Thursday, September 24, 2015

a season...

We're in a season.  (And I don't mean Fall.)  

We're attempting to stay sane in the process, but that is certainly questionable these days!

I'll start with the good news.  For the last two weeks, we haven't changed a single dirty diaper. (yahoo! potty training!)  

Ministry has been good, and REAL, and we also love our new intern, Taylor.

But I can hardly get ten minutes in at the Y until one of the workers comes to tell me the sudden separation anxiety is too much for sweet Jameson.  I'm trying to work through it, but the screaming-bloody-murder all the way there was almost enough to turn the car around this morning.  Nevertheless, I walked in, nerves shot, and only got to converse with the childcare workers because my guy was teetering on insanity if he couldn't cling to my leg.  I thought we had worked past all that already.  Oh toddlerhood.

Though she's doing amazing in school, Caroline is exhausted at the day's end.   In her exhaustion, I receive the brunt of her verbal intensity, and man, can my daughter lash out.  It's like we've already reached the teen years, all joking aside.  (I suppose my mother is laughing reading this, since Caroline is just like me...)  The desire for independence trumps obedience.  Gentle correction quickly yields running off and slamming doors, threats to run away.  Heaven help me.  I know this is all normal kid stuff, but it's still heartbreaking to this mama who loves my daughter so fiercely.  I'm a borderline perfectionist to be a "good" mom, and often times even being the "good" mom still results in failure.  (because we're dealing with two sinners, not just one.)

Marc and I together are continuing to process through issues of identity in the midst of our culture.  How do we live and serve in a largely legalistic, religious culture in which we feel different and often alone?  What does it look like to embrace our freedom in Christ and be truly authentic and transparent, yet use discernment and wisdom with others whom we love and hope to serve?  

We've changed over the past few years, and now, as a collectively black-and-white family, I think Marc and I are feeling a little culturally homeless.  

We're in a season.  We can always use your prayers.  Prayers as we attempt to parent, prayers as we attempt to minister to college students, prayers as we attempt to do this thing called life.

May God be gracious to us all!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Just like the quick pen strokes of a caricature artist,
it only takes us minutes to form a perception of others.

Sometimes there is truth in our perception. (We really do look like that?)

Many times there's not.

How often do we stop and consider whose image we've distorted?
Who have we painted to be one way in our minds,
(our parents, our children, our spouses, our bosses)
bending and exaggerating characteristics and quirks
which only serve to contort the reality of who they are? 

Will we choose to believe our own caricatures of others?  
Or even those we've painted of ourselves?

Or will we choose to see what's beyond the canvas?
Will we seek to see what's really there, 
which is probably not as stagnant and unchangeable 
as we, the artist, have made them out to be.
Can we see the silliness in the distortions we've created
and then say, "I see you, a beautiful mess, for who you really are."

Let's stop painting the caricatures in our heads.
Let's give others the benefit of the doubt.
And let's choose to LOVE.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

christians come in all different shapes and sizes...

I don't know why it is, but where I live, there's this pervasive unspoken rule that to be Christian is also to be Republican.  To be Christian is to call yourself a "conservative".  Some say that to be Christian means you abstain from all alcohol and tobacco.

In my town, our college students are generally only shown one "flavor" of Christianity.  It's touted as if it's the only flavor, the only true flavor.  Loving and serving Jesus looks like A, B, and C.

May I lovingly ask is if it's possible for someone to be a true Christian and not be those things?  Is there room in God's kingdom for those who might be convinced that no political party reflects all of the kingdom values of our Savior?  Can libertarians, republicans, democrats, and socialists all gather around the Communion table together on Sunday morning?

I'm not seeking to debate.  I'm not seeking to incite.

As we come into this political season (ugh, heaven help us all to get through it!), I'm realizing how much God has opened my eyes and given me perspective I never had before.  He's leading our family to embrace kingdom values such as caring for the poor and oppressed, welcoming the outsider, a hunger for justice, and seeing the image of God in every human being.

(I can already hear it... Amy, it's the church's job to care for the poor, not the government's.... but here's my question.  How can we even think that's possible when we, the church, can't even staff our own NURSERIES?!)

Historically, Christians have always come down on politics on different sides.  I believe we still can.

Christians come in ALL different political shapes and sizes.  Sadly, where I live, to be "Christian" means there is only one option at the ballot box, and often there is little to no understanding of how a true follower of Christ could possibly see things any other way.

I'm not hugely into politics.  I don't think any party or politician has it all together.  I'm not looking to the kingdoms of this world to fix that which only Jesus can.  I don't want any part of the endless arguments and culture wars where neither side is listening to the other.

But I don't buy into the lie that to be Christian is to, by default, be Republican.

There's room in the Kingdom for all shapes and sizes.

"My kingdom is not of this world..." John 18:36

Sunday, September 13, 2015

white mama at the black barber: the fade...

Nope, we can't sit still.

So yes, that's me wearing a cape holding Jameson in place for his hair cut.

