, in front of y'all, we'll just eat one. But we'll go behind your back and hide the others. So the sin just exacerbates the problem and it turns into even more sin.

So....this is just the beginning. I have spent a week in prayer and repentance and have shed more than my share of fat girl tears. I'm not saying I'm going on a diet and don't expect any before and after pictures. This is going to be a journey of the heart, to get back on track with God. To turn to Him when I'd rather have a brownie. I've been on a journey to know God better for so long now, that it is actually embarrassing to admit that there has been, well, an elephant in the room the whole time. (And yes, you can laugh at that!)

Back to Daniel's prayer. I stole this right out from under his nose (I don't think he'll mind), and I love it. In my absolute pleading to God this week, I have come to my knees time and again in humility. But....listen to this: " For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy." Isn't that the greatest?!! I am so thankful for his mercy. So incredibly thankful.

And I'm grateful that his mercies are new.....every morning.

It's Friday!!

For an explanation of what "Fabulous Friday" is, click here.
On this sunny and beautiful Friday in New Orleans, I am thanking God for:
  • Yet another good interview for Paul this week. Not sure what will come of it, but I'm rejoicing that he has had some great opportunities to meet some wonderful folks!
  • The ability to work. Census has been down in the last month, which means the RN's are having to take turns getting canceled. I was incredibly grateful to work this week (and hopefully this weekend coming!)
  • Griffin and Anne Claire are better. They both were mildly down in the dumps this week with fevers, throwing up, and allergies. Griffie is back to school today (thank you Lord Jesus!!) and Scoutie is being a diva all over again, so all is right with the world.
  • Scout told me this week to "freshen up my oatmeal, mama".....which only adds to her diva-esque-ness.
  • We were able to bless a sweet young seminary couple with show tickets. Paul and I had plans to go out last night but couldn't (with the sick kids and all) so we found someone who was so, he was thrilled, so that made the fact that we couldn't go somewhat more tolerable.
  • We also were able to bless a nice homeless man on the way home from school yesterday. My kids are developing such sweet and gracious hearts along the way. 
  • I'm on week #9 of my Daniel study. Anyone who knows the book of Daniel knows that it's tough to study. It's been a tremendous time of growth for me. Thank you, Robin, for suggesting it, and Amber, for leading it!!
  • The ESV Bible. I got Paul one for his birthday and have, ever since, been using it and loving it. Pablo has accused me of bogarting it. Which seems to be working, because I think he's getting me my own for an anniversary gift. See, there's always a method to my madness!'s Friday.....what are you thankful for?

Oh, and I'm thankful for my friend Maude, who is one of the godliest women I've ever known, and who I've thought about more than once this past week. She was a Bible scholar. I mean, this woman had answers to whatever question you had, especially involving the OT. She loved Jewish culture and history (as do I), so we used to have some great conversations. I wish she were closer so I could continue to glean wisdom from her. Maude had a sign hanging in her kitchen that I came to love. As I prayed for her last night, I thought about that sign and decided I'd sign today's post with it.

Shalom, Y'all!

The Carpool

I actually thought about writing this post this morning as I was, ironically, in the carpool line. Late again, as usual. It was 8:01 and I was behind about 10 other cars of latecomers. I checked twitter and saw a tweet from Travis Cottrell that said " I love carpool time." Hm. I wasn't certain whether he was being honest and sincere or sarcastic. My response? "Not sure if that thought is sweet or just, well, nuts!"

The carpool. When I was a kid, you either walked to school or took a bus (if you lived something like a mile from the school). I don't believe there was any such thing as carpool. Of course that was also in the day when you didn't have a lot of educational choices. At least not in Carrollton, Missouri in 1970. Even if there were options, I can tell you right now Linda wasn't gonna be driving her kids to school anywhere we could either walk or take a bus. 

