Thursday, December 24, 2015

On Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I will awaken our three children a few hours after we have put them to bed. We will wrap them in fleece blankets, buckle them into their car seats, and drive to the First Christian Church on Maxwell Street.

There, our 5 year-old son will promptly fall back to sleep on the meager cushion of a cold, hard church pew, our 3 year-old daughter will vibrate with the excitement and novelty of this strange night-time adventure, and our 15 month-old daughter will doggedly try to escape my grasp so that she can run up and down the red, thickly-carpeted aisles because it is a general rule of thumb that if she is awake, she is moving.

After settling into the semi-darkness of our towering, candle-lit sanctuary, a guitar will start gently strumming and the voices of dozens of people will join in Christmas carols. In between the songs, we will read from the sacred texts of Matthew and Luke, the story of our God taking on human flesh, becoming the fragile infant Jesus in our broken and dangerous world.

About ten minutes before midnight, all of the congregants will line up in the center aisle and slowly move forward to take their turn receiving the bread that is the body of Christ broken for us and the wine that is the blood of Christ spilled for us.

Once filled, each sleepy worshipper will receive a candle in a small plastic cup whose humble job it is to protect our lush carpet from drops of wax. With our candles in hand, we will line the edges of our sanctuary, and my husband, the minister, will take the largest candle on our Advent table, the Christ candle. He will use the Christ candle to light a person’s candle on each side of the church. Those of us on the edges will share that flame until our sanctuary is surrounded with the light of Christ. And then, with the delicate glow of candlelight flickering across our faces, we will sing “Silent Night.” As the last note fades, we will blow out our candles, re-bundle the children, and drive back to our beds.  

Over 2000 years ago, humanity was going about its business with its long-established rhythm. People were born, they grew up, they worked and struggled, they had families of their own, they died. Nations rose, they warred, they ruled, they fell. And then a baby was born, and he interrupted everything. He changed the way we do and think about the menial parts of our lives because we suddenly knew that God himself had lived a human life; he reframed the very concept of power by showing that greater power can lie within an infant than in a nation; and he gave life in a world filled with death.

Christmas Eve is a busy day. It is filled with good things: gift wrapping, last-minute shopping, cooking, spending time with family. But I would encourage everyone in the spirit of the great interruption that was the birth of Christ to interrupt your Christmas Eve with one of the many Christmas Eve services held in churches all over Ardmore. The First Christian Church holds ours at 11:00 in the evening, but several others are held earlier in the day.

If you do attend, you will likely be stunned with the impact of the event captured in the nativity scene in your living room. While you hear the Scriptures read, look at the infants held in the arms of the mothers around you; our God was once that vulnerable. While you sing the sacred songs, look at all the ordinary people whose voices are filling the church; God entrusted mere humans to raise the once-infant Jesus into adulthood. And when you go to take communion, look at the trembling hands of the elderly people taking their portions; Jesus was born so that death would not be the end of their stories.

Allow all of the significance of the Christmas Eve service to emanate into your Christmas day. Let it enrich the gift giving, the gift receiving, the fellowship with family and friends, the rich food and the even richer traditions. And with this deepened perspective, may you have a blessed and merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Christian Response to Syrian Refugees

Out of respect for BJ's position as a clergyman, I rarely state political opinions of any sort. Trust me, I have opinions; I just keep them to myself. But I can't stay silent about a particular issue going on right now. I can't not respond to the rejection of Syrian refugees by states all across America, including my home state of Texas and my current state of residence, Oklahoma.

Being the spouse of a minister, I am constantly standing on the sidelines of discussions about Christianity and America. This year, that discussion has been dominated by concerns over same-sex marriage. Christians in our neck of the woods see same-sex marriage as the greatest threat to the soul of America. At the same time, Christians all over America, including many who are in positions of prominence, are calling for the rejection of non-Christian refugees. In my opinion, the latter issue is a true battle for the soul of America.

