Saturday, May 24, 2008

Don't shake a wobbly chair

Ok, I have to tell on myself, I'm a dork and I really shouldn't be allowed to make my own decisions! We have some out of town visitors and they drink coffee. While we don't drink the stuff we do have a coffee maker (circa 1980 I think). I keep it on the top shelf in the back of the cupboards. While I'm pretty tall for a girl (5'7") I'm no match for the height of this cupboard. Being the improvisor I am I grabbed a kitchen chair and proceeded to stand on it to grab the coffee maker. When I got up on the chair I noticed the chair was a little wobbly. Instead of immediately getting off and checking out why it was wobbly - can't you just see Lucille Ball doing something like this too? - I then wobbled the chair more and said to myself, "gee, this chair is wobbly." The next thing you know the leg falls off and I am sitting on the kitchen floor wondering how in the world a girl who graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious Jesuit university could possibly be so stupid! I guess you just can't teach common sense!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Death of Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter

They announced on the radio this morning that Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter, Maria Sue, was killed in an accident at their home yesterday. Here is the offiical announcement on their website:
(Left to right Will Franklin, Maria, Steven, Shaoey, Mary Beth, Stevey Joy, Caleb and Emily)


At approximately 5pm on the afternoon of Wednesday May 21st, Maria Sue Chapman, 5 years old and the youngest daughter to Steven and Mary Beth Chapman was struck in the driveway of the Chapman home in Franklin, TN. Maria was rushed to Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital in Nashville, transported by LifeFlight, but died of her injuries there. Maria is one of the close knit family’s six children and one of their three adopted daughters.

More than five years ago, Chapman and his wife MaryBeth founded The Shaohannah’s Hope Ministry after bringing their first adopted daughter, Shaohannah, home from China. The ministry’s goal is to help families reduce the financial barrier of adoption, and has provided grants to over 1700 families wishing to adopt orphans from around the world. Chapman is a five-time GRAMMY ® winner and 54-time Dove Award winning artist who has sold over 10 million albums and garnered 44 No. 1 singles.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

God was very present

I almost feel guilty saying this but sometimes church just doesn't "do it" for me. There are some days when I just feel like I am going through the motions but never actually connecting with the most important person in my life - my Savior. He has done things for me that just cannot be explained and on His day I'm sometimes present in body but my soul is a million miles away. I hate those kind of days - I feel cheated on those days.

I'm happy to say that today was NOT one of those days. For me music plays such a big part of who I am and how I connect with Jesus. We had a guest worship leader today, Tom Ewing. He is absolutely amazing!! He has truly been gifted with an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I know that God is always present with us but Tom can just help you connect in ways that very few can. At the end of a worship set that Tom has led you feel like something special has taken place. I can only imagine that heaven must sound like this!

To make the day even better it was my turn to be on the worship team this Sunday!! I got to provide backup vocals and I felt so blessed to be able to do that. You know how truly happy people can't help but make your day a little better? Tom can do that in a spiritual sense. It is obvious that he loves God more than anything else in the world and his enthusiasm is contagious.

During our rehearsal time this morning Tom shared about how when you draw closer to God he draws closer to you. He said it reminded him of a revolving door. I was curious about revolving doors and being that I am a real geek I looked it up on Google. Don't you just love Google?!? I found that H. Bockhacker of Berlin was granted German patent DE18349 on December 22, 1881 for "Thür ohne Luftzug" or "Door without draft of air". But the person who brought us the revolving door in America was Theophilus Van Kannel, of Philadelphia. He was granted US patent 387,571 on August 7, 1888 (wow...same year my Great-Grandmother Arbie was born -- she was a wonderful woman but I'll have to blog about her another time) for a "Storm-Door Structure". In 1889, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia awarded the "John Scott Legacy Medal" to Van Kannel for his contribution to society. In 1899, the world’s first wooden revolving door was installed at Rector’s, a restaurant on Times Square in Manhattan, located on Broadway between West 43rd and 44th Streets.

