Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How You Can Care For Me, Part 2

Remember how, way back when I went really public with all this infertility and adoption stuff I wrote a post about what I needed and how folks could best support me? Remember how I said that if I came up with anything else or if anything changed I'd share it? Well, it's time for some sharing. No, nothing has changed drastically in terms of "what's happening" but I think my attitude about it slowly has. I recognize that my needs are different and so I want to share a more current reflection of where I am.

Recently I saw an article about what you should or shouldn’t say to a person who is trying to get pregnant. It didn’t even specifically mention “infertility” but it was pretty clear that those with more extended “trying” periods were considered the experts in this field. I had a lot of issue with this article. For one thing, I’m not a fan of sweeping generalizations. In the case of this particular article (and several others I have seen) there are several key points that I disagree with strongly. I’m going to own all of this as my own thoughts/feelings and I make no generalizations about how this may or may not apply to others. So rather than critiquing the opinions of others, I’d rather just offer my perspective on how you can best care for and relate to me.

Be real with me. Life is hard. Not having kids is hard, but so is having kids. Not being pregnant is hard, but so is being pregnant. Being stuck in the house all day is hard, but so is going to work every day. While I appreciate being on the receiving end of care, and I crave it more than most people probably know, I also can’t live there. That’s just not who I am or how I’m wired, and I assume that if you know me well enough to care about how you relate to me, you know this about me already. If you need to complain about home or work or kids or anything, go for it. If I can’t deal with it at that point, I’ll be real with you, too, and tell you.

 Don’t exclude me. Like I said before, life is hard. It’s full of sad, difficult things. I probably see more than my share in my line of work. I soak up joy and happiness and celebration wherever I can. Children are living, breathing miracles of joy to me. If you’ve got something to celebrate, let me celebrate with you. I don’t have to be all up in your business, but you don’t have to walk on egg shells around me. I’m not saying you should go out of your way to include me in things you wouldn’t otherwise, but don’t feel that because it’s happy or baby/child related that it’s something to be avoided around me. This whole journey has been and continues to be an incredibly lonely one for me. Please don’t build any more walls to remind me of how different I am.

Give me permission to grieve. I will admit that there have been times when I prayed “God, if you’re not going to give me a baby, can I at least have a miscarriage?” Not because I think the loss of a child is something to be desired, but because that is a much more tangible loss that is more easily understood. There is a lot more sympathy and support for that kind of loss. I absolutely believe that all these things that exist should and they are very valuable. Pregnancy loss is a terrible thing. But it is something that can be grieved publicly. Trying and trying and there just being … nothing… is not something you can publicly grieve. How can you miss something you never had? It’s easier than you think. I often don’t feel that I have permission to grieve publicly, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving. This is often where I feel the loneliest.

Let me be real with you. Ask what’s been going on in my life and in my head and in my heart and really listen to what I have to say. If you know me well enough to recognize when I’m feeding you a load of crap then be willing to call me on it and give me permission to share with you. Don’t try to force it out of me, but give me some safe space to talk about whatever it might be. No guilt or shame, no “should” or “ought”, no mocking or ridicule. It may take a while before I act on it, but simply the knowledge that the space is there and that it is occupied by someone who loves and cares about me is a tremendous gift.

Tell me your story. No, I may not relate to all of it. Heck, I may not relate to most of it. But if there is one thing I have learned through my life and my work it’s that, in pretty much every case, there is SOME point of connection between two souls. Remind me of some of these. Help me remember that there is a community who loves and supports me and there are people who understand. And don’t be afraid of happy endings. Those have always been my favorites!
Thank you for caring. Please don't stop. It makes a difference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

100 Wishes Quilt - It's Starting!

So I put out a call quite a while ago asking people to contribute fabric to the 100 wishes quilt. I have gotten several contributions, but not 100. Not even close. Still, the stack of fabric was growing and I just knew that this was a huge undertaking. Plus, all this waiting and helplessness has reached a point of "incredibly difficult" and I felt like I needed to be able to DO something. So I decided to call up my friend, neighbor, and partner in mischief, Mollie, and see if we could go ahead and get started.

Seeing as how I've never sewn much of anything before I figured that what would happen is that I would end up doing lots of cutting and she would do the actual sewing. Oh, how wrong I was! We took a little time to play with my very basic machine and figured out what we needed and got it all set up. She let me practice on a couple of scraps and then before I knew it she was handing me the center square and the first strip and we were off! Amazingly, it wasn't that hard. In fact, I did all the sewing today. Mollie did all the cutting and ironing (which was probably best for everyone!) and in only a couple of hours we had put together basically all the fabric I had! It ended up being about 20 pieces. It definitely went more quickly with two people, and it was also more fun.

I'm super-excited about what I have so far, but I'm also super-excited about what comes next! And that is MORE FABRIC! We are far from 100 so pretty please send something! If I need to come pick it up (and you're in driving distance) I will be happy to! Pick something special/meaningful to you. I've still got some pieces of t-shirts that are going to be worked in and probably some other things, too. It will probably be a little while before I sit down and add some more to it. It really worked very well having a bunch to do at once so I think that's what we'll try to do again. Obviously I don't have a target date, but if you're going to be making a trip to the post office for Christmas stuff, it might be a great time to pop a little bundle of fabric in the mail (just saying!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Becoming a Baptist

It's no secret that I've had a long and conflicted relationship with the United Methodist church over the past several years, particularly in relationship to the process of ordination and getting the blessing of that community on my calling and my ministry. Several months ago a series of events began unfolding that I will not share in detail here because I know I can't do it without hurt, anger, and condemnation. And the details that are significant leave no room for anonymity, but all of that won't benefit anyone, so I'm going to simply take it as another one of those 2x4 moments from God where there is no more doubt in my mind that something has to change.

Something has indeed changed in my life since then. Jeff and I were finally able to find a church home. He was never especially comfortable in methodist churches, in part because of the connected nature and the fact that I know (or at least have met or know of) a whole lot of people. As I began to feel as though I was no longer chained to the UMC (and make no mistake about it, I did feel like I was a prisoner of this process for a long time!) we were both freed to find a place where we both felt at home, where we fit, where we felt we could be an active part of the community. Remember way back when I talked about church shopping? Yeah, that's still the list we were pretty much using.

I don't know how, but something planted the seed in my mind that perhaps it would be looking into what was different about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and see if there was a CBF church near us. For the most part I liked what I found about CBF in general and I found a church in Pelham that looked very promising! The thing that really caught my attention was that I knew their interim pastor - she is the wife of a very good friend and colleague of mine. So I cornered said colleague and basically had him give me the scoop on this church. It was incredibly helpful and Jeff and I went visiting.

