Another "Today"

So, I was directed to Communal Global through a comment on Kelle Hampton’s blog.  It was about a contest for a picture of TODAY.  I posted the picture from yesterday’s post of Jackson on the bench and Ella debating if she was going to join him or not..
Now, I’m looking for “that” moment of each day.  Today, there were too many to count.  Do you realize that when you’re looking for that magical moment, you get many of them?  I didn’t.  So I’m going to share more pictures than I usually do because I really loved my day today.
I was up early because today was the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at my church, United Christian Church.  My mom heads up this insane day every year – always trying to have more plastic eggs than any previous year.  This year, some of our cartons went missing so we had less than 5000 eggs in three hunts.  Of course, less than 5000 means we had MORE than 4000 eggs.  There were over 1000 eggs in the Infant/Toddler hunt.
I was even more excited because this year, Ella was big enough to gather eggs in her basket. 
Oh, such a joy…my child…
She never ceases to amaze me in what she can do.  She is beautiful and funny and full of energy.  A friend interviewed Jeff and I as a game used at our baby shower.  One question we were asked was what trait of our spouse did we want our child to have.  Jeff said he wanted Ella to have my confidence.  And she does so far.  It is so much fun to watch.  And while she didn’t say she would do it herself, that is just what she meant by taking the full basket from her daddy:
It was cool.  And thanks to Josh Foshay…we got a picture with all three of us!  So rare!

The photo display was set up by my mom-in-law and all of it was provided by her employer (James) at Buckingham Greenery.  It has been a hit this year and last.  Thanks, Mom S.
Then, tonight after naptime, playtime, and dinner Jeff suggested that we go to my favorite Ice Cream spot in the world – Gelati Celesti!!!  Ella didn’t get her own ice cream, but she had bites of Jeff’s banana and my chocolate and she seemed to be in heaven…

Jeff wasn’t aware he was in the background…oops…
We came home and it was so nice, we let our little hippie girl hang outside for a while.  She decided that she and her daddy needed to sit in their new “spots”:

according to Ella, they must each have their own side…and I was not allowed to sit because I would throw off the balance.  I love this kid!
So, that was our TODAY.  It was long…it was crazy…but it was ours.
Tomorrow is Easter…the most important remembrance in the life of a Christian.  I am so excited about church tomorrow.  I hope you know Jesus…He has made all the difference in my life.
I sing because I’m happy…I sing because I’m free
For His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.
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Today…

Today we went to Maymont.  We went so we could meet my friend Amy’s sister, Penny.  Oh…what a beautiful person!  She is amazing and I can’t wait to hang out with her for the next few days.
Here are Amy, Jackson, Ella and Penny looking at the roosters:
We walked the hill down all the way to the bears and back up again to have a picnic.  After we ate, we let the kids (and Penny) run around a play.  Ella just has a mind of her own and loved to run as far away as she could from our blankets, which made for some great pictures of my little one…
It was great fun.  A day out with some friends. 
In the photo above is Ella (up close) and in the background are Aunt Penny, Jackson, Katie, John, and Amy.
Friends are great…aren’t they?  I love my friends (and Ella loves hers, too).
Here, they are deciding who should sit where…so cute…
Let’s all sit together:
Well…for a second…
(Thanks, Penny for supervising the huge hole in the back of the bench)
Now…after naptime we’re headed to Lewis Ginter for fun with Daddy (who took the day off)!!

Easter Bunny

So I went to see the Easter Bunny today.  Yep, you read that right…I went to see the Easter Bunny.
I thought I was taking Ella to see the Easter Bunny, but that isn’t quite how it worked out.
Ella and I got to Short Pump Town Center about 30 minutes earlier than planned and and hour before the bunny started posing for pictures.  We went to SPTC last week to see the bunny and to wave (which Ella couldn’t get enough of and even yelled, “Bunny!” over and over).  This morning, I got some coffee and some breakfast and we strolled around a bit.  Then we played in the play area for about 20 minutes before the Bunny was scheduled to arrive.  We talked about the bunny.  We pointed to his chair.  We did the sign for Bunny (Ella’s only has one ear…).  AND when that Bunny arrived we excitedly waved and yelled (while signing), “Bunny!  Bunny!  Bunny!”
Then it was our turn to sit on the Bunny’s lap.  Nope – not happening.
Now, this resistance was not nearly as funny as the Santa meltdown, but it was major resistance.  She was clinging to me for dear life and no longer remembered how to speak only making small whining noises. There was NO WAY she was going to sit on that Bunny’s lap.  So I decided to join her.  Of course, even with me holding her if she could SEE the Bunny it was a no-go.
So here is our picture:
I am barely sitting on the bunny’s knee (really just squatting) so that Ella is far enough forward that she CAN’T SEE THE BUNNY AT ALL.  She didn’t realize he was there.  So she even smiled at the lady taking the picture.
After the Santa picture (so bad of me)…I made sure I’d gotten a shower this morning and wore a spring color shirt…just in case I had to be in Ella’s Easter Bunny picture.
Just a couple more days until our Annual Egg Hunt at the church.  Hope you’re coming:
United Christian Church
2101 Fordson Road
Henrico, VA 23229
10:00 a.m. April 3

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…

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?