Easter is a-coming…

Easter is just days away.
I’m more excited about the commercial side of Easter this year than I have been in years.  Not only do I have a little girl to dress up:

But I also have a little girl who has found a love of Easter Eggs:
I’m not sure who is more excited – Ella or me.  I can’t WAIT to take her to see the Easter Bunny tomorrow.  We’re going to Short Pump Towne Center where they have a BROWN Easter Bunny.  We’ve been to visit and wave “hello” so I’m hoping she’s not going to freak out when we go up and she gets to sit on his lap.  Guess we’ll see.  I’ll dress Springy in case I end up in the picture (unlike the Santa pic where I look totally awful).  I’m excited about the Easter Egg Hunt at church this Saturday, too.  Ella is big enough to walk around carrying her basket and picking up eggs.  It is going to make for so much fun!  Mom may have to hand off the microphone and allow someone else to supervise the kids inside while we all watch Ella hunt.  Just wish Warren & Rach could be here for it.  Her first egg hunt when she can actually hunt!
I’m also more excited about the HOLINESS of Easter this year.  I was excited to sing songs about Jesus on Palm Sunday – “Hosanna!  Hosanna!”.  I wish I were going to a Maundy Thursday service this year, but alas my Christmas gift from Jeff which was snowed out is rescheduled for this Thursday (we’re going to see The Wedding Singer musical).  I am debating going to the Good Friday service at First Baptist where I’ve been attending Bible Study on Mondays.  I need to see if they have a nursery for that time.  Jeff’s aunt and I were recently talking about Easter and her Catholic upbringing.  As a child, she wasn’t allowed to speak on Good Friday from noon – 3 p.m. in order to pay tribute to Jesus at his time of death.  Wow!  Can you imagine?  What an amazing way to force yourself into reflection!
My friend, Amanda, who died one year ago last Thursday, tried very hard to get our church into the practice of recognizing Holy Week.  I believe that next year, I will pick up her torch and try my best to create the atmosphere of respect and majesty she was aiming for.  I’m going to do my research over this next year to be sure I pick carefully what I want to do and what can be picked up at a later time.  Our church isn’t big with attendance outside of Sunday morning, but I believe that with the proper education as to the importance of remembering that last week of Jesus’ life, they may just support that Amanda was going for.
I haven’t blogged in a week because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about Amanda.  If I had blogged on Thursday it was going to need to be all about her.  I have so much to say about her that I’m not sure I can channel it correctly.  I’m going to keep thinking on it and blog about Manda on April 22, her birthday. 
I will say right now that I was BLESSED to have Amanda as my friend:
Speaking of birthdays – Jeff’s is THIS SUNDAY – ON EASTER!!!
Just makes this weekend all that much more special…
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All about Ella

So, I’ve been letting Ella cry it out (CIO) for naps lately…
Some people find this to be cruel.  I can see why.  I wasn’t sure if it was something I could/would do.  I wasn’t sure it was something I even wanted to try.  Then bedtimes became unbearable.  It could take hours to get her to go to sleep.  She was mad…I was exhausted…  It wasn’t pretty.  She started “sleeping through the night” at 10 weeks.  To me, that meant I got more than 5 hours of solid sleep.  Then, the trouble started at around 8 months.  She just wouldn’t go down.  I’d end up holding her while I watched t.v. until she finally fell sound asleep.  I wanted more than anything to be able to lay her down (drowsy, but not asleep) and have her drift off into sleepy land.  At 10 months, I finally bit the bullet and decided we’d try the CIO method.  It took three nights.  That’s all.  The first night: 45 minutes of crying.  Night 2: 20 minutes.  Night 3: 5 minutes.  Night 4: nothing.  We’ve been pretty good since then.  Other than a few instances of getting thrown off…
Naps have been another story.  She rarely has napped longer than 30-45 minutes.  I did post a while back during a TWO HOUR NAP.  It was crazy – and hasn’t happened again.  So, last week I decided to let her CIO.  So far, she’s still only taken 30 minute naps.  Today, she’s been quiet for 15 minutes.  I decided to post quickly just in case the jig was up at 4:30.  And yes, I already am aware that some children just don’t need those long, solid naps.  I just still hopeful that Ella isn’t one of those.
Other than this one hiccup, she is amazingly cool.  She has figured out just what that baseboard heater is for:

