Friday, April 24, 2015

jamming with jameson...

While his big sister is learning to play the baritone ukelele, this is about the extent of Jameson's musical endeavors right now...

(Do you understand this?  Does your head hurt like mine does?)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

kicking and screaming...

I've been asked to share a testimony of God's grace in my life at our upcoming women's brunch.

Me? Really?  My mind races to all of the godly women in our small church body, like the ones demonstrating such deep faith and courage as they're battling for their lives against cancer.  Or the others who, at least on the outside, appear to have it all together- I'm sure they're having amazing devotional lives, eating healthy, keeping clean homes, and balancing all the challenges life throws their way, right?  :)  THOSE are the women that surely need to share.

I mean, who wants to hear from the gal trying to survive the day and raiding every kitchen cabinet after dark looking for any hidden stash of chocolate?  The mom being driven crazy by her wonderful, yet disobedient young children?  Who's going to line up to hear someone who's battling hard against mental anxiety and panic attacks?  And someone who finds it impossible to keep a house AND feed people AND like, have friends, too?  I can't even keep hair on my child's head, for goodness sake.  I'm a mess through and through.  What encouragement does someone like me have to offer women like them?  I'm completely unqualified.

But I guess that's the point, isn't it?

Sharing about God's grace isn't about me standing up to tell everyone how great I am or how great I'm doing.  It's actually the opposite.  It's IN MY MESSINESS and my INability to "do life" that God has poured out undeserved blessing after blessing upon me in Christ.

I really have very little to share about what I've done.  You know what I've done?  Just like my tantruming two year old, I've pretty much screamed and kicked against God's plan for my life the whole way through.  That's what I've contributed.  His plans weren't my plans.  I didn't want to be infertile.  I didn't want to have a bald daughter.  I didn't want to be "that" family.

In hindsight, I can see it was out of His great love and for my good that God stripped me of so many idols I didn't even realize I had.   It was through a long, very painful process that felt more like dying He brought new life.

In His slow, patient tenderness, and in the midst of all my whining, God wrote a better story upon my life than I ever could.  That's grace.

And I guess that's what I have to share.

see ya outside...

The weather is finally warming up and there's nothing better after school for my two than having a park and community center teeming with kids right across the street.

Jameson's first time in the big kid swing

Caroline's new trick

Thursday, April 16, 2015

keep writing...

Honestly, I didn't know if I'd ever see the day when my dad would be well enough to travel to my house again.  It's been years!

The last time he was able to come was Jameson's first month of life, and afterwards his health quickly declined before he received his transplant a year and a half ago.  Since then, it seems like he's had one complication/set-back after another, but his goal was always to get out east to see us.

Thankfully, he's currently feeling the best he's ever felt, and though it was a sad reason to travel (his mother passing away), it was also incredibly meaningful to have he and my mom here once again.

 It was a short, but very sweet, visit.  Our kids LOVED having Pop and Mamie come see them.
They got to visit Caroline's classroom and see all the unbelievable things this girl is learning in 1st grade!
 Turns out they were here on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which is a huge deal here because we live only 20 miles from Appomattox!  At the exact moment of the signing, church bells across our city were ringing out, just as they did 150 years ago.
 After my parents' visit, we all headed down to Raleigh where my grandparents and extended family live.  It was hard to be there and not see my grandma.  I hate death.

I grew up across the country from my grandparents.  We would see them on holidays or special occasions.  But in a way, I think my grandparents actually got to know me best over the last several years through my writing on this blog.  My grandma, being the tech savvy one in the bunch, was a devoted reader, and anytime I posted, she'd call my grandpa over to see it.

Numerous times they have praised my writing (like every good grandparent would), but I'll never forget what my Grandpa told me just minutes before my Grandma's memorial service.

"Amy," he said, "keep writing."

I choked back tears.

"I was all caught up with your writing until 10 days ago.  I've never known someone who exposes their soul in their writing like you do.  You have such a story to tell."

 I don't know how or if Grandpa will continue to keep up with this blog, but if you're reading this, Grandpa, thank you.

Thank you for your inspiring words
and reminding me of God's work in my life.

But more than that,
thank you for being a faithful husband for seventy years.

Thank you for being a faithful minister of God's word for at least that long, too.

Thank you for your gentleness and humor that all who know you adore.

I love you.

And I promise you I'll keep writing.

Monday, April 13, 2015

heart of a birthmother...

Last week, out of the blue, we received a beautiful email from Jameson's birthparents.  It was the first time they have reached out to us and we couldn't have been more thrilled!  What an answer to many prayers.  Our deepest hope is that over time, our relationship will continue to grow, and one day, they'll be reading these very words on this blog. 

