Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thirsty Grass: A Thing of the Past

After a long five hour drive on Friday, we made it back safely.

I always feel such a sadness to leave my family, but I love the feeling of opening the front door and knowing that we are indeed home. Park usually runs around reacquainting himself with his favorite toys while Chris and I unload suitcases and reminisce about our time away. There is just something very calming about sleeping in your own bed, with all the comforts of the familiar surrounding you.

And now I'm going to abruptly shatter any serenity the above description may have conjured up by switching gears into something far less beautiful.


Judging from the amount of times we stopped for Park's roadside relief, I pity any mommies of recently potty trained girls who frequently take trips on long country roads. "Don't worry, sweetie, there is a bathroom just 20 miles ahead" just doesn't cut it when your tiny bladder is telling you NOW. I had never realized how efficient Park's knack for outdoor bathroom usages would become.

However, I was not so pleased to see him attempt a repeat performance on the grass in front of our church Saturday night. And if you are not completely cringing for me yet, might I add that services had just let out.

What an opportune moment to be spotted by someone wanting to introduce a friend to the wife of their high school student's pastor.

Hi, it is so nice to meet you. This is your first time at our church? Well, we are so glad you are here. Yes, my husband is the Sr. High pastor. Oh, and let me introduce you to our son. Um..... he would be the one attempting to water the grass. PARK RYLAND! (Nothing says welcome better than freshly fertilized grass, right?) Please excuse me, will you?

Maybe those mommies of recently potty trained girls should pity me instead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Part 2 Adventures

...Continued as promised....

So we arrived at Lolli and Pops' house just in time to for the Village Creek Festival that takes place here each year. And as an added bonus, Challi, Rob, and their boys made the trip as well to complete the impromptu family gathering. Can I just say that there is nothing that makes Lolli happier than having all her ducks (and baby chicks) in one place? Even if they spread their feathers all over her normally clean household.

Since shopping together in Dallas, this was my first time to see all the new remodeling that has taken place and to have a chance to see the fruition of our massive fabric hunt. I must say it is coming along quite nicely. And judging from some of the accessorizing that took place behind my back, I might be consulting them for future decorating choices. Who knew there was such a design diva hiding in Lolli's little 5 ft body? This bathroom turned out to be one of my favorite things hands down:

But, these counter tops and back splash take a close second:

And for his part, Pops' did his best not to cringe when Park and Krew threw footballs at a recently purchased lamp and wiped blueberry stained hands on brand new furniture. Who knew there was such a pushover hiding in Pops' 6ft 2 body?

As for the festival, complete with a parade, I'm not sure if Park could have enjoyed himself any more. Unfortunately, not everybody shared in the enthusiasm. The first ride of the night was the flying elephant and poor Krew may never feel the same about dumbo again after crying so hard they shut the ride down early out of mercy.
Park was undaunted by Krew's terror. In fact, the elephant experience only fed his desire to ride everything from the tiny roller coaster to the hobby horses. But I had to draw the line when he tried to bypass the height requirement and break in line for the Zipper.

The two cousins found common ground once again when Park and Krew both fell in love with the large slide. However, I'm not sure either of the boys had as much fun on it as Pops did.

Chris and I even took turns taking Park down just to get in on the action. Now,I've always considered myself an amusement park junkie, but apparently I'm losing touch in my old age. The festival slide was so fast that my heart took residence in my throat and I had to will myself not to faint halfway down. I envisioned the paramedics wheeling me out on a stretcher as Chris explained to Park why we shouldn't be so excited to ride in an ambulance.

Not a pretty picture.

But, all in all, this week with grandparents is shaping up to be full of magical memories (and broken lamps.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lil' Gentleman, His Mommy, and Their Suitcases

With Chris meeting with other youth pastors in Houston all week, we decided it would be the perfect chance for Park and me to spend some quality time at Lolli and Pops' house. I chose to withhold this information from Park until the day before the trip because I've learned the anticipation of it all is more than his little 2-year-old heart can bear.

Well, actually it is my 30-year-old heart that can't bear the excitement of the million "I NEED TO GO NOW!" declarations from said 2-year-old, but same difference , right?

We were set to leave Friday morning, so I thought I it was safe to deliver the big news Thursday afternoon. We packed our suitcases together and were sure to include everything known to man. Because we are nothing if not over packers. And that would make perfect sense if Lolli hadn't already overstocked her home with everything we might possibly need from now until the return of our Lord.

After the suitcases (no need to disclose the exact number) were packed, Park informed me that he would be loading them into the car because he was a, "Genneleman, Mommy." That made my heart smile.