Times have changed so much. When I started Kindergarten (in Miss Sweeney's class), the cost of a stamp was 6 cents. Gas? 36 cents/gallon. Prime time TV included "The Brady Bunch", "The Odd Couple", and "Bewitched." My favorite doll? A Chrissy doll that I named Iris. Uber cool. She had a long ponytail of hair which you could pull out of her head by pushing on a button on her tummy. The same hair would retract back into her head by twisting the knob on her back. My sister and I also had some serious Barbie action going on. We used mom's high heels as cars. But we did have these cute little suitcase/trunk like things that opened up and was a little apartment. It had a twin bed in it. We both had one. I remember playing with those things for hours on end. I can't exactly remember though which Barbie model we had. I clearly recall playing with them before I even went to Kindergarten, so it had to be between a 68-70 model. I keep looking at all these Barbie pictures and can't pinpoint which ones we had. Nor can I find a picture of our houses. Rats.

But I digress. Back to carpool....

When the boys were accepted to Newman last year, we got a big packet in the mail with all manner of welcome information. But I have to admit I was pretty intimidated by the fact that 3/4 of the information had to do with specific carpool rules and regulations. I also have to admit that I was pretty sarcastic about the whole thing. It's carpool, people, not rocket science.

Or so I thought. Newman's carpool guys run this thing as if their very lives depended on it, with absolutely no fooling around. I was warned by another mom to not get caught using your cell phone. Give me a BREAK, I responded. I had no idea. What is a mom to do when the little one is napping and I can't use my phone? The answer: read a book.

Reading appears to be the only acceptable form of passing time while we wait for that long awaited sound of the bell. Which isn't a bell at all. It's more like a "da-da-da-DA" sound, which repeats 2 or 3 times. Unless it's the football season, at which time they play the Halftime Song by the Ying Yang Twins. (Yes, it's true. Which explains our tuition bill of $17K per child per year, and also explains why the pre-k kids all sing about "gettin' crunk").

The carpool line has given me the opportunity to do a lot of things. Catch  up on my Bible reading, read a few good books, peruse catalogs, and (shhhh, don't tell) check my email, facebook, and twitter. Yes, it's true. I feel like a very bad school girl but I do know how to cheat wisely. I put my blackberry inside a book. 

I admit, I never got me no Newman ed-joo-kay-shun, but I got the smartz.

(P.S. I'd love to hear if you have any doll collections from the 60's-70's, and if you have pictures, I'd love to see them!)

Pot? Kettle

Griffin is home sick today. I think he is genuinely ill only because he had a temperature this morning and has been complaining of a stomachache for over 24 hours. Otherwise, the cynic in me would assume he was lying through his teeth telling a story just to stay home and watch a Phineas and Ferb marathon.

From my bedroom, where he and Anne Claire were watching educational broadcasting the Disney Channel, I overheard a very ironic conversation. It went something like this:

Griffin: "Annie, pick that up off mom's floor."
Anne: "NO"
Griffin: "Annie, you are going to make mom very sad and you are being disobedient to God."
Ummmm.....Pot? Meet Kettle.

Now, while many of you are thinking "How sweet. He is such a precious boy who knows God's truths!", let me just give you a glimpse into this spawn's child's heart. In the past 24 hours, he has accused me of hating him and not loving him because I only allowed him to eat 1.5 Kit Kat bars yesterday. (And see, I thought that was the cause of the proposed bellyache's arrival). He also stated that my garlic bread was stupid, that we always had spaghetti, that I hated him because I wouldn't allow soda with dinner, and finally that we didn't want him to have fun EVER because we asked him to take a bath. I've been unable to recall if Tucker acted this way at age six. Maybe I purposefully blocked it out of my mind? Or maybe Griffin is suffering from some middle child angst? Perhaps my mother's wish is coming true? ("I hope one day you get a kid JUST.LIKE.YOU.")

Nevertheless, I adore Griffin. He is the cutest kid ever. Really he is. And he is funny. And in his better moments he claims he wants to live with us forever, even after he gets married and has kids, though lately he states he will never marry anyone, which will greatly sadden Sissy, who has declared her undying love for Griffin and says she wants to marry him. When asked why, she says, "Because I love him so."