Homosexuality is mentioned six times in the Bible. In the grand scheme of the Biblical text, it is pretty insignificant. However, taking care of the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the foreigner, taking care of these, is mentioned hundreds of times. In 2013, I read through the Bible with a reading group, and I was surprised to find that the tirades of the prophets were not admonishments of the sins I'd been raised to believe were the worst offenses (adultery, fornication, drunkenness, et cet.). But rather, God's anger voiced through the prophets was anger over their negligence of the poor and of the oppressed. In other words, if you want to make God really angry, then turn your back on the people who need your help.

And on a purely practical level, if our goal is to combat terrorism, than our greatest weapon is not a drone. Rather, it is education and the alleviation of fear and poverty. When I see the pictures of the Syrian refugees, what I see is children. Lots of children. Children as vulnerable and as moldable as Shepherd and Lydia and Violet. If we give them a safe place to grow and to be educated, then the chances of them being radicalized dramatically diminishes. When we act out of hope and love, then the terrorists lose.

To close, here are a few verses that I believe speak to this situation.

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Matthew 25:35

And let us never forget that our Savior was once a refugee: "Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.' So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'" Matthew 2:13-15

Friday, November 13, 2015

Update: Shepherd

Here is what's up with Shepherd.

1. Shepherd's life currently revolves around school. He still loves school, and is always excited to go. Everyday when he comes home, he tells me excitedly that he earned a jewel that day for perfect behavior. I mean every day. This is, of course, great that he is doing so well, but after spending a morning at school with him a couple of weeks ago, I've come to realize that he is so focused on correct behavior that I'm not sure if he is having any fun. While the other kids were running and playing before the tardy bell, he was sitting criss-cross-applesauce on his assigned carpet square with his hands neatly folded in his lap and his lips pursed together. Much to my surprise, Shepherd appears to have a lot of me in him when it comes to school, and I think that my job as his mom might actually be to encourage him to lighten up and have some fun every once and a while.

2. Speaking of Shepherd being a lot like me when I was little, every morning Shepherd asks me if he has P.E. that day, and on the days that I answer "yes," he always responds by groaning, "I hate P.E." I was that kid. The one who dreaded P.E. all day while everyone else seemed to look forward to it. I feel your pain, Shep.

3. When we attempt to play sports at home, Shepherd's personality really shines. During a family game of basketball the other night, Shepherd hardly played and instead walked around telling us all the rules and the different ways in which we weren't following them correctly.

4. Shepherd has decided on a wife. A couple of weeks ago during Sunday lunch, Shepherd said, "I'm going to marry a girl with big red lips." BJ and I were a little shocked and laughed a bit, but we didn't think too much about it. Later that night, we told our friend, Megan, the story. She started asking questions, the conversation going something like this:

Megan: Shepherd, does this girl wear big red heels?
Shepherd: (starting to giggle lightly) Yes.
Megan: Does she have long red hair?
Shepherd: (giggling a little louder) Yes.
Megan: Is it Rhianna*.
Shepherd: (giggling uncontrollably and as red as a tomato) YES!!!

* (a very pretty 20 year old from church)

4. In fact, Shepherd has quite an eye for the ladies. After having a young, attractive substitute teacher today, Shepherd excitedly told me on the way home, "Mom, she was so pretty! She was even prettier than you!"

5. When Shepherd comes home from school, this is what he a Violet do.

6. Shepherd loves both of his sisters, although he is only willing to admit love for the younger one. Lydia is his playmate and partner in crime, but she is also the one he fights with over toys and space and tv shows and the list goes on. When he came home from school today, Lydia told him that she had missed him. I said, "Oh Shepherd, that is so nice of Lydia. Did you miss her?" He gave a firm no, and when I started to chastise him for his rudeness, he said, "Mom, I was busy missing Violet!" Oh, siblings!