Amazingly, it hasn’t fallen off the wall (yet).
We have made some good friends (who I’ve posted about before).  For my birthday, Jeff gave me my one requested gift…a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  We’ve been twice (and will get there again one day this week).  Last week, we went with a few other mom’s including my friend, Amy, and her son, Jackson.  Jackson and Ella take good pictures together.  Here, I believe they are conspiring to be chefs one day:
And just because I think she is so cute, I had to include an upclose shot of my pretty-in-pink princess.  Just don’t fail to notice the grass/mud stains on the jeans.  They won’t come completely clean, so these are now play jeans.  She may be a princess, but she can totally keep up with the boys.  (That’s MY girl)  The adorable bass guitar shirt was purchased by my dad (Pop) since Jeff plays the bass.  So cute:
I will admit that I CAN remember what life was like pre-Ella.  It was a good life.  Going out for dinner and to concerts whenever we felt like it.  Never needing a babysitter (except for overnight things – and then it was a petsitter).  I remember going out with friends for the entire day.  Deciding to go out to dinner on the spur of the moment and grabbing nothing but keys and money.
Ella was a huge surprise.  A historic surprise.  It altered the entire universe for me. 
SHE altered the entire universe for me. 
NOW?  I’d alter the entire universe for her. 
I have big hopes and dreams for her.  Will she fulfill them?  Maybe…
All I know is that she is amazingly cool and that parenthood is definitely the best experience.  Parenting with Jeff is fun.  He is a really, really cool dad and I love to watch them together.
Will we go for #2?  Who knows….maybe…someday…
For now, we’re just ALL ABOUT ELLA.

Old Bibles…

Being the daughter of a minister and raised in the church, I have quite a few Bibles. 

I have lost the normal, brown, hard-cover NIV that I received when I was baptised at age 7.  But have another copy of the same Bible that I got at 13.  It is autographed in the front cover by the members of 4Him.  I loved them.  The back cover has a list of scriptures we discussed at the Southern Christian Youth Convention…whatever year that was.  Circled in that list is 1 Timothy 4:12.  That used to be my favorite.  I says, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young.  Instead, set an example for the believers in speech, life, love, faith and purity.”  That was a favorite for a long time because it spoke to me where I was.  I was young, but my parents expected me to be an example to those around me regardless of who they were or what their age.

Somewhere in a box in the garage is a white leather Bible that zips up.  That one is OLD…