I do too, Annie. I do too.

Spiritual Diligence vs Spiritual Lethargy

Moving right on into week 8 in our Daniel study, we are headlong into visions and prophecy now. So now is the time for me to chicken out, right? No way, amigas! I'm on safari here. My jeep is getting a little muddy and my hiking boots are nice and worn in now. I'm comfortable with my safari partners. We've traded some great stories around the campfire, haven't we? And when I've started to lose my way a few times, I've had such great compadres to steer me back to where I'm headed. Where we're all headed.

So. Week 8 finds Daniel incredibly disturbed by this particular vision. It screams of bad things to come. It appalled him so much he became physically ill for days. I am reminded of so many times in my life that something has gotten me so upset that I have actually been physically ill by it. I am a major over-reactor at times, I will admit, but there have been honest to goodness times when I am so emotionally distraught that I actually feel as if there is no way possible for me to get up and go about my business. No, in those times I want to crawl a little deeper into the covers and not come out. And then a little time goes by and I become so overwhelmed that I do nothing. Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something that you just don't know where to start? So you do nothing at all? Sigh. I've been there.

Spiritual lethargy. I hate the sound of it. What causes it? I think it's a simple answer. Satan. I miss one day of Bible reading and I hear a whisper, "you are behind now. Don't even bother. You're a quitter." I work weekends as a RN and miss worship with my family. "What kind of a mother and wife are you, anyway?"
I struggle through a particular passage and that old familiar voice pipes in, " You aren't smart enough to understand this." I get distracted while praying. "See. You aren't spiritual enough."

If I'm not careful, I'll give weight to those lies. I'll hear and that hearing will then take root in my spirit. I'll become downcast, blue, and just "not feel right." After a few days, weeks, or months, I'll realize it's been a while since I opened God's word. I haven't been praying regularly. I feel lost. A disconnect.

Diligence implies persistence; a constant and earnest effort (thank you, No matter how I'm "feeling", I have to be persistent. Daniel didn't care how he felt. He got up. (Note to self: Daniel GOT UP. He did not wallow under the covers watching HGTV or Food Network.)

And so must I. It takes prayer, to be certain. That's where my safari companions come in. I know they are praying for me. I know I have friends to pray when I ask. (And likely they pray for me even when I don't!) But probably most importantly, I have to pray. I have to get up off my hiney and pick up my Bible and dust off my prayer journal and get back to business. Not my business...The King's business. The King. The King of Kings.

Getting on to the King's business,

The Touro

I really think I am one of the luckiest people on the planet. No, really, I do. Especially when it comes to working.

I stayed home from the time Tucker was born until 2008. I honestly didn't think I'd ever go back. Once, when we lived in Biloxi, I came close to it. One of my dearest friends was the nurse manager of L&D at a local hospital. She and I had talked casually for years about me coming to work part time for her. One day in August of 2005, Pablo and I decided I should really consider it for financial reasons. My friend and I prayed about it and she left it with me to pray with Pablo. 1 week later, Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and not only was she out of a job, the entire hospital was literally gone. We viewed that as a pretty sure answer to prayer.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we found ourselves in seminary, tired of living below the poverty line. So we decided it was time. Don't get me wrong, we were managing ok. But we were, well, spoiled and wanted to go out to eat once in a blue moon and not sweat over how we could make that happen. After all, Pablo took about a 50% pay cut when we came here.

I got my Louisiana nursing license and started looking around. And that's when The T came into my life. My first impression of Touro was a good one. Touro sits in the middle of Uptown New Orleans. Tree lined streets, enormous mansions, and streetcars. All that is New Orleans. (OK, not all, but you get the point). I love the area and that made it all the more attractive.

And then I met Ivy.

The nurse manager had me cracking up in a matter of 2 minutes. I loved her immediately. The interview wasn't much of an interview at all -- it was more like 2 old friends just sharing NICU war stories and laughing our heads off. I called Paul on the drive home and told him "I love it!!"

