• ~Psalm 46:4-5~

    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
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Family Fun

The weather has been beautiful for the past week and we’ve been taking advantage of it! Monday night, Hubs and I took Bri to the park to play.

monkey bri

She worked off some serious energy scampering up and down the stairs. Whoever made the slides must have wanted to give us parents a heart-attack. They were full of random swerves that nearly threw Bri over the side. I nearly dropped the camera trying to rescue her a few times!

dangerous swerves ahead

I’m betting that the slidemaker either didn’t have kids at all or he only had boys. My poor little innocent girl had no idea that the swerves were coming. She nearly tumbled off!

bri the mountain climber

Hubs and I were both amazed by how high our little princess can climb now. She’s amazing! On one of her climbing escapades I snapped this shot of her fingers from underneath the stairs.

Bri's fingers through the stairs

Of course, she didn’t hold still long enough for me to get a super sharp image, but I thought it still looked pretty neat. After climbing the stairs several times, Bri wanted to swing. The girl LOVES to swing. She giggles the whole time. And her Daddy makes her laugh really hard by acting like she kicked his face in the upswing. He makes great sound effects to go with it and staggers off to the side.

bri pushing the swing

Tonight we took Bri out on another excursion. We went on our first family bike ride. Hubs hooked up the infant seat to my bike and I valiantly struggled along for a mile and a half. When we reached the half-way point he offered to switch bikes with me (even though mine had the girly bar – oh the horror!) and I jumped at the chance. He was a lot more sympathetic to my complaints after that and we both agreed that we need to replace the seat with one that has a LOT more padding. All in all, we had lots of fun together.

biker Bri and Daddy

Note: Hubs is all frowny in this picture because he wants me to put the camera away so that we can GO already. This was before we started riding. He was anxious to start moving. And that’s why I only have one picture and there are cars in the background.

Hairbow Happiness

bridoodle in fish tails

I spent my free time this weekend on a new craft project. Bridoodle had to have some new hair-bows. We only had white ones and pink ones. Around here, in the “Deep South” as the meteorologist said this morning, all the little girls wear bows to match their outfits. Even a simple cotton dress must be accompanied by a huge bow. It’s a Southern style standard. And the only thing better than a ginormous, head-covering bow would be a set of two identical pig tail bows. But they are stinkin’ expensive to buy.

green polka dot bow

Rather than pay the exorbitant fees that boutiques charge for hair-bows, I decided to make some myself. And other than a slight burn to my left birdie finger, I am extremely satisfied with the results. So is Bridoodle. She enthusiatically modeled them for me. I didn’t even have to direct her to pose. She’s a natural.

my prissy toddler

Bri also has a very generous heart and was quite willing to share her bows with me. I let her arrange them in my hair, periodically checking my new hair-do in the mirror, until we both collapsed in giggles.

putting bows in Mommy's hair

Maybe she’s going to be a hair-dresser when she grows up. I don’t know. It may be too early to tell. Here’s the view from the back of my head. Very nice.

bri helped fix my hair

So after all of that work, we now have a variety of different colored bows. Here’s our current bow collection (but I didn’t make any of the white ones or the pink ones). I made the red, blue, green, yellow and purple bows. (Not pictured: fish tail bows from above – I also made those).

homemade bow holder

Remember the tutu that I made not too long ago? It’s our resident bow holder. The black onesie (which is now too small for Bri to wear) serves as our leotard. When we need a tutu for dress up, I can take it down quickly and Bri can dance around with or without the bow decorations. It’s cute, practical and decorative!

the best way to learn is to teach

Once a week I spend an evening discipling a group of girls from the church youth group. And by disciple I mean, I stutter and stammer over a lesson that pierces me to the core. It seems that every Sunday I’m slammed over the head with a concept that I haven’t mastered myself. And most of the time the message that I bring to the group seems to fall on deaf ears. Time and time again, I’ve asked the Lord why He’s called me to lead these girls. I feel like the most unsuited person for this task.

These teenagers live a completely different life than I lived growing up. Where I was the ugly duckling, these girls are painfully beautiful. Where I was the band geek who worked part time at the library, these girls are practically a sorority unto themselves. My high school self had one thing in common with these girls: an extroverted love for the spotlight.

Yet despite our differences, I cannot help but love them.

As I reach into their world of insecurities and melodrama, I find myself convicted of the petty grudges that I’ve been holding in my own life. I find myself mortified about my own flippancy regarding my faith. When I hold Jesus up as a mirror for these girls, I realize that my own soul is covered with grime and cobwebs. Rather than setting a shining example for them, I feel like an epic FAIL.

It’s discouraging to have these revelations. I’m used to being the self-righteous one. The goody-two-shoe. The girl that has her act together. I usually enjoy looking into the church mirror the way a straight-A student looks forward to taking a test. It’s been a decade or so since I sat through a Bible study without secretly thinking that I could probably teach the lesson better than the teacher. I’m that kind of judgemental.

When it comes down to walking and talking like a Christian, I’ve got it down, babe. Or at least that’s what I thought. Turns out that I have a whole lot more sin inside myself than I realized. Now I feel pretty stupid for my holier-than-thou attitude. I’ve seen some pretty horrible thoughts and attitudes lurking beneath that shallow Sunday layer that I put on. I think that I was too busy judging other people to really focus on myself.

