Tuesday, July 29, 2014

last hurrah...

It's our last hurrah of the summer!

 We're enjoying the beach at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
 It's a half-vacation for Marc, as he's working and preparing for the upcoming semester.  (only 3 more weeks!)

We've gotta soak up the summer while we still can.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

the story unfolds...

 Who just got married??  This girl!!

This is our niece, Callie.  If you're keeping up with our life, she probably needs little introduction.  She's one VERY special gal to us, and she and her new husband, James, have moved to Lynchburg and live..get this.. ONE STREET AWAY from us!!!!

(oh, I'm not excited or anything....)  I haven't had any family living in the same town as me in 13 years!!

Callie has finished her two year internship with RUF at Penn State, and now she's raising money (like we do) to work as full-time staff for RUF Lynchburg with Marc!  (two ENFP's on staff.... let the fun begin!)

  She will not only be meeting with and ministering to girls at Liberty, but she'll have an exciting opportunity to do some groundbreaking ministry at Sweet Briar College. (a beautiful all-girls college 15 minutes north of town)

There is not even ONE evangelical ministry currently at Sweet Briar, yet the chaplain's office and the few number of Christian girls on campus have been SO welcoming to RUF over the years, so it's going to be awesome having Callie here to help develop RUF's ministry there.

 Just a few weeks ago, Callie and James were married in Pittsburgh (where James is from and where Callie has lived the past seven years).  Last night, they enjoyed a reception in Callie's hometown of Florence, South Carolina.  Between the two big events, I didn't have my camera out much, so the images of both events in this post don't do any justice in capturing just how awesome they were- 
I was too busy enjoying it!

I had prepared a speech for Callie and James' rehearsal dinner, but never got to deliver it.  Callie gave me permission to share it here, as it will allow you all the opportunity to watch God's beautifully redemptive story in Callie that is unfolding before us.  

Here goes...

 The first time I ever heard about a girl named Callie, I was working a jewelry counter in the Dallas Convention Center. 

It was a weekend temp job I had taken for some extra cash while in college, and the worker next to me, this guy I had just met the day before named Marc,(!!?!)  approached me.

He motioned across the convention center to where the 90’s Christian female group, Point of Grace, had just finished a performance. 

“I need you to sneak over there and get autographs for my two nieces,” Marc said. 

“What?” I thought this guy was crazy.  It would be against the rules to do that. 

“Their names are Laura and Callie, C-A-L-L-I-E,” he continued.  “And they LOOOOVE Point of Grace.” 

You know? I don’t know what convinced me, the ESTJ, to do something so “risky” for this guy I hardly knew, but off I went to stand in line for two girls I never dreamed I’d even MEET.  Who knew then that seventeen years later, this girl named Callie would be OUR bridesmaid, our niece, and one of our best friends.

I’m assuming most of you are probably familiar with the college ministry, RUF, of which Marc has been a campus minister for 13 years now.  (7 years at Texas Tech University, and now 6 in Lynchburg)

Marc and I will proudly take credit for Callie’s first exposure to RUF.  When Callie was an undergraduate in South Carolina, we convinced her multiple times to join up with our college students for RUF’s summer conference in Florida. I loved having Callie’s company at the conferences, and I feel it was through those times we really bonded.

 As I think back upon the story God has written and is still writing in Callie’s life, it is amazing to me that it was also the ministry of RUF, this time at the University of Pittsburgh, that ultimately drew Callie back to the Lord. 

This time she came to Summer Conference as a graduate student, as a scientist, and as one who the Lord had bruised, but not crushed. 

It was evident to us during that time the Lord was making Callie even more beautiful, deepening her faith and dependence upon Him, and ultimately He was preparing her for a calling to ministry and marriage.

Papa crying through the welcoming speech at the reception

It’s been pure joy for us to watch Callie thrive and struggle through the RUF internship these last two years.  