I started a few weeks after that. Even nursing orientation, which is normally a monumental drag (think trying to stay awake after taking 2 Ambien), was, well, kinda fun. I met great people. That was my first glimpse of real New Orleanians. I'm sad to say that the few years tucked in behind the gates of the seminary had sequestered me from these wonderful, vibrant, resilient people. Born and raised in New Orleans, these men and women had worked through the storm and never wavered in their committment to the city that they loved. I was, in short, smitten.

Touro serves a wide range of patients. From the uptown crowd to the 9th ward crowd, we see them all. I am proud to say that we treat them all the same. Not to say we don't get a few laughs out of the more eccentric of the 2 extremes. I don't think I've ever come home without a story to tell. But the nurses and doctors I work with are, hands down, the best.

Sometimes when I contemplate leaving, my very first thought is of Touro. Isn't that funny? I actually like going to work. I remember when Pablo and I were preparing to move from the Outer Banks. Our neighbors had a going away party for us. As we walked away, back to our house, I asked him, "Do you think we'll have neighbors like this in Kentucky?" (We didn't.)

When I think of moving away, one of my first thoughts is, "Will I ever find a place like Touro?"

I sure hope so.

Fabulous Friday!

Today is Friday! That means it's time to count my blessings and reflect on the past week. (Note to self: start writing this stuff down each day. Too hard to recall the whole week. 44 year old brain and all.)

This week:
  • Tucker got "the best gift ever" -- I ordered him a sleeping bag from LLBean w/ his name monogrammed on it and he says he will take care of it and love it FOREVER!
  • I was told by precious Mrs. Summit that Griffin was "so smart" and "we're so lucky to have him in our class. We just love him!"  I had to re-introduce myself to her, thinking perhaps she'd mistaken me for someone else. 
  • Griffin has been reading so well I am dumbfounded. Seriously.
  • Anne Claire has taken to calling me "My Majesty" which I am loving. 
  • Also on the AC front, she now loves to play "I Spy" in the car. She says, "I thpy by my little eye and usually she says "The Superdome!!!" Thus far that seems to be her only I Thpy, but she's expanding. She thpied a lot of pink houses today. 
  • Pablo sent in another round of freelance work for Precept Ministries. Bueno! 
  • I downloaded a Bible onto my Blackberry, complete with a reading plan and everything. It is uber-cool. (Thank you Robin, for the suggestion!)
  • I had my breast-squooshing cermemony mammogram. Fabuloso!!
  • We had a whole slew of chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. Griffin ate them by the dozens. The child has the restraint of a sumo wrestler @ a buffet.
  • Dinner at Copeland's. Enough said. 
Now it's time to gear up for a Touro weekend. I love, love, LOVE my job! (No, really, I do! But that's a post for another day...)

A little sliver...

I love a good challenge. I love a good debate. I love it when the good guy wins. I think that's one thing that has always resonated with me in my Christian they say, "I've read the back of the book, and we win!"
I have been on a parenting board for the past 8 years. Many of the moms I know from there have become dear friends to me. We've seen one another through pregnancies, losses, illnesses, and more child-induced drama than we can remember. But on occasion, religion or politics come up and tempers flare. Feelings get hurt. I think these times are more heated online because we can hide behind our computer screens -- maybe because you don't see the person you're hurting, it makes it a little easier? I don't know.
Some people are more confrontational than others. In recent days, I've been involved in a debate that started about "liberal Christianity" and turned into who can actually call themselves a "Christian". Let's face it....a lot of people call themselves that but aren't actually followers of Jesus Christ. Some are cultural Christians. Some think they are a good person, therefore they should be called "Christian." Some are generational Christians. To me, there is only one definition of a Christian, and that is someone that is a follower of Jesus and His teachings. Which means you live according to what He taught. Which means that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Plain and simple. To me, anyway.
Not so, to a large group of women who label themselves "liberal Christians" and aver beliefs such as multiple paths to heaven, heaven exists here on earth, Jesus loves everyone and will save everyone -- no need to believe in Him or accept Him. Gay marriage is acceptable practice, homosexuality is groovy, yada, yada, yada....
Well, sorry to burst your Unitarian bubble, but that is a bunch of hooey. Of course this argument goes nowhere because these same women don't believe the Bible is anything more than a book of nonsensical stories which make no sense and is not the living, active thing that we know it to be. So you can't show them Bible verses that prove that Jesus is who He says He is. They don't believe it. Satan has a great audience in these women. It's amazingly sad to listen to them. They have no foundation, no faith, no hope.