Of the Bibles sitting next to me at the computer table, the next one chronologically is a Zondervan NIV Study Bible that my dad gave me on 2/9/1994.  His note inside the front cover says, “from mom and dad on your sixteeth birthday.  If you are in the word the word will be in you.”  There is also a picture of Josh Kennedy and I taped in the front cover.  I think it is from one of our birthdays or maybe even a graduation party.  We were really good friends.  I miss him.  I’ve actually written a scripture in the front of this Bible.  2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
This Bible is the most worn of all my Bibles.  I used it faithfully until 2 years ago (when my dad bought me another Bible…we’ll get to that).  There are entire sections of this Bible falling out.  I carry it in a case where it is zipped into its own compartment as not to lose those sections.  This one is full of bulletins from over the years.  I cleaned out the case last week and recycled a lot of the bulletins in it (but kept a few).  Eventually, I may clean out this Bible but for now, it speaks volumes to my life.  One of my favorite underlined verses comes from an SCYC held in Stone Mountain, GA where Rich Mullins led worship.  He had us get out our Bibles and underline Exodus 3:5b – “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  He went on to explain that God was among us, making that auditorium holy ground.  He then asked us all to take off our shoes and worship on that holy ground.  It had an impact on me.  If you ever see my kick off my shoes during worship in church (happens very rarely due to my self-control) it is because I’ve been led into that “place” of worship where God is really present and I can feel Him.  I have to remove my shoes, because I am standing on holy ground.
There are so many verses underlined in this Bible, I don’t have room to share them all with you.  I can’t help but notice Matthew 6:25-34 entitled “Do Not Worry”.  This section stands out to me because it was preached about on August 19, 2001.  I wrote in the margin: Divorce final, no $$, grandma in the hospital, no job, overcommitted and tired.  I wrote there again on July 20, 2003:  No $$, but have a scholarship to attend school full-time, Grandma dead, Grandpa in TN…  I wrote again on 11/16/03 after which I direct the reader to turn to the back of the Bible.  I wrote again no 12/15/04, 10/9/05, 01/08/06, and 9/3/06.  It is interesting to read my thoughts on those days of my life…
I think the oldest bulletin in this Bible (which has obviously been cleaned out at somepoint) is from Towne South Church of Christ on January 12, 1997.  I sang on a worship team there with my two childhood best friends, Michael Lease & Eric Woolard, as well as Shannon Wagner.  It was fun to sing in four part harmony all the time.  Man do I miss that!  Anyway, the bulletin includes an announcement for the Super Bowl Party held by TSCC that year (Jan 26) in their “new” building.  It didn’t even have interior walls yet.  I have a picture of myself from that party.  No heat in the building, but instead those huge heat fans were set up.  It was a great night.  I still remember it.

The next Bible is The New American Standard Bible “The Student Bible” issued to me as a textbook at Roanoke Bible College (now Mid-Atlantic Christian University).  It has a card in it from Debbie Lockhart telling me she’s thinking about me and referring me to read Psalm 121.  That scripture became a great comfort to me when I flew into Haiti a year or so later.  A bookmark that says “Teach me YOUR ways” is tucked into Ezekiel.  It is from the Women’s Retreat at Parham Hills Christian Church on January 19, 2002.  In Mark, I find that picture from the Towne South superbowl party.  I’m huddled closely with Megan Lease.  There are lots of Towne South bulletins in this one.  On April 27, 1997 our Worship group (called the “Young Quartet” sang “There is Still Power In The Blood”.  I apparently also used this Bible when I worked with Campus Crusades back in Richmond.  In a Crusades meeting on 10/2/98 I underlined Colossians 4:2-6.  Verse 6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”  Interesting that I turned to that one.  I’m currently in a Bible study of women at First Baptist Church on Mondays.  We are doing a study called Conversation Peace – it talks about our speech and taming our tongue.

I also have a Serendipity Student Bible (NIV) that I bought when I was the Youth Director at Parham Hills Christian Church.  I job I’ve always regretted letting go.  I loved being the Youth Director.  In the front of this Bible are quotes I like by famous and not-so-famous people.  I have a quote by President Ford that says, “Your best friend is the person who helps keep your dream alive.” and a quote by my dad (9/24/00) that says, “If you look at God through your circumstances, He will look small and far away. If you look at your circumstances through God, He will draw near and be close.”
I love this Bible because it has discussing questions all through it (which I used in youth group meetings).  They are deep and my teens really thought about them.  It also includes a picture of the PHCC YOUth t-shirt we were designing with our theme scripture: Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  I wanted those kids to speak God’s Word with BOLDNESS!

And finally, my least used Bible of all time (used only for cross reference and when I need a neat wording for Praise Team on Sunday morning) – my copy of Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  There is only one bulletin (01/26/03 – Baby Dedication) and just one thing underlined.  There are a few pictures from a youth trip tucked in, but that is all.  The underlined?  Jeremiah 29:11-12 (my favorite)

I love old Bibles.  Someday, I hope to inherit at least one of my dad’s or my mom’s.  My dad has my grandpa’s and I love that one, too.  It connects me to a great man of God.  What does your Bible say about you?

