Awkward Handshake

Fridays are my fav. As the family of a minister, Sundays are not Sabbath. But we are blessed to both have off on Fridays so we have an actual weekend.

This morning I took my car in for an oil change. Of course it turned into a transmission flush, etc. etc., but should’ve just been an oil change. After the mechanic and I exchanged info, he held out his hand. I thought, “Well, isn’t he the most gentlemanly mechanic I’ve ever encountered?” So, I shook it, grease stained fingers and all. But his hand was limp; he didn’t shake back. It was awkward. He said, “No, just need your keys.” Whoops.

I get myself into these sorts of awkward situations sometimes. One time in Waco, I pulled away from the gas station pump with the pump still in my tank. It ripped the tubing from the ceiling of the station and sent the hose flailing, spewing gasoline. I didn’t notice until I was rounding the curve and a man was waving his arms dramatically at me to stop. I was dragging the hose behind me. Whoops. There was a yellow bag over pump #5 for months.

Today’s plan was to make the trek down to the Wichita Mountains for a family hike. Jersey on shock collared leash, Finn in his Sherpa hiking backpack and Joey and I in our PrAna pants. But the forecast said thunderstorms, “some may be severe,” so we nixed the plan and opted instead for indoor rock climbing. photo-1

Finn enjoyed the Porters while we played. Thank you!photo-3

This was probably my favorite trip to Rocktown. We both climbed well and the temperature was perfect inside the renovated grain silos.

I love climbing "chimney" routes.

I love climbing “chimney” routes.

Then we shared some fajitas at Igauna Grill. Yum-o. Love my date and love this Friday. Now off to continue our annual Band of Brothers DVD marathon…

Portion-control tip: only put 5 chips on your plate at a time. Eat them slowly. Then add 5 more. Don't just mindlessly grab from the easy to overeat this way!

Portion-control tip: only put 5 chips on your plate at a time. Eat them slowly. Then add 5 more. Don’t just mindlessly grab from the bowl…too easy to overeat this way!

The Sidelines

Joey and I like to do most things together. We love to be active outdoors–hiking, rock climbing, rafting, anything…and we recently have loved going to Cliff’s Performance Conditioning class together on Thursday evenings. I said most things. I refuse to play Frisbee golf with him and he refuses to lift weights with me. Compromise.

Next Level Fitness Studio is where it's at!

Next Level Fitness Studio is where it’s at!

So tonight we were doing some cardio intervals with partners (Angie and I rocked it), and I looked over at the front desk to check on Finn. Malorie watches Finn for us while we workout…THANK YOU Malorie! He loves playing silly games with her. photo-2

He was watching everyone run up and down the wood floor, jump through the agility ladder and high-five their partner once they finished. I could tell he was soaking it all in…loving all the commotion and curious as to why we were running around like crazy people.

I smiled a mommy smile, proud of my boy for being observant; and I wanted to go give him a kiss on his porcelain chubby cheek. I wanted to tell him he could join us one day.

But, he can’t.

So, I got sad for a minute. I silently prayed that Finn wouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines of life. That life would afford him the opportunity to be active and busy and healthy. Not that the quality of our lives depends on shuffling effortlessly through an agility ladder, but I hate that he doesn’t even have the choice. I am so thankful that my legs move when my brain tells them to. This is a gift, friends. Unwarranted, undeserved.

Hoping to be on the sidelines cheering for Finn someday. Wheelchair basketball, a spelling bee or a cello recital. Whatever. Just want him to feel like he’s worth watching.

Teething is for the birds.

Teething is for the birds.

Party Foul

This weekend was packed.

Quick trip to Tulsa to visit Leah and Everett who flew down from Boston. I miss that sis-in-law of mine! Finn and Ev interacted more this time than ever before and it was fun to watch them play.DSCN3177_2

Finn and Papa Terry had a tickle fight for at least five minutes. That boy’s smile brings me so much joy. When he’s happy, I’m happy.

Tickle Fest

Tickle Fest

Nana and Papa Armstrong with the boys

Nana and Papa Armstrong with the boys

Dinner with great buds at Norman’s new S&B Burger Joint.

Family walk to Starbucks.

And two birthday parties.

At the first, Rumble arrived in the driveway atop an OKC Thunder van. photoHudson let us all get in line to have a poster signed by Rumble. Finn touched his furry horn while he was signing, but as soon as Rumble looked up, Finn buried his head in Joey’s

Finn got a Thunder patch!

Sweet Thunder patch, dude!

Then we were off to James’ shark party, complete with a professional face painter. He was amazing; and his British accent–whether it was authentic or not–made him seem even more fantastic.


Sharks! Face painting by LOL Cartoons.

I train James’ parents (shameless plug: check out to see their accomplishments), and it was fun to interact with them outside of the studio.

New experience at this party, however…

I was contemplating putting Finn on the ground to crawl with the other babies. I only knew about three people at the party and didn’t want to explain to the other onlookers why Finn crawls so funny or why he’s not walking like the other toddlers in the room. Silly, I know; but that desire to “fit in” is a tough one to shake. I had birthday party anxiety even as a kid…who will I know? Will they like me? Did I wear the right thing? Will they like my gift?