A few of the women on the board (amazingly few) are born again believers and so we state our case and then sit back and pray. In the meantime, of course, we get absolutely bombarded with statements such as,
"The Bible might be many things, but clear it not one of them. Unless you mean clearly contradictory on multiple occasions, clearly written by human beings, many with political,economic, and social agendas, or clearly exploited and twisted to further such agendas (and more) to this day."

"I feel sorry that you don't feel you or anyone is worthy of heaven. I mean that sincerely. It saddens me that people are taught to believe that. I truly believe God loves every soul in existence. Love is in fact the very essence of God's being. No we don't have to do good works to gain access to heaven. We will all go to heaven. Humanity has shared destiny. We just have a choice in how to get there. That is the beauty of our free will. God's love is unconditional and I truly know our reason for our earthly existance is to learn to love unconditionally as he does. That is our "sin" which we come here to work so hard to overcome. I think it takes many lives such a big task that this is. But when we do manage to do it that is when we achieve our place closer to God. But hey that is just me. I do realize Manu Christians will think I am going to hell and my Mormon family is upset I won't be in the celestial kingdom. Or that my catholic best friend isn't sure what to make of me. No clue what the Natice Americans, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists (whew insert long list of world religions and faiths here) think either."

"Someone may believe I live my life in sin and am going to hell. I don't believe in sin, nor hell, so what some may see as a serious accusation means nothing to me. It has been said that people choose to Homeschool in order to protect their children from my beliefs and how they translate into every day life.I take no offense to this. Think it is bizarre that such an allegedly strong and righteous path could be threatened by the likes of me, sure. But beyond a bit of bewilderment and amusement I couldn't give to squats about it. Don't mistake a vigorous debate as anything other than exactly that. It is an intellectual time passer for me. I have nothing invested in the outcome whatsoever. I'm certain that I am not the only one here who feels this way, but for whatever reason I happen to be one who speaks up and lets my less than popular views be known. I enjoy a good debate. Why worry what my perception of any of your actions might be if you are sure of their goodness? Unless you give credence to my view, I don't understand why anyone would. If you don't think what I believe is correct, then let it roll off you in the same manner I do about yours. If it digs and hurts, then perhaps it is touching a nerve of truth. People don't get angry or upset about things that don't matter."

Whew. Pathetic Sad, isn't it?

It's difficult, especially because when the unsaved world tends to think of a "Christian" they often think of people like Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, or pro-lifers out bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors. They don't think of you and me. They don't think of the middle income mom driving the carpool, taking kids to swim meets and soccer, using whatever leftover money she has to buy food and water for the homeless, or giving her child's crib to someone who needed it more.

My husband tried to take up my case on facebook, but called me mid day saying he felt certain his head would explode. I assured him that mine would go first, but then reminded him that we are planting seeds. These women (and men) will not be able to stand before Jesus and say "I didn't know. I hadn't heard." Maybe those seeds will take root and grow into saving faith. Maybe not. But my job is to plant. God will send someone to water. All I can do is tell the truth. None of us like to be "the outsider". No one wants to be unpopular. I told Paul it was our very small sliver of martyr pie.