A book report

I read.  A lot.  Most people don’t know this about me.  I don’t always pass along books and I often don’t pipe up my opinions on books unless I’m asked.  This is the reason I got a late invitation to the book club I attend.  No one knew I read, so no one invited me.  Until one day, a friend posted that she was really looking forward to a glass of wine at bookclub.  I asked her about her book club and the person who founded the club (also a friend) quickly emailed me to invite me to join explaining that she didn’t know I liked to read.  So….now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
I need to apologize to all to all of the people that have suggested to me that I should read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  There was so much hype (which turns me off) and so many people suggesting it that I was actually relieved that I was going to be out of town for the bookclub meeting that would discuss it.  I didn’t even read it.  Until last week…  I had already read the March bookclub book (finished that the day of the February meeting) and really needed something to read.  Since we’re discussing reading Gilbert’s newest book, I decided that I should cave and read Eat Pray Love.  Man, I’m so glad that I did.  It was great!!!
I enjoyed reading about good places to eat in Italy (though I’m not sure I’ll ever find them if we get to go).  I now want to go stay in an Ashram in India someday.  And I totally want to go to Bali and find Ketut Liyer and sit on his porch talking about life.  Seriously…great book!!!

Here are four quotes from the book that have really stuck with me and why:

“…to even believe [what good works will yield] is an act of faith, because nobody amongst us is shown the endgame.  DEVOTION IS DILIGENCE WITHOUT ASSURANCE.”

Wow!  What a way to put it!  I’ve always explained faith – at least MY faith – as being willing to step out into darkness and trust that God will lead the way.  The author goes on to say, “There’s a reason we refer to ‘leaps of faith’ – because decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable…”  But what a great sentence – “Devotion is diligence without assurance.”  I actually put the book down for a moment to mull that one over.

…the day of the week that you were born is more important in Bali than the year…the patron god of children born on Thursdays is Shiva the Destroyer, and that the day has two guiding animal spirits – the lion and the tiger.  The official tree of children born on Thursday is the banyan.  The official bird is the peacock.  A PERSON BORN ON THURSDAY IS ALWAYS TALKING FIRST, INTERRUPTING EVERYONE ELSE, CAN BE A LITTLE AGGRESSIVE, TENDS TO BE HANDSOME (‘a playboy or playgirl’) BUT HAS A DECENT OVERALL CHARACTER, WITH AN EXCELLENT MEMORY AND A DESIRE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE.

Ella and I were both born on Thursdays.  I just thought, “hmm..well, I’d definitely fit my character description in Bali”.  I’ll also say that I LOVE Banyan trees.  I thought that was cool.  I am trying to learn not to talk first or interrupt, but those are long lessons.  I actually started in a women’s Bible study today called Conversation Peace.  It is about taming the tongue (interesting since we JUST read that passage in James in Sunday school).  I also love the line from the age-old poem that, “Thursday’s child has far to go!”

“…LITTLE GIRLS WHO MAKE THEIR MOTHERS LIVE GROW UP TO BE SUCH POWERFUL WOMEN.”

Wow…I love that sentence.  I have a little girl and my life is amazing since she entered it.  She definitely makes me live.  She is full of energy and requires energy to keep up with her.  She is loving the “warm” weather we are experiences (the 60s) and longs to be outside.  Yesterday, Jeff walked back and forth in front of our house with her.  Everytime he tried to direct her to me (to go inside), she immediately started running the opposite direction.  It was funny, though not so much when he did carry her in.  I do believe she can be powerful.  Oh, God, let me be the mom that raises up a woman of power – power within herself that no one can push her down or around and power in YOU.