Immediately we were both very comfortable. As luck would have it, just as we started visiting the church was in the process of calling a new pastor, and he started not long after we did. We both also really like him and have really felt like this is the place for us. Jeff has joined the choir and I'm slowly starting to get to know people. I love having a community that we can call our own.

Yesterday I had a meeting with the pastor to begin having some conversation about who I am, what I do, where I feel I have been called, and how I can and should go about getting the blessing of this community on that. It was honestly the most supportive and affirming conversation I have had in over ten years, especially in respect to ministry! I really don't know exactly where things are going to go from here, but I know that I have some great people in my corner who will be journeying with me and I am SO incredibly thankful for the fact that we really have been able to find our way home to this community!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Academy 34 Session 6

I realize I never did an actual recap of session 5. I may try to go back and do that later, but for now I want to focus on session 6.

This time was really full for me. It started early when I decided to go for a walk around the lake before I officially checked in and ran into so many old friends. I got to walk and talk with several of them and we got to catch up on one another's lives in ways we often don't have the time for once everything gets started. I once again loved our faculty members and learned a lot. I was surprised by how some things struck a personal chord for me. At first I found myself fighting against and trying to avoid some of this, but after a while I was able to relax and simply let it happen and let my mind and my soul work it out around and within me.

One unexpected blessing was the ways in which I was cared for by people outside of my covenant group. I love my group and they are wonderful and we all do a great job of taking care of one another. But this whole community at Academy is amazing and there were a few people who, while I know them and have talked with them some, haven't been especially close with or known particularly well. Despite that, there were some moments where they showed me such love and compassion that I will never, ever forget it. They were angels when I needed them most!

I got some really good work done on my second year covenant while I was there. I've had the ideas and all kinds of good intentions but hadn't sat down and really accomplished anything. Now that I have starting to achieve something tangible, I'm even more excited and inspired. Stay tuned for more details on this!

I'm already grieving the loss of this community. I'm going to miss everyone terribly. I'm going to miss the rhythm of it all. The good news is that there is a 5 day coming up in August of 2014. The theme is Celtic Spirituality and one of my favorite faculty members, Dr. Loyd Allen, will be presenting. I've already got it on my calendar and I'm going to get officially registered probably in the next week!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The End of a Season

As I've been doing some writing and reading and reflecting lately, it occurs to me that I really have reached the end of what I dubbed my "Season of Sabbath". Really and truly it probably ended several months ago. It was definitely over in August when I made a few scheduling errors and ended up consistently working 80+ hour weeks. But like most seasons in nature, it's end was gradual and graceful and not at all harsh or shocking. I don't really know what to call this new season in which I find myself, but it feels a little like winter.

I do enjoy winter (at least winter in Alabama) because it's generally quite pleasant. It's cool enough for sweaters and hot cider and occasionally we get a little bit of snow. It's busy, but full of life and joy and hope. Yes there is darkness and sometimes the cold can get a little overwhelming, but for the most part, even in its quiet stillness, it's full of promise and primes us for the hope of things to come in the spring.

So that's where I find myself now - relishing the good things, savoring the joy and life that surrounds me, appreciating the busy-ness, and hoping for the beauty that I know is yet to come!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All Saints Sunday

For the past seven years, this has been a difficult day for me. For it was on this day seven years ago that my mother died. The specific date was November 5th, which will be on Tuesday this year. But for me, the day I remember is All Saints Sunday. My mom died right about 11am. Everyone was gathered around her bed and we had some sweet special moments there in that space and that moment. But when that moment was over, I had to get out of the house. I couldn't stand to be there when the people from the funeral home came to take her away. I knew I wasn't ready to watch that happen.  So I got dressed. I put on my jeans and my favorite pink sweater and my black ballet flats and I drove to church. My reasoning was that I wanted to tell some people in person that mom had died rather than calling them on the phone or having them hear it from someone else. By the time I got there it was about 11:30 so I knew the service was well underway. We never went to the late service, so I decided the best and easiest thing to do would be to slip into the balcony. I did, and just as I did, the portion of the service began when they were reading the names of all the saints of the church who had died in the last year. As each name was read a bell was rung and a candle was lit. I didn't hear any of those names. I just cried for my mom, who was now with the saints in glory. I couldn't help but think of the line "every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings" and thinking that perhaps, as these bells and all the others all over the world were ringing that maybe my mother was getting her wings. I knew that she was standing and walking without help, that she wasn't hurting or struggling to breathe. I knew that she was loving on her parents and brother and my twin sister and the baby she miscarried. I had all these beautiful comforting images, but still I cried.

 I didn't know what to expect as we prepared for church. I knew that, while still fairly liturgical, this is still a baptist church and I don't know how big a day All Saints Sunday is to them. I had also just returned home from another session of Academy, so all that is still being processed, so I knew that something was going to happen today but I didn't know what it was. All Saints wasn't the focal point of the service, but it was mentioned and there was a very lovely moment in which everyone was invited to share the names of the saints in their own lives. Since Jeff was sitting with the choir I was by myself but it was a very nice little moment to remember momma, daddy, and my twin as well as others. I don't know that I would call it a "healing" moment, but somehow it felt right.

It will be a few more years before November 5th falls on a Sunday again. I'm wondering if that will have a different impact on me. I'm not too worried. I know that there is grace to be found and shared in all these moments and I'm very blessed to be surrounded by what is indeed a great cloud of witnesses!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Walk 153

First of all, let me just say that I know I have been a serious blogging slacker lately. However, in my defense, I haven't really thought there was that much blog-worthy about my life lately. I am planning a few updates in the near future about adoption, Academy, and other important things, so stay tuned.

 Walk153 is a walk to raise both awareness and funds for orphan care and adoption assistance. The "153" is because the latest statistics indicate there are over 153 million orphans in the world. That figure is just staggering to me. Adoption can be a very daunting (and expensive) prospect and so any sort of assistance, either financial or emotional, is greatly appreciated. In addition to supporting general causes, Walk153 is also a way for individual families to raise money for their personal adoption journeys. It's a great resource to have! This year the Birmingham area walk will be on Sunday, November 3rd at Bucaneer Stadium on the campus of Hoover High School, starting at 1:53 pm.