Now that I’m leading this discipleship group, I’m suddenly feeling very introspective. Those superficial layers are being stripped away. It’s painful to see myself as defiled and hypocritical, but in some ways it’s actually refreshing. It feels good to be honest with myself again. I don’t like the conceited person that I had become.

You know that feeling where you realize that you’re disgustingly dirty and all you want to do is take a shower to make the smell go away? That’s where I am spiritually. I’m filthy. I stink. I seriously need my Savior. And despite my mountain of sin, His grace is enough for me. He doesn’t treat me the way that I deserve to be treated.

He loves me despite my filthy sin and His grace is the spiritual shower that washes me clean.

Weekend With Nana and Papa

Bridoodle and I went to visit Nana and Papa (my parents) last weekend while Officer Hubs worked several night shifts in a row. We really enjoyed ourselves! It’s hard to keep Bri quiet when we’re home and Hubs has to sleep. We always wake him up, usually by accident and sometimes on purpose. So when we can get away for those weekends, he gets more rest.

bri explores the secret room

My parents spoiled us rotten. Mom and I went shopping and found this cutie pie dress for Bri. We also found a little black dress for me. Bri loved exploring their house, especially the secret room where she slept. She really enjoyed playing with Mom’s giant Pilates ball which was about as tall as her!

climbing the garden stairs

Bri and I wore our new dresses that afternoon to a memorial service for my late grandfather. He passed away last year  and was cremated. Grandmother wanted to lay his ashes to rest. So the family gathered for a small informal service. Lots of fuzzy caterpillars dropped in on us at the garden service and the kids were exceptionally good at spying them.

photo-op with the kids

After the service, we went back to Grandmother’s house for appetizers and family bonding. The other parents brought toys for their kids, but I didn’t even think to bring entertainment for Bri. Oops! Fortunately, my aunt just happened to have a spare Elmo toy in her car and Bridoodle had a blast playing with our favorite furry red monster all evening.

playing with Elmo

Next we went to a fancy shmancy restaurant for dinner. The older kids enjoyed entertaining Bri and the adults with their Elmo performances. I snapped a few pictures while I had a chance. Dinner time can be chaotic with a toddler!

keeping the peace

I tried to get a few candid shots, but one of my aunts caught me. We enjoyed catching up with everyone and spying on the other guests. A table nearby held lots of kids in prom dresses and tuxes. When we walked into the lobby a concert pianist was playing beautiful classical pieces. Bri was fascinated by all of the new sights, sounds and smells. We left later than planned and it was past Bri’s bedtime, but we opted to stop at a local grocery store on the way home. We needed milk and breakfast treats for the following morning. Papa (whom Bri called “Poppy!” all weekend) found a bouncy ball for Bri at the grocery store and the two of them chased it up and down every aisle. She slept like a log that night!

mall mirror

The next day Mom and I took Bri to the Mall of Georgia to go shopping. We snapped this fun picture in the bathroom mirror. Bri loves to say “Baby!” and point to herself in the mirror. She’s such a ham! It was a very fun weekend. We can’t wait to come visit again.

Thank You For The Taxes

Dear Countrymen-

Today many of you are gathering around the nation to protest the government’s spending of your hard earned dollars. The economy feels shaky and you want to keep your money. I can completely understand that. Money is tight for everyone.

While listening to the radio this morning, I was shocked to hear that the IRS believes that only 1% of cash transactions (mostly in tips) are not reported. Our society appears to be more honest than I would have guessed. Isn’t that a nice thought? Despite the economy, 99% of Americans are being honest about their earnings.

officer hubs

So I’d like to take a chance to thank you. Each of you who paid your taxes. Our family would not be able to put food on the table or diapers on our baby if it wasn’t for you. As a public school teacher, married to a police officer, I see your generosity first hand. While I agree that the government needs to be more fiscally responsible, I also hope that money is reserved for our schools and communities in the future. We’re experiencing unbelievable budget cuts in education. I’m often reminded of the Israelites who were expected to make bricks out of straw and water. Our funding seems to be dwindling while the standards for education increase.

writing on the board

So please forgive me if I don’t attend a tea party today. I hope you’ll understand that I do support the idea behind your cause. I’d like the government to stick to a realistic budget too. I just think that the realistic budget should include a raise for teachers and police officers. If that’s okay with you.

Sincerely,

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He is Risen Indeed!

When I was a little girl, maybe twelve years old, my uncle asked me which holiday was my favorite. I think he expected me to say my birthday or maybe Halloween. He was surprised when I said “Easter!”

We were sitting on the deck by the pool at our family’s annual get-together in June and he squinted at me in confusion. Then he asked what my second favorite holiday was and I told him “Christmas.”

“Because you get lots of presents and candy?” he shielded his eyes so that he could see me better.

