Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Jesse Tree

Christmas in in full swing here at Holding Little Hands and family.

Being married to a pastor has taught me that it is imperative to take advantage of holiday festivities immediately following Thanksgiving, in order to free up our schedules for the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So far, the agenda has included a visit to the Gaylord, a trip on the North Pole Express train, a viewing of the Polar Express, and a pancake breakfast scheduled with Santa. Also in the mix are plans for a holiday party, the building of a ginger bread house, a celebration of Chris' 30th birthday, and an early Christmas with one side of the family.

All of that, and yet we still don't have a decent Christmas card picture to show for it.

Go figure.

I love all the glitz and dreaminess of Christmas. However, as much as I want Park to have fond memories of baking Christmas yummies and partaking in holiday festivities, I pray that those pale in comparison to his memories of how our family celebrates the birth of our Saviour.

In light of this, we have added a new tradition this year that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to instill the true value of Christmas in their children.

It is called the Jesse Tree.

The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots." It is a vehicle to tell the Story of God in the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across thousands of years of history.

There are many creative ways this can be done, but in our family it simply looks like this:

Starting on Nov 30, we began reading passages of scripture each night. We've been using Park's Classic Bible Story Book (which I LOVE!), and supplementing scriptures from our own Bibles. After reading the story, we memorize a short verse of scripture and make an ornament that represents what we have read. (So far, we have only been using very basic art supplies such as yarn, Popsicle sticks, foam sheets, construction paper, cotton and so on)

Each night, we hang the new ornament on a special Christmas tree that is in Park's bedroom. As we place it on the tree, we take a minute to look at the previous ornaments and briefly recap the theme and scripture we learned from the nights before.

I am amazed at how much he is remembering and how much he looks forward to the activities that the next night holds. It has become the highlight of the day for each of us.

If you are interested in duplicating this tradition for your own family, you could easily use a modified version of this for the remaining days. To simplify, listed below are the passages we are using and (the symbol) we are basing our ornament on:

Introduction of the Jesse Tree
1 Sam 16:1-13 Isa 11:1-1: (The Tree)

Creation- God Made Everything in His Image
Gen 1:1-2, 3 (Sun)

Adam and Eve- Consequences for our Actions
Gen 2 and 3 exerpts (Apple)

Noah- The Flood
Gen 6:11-22, 7:17-8:12, 8, 20-9:17 (Rainbow)

Abraham- The Promise
Gen 12:1-7, 15:1-6, 17, 18 (Tent)

Isaac and Rebekah- Going Above and Beyond
Gen 24 (Camel)

Jacob- Assurance of the Promise
Gen 27:41-28: 22 (Ladder)

Joseph-God's Providence
Gen 37, 39:1-50:21 (Coat)

Moses-God's Leadership and Provision
Exodus 2:1-4:20, Exodus 12-18 excerpts (Manna)

The Ten Commandments
Exodus 19-32 excerpts, Deuteronomy 34 (Stone Tablet)

Joshua-The Fall of Jericho and Entering The Promised Land
Deuteronomy 33, Joshua 1-5 excerpts (Sandal)

Gideon-Unlikely Heroes
Judges 6, 7 (Trumpet)

Samson- Importance of Staying in God's Boundaries
Judges 13-16 excerpts (Flexed Arm Muscle)

Ruth- God Rewards Loyalty
Book of Ruth excerpts (Wheat)

Hannah's Promise- Samuel Listened to God
1 Samuel 1-3 excerpts (Ear)

David and Goliath- Fear Not
1 Samuel 16, 17 (Sling Shot)

David the King- Becoming a Man after God's Own Heart
1 Samuel 18, 26, 31 excerpts, 2 Samuel 6, 7 excerpts (Harp)

King Solomon- Fulfillment of God's Promise
1Kings 1, 3, 8 excerpts (Crown)

Jonah- Obeying God the First Time
Book of Jonah (Fish)

Three Faithful Men- Following God Wholeheartedly
Daniel 3 (Fire)

Daniel- God is in Control
Daniel 6 (Lion)

Nehemiah- Rebuilding and Gathering Together
The Book of Nehemiah excerpts (Shovel)

Mary- Being Willing to Accept the Call
Luke 1 (Silhouette of Mary)

Jesus -Birth of the Messiah
Luke 2:1-20 (Manger Scene)

*Pictures to follow when blogger cooperates:)

We may not end up with a great Christmas card photo this year, but I'm so thankful that snapshots of Jesus are being stored up in Park's heart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Turkey Toddler Trot

For the last few years, our church has run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. We all wear matching shirts that advertise our service times for Christmas and use the oportunity to invite others to be our guests.

Typically, we've been unable to participate in this event because my entire side of the family heads off to the anual Aggie/T.U. game.

But, this year we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with Chris' family (who live in the area) and that means watch out Turkey Trot, here we come!

Hubs was trying to talk me into running the 10K with him, but then he woke up and remembered who he is married to. Him walking in on my unathletic attempt at Taebo in our living room may or may not have served to jog his memory.

Since then, the word is, "Feel free to walk it at your own pace, sweetheart."

Needless to say, Park is beyond excited about this race. Or, at least he was until I told him there will be a lot of people there and we will need to bring his jogging stroller as a back up plan.

Enter The Great Stroller Strike '08.

According to him, no respectable three-year-old still rides in a stroller for any reason whatsoever. Apparently, that is soooo last year.

So, to prove his capability of running the race to completion, he has been practicing nonstop for the last 2 weeks. Running everywhere we go, he turns back over his shoulder to shout, "See me running this race, Mommy? See how fast I am?? I will WIN that Turkey Trot!"

Perhaps that stroller will come in handy for Park to wheel me across the finish line.

Park's Turkey Trot Countdown Chains!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Inspiring Minds Want to Know

Sarah, Bridget and I just concluded hosting our second Savor event and this month’s topic was “Parenting with an Eternal Perspective.”