“But I was always coming here.  I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that GOD LONG AGO DREW A CIRCLE IN THE SAND EXACTLY AROUND THE SPOT WHERE YOU ARE STANDING RIGHT NOW.  I was never not coming here.  This was never not going to happen.”

My favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Just think.  Before I was born, God knew that Ella and I would be having a rough-nap afternoon.  That I would have given up naptime in her crip and reluctantly put her in her swing (so grateful it has a high weight limit and that she loves it), and returned to writing this blog.  God drew a circle around this chair and this desk….well, kindof.  He knew I’d be married to Jeff.  He knew I’d be the mom to Ella.  He knows if I’m going to have another baby someday or not (and how soon is that someday, God?).  He knows our days.  The Bible also says is Psalm 139 (NIV) “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways”.  God knows us.
I’ve known this for a long time.  Psalm 139 is my second favorite scripture in the Bible.  The whole chapter.  I love it.  It just really hit home when worded by the Sufi poem, “God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now.”
WOW!

So that is my book report.  I went into Eat Pray Love thinking it would just be a good read and came away with for page corners flipped for statements I wanted to remember (for various reasons…hence the Thursdays child thing).  That last one rocked my day.

Where are you standing right now?  Do you see your God-drawn circle?

Friendships

So, Ella has been napping (in her swing) for an hour.  I prioritized and worked on church stuff first, so hopefully she’ll snooze long enough for me to blog too.  We’ll see…

This past weekend I had the priviledge to serve as a bridesmaid for one of my longest & dearest friends, Christie Lynn Grubbs (now Christie Brust – that sounds odd).  Christie and I have known each other since we were youngish – late elementary, I think.  We met at Oak Hill Christian Service Camp and saw each other at area-wide church things.  She was perfect.  So smart – she could sing you anything you wanted to know about the Bible and probably still can.  We both attended Music & Drama camp and both returned to become counselors of that week.  That is where our bond formed.  There was one particular summer where there was a shift in staffing at M&D.  For those of you who don’t know – this is a RARE thing.  We had two female staff members choose to do other things leaving Christie and I as the two “young” staffers.  We stayed together a lot on tour that year.  And we’ve stayed close ever since.  When I was planning my wedding to Jeff in 2006, it was Christie (co-deaning with me by then) who would meet me at church, take me by my shoulders and say, “Okay – now we need to talk about CAMP for one hour.”  She is a great grounding force.  She was my bridesmaid that year and I returned the favor this year.  It was nice to get to wait on her Saturday since it usually works the other way around…especially with Ella tagging along.  I’ve said it on facebook and now I’m saying it here.  IT WAS A HONOR TO STAND BESIDE CHRISTIE AT HER WEDDING.

I’ve had lots of friends in my life; and quite a few “best” friends.  My first “best” friend was Melissa Crane.  We went to Skipwith together.  We spent a lot of time at each other’s houses, too, since we lived around the corner from each other.  After I moved to another school zone I had three besties: Mary Hairfield, Carrie Cauthorne, and Lisa…oh, I’ve forgotten Lisa’s last name.  We also had coordinating boyfriends who were best friends too.  It was fun.  Our parents actually dropped us off at Ridge Theater for a group date in fourth grade.  What parent now-a-days would drop off six 4th graders saying, “See ya in two hours.  Don’t cause trouble!”  None.  I can recount that day in great detail.  Especially that they had two theaters showing the same movie (ours) and we lost Jason & Lisa and did cause trouble trying to find them in the middle of the movie.  I’ve lost touch with all those people these days, but that was so long ago.