And I can’t begin to believe that in just a few short weeks, Callie and James will be our neighbors as Callie will be coming on staff with us at Lynchburg RUF!  (Somebody pinch me, please!)

 Callie, we can’t begin to tell you how much we love you.  Next to Marc, you’re probably one of the people who know me best in the world (maybe that’s because you have become the master of all the Myer’s Briggs personalities…).  

James, we are eager and excited to welcome YOU into the family.  We’ve already seen how you are SO good for Callie in SO many ways.  We are eager to watch the two of you grow and mature as you enter into the crazy beautiful covenant of marriage.
 I know Saturday will certainly be a big day for the two of you, but I also want you to know it will be a big day for us as well.  

It will be a culmination to years of praying for the precious girl I stood in line for that day.  

It will be about the story that is unfolding before our eyes.  

While you, James, will be taken aback with Callie’s beauty, and others will surely notice things like the flowers,  and the dress, and the amazing food we’ll eat, 
it won’t be about all that. 

 Because even more GREATLY on display will be God’s faithfulness, 
His goodness, 
His love that tenderly pursues His sheep 
and doesn’t ever give up on them,
no matter where or how far they stray.   

HE will get the glory for all that He has done in bringing the two of you together.  

I’m just excited to get a front-row seat to see all He has in store for you guys 
in the next chapter of your story together.  

We love you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

white mama at the black salon #3...

Once again feeling my own white-ness, you guys.

Today marked Jameson's third haircut, and it was the first time I took him by myself. 

Being the only white person in a room was no problem.  Everyone in that salon was so warm and welcoming to me when he and I walked in.  

But something about going there was humbling to me.  It was like a reminder to me that Jameson IS different from me, that parts of raising him are not culturally innate.  Though I cognitively know I need the help of the black community ALWAYS for all kinds of reasons, one look at my kid's head today and it was obvious how much I needed their help NOW!  :)   

Hello, my name is Amy, and I'm trying, I felt like apologizing to the whole place as they admired Jameson's cuteness.  

Usually, I have no issues with my confidence as Jameson's mother.  But the minute I step foot in that salon, I can't even begin to count the number of insecurities that begin to wash over me.   What is my DEAL!?!

In that moment, I fear what they're thinking about me.  (I'm sure they're not judging me at ALL, but the voices in my head imagine they're thinking, "She thinks she can raise him??"  I've read about the tough realities in raising black boys to become black men in this society, and I will be the first to tell you I feel ill-equipped...)

I fear what they'll say about me or how hard they'll laugh at me when I leave.  

I feel like even though they're warm and nice and friendly on the outside, I can't ever be truly "in" and accepted.  We're not a white family, and we're not a black family.  We're a black AND white family unit.  And at times that makes us feel out of place, both in all-black and in all-white settings.

I have put off going to the salon for months.  In my mind, we've gotten by just fine.  But as Jameson's hair has gotten more and more unruly for me to handle, I knew it was time for another visit.

And then I wondered, Is this what it feels like for someone outside Christianity to come into the church?

Do they, too, feel as though all eyes are on them?  That they're being scrutinized?  Does coming to church, like going to the black salon for me, make them painfully aware how badly they're screwing things up?  Is it a place that they would feel genuine connectedness, a place where they might even find others who are still in the learning process themselves?

So I'm already jokingly acknowledging my ignorance of Jameson's hair as we're settling into the chair and of course, we have everyone's attention in the entire place.

And the minute the CAPE GOES ON, the crying and screaming from Jameson begins.  Like, he remembers this from several months ago.

Now.  I realize this is a phenomena of ALL children.  Black or white, they all cry when they get their hair cut, right?

But when you're already worried about looking like an idiot, and your stylist very gently and quietly explains to you how to work a comb through the hair, AND you realize your kid is crying partly because you've never actually brushed through the hair ONCE like she's doing because you were afraid you'd hurt him and so it's left his ends a tangled mess?