 My friend Mollie told me about this last year when I first told her about our journey with infertility and plans to pursue adoption. Life and scheduling got in the way and I wasn't able to participate last year, but this year Mollie and I have a team. We are calling ourselves Team Chrysalis and would love to have any support anyone would like to give us. Because Jeff and I are not currently pursuing a "costly" adoption option we are not in need of financial assistance at this time and so we are not a family registered to receive designated assistance. However, there are plenty of families who are and also plenty of orphans who need some care and support until they find their forever family. Team Chrysalis is trying to raise $153, which doesn't seem like much, but every little bit helps. If you would like to donate or to come walk with us, you can register or donate through the website -

 Of course one of the best ways you can support us is to continue to be in prayer for our team as we walk, for Jeff and I as we continue on this adoption journey, for other families who are also on this journey, and for all those sweet little ones who need to find their forever families!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I haven't posted much lately. On some level it's because I've been in survival mode, working way too much and not getting nearly enough rest. But even before that, I haven't felt like there was a ton to post about. Except for working the only thing I do with any consistency anymore is going to the gym. I have gotten to the point that I really do love lifting and working out. It's hard and it hurts but I feel so amazing when I'm done. It's an awesome feeling to be able to say "yeah, let me jump weight."

Obviously, there are lots of other changes that often go along with taking on something like regular exercise. The most obvious is weight loss. Yes, I have lost weight. About 25 pounds since the start of the summer. This past month I've been kind of at a plateau but I understand why. This has also meant getting into some old clothes (and now actually having the old clothes be too big!) and buying new clothes, which has been an interesting experience in itself. Although I'm far from what I would call "confident about my body" I am just a generally happier person with who and what I am. I am a little more comfortable in my own skin. And I'm taking more of an interest in my looks. I've been playing around with and starting to wear makeup and trying to do my hair more often. I'm actually putting thought into putting together outfits and picking out jewelry.

Another big change has been my eating. Since I'm working my tail off at the gym, I'm more motivated to be conscious of what I eat and trying to make better choices. No, I'm not on a diet. No I'm not on "a health food kick" but I am trying to be a little smarter about what I eat and why. I recognize when I'm splurging and allow myself to enjoy it but I also do my best to avoid making it a habit. On Tuesday I did something I've only ever done less than half a dozen times in my life - I ordered a salad at dinner. Several times in my life I've been willing or order one and even eat a bite or two, but that's been about it. I just have an aversion to lettuce (and other green stuff), especially the texture. This particular salad was a spinach salad and it just sounded really good to me. The difference in this little adventure was that I ate almost the whole thing! I wasn't just choking it down either, I really enjoyed it! In fact, the reason I didn't finish is was that I dumped too much dressing on it! If that wasn't enough of a surprise, I decided against ordering a steak opting instead for chicken. Then, when we went to Dairy Queen later, the idea of a blizzard made me kind of sick and I opted for a light fruit smoothie!

The realization of how much has changed in my life kind of freaked me out. I really did find myself asking the questions, "Who am I? Who is this person who as taken up residence in my mind and in my body? I'm not sure I like her." I found myself talking to several people about the changes that are taking place, and (without knowing each other or even about the other conversations) they all seemed to use similar phrases and images, particularly "transformation," metamorphosis," "cocoon," and "butterfly." The notion of being transformed and undergoing a metamorphosis is a scary thing for me. I'm still frightened by the uncertainty that comes along with this rebirth. I recognize that it's going to be a difficult and painful process and I know that there are a lot more changes still to come. I know it will be a while before the whole picture of who/what I am becoming will be visible, and I may never be able to really see for myself all that I am, but others will see it and hopefully help me to know what I look like and what it means for me.

But I am clinging to the belief that whatever I am becoming is something beautiful.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Birthday Adventure

This year, I had the chance to do something totally different for my birthday. My friend, Kathryn, got married to her sweetie, Stu, on Saturday the 17th. Kathryn and I met as pen-pals (or e-mail pals) probably 15 years ago and we have stayed in touch and actually become very good friends. We met in person for the first time about six years ago and have since looked for excuses to see each other. It hasn't worked all that well, but I knew that her wedding was the PERFECT excuse for me to go visit. Jeff and I were both invited, but when he found out how much plane tickets cost he decided it wasn't worth it to him. I still wanted to go, but I decided to make a weekend trip of it. Yes, that's an awfully long way to go for a wedding weekend. But I've done London a couple of times before, I was going to be by myself, and Kath and Stu were going to be otherwise occupied and not be available to entertain me.

I left home on Thursday, the 15th thinking I would land in London at 8am on my birthday and have the whole day to explore before heading out to meet up with the happy couple. Well, wouldn't you know it that life and circumstance intervened during my connection in Charlotte and I was re-routed through Frankfurt, Germany! I really didn't mind the delay too much, although I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get to go to King's Cross Station to see platform 9 3/4. Still, I got to London about 2:30pm and after I cleared customs and whatnot was all set to grab the 3:30 coach out to Hemel. What I didn't know about or bank on was some kind of massive wreck on the motorway around the airport where nothing could get in or out. I ended up sitting waiting on the coach for about 2 hours before finally getting to where I needed to be. There was definitely some stress on the parts of everyone involved, including Kath's sweet family, but we got it all worked out and I got there. It was so much fun getting to meet her family after hearing about them for so many years.

After dinner at her parents' house they took me to the hotel to get checked in and settled. They had surprised me with a birthday cake and a gift of all kinds of fun candy you can't get here in the states (I'm still eating on it slowly and sharing some with Jeff) After a few minutes to get freshened up and settled in, we headed to a cute little pub where we met up with lots of friends and family members to drink and chat and have lots of fun. Really, that seems like a nice alternative to the Rehearsal Dinner. Kath did insist on having everyone there sing to me which embarrassed me to no end, but was still kind of fun. Finally, about 10pm my 25 plus hours of traveling caught up with me and I was ready for bed, so back to the hotel I went.

I slept well Friday night and woke at a decent hour Saturday morning. I went for a walk around the hotel grounds and enjoyed the wonderful weather. I skipped out on a solo breakfast at the hotel restaurant in favor of birthday cake and tea in my room. It was great! Then I got myself all prettied up for the wedding! The wedding ceremony itself was very nice. Not at all what I'm used to, but it was really and truly the first time since my own wedding that I've really wanted to do it over but to do it like they did! I was not prepared for the marathon that was the reception, though. We started partying as soon as the ceremony ended (it started about 1:30) and I finally went back to my room at 11:45 pm and the party was still going! All the people were so nice, I had a wonderful time meeting everyone and getting to be a part of all the fun.

My return trip was much less eventful. The last leg of my trip, from Philadelphia to Birmingham, I was the last person on the plane (and seriously thought i was going to get left) because I got stuck in customs. Next time I will give myself even more time to get through but even then it wasn't a big deal because I knew I'd get home eventually!

It truly was an amazing adventure and a special way to celebrate my birthday. It's one I will never forget!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Five - Keep Calm & Cowgirl Up!

It's been a while since I did a Friday Five. I would love to be able to say that there was something special about this one that spoke to me, but really and truly it's just because I saw it and was up to thinking about it! So without further ado...