7. And last but not least, here are some pictures of our guy!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Update: Lydia

Obviously, since Shepherd started school, I'm having a hard time keeping up with this blog. Between running kids around and trying to get done as much housework as possible anytime Violet naps, I never sit down at the computer. But I know that I have family who are anxious to here updates on their three favorite grandchildren/great-grandchildren/nieces/nephew, so I thought I'd carve out some time this week to focus a blogpost on each child and give an update. Here is Lydia in 8 points.

1. Lydia has enthusiastically leaped into the world of imaginary friends. Her main squeeze is Jimmy, a boy with whom she loves to dance. He also naps in Shepherd's bed during her nap time. Sometimes she'll lay her head on my shoulder and tell me to be quiet because Jimmy is singing for us. She also has a pet squirel named FiFi whose nemesis is Shepherd. We have witnessed some pretty strange sibling arguments over that one.

2. At the age of 3, Lydia is still the girly-est girl ever. It is not unusual for her to say sentences in normal conversation that have any combination of 2 or 3 of the following words: fairies, princess, pink, unicorn, baby, ponies, and pretty.

3. While Lydia continues to be girly, she also embraces some of her brother's boyish games. For example, she is sometimes a superhero named (of course) Super Lydia. Last weekend, Super Lydia saved a hoard of crying sheep from...something. I'm not sure what.

4. In a fit of jealousy over Violet having crayons named after her, Lydia has declared that pink will now be called "Lydia pink".

5. Lydia is taking dance lessons where she is sprinkled with fairy dust weekly. The "fairy dust" is some type of spray-on glitter that REFUSES to wash out of her hair, so Lydia is always sparkly.

6. We never know what Lydia is going to say next. This past Sunday, she informed both BJ and I on separate occasions that when she grows up, she is going to have bigger boobs than me. When telling me, she elaborated by saying that they would "reach for the sun." After a moment of stunned silence, all I could come up with was, "Sweetie, this conversation is getting weird."

7. At a doctor's appointment today for flu shots, Lydia asked BJ if he would pick her up so that she could see the doctor's "pretty eyes." Our pediatrician declared her his favorite patient.

8. My mom loves to laugh and say, "BJ has met his match in that little girl." She is right. Case in point: The other morning while the kids were eating cereal and BJ and I were running around the kitchen preparing our breakfasts, Shepherd and Lydia got in some ridiculous argument, the details of which weren't even worth remembering. BJ, always a charmer before coffee, finally broke down and yelled out in exasperation, "Who cares?!?!" Lydia paused from yelling at her brother, looked at BJ, and in a completely matter-of-fact tone said, "Me."

And in conclusion, here are some recent photos of BJ's match.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Shepherd Turns Five

Doing a 301 piece Lego set after school while wearing his birthday crown. Pretty much sums up why I love this spectacularly nerdy, smart, creative, and hilarious little boy! Happy birthday, Shepherd!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A trip to the zoo

Last summer, we went to the Frank Buck Zoo 10 days before I had Violet. This is me and Violet then...

and this is Violet at the zoo about 13 months later:

I am left to conclude that babies really do grow up way too fast. So in honor of capturing the little moments while my children are at these precious little ages, here are way too many pictures of our trip to the zoo.

Preparing three kids under the age of 5 to go to the zoo is a task in and of itself. I've been anxiously awaiting the day when Violet's hair gets long enough for me to play with it, and during zoo prep, I decided that this was the day. After giggling over the cuteness of these pigtails for about ten minutes, one fell out and I was forced to admit that her hair isn't there, yet.

When we arrived, I asked my family for pictures to capture the excitement of the beginning of our adventure. Violet ignored me, but Shepherd (I love this kid) is always enthusiastic when the camera comes out.

Lydia pursed her lips together in defiance when I asked for a smile. That's Lydi.
BJ merely gave me the you're-embarrassing-me look while he walked the kids in.

And when I decided to join the picture, he pretended he didn't know me.