I believe that every Christ-following mother has incredible intentions when it comes to the discipleship of her children. However, our dishwashers get full, laundry piles high, and our children constantly need food to eat. (What’s up with that, by the way?)

Somehow in the midst of it all, we get sidetracked with the every day things and lose sight of our ultimate responsibility as mothers.

So, our goal for this Savor was to give mothers (ourselves included) some practical tools for success.

Sally Clarkson’s “The Ministry of Motherhood” does an incredible job of dividing discipleship into 5 categories; Grace, Inspiration, Faith, Training, and Service. And possibly even more helpful, those categories spell out the acronym GIFTS.

For today’s post, I’ll focus on what God has been teaching me about “I”.

Inspiration: Inspiring our children to see the power and majesty of God.

If there is any church in America that models this concept it is Fellowship Church. (Clearly, our Pastor's sermon this weekend, entitled "Seven Days of S*x", illustrates this point! ) I absolutely love the creativity at our church. And the reason our church is so intentional about utilizing creativity is because our God is so creative and we (and our children) are made in his image.

Based on that premise, it is so important for me to seek to expose my son to the evidence of God’s artistry all around us. Not only to just expose him, but to teach him to respond with gratitude, as well as creative endeavors of his own.

Park started teaching me this concept very early on. I believe I’ve mentioned once (or a thousand times) that my child was born more oral than dental floss. He puts EVERYTHING into his mouth and I do mean EVERYTHING!

When he was 15 months old, we were playing outside and he found a dead spider and actually ate it!

Now, I’m not exactly sure that this is what the Psalmist had in mind when he said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”.

However, it does illustrate the point that our children are born with a hunger to experience the world around them, an insatiable appetite to explore the vastness of God’s creation.

But helping Park enjoy and appreciate God’s handiwork requires a choice on my part. Because if I were to be completely honest, it would be a stretch to describe myself as outdoorsy or even the least bit artsy crafty.

Just mention the word scrap booking and see me break out into hives.

But I strive to expose Park to nature, music, cooking together, plays, arts and crafts, books, Holiday traditions, field trips, and consistently modeling creativity in my own life.

And yes, that means I have to be willing to embrace the spilled paint, broken crayons, inconveniences, and hassles that go along with it. Because we all know projects never go as planned with small children!

But, all of that is worth it if I can even give him a glimpse of the creativity and majesty of our God.

And much to my relief, according to Sally, wise, creative mothers did not necessarily get that way on their own. A wise woman has learned to imitate lots of other wise women; the creativity comes in adapting those ideas to fit the needs of her own family.

One of the things I love about the blogging community is the ability to learn from wise mothers all around me- women I may never meet face to face, yet their ideas are helping make an eternal difference in the life of my son.

Now if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Grinch That Stole Daylight AGAIN

Last year around this same time of year, I posted this to vent my frustration with Mr. Daylight Saving Time.

Considering I feel the same disgust this year, I figured re-posting it might make me feel better.

It does.

Thanks for the therapy, Internet.

And thanks to the blogger out there whose post entitled "Can Someone Please Tell My Children the Time Changed" , for confirming to me that I'm not alone in my irritation:)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Collection Day"

Four years ago, on an election day similar to this, Park was just weeks away from being conceived. Perhaps this accounts for his vast array of political interest at the tender age of three.

Needless to say, he was ecstatic to get to vote with me today.

But, his bubble was burst a bit when we walked into the designated elementary school where our ballot would be cast.

"Where are they?" he asked.

"Who, baby?" I inquired.

"Is that one of them?" he asked loudly, while pointing wildly at an older gentleman.

"Who?" I repeated, quite confused.

"John McCain and Barack Obama!" he exclaimed.

Poor little man was so excited to go vote because he thought we would be meeting the presidential candidates. After stifling my laughter I explained that they were not here, to which he disgustedly responded, "Well, how are we supposed to vote for them if they don't even show up on collection (AKA, Election) day?!"

But, his disappointment was short lived after I let him push the "Cast Vote" button. One look at the American flag waving on the computer screen and he cheered, "We won! We won! I voted all by myself and we won, Mommy!

Apparently, one vote really does make all the difference.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Hero of a Halloween

It's a bird....It's a plane...No, it's a SUPER HALLOWEEN!

*(In case you are wondering why his cape is maroon, a certain someone had his heart set on being an "Aggie" Superman.)

Happy Halloween, Y'all!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shameful Family Secret Exposed

A few days ago, Bridget and I loaded our kids up in her minivan and headed over for a play date at Sarah's, along with our friend Angela.

As expected, within minutes, our children had scattered enough hot wheels, Lego's, dress up paraphernalia, and other various items across the house to entertain themselves for a few hours.

Somehow in the midst of multiple diaper changes, breaking up sharing squabbles and helping children in and out of costumes, we managed to have actual conversation.

One of the topics we discussed involved habits we are currently trying to break our children of and as we did so, those who had already found success in that particular area shared their motherly wisdom.

My area of concern?...The pacifier habits of a certain little boy.

Brace yourself, as I reveal that Park still sleeps with his pacifier (or as it is known in our family, pa). It looks hilarious to see my very over sized, highly verbal three-year-old sucking furiously on this itty bitty baby apparatus. Yet, there seems to be no end in sight.

In case you are wondering about the motherly wisdom I received on this subject, let me just start by saying this is why I love these people.

First order of business, Sarah reminded me that no adults we know still require one to sleep. And if Park does happen to be the first grown man to hold on to his pacifier habit, nobody will really know about it, besides his wife, who will already be joined with him for life by the time she discovers this quirky little problem.

Truly, she has a gift for putting things in perspective.

Bridget was quick to point out that anyone who scales the shelves of his closet to secretly obtain the treasured item might not be quite ready to dispose of it at this particular juncture in life.

