Good Company

Joey and I get excited about checking on our kids before we go to bed. They’re splayed out silly in their beds, covers thrown off and long, dark eyelashes resting on their chubby cheeks from a hard day at play. Last night I prayed this over Paisley: that someday she’d have the kind of friends I found in college at OBU.

OBU 10 yr college reunion

OBU 10 yr college reunion

Yesterday we celebrated our 10 year Oklahoma Baptist University reunion back on Bison Hill. We are old.

The Name Tag Maker (whoever you are, you are funny) played a prank on Joey and made his name tag pic a picture of him sucking a baby bottle at Barnyard Olympics. :)

The Name Tag Maker (whoever you are, you are funny) played a prank on Joey and made his name tag pic a picture of him sucking a baby bottle at Barnyard Olympics. πŸ™‚

Jane and Lindsey couldn’t make it, but it was fun to relive some of our favorite memories with some familiar–albeit 10 years older–faces. We missed seeing so many of our dear friends and wish you all could have been there.

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Micah, Joey and Matt

Micah, Joey and Matt: buds.

Joey, Micah and Brad reliving their epic team triathlon victory.

Joey, Micah and Brad reliving their epic team triathlon victory.

These four girls (below) are the kind of friends my mom prayed for over my sleeping form many years ago.

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They are the love-you-for-better-or-worse kind of friends. The friends who recognize you’re not the immature self-centered 19 year old you once were because Jesus has done some work on you since. They expect more out of you. They love your kids. They sacrifice (because it truly is a sacrifice) two weekends a year for the past TEN YEARS to spend time with you. Usually it involves shopping and pedicures and yummy food.

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Jane taught us how to make a delicious, traditional Indian dish.

But always it involves tears, and the kind of laughter that makes you pee a little. One of us is always pregnant…this time Lindsey and Jane. Well, every time it’s Lindsey… πŸ˜‰ These girls are a blessing. A good and perfect gift from a good and perfect God.

A couple weekends ago it was Jane’s turn to be showered.

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Intimate brunch at Brennan’s

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Taylor used her rad calligraphy skills to make the invite and place cards.

The Roomies and Kay, Jane's sis, and mom, Mary Ann

The Roomies and Kay, Jane’s sis, and mom, Mary Ann

Her first child, a baby girl, is due on Christmas Day. We had so much fun partying in her honor in Houston.

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Alicja composed the sweetest poem for Jane.

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Kay gave Jane the prettiest earrings and an even prettier story to go along with them. Jane comes from a long line of beautiful (in and out) women.

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Writing

Writing “wishes for baby…”

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“I hope you ignore those voices inside that tell you you aren’t worthy, good enough or less than. You are enough because He is enough…”

And it was so much fun to finally meet Ralph, her husband. He is the beautiful Indian man who pursued her and showed her what love looks like in human form.

Jane is a special one.

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Her closet is full of designer shoes and her heart is full of Christ’s love and redemption. She has been Jesus to me so many times over the years. She sent me flowers “From: Jesus” when my heart was broken, sent money when the medical bills were stacked high, and sent texts when I needed them most.

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Our book, God Loves It When...

Our book, God Loves It When…

Jane, I love you. And that baby girl in your tall, tiny belly will be a beacon to the world: the hope of Christ. She will represent beauty and kindness. She is destined for great things, simply because of who her parents are and Whom they serve.

“Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)

Thank you God, for my good company.

Endeavor Games 2015

This weekend Finn competed in his first ever Endeavor Games. We weren’t quite sure how he’d enjoy it, so we didn’t really invite anyone to attend. It’s a qualifying event for the 2016 Paralympics, so people take it very seriously–there’s a starting gun and sanctioned rules and everything.

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We thought Finn might even hear the gun, have a meltdown and wheel off the track; but he surprised us and had a lot of fun.

He came in dead last in the 20m dash…it was so cute.

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He heard the pop, wheeled a little, stopped to look around, wheeled a little faster once he saw Paisley and I at the end of the track, then stopped about 2 feet from the finish line to take it all in. Keep going, buddy!

