Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finally ... A Blog Is Born!

I think now that the Holidays are here, this is the best time to do something that I haven't done in far too long: update my personal blog. It's been 10 months! Yikes! I'm so ashamed and embarrassed, but ... here goes ...

Life On Eastboro
We are still here; it'll be two years in May. Believe it or not, there are still some boxes we haven't unpacked! I'm not real sure what happened this past year-and-a-half, but it seems to have flown by too fast. I guess with unpacked boxes it's safe to say I still feel a lil unsettled. I still don't have all pictures hung or every room organized like I had hoped I would by now, but ... it is what it is. Being a stay-at-home mommy is way harder and busier than I ever expected it would be - especially with a child like Elianna. She's strong-willed and very active; she must be doing and playing at all times! Between her and Robert I'm constantly busy. That's why I never get a chance to blog anymore. At least when I worked full time at a desk job it was easy to sneak a fairly regular blog post in. Now I have to choose between making sure all household chores are done (something that never happens) before I can sit down to spill my mind. And trust me, stay-at-home mommies everywhere know that you don't wanna get behind on one single chore, because you will NEVER catch up!

I'm still working most Wednesdays at West End Community Church; I get semester breaks and when the kids are out of school I generally am at home too. In September of 2014 WECC will begin a Mother's Day Out program, so maybe my hours will pick up then. Hopefully. Photography has picked up some with the holidays, but it's not a very steady income. People just don't wanna spend the money on photography. I can't say I blame them. I get it; times are tough, and families have to make choices. Unfortunately photo sessions don't make the cut. I raised my rates last year because I wasn't charging enough by the time I factored in gas, travel time, edit time, etc., but now it looks like I may need to consider lowering my rates again - maybe to somewhere in the middle. And I'm still an ACE/Saba distributor, but honestly have little time to put into making it a full time business. I know many women in my up-line who have done it and who are very successful at it, but ... I am a busy wife and mom. Right now I am content with distributing enough product to get mine for free. Ultimately though, our plan is for me to go back to work when Ellie starts kindergarten in the fall - at least a part time job.

Speaking Of Ellie
Her antics these days inspire enough writing material for a blog dedicated solely to her! And don't get me started on Monk Monk! He could have his own blog too! Wherever Ellie is, Monk Monk is there! She has had him and often played with him since she was 18 months old, but not until the move here did she have this attachment. If you see me, you see both Ellie and Monk Monk. We - or rather I - dress him, strap him in his own car seat, take him literally everywhere we go! I'm starting to feel like the sister-in-law in that movie "Lars And The Real Girl!" OMG! If you haven't seen that movie you need to so that you will understand what I mean! You can find it on Netflix.com. It's about a guy who attaches to (of all things) a life-like sex doll! I promise it's a great movie; nothing like it sounds! He is a kind of socially inept fella and has a hard time making friends, so he orders this sex doll and begins introducing her as his girlfriend in social situations. And what is so great about this small town that he lives in is that they understand his personality and social anxieties so they just go along with it. His sister-in-law helps him dress and primp her everyday! Everyone goes along with his delusion and begins to sign her up for social clubs or volunteer her at the local children's hospital - the whole town eventually falls in love with her too! That's how I feel. Most everyday I get up, dress this stuffed monkey (though some days Ellie decides he doesn't need clothes and so we forgo them), and take him EVERYWHERE we go. He gets strapped in when riding in the van. He gets strapped into shopping carts. He gets a seat at the table ... and you get the picture!

And almost unbelievably, he is accepted everywhere we go. I used to make Ellie leave him in the van when we went to church or to WECC, because I didn't want her to freak out if other kids wanted to play with him. I didn't let her take him into stores because I didn't want workers to think we had stole him. Now, I choose my battles, and the battle of Monk Monk is one I have relinquished. And I am left fascinated with just how many people accept him and don't make a big deal about this big ol' monkey that Ellie has to have all the time. I'm especially grateful to Ellie's Sunday school teachers who even include Monk Monk in their arts and crafts projects - if Ellie's hand has been traced to become a turkey or manger, Monk Monk's has been too! I can't tell ya how much that warms my heart!