Still, it is hard to sit back and be called names and not be a little offended. But I am reminded that we are not to be men-pleasers, but God pleasers. "On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." (1 Th 2:4)


Week #7 of our Daniel safari had us reading about the vision Daniel saw and did not understand. He asked God for clarity and God gave it. Our week ended with Amber asking us to tell of a time when we asked God for understanding and were given a fresh perspective.

I suppose the most obvious time would be in the year after Hurricane Katrina. Paul was the managing editor of the newspaper and he, along with 4 others from the paper, stayed behind. In the weeks and months that followed, things at the office went sour. Morale fell, mostly because the employees at the paper never got so much as a "thank you" for staying and keeping the newspaper (literally) afloat. They never missed a day of publication, even though in the aftermath of the storm many found that they'd lost virtually everything. The publisher, who couldn't even be found after the storm, took credit where it was not hers to take, and eventually people started a mass exodus from the newsroom. Paul updated his resume and we joined the others in a new job search.

Months passed. Nothing came up. Paul is one of the best writers. Ever. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has won too many awards to even attempt to count. His columns will send you over the emotional edge. His stories captivate you. He is, in short, amazing.

But nothing. An interview here. An email there. But in the end....nothing.

What was God trying to do? What was He trying to tell us? And were we so incredibly bull-headed that we couldn't hear? We prayed. We really were seeking God and His will for months. We had asked others to pray as well. We desperately needed answers. We needed a plan. (There I go with the planning again...)

We have a friend...I'll call him Ashley. Ashley is not one to mince words or sugar coat anything. He is blunt and to the point. What makes him so great is that he is one of those men that stands up for Jesus and for what is right no matter what. He has the faith of one of the Hebrews 11 guys. Really. Everyone knows that if you want someone to really pray for you, ask Ashley. It was a well known fact that he would get down on his face in his office to pray. Now that is the kind of person I want interceding for me!

Well, Ashley had been interfering interceding. And on one Sunday night in June, the Holy Spirit moved Ashley to slap me in the face talk to me about our situation. Our conversation went something like this:

A: "So how is Paul?"
J: "Not good. (start crying. pregnant, hormones, heat...)He can't find anything and he's getting depressed."
A: "What's the status of his seminary application?"
J: "It's still sitting on the kitchen counter. I don't think he's filled it out yet."
A: "So your house is repaired now from the storm. The market is good. You could sell your house for a profit and move to New Orleans and he could go to school full time."
(at this point, I'm wondering if he doesn't notice that I'm 6 months pregnant, or that we have 2 young boys, or that I'm pregnant, or that New Orleans, especially the part that the seminary sits, was under water for weeks growing mold. Or that I'm pregnant.)
J: "Ummm, no. We aren't moving to New Orleans. I'm pregnant or can you not tell by the enormous bulge in my midsection. And it's a mess over there."
(here's where you'd better hang on...)
A: "OH!!! So this is all about you and what you want....."
J: "@$@#*(&#^@$&(*@#(&@!" (tears, friend Sandra frantically patting/rubbing my back, more tears, more looks of incredulity at Ashley, looking at pastor for some defense....)"Say what?" (ok that isn't really what I said. I don't think I said anything.)
A: "I'm just sayin' that you and Paul surrendered to ministry but you guys haven't done anything to pursue that and maybe this is God's way of getting you to it. Think about it."

I went home, emotionally spent. Did I mention that the context of this entire conversation was around a table during our church-wide study of Blackaby's "On Mission with God"?

I called Paul and told him we needed to talk as soon as he got home. We talked and prayed and decided we'd leave it in God's hands. Nothing else was working out. Why not?

Monday morning, the seminary told us we'd have to drive over and hand deliver the application. We did. We toured the campus. We met a wonderful family that was doing the same thing -- uprooting it all in the name of "doing God's will", whatever that meant. Paul found a job teaching journalism at a local high school. Doors opened. Not just opened....they flew open. 24 hours after we knelt with our realtor and prayed that if God really wanted us to move to New Orleans, He'd make a way, our house sold. For a profit. After one showing.