Birthparents mean so much to our family.  It's because of their loving sacrifice we're able to be a family.  Whether our children understand it now or not, birthparents mean (and will mean) so much to them.  It's so unfortunate that birthparents are often misunderstood and stereotyped for the decisions they have lovingly made for their children.  

Jameson's birthmother sent us the following poem that I think perfectly captures the heart of a birthmother:

Because I Love You
by Shelly I.

I searched my heart and soul and mind
Because I love you.

I cried myself to sleep many nights
Because I love you.

I looked long and hard and half way across the country for your parents
Because I love you.

You now have a mommy and a daddy
Because I love you.

You have cousins who can’t wait to hold you and play with you
Because I love you.

You have loving aunts and uncles
Because I love you.

You have grandparents who are so proud to call you grandson
Because I love you.

There will never be a worry about how to feed you
Because I love you.

You will never be told, I’m sorry, honey, there is no milk
Because I love you.

You won't have to keep wearing the clothes you outgrew
Because I love you.

You won't to move and attend many different schools
Because I love you.

You have a stable home environment
Because I love you.

You won't  have to wait for me to get out of bed
Because I love you.

You will have a backyard to run and jump and play in
Because I love you.

Your life won't be a struggle
Because I love you.

You are surrounded by people who love you
Because I love you.

I let you go
Because I love you.

I can live with this
Because I love you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

trampled by the easter bunny...

Ahh, a nice Easter event right in our neighborhood!

We showed up and immediately took a pic with the Easter bunny.

As you can see, Jameson wasn't so sure about it...

This year the annual event, complete with Easter egg hunts for all ages, was run by our very own community center director, Tremayne!

Just a word about Tremayne, (or "Mr. T" as the kids call him) because he's awesome.  He has single-handedly turned around our community center from being on the city's chopping block to  being one of the most thriving!  The free after-school care program he runs went from just a handful of students to over 30 kids!  He LOVES what he does, and the kids (including mine!) absolutely adore him.  

Jameson was much more comfortable around the real bunnies.

(The spring foliage provided for some cute shots.)

The kids enjoyed a decorate-your-own cookie.
 Caroline with Mr. T after her egg hunt.
But the story of the day came later that morning.

Remember Jameson's initial hesitation around the Easter bunny?

I'd seen him scouting out that bunny all morning long, and I could tell his affections were changing.  All of a sudden, he was pulling my hand saying, "Easter Bunny, mommy.  Let's go see the Easter bunny, mommy!"

He was going to give that bunny a chance afterall.

Halfway towards the bunny, Jameson dropped my hand and took off on his own.  I watched as he scooted through the crowd, and juuuuuust as he reached out his arms to hug Mr. Bunny's legs, the bunny took a giant step forward completely unaware of Jameson's presence, knocking Jameson flat to the ground!  Jameson's eyes were so wide, trying to take in what had just happened!

(Okay, I have to admit that in that moment, I was kinda torn.  Do I get the camera out and snap the picture of my child crying on the ground from being TRAMPLED by the Easter Bunny?  Or just do the good mom thing and scoop him up in my arms?

I did the good mom thing.  Sorry to those who'd have loved to seen that.)

What happened next was even better.

So I'm leaning over being the good mom, and the Easter Bunny has just realized he's knocked down my kid who is crying hysterically.  He leans over attempts to console Jameson with pats, etc., but to no avail.  So naturally, what would any bunny do in that situation?

Put his hands over his mouth in shame and quickly hop off!

Oh yes he did.

Daddy, I've just been traumatized by the Easter bunny.
Hope you had a happy Easter!

Monday, April 6, 2015

new talent...

Just recently, we found out about a free group ukelele class in town for ages 7 and up.  Not being one to pass up an opportunity for free music lessons, we showed up and Caroline has really enjoyed it!

Three weeks later, she's made a video for you guys of her first song.

(I'm going to dedicate this one to all the grandparents and great grandparents in our life whom we love and who probably remember this song very well.)

Not bad for a beginner, eh?  Enjoy the show...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

7 year old guest blogger time...

Hi, everyone! This is Caroline. I am so glad to see you all today!
I have been on spring break from last Friday to the next Tuesday
so I will be writing a blog. I am writing about this because I like to 
write things so I love to write blogs out to people. 

Today I will be writing about how we made Jameson's headboard.
Everyone, I did the same thing to my fireplace just like this picture
below! (Except I used pink fabric instead of brown fabric.)