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I'm a track star...no big deal. ;)

I’m a track star…no big deal. πŸ˜‰

He also enjoyed reconnecting with Ryder, our buddy from OKC.

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Helmet bump

Helmet bump

These athletes are unreal. Many were in wheelchairs and others of them had limb differences; a few were even double or triple amputees.

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I had to turn and face the other direction several times to hide my tears as I watched these people defy all odds, pushing their bodies beyond their God-given potential. Goosebumps everywhere.

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What excuse do you and I have not to move?

Finn was more comfortable in the 60m dash and he didn’t even finish last!

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I’m pretty certain he was technically disqualified because he went from the farthest lane to the nearest lane, diagonally across the track. It’s hard for a 3 year old to stay in the lines!

He won two medals anyway. πŸ™‚

Ugh. He's the cutest.

Ugh. He’s the cutest.

We also had our annual roommate reunion this weekend, so Jane and the Whites came to cheer Finn on.

Missing our Al at dinner!

Missing our Al at dinner!

He was so happy to see them all at the finish line. “You came to visit me?!” he beamed.

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Finn loves Navy.

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Later in the day, Finn attempted the shot put. He didn’t like how they strapped down his wheelchair. It also didn’t help that there were 20 volunteers standing around watching him. The official was an older, shall I say, gruff woman.

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She was a stickler for the rules and would yell “Foul!” when Finn didn’t throw the ball the right way. He cried and asked if he could race instead. Obviously he wasn’t having fun anymore, so we decided to skip the javelin and discus and drove home to Tulsa early. Maybe we’ll try the sitting implements again next year.

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Paisley loved clapping for big brother!

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It was a blessing to see Finn so proud of himself, and it was good for Joey and I to be reminded we are not alone in the world of disabilities. There are many other families out there like us, and many other angels like Finn.

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Invincible Summers

Summer is coming.

The colicky newborn days and nights have turned to giggling and peek-a-boo.

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My fears for Finn at school–though still very present–have subsided, and I love to watch his classmates hug (and kiss) him at pick up. Yesterday a new family was touring the school. We walked out together and two little boys watched as Finn raced down the ramp to our van. They were obviously staring at him, so their sharp mom kindly ushered them over to us to introduce themselves. [Side note: introduce yourself and your kids to people who are different. It’s a teaching moment for your kids and a display of respect for the person.] “I’m Ethan and this is my little brother, Will.” “I’m Finn Joseph Armstrong.” Finn spun a few donuts for them and finished it off with a wheelie. Will exclaimed, “I want one of those!” While strapping Finn into his car seat, he asked, “They love me, Momma?” Yes baby, you’re so cool.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

I first came across Camus’ writings in one of my college Literature classes. This particular quote spoke to those cavernous places in my soul and has influenced my life ever since. At the time, I was drowning in an unhealthy relationship. I quite literally lost myself. I had forgotten the confidence and bravado of my childhood, I temporarily neglected my parents’ nurturing and biblical upbringing, I denied the redemption I had found in Christ as a child and then again as a young adult.

Freshman TWIRP date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. ;)

Freshman TWIRP group date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. I actually can’t remember who was.

It was winter in my heart. My dreams were icicles, hanging above me, threatening to fall. I was bitter and angry, struggling with the sting of rejection and emotional abuse. If you want to destroy me, speak ill of me or deny me verbal affirmation. I will crumble. I pretended to be strong but I was brittle inside. Despite the changing seasons, this winter of mine lasted about two and 1/2 years. I finally went through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free bible study and spent a lot of time memorizing and praying Scripture. I went to counseling and learned how to distinguish truth from a lie. Most pleasant afternoons, you’d find me lying on my back in a field behind the dorms, singing or crying out to my Redeemer. He thawed me. He reminded me of my worth, showed me others who were hurting much more than I was, and re-established who He created me to be. A daughter of the King.

These girls were my laughter.

These girls were my laughter.