Especially after the episode last week at Kohl's when he tried to hold the door for two ladies engrossed in conversation. After they did not notice his attempts, he promptly slammed the door angrily, screaming at them, "But I was tryin' to be a GENNELMAN!!" Clearly, what my little guy lacks on the road to gentlemanhood, he more than makes up for in the passionate determination department.

And judging from the way he slammed our suitcases around, I'd say he is more than well on his way to becoming a "man". It's the "gentle" portion of the word that's still a work in progress.

After allowing him to load a few suitcases, I told him Daddy would put the rest of them (again, no need to disclose the exact number) in the car the next morning. That's when the flood gates opened and I realized exactly how wrong I had been on my previous "safe to disclose the trip one day in advance" decision.

The heartbreaking lip trembling ensued for a bit, with intermittent sobs of "but I waaant my Pops now. My Lolli is waitin' for me and I need to see her noooowww!". I worked at comforting my sweet little man, assuring him that Daddy would drive us there first thing in the morning. After hunkering down in preparation for the long bouts of tears that were sure to be released, I was surprised to catch a glimpse of a smile on his face as I felt his little body jump out of my arms and run to his room.

Perplexed, I sat and listened quietly from my position in the living room.


No tears, No whining, No fit throwing.

Just as I began reflecting on how grown up my precious love had become, he came strolling out of his room, dragging stuffed animals in each hand. With his fully stuffed back pack in place, hat flipped backward, and shoes on the wrong feet, he announced with confidence that he didn't need me to take him to Lolli and Pops' house anymore.

"I sided (decided) to walk there, my Mommy. ALL BY MYSELF!"

Considering the gas prices, that may not be such a bad idea. Judging from all the suitcases he'll have to carry, though, it's a good thing my not so gentle man is passionately determined to get to his Lolli and Pop's house.

*Stay tuned for more on "Lil' Gentleman, His Mommy and Their Suitcases' Adventure at the Grandparent's" .....Part 2 continued next post....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stumbling Blocks

If you ever question if spiritual warfare is real, just try and make it to church on time and see what happens.

Judging from how badly the devil wanted to keep me away from Bible study yesterday, there is no doubt that God is using this class in a mighty way. And when he wasn't successful at keeping me away, his next plan was to steal so much of my joy before entering the building that I missed the message altogether. He is nothing if not persistent.

Fortunately, I've read the end of The Book and Christ wins anyway. Game over, devil.

Yesterday was one of those days. THOSE days. You know, the kind where you leave 15 minutes early, yet arrive 30 minutes late. Where despite your best efforts to be responsible, you realize that you forgot just about everything you tried to pack the night before, including your Bible. And the contacts that allow you to see long distances.

Thankfully, I did remember to put my child in the car, at least. Which brings me to the next stumbling block of the day. Literally.

Minutes before I finally arrived to my class, poor Park fell on the steps leading into the church childcare classrooms. He screamed bloody murder, which was appropriate considering that was exactly what his face looked like. There was so much blood, I couldn't even decide where it was coming from. My feeble attempts to clean him up finally revealed a very busted lip, scraped up chin, and a pink shirt that was in desperate need of a spit bath.

Oddly enough, the pink shirt in question belonged to him instead of me, which is probably why he felt the need to cover it in mud and spill his blood over it. Men do like to mark their territory, don't they?

But lo and behold a servant of the Lord appeared . Now, when she asked if we were in need of some ice, I expected that it would be fairly similar to the Elmo boo-boo ice pack that lives in our own refrigerator at home. The ice pack that Park refuses to put on any injury because it is , "TOO COLD, MOMMY!"

This servant of the Lord was no rookie mom, though. She was a seasoned veteran of mercy that knew the way to win over a man's boo boo was through his stomach. Her special ice came in the shape of a green flavor ice Popsicle and Park found no fault with it's temperature. He compliantly left it in the package, nursing his gaping wound, in exchange for the opportunity to eat it as soon as he felt well enough for me to leave him.

It took about zero point eight seconds for him to thrust his fat lip my direction for a quick kiss and a "See you later, Mommy!"

That boo boo ice is some powerful stuff, I tell you. Why didn't I think of that one myself?

But you know what's even more powerful than that ice? The message that I got to hear yesterday when I finally made it to Bible study.

With my joy hanging by a thread, but still in tact.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Greatest of These is Love

This weekend our house was alive and well, filled with the love, laughter, and warmth of people I've come to cherish.

Chris is from a very large family. Three brothers and three sisters to be exact, spanning in ages from 30 to 13. The three oldest of those siblings (Chris included) have since multiplied themselves, producing six young children as of yet, with plans for more in the works.

I'll never forget my first family gathering with them. Chris and I had been dating for a few months, and although I had met each person individually, I had yet to experience them as a collective group. Now let me just say, there is a fierce love between my husband and his siblings. They give new meaning to having each other's back because they will defend one another to the death, if need be.