Yeah.  That's a shining moment.   Meet... me.  The white mama in the black salon.

So Jameson's screaming in my lap like he's being murdered, and I'm trying to remain calm.  I rummage through my purse, looking for a pacifier.  Murphy's Law.  I have nothing.

I spot some soft peppermints and offer them to him.  He swipes them out of my hand quickly, calming down for a minute, but then quickly erupts again.  And again.

We're never going to get this hair cut, I'm thinking.  All eyes are on us.  They're mesmerized and observant.  What do I DO?? I'm so uncomfortable in the moment. 

And then, at some point, Jameson turns around in my lap, hugs me, and lays his little head down on my shoulder for comfort.  The old ladies in the salon sitting under the dryer give a sweet, reassuring grin, and all is calm again.  One of them encourages me, "It's alright.  It takes a long time to learn."  The stylist trims away.

What seemed like an eternity later, this cute little haircut emerged and also some really sticky peppermint hands.


"Breathe, mama," the stylist sensed my relief that it was over.

Then she and I both whipped out our phones to take pictures of Jameson, just as she had done the past two haircuts.  (What stylist does that?...)

Jameson must have felt some kind of remorse for putting those ladies through his screaming, because he walked over to them and serenaded them on his guitar.  They loved it.

You know, I don't know what God was doing giving me a daughter with alopecia and a little black boy with coarse, kinky curls.

I never would have dreamed it.

But hair, no hair, or even dry and nappy hair,
I love these two kids to pieces.

day 3 without Daddy...

Whew.  Another day completed.

And it was a good one.  But boy, I'm trashed.

Guess who started speech therapy?

This guy!

(more on that in another post)
Following speech therapy was a sweet visit with a friend who brought fresh tomatoes from her garden and bags of african coffee.

We talked life.

And the Gospel.

And how the Gospel affects life.

So good.
Then, when Daddy's gone and Mommy has to go to work, you gotta get creative sometimes.  

Carry off kids in jammies to worship team rehearsal.  Pop some popcorn, turn on a movie, find someone kind enough to supervise them while I lead practice.  

They had a blast.  Me?  Completely wiped.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

day 2 without daddy...

Another day without Daddy survived.

Lots of activity was the name of the game for Day 2.

First up was some berry picking with Jameson while big sis was at her day camp this week.

Aha!  Caught ya red-handed, Kelsey.
 My sweet baby!
 After camp, we headed over to play in the fountains downtown.

Our newest family member, James (married to our niece, Callie), joined in on the fun.  Jameson had plenty to tell him.  

 Break time.
 We see a train!
See it?

I'd say he got pretty comfortable with the fountains.

These two.  

And the best image of Day 2?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

living with less...

There is nothing in this world that will draw you towards minimalism like living in a house with small children.

The toys, people.  The TOYS!

And I consider myself to be fairly reserved when it comes to the amount of plastic that enters my home.

But still.

Several months ago, I was finding myself in chaos.  Not only with the toys, but just all the STUFF that had to be constantly put away and dealt with, stuff that would pile up all over and feel like it was suffocating me.

I wish I was a mom who is comfortable in the chaos.  Like the kind of mom where the house is an utter wreck, and she's still happily baking cookies in the kitchen with her kids.

That's just not me.  I just can't take it.  I know, I have problems.

For whatever reason, the more cluttered my house, the more cluttered my brain.  The more external chaos I see, the more internal chaos I feel.  I can't function at my best when stuff is screaming at me from every direction.

Ironically, though, when I walk into your house and it's a mess, it's awesome.  I feel like we can be real with each other.  Go figure.

But when you think about it, every THING we own must be maintained in one way or another.  The more THINGS we own, the bigger spaces we have, the more we are taking on the job of maintaining.

I was becoming overwhelmed with the maintaining.   One night Marc and I watched some documentary online about tiny houses.  (Have you seen those?  Fascinating stuff!  Although you never see any of them with small children...)  Of course, I'm not about to squeeze myself into an 80 square feet home, but in listening to the owners describe their life and their needs, it really got me reflecting on things like...