Truth is, he is starting to feel like another child; I even talk to him after Ellie goes to sleep sometimes. I think for Ellie, our move back to Nashville had its own sort of anxieties that she couldn't express or process. I think the move made her lonely, so she started asking for a brother or sister. When after repeated pleas Robert and I finally got her to understand that we were not planning to have any more babies, that she was it, she attached herself to Monk Monk. They have been inseparable ever since. It's going on a year now and I don't see and end to the Monk Monk obsession coming anytime soon.


Aside from the Monk Monk thing, she is developing into quite the extraordinary little girl with a personality that is anything but little! Her stature may be small, but her presence is larger than life! She is becoming so imaginative! Her vocabulary is exploding every day! Sometimes, she's like a miniature adult! Her facial expressions are priceless! She is unlike most every kid I know! For instance, she couldn't care less for Santa Claus! I don't get it! All other children (or at least most) buy into anything you tell them about Santa or elves or being naughty and nice ... but Ellie? In her own words she would prefer that "Mommy and Daddy just buy (her) toys." I dunno; this one is beyond me. Perhaps it's got to do with all the "stranger danger" we try to teach her, because she won't have anything to do with the man - isn't at all excited by him, doesn't want to go see him and most definitely will not be sitting in his lap! Smart girl. Maybe too smart for her own good! But really ... we tell her most days not to talk to strangers, and we pray for her protection and the protection of our home at night when we tuck her in. So naturally she is a lil confused when this time of year we expect her to believe that a stranger sneaks into our house at night to leave toys that we threaten to take away from her for the rest of the year. Lol! It's a wonder kids ever believe in Santa at all! :-)

All in all, even though most days I'm kept so busy cleaning up her messes and making sure she is stimulated and entertained that I don't get my to-do list done, I am so glad that I get to be Ellie's mommy! :'-) Life is a struggle for us right now; it would help out so much if I were working full time again and bringing in that extra paycheck, but it is a struggle that I wouldn't give back! There are too many priceless moments I would be missing, too many mini-sermons God wouldn't have the chance to preach to me any other way but through this child and too many lessons about life's simple pleasures that I would be forgetting.

Married Life
Hey ... just another something that is what it is! Nothing I'm about to say is anything Robert hasn't already heard. I could tell ya that our marriage is picture perfect and that we get along wonderfully, but anyone who is married knows that just isn't true. There are many days that I feel overlooked, unheard and unappreciated ... but ... I'm sure Robert could say the same. :-/ I'm so busy cleaning, cooking and child-rearing and he is so busy working 60-plus hours a week that most days feel less like marriage and more like a single mother receiving child support and regular visits from her baby's daddy. I'm sure his job leaves him feeling like he really does only get scheduled visitations with us. But that's married life; life in general can keep two people so busy that sometimes they forget how to make time for each other. I think that's where we are. We just need some time alone - a REGULAR date night - something we commit to doing on a regular basis no matter what.

But I would like to add that we are still friends and still like each other and that goes a long way. Hands down Robert is my best friend. As with any "besties," we get mad at each other, have pet peeves about each other and have it out from time to time, but we are committed to making our life together work. In the last year things have gone from bad to worse - at least in my mind they did. I have felt ready to run some days! But that's just it: My mindset toward my husband and my marriage was wrong. I was letting myself become overwhelmed with disappointments about marriage, motherhood and life in general. I've recently come to realize that my disappointments were a result of wrong expectations. And it's easy to have wrong expectations - especially when you're a person who all her life had dreams and goals that have never panned out (at least not yet). It's harder sometimes (I think) to be a person with the mindset of living one day at a time and learning to let go of my ideas about how life should be. After all, they are ideas that I held onto for a long time, so letting go of them and just letting life be is hard. But, the more I do it, the easier it will get. Thank goodness Robert is the laid back one and not the spaz I can sometimes be. Thank God that he has less expectations about what life should be like for us. It's like I'm a combative balloon: full of hot air most days, and while I'm fighting the wind he's the tether that keeps me grounded and eventually pulls me back down to earth! I love him for that (and for so much more).