In an instant, we saw our lives through a different lens. Everything had changed. We saw all those jobs that Paul didn't get as prayers that were answered fully, mercifully, and gracefully. We wondered where God was all that time. He was right there with us, guiding us and steering us to what would become such a major turning point in our lives. He was waiting on us all that time....He was waiting on us to submit to Him and His plan.

In an instant, we saw our circumstances as not so dim. No, they actually seemed exciting. It amazed us (and still does) that God wanted to use us to fulfill a portion of His matter how small our part may be, we had one! Our lives went from one extreme of feeling insignificant and unworthy in the job market to one of honor and privilege -- that the God of the universe would use our family for His glory...

Never underestimate the power of praying for wisdom, discernment, and insight. And never, ever underestimate the power of intercession. God can (and does) use other people -- people that you aren't expecting -- to deliver news, messages, and a glimpse into His heart.

You just have to listen.

The Stock Photo

My boys go to a very good school. An awesome school. It is actually one of the best in the US. This school gives out millions of dollars in financial aid each year. Our sons are the recipients of a very small (one could describe it as "wee") amount of aid. Nevertheless, we are still the minority in a sea of wealthy students and families. I think I am the only one that views us as "not like them". It's my own insecurities. I knew that as they got older, it would become more and more apparent that we were not as wealthy as their classmates.

Both kids needed to bring a picture of our house for an art project. We, of course, live in seminary housing in the ghetto a not so good part of town. With hesitation, I sent the picture to school with a note saying, "I'm sorry; this is the best I could do....we live in an apartment..." (to which I got a reply from one of the K teachers, "It's perfect." Sigh. Everyone needs a Mrs. Summit in their life!) So Griffin took his picture in and his wonderful teachers worked with him and he came home before Christmas with a painted and matted picture of our house. It was heartfelt and warm, and I loved it.

A few days ago I asked Tucker what they were doing with his picture. Until then, it hadn't really occurred to me that he hadn't brought anything home. He said, "We couldn't use my picture. They had to use a stock photo of a house for me and Anajae."

Gulp. Don't cry. Don't get mad. Don't be embarrassed.

I know that we are where we are for a reason. God called us to seminary. We are lucky, even.

But there is, of course, a small (ok, maybe not so small?) part of me that is sad that we don't live uptown, in some great historic house that was built in 1920. I'm sad that we struggle month to month to pay our bills. I'm sad that we can't send the kids to sleep-away summer camp this year. I'm sad that we are stressed beyond recognition over whether or not we will be able to send them to this very same school next year. I'm sad that we only have one vehicle and I can't even pick up an extra shift because, well, I have kids in school and no one to pick them up.

What makes me sadder than any of these things is that I am actually sad. It's ridiculous, really. We are rich in more ways than I can count. I know it sounds cliche', but we are. We are all (reasonably) healthy. Two of my three children have accepted Christ as their Savior. We live in the greatest nation in the world, in one of the best cities in the world. (Seriously. Have you been to New Orleans? It rocks.)

What makes us richer than anything, though, is that we have life in Jesus. We can live victoriously, knowing that He conquered death and sin. Jesus said that He came to give us life, and live abundantly.

I am not living abundantly when I spend hours ruminating over the stock photo, or the thought that Tucker's teachers didn't think our apartment (or Anajae's, bless her heart) wasn't "good enough."

Our apartment may not be uptown, and it may not be spacious or even pretty, but inside it....ahhh....inside it is home. It is where a family of five people come together every night and love one another and share their stories and struggles, laughter and tears. It's where Anne Claire came home from the hospital. It's where the boys learned to ride bikes. It's where Griffin learned to write his name, and Tucker became such a great swimmer.

So yeah, while I wish some things were different, some things I wouldn't change. For anything.

My ultimate goal? It is not to live uptown, or to drive a nice car (though, dang, that would be nice!). My goal isn't even to be able to pay for another year at Isidore Newman.

My goal is this: ..."to be content in any and every situation." (Phil. 4:11-13)