With that being said, they are also NOT afraid to throw down over a good board game, or pretty much ANY game. With the majority of siblings having played college athletics, they have grown up fueling their already competitive natures. So, you can imagine how well it went over when I suggested we just agree to a tie after sitting in the midst of Scategories gone wrong, watching helplessly as the bloodshed ensued around me.

But, with age comes refinement and most of that competitive edge has now been passed down to the next generation. Cousins, suffering from the sins of their fathers, go toe to toe in everything from kickball to who can eat their meal the fastest. But, you better believe that they also inherited the "got your back" gene. Gang up on one and you're asking for it.

Perhaps one of the best things is that, with the exception of a brother away at college, everybody lives within 45 minutes of each other. And although getting everyone together doesn't always happen in an orderly fashion, the important thing is it happens on a regular basis. Despite very different schedules and multitudes of competing conflicts, each family makes a very solid effort to place gathering together as a top priority. Period.

But one of the things I'm most in awe of about Chris' family is God's sovereignty. When you look at the picture of who they are today, it is impossible not to recognize the healing hand of the Lord in their lives. Chris' parents divorced very early in his life, each remarrying shortly thereafter.

Yet, what the devil meant for harm, God used for His glory. Through restoration that only comes from Christ, my husband's family often gathers as ONE family. There is no discussion of "half" siblings or "step" parents, merely sisters, brothers, moms and dads, all united in a self-sacrificing love for family. A love that has kept no record of wrongs and has no stipulations attached. A love that they, themselves, were extended through the grace of Jesus Christ.

Although no family is perfect, they are living proof that your past does not determine your future because love covers a multitude of sin. And I am so very blessed to call them my own.

Well, except when we play Scategories.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Truly Once in a Lifetime

When my husband came home last Thursday night with three tickets to the NASCAR qualifying race the next day, I wasn't exactly turning cartwheels.

Now, Chris is by no means a NASCAR enthusiast, but after he attended a race last year with a friend, he has told me on multiple occasions that it is something everyone should experience at least one time in their life. Especially since Texas Motor Speedway is "close enough for us spit on it", his words, not mine. So, when these tickets were graciously donated to us by one of his co-workers, I reluctantly agreed to go with him and Park to see what all the fuss was about.

Now, I'm from small town Texas, where every business within a 100 mile radius shuts down for Friday night football. And I currently reside in the DFW Metroplex where Mama's (and Daddy's) BEG their babies to grow up to be Dallas Cowboys. Forget Doctors and Lawyers, and such. So, I'm no stranger to die hard, fanatical fans.

Or so I thought.

Upon driving into the facility, it was as if we had entered an entirely new dimension. One that might affectionately be dubbed, The Twilight Zone. Travel trailers, housing people who had navigated cross country to view advertisement laden vehicles endlessly circle a track, were parked in rows so long my jaw dropped. People, dressed from head to tow in color coded garments of support for their chosen driver, were waiting in forever long lines to buy MORE garments of support.

And others were dressed so scantily that I debated BUYING them garments of support just to cover them up. (Enter hand over Park's eyes.)

Spying 50+ port-a-potties as we walked through the field leading up to the raceway, I feared we had left civilization 5 miles back. Chris coerced me into continuing the journey by promises of real bathrooms, complete with soap dispensers, up ahead. So, I pressed on through the thick clouds of cigarette smoke, hoping to find some redeeming quality in the distance.

Finding our seats, we settled in just in time for the first car to rev up it's engine. Being that we were at the qualifying race, each car would take 1-2 laps around the track in hopes of achieving a fast enough time to secure a great starting point for the big race scheduled two days later. Don't I sound so schooled in the inner workings of NASCAR, folks?

When the first car took off at lightning speed, I felt my pulse begin to quicken and knees get weak. As it made it's way back around the track, the energy in that stadium was electric. Then I looked over and caught a glimpse of the excitement twinkling in Park's eyes. And I knew in that moment that things had taken a turn for the worse.

Somehow, I had (gulp) become an unlikely NASCAR fan.

Car after car raced around that track and we watched with baited breath. Could this driver find a way to shave a second off the time set before him? Could he keep control while taking those corners at such terrifying speed? Could we get another corn dog without endangering Park's college fund?

The suspense of it all just added to the excitement of the reckless abandonment. But, ultimately it is also what caused us to leave the event a little early.

Well, that coupled with the fact that after watching the 20th car go round, I wasn't quite as much a fan as I had originally believed. Park, on the other hand, was sold on the sport after getting to take his picture with Sparky. And it didn't hurt that he got to come back with Chris the next day to attend the Kid Fish at the NASCAR lake.