Yes marriage is hard. It has it's challenges. But I wouldn't wanna do it again with anyone else! For everyday that feels like a struggle there has been a day of overwhelmingly simple blessings! Simple every Sunday that we get to sit on a church pew as a family. Simple when on Sunday afternoons we have Robert home all day and to ourselves. Simple when in the evenings he comes home and we get to kick back and laugh at something new Ellie has to say or share. Simple in the sense that we get to be her mommy and daddy together. Simple in the sense that I have someone to spoon up to and watch Saturday Night Live with while lying in bed. All simple gestures, but blessings still. So, bottom line, our married life is like most: challenging but blessed. :-)

Spiritual Walk
A year ago we were attending Cornerstone Church in Madison - a great church, but a really big church. We had moved back to Nashville and with it came the hope and promise that we were also moving out of the spiritual slump we had been in while living in Columbia. We were committed to finding a new church home. We wanted a church where our gifts could finally be used by God again. I haven't been an active part of praise and worship (nor he sound) since Ellie was about 18 months old. All we knew was that getting back in the game (so to speak) was the key to getting back on track spiritually. I feel like, when a Christian is operating in their gifts and talents in a church family, then they are committing themselves to the process of growth by way of accountability and character cultivation. When we lived in Columbia, we were in a church building (occupying a pew), but by not being a part of the church body we were not growing (not occupying our purpose). So the move was full of hope for a new beginning with a new church family and new church friends.

A dear friend had gone to Cornerstone for many years and invited me and Robert to come visit. This was great because this friend was one of those kindred spirits that you rarely find in life and since we had been separated by distance, I was full of hope about getting to rebuild that relationship with her.

At first, Cornerstone seemed like a church we could settle in. They have so many wonderful classes and ministries that you are welcomed to be a part of. Granted they did not necessarily need new singers; their stage was full of talent and each week it rotated to a whole new set of beautiful voices, but you felt encouraged to come be a part anyway. Their media ministry was the same: full of people willing to help and learn and open the door to any other who felt called to production or sound. They had literally over 50 small groups that you could be a member of. (The church leaders were smart enough to realize that people tend to feel lost in such a large "mega-member church crowd" so they launched a wonderful small group ministry.) I even found a delightful group of ladies to spend my Wednesday nights learning to cook with.

But Ellie didn't do well there. I don't know why. They had an organized children's ministry and even Middle Tennessee's largest indoor playground! But nearly every week she misbehaved and was kicked out of her class. One night she even kicked her teacher! :-( We tried to hang in there; we didn't want her to think that anytime she didn't like her teacher she could just act out and mommy and daddy would find another church. We felt an important lesson for her to learn was that she wouldn't always like or get along with everyone but that she needed to find a way to cope in those situations. We hung in for as long as we could until we saw that, important lesson or not, it was a forced lesson that wasn't getting through.

And Ellie issues aside, can I just say that I never felt that "home" or "family" feeling. I mean, it's a wonderful church for many people, but I just never felt it. Robert's work schedule was a factor in him never being able to connect with the men there. (Most of the small groups met at or before 6 p.m. and well, he works every day but Sunday until 6 so he could never connect with the groups). And truly, all my hopes were hung on reconnecting with my old kindred spirit friend; when that re-connection didn't happen I was left feeling very disappointed at my entire experience there. Once again, I realize now that I had the wrong expectations of people which led to my feeling disappointed; I see that now. But then I just wanted to build a relationship with someone who appeared to have little time for me. And ya know, my mindset may have wrong, but my experience is still a testament to the importance of relationships within the church.