It was at this point that I felt it necessary to fully disclose the seriousness of the situation.

You see, Park comes from a long line of pacifier hoarders, but perhaps the most serious offender of all is his Lolli.

When Lolli was 5-years-old, some family friends who had a small baby came for a visit. Upon leaving, the distressed mother of that unhappy baby realized a pacifier had been misplaced. Everyone tore the house up in an attempt to restore the missing item to the young child.

Everyone EXCEPT Lolli, that is.

It turns out that my precious, wouldn't hurt a fly mother FAKED looking for the beloved item. She waited until the unsuspecting guests had completely given up the rescue mission and left without it before she made her move.

The door had barely closed behind them before she swooped in and retrieved the MIA pacifier from behind the recliner. Making a mad dash to her bedroom, she stored the stolen treasure in her dresser, where she intermittently sucked it mercilessly for the next several years.

As I relayed the shameful family secret to my girlfriends, their eyes widened with amazement.

"Yeah, you are working against some serious odds," they said, thoughtfully assessing the situation.

That seemed like an opportune moment for Sarah to whip out the Pioneer Woman's sheet cake for consolation, as they reiterated that Park's wife will be the only person who will know that he still sleeps with his pacifier.

And it probably goes without saying that Lolli is not pushing for Park to be stripped of his pa, either.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hope Floats

Today I took Park to story time at the library, followed by some time at the adjacent playground.

I was struck by how grown up he has become as he sat on his little square of rug, intently listening to the librarian. He excitedly sang about the monkeys jumping on the bed and stomped his feet to "If You're Happy and You Know It", glancing back at me every so often to flash a big grin.

In that moment, I thanked God for giving me some extra, unexpected time of having Park as my only child. My heart swelled with love as I showered him with my undivided attention. Despite my longing for another baby, God is revealing to me the joy in trusting Him with my current circumstances and fully appreciating the blessing of where He has me in this moment.

To be completely honest, some days I am much better at this than others.

Oftentimes I feel more like Peter, as he took his gaze off of Jesus after being summoned out of the boat. That calm tranquility of locking eyes with His Saviour quickly turned into a sinking panic as he changed his focus to the high waves that enveloped him.

Today, as we made our way to the playground I began to push Park on a swing that put us in close proximity to a conversation taking place between two other mothers. Both women had 3 small children of their own and they were discussing if they would have more children.

One mother said, "If we do, I will not wait long. I don't understand why anyone would have their children spread out. Don't they realize how hard they are making it on themselves? Their children will never entertain each other and they surely won't have close relationships down the road."

The other mother nodded her head in agreement and went on to tell a story about one of her friends who had a two year old and "wasn't even thinking of trying for another anytime soon." The two shook their heads in disgust as one of the women summed up the situation with, "If you have your kids further than three years apart, it almost seems like it wouldn't even be worth it to have another child."

Suddenly, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, as the peace and joy I'd experienced in the library trickled away. I broke my gaze with Jesus and the high waves enveloped me in a big way.

Being that they were clearly oblivious to my presence, there is no doubt that they meant no harm by their conversation. But, in addition to being hurt by their careless words, I began to feel a righteous indignation boiling in my blood.

How could they be so ignorant? What gives them the right to belittle God's timing in other people's lives? How insensitive to speak so negatively of things they haven't experienced!

But in that angry moment, God reminded me that I, too, have been guilty of speaking with authority on things I know nothing about. Guilty of unintentionally making incorrect assumptions or insensitive statements when I wasn't the least bit aware of what that person's private life entailed.

Just the other day in Bible study I was looking at a beautifully put together, well groomed woman. I marveled at her cute hair cut and designer clothing, secretly thinking that she must be either materialistic or vain to put that much effort into her appearance.

Green eyed monster, anyone?

Imagine my shame when I mentioned how cute her haircut was and she responded that this was the first day she felt well in so long that she had decided to go all out in getting ready that morning.

She was in the throws of battling stage four breast cancer. Oh, and that cute haircut?... A wig, covering her precious bald head.

As women, why are we often so quick to go negative about other women? We are so full of opinions and overflowing with such an abundance of words, that we sometimes forget to use them to build others up; to encourage a sister in need; or simply to discern when NOT to speak.

My righteous indignation at the playground melted into a broken hearted repentance and a new realization.

It's high tide, friends.

Women all around us are facing unimaginable waves and being asked to get out of the boat and walk in faith. (Jesus did not say IF trouble comes, but rather WHEN!) The Bible makes it crystal clear that the key to weathering storms is to keep our eyes on Jesus. But perhaps just as important, I'm realizing that I don't want my careless words to be the stumbling block that causes someone else to break their gaze with Him.

Ladies, let's speak words of life to sinking sisters in need!

May the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be pleasing to you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Master of Disaster

Please allow me to introduce you to Captain Destructo (left) and his partner in crime (right).

And judging from how infrequently I've been posting lately, re-introducing myself to the blogging world may be in order, as well.

Hi, I'm Brittani and things have been a little hectic.

So until I return, I thought I'd leave you with the top 5 titles of some posts that I SHOULD have written lately:

#5) Our Closet Threw Up in Our Bedroom (and other tales of hubby's construction obsession)

#4) Hip Hop Hooray (the making of a student ministry video)

#3) On Pins and Needles (a quest for an acupuncturist)

#2) Smashing Pumpkins (a trip to the pumpkin patch gone wrong)

#1) Beady Eyes That Made Me Cry (caught in the crossfire of hubby's war with a mouse)

Hoping to expand at least one of these into an actual post in the near future......

