Dedicated

I always tear up when we, as a church body, recite the baby dedication pledge. This time, I was the one on stage next to my handsome husband who was holding my baby boy. Nana Deb bought him the cutest three piece outfit and even a pair of tiny moccasins.

As soon as we took the stage, Finn tooted…LOUDLY! Joey and I made eye contact, sure the entire church heard and smelled the homemade broccoli baby food toot our son just emitted. We moved on quickly…I read our chosen dedication verse:

Psalm 91:4  “He will cover you with his feathers; under His wings you will find refuge. His faithful promises will be your shield and armor.”

We began praying this verse over Finn as soon as we found out he had Spina Bifida. It was a beautiful picture to me of the Father “covering” Finn’s exposed spine in utero, protecting his nerves from further damage.

I handed Joey the microphone. Finn grabbed it and mumbled something in babytalk…on cue. I promise we didn’t practice that with him; he loves the spotlight just like his dad.

I love this part of the congregation’s pledge:

“…When he laughs, we will laugh with him. When he cries, we will comfort him. When he asks questions, we will seek truth with him…”

I appreciate that it doesn’t say “When he asks questions, we will give him answers.” I want my church body to help Finn think, struggle and search for truth, not just feed him answers.

We were so thankful to have Nana and Papa Rosell in the pew this morning and blessed that Joey’s Best Man, Rex, could make it too (he’s playing the lead in Richard III in OKC all the way from D.C.). Of course we were sad Nana and Papa Armstrong couldn’t make it, but we felt them with us in spirit. Finn is a lucky guy to have such a loving family and church family.

Extra Dose

The other day I was thinking about how difficult it would be to roll into my first day of school as a kindergartener with all the other 6 year old eyes on me and my wheels.

It made me really sad for Finn. I care so much about what people think of me. I wouldn’t be very brave. But I guess I don’t have to be…I’m not a kindergartener in a wheelchair.

I felt the Lord tell me in that moment that Finn’s been given an extra dose of courage. More strength, more perseverance, more fearlessness, and more faith. Because he’ll need it. I can already see that Finn’s nearly eight month old personality is perfectly suited to roll with the punches life throws at him. His joy is contagious and his life is a priceless gift.

Thanks, Laura!

How to Host a Murder Mystery Party

1. Pick a date. Be sure it doesn’t interfere with the OU football schedule or your friends will reject you. October is a fun month to dress up and do something scary.

Must I say this is a fake pipe? It’s a fake.

2. Think about friends or family who are willing to get outside their comfort zone and be a little silly. Decide on your guest list.

3. Choose a murder mystery to purchase online. You can buy fancy ones in a box that come with props, but I like buying ones you download and print. They tend to be cheaper and you can provide your own props. http://www.dinnerandamurder.com/ has a great selection of games. http://www.host-party.com/Home/Default also has fun games for all ages. Be prepared to spend $30-$50. Thanks, Kayla, for buying so many in the past!

2008…timer pic, thus it’s off-center

4. Be sure you choose a mystery with an amount of characters that fits your guest list. I think they work best with a group of 10-15 people.

5. Be aware that some murder mysteries are more “family friendly” and some are more “adult.”

6. Send out an Evite to see who can commit to attending. If people back out at the last minute, it will affect the plot.

7. Find a babysitter. Children should not be in the company of murderers.

2009

8. Reserve a spot at Annie’s Ruff House for your dog to stay overnight. This will be less stressful…you won’t have to worry about your dog sniffing the guests’ butts or barking each time the doorbell rings.

9. Once guests have RSVP’d, choose their characters. The hostess will be the only one who knows who the murderer is, but she will pretend as though she doesn’t. Some characters can be either a male or female depending on the makeup of your guest list.

10. Mail out character information to your guests at least two weeks ahead of time. This info will include their back story, their alibi and how they should dress for the party (their costume). Use a calligraphy pen; when else do you get to write pretty?

11. Decide on a dinner theme. I went with Italian theme this time and made a Spinach Pesto Lasagna. Have your guests (ladies do this best) sign up to bring appetizers, bread, dessert and drinks. You shouldn’t make everything!

2009…all guns, flasks, cigars and pipes are FAKE!

12. Borrow a banquet table and chairs to seat all your guests for dinner. Create the atmosphere. Low lighting, candles, music. A sign on the door. Create nametags and place-setting labels. Seat guests strategically.

13. Clean your house! Don’t forget to swiffer the floors…black dog hair is gross.

14. Dress the part! Wear lipstick; you never do otherwise.

15. Take pictures! You want to document this hilarity. You’ll probably have to use a timer. And you’ll find yourself making awkward “Wha?!” sorts of facial expressions. It’s okay.

16. Round 1 is appetizers, Round 2 is the entree, and Round 3 is dessert. In each round, more and more information will be revealed about the murder. Try to piece it all together.

2011

17. If you’re the murderer, lie.

18. At the end of Round 3, give each guest a chance to reveal who they think is the murderer to a computer or video camera. Hook computer up to a TV and watch the guesses as a group. Laugh! Give awards for best dressed and best actor. Or make up your own awards. Prizes are fun.