Do I need 20 coffee mugs in my house?  There's no way we ever USE that many in one sitting.

Do I need ten million books around our house that I know I'll never read again and are just taking up space that could function better?

Why do I think I need a gigantic pantry stocked full of cans and non-perishables?  What would it look like to free up space in my cabinets and only own what we will need until the next grocery store run?

Why DO I have 6 spatulas, or 4 sets of dishes, or 3 tablecloths that I never USE but they sit inside the cabinet just in case?  (I'm learning the words "just in case" don't line up with simplifying your life.  There's not really much we need "just in case."  Because when it becomes the case, then we can deal with it then, right?)  Why do I have so much tupperware that I'll NEVER use, or like 38 dish towels?

Why do I hold on to so much, and let it accumulate?  And bigger than that, why do I have the need/desire to continually accumulate anyways?  Why are people in poor countries statistically much happier than those in wealthy countries?  Is the stuff really making me as happy as it tries to promise it will?

What do I really WANT to do with my time, and my life- invest it in maintaining THINGS or invest it into people I love?  What value does the STUFF add to my life?  What do I absolutely need vs. what can I live without?

Moving to a smaller house afforded us the opportunity to scale down.  Maybe I should say forced us to scale down.  We lost 2 1/2 ROOMS that we had in our former house plus we lost a garage.  I'm such a suburb gal- I almost didn't know how we'd survive!

But now that we're here, and are almost settled in, it's amazing how we have more space than we actually need.

I suppose I should include a disclaimer here about minimalism, because when I use that word, all kinds of different ideas can be conjured up.  I'm just talking about intentionally living life with less, in whatever way that applies to your situation.  Some people will go crazy with that idea, and some people (like me) will just want to scale down.

But as Americans, most of us are living with a ton of excess.  It's the American way!  It's amazing what's accumulated in our garages, in our attics, in our closets, and maybe it wouldn't hurt for us to consider what value, if any, all that STUFF is adding to our lives?

So the question becomes: in what area of my life could I cut out the excess?  Where could I live more simply with LESS, in order that I might actually gain MORE?  (more space, more time, more money, more happiness...)   And how might that stuff actually be a blessing to others?

Want to see some of the results in our new place?

Might look too plain to you.  To me, it's peaceful.  And with the chaos of kids all around me, Lord knows I need some peace around here.  :)

Here's a few more pics of the house:

 The living room.
 Toys can quickly be thrown into baskets under the TV.  If baskets become too full, it's time to purge the toys and donate/sell them.
 Other side of the living room, where it opens up to the kitchen.

Dining room.  (already showed you this one, but here ya go again)  I'm loving the simplicity.

 This is where sweet Caroline wanted to start getting in the pictures.
 The kitchen.
My "mudroom" by the side door.

I'll have more pictures to show you soon, especially of how we solved the problems that arose from losing 2 1/2 rooms.

But I will say, in this process, I literally feel like I've lost weight.  The weight of all the extra STUFF I was carrying.  We have everything we need.  (And more!)

I love having less stuff to deal with.

Though we have fewer rooms and square feet, it feels like we have more open space than ever!

We have more time to spend as a family doing the things we enjoy together.

We have more money in our pockets from selling the excess things to which we were holding on.

And for me personally, I'd rather have all that
than all the extra Pyrex dishes in the world.

Monday, July 21, 2014

day 1 without daddy...

 Day 1 without Daddy.

While big sis was at Wonder Camp all day,
this guy cooked it up.
(Umm, don't you just want to gobble him up?)

But don't let the smile fool ya.

The day wasn't all roses.

Lots of opportunities to practice patience.  Opportunities to correct.  And apologize.  

But we made it to the end.  Children are blissfully asleep.

And soon we'll be ready to tackle day 2 tomorrow.