“No. Because Jesus rose from the dead on Easter and he was born on Christmas. That’s why they’re my favorite days.” He seemed shocked. Then the subject was quickly changed. That was the last summer that he came to family events because he and my aunt split up. But I still remember the conversation. And I still agree with my answers. Easter is definitely my favorite holiday.

walking with Daddy

I get really excited about eggs and bunnies, dresses and bows, and family and food. All of those things are fun, but they’re just the icing on the cake. Like the birthday party that marks the day. Some years, things don’t go as perfectly as planned, and then other years it all turns out beautifully. But every year we celebrate.

On Friday night, Hubs and I watched The Passion of the Christ together. I can’t do justice to the depth of suffering that Jesus went through on our behalf. It was very powerful to watch it on film. I grieved over His punishment and I silently wondered, “Why? Why did He have to be scourged? Why couldn’t they just kill him quickly? A sword would do the trick. Maybe even lethal injection. Did they have that back then?” He was shown no mercy because He carried the full weight of our sins. He stood in the gap and took the punishment that I deserve for my actions. Every strip of flesh that was pulled from him represented a moment where I had sinned. He took my death sentence. It was brutal and ugly.

floral cross

Every year our church takes the trunks from our two giant Christmas trees and fashions a cross from them. Then the cross is wrapped in chicken wire. Early in the morning, it’s bare and ugly. It’s a symbol of death, like a tree stripped of its leaves. On Easter Sunday our church families bring flowers to place on the cross. It’s a beautiful symbol of the resurrection of Christ. What was once a symbol of torture and death, has now become the symbol for eternal life.

Watching the crucifixion on Friday night reminded me of the ugliness that prompted Jesus to come in the first place. No man could have taken His life from Him but He subjected Himself to the scorn and the shame of our sin so that we could go free. He bore the punishment of us all. He bore the full wrath of God.

the love of a father

A teacher friend of mine once told me that having her daughter in her class was trying at times but had one reward. She said, “Even though I usually recognize the handwriting of my students, if they forget to write their name on their work it’s an automatic 10 point deduction. I always recognize my daughter’s handwriting, but she still gets ten points off. The kids know that if I’d do that to my own daughter, then I’d definitely do it to them!”

In the same way, we know that the wrath of God towards sin is extreme. He turned his back on His Son. He allowed merciless crucifixion. The judgement for our sin is severe and should not be taken lightly. If He would punish His own Son, the only perfect man to walk the earth, as a peace-offering for humanity, wouldn’t He punish us even more for refusing his mercy?

celebrating at the cross

But the story doesn’t end at the cross. It continues. On Friday the world seemed lost and hopeless. But on Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. The tomb was found to be empty and an angel sat waiting for the women who came to prepare the body. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Their joyful cries of “He is risen!” echoed today around the world as congregations called out “He is risen indeed!” We celebrate His resurrection and all that God promises to us as a result of it. His death and resurrection gave Jesus the power to extend grace to all who repent of their sins. We can allow His sacrifice to be used towards our sin account. It’s not a loan that must be paid back with interest. It’s not even a credit that must be paid back with 0% interest for the first twelve months. It’s a free gift. No strings attached. To the sinner on the cross next to him, who repented as they were both dying, Jesus said, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” The condemned man didn’t have to do anything in return.

When our sins continue, His grace abounds all the more. He is an amazing Savior. Slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not treat us as our sins deserve. Isn’t that cause for a celebration? Doesn’t it make you want to do the Easter hop? Want some cake? We have plenty! Happy Easter, y’all.

The Kiss of a Stranger

Did that title get your attention? It made me giggle when I thought of it this afternoon. No doubt I’ll get some strange Google searches from that! Anyway, here’s the story:

Bri and I went to Wam-Lart for groceries and assundry items yesterday. I had a massive list because I was preparing dinner for a our friends who just had a baby, breakfast casserole for Sunday School today, and our family’s Easter lunch. Plus I had to round up the ingredients for the coming week’s meals too. My list carried over to the back of my page, and that has never happened before!

We were in the produce section looking for white grapes (which Hubs argues should be called green grapes, because technically they are green) when we saw another baby in a nearby buggy. He seemed to be instantly smitten by Bri. They looked to be about the same age. His mommy was looking for produce as well but she came back to stand by him when he started talking to Bri. The two of us stood there chatting for a minute or two while the toddlers exchanged baby talk.

Then the mom started to push the buggy away and said, “Okay, say bye-bye.”

He looked at Bri and grinned. “Buh-bye.”

The mom could tell that he was enamored with my little girl, so she said, “Blow her a kiss! Can you blow her a kiss? Mwuah!”

The little boy looked at her in confusion. So the mom repeated the gesture a few times. Now I’ve tried to get Bri to blow kisses before, but she’s never been able to do it. Usually she stares at me in confusion. So I was shocked when she put her hand to her mouth and said “Muh!” in a perfect imitation. It was precious.

We clapped and said “Yay!” (because I like to celebrate the little moments). My little ham loves attention, so she blew a few more kisses. It seems that “Yay!” is a big motivator for her these days.

The little boy never did catch on but the mom and I grinned from ear to ear as Bri blew him kisses the rest of the way down the aisle. She then proceeded to shower everyone in the store with kisses. Our cashier and the people all along the way to the car got kisses as well. I laughed all the way to the car.

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