We’ve all endured (or are enduring) those seemingly endless winters; the ones that leave a little frostbite on our hearts. Finn’s diagnosis and disability is oftentimes heart-breaking. One of my friends has lost both her mother and mother-in-law to tragedy. A client lost her brother, her niece and now her daddy–all too soon. I ran into a sweet momma at Target today, and though we had never met before, she reads my blog and recognized Finn. She said she was directed here by a friend-of-a-friend because she gave birth to a stillborn little boy at 40 weeks. Then several months later became pregnant with a precious daughter who has Down syndrome. One of my best and most faithful friends endured divorce when she was counting on forever. Many of you have suffered multiple miscarriages. You’ve felt the sting of abuse or neglect.

These pains can freeze us up; cause us to lock ourselves away from the world, curl up with a blanket over our heads and let the blizzard rage. And that’s okay for a while, but at some point, summer will come. It’s relentless. In your life, allow buds to grow, flowers to bloom, and eventually pluck those petals to share them with others who are still in the shadows.

...my blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Summer.

My blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Baby monitor.

If you’re shivering in winter, there’s hope. Summer is coming. I hear it right outside my window.

The Love Law

Although Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark holiday” and it slightly annoys me that heart boxes and teddy bears fill the grocery store aisles as Christmas decorations go on clearance, I still love it. I think holidays are fun simply because I like to celebrate, and I like to eat, and I like to laugh with people I love. Holidays are just that–holy days to celebrate what’s sacred in our lives. A day to “set apart” something and make it special.

And what better thing to celebrate than love?!

Finn at GoKids for his Valentine party. His shirt reads: "Love is the coal that makes this train roll." Thanks, Andersons!

Finn at GoKids for his Valentine party. His shirt reads: “Love is the coal that makes this train roll.” Thanks, Andersons!

I spent a few Valentine’s Days alone, and though they’re certainly not as magical as when you’re holding the hand of your date, it is still an opportunity to celebrate the people who enrich your life.

Some Valentine’s Days I feel led to I send flowers “from Jesus” to friends I know are hurting. Jane did this for me one particularly lonely V-Day. Once in college, I went for a long run to pray and thank the Lord for being my Pursuer. I always get to talk to my dad on the phone on Valentine’s Day, and he used to send me flowers prior to Joey. Dad’s always so sweet and sappy on the phone. Short–but sweet. πŸ™‚ Twice, when I was single and Jane’s boyfriend was long-distance, we got all dolled up and took each other out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. Starbucks for dessert. Great memories.

I hope you were able to celebrate this weekend. Not romance. Or sex. Or chocolate. But love.

My love and I. Date night!

My love and I. Date night!

Dinner at Scratch. Sweet potato black-bean burger. YUM. If you haven't been to Scratch, go!

Dinner at Scratch. Sweet potato black-bean burger. YUM. If you haven’t been to Scratch, go!

Crispy pancetta mac-and cheese to share! Sinful. Then we saw Monuement's Men. Such a fantastic movie!

Crispy pancetta mac-and cheese to share! Sinful. Then we saw Monument’s Men. Such a fantastic movie!

All weekend long I’ve been thinking about His love. How it’s perfect; unlike our diluted, and often twisted version of it. How Scripture says it’s self-sacrificing. Patient. Kind. Doesn’t boast. Drives out fear. Never jealous or rude. Doesn’t keep track of mistakes. Rejoices in truth. Always hopeful and supportive. Trusting. It doesn’t fail.

Wrong holy-day, but the Christmas carol, O Holy Night, is stuck in my head today for one reason. This line:

His law is love.

God isn’t waiting for us to mess up while He taps a ruler in His mighty hand. He’s the Judge, for sure. But of all the rules He chooses to focus on, it’s love. The greatest (and hardest) commandment. His government system? Love. His reason for Christ on the cross? Love.What if we were thrown in prison not for our crimes, but because we failed to love?

Just love. And I should aim to do it the way He does.

Hope you had a happy Valentine’s Day!

Joey

Today is Joey’s 31st birthday! I try not to be too sappy in my posts–for your sake and for my privacy. But this time I don’t care. If you don’t want to read about my marriage or my rock star husband, I won’t be offended.