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Life in the Slow Lane

In a few short hours we will be heading out to the lake to soak up some rest and relaxation that looks something like this:
And there is no doubt that hubby and brother-in-law, along with some very excited little boys, will also be doing lots of this:
Those same excited little boys will spend most of their weekend in a boat, digging in the dirt, or feeding corn to these:
Except on Saturday, where they will temporarily put dirt digging on hold so we can join up with our people:
Here's to a long weekend of book reading, Aggie football, time away with family, and slow paced living.

And here's to hoping that yours is equally as enjoyable!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Savoring the Gift of Motherhood

Last year, our pastor's wife, Lisa Young, began a new ministry called Flavour that meets on a monthly basis at our church. It is a place where woman of all ages gather for an hour in the middle of the day to be encouraged and inspired to use the unique "flavour" God has given us to influence our families, friendships, and communities.

Recently, Lisa came to Bridget, Sarah, and me, to share with us that God has been expanding that vision even further.

He placed a desire in her heart to create a brand new ministry of Flavour that would provide a program specifically designed for mothers of young children to come together for refreshment, rejuvenation, and to embrace this remarkable time in life. She wants Fellowship Church to provide a place where women in the same season of life can befriend one another and find encouragement and support from other mothers who are currently in the trenches with them.

Definitely qualifying as women in the trenches, Bridget, Sarah, and I were asked to lead this new ministry called Savor. (And I can't even tell y'all how well this has worked for providing us with a great reason to increase our number of Chili's nights!)

In all seriousness, the three of our lives have been so enriched by our friendships with each other and we are so excited to see all the relationships that God will develop through women coming together to savor the gift of motherhood.

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we would love to invite you to share this experience with us as we gather for the first time on Tuesday, Oct 7. Not only is it going to be fun and inspiring, but who can turn down free childcare?

Interested in more details? Click here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tooting My Own Horn

You know it's not a good sign when I haven't even started the post, and I already feel the need to preface it by saying I have never found humor in bodily functions.

Without getting too graphic, let's just say that any noise requiring an "excuse me" after it does not rate high on my laugh meter.

Even typing about this subject is causing me to turn three shades of red, but I'm enduring the embarrassment for the sake of having this memory recorded in writing.

Poor Park might as well have been a horn today because I can't even count the number of toots that left his little body.

And each time it happened, he would politely say excuse me, in between giggling hysterically. By about the 10th time in a row of this happening, I suggested that he take a few minutes to sit on the potty.

However, even after doing so, the problem was not solved. But after about 5 more excuse me's and the resulting belly laughs, Park suddenly got very serious.

Eyes wide with concern, he turned to me and said, "Mommy, I can hardly believe how much my bottom is talking today! I'm afraid it might not have any words left for tomorrow."

And thanks to that statement, I found myself giggling until the tears rolled down my cheeks.

Apparently, those bodily functions rate higher on my laugh meter than I gave them credit for.

Thank you, Lord for knowing this girly-girl needed a son. He has not only broadened my horizons and stretched my comfort zone, but expanded my sense of humor, as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Squirrely Revelation

So it seems I haven't hit my blogging groove this fall. I got out of rhythm over the summer and I keep thinking I'll start back up on a consistent basis, but it just hasn't happened yet.

However, since sporadic posting is better than no posting at all, I'm pressing forward.

Lately, Park and I have been spending as much time as humanly possible outdoors. Now this is a stretch for me since I'm an air conditioning kind of girl, but the weather has been so beautiful that it just seems shameful to waste it.

Recently, we've been enjoying long walks and acorn collecting at a really wooded park near our house. Today we took turns throwing acorns off a cliff into a large stream several feet below. I can't do the delightful giggles justice, so I won't even attempt to explain the amount of joy this brought my little nature lover.

As we watched squirrels climbing through the trees, Park turned to me and said, "I love acorns and squirrels and trees and dirt and sticks. This is the best day of my whole life!"

And based on the fact that he told me the same thing at Allaso Ranch, Six Flags, and his birthday party, I'd say that each day just keeps getting better and better for my sweet Park.

Seeing things through his eyes is such a treat. I love that everything is so new and exciting to him. There is such an anticipation and expectancy in everything he does. I can only imagine how much Park's enthusiasm for life warms God's heart.

We were all created with that same zest and expectancy, yet I sometimes find my childlike excitement being choked out by adult circumstances. When I try to figure things out, I lose my sense of wonder, which generally transpires into feeling far away and forgotten by God. But the truth is, there is no circumstance, situation, valley, trial, fear or doubt that can ever separate me from His love. He is the Author of my life and Finisher of my faith.

And when I walk in His truth it makes everything new and exciting, bringing anticipation and expectancy back into my heart. Park's enthusiasm consistently reminds me that today is the best day God has given me yet and my tomorrows (assuming He sees fit to give us these) will only get better and better.

Perhaps I should share this message of hope with the poor little squirrel we met at the park today, traumatized by the overzealous three-year-old throwing acorns his direction.

Friday, September 19, 2008

You Win Some, You Lose Some

A conversation with Park today:

Me: "It's important to use your kind words."

Park: "Why?"

Me: "Because if you don't treat your imaginary friends nicely, they won't want to play with you anymore."

Park: "Well, if they don't start being nice to me, I won't play with them anymore, either!"

Is it my imagination or did that teachable moment just backfire on me?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Updated: We praise the Lord for sparing the homes of my family. There is minimal damage for them personally, but the areas where they live have been hit very hard. Electricity is scarce and water damage has destroyed many of the surrounding cities. Please continue your prayers for all those facing the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike is the hot topic around here. Although the Dallas area is going to get quite a bit of rain, it is not ourselves that we are concerned for.

My entire extended family (parents, grandparents, all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their families) live directly in the path of this nasty hurricane. I praise the Lord that they have all evacuated safely, taking refuge in my sister's house in East TX, a family lake house near College Station, and our house in DFW.

Hurricane Rita left terrible damage in their area 3 years ago. Huge pine trees were uprooted and thrown into houses, but everything was livable and able to be rebuilt.