1. First, how are you doing? What's going on with you? - For one thing, I'm TIRED. I don't quite know how it happened but I have been working every night this week which will be totaling about 80 hours by the time Sunday morning rolls around. I'm looking forward to my day of rest!

2. Is there anything you need to Keep Calm and Cowgirl Up for? - With the exception of work, I really can't think of anything. I don't have anything major looming that I'm aware of, which is a nice feeling!

3. If you were going to make a "Keep Calm and _____" logo for a t-shirt, what would it be? - I'm fairly certain this one exists, but probably "keep calm and have a cookie" or perhaps "Keep Calm and Lift" as I've been really enjoying my time at the gym lifting weights lately!

4. What are you looking forward to in the next week or so? - My birthday! Normally I hate my birthday and am not a huge fan of celebrating it (for various reasons discussed throughout this blog) but this year I'm thrilled because I will be in England celebrating my friend Kathryn's wedding! It's going to be an adventure for sure!

5.Use the following word in a sentence: cape, river, dancing, paws, glory - As she was dancing, her shimmery cape swirled around her like the river where they spent glorious summer days splashing their paws in the water. (Cut me some slack, it's 1:30 am!) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Year Two

It's hard to believe that, as of tomorrow, I will be beginning my second year at the Academy of Spiritual Formation #34. It seems like just yesterday I was asking "Do you really think I should apply?" but I can't imagine my life right now without this amazing community of wonderful people. It hasn't always been an easy journey and I know that the next year will not be all sunshine and roses either, but that is life. Just yesterday I was telling someone about my desire for community and I really didn't think about my Academy family. They are an amazing community! I just wish everyone was closer and we got to see each other more frequently. I know that there's already some grieving happening around the fact that we're on the downhill slide and there will come a point when we will all have to say goodbye and no longer gather regularly.

But for now I am not going to think about that. Right now I'm going to celebrate that in just a few hours I will be gathering once again with this amazing community! I have the added excitement of having one of my former professors from Vanderbilt as a faculty member this time. I loved Dr. Burns when I had him in class so I'm really looking forward to learning from him once again!

So remember me and all of the Academy 34 community this week! I'll tell you all about it after I get back and have had some time to process it!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Officially Official

On July 3rd, we got an awesome e-mail telling us that our home study was officially approved by the state! I was honestly shocked at how quickly this came through because of our delays. I was really not expecting our approval to come until closer to the end of the month. Now we are waiting for a match! I submitted an inquiry about one child and in the middle of some e-mails about that (not directed to me but that I was copied on) I found out that a caseworker had requested our profile to consider us for another child! The waiting for this part is so incredibly hard, but I know it'll be worth it.

So yes, not a long update, but a very exciting one!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Work It Out

First a little bit of history - when I started the Academy for Spiritual Formation I knew that a part of it was a focus on "health and wellness" although I wasn't exactly sure how this would look. I will be perfectly honest - I haven't been especially impressed with that component of the Academy experience. From what I've heard it's much more holistic than it once was, but it still doesn't quite fit with the flow of everything else, either. Anywho, there's always a little bit of guilt/shame that goes into this aspect of the week and I always come back thinking "I really need to do something about that". So at one point I joined a 24 hour gym. I figured that would eliminate my excuses. I signed Jeff up too because he said he'd go with me. He never did. I would use it occasionally and try to bribe myself but it never worked consistently. I even had my friend Andrea go and teach me how to use some of the machines and figure out what I should be doing. That just didn't stick either. So when the credit card we used to pay for the monthly membership was hacked and we had to cancel the card, we just let the membership cancel with it.

Fast forward to this summer. I'm getting restless. I really want to be doing something, especially since work has made it almost impossible for me to go to yoga with any regularity any more. So I start looking into getting a treadmill. The problem is we don't have any place to put it! So when I was at cityfest I stopped by the YMCA booth and found out they were offering a "no joining fee" special. I decided to go for it and signed up. I then promptly left town for my week at camp. When I came back I called up Andrea (who I know works out there every day) and asked if I could meet her for cardio so we could have time to catch up. We did and it was a great day. The next thing I know I'm looking forward to getting up to go and see her each morning (and I know I'll get a "where are you?" text if I'm not there!) Even after long, tiring on-call shifts I look forward to sweating out some of my emotions before I go home.

I will admit that I'm kind of vain and I love to hear people tell me I'm doing a good job and if they ever say those four little words - "I'm proud of you" - they will have me eating out of their hands! It also helps that Andrea knows EVERYONE there and they're all really nice. Andrea has also started having me do some lifting with her which hurts like heck but I know will be worth it eventually.  I'm already starting to enjoy that feeling of accomplishment that comes from pushing through that last set and do something that would have seemed impossible to me just a few minutes before! My short term goals are to be able to run - at least one mile by my birthday in mid-August and a 5k by the end of the year (preferably the fall). I'd really love for next year to be my "year of the princess" when I can do all these fabulous races, but we shall see what happens. Either way, I know if I can keep this healthy habit I'll be yet another step closer to the whole, healthy, happy person I know I can be!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

This summer, the theme for camps is "Light Up The Sky" so there was all kinds of fun stuff about light and fire and stars and candles everywhere. My "thing" is generally worship, which suits me. Even though my personal preference is not the "happy-clappy" style, there is a simple beauty to the innocence of summer camp worship that is always striking and moving and powerful to me. One of my jobs is working on the evening Vespers. My active, visible, role is kind of a comedic character that does a little bit of scientific teaching. I know it's hard to believe that I can pull off playing a nerd, but I do it quite well and have a blast with it. But underneath it all, there's still theology happening. It doesn't always come out in the way I might envision it, but it's always there and powerful and there are moments when I can see things clicking in these little heads.

My other big project for this summer was working on the communion service, in particular doing the altar. I had the freedom to just kind of take off and run with all these ideas and materials that I had and it was amazing. I spent the majority of the day of the communion service locked away in the auditorium working on it. And while it doesn't seem like setting a table would be an all-day affair, it was more than simply doing a job. This was a holy moment for me. I turned on my favorite album of hymns being played on the piano (The Living Room Sessions by Chris Rice in case you're interested) and I was just praying as I went and as I worked. I could feel the Holy Spirit in that place in a way that I don't often feel it anymore. I could feel it working in me and through me and it was absolutely beyond words. When I had done everything I could do, I took a step back and was absolutely in awe of what had happened in that place.

I've thought about it before, but worship planning and design really and truly is something that suits me. This is a part of my light, and I'm so incredibly thankful for things like this that give me the chance to let it shine. I really do feel so incredibly fulfilled when I have the chance to be creative in that way. I don't know of other ways/places I could work this into my life, but I know that when the chance comes I'm not going to pass it up!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rest and Vision

It's almost time for summer camp!! Who is excited? THIS GIRL!