With my geeky curiosity regarding the origins of the revolving door satisfied, I started thinking more on the analogy of the door and God's action in our lives. That reminded me of a friend I used to work with who liked to stop or reverse the revolving door at the front of our building while you were in it. That was definitely not very conducive to getting where you wanted to go but it certainly gave him quite a bit of joy. That revolving door is a wonderful means by which to enter the building or leave the building. Up to 4 people can be entering and exiting at nearly the same time -- that is as long someone doesn't come along and mess up the process. Wouldn't you agree that we all have a way of messing up the process when God is trying to engage us in that revolving door? We get in that door and stop walking or change direction. God has the door in control if we would just follow His direction but being what we are, we force our way. The miracle of the whole process is that He continues to wait in the door for us to begin listening to His urgings. I am so thankful that He does not give up. I challenge you to remember God's goodness and mercy towards you whenever you use one of these wonderful inventions called the revolving door.

I have to admit this whole concept started my little poetry wheels turning and I scribbled down some phrases that might turn into something. Not quite ready to show you yet but stay tuned for that. I have a feeling that my fascination with revolving doors is not quite finished. Aren't you just so excited?!?! ;-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

HS Swimming is officially over

DS swam his last high school meet today. He did very well placing 13th and 16th in his individual events and 9th and 13th in his relays. He cut time and ended up with his best times ever. His team placed 5th overall in the state which is a huge accomplishment considering they are one of the smallest schools in the division. We are really proud of him!!

I'm proud of myself too because not once did I cry -- I came really close and if I would have had to talk to anyone, the tears would have flowed very freely. Even now I feel I am right on the verge but I'm holding it in. Any other mothers feel my pain? This growing up thing is so hard. I hope I can hold it together at his graduation in 2 weeks. At least he's not moving out to go to college since he's going to attend the college in the town next to us. I don't know how moms handle it when all these changes happen at one time. Can't we just stop this aging process and keep them all cute and needy forever. I miss those days when he would crawl up on the couch with me and snuggle under my blanket while we watched 101 Dalmatians. I miss those days when I knew everything going on in his life. I miss those days when I knew for absolute certain that I was the most important person in his life. How do you fill those blank spaces? I am getting a little weepy so I better close this out tonight since I have no idea where any kleenex is and I really hate using TP to blow my nose.

Friday, May 16, 2008

State Prelims

Woohoo! DS did great today at the state swimming prelims. He's at 16 in the 200 individual medley, 14 in the 100 butterfly, 15 in the 200 free relay, and 9 in the 400 free relay. He swims tomorrow at 3:30 in the finals in all his events. Stay tuned for the results tomorrow!!

After the swim meet today this is what I did:

It looks so nice but I ended up with a bit more sun than I should have so not only are my flower beds colorful but so am I!!

I also replaced our garbage disposal today -- wonder I'm wiped out!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wii for Mii

Ok...well...I finally broke down and bought a Wii. For those of you who don't know what that is here is a picture:

We've been having a lot of fun with it. DS set up our little Mii people (the characters that are your digital alter egos that I think look like little veggie-tale like people -- no arms but they can do all kinds of stuff) and at first DH had totally gray hair and I told him that his dad would probably not appreciate that at all. So he ended up giving him blond hair and a fu-man-chu facial hair thing. DH loves it -- please, Lord, don't let him grow one of those things on his face in real life!!! My Wii ended up with a ponytail and I realized that DS probably rarely sees me without a ponytail. I never really realized that I was so predictable -- hmmm...I may have to get hair crazy one of these days! He also made a Wii for himself that looks creepily just like him and a really pretty one for his GF. Don't you think he should have made the pretty one for his mommy?!?! ;-)

After our Miis were created it was time to play. As a family we immediately went bowling:

I can actually get a pretty decent score which only happens at the regular bowling alley if they put the gutters up for me! That's why I like to bowl with little kids. I look like I'm being so sweet and nice and kind and all that jazz, but really all I'm doing is ensuring that I don't look like a total dork bowling with the gutters up just for me. I can blame the little rug rats instead! See...I'm always thinking!

Well...after bowling for a few days I decided to try out the other games that come with the console. I really liked boxing -- that is until the next day when I couldn't lift my arms or pick up my purse. What a great workout. That led me to doing some research about using the Wii as a fitness plan. I found out that 15 minutes of boxing burns approximately 125 calories! Woohoo!! If 3500 calories equals a pound then I should be able to lose one pound with every 7 hours of boxing. Considering I've only been able to last 20 minutes without collasping on the floor in a pool of sweat (I know that wasn't a very attractive mental picture for you but you get the idea!) I think it's going to take me a while to get to that 7 hours!