19. Depending on the game, an important character, usually a detective or inspector will reveal the culprit. Smirk smugly if you knew all along.

20. Clean dishes, rearrange furniture, pop a tiny piece of leftover Italian wedding cake in your mouth and don’t forget to pick your baby up from the babysitter. Your dog can wait until tomorrow.

2012

Liebster

Verbal affirmation is HUGE for me. I can live on a compliment for a month…honestly. If I know I’m appreciated, valued, respected, admired…I’m good. I have to be careful to “please God, not man” (Galatians 1:10). God was sweet to give me a husband who is wired the same way, so there is no lack of affirmation in the Armstrong household.

I kept my sports trophies, gymnastics medals and my homecoming sash up in my bedroom for years–even until I moved out of the house. I got the “Most Improved” award in high school choir…I’m pretty sure that one was an insult. The “you don’t sound as bad as you once did” award.

This week my friend Megan nominated my blog for the Liebster Award. Liebster’s the German word for “dearest” and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 email followers who deserve a little recognition. Megan’s blog was also nominated. You can find it here: Life With the Dokes.  Megan has birthed four girls in five years. And she’s fit. And generous. And follows Christ with a sincere and sensitive heart. She’s the kind of friend who will text me minutes before Finn’s doctor appointment, but I told her about it a month ago. I don’t know how she finds time to care about others, but she does it well.

Megan’s asked me to answer eleven questions and tell 11 things about myself. So here goes…

1. I would rather be outside.

2. Joey and I read the Twilight and Harry Potter series aloud to each other at Baylor (sorry, babe.).

3. I was on the cover of the Brahman Journal as a nine year old. Fearlessly herding cattle with a sunflower at a ranch in TX.

4. I love the sound of gum chewing.

5. A dirty car makes me feel insane.

6. My ideal workout would be running stadiums.

7. I have a hunting license but used it last in 2001. I hunted so I could hang out with my dad in nature–his favorite setting.

8. The sound of doves cooing reminds me God is near. My friend Christina taught me this.

9. Finn and I play with each others’ fingers while I feed him a bottle and it melts me.

10. Just about every vacation growing up was camping. Even in Disney World we stayed at Camp Mickey. Embarrassed then, proud now.

11. I can’t wait to write on my Pottery Barn dry erase calendar each month. Planning is half of the fun. Probably why I nearly fall apart when plans change.

Megan’s Questions For Me:

1. Why did you begin blogging?

Finn was diagnosed with Spina Bifida at 18 gestational weeks. Though I was heart-broken, I knew I’d have to talk about it eventually. Other moms of kids with disabilities said a blog helped them cope. If you didn’t feel like talking about it one day, you just direct people to your blog instead. I also wanted to inspire people who endure challenges of all kinds to be transparent and hopeful.

2. If you could be an actress in a movie, who would you be?

Hmmm…I would be Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. She’s unconventional, strong and smart but allows herself to fall in love. And I wish I had her British accent.

3. Favorite thing to bake?

Beer bread. It’s easy and delish; great with any fall soup.

4. Favorite movie of all time?

I’m terrible at these types of questions; but I’ll choose Band of Brothers because I love historical films and I could watch it every year (and do).

5. How long have you been married and what’s the best thing about your hubs?

Six and 1/2 years. He is hilarious and loves me JUST as I am. Because of who I am.

6. What was your first job ever?

Worked as receptionist at Julia’s Salon in Bulverde, TX. Free highlights, nails, paraffin wax, and tanning…what more could a fifteen year old want?

7. Last book you read?

Still reading 1,000 Gifts by Voskamp. I’m embarrassed that I’m not finished…it’s just so heavy. But so good.

8. Dream vacation and who would you take?

Tough. Tour Europe with Joey or all-inclusive resort in the Virgin Islands with family and friends.

9. If you could meet a celebrity, who would you meet and what would you ask them?

I’d like to meet Bob Harper and pick his brain regarding personal training success.

10. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Uh, pizza! No…then I’d become unhealthy and feel terrible. So I choose roasted brussel sprouts.

11. Do you think being a momma has changed your life? How?

Emphatically, yes! I am more concerned with the well-being and happiness of someone other than myself. My capacity to love and advocate for someone has increased exponentially. Finn has changed my life forever.

So now I nominate these blogs for the same award:

Lee Daugherty’s hilarious excerpts from her third grade journal. Words, Words, Words

Erin Kern’s eloquent musings on motherhood, crafting, fashion and everything in between. The Superfluities

Aurelia Pratt’s super-hip fashion and cooking/baking advice. You Frill Me

Molly Shockley’s joyful yet honest journey as a mother of four beautiful adopted children. God Thinks You’re Wonderful

Here are my questions for you, nominees:

1. Why did you begin blogging?

2. Favorite clothing item to wear?

3. Beach or lake?

4. Best meal you ever ate; where and with whom?

5. Biggest inspiration in your life lately?

6. What’s the last book you read?

7. Years married and best thing about your husband?

8. Best childhood Halloween costume?

9. What’s playing on your Pandora?

10. What has most changed your life for the better?

11. Who should read your blog? (Who’s your audience?)

The rules for accepting your nomination:

-Thank me in your next post and provide a link back to my blog.

