Soul Food

Last weekend was great. We went to the All Sons and Daughters concert Friday night.

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Joey was helping sponsor their stay in Norman, so he got to eat meals with them, hang out at a local recording studio, and get a preview of their next album. The band members are quality people. Kind, humble, seeking the Lord, and fantastically talented musicians. Joey and I haven’t worshiped beside each other in a very long time (he’s usually on stage at church).

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It was good for our souls and our marriage.

The lyrics that affected me most:

I could hold on. I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside.

And I could be safe. I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home;

Never let these walls down.

But you have called me higher. You have called me deeper;

And I will go where you will lead me Lord.

It’s so much easier to be safe and unchanged by the Lord’s refinement…but He’s called me higher.

This year, All Sons and Daughters are supporting a global food ministry called Feed One. It’s based on Mother Teresa’s wisdom: “If you can’t feed one hundred, then just feed one.” The ministry ships and delivers food to hungry children all over the world. Only $10/child per month. I said in my previous post that I was looking for more ways to give. Well, here’s one. Joey and I are thankful to be able to provide food for two kids/month. Hope you’ll join us!

Saturday night, Joey played a set at a local coffee shop.

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He did this often in grad school, but hasn’t performed for friends or coffee-sippers in several years. It was so good for me to watch him have fun playing music.

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He is such a humble, gifted musician. There was a great showing (thanks to all who came to support!), he played mostly originals, Jay played the banjo with him for a couple songs,

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and there were well-deserved “encores” at the end. I’m so proud.

I fell asleep Saturday night feeling dehydrated. I gulped down the water on my nightstand around midnight and dreamt of clear mountain streams and buckets of cool water all night long. Pregnancy calf cramps reminded me of my need for more liquid, but I couldn’t bring myself to heave out of bed, so I remained parched; lips cracking. Upon waking, I plodded down the hallway to the kitchen to fill a glass of water from the fridge. Ahhh. It’s that easy for me. I’m thirsty, so I go down the hall. I thought of those children around the world who go to bed thirsty or hungry…and feel the pangs of discomfort for days; weeks. So unjust.

Paisley and I had our first shower this weekend.

Bump

Bump

It was hosted by a few of my clients and co-workers.

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Baby carriage deviled eggs!

Baby carriage deviled eggs!

I am so blessed to have such smart, strong, beautiful women in my life. Cassie made one of her fabulous cakes–strawberry and cream cheese. Unreal.

Divinity by Cassie Cakes

Divinity by Cassie Cakes

I’m grateful today for raw, worshipful music. Joey.

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Baby showers. A duallie BOB stroller, and the women who made it possible. Clean water. And food in our bellies. Amen.

 

 

Camels and Needles

I have one remaining chapter in Seven, by Jen Hatmaker. Finn’s down for a nap, Joey’s at work, Seinfeld’s playing in the background and Jersey is snoring like a fat old man. So now’s a good time to blog about it.

If you haven’t read Seven, well, you should. Here’s the basic premise: Jen and her husband (and sometimes even her children) took seven months for an “experimental mutiny against excess.” Each month they focused on an area of their lives they want to allow more space for God and less space for consumerism, overabundance and selfishness.

Glucose testing reading material.

Glucose testing reading material. Third trimester thrills.

The months were:

1) Food (They only ate seven foods the entire month.)

2) Clothes (Only wore seven pieces of clothing.)

3) Possessions (Gave away seven items a day for the month.)

4) Media (They shut off seven sources of media/technology.)

5) Waste (Committed to seven habits for a greener lifestyle.)

6) Spending (They only spent money in seven places all month.)

7) Stress (Practiced seven “sacred pauses”–stopped to pray seven times a day.)

This book is so convicting. God will speak through Jen’s words–if you’re listening.

Her experiences challenged my cushy, white American middle-class Protestant lifestyle. Sometimes I have the audacity to think Joey and I are poor; the gall to feel sorry for myself that we are on a tight budget. It’s safe to say we make the least money of all our friends, and I work for wealthy (albeit generous and fantastic) clients, so sometimes our simple lifestyle feels meager comparatively.

“If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84 percent of the world. If it’s $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99 percent of the world.” (Hovde, 2012)

I’m rich. Filthy stinkin’ rich. Until reading this book, I read the scripture that says:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

…as a warning for someone else. Someone wealthy–certainly not for me.

But I am that “rich person.”

I have a master’s degree, a 3 bedroom home, a well-fed dog, a child and one on the way, a job, a lawn, a walk-in closet full of branded clothing, two cars, four bikes, camping/rock climbing equipment worth thousands of dollars, a shameful Lululemon addiction…

It’s difficult for wealthy people like me to find time and capacity for God in our comfortable, air-conditioned lives. The pangs of intense hunger don’t keep me up at night. I don’t wash my child’s clothes in the stream of sewer water outside my hut. I do more feasting than fasting.

Doesn't miss a meal.

Doesn’t miss a meal.