After I did some boxing I tried out the fitness age test that's included. It takes you through bowling, baseball (I hit a home run -- booyah!), boxing, and tennis. The tennis is what put me over the edge. I couldn't hit the ball the right direction to save my life and I think my Mii might need an emergency room visit due to all the times she fell down. I tested out at 68 years old - eeek! DS confided in me that he tested out at 64 so maybe I'm not so bad after all. Now I need to get DH to test himself so maybe I can feel superior to someone in this house!

For my birthday I've asked for the latest and greatest for this wonderful piece of electronic wonderment -- the Wii Fit. Here's the description of that "game":

Categories: Wii Fit features four main categories to choose from: Strength Training, Aerobics, Yoga and Balance Games. As you spend time exercising, you’ll earn Fit Credits that unlock additional exercises and activities within these categories. Wii Fit also tracks the activities you do the most and puts them into the Favorites category.

Strength Training: Put your strength to the test with muscle-toning exercises like Single Leg Extension, Sideways Leg Lift, Arm and Leg Lift, Single-Arm Stand, Torso Twists, Rowing Squat, Single Leg Twist, Lunge, Push-Up and Side Plank, Jackknife, Plank and Tricep Extension. Challenges include Push-Up Challenge, Plank Challenge and Jackknife Challenge.

Aerobics: Get your heart pumping with fun, interactive Aerobic exercises like Hula Hoop®, Basic Step, Basic Run, Super Hula Hoop, Advanced Step, 2-P Run, Rhythm Boxing, Free Step and Free Run.

Yoga: Work on your balance and flexibility with Yoga poses and activities like Deep Breathing, Half-Moon, Dance, Cobra, Bridge, Spinal Twist, Shoulder Stand, Warrior, Tree, Sun Salutation, Standing Knee, Palm Tree, Chair, Triangle and Downward-Facing Dog.

Balance Games: Get into the action with fun, balanced-based games like Soccer Heading, Ski Slalom, Ski Jump, Table Tilt, Tightrope Walk, Balance Bubble, Penguin Slide, Snowboard Slalom and Lotus Focus.

Once I get this "game" you may never hear from me again. I might collapse completely into the carpet fibers never to be heard from again! Or maybe I'll actually get to my goal weight and start a world-wide Wii fitness center! I've lost 4 pounds since I started playing with it 2 weeks ago so it just might happen! Let's just add that to my list of projects!!

Ok...gotta go beat up some veggie-tale people with no arms!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Grace Story

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve poured my mind out on this virtual paper. DS’s graduation is coming closer and closer and I am finding less and less time to do the things I want to do rather than the things I should do. That subject (want vs. should) is definitely for another posting on another day. Today I need to tell you my story – or at least one of my stories.

Sunday at church our Youth Pastor (I’ll call him PJ) delivered the message and I was really touched by it. It all led into one of my guiding scriptures for my life – Romans 8:28 – All things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. PJ shared that we all have stories of grace in our lives and that those stories will do more to further the kingdom than all the logical arguments for the Christian faith that we could ever utter – not his exact words and he did a much better job of explaining it but I’m hoping you get the picture. I started thinking about my own stories and one that I believe is more grace filled than any other is the one about finding my birth father. I’ve never actually put it down in words so I have no idea how this will come out and even if I’ll be able to get it down in one sitting but here we go…you might want to take a potty break before you start reading cuz I’m expecting this to be a little long…

I grew up in a loving middle-class family with my mom, my little sister, and my dad, who even though his DNA did not pulse through my body he never treated me like I wasn’t his own flesh and blood. I had the same trials and tribulations as most kids. I got in trouble for various misdeeds and was on restriction from time to time. I was also of the generation where you did not spare the rod in order to spoil the child so I also got my fair share of spankings (the majority were deserved I’m sure!). All in all I think it was a fairly normal childhood.

But I also had a biological father out there somewhere that I did not know. My mom and he divorced when I was 2 years old and that side of the family was not a part of my life. My mom would tell me snippets about him and the family from time to time which are really not important to this story but suffice it to say that I pretty much felt deserted by this person. However, over time I started create this fantasy father who would show up at big events in my life – dance recitals, band concerts, birthdays, graduations, etc. But he never did show up. This just reinforced to me that he did not want me.