After the flamingos, alligators, and several small animals, we finally got to the part of the zoo are kids were eagerly anticipating: THE GOATS! Feeding goats is one of those things in life that is indisputably fun. Seriously, don't try to dispute me on that. Here is Shepherd having some indisputable fun.

Lydia was overwhelmed by the cuteness of these goats. In a voice made unnaturally high-pitched by the exuberance the goats incited in her, she said "Oh, baby goats! You are so very cute!!!"

Up to this point, Violet was pretty happy to hang out with the folks.

But then she decided she needed to see these goats for herself.

They brought her much joy and happiness, as they do to all human beings with hearts.

This is just a group shot because I love this group.

Eventually, Violet decided she needed to get in on the feeding. Unfortunately, she can not be trusted to not eat goat food, so we had to say no.

After the zoo, we went to the playground by the zoo. There was much sliding down slides...

...and of course, running up slides.

Finally, it was time for the train ride! BJ set with the older two behind me and Violet, so I immediately got out the camera and started snapping. This is the "smile" Lydia gave me when I requested a smile. She's very natural about it all.

I then asked BJ to snap a few of me a Violet.

Shepherd photo bombed. Big surprise there.

And then a woman several rows behind (a woman who would probably be a dear friend if we ever lived in the same town) told her husband to "get up a go take a picture of that family." I was grateful. And thus ended our trip to the zoo.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Hanging out with my cuties

Shepherd photo-bombed our matching-sisters picture. I think he made it even better!

Friday, August 28, 2015

I just got the Fall edition of Southern Oklahoma Living, and look what I found in the center!

I actually didn't know they were publishing one of my pieces, so it came as a pleasant surprise. What is most exciting is that they put a large picture of Mister Rogers. Who doesn't love Mister Rogers? I'm always happy to share a little wisdom from the man in the cardigan.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Lunches Week 1

One of the many things I've looked forward to about Shepherd going to school is getting to pack his lunch. I know it is crazy, but it is so much fun thinking of different combinations of kid-friendly food and ways to present it that are fun. So just for the heck of it, here is week one of lunches for Shepherd

Day 1 was a cashew butter and honey sandwich, snap pea crisps, pluots, and cashews with chocolate chips for dessert. He hates peanut butter, so cashew butter was my attempt to have an easy protein. Unfortunately, he didn't love the sandwich, but he did clean the rest of the meal.

Ever since Shepherd heard he'd get to take a lunch to school everyday, he has begged for spaghetti and meatballs. I added corn, green beans, and dried cherries to the mix. He loved it!

This was definitely his favorite lunch: Tofu and corn scramble, romaine lettuce, whole wheat crackers, and a strawberry fruit leather. He devoured every bite!

Sandwich again! But this time it was Nutella and he ate every bite! To go the with sweeter sandwich, I chose healthier sides: carrot sticks, pretzels, and cashews.

And to end the week, Shepherd's favorite noodle salad, yolk-less boiled egg (he HATES yolks), sliced apples, and dark chocolate granola for dessert. He ate all the eggs and salad, but left the apples and granola for me. Weird kid.

 Here is that weird and awesome child on his first day in his classroom! Yay for Pre-K!

Monday, August 17, 2015

From the Mouth of Lydia

Today was a big day. Shepherd had his first day of Pre-K, and of course, he LOVED it! Lydia had her first day of dance class, as well. She seemed to have a lot of fun, and more importantly, I had a lot of fun dressing her for the class. Here are some pictures of all of the excitement.

As Lydia is getting acclimated to the 3's, she is talking more, and oh boy, she has things to say. Here are just a couple of my favorites from this past week.

After bath time with BJ:
Lydia: "We don't show everyone our private parts."
BJ: "That's right. We don't."
Lydia: "I keep mine hidden in my underwear."

And on the morning of our shopping trip for dance shoes:
BJ: "Lydia, we are going to go today to buy you dance shoes!"
Lydia (in complete and total seriousness): "And a dress. And a crown."
BJ: "We'll start with the shoes."