Anyway ... we moved on from there. In May we thought we'd surprise Shane and Tereasa McCoy at Bellshire Assembly of God. They started going there about the time we moved back to town and had often invited us. I didn't tell her I was coming that morning. I just got in my car and instead of driving to Cornerstone I drove to Bellshire to surprise her, and well ... we've been driving to Bellshire ever since! :-)

It really does feel like home there, like family. It reminds me so much of the church I grew up in, and most importantly Ellie is doing very well there. At least if she has been acting out no one has bothered to inform me! LOL! Right now we are still occupying a pew, but we are building relationships with people there and just being still while we wait for God to open the doors for us to serve. In the meantime, I have been asked to minister to the women and children of the Nashville Rescue Mission's Family Life Center and Campus every third Sunday. I'm going to continue to do that for now. It may be a small beginning but it is an open door none the less, so I have walked through it with the hope that God will eventually need me to fulfill my purpose on a more regular basis at Bellshire ... or wherever.

So there it is: Our last 10 months in a lil more than a nutshell! Thanks for reading. I hope to find more time to blog more regularly. Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where, Oh Death, Is Your Victory? Where, Oh Death Is Your Sting?

Psalm 116:15 KJV " ... Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints ..."

James 4:14 WEB "... you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away."

As morbid as I realize this may sound, I have been thinking about death a lot lately. I have thought about death many times over this past year - since my daddy died.

I used to get fearful at the thought of death. Even though I believe that Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, is the promised messiah of the Jews and Gentiles, and even though I believe that I am going to be with Him when I die, when I thought of death I could picture nothing but darkness and uncertainty. Not anymore!

I have pondered the above scriptures many times since coming to Jesus and especially since death has passed by so close to me this year. I have wondered many times how God could see death as precious or beautiful. In my mind it was an ending and nothing to be happy about or hold so dear. I love God, try my hardest to follow Him, but I just couldn't understand why He would see the end of our lives as precious.

And life a vapor? Me a vapor? What does that even mean? Logically I am educated enough to know that the scripture is a comparison of life on earth to life in eternity, but somehow I still can't get my head around it. When I think about the average life span compared to a never-ending eternity ... well ... I'm sure we weren't meant to fathom it.

But I had this thought the other day ...

As long as some of us live on this earth, it is only a short existence in time compared to eternity - the place where time does not exist. We think of eternity as an expansion of time, but eternity is anything but. I submit that eternity is a place where our spirits once began with God our creator and a place from which He blows us, by His breath of life, into the wombs of our mothers. If we are in Christ, we exist there still. (Eph. 2:6) And if we remain in Christ, we will return there again.

If you have lost someone close to you - someone who you love so deeply that the thought of being without them overwhelms you with anxiety and sadness - then how do you think God feels every passing moment we are still here on this earth? And even though I have had this thought before, it finally sank into my spirit that death is not an end but a continuation. It is not a beginning because we were already there with Him once. For the saints of God, death is but a homecoming!

Every moment we are on this planet we are separated from God by the realm of the physical. I heard it said once that "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. Rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience." Death is but a doorway to our true self and form - to know and see ourselves in truth as He has known and seen us all along. (I Cor. 13:6)

So now I can understand how God would be happy when these bodies that physically separate us from Him are finally removed. Oh the joy that must have flooded the soul of my daddy and the heart of my God when they were finally reunited. And oh the peace that I cannot explain when I think of death now. To know that this physical form that you all know and see me as will one day pass away and the truth of who I am will be revealed by that marvelous light that is Christ Jesus! (John 1:4-9/I Peter 2:9) And the peace that I have in knowing that my precious daddy is already experiencing that? I marvel in the glories and wonders of my mysterious God!