But, I must admit that all in all, hubby was right. Everyone should experience NASCAR once in their lifetime.

But Chris, because I've already gotten that chance, next time, let's opt to give my ticket to someone else who hasn't had the opportunity to do so.

Perhaps to someone who doesn't mind using a port-a-potty, let's say.

Monday, April 7, 2008


***UPDATED (4/9): I wanted to take a second to thank you for praying for our church and ask that you continue to do so. The funeral service today was a beautiful celebration of Vanessa's life. The glory of God's presence was so overwhelmingly abundant in our sanctuary that it overshadowed the devastating grief. And as I watched the entire staff, along with Vanessa's husband, intimately worshipping the Lord in the midst of heartbreak, I have never been more proud to call Fellowship Church my home. Her fingerprints on our church are proof that Vanessa will never be forgotten and the work she started will continue through those she has inspired. ***

I was going to write a silly post about our weekend experience at NASCAR, but have decided to delay it in light of recent events that take precedence.

My heart is so heavy right now as our church grieves the unexpected loss of Vanessa Whitwell. Despite only being in her mid thirties, she has been a fixture on staff at Fellowship for many years and has served in everything from the worship ministry to the women's ministry (and pretty much everywhere else in between.) Please join me in prayer for her husband, family, our pastor and his family, church staff, congregation and all who have been touched by her life.

There is no mistaking that the grief will be immense. Yet, there is undeniable power in knowing that we do not grieve like those without hope. And I dare say that nobody understands the source of that hope better than Vanessa at this very moment, standing in the presence of her loving Father.

Although I've known Vanessa in many capacities over the last eight years, I will most remember her as a person that loved God regardless of her circumstances. And despite the dark days that lie ahead, I know that her husband Andy will continue to live out that legacy, as well.

I pray that as those who love Vanessa pass through the waters, they will not be overtaken. I ask that grief not overshadow the fact that she has gone HOME to be with you eternally. Please use her death as an extension of the ministry you gave her on earth, allowing this time of heartache to bring others into a personal relationship with you. Thank you for drawing close to the hearts of the brokenhearted, binding up wounds. Please grant Andy peace that passes all understanding.
Guard and protect the hearts of our church and help us to lean not on our own understanding. I praise you for Vanessa's life.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When Life Gives You Mud, Make a Mud Pie

Last night, as I hopped into the car with Sarah and Bridget to partake in our monthly Chili's date, Park and Chris were on the driveway waving goodbye and blowing me kisses. But before I could even get the door shut, I distinctly heard a cheery squeal from Park as he pumped his fist in the air and shouted, "Yesssss, Jussss the BOYS now!!"

Bridget cracked up.

I assured her that this was not a one time reaction, but rather the norm for when they get to have a special night together sans Mommy. And I have to say that it warms my heart to see how much Park loves his time with Daddy. There is no place he would rather be than right beside Chris, regardless of what they do together. Hanging on Daddy's every word and laughing at anything he says, I'm often reminded that their relationship is everything I've ever prayed it would be and more. Chris has far exceeded any expectations I had for the type of father I wanted for my children.

That being said, there are some things I've also come to NOT expect from their time of male bonding .

Cleanliness tops the list.

No baths will be taken. PERIOD. Vast amounts of dirt will be involved in most activities and mismatched clothing will be worn while partaking in such endeavors. Potties will not be necessary because the yard will be used for the majority of relief purposes. Muddy shoes will not be removed upon entering the house and unclean clothing will not make it to the hamper. Teeth will usually not get brushed before bedtime and pajamas will be optional.

Now, my dad was a daddy to girls. He was forced into being a clean man, held to those standards set by a mommy of girls. He became a man that learned to invest in the hygienic well being of his daughters when they were left in his care.

Not to mention he learned to fix a mean pigtail.

But, the truth is, I'm outnumbered. I live in a male dominated household, where my voice of reason is merely like spitting in the wind. Which, by coincidence, is also a pastime they enjoy together in my absence.

And just like my father learned to do, I have had to figure out how to somewhat conform. Coming to terms with the unwritten man law of filth, I've become a much happier wife and mommy. Released from the oppressiveness of allowing their dirt to define me, I've learned that boys will be boys and at best, my influence will cultivate a small need for a decent degree of cleanliness somewhere down the road.

I pray.

Because , truly, it's all about setting realistic expectations. Well, that and scrubbing Park down the next morning after a night of "JUSSSS THE BOYS!!!"

Call me conformed, but a little dirt seems like a small price to pay for the joy I get from seeing the love between my Park and his beloved daddy.

And a night out with precious girlfriends was just icing on my mud pie.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

These Boots Were Made for Splashing

Rain, Rain...You went away,
But your leftover puddles entertained me all day!