As I said, the Lord has been convicting me of personal excess and selfishness as I turn the pages of Seven. Mostly my heart has been aching to give; to purge my home and heart of what I don’t need and give it to people who do. (See post: Fasting and Filling)

I need to know more needy people. This was easy when Joey was a community minister. Needs were everywhere–it was overwhelming sometimes. I’ve struggled this month to find people who need what I want to give. This should not be. I’ve been praying for the Lord to reveal more specific needs around me. I’m really good at blessing the blessed. Serving the saved. They smile and say “thank you.” They often smell better and they return the favor.

Joey and a few saintly college boys finished de-popcorning our ceilings last Friday. (I would like to punch in the nose whomever invented popcorn ceilings.) photo 2Finn and I went to physical therapy and picked up donuts for the boys on our way home. A man and what appeared to be his daughter walked in behind us. Her hair was terribly disheveled and ratty. She had to have worn that violet shirt all week long. Little girl pressed her smudged face to the glass of pastries with fervent hunger. My heart knew–the Holy Spirit’s unmistakable prompting. I should buy their meal.

But then I got practical, as most of us sensible American Christians do.

What if I embarrass the dad in front of all these people in line? The lady at the counter can barely speak English anyway, so how will she understand that I’d like to put his order on my bill? Donuts are cheap; he can surely afford them. See, he has cash.

Ugh. I failed the test. I asked the Lord to show me people in need. I believe he did just that in Gourmet Donuts. But I explained away their need and I did not pay.

This morning, however, the Lord gave me another chance to give and I’m happy to say I did not ignore Him. I did not find excuses. He prompted me to bless and I did. It was thrilling.

Thanks, Jen, for attempting something so brave: to challenge Christians to live out the gospel instead of merely learning about it. It’s uncomfortable and messy, but isn’t that what Jesus was all about? This camel wants to find the Kingdom.

A Dork’s Confession

I’m a dork; an idiot sometimes.

I go through seasons where I feel like I’m apologizing daily to someone about something stupid I said or did. Usually it’s something I said.

I’m there now; making a mess of things. It’s so humbling, isn’t it–to be reminded you’re not at all as together as you thought you were? Far from looking like Christ in all his selfless, holy splendor.

Once I’ve cleaned up the debris with an array of sincerely apologetic paper towels, I’m left humbled. I think this is where God likes me best.

I open my Bible and pretend to notice Finn is definitely NOT napping

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to find some encouragement. Something to make me feel better.

Here’s where He directed me:

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12: 9,10).

Ugh. Brutal.

I’m reminded that I don’t like to fail. I hate to let people down, and I would prefer to have it all together. In all honesty, I’d just rather be perfect. But, alas, I am not. I’m only strong when I am weak. Only honored when I honor others.

Paul says the only thing worth boasting about are my struggles. It’s not any fun at all and there’s no personal accolade draped around my neck, but I’m being obedient.

So here I am telling you what a loser I am. Because I am; and because it seems it’s part of the process of refinement. I’ll see you again in six months. ;)

 

 

 

Being Brave

One of my most frequent prayers for Finn is that he would be brave.

Sometimes I forget this prayer for myself. I’m kind of a weenie, to be honest.

When it comes to Finn’s disability, birthday parties and playgrounds terrify me. I get ultra protective and conscious of how people (mostly kids) respond to him and his differences. I wait for the whispers and comments and questions, hoping I’ll know what to say to a curious toddler or parent.

This weekend (and last), I decided to try be brave.

We let Finn have his wheelchair at our sweet friend, Navy’s second birthday party. He loved playing “b-ball” in their house, even on the carpet. Joey fielded a few questions with ease and Finn was remarkably hyper after a yummy piece of birthday cake. Holy sugar high! It’s amazing how much more confident Finn is in his chair. He has independence and freedom–two things every toddler wants.

We heard a rumor that a wheelchair accessible playground was being built in Norman. So after breakfast at Syrup (of course) on Friday, we drove around trying to find it. We tried four playgrounds. No such luck. All were sand or mulch-bottomed, not kind to wheels.

On Friday afternoon we Skyped with a class at Baylor. Our friend, Kelli, teaches a course for Recreation majors called Leisure Diversity and asked us to help answer some questions concerning disabilities. We discussed Spina Bifida, legal issues for disabled individuals, Finn’s physical therapy and any challenges or opportunities we believe he may face in the future, especially regarding recreation. Of course Finn had to perform a few donuts on the kitchen tile for the class’s enjoyment.

Saturday, we met Finn’s friend, Ryder, and his parents at a wheelchair accessible playground located at Lake Hefner in OKC.

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Though Finn and Ryder were the only two in chairs, they had a blast riding around on the ramps, going down slides and zooming across the rubber (God bless it) flooring.

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Ryder is four and also has Spina Bifida. I admire his parents so much. They are two years ahead of us on this road and so proactive, so involved and so un-phased by the stares and the comments directed at Ryder or Finn. The boys were quite the spectacle…and it helped my heart that Finn wasn’t the ONLY one on wheels.

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We’ve never seen another kid in a wheelchair in Norman. Certainly not one like Finn. It feels very lonely.