I have had a complicated relationship with my beloved Camp Sumatanga throughout my life, particularly related to summer camping. It was an amazing place full of amazing people that I credit in large part for helping me become the person I am today. But I was a relatively late-comer to the camp world, not until I was a sophomore in high school. I dove in head first and soaked up everything I could, serving any way I could. But there was a part of me that always felt like I was an outsider. Even now, there is a group of folks that I generally went to camp with that get together regularly. I love them all and think of them all fondly, but I am not a part of their group. Yes, it still hurts. Yes, it will probably always hurt.

After I graduated from high school I decided it was time to take a step back from camp for a while. Something just didn't feel right about it anymore. It didn't fit the way it once had. I knew I was trying too hard to make myself squeeze into a place that I would never fit and it was better for everyone if I backed off. Life happened and I got busy and I stayed away for about 7 years. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that not only could I be involved in something for seven years, I could be AWAY from being involved in something for seven years and have returned! My return was generally thanks to a wonderful saint named Allison who somehow never forgot about me and saw something in me and wanted me to be a part of her camping magic that she always works.

Coming back, everything suddenly fit. I had a place. I had people. I know that a part of that was my own personal growth that had taken place (and has continued to take place over the past several years). I felt like I was a part of something that mattered. I was able to connect - with God, with people, with myself. It really was a homecoming in the best sense of the word. 

I'm sure I've said it before but I'll say it again because it matters. The name "Sumatanga" means "a place of rest and vision." While you are working on summer camp, those concepts seem a bit elusive. But it is a kind of rest from the things and stress of the world and allowing yourself to simply be and take the things of the day as they come. The vision is definitely there, but it is something that you have to be open to seeing in fleeting glimpses. I definitely see moments where the Kingdom is right there in that place. I see moments where I know who I am and why I am doing what I'm doing. I even see hope and peace and joy and love and all these other amazing things that are so much harder to see in "real life" and thus reminding myself what it means to look for them. The REAL rest and often times the understanding of the vision comes later, but without this time and place couldn't come at all. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like the sleep you get the night you come home and crash into your own bed after an amazing but exhausting week! 

I need the rest. I need the vision. I need the excitement and exhaustion and sunburn and chiggers and laughter and sweat and tears and hugs and everything else that comes with a week at camp. I need to be reminded of who I am and whose I am. And so I will joyfully return...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Academy Update

So it finally dawned on me that I never did my usual update after my last session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. It was a very full week of experience but was very different.

The first thing that was different is that I had to leave early because we were going to a wedding for Jeff's cousin in Georgia. I am so incredibly glad we did, but it changed the dynamic of the whole week because I know there were plenty of times that I wasn't fully present. It was different from my late arrival at session 3. Part of this that made it hard was that, in order to avoid the multiple vehicle issue, Jeff drove me up and dropped me off for the first day. This wasn't really a big deal except that I didn't have as much time to "settle in" as I normally have or like. I also had to hit the grown running as soon as I got there, which is not really something that seems to "fit" with my experiences there.

Day 1 - our theme was "hospitality"

The reason I stayed so busy during last session was that I had volunteered to do the altar design for the week! Although I attended a workshop on altar design a few years ago, this was my first chance to actually do it! I can honestly say it is probably the most fulfilling creative outlet I have ever had in my life. I loved my quiet time in the worship space at the end of each night after everyone had gone to bed and the great silence was being observed where I could allow the Holy Spirit to move with me and within me to create something meaningful. Although it's not exactly a secret who does the altars each time, it's not really broadcast either. I don't have much interest in preaching (although there are a few who keep trying to convince me I should) and I'm not clergy so I'm not able to lead communion. Maybe at some point I will take a more "active" role in worship but this opportunity was amazing. It meant so much to me to hear people talk about their experiences of interacting with the altars! The woman who had done them for the previous two sessions is a professional artist, so she was a hard act to follow, but I was pleased with what I had to offer. I have to be honest, it was a huge boost to my ego when someone made the passing comment "you obviously do this all the time" and I got to tell them that actually, no, I had never done this before.

In addition to my role there, I was also a convener/facilitator for my covenant group. The responsibilities of facilitating are passed around each group so that everyone gets to do it at least once. My group has been very cohesive almost from day one which has been a huge blessing so facilitation wasn't much of a chore. Still, it was something that was always in the back of my mind as I made my daily preparations so I was constantly trying to stay one step ahead of my "work" and pay attention to the things that had meaning and relevance to my entire group, not just me. Again, it was a great insight and experience, but it was different!

Although I didn't walk away with nearly as many epiphanies as I would have liked, I did have some wonderful experiences and conversations, as always.

I also walked away with a challenge - to begin thinking of my covenant for the second year. We are challenged to come up with a covenant that we can share as we shift our focus from our own inward journeys to more of the outward concern for/with others. I recently had an idea for mine, but I'm still working it all out in my head. No matter what I decide, it is something I will be sharing here as an extra layer of accountability.

It's hard to believe that it will be time to return before I know it. The thing I am looking forward to most about our next session is that one of our faculty members is also one of my former professors from Vanderbilt. I don't know if he'll remember me, but I'm thrilled to have the chance to learn from him again! The only downside to going back is that each time we get closer to the end. This community has already been so amazing and it's going to be very difficult when we are no longer gathering regularly!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

So Where Are We?

I love how Jeff's and my adoption process has become such a communal, collective event that people are almost always asking "Where are we?" I don't mean that sarcastically either! I really do love how much love and support we've received throughout the process and how emotionally invested so many people have become in our family. Granted, many of these people were emotionally invested in us and our family before, but the way it's being expressed now is extra special to me.

Right now we are waiting. Now I know most of you are thinking "Gee, thanks for the breaking news. Want to tell us something new or useful?" Well, as a matter of fact, I do. Yes, we have been waiting, but we were waiting on our homestudy to be completed and reviewed by the nice folks at APAC. There were a few delays (which I kind of expected) but now that part is done and everything has been sent to Montgomery for final review and approval by the state. We are hoping that we will get our official approval/certification before the end of July. Then the really fun waiting begins when we will be waiting for a match!

So yes, we continue to wait. But we are in fact moving forward. With each day that passes, we get closer to the next step. Keep thinking about and praying for us and our child(ren). Each day brings us one step closer to forever!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ezell's Catfish Cabin - Calera

A while ago Jeff and I were riding through Calera and noticed that Ezell's was moving in. While I'm not a huge seafood fan, Jeff loves it. Unfortunately, we are rarely over that way, so we only recently tried it.