This one’s for you, Joseph Earl.

Slovenia; River Soca

Slovenia; River Soca

My nose gets all sting-y just typing this. Joey rescued me…seriously; and in lots of ways. The Lord used him to remind me of my worth.

I spent a good year soaking up the Word after a difficult relationship in college–literally falling asleep on my Bible. I spent afternoons lying on my back in fields on OBU’s campus, praying and crying and letting the Lord renew my withered spirit. I had forgotten who I was. Jesus paid an expensive ransom for me and I was allowing lies to creep into my soul, whispering rejection and pain…wooing me away from my Father.

Joey is fun. He is light-hearted and easy-going. This man oozes grace. He was a breath of fresh air with messy black hair and an old Ford truck. He brought summer to my winter.

OBU Graduation Day 2005!

OBU Graduation Day 2005! Holy pink.

Once, he and Micah told Taylor and I that they wanted to take us out on a nice date. We dressed up…and as we walked outside our apartment, they dumped a pot of wet spaghetti noodles on our heads. Aside from the pranks, Joey was a bit too much drama for me at first; and I told him so.

Trouble.

Trouble.

He wasn’t perfect then; and hasn’t become so now. Let’s be honest. But he brought to my life such freedom from legalism and release from self-consciousness. He made me laugh and relax. He loved me the way I was and loved me more when I told him who I used to be. He rescued me.

Dating

Dating

Joey is a man of integrity. He is a protector and one heck of a father. Finn and baby-girl-in-my-tummy are so blessed to have a man like him to call Daddy.

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He loves intentionally and views his relationship to his family as an act of worship to God. He’s affectionate and always tells me how beautiful he believes I am–especially now when I need the reminder most.

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I love you, Joey. I celebrate you, and am humbled to call you mine. Happy Birthday!

A Reunion Ablaze

Last weekend one of my very best friends flew into OKC to commence our bi-annual Roomie Reunion. Jane is a gem. She is stunningly beautiful, oh-so-genuine, encourages my heart, has dance moves like you’ve never seen and is one of the bravest humans I know. I wish everyone could know her.

Janie with Finn and Navy

Janie with Finn and Navy

Taylor, Al, Lindsey and I are so grateful she flies up to visit us and has adjusted to our new “mom schedules.” This past weekend, however; Lindsey, Jane and I drove to Arkansas to stay at my parents’ house on the lake…without the kids! photo 1 photo 2

IMG_3824Taylor met up with us the following day after work, and Al met up with us all on Sunday morning. I forgot to bring pants to AR. Yep. So we had to make a pit stop at the Gap for a pair of skinny jeans before lunch on Friday afternoon (I am wearing yoga pants with knock-off Sperrys and a sweater in the pic below).

Linds, Jane and I

Linds, Jane and I

Relationships are a lot of work, right? If you want to sustain the good ones–the ones that have changed you for the better–you have to be intentional. Involved. Prayerful.

Linds, Jane, Tay and I

Linds, Jane, Tay and I

Me, Jane, Tay and Linds

You have to juggle five work schedules and squeeze your way onto one anothers’ busy calendars. It takes sacrifice on everyone’s part. But the laughing and the crying and the reminiscing are all so worth it.

Arkansas welcomed us on Friday with trees ablaze in autumn color. photo 1 copyWe walked and talked for about two hours on Friday morning and could not get over the beauty of the trees! photo 4 photo 3

I believe I must live in a place where there are large trees. This is what was missing for me in San Antonio. Trees that transform with the seasons, rooted in rich soil and reminding me it’s okay to change…natural to change. I am a tree and I am bare and shivering, then budding with new life, then full and fruitful and finally fiery but frail. The more I resist change–in relationships, myself, my views about God, my career, my child, my spouse, my living room rug–the less I grow.

Al with Finn and Me

Al with Finn and Me

Al, Jane, Tay and I

Al, Jane, Tay and I

I’m thankful my relationship with these girls has lasted life’s seasons.

Gong

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.Β