-Copy and paste Liebster Award emblem into your post

-Answer my questions

-Nominate less than 5 other bloggers with less than 200 email followers

Blurry Eyed

This weekend was our bi-annual (does that mean twice a year?) Roomie Reunion. Jane flew in and met us Okies for some yummy food, shopping, baking, a barbell class, baby kissing, stinky diaper changing, chair Zumba, an oven on fire and lots of laughter.

Saturday morning I drove north on I35 to Shawnee to meet the girls at Al’s Zumba class. Her salsa-ing hips are off the charts and she’s helping loads of women get off the couch. Steven Curtis Chapman’s Beauty Will Rise cd (Thanks, Jill!) played while rain splashed across my windshield. If you don’t know Steven Curtis Chapman’s story, you need to research it. Wow; if that guy can sing, “You are faithful. When You give and when You take away; even then still Your name is faithful,” then so can I. So I did. I worshiped throughout the 45 minutes of my drive. I sang loudly with deep conviction that despite my confusion, God is good. I sang softly through blurry eyes as I cried for the losses of my friends and family; for their disappointments and heartbreaks. I cried for Finn. I don’t cry this way often, but it certainly feels good. I think it’s therapeutic because I’m crying to Someone. I’m sharing my heartache with my Savior, not the dashboard. I can’t imagine crying and feeling alone like no one hears or cares about my tears. I arrived at the Shawnee Municipal Building on 10th and Bell rejuvenated and ready to shake my tail-feather. It was not a pretty sight.

Tonight I’m thankful for Steven Curtis Chapman’s unshakeable faith, Finn’s laugh, fairytale pumpkins and my beautiful college roommates.

Here’s the delish (not good for you) pumpkin cookie recipe we made tonight if you’re interested:

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 c. flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp clove

3/4 c. butter, softened

1 c. brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 15oz. can pumpkin puree

The Frosting:

1 brick (8 oz) softened reduced-fat cream cheese (not fat free!)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

(Or buy a tub of cream cheese frosting like we did.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Naked

So I started going to BSF, Bible Study Fellowship, several weeks ago. My mom attended this while I was growing up and I remember her shooing Chad and I from the room while she slaved over her homework. I’ve been craving scriptural teaching in my life and thought this would be a good place to find it. It’s been soooo beneficial for me to get back in the Word, flipping from Old to New Testament and then back to Old to cross-reference.

But I’ve got to be honest with you, sometimes BSF is a little “churchy” for me. I know, my husband is a minister. And I love church. But sometimes any church can be stifling with all the rules and unspoken expectations, you know? (Shameless plug for FBC: I think our church does a good job of avoiding this). At BSF, you have to wear a name tag from your car back to your car, and it’s a “fragrance free zone,” and if you didn’t do the lesson, you’re not supposed to talk, and we sing only hymns, and you can’t be late, and I have to leave my Starbucks Misto at the door, and discussion moves quickly, and I heard you had to wear dresses for the longest time, and this morning I was treated a little like a high schooler skipping out on Chemistry because I waited for a friend in the hall. In the Intro class, we were told we will find all the answers to life’s questions in “this Book,” as the leader tapped her Bible. All the answers? I’m still searching, but I’m convinced some questions will go unanswered in this life.

I’m being facetious; mostly, BSF is a blessing. It’s a beautiful congregation of women seeking to know God more and searching His word to do it. I’ve learned A LOT in just the four weeks I’ve attended. And here’s what I learned this morning:

We were studying Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden, they felt ashamed and hid from God. I can relate. And they noticed they were naked, so they tried to cover themselves by sewing fig leaves together. I “googled” them, and they aren’t very big leaves. I’d have at least chosen the palm branch. Anyway, of course this was a temporary fix because the leaves died and crumbled and didn’t cover their nakedness. Don’t we do this? We try to fix our sin by covering it up ourselves. Maybe we work harder or volunteer more or pray longer or give more money. It doesn’t work.

Instead, God had mercy on them–even in their sin–and covered them with “garments of skin.” Leather is durable; it covers nakedness well. One wise friend pointed out that the skin implies death. Something had to die, or be sacrificed, to cover sin. In this case, maybe a cow provided a couple loincloths for the first lady and man. In our case, Christ shed His blood to cover our nakedness. And it worked.

Moth

No matter where we are, my little moth baby will find the light. He’s transfixed by the brightness of the bulbs, the aura of light emanating from underneath the shade. Sometimes I’m afraid he’ll stare at the lamp so long his corneas will sizzle.

I need to find this kind of focus. I want to be so captivated by Christ that I find Him in any room, any person, any circumstance. Like a moth mesmerized by His beauty. But it’s more natural (easier) for me to be critical, find difficulty, disappointment and darkness. I want to see only Him, the Creator of light in the beginning and the One who continues to separate light from darkness now. I want to see things from His perspective as He radiates light on my life. Maybe if I look at Him long enough my heart will sizzle.

2 Samuel 22:29

“You are my lamp, Oh Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. “