We stopped in for lunch on Saturday right at noon but there was no wait and we were seated immediately. We were greeted quickly by our server (I believe his name was Zachery) and presented with a basket of hush puppies and two bowls of coleslaw. After he got our drinks we ordered. Jeff got the 3 piece fried catfish with french fries ($9.95) and a cup of gumbo ($6.99). I ordered the small grilled chicken tenders with cheese grits ($7.95). Zachery recommended the lemon pepper on the grilled chicken, so I decided to give it a shot.

Jeff's gumbo came quickly, and the hush puppies and cole slaw kept coming, too. I'm also not a slaw eater so Jeff ate all of that. He said it was a little sweet but had a hint of dill and was really nice. Our drinks also stayed full, which was great. Jeff really enjoyed the gumbo but it was expensive, so he said he probably wouldn't order it again. Before long, our lunch had arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my chicken also came on a  cajun rice pilaf and with a little cup of remoulade sauce. Everything was very tasty. Jeff said the fish was very light and crispy, not greasy.  My chicken was juicy, and while the pepper was a little bit stronger than I personally liked, it was very tasty. The rice was great with just a little bit of kick to it. The cheese grits were creamy and very well seasoned. The remoulade sauce was good on the chicken, but even better on the hush puppies. The freshly made ranch dressing helped balance the extra pepper on the chicken, and it was very tasty.

Between the two of us we ate all of what we ordered, three baskets of hush puppies, and four bowls of coleslaw. We skipped dessert because we were VERY full but I did pick up a dum-dum on the way out! Next time, I'll ask for some remoulade to go with the hush puppies first thing. I also want to try the onion rings, and Jeff said he'd like to try the fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. Clearly, we need a large group to accomplish this because if left to our own devices we could both eat ourselves sick on just hush puppies!

If you have a chance, give them a try, and if you do let me know what you think! I'm definitely a fan.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Made Up" Pasta Bake

Recently Jeff and I started a little weekly supper club with two dear friends, E&E. We alternate which couple hosts and cooks. The "visitors" bring the wine. We eat, talk, laugh, and have a wonderful time. This week we were hosting and I decided to make pasta. I figured it would be pretty good, but I didn't expect everyone to absolutely devour it! Mr. E was so impressed that there was no recipe, I just made it up as I went along. I'll do my best to describe it, but I'm sorry if I leave something out!

First, I cooked a package of ground turkey in a skillet. I seasoned it with a little bit of dried onion and some tuscan sea salt with herbs I got as a Christmas gift but save for "special" foods. I figured this was special enough! I drained the meat and wiped off the pan.

Next, I added one package of frozen spinach that I had defrosted and drained to the warm pan. I added a little bit more onion along with about 2 Tbsp of light garlic and herb cheese spread and a jar of light alfredo sauce along with a little bit of nutmeg (trust me, nutmeg with spinach or white sauce is awesome!) I didn't add garlic because the garlic & herb cheese was pretty strong, but if you just have garlic and cream cheese it would probably be pretty similar. I also stirred the meat back in with everything else.

Next, I cooked 1 lb of farfalle pasta and mixed it with all of the sauce. I dumped everything into a big casserole dish and topped it with a little bit of shredded 2% milk mozzarella and baked it until the cheese was melty. Basically I just stuck it in the oven and let it hang out while the oven pre-heated and I baked the rolls (for about 10 minutes). Everything was already cooked so it was just a good way to keep it warm until everyone got there. That, and I'm a sucker for melty cheese. It would still be super-tasty (and probably save a few calories) if you leave the cheese off the top.

The whole thing came together in probably 40 minutes. It probably could have been quicker but I wasn't in a rush (and I may or may not have been singing into my spoonula at points) I have a sneaking suspicion this would be an easy one to throw together the night before and then head up in the oven before serving. It might even freeze well, although I am not sure.

This should make about 8 servings and, according to the My Fitness Pal recipe builder, has 405 calories per serving. Not bad for a very tasty and filling meal. It's the perfect thing for spring time as it starts to warm up because it's still filling but not super heavy. Next time I might add some roasted red pepper. The spinach and turkey would probably also make a great filling for stuffed shells or lasagna rolls, too.

Do you have any "make it up as you go along" favorites? If so, please share. If you give this one a try, let me know, especially if you have any improvements!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer

I received this product free for testing from Influenster

When I got this product to test out in my VoxBox I wasn't quite sure what to think about it. Here is the description that came in the box:

New Vaseline Spray & Go Moisturizer Total Moisture is a continuous spray lotion that moisturizes and absorbs in seconds, and leaves skin feeling instantly soft - not sticky or greasy. Now you won't have to wait for your lotion to absorb before pulling on those skinny jeans! $7.99 for 6.5 ounce can

Clearly, I am not a part of the target market for this particular product! I have used spray on sunscreen for several years and absolutely prefer it, but the idea of "regular" lotion in spray form doesn't especially appeal to me, probably because I'm normally applying it right before bed and don't want to be spraying it on my sheets! In reading the directions on the back of the can, I noticed that you are still told to rub it in after you spray it on. To me that seems to sort of defeat the purpose. Still, despite my cynicism, I decided to try and keep an open mind.

I first decided to try it on my arm. The button on the top of the can was pretty hard to push, which meant that I didn't get the easy, steady stream you should get. Instead I got several little blobs so obviously I didn't have much choice, I had to rub it in. It absorbed pretty quickly  and felt pretty good on. I applied it first to only one arm and I could feel a slight difference between that arm and the arm without lotion, but nothing huge.

I was actually kind of surprised to find how much I enjoyed the scent of it. Although it doesn't advertise a particular scent, I noticed that there is "fragrance" listed with the ingredients. It's something light and a little flowery, kind of springy, but I don't know that it would clash with the fragrances I normally use in shower gel or body spray which is good.

I did see my first commercial for this product, and I doubt I would have noticed had I not recently received this. I will say that the commercial was probably one of the dumbest I have ever seen and had I not already known I at least like the way the product smells, that would have been enough to make me say "Nope, that's ridiculous! Not even going to think about buying it."

I tried it again another night on my legs after I shaved. While I was more successful in spraying an actual line, I still wasn't impressed. After I sprayed it on and rubbed it in, I still felt like it wasn't quite enough. The place I use lotion the most is on my feet. I'm not an especially prissy person so I don't get into different lotions for different parts of my body (except my face). This lotion was NOT designed for that! I tried to rub some that was left on my hands onto my feet, but after a few minutes it clearly wasn't enough and I ended up using some more of my regular lotion on my feet.

I'm sure I'll use all of this can, although I will not pretend to know how quickly! I seriously doubt that it's something I would buy again, especially without it being on sale or having some kind of coupon, but maybe my opinion will change over time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

100 Wishes Quilt

Several years ago I learned of a tradition from China of making a quilt to welcome a new child into the community. Each member of the community contributes a piece of fabric and with that a wish for the child's life. A scrap of each piece of fabric along with all of the wishes are made into a book to go with the quilt so that the wishes and fabrics can be matched up and the child has an heirloom that can literally wrap them in the love of their community. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and I knew it was something that I wanted to someday do for my child or children, no matter how they joined our family!