Finn wanted to get down so badly that he almost leapt out of my arms, so I gave in. He was on the floor…and not a moment later, almost as if in  s l o w  m o t i o n, I watched a blond curly-headed boy tackle him. Yes. He jumped right on top of Finn and started doing God knows what…poking him in the eyeballs, giving him a wedgie, fingers up his nose…not really, he just jumped on him and wiggled around a little. I guess the little guy wanted to wrestle? Surely he meant no harm, but Finn just laid his head down on the carpet and cried. My stomach lurched and I asked my friend beside me (very calmly, might I add), “Whose child is on top of Finn?” She swiftly pried someone’s toddler off my son. Thank you, Kristen. If I’d have done it, I’m afraid I would have tossed the kid through the window. I wiped the lil’ smokie sauce off Finn’s cheek, a souvenir from the curly-headed boy; thankful it wasn’t blood.

So. There it is. First experience watching my son get “hurt” by another kid. Not fun and a very mild version of what lies ahead, I know. I’m adding to my prayers the strength to respond with grace when Finn is bullied and for him to develop an unshakeable resiliency and sense of self…And maybe a mean right hook. 🙂


I worked as a junior high camp counselor and senior counselor at Pine Cove for three summers during college. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Toothpick tall pine trees and situated on a lake in Palestine, TX, Pine Cove is teeming with some of the most genuine, fun-loving, and wise believers I’ve ever known. Pine Cove is where I finally dropped my foolish pride and learned that dancing on a plastic chair with middle schoolers is cool.

I am on the top left. No, I was not 12. I was 19.

That’s me in the upper left. No, I was not 12. I was 20.

At meal-time on the Ranch, Jiggs would ring the dinner bell and we’d all come scampering from every corner of the property to get our fill of macaroni and cheese and corn dogs.

Jiggs (middle), Ginger and I got to do a skit together. Hil-ar-ious.

Jiggs (middle), Ginger and I got to do a skit together. Hil-ar-ious.

Jiggs was a mentally-challenged gentleman in his fifties. He’d been working at Pine Cove for many summers, and he was sort of our mascot; a complete joy to be around. But that bell was LOUD; and the way he rang it…it was not a pretty sound.

Corinthians 13 says I am like this cacophonous bell-tone, “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” when I speak in lofty religious terms without love. Love must be seeping through the words I speak. My sentences should be couched in compassion and…well, love! If they’re not, I may as well be banging pots and pans.

It goes on to say that if my “faith can move mountains, but [I] have not love, I am nothing” (v. 2). What?! If my faith is so strong that it can shove Mt. Everest into the sea–or harder still–heal Finn’s defected body, it is nothing if done without love? That kind of faith sure is desirable to me, but it’s not the pinnacle of Christian virtue.

Quality people. Jiggs on far right. Me in red bandana, looking hard core.

Quality people. Jiggs on far right. Me in red bandana, looking hard core.

And if I “give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (v. 3). Wow. That’s commitment. I have a tough time giving up a pair of running shoes or my favorite sweatshirt to the poor, much less my entire estate. Someone who can sacrifice their body to torture seems like the holiest of believers…but if they don’t have love, it’s worthless?

These girls were naughty.

These girls were naughty.

Loving like Christ is harder than talking like a Christian. Loving is harder than having faith for healing. To love is harder than to give to a food bank. It is even harder than being a martyr. Jesus always asks us to “eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way…” LOVE.

So how do we get this love?

I think after twenty-something years, I’m beginning to understand what these verses are really saying. 1 John 4: 7, 8:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love.”

God is the definition of love. So all those good deeds, if not accompanied by love; they don’t count. I know a lot of people who do really good things and live really good lives. Some of them put Christians to shame. But I think Corinthians 13 is saying that if good things are done without The Good One, they are nothing. They are as off-putting as the sound of a gong. We need Him to be able to love. 

Doctors Like You

My first teaching job out of college was at Trinity Christian School in San Antonio, TX. I taught middle school English, and like most private schools, they “bundled” my job with 6th grade Geography, Bible, Reading and Home Room. I’ll never forget the time I drew the state of Florida on the board to depict a peninsula. It looked a whole lot like a rudimentary sketch of male private parts, and I couldn’t stop giggling. So I just stood facing the board until I could collect myself like any mature adult should. Sixth graders are the best. They’re funny, eager to learn, and still think their teachers are kind of cool. I’ve actually kept in touch with a few of these students.

This Wednesday I put the car in “park,” and quickly jumped out to get the mail in the rain, pulling up my hood to avoid getting drenched. Once at home, I tossed the soggy medical bills into one pile, the trash into another and opened a letter from one of my former TCS sixth grade students, Sydnie.

Finn reading Sydnie's letter

Finn reading Sydnie’s letter

Sydnie is now finishing her first year at Baylor (Sic’ ’em Bears!). She chose the easy route and decided on Pre-Med Neuroscience as her major. 😉 Sydnie was always a smarty…with some students it was a struggle just to get them to write down their homework in their agenda. Sydnie had hers finished and was asking for more. In this letter Sydnie described how any time she feels like giving up, she “thinks of Finn and how many things he has already conquered.” When asked why she wants to be a Pediatric Neurosurgeon, she tells them Finn’s story and how she’s passionate about helping him and other little ones like

Little did I know that one of my sixth graders from 2005 just might perform a surgery that could save Finn’s life someday. Or invent an un-clog-able shunt catheter. That would be AWESOME. Hang in there, Sydnie! The road to med school is long, but babies like Finn need doctors like you!