However, this storm is predicted to bring 12-25 feet of surging water. If the water exceeds 17 feet, all of my relatives homes and communities will be severely flooded, if not completely obliterated. Please be in prayer for not only our family, but the thousands of others who could be so deeply impacted by this hurricane.

We are so thankful that we serve a God bigger than circumstances. It has never been a secret that our earthly possessions are temporary. During this time of great uncertainty, my family takes comfort in Isaiah 54:10:

"For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of blessing will never be broken," says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Thank you for joining us in prayer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Big Boy Room is a Hit

We finished Park's big boy room almost six months ago, but it recently occurred to me that those pics never made it to the blog. I must give some props to hubby because, minus the bunk beds, he built every single piece of furniture and shelving in the room. And honestly Chris should get some credit for the beds, as well, since they are actually his childhood bunks that he refurbished.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the room, one that I was unable to capture in pictures, is Park's new closet. Our house was designed with large walk-in closets in each bedroom. They are incredible, minus the fact that there is so much wasted space due to the lack of storage within them. After calling around to check pricing for having the closets throughout our house professionally customized, Chris decided that there was no reason to pay good money for something he could do himself.

Now, let's just say that there may have been some skepticism on the part of a certain wife who had concerns that hubby had never actually had any experience in closet design. But,that same wife wished she could have eaten her doubting words after seeing how well the project turned out.

Hello beautiful built-ins and exceptionally well-utilized closet space!

And despite the fact that I had originally wanted to stay away from a theme for the room, our little baseball obsessed offspring persuaded me otherwise. He could not have been more thrilled when he realized his name was actually going to be spelled out with baseballs. Truth be told, having the theme made pulling it all together a lot easier in the end.

But, judging from how many times he has jumped off the top bunk, perhaps we should have considered a parachute theme.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that after reading the above statement, Lolli is currently scouring the Internet in hopes of finding a safety net to purchase for Park's bedroom?

Poor woman never had boys.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The New Zoo

First and foremost, thank you for all your precious comments on my last post. It is such a blessing to be encouraged and supported in prayer.

Today Park and I ventured out for a little grocery shopping. We were in no rush to get anywhere, so we decided that we might as well make an adventure of it. (Truthfully, grocery shopping with small children is always an adventure anyway, right?) Upon Park's suggestion, we decided to pretend our outing to Wal-Mart was actually a trip to the zoo.

And based on how crowded it was on a random Wednesday morning, it really wasn't all that much of a stretch.

Our first stop was produce, and it was in this department that Park determined that we must eat some ice cream if we were going to enjoy our zoo experience. Just as I was about to shoot down that idea, I turned and saw what he was using as a makeshift cone.

"Yummy to my tummy!" he exclaimed, " This broccoli ice cream cone is DELICIOUS. And it makes me super strong!"

Broccoli crowns as ice cream cones? Knock yourself out, buddy. And to think of all the times I've stressed over getting him to eat his vegetables when it turns out all I needed to do was take him to the "zoo"?

A few minutes later we encountered our first zoo animals:

"WOW, MOMMY!" he shouted, "They don't even have lobsters at the real zoo. This is the coolest zoo I've ever seen!"

Yes, baby. And let's look at them quickly before the lady behind us purchases a handful. Praise the Lord she was gracious enough to wait until we were out of sight so I didn't have to explain why the zoo pets are being cooked for dinner.

After moving to the bread aisle, we encountered two small children in the throws of screaming tantrums over a mutual desire to push their mommy's cart. (Not unlike the fit an unnamed child, who may or may not belong to me, threw at the check-out last week, I might add.)

While I did my best to avert my eyes in order to give the frazzled mother the opportunity to preserve some dignity, Park on the other hand was tickled pink to point and squeal loudly. "Looks like we found the monkeys!!!" He proceeded to place his hands in his underarms, while dancing around and making loud OOH-OOH-OOH monkey noises.

So much for preserving the dignity of either mommy.

Finishing up with the groceries, we made our way to the aquarium portion of the "zoo". He was delighted to see the little fish swimming around, although I'm pretty sure they were really happy to see us leave after he banged on their tank to see "the little fishies swim all fast." I had flash backs to Finding Nemo when the dentist's niece came in for a visit.

After checking out and making our way back to the car, Park said, "That was really fun, Mommy, but I'm so sad we didn't see an elephant."

"Maybe next time, sweet P, " I said, "but for now let's get these groceries into the trunk."

A huge smile lit up his precious face and I heard him saying, "Our car has a trunk!"

I was a bit confused and distracted, so I just mumbled, "Yup." Unsatisfied, he pulled at my leg and said, "MOMMY! Our car has a trunk? Our car has a trunk? Our car is an ELEPHANT! This is the BEST ZOO IN THE WHOLE WORLD!!!"

Perhaps Wal-Mart should change their marketing strategy.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More Than Enough

Almost 2 weeks have gone by since I last posted and I'm not exactly sure where I have been, but apparently I took some kind of a blogging break.

Our days have been filled with games of Candyland, racing hot wheel cars, eating Popsicles on the patio, and fitting in as many trips to the pool as possible before summer is officially gone.

And during spare moments in between all that fun, I've had my nose stuck in Sally Clarkson's The Mission of Motherhood. Sarah has raved about this book to me forever, but recently she entrusted her beloved marked up copy to my care and said, "You HAVE got to read this!"

Why did I not listen sooner? I love books that renew, strengthen and support the desires that God has already instilled upon my heart as a mother. This book has done all that and more. It has helped to reignite my passion and resolve for embracing God's call on my life during this particular season and to make the most of each opportunity I am given to minister to Park.

But I would be less than honest I did not share that this book has also increased a longing that already exists in my heart. For the last several years, Chris and I have been perfectly content for Park to be our only child. Although we knew we would eventually desire another baby, our family felt full and complete for the time being and we adore the one-on-one time we are able to spend with him.