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I parked in front of church this morning…in a spot that’s not technically a spot. Don’t judge. We haven’t received our handicapped tag yet, Finn can’t wheel too far on his own, and I’m getting too pregnant to carry Finn’s wheelchair up the ten steps to the nursery. After coaxing him to wheel up the breezeway, onto the elevator and down a couple hallways, we finally made it to his class. The children’s wing of our church is difficult to get to for anyone, much less a child on wheels. Immediately following the service, Finn pushed himself into a room full of about 200 church members for a fellowship lunch. He loved the attention. I was a ball of nerves until Joey picked him up and put him in a high chair.

I have to remember that my attitude toward Finn’s disability will become his. I’ll get better. Braver. Less self-conscious for him. I just need some time–some more experience under my new momma belt. Thanks for your patience, friends.

 

 

 

 

Paisley Dawn

Joey and I didn’t decide on a name for Finn until the week before he was born. We found it much more difficult than we thought to name a child.

Here’s our criteria for human naming:

1) We like it.

2) Uncommon

3) Has some meaning–nothing monumental, but some significance to speak of

4) Easy to spell–spelled like it sounds

5) Easy to pronounce–for the ordinary American citizen with a 5th grade reading level

6) Sounds good with the family middle names we’ve chosen (Joseph and Dawn)

I have so many friends who are pregnant right now. Many are due within a month of me and several are having girls. So fun! But I must admit, it made me panic a little…what if they choose a name off our short list before we do?! Catastrophe! (sarcasm here)

But seriously, I thought it might be fun to monogram girly things, prepare baby girl’s room with a name in mind, and to pray for her by specifically by name.

So, Paisley Dawn it is!

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“Paisley” is a Scottish word meaning “church.” We loved the spiritual significance here. Christ calls the Church his Bride. Capital “C”…like his people, not the building or denomination. His Beloved. The one he pursues with reckless abandon, rescues and redeems. Beautiful.

It’s feminine. I like that.

And “Dawn” is my mom’s sister’s name and my middle name. I love it. In the dawn I find grace for a new day; light nudging through darkness.

Oh, and we liked the way “Finn and Paisley” sounded together.

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So there. We named another human.

Now we have to raise her…

Fasting and Filling

Fasting has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because it’s Lent, but also because I’m reading Seven, by Jen Hatmaker (I’ll give my thoughts on the book once I finish). I know I’m late to the party reading this book, but I’ve told you before: I’m never the first on the band wagon. I try wait until it’s not “cool” anymore. Pretty sure this makes me “uncool.”

Reading on my parents' porch last week

Reading on my parents’ porch last week

Anyhow…fasting. I’m searching Scripture, purging my closets, and decluttering my thoughts of social media. But if you remove something, there is inherently a void, and usually our human nature will fill it with something. Addicts turn from one drug to another. Adulterers cheat on one spouse then the next. Smokers stuff their mouths instead with food. My clients switch from soda to sweet tea. I give up the cookie for a handful of dark chocolate chips.

There have been times I’ve fasted (from food or noise or whatever) for the purpose of focused prayer. I believe this is a beneficial and important endeavor. Especially at Lent, we can refocus our thoughts on Christ and His sacrifice in the days leading to Easter. But as I read Isaiah 58, maybe there were times in the past that I was really fasting just to get my way. I felt as these people did:

They grumbled to God: “Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (v. 3)

I gave up my lunch, God, so why are Finn’s legs still paralyzed? I prayed in my closet–on my knees, mind you–and our finances didn’t change. Why? The King responds:

“You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high” (v. 4).

Okay, so how then? Why fast? And how am I changed by it?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke; to set the oppressed free and break every chain? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (v. 6-7).

“True” fasting seems less about giving up food or resources and more about giving up ourselves. I don’t know about you, but it’s much more difficult for me to bring a meal to a stinky person, make eye-contact and show them they are valued than it is for me to simply skip dinner. Or remove the Facebook app from my phone.

It’s an active fasting. A fasting from self. Ugh…harder.

So I removed two pairs of running shoes from my closet this weekend. Nikes and Reeboks. Not cheapies; okay. I planned to sell them in a garage sale, knowing I could get about $5-$10/pair. That’s good babysitting money, people.

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But then I read about Jen–prompted by none other than Shane Claiborne–who left her prized cowboy boots (and socks) at the altar for the homeless. Expensive city-girl cowboy boots are impractical for a homeless person; yes. But that’s not the point. The point was obedience and a looser grip on our possessions. So instead I plan to give these shoes to someone in our church. Or maybe on the street. Someone with a foot around a size 7 who needs something comfy to walk in; whose feet have felt better days. It doesn’t matter if I purge. The purpose is purging so that I may bless.

The obedience of fasting comes not when I give something up, but when I replace it by doing or giving something good. When I empty myself and fill someone else. There’s even benefit for me in this kind of fasting. Read (don’t skim) this beautiful truth:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here am I’…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (v. 8-10).

Feeling broken? Pray for someone else’s hurting heart. Guilty? You’re righteous when you’re selfless. Hungry? Feed another mouth. Depressing and dark days caving in on you? Let the light of Scripture encourage a friend. Fast, but fill another.