For my daddy, his body was a cage that limited him. He has been set free! He could never run on this earth. He ran to the arms of God. He always wished he could get on his knees to pray, but his legs limited him. He is bowing before the throne of God! How beautiful his true self must be! And I'm going to get to see that when I pass on. I am going to get to see what my daddy truly looked like - as God always saw him. A year ago today, I heard the weak and feeble voice of my daddy speak for the last time. But when I enter eternity I will hear the strength of his true voice worship our Father forevermore!



Do not misunderstand me. I miss my daddy today. DEEPLY! There is nothing wrong in that. I am sobbing as I type because I know and comprehend that his life was a gift to me - a gift that I am so thankful for. And though I weep, I am filled with the hope of seeing him again!

Death, for the children of God, is no accident. Whether they pass on by car wreck, cancer, COPD, a violent act, etc., - and no matter their age - their deaths are not untimely. That is not to say that God caused their illness or trauma (that is a whole other blog), but God uses the circumstances of our lives to bring us closer to Him, be it earthly or eternally. (Rom. 8:28)

One last thought: The unfortunate flip-side to this quickly evaporating life, is that though for the Christian it is a brief separation from God, for the unbeliever it is a door of opportunity that is quickly closing. If God so longs to be with us who are still here - if He holds our deaths so precious - then how grieved He must be and how His heart must ache for each soul who passes from this earth into eternal separation from Him?

Brothers and sisters, I know your hurt and your longing for your loved ones, but remember we will see them again - AND SOON! But let's not forget there are generations of souls slipping into the fires of eternal damnation every day. Though we grieve, let's not forget those who God is now separated from in every way. Let us not be weak in well-doing (Gal. 6:9), for this hope that is ours was meant for all!
 
Holy Father, even in our grief please remind us of the race we are running (2 Tim. 4:7). Forgive us when we are selfish and forgive our self-pity. Give us strength to pick ourselves up and carry on for your sake, and for the sake of bringing your kingdom down to this earth. Let world revival be at the fore-front of our hearts and minds. Help us Lord, in our own struggle to die daily so that you may live through us and so that we might be used to snatch thousands from the fires of hell! May this prayer be sealed by the name of Christ our redeemer and soon coming King, and may it burn in our hearts the rest of our days - however many that may be! Amen!

I could go on, but for what little I have shared I pray you were blessed, my friends!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Life Keeps Moving Us On!

So much going on as usual. So much to catch up on.

Well ... let's see. In case I never blogged about our church life, not long after moving back to Nashville last May, Robert and I quickly got busy looking for a new church home. We visited a few, and for several weeks visited Highland Park Church on Knob Hill. It came highly recommended by many friends and family. We really enjoyed the way the pastor taught - his method of preaching. Ellie seemed to enjoy her class. As far as I know she didn't have any problems there. We had probably been attending for about 2 months and were considering becoming members, but ... one day as I was standing in line to get Ellie from her class, I looked up and saw a man that I "had a past with." Thank God he didn't see me. On the way to the car, I explained to Robert why we couldn't come back. He seemed to understand. It woulda just been too awkward.

So then ... onward we went in the search to find yet another new church home. For at least a year before moving from Columbia, a friend of mine had been communicating with me about coming to visit her at Cornerstone Church in Madison. I would tell her that we were considering moving back to Nashville to save on gas expenses, and she would insist that we would love Cornerstone. And she was right.

She was very nice to meet me there one Wednesday night and even help me get Ellie signed up in the children's ministry. And for our first several weeks, we even sat near each other in church. Robert and I pretty much loved it right off. We loved the praise and worship, loved the children's ministry, liked our Sunday school class (after trying a few, found one we liked), and we loved the fact that we were meeting couples who we had some things in common with. Most of all, it excited me to know that I was finally gonna get a chance to spend some time with a person who I had considered one of my best and closest friends. In January, Cornerstone reformed their life groups, and I have found one for ladies only that I am really enjoying. It's like my "me" time away from Ellie and Robert. But ...