Looking back, my entrance into motherhood was less than ideal. After a very easy conception and thoroughly enjoyable pregnancy, we were anxiously awaiting the little bundle of joy I had dreamed of all my life.

My labor started out very manageable, and I felt exceptionally prepared from my natural childbirth birthing classes and the midwives who were overseeing my care.

Until it was time to push.

NOTHING could have prepared me for Park's determination to come through the birth canal with both hands cupping his face and elbows pointed straight out. After 5 hours and 10 minutes of INTENSE pushing and exhaustion, I finally heard Chris utter those glorious words.

"It's a BOY!"

Except, I was so out of it by that point that it really didn't register until about 10 minutes later that we actually had a son. A week after his birth, I lost an exceptional amount of blood and was rushed to the hospital. Upon being released from a week long hospital stay, I was readmitted shortly thereafter with additional complications. During this time Park developed severe breathing issues and was unable to sleep unless held upright on someones chest. I was so weak, frail, and sleep deprived by this point, that we enlisted my parents to come and live with us for over a month.

And did I mention that Chris was promoted to be the Sr. High pastor during that time, as well?

There is so much more to this story that I would love to share at some point, but it will suffice to say that unexpected challenges engulfed our family during Park's entire first year of life. I remember rocking him the night before his first birthday and crying tears of joy and relief that we had indeed made it through.

And somewhere around that time the fog lifted and my life regained the rich fulfillment I dreamed motherhood would bring.

About 9 months ago, Chris and I decided to start trying for another baby. I have to be honest in saying my heart was a little apprehensive at the time, based on the rocky days described above. But as each month has passed, that longing has grown into a deep desire for the opportunity to bring another life into this world. Even though that opportunity has not yet come.

Having conceived Park without actually trying, I don't think I truly understood what a miracle it was for God to ordain that particular moment to speak his little life into existence. But as I wait for Jesus to bring another child to my womb, I am extremely aware that He alone is the author of life.

Believing is easy when things are going as expected, but it is in times of longing that the rubber really meets the road.

Do I truly believe God is All-powerful, All Knowing, and able to do immeasurably more than I can imagine? Do I trust His timing and believe in the things I cannot yet see ? Do I long for Him more than I long for what He can give me? Do I believe that His provision for each day is more than enough? Can I submit to His will NO MATTER WHAT?

I have walked with Jesus long enough to recognize that He will work out all things for my good. It doesn't mean I have to like it or understand it, but it does mean I recognize that He is God and I am not. I will choose to trust Him even when I don't feel like it. I will find contentment in the waiting, so that when the blessing comes, I will not have missed out on the enjoyment of the journey.

When Jesus sees fit, He will expand the mission of my motherhood. In the mean time, I pray I am faithful with what He has already entrusted to me, contently enjoying the fullness of loving Park.

And for today, that is more than enough.

"Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm. 37:4,5)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Under The Big Top

*WARNING: This post contains a death defying number of pics and amazing amount of corny circus phrases coined by the Ringmaster.

For me, watching Park enjoy his Third Birthday Circus truly was "The Greatest Show on Earth!" And although the invitation said "Appearing One Day Only", the memories made wih friends and family on that special day will be cherished forever. To my beloved Hubby, you sure know how to take a girl's vision and run with it!

(For those who were not there in person, please feel free to "Step Right Up" and enjoy some pics:)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Billy, Take it Easy On Me

I am sitting in the chair next to my bedroom window watching the rain fall. The house is unusually quiet with Park down for an unexpected afternoon nap.

He pretty much all but gave up naps a few months back, so it is a special treat to have some quiet time all to myself. Typically, he does play in his room for about an hour as a trade off for sleep, but that time doesn't ever feel extremely relaxing, what with the banging of race cars into walls and cheering for his stuffed animals to fly off the top bunk and all.

Although, I do count my blessings that the animals are now taking over for my cute little man, who has been known to do all his own stunts in the past.

As much as I would love to use this time to post fun party pictures, the thought of waiting for all the photos to upload off my camera would shatter the tranquility of the moment. So, instead I will let you in on some deep thoughts that I'm currently pondering:

1) Why is it that my Tae Bo exercise tape takes only 25 minutes from start to finish, yet I seem to avoid it like the plague? Recently, I've been feeling like I have no excuse not to exercise, so I got Park to do this video with me. He enjoyed it a lot more than I did.

2) How is it that I loaded/unloaded the dishwasher twice yesterday and still found a sink full of dishes waiting for me this morning?

3) Could I travel to Beijing and come back with gymnast Alicia Sacramone in my suitcase without anyone ever realizing I left? Bless her sweet little heart, that girl is in serious need of a hug after getting roughed up by those mean old Olympics.

4) Should I be more embarrassed at the fact that I have tickets to the SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE tour that is coming to Dallas or that I'm counting down the days until the show comes back on the air next summer?

5) If I simply play the Tae Bo tape while sitting on the floor folding laundry, will this count as exercise?

6) Why is it that days you can't take your kids outside to play feel twice as long as days you can?

7) When other people are annoyed when your child throws a loud tantrum at the grocery store, wouldn't that energy be better spent by giving the embarrassed Momma an encouraging smile? (To protect the privacy of the guilty, the tantrum thrower shall remain nameless)

8) Wouldn't it seem only fair to house the large drum set given to the birthday boy at the house of the Grandma who gave it to him? After all, it doesn't seem right for her to miss out on all the beautiful music this little prodigy is creating. (Love you Momma C:)

9) Is it possible to pass off a bowl of Cheerios as our dinner tonight?

10) Did I actually just spend the same amount of time typing this random post as it would have taken to just suck it up and listen to Billy Blanks scream at me to count out my last 4 punches? Three Tae Bo reference must mean I'm feeling convicted to just do it already.