I'm still learning so much about my son's hair.  Even within black hair, his curl type is very hard to work with and least desired.  So I'm still feeling clueless these days, but at least I'm feeling a little more justified in it.

I suppose one might wonder why not cut off Jameson's hair and just go super-short?  I don't know.  I guess I'm kinda partial to longer hair styles on black boys, and for the time being, I'm determined to try figuring out how I can make such a tight curl pattern look a little more defined and moisturized.  Maybe one day I'll give up, but for now, I still want to try for curls and twists.

(There's probably also something to say about having a daughter with alopecia here, too... if I can't do her hair, at least I can still do his...)

This time at the barber, we went with a slightly different style, the fade.  (where it's more full on top and gradually tapered on the back and sides)  I think this will work better for Jameson than a mini 'fro cut since it's his back and sides that curl up so tightly anyways, which makes it difficult to pick through and sends him grabbing the pick out of my hand.

new 'do'
Caroline decided that she, too, needed a haircut from Mrs. Brittany.  I loved her sense of humor about her alopecia in the moment.  (Thank you, God, that we can laugh at it today!)

And who'd have guessed there'd be the PERFECT store for all of my children's unique haircare issues in my own small town??  Well, I found it, and I was one happy gal!

Where can I simultaneously purchase a wig brush AND curl moisturizer??  THIS place! 

This shall be my new hair (and lack of hair) Mecca indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2015

why become a parent...

It's crazy to think back to life before kids, even though currently we've still been married more years without kids than with them in our entire span of sixteen years.

Life SO radically changes once children enter your home, and the new identity of "parent" seems to take precedence over all else.

Marc and I enjoyed nine years of marriage before children came into our life.  
And now, as a mama of two little ones, I look back at those years with much more fondness than I had going through them.  I can be thankful for that time God used to strengthen our friendship and marriage through the struggles of infertility.  

Our life was relatively "free," meaning we didn't have anyone else's schedules to consider other than our own.  We could go to MOVIES!  Or travel!  Or stay out past 7:00pm!  (gasp!)

Though we didn't realize it at the time,
(and didn't know how to be truly thankful for it) 
marriage before children was really more like a non-stop date.  

Our life before kids was pouring into college students at Texas Tech.  
(Without having to pay babysitters.)
We could have students over until all hours of the night, and just sleep in the next day.  

(I'm seriously trying to pause and remember what that's like...)

Our life with children was being Uncle Marc and Moose Moose.

I LOVED my child-free time with my nephews when they were little.  I could truly be invested in their lives without worrying about my own.

Our life was Stonewall and Jackie, our two outdoor cats.  (see, we were meant to live in Virginia...)

From my perspective now, life before kids was honestly much easier.
I mean, when you needed to get out, you could just go get in your car.
(imagine that.)

So why become a parent?

Certainly not because it's more fun.
(that should be pretty obvious when you see all the frazzled moms with young children.)
I honestly knew having kids would rock my world and would mean dying to myself, 
yet I also believed that's where God probably intended me to grow in grace.

At the end of our years of infertility treatments,
God in His kindness slooowly began to show us the beauty of adoption.
We were too afraid to commit to an agency, 
but told everyone we knew we were hoping to adopt.
We felt our hearts realizing adoption was God's plan "A" for our family,
and we just wanted it to fall in our lap.

And in His timing, our lives intersected with a girl named Megan's.  We couldn't have asked for a better birthmommy.

She invited us to an ultrasound.
She wanted us at Caroline's birth.
She wanted us to stay the night at the hospital all together. 

We are so grateful for how, even in the midst of her own heartache and sacrifice, she was able to let us experience these amazing moments as parents.

Of course, the rest is history.  Our lives (and our sleeping schedule) would never be the same.

We'd rarely have a quiet dinner or a clean house again.

But what we gained (and who we gained) was worth all of it.

Parenting wasn't (and isn't) easy.  It breaks you down, and it simultaneously lifts you up.  
It brings great joy and great sorrow, it gives life new meaning.  You see the world now through another's perspective.  

Parenting is a job that never "lets up" when you're tired, or sick, or emotionally spent.  It forces you to push through these things and try to come out the other end better for it.

It's the opportunity (and the attempt) to love another so selflessly just as our Savior has loved us.

And it's worth every moment.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

be with the ones who are here...

Man, it's hard, but I'm trying to be more intentional about hospitality with our college students these days.  

Since we moved into our historic place downtown last year, I've fallen into the trap of using all kinds of excuses not to invite students over as frequently.

This house doesn't have good "flow" for company.
There's not enough open space for students.
It's just so hard with two little kids in this stage of life.  (now, THAT excuse is true!)

I know my sin of perfectionism doesn't help, either.  Honestly, deep down in my heart, I'd prefer my house look like Pinterest than to open up my place, mess and all, to others.  