As most kids do I also fantasized about becoming a famous celebrity – in my case a singer. I had vowed to use my real name so that my father (so you don’t get too confused in this story when I say “father” that means my biological father and when I say “dad” that means the dad I grew up with…ok?) would see me on TV and know it was me and we would have this wonderful, fuzzy, heart-warming (enter your own adjective here) reunion that would be carried by all the major TV stations and newspapers in the free world. I know, I know, I have quite the creative imagination! Oh, the burdens of being me!! ;-) Well…I never did become the famous person I dreamt of being but that’s ok. I’m very happy and have a great life with my family and friends. I get to use my voice to praise God and that is really the best use of my talents that I could ever hope for. But…I digress…so this story doesn’t become as long as the last Harry Potter let’s move time forward a bit…

In 1990 I had my wonderful DS and he was such an answer to prayer (although a bit unexpected at the time) and I could never imagine the course my life would take after seeing that little plus sign on the good ole “most advanced piece of technology you will ever pee on” – gosh I love that commercial! Anyway…while I was pregnant I had some complications and was continually asked for my entire medical history including the histories of my parents. Unfortunately I was only able to provide half the information needed since I knew virtually nothing about my father. This began the renewed longing in me to find him more for the logical reason of medical information as opposed to the fantasy world of this amazing person suddenly showing up in my life and we all lived happily ever after.

After the health issues with getting DS into this world had subsided, the urgency of locating this person became less and less important. It was still in the back of my mind because you can’t help but wonder how someone could not want to spend every waking moment with their child. Having just had a child myself and experiencing that instantaneous infatuation with this little person made that question loom ever bigger but still the nagging question resided in the back of my mind – lots of interesting (and even sometimes disturbing) stuff hangs out back there so I’m sure it was quite a party for the next 14 years.

So fast forward to late winter/early spring of 2004 and our Pastor (not PJ if you are keeping track of that sort of thing) is doing a sermon series on forgiveness. The gist of the series – again not in his exact words and I am most likely doing a very poor job of capturing the true brilliance of the original – was that in order to receive the full joy that God intends for your life you must be willing to forgive those who you feel have wronged you. During the prayer at the end of the messages each week he would invite us to spill our guts (again not exact words) to God about those who we need to forgive. The only person who would come to my mind is my father. Over the years I had become angrier and angrier that he could desert me like this. I fell more in love with my DS as each day/week/year went by and it was just unfathomable to me that he did not want to be a part of his child’s life. Those of you who are parents know exactly what I am talking about here. There is a line from Where the Heart Is where after the birth of her daughter the main character asks the age-old question, “How can you love someone so much that you just met?”

The fact that my father kept coming to mind each week while I was praying really was annoying. (I’ve found that sometimes the annoyance factor is one of the best weapons in God’s arsenal to get my attention but I’ve discovered it is a weapon best used by Him and not by me.) I finally made a deal with God (because He really likes it when you do that – NOT) that I would look for my father and when I didn’t find him that I would be given the full joy I wanted. (Can’t you just see a snotty little kid stomping her feet at the check out counter when they are denied that candy the store so artfully places there?) It is amazing that God did not strike me down at that point but He has much more patience than I would for such a bossy, snotty little kid. Not only did I tell God that he would give me this joy at the end of the search but I even set the parameters for the search. Have you realized yet that I am a total control freak?!? If you are still questioning this, just ask my family sometime – I’m sure it’s not been a total joy for them to live me all these years! ;-)

The parameters I set would be that I would look for my father using (a compilation of the telephone white pages from across the country in case you’ve never used it) and would only search using his full legal name. My father has a very common name that can be shortened in various ways. I even insisted that I use his middle initial as well. The beauty of back then is that you only got what you searched for. Let’s say for instance his name was Samuel L. Jackson (which it’s not by the way) and you told it to search for “Samuel L. Jackson”. It would only find that exact listing. It would not give you Sam Jackson, Sam L. Jackson, S.L. Jackson, or even S. Jackson. And to make matters worse you had to search each state one by one. Another problem with it is that if he had an unlisted number it would not show up at all. So…you can see the odds were already stacked against me and when I put those further stipulations on the search I was pretty much setting the search up to fail. For those of you familiar with today it has changed and is much more useful now than it used to be…but again I am digressing….