Goodbye tranquil moment, hello alternating knee lifts and side kicks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Free"- A Birthday Love Letter

My Sweet Parkie Pooh,

It is almost incomprehensible to me that today, you are starting the third year of your precious little life. Wasn't it just 5 minutes ago that I was kissing your chubby little cheeks and celebrating with Daddy as we welcomed you into this world? And as much as I would love to freeze time and keep you just as you are in this very moment, the last several years have taught me that each day holds so many new and precious memories that it is impossible to be melancholy about moving forward.

Each and every month of your life I think, "THIS is definitely my favorite age." You just get better with each passing day, my love. As I looked back over the last two birthday love letters I have written to you, I am blown away at how grown up you have become this last year.

Not only do you have a vocabulary that continues to amaze me, but you also know how to use your words and sentences in a context that just keeps me laughing nonstop. One of my favorite things you say right now each time we leave the house is, "Mommy, I will protect you and take care of everything." You have long since left behind diapers and baby beds and moved into the world of being a big boy. Although, when I tell you this, you are often quick to correct me by saying, "Mommy, I'm not a boy at all, me and Daddy are MEN."

And in many ways, I would have to agree with you.

Physically, you are able to lift more weight and power through more things then I would have ever believed possible for a three year old. You are the most self sufficient little fellow, rarely asking for help with ANYTHING. It is not unusual for you to move heavy chairs across the house to turn on lights or to scale the counter tops to reach the highest cabinets. Nothing is impossible for you because you won't stop until you find a way to MAKE things happen.

From the first moment I felt you in my womb until this very day, you never stop moving. You are an action packed force to be reckoned with and there is nobody that loves life more than you. You can jump the highest, run the fastest, and throw the furthest. You can climb anything in the blink of an eye and shame on me if I turn my back on you for any reason whatsoever. Ironically, though, you absolutely love to cuddle and will curl up with me for a good hour of book reading on a regular basis. You will never know how thankful I am for that precious time together.

So much has changed from last year, but there are a few things that have stayed exactly the same. Hands down, you are still a daddy's boy. He is the end all be all of your world. Nothing pleases you more than a few hours of, "JUST THE BOYS!" And can I just say that I'm not sure who has more fun, you or daddy? Park, your daddy spends so much time loving on you and teaching you. He has so much patience with you and although he is quick to discipline when necessary, he never gets tired of having you right alongside him. It is such a joy for me to see the two of you together.

Also similar to last year, you are OBSESSED with baseball, which really makes me laugh considering it is Daddy's least favorite sport. We aren't sure where it came from, but there is no denying you have a gift in this area. You hit the ball with such force that we go through bats on a regular basis. You will use the tee as a last resort, but you prefer Daddy or me to pitch it to you. Every now and then if you have trouble hitting the ball, you will say, "We need a new pitcher. This one just isn't any good."

There are so many intricate things about you that make me smile at God's creativity. You are truly marked by His workmanship. One of the traits that Jesus has given you that I most admire is your passion. And although many times it is the very thing I have to work so hard to reign in, it is so often this specific quality in you that reminds me of His reign over our lives.

This morning you woke up and said, "I am so excited to be 'free' (three) that I can hardly stand it!" Never forget that you are indeed free, my little sweet P. Jesus payed a high price for your freedom and He has plans for your life that are far beyond what you can dare to imagine. I love you with all my heart and I am so excited God chose me to be your mommy that I can hardly stand it!

Happy 3rd Birthday, my love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Just Clowning Around

I am long overdue on my Allaso Ranch wrap up post, complete with an insane amount of pictures and stories of life change and revival. It is in the works, but I'm having a hard time completing it because it almost seems impossible to capture with mere words all that this last month was about. And although I'm hesitant to put a timetable on when it will appear on the blog, I can tell you that I am hopeful to complete it sometime before we return there next summer.

Did I just take vagueness to a higher level or what?

In the mean time, I can share with you that we are currently in the throws of party planning. As unbelievable as it is to me, Park will be turning three next week and he had a special request as to what theme his party would revolve around this year.

When next Friday rolls around, Park's Third Birthday Circus: The Greatest Show on Earth will be appearing for one day only at our house. Well, technically, the show is already in progress because there is a little boy so excited for his party that he has walked around looking like this for the past week:

By the way, Chris wanted me let you know that we are more than willing to rent this little clown out, so that you, too, can experience ear piercing squeals and getting your nose honked every five seconds as he shouts, "STEP RIGHT UP, LADIES AND GENNLEMEN!"

My husband is nothing if not a generous man.

I also might as well admit to the entire Internet that we are THOSE people. You know the ones I'm talking about? The obnoxious parents that enjoy throwing large birthday bashes that our little man will probably not remember six months from now. We don't spend crazy amounts of money or anything, but we do love to go all out in the planning department. And even though I realize this is more for me, considering Park would be happy with a just a cupcake and some streamers, I find it to be a much needed creative outlet that I look forward to each year.

Especially since I simply dream up the crazy ideas, whereas hubby does most of the actual work.

And it would be wrong not to give props to my mom and sis, who are always assigned to any party duties that require the use of kitchen appliances. What can I say? It's not my fault that Challi can ice a mean cupcake.

And I think what I look forward to the most each year is the chance to bring our families and precious friends together to celebrate the blessing of having them in our life, investing in Park right alongside us.

After all, it definitely takes a village to raise a clown.

(Or at the very least, to keep us out of the funny farm:)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Knew Scrambled Eggs Could Teach Me So Much?

A year ago today, I posted this.

Although Park is still not exactly the picture of self control, I see that God is already molding and shaping him into something amazing. As I watched Park working in the yard with Chris all evening, I was struck by how grown up my little man is becoming.