I think it took hearing one of our senior RUF girls saying, "Oh, I've never been to your new place!" after we'd lived there AN ENTIRE YEAR for me to realize I needed to get over myself and start the long-lost Christian practice of hospitality. 

the cleanest my living room will ever be after Marc ordered maid service as a gift to me!
Just before the semester started, we bought a church pew removed from an old african american church, placed it where our tv stand used to be, and then we wall-mounted our tv.  We also replaced our oversized loveseat with two chairs, and it's like the entire room opened up and felt ready for COMPANY.  The focus of the room went from "come watch TV," to now "be with the ones who are HERE."

(Speaking of "be with the ones who are here," that's the slogan we put on our cell phone basket we use during our student ministry team meetings.  It's so easy today to be "connected" to hundreds and thousands of people without ever truly connecting to those who are sitting right next to you.)
"Be with the ones who are here" cell phone basket we use during ministry team meetings.

So, the house was ready to practice hospitality.  Now the question was when would we have them over?

When you're a worship director married to a college minister, weeknight evenings together as a family are rare during the semester.

Thankfully we're able to eat dinner together every night as a family, but the calendar is quite full in the evening...

Sunday: RUF ministry team meetings
Tuesday: "family night" with our new intern
Wednesday: worship team practice
Thursday: RUF night
weekends: RUF events

Our family time is so precious and so limited during the semester anyways, so the thought of adding another night to host students for dinner wasn't an option!  We had to get a little creative.

Enter Sunday Supper.

We came up with this idea called "Sunday Supper," and decided we'd invite four students (two from ministry team, two not on ministry team) for dinner each Sunday evening before our ministry team meeting.  Stack two events in one evening!
ministry team members "practicing" doing one-on-ones with one another
We're keeping it easy and preparing the same meal EVERY WEEK- chili in the crockpot and mini cornbread muffins.  I don't really have to think about it much, and since the students are rotating, why should the food?   (After another 6 weeks, maybe we'll be tired of that meal and switch to another one...)

I love how it's becoming part of our family's DNA this semester.  After our Sunday afternoon naptime/rest time, Jameson and Caroline come and help me in the kitchen.  Caroline makes cookies for dessert all by herself now!  Jameson helps me with the cornbread muffins and setting the table while Marc tidies up the house.  We are really enjoying the feeling of working together as a team, and my kids absolutely LOVE when students come over anyways, so for them, it builds their anticipation for the evening.

The thing I'm learning about hospitality is that people don't care about your house.  
Or your food.  
They care about being invited.  
They care about belonging and feeling connected  in the process of spending time together.

As a result, our hearts AND tummies are full.
We're growing relationships.
(Maybe we're even inspiring students toward hospitality themselves.)

face painting each other after Sunday Supper!

Just being with the ones who are here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

to the moon and back...

Jameson, you are my sweet little guy.

I couldn't love you any more if you had come out of my own tummy.

You are so full of life and bring so many smiles to our faces.

You worship the ground your big sister walks on.

You are always up for a good time and a good laugh.

I am SO proud of you for finally giving up your paci's at bedtime!  All it took was the promise of a toy sword after three successful attempts. 

You got your sword.  
And now you're paci free, baby.
Mark it in the books!

Life wasn't half as rich before you were born.

We love you to the moon and back, sweet boy.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Marc meeting with student small-group leaders
The semester continues.

We're only two weeks in, and so far it's going really well!  Our student ministry team is catching the vision and taking ownership of this group more than we've seen in previous groups.  As we're pouring into them, they're pouring into others, and it's exciting to see the relationships being formed, even among students who would have never been friends ordinarily.

As I'm caring for my children, leading our church worship team, and hosting college students here in Virginia, I suppose things are going pretty well!  But right now, my heart is most definitely in Texas.

After the scare in the ICU, my dad was continuing to recover at a rehab hospital when just a few days ago, his oxygen suddenly dropped dangerously low AGAIN.  He was rushed BACK to the ER, where it appears he's now experiencing rejection issues with his transplanted lung.  At this point, the doctors are treating the rejection with heavy-duty antibiotics and steroids, and hopefully all will respond and he'll be on his way again towards recovery.  But all this throws yet another obstacle in the way of recovering from his knee replacement surgery.

My dad's been in the hospital going on a month now.  At one point, we didn't know if he was going to live.  And then things begin to improve, and we're back to square one again.

I know Dad is physically and emotionally weary.  So is my Mom.  (So am I.)  This keeps going on and on.  Here's a man with numerous post-graduate degrees, and his biggest accomplishment today would be to sit at the edge of his bed for 20 minutes.  It's heartbreaking to hear your usually strong father breaking down crying to you over the phone.  (I know the heavy steroids are contributing to his very real feelings.)   You can pray for his mental and emotional state right now as he just wants to go HOME and all this to go away.

One of my dearest old friends in Texas, Ellen, who herself has experienced a parent with severe medical issues in recent years, blessed our family when she called in and treated us to a FEAST of our favorite indian food last night.  Yummmm! Such a thoughtful and delicious treat.  Thank you for caring for us, my sweet friend!

Thank you to so many of you who have prayed for my family during this past crazy month.