So I did this search using his full legal name (with middle initial) starting in the last state I was certain he had been in 36 years earlier. Lo and behold I ended up with about a half dozen names from just this one state! Oh, my, this was going to be a long, expensive search. I wrote a very non-descript little note saying I was looking for my birth father and didn’t wish to place any claims but merely needed some medical information. Partially true but really all I wanted was to fulfill my part of this condition-riddled deal I had placed before God and if by some unbelievable chance I did find my father, then I would have someone I could vent my anger against. I didn’t include my name because I wasn’t sure what kind of creepazoids I might find. I printed out each letter, addressed the envelopes, and set out to get a P.O. box to use as a return address. I was very happy to find that one of the people who came up on the search was computer literate and had registered with adding his e-mail address to his listing. For that one I sent an e-mail using a non-traceable e-mail account I had. I sure was hoping I would run into more listings like that one. Postage can start to add up!

The next day before heading out to the post office to get the P.O. box and mail the letters I checked my e-mail account and I had a response from the person who had registered their e-mail address. Little did I know that God was about to bonk me on the head and in no uncertain terms notify me that I was never to test Him again. The response I read was unbelievable and had I looked at it through a different lens I probably could have seen right away that it was not someone messing with me but rather was truly my father. (I’ll pause here so you can take in the enormity of that sentence – I had just found my father after contacting one person!!)

He started the e-mail by addressing me by my name (which was spelled right and that doesn’t usually happen!) and saying that he had prayed for this day for 36 years. I didn’t believe him and sent him a lot of questions that only the right person would be able to answer. He answered all those questions and more. The emotions that ran through me that day and the following weeks while we exchanged e-mails, pictures, and phone calls were all over the place.

It was at this point that grace truly entered into the situation. Here I had demanded that God give me something and I even dictated how it would be given. By all rights He should have shut me out and let me drown in this scummy pond of demands I had created. But for some unfathomably reason He ended up giving me what I wanted and even more. I found that the anger I had been carrying around had suddenly disappeared. I wasn’t angry at him and I wasn’t angry at my mom. In fact, I wasn’t angry at anyone. This is a forgiveness that I couldn’t define or comprehend for myself. At the time it seemed like I was moving through my days in a fog. I was ecstatic that I found this person who completed the other half of my DNA but at the same time I was terrified that he would turn out to be this complete lunatic and here I was walking around with his DNA in my body. I was also worried about how do I tell my mom that I found him. When I started the search it was between God and me. I didn’t even tell my DH about the search.

There are lots of other stories that happen after this and maybe I’ll share those with you someday, but the true point of this one is that despite being my own worst enemy God found a way to show me not only that He is the one truly in control, but that I can trust Him to always give me things that are good for me. I still stand here several years later truly amazed that I found my father. There were so many ways it could have failed but God was in control despite my best efforts to derail the process. I am thankful beyond words that God was able to step over and around the obstacles I placed in his way to bring me to where I am today. What I saw as impossible, God showed me was possible for Him. I’ve learned that you may think that you could never forgive the wrongs committed against you and in that you are absolutely right. Oh, wait, what did she say?!? Hear me again – you, all by yourself, cannot truly forgive others. However when you include God in the process, the forgiveness will flow like you cannot even imagine. You will find you have no control over the emotions that come with the process but to use a very old phrase you must let go and let God! Lay those burdens at the cross of Jesus and no matter how tempted you are do not pick them back up.

Through this process I am a much more joyful person. I feel more complete but by no means is my life perfect now. I have experienced grace in my life that I never knew existed and that having now experienced it, I cannot imagine my life any different. Finding my father has created problems that I would much rather not have to deal with but the rewards of finding the family I was separated from for so long far outweighs any difficulties that come with the package. It really reminds me of the process involved when you decide to turn your life over to God and become a believer in Jesus. In my own walk that transition has not made my life any easier, and in some ways has made it harder, but the rewards so far outweigh the costs that I find I am joyful in the difficulties. I am still an imperfect, unfinished, rough-around-the-edges, sinner who does not deserve the full joy of God but I am immensely thankful everyday that God thinks otherwise.