Now that we have just about completed our home study, we are ready to really start working on this for our child or children that we want to adopt. If you would like to contribute to our quilt, please choose a fabric that is 100% cotton. It does not need to be new, but if you choose something that is "pre-loved" please wash it before you send it to us. Because we do not know the age, sex, or personality of the child or children, please choose something that is meaningful to you! Also, because we may be adopting a sibling group, please make sure that the piece is at least the size of a fat quarter so that we have enough for multiple quilts. Joann Fabrics has a great selection of fat quarters in all kinds of colors and patterns for 99 cents each, so it doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive! We will be using a log cabin pattern and the fabric will be cut into strips, so smaller patterns are probably best.

Also make sure you write a note to go with your fabric that we can include in the book. It can be a wish, prayer, poem, song lyrics, scripture, blessing, or anything else you would like it to be. If there is something particularly special or meaningful about the fabric you chose, please include that information in your note. You can hand write it, e-mail it, or send it via facebook message. Please make sure you include the name of who the fabric is from and a description of the fabric so we can make sure everything is matched up correctly! Also whenever you get me the fabric (either by mailing it or handing it to me) please attach a note with your name on the physical piece of fabric. Please also send a picture of yourself and everyone who is contributing the fabric. Digital is preferred. If you get me an actual photo I will do my best to get it back to you, but can't make any promises! If every individual in your family would like to contribute their own piece of fabric, feel free! Please just make sure you have a separate note from each individual, and if you can send individual photos that would be ideal (although I understand if you can't!)

If you would like to contribute a piece of fabric, please let me know. You can leave a comment on this post or let me know some other way. If you need my address to mail the fabric, just let me know. Also, if you know someone who would like to contribute to this, feel free to tell them about this, send them to this post, or let me know. I also have a letter about this that I can send to them (or you, if you'd like to have it!) Even though this is called a "100 wishes quilt" that is just our starting point! The more the merrier!

Once the quilt (or quilts) are done, I will post pictures and details about the whole process, so stay tuned!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes

I got these in my Sugar 'N Spice VoxBox. These were the thing I was most excited about trying. I've heard about Witch Hazel but never tried it so I was excited about being given some to try! I was especially excited that I got a whole box of them, not just one or two towelettes. This is the description given in my box summary:

Introducing Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes - The soothing blend of Witch Hazel and aloe on these facial wipes rejuvenates your skin by gently lifting dirt, oil, and impurities from your pores while nourishing even the most sensitive skin. The result is a clean, refreshed and blemish-free complexion even when you're out and about. $5.99 for a 20-count box.

I love LOVE moist towelettes for cleaning my face, especially when I'm traveling. You don't need water for wetting or rinsing, just grab and go. I remember at one point they were available from several companies but lately all I've seen is the Olay ones, which is what I generally use.

I was immediately a fan of the Dickinson's simply because they are individually wrapped, which makes them perfect for keeping in a toiletry bag, purse, suitcase, backpack, or any other place! I couldn't help myself and pulled one out to try it immediately.

My first thought upon opening the packet was that there was something about the smell that I didn't really like. It didn't exactly smell bad, but it wasn't a scent I personally enjoyed either. It's hard for me to describe - it wasn't really an alcohol smell, but it also wasn't "herbal" either. Maybe it was just the smell of the witch hazel that was new to me! Either way, I generally held my breath while I used it, especially around my nose and mouth.

Because I wasn't wearing any makeup (and generally don't) I can't speak about how well it removes makeup, but that's not something it claims to do. It did leave my face feeling refreshed, although after a little a few spots felt a little drier than normal (but that may not be a bad thing!)

I do plan to keep using them. In fact, I could see myself using these even more than the others because I can toss one or two into my purse or whatever bag I am carrying when I'm on-call for getting some of the "hospital funk" off of my face, especially in the midst of a long shift or when I need to do something besides splashing water on my face to wake myself up!

In addition to the box of towelettes, I also got 5 coupons for $2 off the purchase of any Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Product. According to the coupon you can get these products at Kroger, Rite-Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS. I'm going to check Publix the next time I'm there.

Have you ever tried anything from Dickinson's? What did you think about it?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

belVita Breakfast Biscuits

I've seen the commercials for these but never tried them. I don't really know why because I like cookies and convenience. So I was a fan of the free sample of these. Here's the description that came with my box:

belVita Breakfast Biscuits are made with delicious ingredients and carefully baked to release steady energy that lasts all morning. They are a good source of Fiber and B-vitamins, contain no high fructose corn syrup, have 18-20 grams of whole grain per 50 gram serving and taste great - perfect for on-the-go! $3.69 for a box of 5 packets of 4 biscuits.

I got one packet of 4 biscuits in my box. Because of the heavier stuff in my box, a couple of the biscuits were broken, which didn't surprise me and  doesn't bother me because they still taste the same! The thing that surprised me (in a very good way) is that they don't really crumble so it didn't make a huge mess when I opened my packet. That means I give them a bonus point for portability. I hate tossing a granola bar or something in my purse for when I need an on-the-go snack and when I go to open it it's a powdered mess!

I'm funny about the textures of food, but these were pretty darn perfect in my opinion. They were thin and crisp, but not hard as a rock or super-fragile either. They kind of reminded me of an unfrosted oatmeal cookie (which I really like!) I had the Cinnamon Brown Sugar flavor and really loved them. I didn't feel super-full when I finished them, but they would definitely make a great snack on the go. I'm fairly certain I will purchase these again the next time I go grocery shopping!

On the website, they listed other flavors like Golden Oat, Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon, and Blueberry. Normally I'm not a huge fan of berry stuff or even fruit in cookies in general, but I think I'd be willing to try all of those! I'm most excited about trying the Golden Oat, with the chocolate coming in at a close second!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Five - Deep Breath

Today's Friday Five invites us to think of five people/places/things that help us to take a deep breath when things get a little crazy.

1. I know I have shared this before, but the Chris Rice song "Smell the Color Nine" is one of my favorites. The cymbal swell at the very beginning ALWAYS prompts me to take a big, deep breath. Whenever I recognize that I need that, I know that this song with guarantee that I get it!

2. My yoga class is another great way for me to do some deep breathing! I love that my class is so laid back and if I'm not feeling an intense class, I can take it down to super-easy and just breathe and it's totally ok.