I changed best friends in middle school.  I started with a girl named Jenny and ended up with a gal named Miranda – who remained one of my besties until 2001 when a large fight split us up.  There won’t be any details of that here.  I will say that Miranda and I were “those” best friends.  We dressed alike – not always matching (but yes sometimes head to toe), but we loved to buy the same exact outfit in two different colors.  We were always “the same, but different”.  I still love that phrase.  We switched houses for a weekend and lived with each other’s families.  We kindof stole a car together when I was 16.  (We BORROWED it – it was going to be Miranda’s but she was too young to drive and we needed to go rent movies.  I say “stole” because we in no way had permission to drive that car anywhere.)
When I got to RBC (now MACU) in 1996, I ran into a childhood friend named Erin from whom I became inseperable.  She had a roommate, I didn’t.  Her roommate had a computer and Erin’s t.v. worked better in my room on the opposite side of the building.  So, her room became the study haven and my room became the place to chill.  Since I had an empty bed, Erin spent lots of nights in my room.  I even covered for her (and a handfull of other gals) after accidentally telling a staff member (who was dating Erin) that we’d watched “Seven” (rated R).  I wouldn’t confirm that I watched with with anyone other than myself.  Luckily, I escaped major punishment, too.  She was in my first wedding and I was in her only wedding.  Our friendship lessened after we were living in different states, then cities, and now countries.  I’m friends with her on fb, but have yet to send her the message I have started a hundred times.  I want to tell her everything that has happened since we lost our closeness.  There is just so much to say…especially that I miss her very much.

I didn’t have any good girl friendships for a while after that.  Actually…not until 2005 when Melissa Hess moved to town attached to the church’s new youth minister.  Mo and I quickly bonded and she quickly became like a sister to me.  We went on trips together (with and without our hubbies) and there was a point in time that we did something together every Friday or Saturday – and sometimes both.

Around the summer of 2006, I also became good friends with a former camper – Bobbi Jo.  Now, to know Bobbi Jo is to love Bobbi Jo.  Well – for me.  She’s one of those people who you’re gonna love her or you’re not, but there is little inbetween.  We were both bridesmaids for Christie this weekend and one of the stylists (not Kathy, but her coworker who doesn’t know us well) asked if BJ and I were sisters because we bickered/picked with each other like sisters do.  It was a great feeling to be mistaken for her sister.  I a certain brother-in-law would get to a point he was ready to date someone seriously, I’d be hooking BJ up so that we really could become sisters.  Oh, that would be FUN!!!

Then, along came Ella.  Wow – how my world changed.  Jeff and I could still choose to do something on Friday and Saturday night, but that would require (1) exhausting our moms as they alternated care or (2) paying Katie Quinn a lot of money to babysit.  Needless to say that our social life has suffered.  People actually stop asking you do things after you have a kid – do you know that?  People just assume that you’ll say no.  We’re adjusting to this new form of life okay, though.

After about 6 months of being home and not being very social (we did take Ella to the Hess’ new years eve party and I was feeding her as the ball dropped), I needed some mommy friends.  Gals who had little ones too and could talk “shop” with me.
[Ella wakes up screaming…be back later]

And thus began my venture into the world of RichmondMommies.com.  Thanks to that site I have found four good girl friends (Amy, Bridget, Katie and Whitney) who I get together with at least once a week (with our kids).  As seen on a previous post, we went out withOUT our kids on my birthday and are planning to do something for Whitney’s bday this month.  And this Thursday night Amy and I are heading out to a preview for a consignment sale this weekend.  They’re having give-a-ways and other vendors on hand offering discounted and free services.  I’m so excited.

There are other friends not mentioned here – my sister-in-laws, for example.  And I didn’t go into detail about the fact that I didn’t have many female friends at all until the last five years.  That is when I met girls who weren’t girly-girls and then met a few girls (Bridget) that are girly-girls and inspire me to want to be girly…sometimes…

I guess the point is that friendships come and go; or change as life changes.  I wouldn’t trade any of my friendship experiences.  They’ve made me a better person.  I savor my friendships now.  Like all relationships, friendships require work.  I’ve always known that, but now I’m proactive about it.  Who are you favorite friendships?  Have you thought about it lately?

Okay – back to my angel.  Gotta Go!