Do any of you have a kind of fireplace in your bedroom?
This is kind of like a workbook to show you how to make a
creative headboard.  Here we go!
This is a old fireplace they had during the Civil War
in Jameson's room. Instead of using it as a fireplace,
we are going to make it into a headboard. I like the 
 kind of bricks they used to make the fireplace.

So... what we did was we cut a wood piece the size
that would fit Jameson's fireplace headboard. Then 
we cut out soft pieces of fabric called batting. We cut
out a little bit extra so dad could staple it to the back.

Jameson wants to push through the crowd to see what 
dad was doing. Haha!

Dad will fold the fabric onto the board piece...

And Jameson will staple it! Don't staple your finger,
baby! Ha!

Jameson is done stapling! Be careful, Jameson!
Watch your finger!

This is what it looked like next.(A little line in the fabric- boo hoo!)
But you won't see it. YAY!

We agreed that Jameson's headboard fabric 
should be brown to match his room color. 
Don't make it wrinkled like this photo, dad!
Ha ha!

Mom was also taking pictures when I was.
Hey, thanks mom! 

Jameson is doing a little shake it happy dance.
Go Jameson, GO! Ha ha!

This is what it looked like when the fabric came on,
and it was put into the fireplace headboard. YAY!
Almost done!

"Yay! We're all done!" Jameson says, hugging mom.

TADA! Jameson's bed is pushed back into it's spot. YAY!

I hope to see you all again very soon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

the 'hood is changing me...

This place is changing me.  I'm feeling it now.

Moving downtown to our beautifully diverse neighborhood last summer felt so "scary" at the time.  I knew our family was changing internally to feel more at home in a diverse, urban culture, but it was one thing to believe what I believed, to care about what I cared about, and another thing for us to come and SETTLE in a neighborhood perceived by locals as "the 'hood."

"You shouldn't live there," well-meaning people in our church would tell us.

So it was with great trepidation I left a place and a lifestyle in which I was very comfortable to come to a place where I initially was not.  (We even kept our former house as a rental just in the event we wanted to move back.)

It hasn't even been a year, and I'm not sure I'll ever go back to suburbia.

The other night, our family ventured to our former side of town to visit a local pizza place and ice cream store we used to frequent often.  It's in a well-to-do section of town, and we absolutely love the family that owns the restaurant.  It was well worth the drive to see them again, and we enjoyed our visit there, but Marc and I looked at each other across the table and said,

"This feels so different now."

It's weird.  Really weird.  What was so comfortable and so "us" was now feeling not "us," you know?  I don't know that we could even put our finger on exactly why.  I mean, it wasn't just the apparent lack of racial diversity-- there was one other "token" black guy there besides Jameson in a sea of peachy-pink faces, but I think it had more to do with the lack of economic diversity and historic charm that felt more strange than anything.

Everyone seemed to look alike.  Everything just seemed to be, a little um, bland and boring.

(And in walks our family.... ha ha!)

I guess living in a historic section of town where each of the houses are just as unique and different as much as the people are has impacted me.  I always thought of myself as wanting to "fit in" to be accepted.  I always thought I'd be the suburban mom driving kids to and from soccer practice.  I thought moving "up" looked like moving to new and "safe."

Maybe my daughter's alopecia began this long process of breaking the status quo's in my heart.  It was gut-wrenching watching my daughter's hair began falling out.  It wasn't the "look" I wanted for my family at the time.

But how beautiful is it to look back and see the Lord's work in our lives since that first night we discovered a clump of her hair in our hands.  Being different is beautiful.  If it took losing a head of hair to begin such a long-term heart transformation, I'd do it all over again.

I look out my window and see men and women walking up the street to the bus stop to get anywhere.  We have the densest population in the city, and one of the poorest, and no grocery store within miles.   Families living on my street made it through the winter huddled in one bedroom WITH ONLY A SPACE HEATER.  People in my neighborhood work like crazy-- two and three jobs, day and night-- and still struggle to make ends meet financially.

You might be tempted to think I have something to offer them.  That by moving here, I could be a blessing to such a place as this "hood."

Maybe I can, and I do somehow hope to be, but the real change is happening to me.  Sure, it's great that my son isn't the only one that looks like him now.  But this place is changing me.

Maybe it looks like I have all the "stuff," but I'm just as poor and broken as the person next to me.  Living among a mix of cultures helps me better question and understand my own.  Issues like healthcare and immigration become more about real people than political topics.  The world looks very different from this street than it did before in my suburban neighborhood.

I never would have guessed the journey the Lord would take us on.. but my life feels SO much richer now than ever.

The 'hood is changing me.