It seems as of late that Ellie is having serious problems adjusting at this church. I dunno what the problem is really ... she is mean and violent toward her teachers and other children there. She has been in trouble for kicking the teacher aids, screaming at her teacher and hitting and pushing other kids. Basically, Ellie can't go back to Sunday school unless I come with her. Can ya believe it?! My kid has basically gotten herself kicked out of SUNDAY SCHOOL!!! And church isn't the only place she is acting out. She's been a little crazy here at home too.

At first I thought it was because of the weather - this cold, wet, indecisive winter. We haven't been able to hit the park behind the house as often. Heck, we've barely been able to leave the house at all. Mostly due to having to lug Baby Jonah along with us if we did. But since my truck is a 1986 and has no air bags, I couldn't legally take him anywhere with me if I wanted to. So if I had to guess, it's because we have been stuck inside the house day-in-day-out, and day-in-day-out she has been watching me pour myself into another child that is not her sibling - much less - is not her! She is a bit jealous I think, and is acting out in any way she can to get my attention. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to understand or care that the attention she is getting is negative. On top of that, Jonah is the only other child around that she has had to play with in months, so instead of progressing she has regressed a little. It's like she acts and behaves baby-like, and then when she finally gets around kids her age she doesn't know how to act any more.

I definitely don't think it's the church, but I also am beginning to wonder if such a large church is the place for Robert, Ellie and me anyway - as a family. Don't get me wrong; I'm not about to go church hopping just because my kid got kicked out of their children's church. I do intend to do as they have asked me and attend Sunday school with Ellie because I think it is too much an important learning opportunity for her not to. I just feel like as much of an impression as Cornerstone has made on us, neither of us - Robert or me either one - have ever actually "dropped anchor and ported harbor" in our spirits. We joined by attending the Growth track classes each Sunday night, signing on as members and we are tithing there because we are being fed there (for the time being), but both of us still feel very lost in such a large crowd. There are a lot of life groups and Sunday school options - almost too many. And the one friend I was hoping to connect with? Well ... I guess it's just such a large, busy church that we just seem to pass each other in the halls these days. :-(

So ... to bring about some resolution to Ellie's behavior problems, I no longer watch Jonah; Thursday of last week was the last day I kept him. I did become very attached to him though. I will miss his little face so much, but my own child is suffering so ... what else can a mother do?

And beginning very soon, I think we will once again head out on the church hunt. We love Cornerstone, but I feel like we are not meant to be there. I feel like there is something else for us. So we will soon look into that.

What else?

My photography business is picking up and I'm gaining some more experience and clientele. I'm really loving it! I can only hope it grows and grows. I'm trusting God to do just that - to give me greater talent with each photo I take, and to give me favor with my new community in hopes of serving them through photos. I also still sell ACE and other AMS Health Sciences products and supplements. Still love that - still taking my daily doses and still selling and selling. And as always, it is making me some extra money.

Lastly, we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of my sweet daddy's passing. Just when I thought I was coming out of a dark place, I am reminded that he is still gone. :'-( Only ... he died on Feb. 29th, leap day of last year. So technically, there is no way to memorialize the day. I almost think in some small way that he did that on purpose. I know he wouldn't want me to spend any day out of the year to sit around and mope and just dwell on the fact that he's not with us anymore ... but man do I miss him. February 28, 2012, was the last day I heard my daddy's voice; what I wouldn't give to hear him again! I think about his hands, his eyes, his ways. Sometimes, it hurts being back in West Nashville because there are so many reminders of him and life before he and mama divorced around every corner I turn. Sometimes it's hard to visit my Aunt Joyce or Uncle Snapper who just live across the park. Truthfully, sometimes it just hurts to look at them, because then I remember, and it hurts to remember that he isn't here anymore.

I just miss him so much.

So anyway ... that's a sum up of what's been happening in my world. I would blog more but truthfully, it's 12:40 a.m. and I'm afraid if I continue it will turn into another blog about how much I miss him.

Till next time ...