I heard him asking questions and offering suggestions for how they might improve upon the tasks at hand. I saw Park throw down his shovel in frustration when Chris didn't do exactly what he wanted. As Chris bent down to talk to him about his poor attitude, I was struck by the repentance in Park's little eyes.

"I'm sorry, Daddy. I won't do it again," he promised.

Once again, I was reminded that deep within that strong-willed spirit is simply a little boy trying to find his place in this world. As a parent, I often spend too much of my time dwelling on negative behavior or contemplating how draining it can be to give the constant discipline that young children require.

I focus on what I want for his destination verses enjoying the journey it takes to get there.

As big as my precious Park is getting, this is as little as he will ever be. And yes, I want to be certain to keep up the constant discipline and eliminate negative behaviors, but I also want to appreciate the growing pains along the way.

I want to live in the moment. To savor every mischievous smile he throws my way; To bottle up all his wet kisses and the silly little songs he makes up; To bask in his endless energy and imaginary friends; To hold him a little longer when I read his bedtime story or to linger at his door when putting him back to bed after a bad dream; To answer one more "Why?" question and to laugh harder at his jokes that make no sense at all; To take extra time to make meals, just so he can help; And to extend my patience beyond what I feel I'm capable of doing.

Because when all is said and done and Park is the man God intends for him to be, the scrambled egg moments that got us there will be the memories I treasure the most.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Mildly Exagerated Tale

Yesterday, my neighbor Michelle and I threw caution to the wind and took a trip to Six Flags Amusement Park, despite the fact that that it was projected to be over 105 degrees. Apparently, it takes more than being able to fry an egg on the concrete to scare us away from some good old fashioned Texas fun.

And had we known what was in store for us, the scorching temperature would have been the least of our worries.

Now, keep in mind that Michelle is one of those oober prepared people by nature. Her son Jacob is just six months older than Park and prior to our trip she had taken her trusty little park map and marked it up for all the rides deemed height appropriate for our boys. Upon arriving, she navigated us directly to the Looney Tunes area, which according to the Six Flags rating system, fell into the "Mild" category.

The boys skipped from one ride to the next, as if they were professionals. The smile on Park's face was so huge that I could see it clearly from the ground, even when he ascended high into the sky on the airplane ride.

Eventually, the boys walked up on a roll-a coaster that required a parent to ride with them. And that might have been an issue for some kids, but being that Park and Jacob were born to mommies who hunger for an adrenaline rush, we hopped on as giddy as they were.

UNTIL, the ride actually BEGAN...

Can I just say that whoever was in charge of determining the rating system is in need of a serious psychological evaluation?

MILD???? MILD, I ask you???

Call me crazy, but I believe lost hats, whiplash, and broken necks rate at least "Moderate". It's not like I'm asking for an "Extreme" , because it only makes sense that someone actually has to lose their life on the ride before it earns that rating. But, people, work with me here.

As the ride came to a screeching halt, complete with smoking wheels and ear piercing squeals, those in the back of the roller coaster suddenly found themselves relocated to the front. Thankfully, we were already in the front, so we simply landed on the exit ramp and ran like mad to get as far away from that torturous experience as possible.

Well, we would have run had our necks not been snapped in two.

That, and the fact that our children had already made their way back in line to ride it again. I actually saw tears in the eyes of a father whose daughter said, "Daddy, let's do that together one more time!"

A grown man, muscular enough to play in the NFL, driven to tears by the sheer panic of having to repeat the ride once again.

That has "Moderate" rating written all over it, I tell you.

All in all, we had a blast. The boys had the time of their lives and Michelle and I laughed until we almost wet our pants. And in hindsight, it really wouldn't have mattered, considering how drenched we were by The Aqua Man, which coincidentally was the one ride we didn't even get on.

However, apparently dropping vertical into a river at a speed fast enough to cause a tidal wave that soaks those simply walking by at an inopportune moment doesn't get you more than a "Mild" rating either.

And on that note, since me driving this point into the ground is probably getting "Mildly" old, let's just move on to some fun pics from our memorable day:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Do

Six years ago today, Chris and I were standing before our friends and family, pledging our love and commitment to one another with two powerful words:

"I DO."

How could that many years have gone by when I still remember so clearly the feeling I had as the doors of the church opened and my dad escorted me down the long aisle to the man I could not wait to spend the rest of my life with? It is as if that day happened just yesterday or last week at the very most. And yet in six short years, so many memories have been created that it almost feels like we have already lived a lifetime together.

In the naivety of that blissful moment at the alter, we had no idea what "I Do" would actually look like. But, we were willing to stand by those words just the same.

In the first few years, "I Do" meant dreamy beach vacations, last minute romantic getaways, and talking into the wee hours of night. It meant buying and remodeling our first home, spending time with other couples, and dreaming about the children we would some day have. For Chris, it often meant helping me grade papers or putting together shelves for my classroom, and for me, it entailed 17 hours bus rides to youth camp and international mission trips to be involved in the calling on my husband's life.

In later years, "I Do" meant experiencing the joy of having our baby growing in my stomach, giving birth to our first child, and weathering the storm of my health issues that pounded us the year after his birth. It meant getting to see each other through the eyes of our child and appreciating each other as parents. It meant falling in love, all over again, but in a whole different way.

In recent years, "I Do" has meant building a house together, raising a toddler, and dreaming of expanding our family. It's meant seeing Chris grow into the leadership God has given Him and having a front row seat to the anointing that Jesus has placed on his life. It's meant basking in God's faithfulness to our family and standing firmly on His promises.

There was no way to comprehend that "I Do" would mean so many different things throughout so many different seasons of our marriage. Nor can we possibly fathom what it will look like for all that lies ahead of us.

And yet, I am every bit as willing to stand behind those words today as I was six years ago.

We Do, We Have, And We Will...

I love you, Chris. Happy anniversary!