3. A hot bath is another way that I like to stop and breathe. I used this one a LOT during my residency along with my "quiet" Pandora station. Thankfully my hubby knows that when I retreat in there and turn on the music, I need to be left alone! The hot tub in the back yard is nice, but it just doesn't do it for me in the same way. Maybe when we finish the area around the patio and make it a little more homey it'll be better.

4. Cuddling with my dog is another great reminder that I need to breathe! She isn't especially playful, but those three and a half pounds of warm love will sit in my lap all day long. I think she picks up on my stress (or just gets fed up with my grunting and banging on the keyboard) and will often look up at me and just sigh which tells me that I should probably do the same thing!

5. Ice cream always helps me to relax and makes me smile. I don't care if it's snowing outside, I still want my ice cream!

Let me know what you like to do to relax and breathe!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Influenster VoxBox - Sugar 'N Spice 2013

I got all of these products free from Influenster for testing

Several months ago my friend Jacklynn posted on her blog about her first VoxBox from Influenster. That got me curious and so I signed up. Tuesday I got my first box called "Sugar 'N Spice" and was thrilled to find all kinds of goodies in it for me to try and review! Here's a list of what I got and my first impressions. Stay tuned for more details as I try out the contents!

Colgate 360 Optic White Toothbrush - I like the Colgate 360 toothbrushes and it's almost time for me to get a new one, so yay!
Colgate Optic White Toothpaste - Never tried it, but it's worth a shot!
Colgate Optic White Mouthwash - (Do we see a theme here?) Again, never tried it but it's worth a shot!

Nectresse - a sweetener from the makers of Splenda. First thought - "I need a cup of tea to go with this"

belVita Breakfast Biscuits Cinnamon and Brown Sugar. - "These will go perfect with my tea!"

Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controling Towelettes - I'm probably most excited about trying this!

Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer Total Moisture - Not quite sure what to think about this one.

I also got several coupons for the Dickinson's Towelettes and a book of recipes for the nectresse. Based on the information contained in the box about the average/suggested retail price of these items, the value of the items in the box was probably about $30. I'll give more details on the particular items as I review them, but feel free to ask questions if there's something you want to know about first!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Alabaster Fire Department CPR Class

In all of the adoption preparations, we learned that we would also have to take a water safety class along with CPR and First Aid because we have a hot tub. While the water safety still needs to be done, we were able to take CPR on Saturday.

Our local fire department offers CPR classes pretty regularly (I think at least once a month) and it's super cheap - only $5 to cover the cost of getting your certification card. If you need the schedule or more information you can get it here.

Our class only had four people in it which really was wonderful. I got CPR certified almost 10 years ago but thankfully have never had to use it. I also know that the standards change and I was a little nervous about remembering everything and being able to do it right, but the small class size made sure we all got a lot of one-on-one help and supervision.

Our instructor (I didn't get his permission so I won't use his name) was absolutely wonderful. He not only made sure that we got all the information that we needed, but he gave it to us in a way that we could remember it. He also answered all of our questions and made sure we were engaged with all of it. Everything was very conversational and incredibly enjoyable. I know I'm a dork who enjoys learning new things, but classes like this are not normally my "thing." However, this one was really fabulous. You can bet that I'll be doing it again to make sure that my certification stays current from now on. As easy and enjoyable as the whole thing was, I'd be foolish not to keep it up!

It seems silly but the most helpful/applicable (and also most intimidating part) for me was "playing" with the EpiPens. We ALWAYS have campers who have them and I've never personally had to see one used or help use one (or even know of a camper at one of my weeks who needed it while they were at camp). We always get a description of how to use them, but we actually practiced using them on ourselves with the teaching devices (which didn't have needles or medicine.) Even knowing that there was no needle in it, I didn't want to even act like I was stabbing it into my leg and it took a little extra encouragement for me to try it. I'm glad that I finally did because I now feel that, if I do ever need to, I could use one on a camper (or anyone else for that matter!) I probably could have done it before if I had to, but it would have taken me a few seconds to talk myself into it and/or read the instructions and I would have gladly given over the responsibility to someone else! Now I think I could do it without too much trouble, although I would still prefer to do what I do best, which is holding hands and offering words of comfort and encouragement!

I believe the whole crew from one of the stations was there during the start (until they had to go to a call). I think the plan was for them to help out with demonstrations and with the actual practicing with the dummies but they were gone when we got to that part. In spite of that, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by the kindness of all of them and their appreciation of us for taking the class. There really are not words for how much I appreciate them and their interactions with us, however brief they might have been. Maybe I'm just overly sentimental these days, but thinking about them and my experience with them makes me tear up a little! They truly are ministers in their own right with an incredible calling and I am grateful for all that they do!

If you need CPR certification or it's something you are thinking about taking/doing, let them help you out! It's a fabulous experience and I promise you will walk away a better person!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Five - Personal Maps

Today's Friday Five is all about looking at your life as though it is a map. Although I've looked at my life through lots of lenses and I'm typically an "image" person (especially if I can attach a story to the image) but this is a new one for me. However, given that I currently have a special attachment to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie and watch way too much Jake and the Neverland Pirates with my little buddy, I'm kind of digging the idea of my life as a map.

1. What is beyond your boundaries? - I really hope it is a wild and unexplored country known as "motherhood"

2. What are the cities or neighborhoods that need "redevelopment" or attention? - I definitely need to be more active. I'm not going to be hanging out with my little buddy anymore after next week which is going to be hard, but it's also a good opportunity for me to pay attention to myself in a way that I had intended to when I entered my "Season of Sabbath."

3. What are the verdant valleys? - My professional life finally feels alive and full of promise. I'm excited and hopeful and waiting to see what is going to pop up and move in! I know that I've planted a few seeds, but I also know that God has planted a few too!

4. Where are the deserts? - One thing I have learned is that, sometimes, on a map and even from a distance a desert looks barren and lonely and dead. However, when you are in the middle of it, you see that it is actually full of life and growth that is unique to that environment. That is definitely the way I see my past, particularly all the challenge and loss I have endured. From a distance, it's not pretty. But it's still rich and full of life that is unique to that environment. And once you've been there, you never forget it!

5. Where is the hidden treasure? - Well I can't tell you that now can I? Really and truly, I'm not sure. I've spent a lot of time digging for treasure in places where I thought it should be. Sometimes I find something and sometimes I don't, but it's rarely what I expect. At this point in my life, I would much rather enjoy simply exploring and then enjoy the spoils if I stumble on an X or a happy surprise.

Bonus: What is the coolest place you've ever been on the globe? - While not "cool" in the sense that it's exotic, I have really loved my trips to England and can't wait to go back for my birthday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Party Girl

February was the month of parties around here!

First, we threw a surprise party for my step-mom's 60th birthday. I honestly didn't think it would end up being a surprise, but she didn't have a clue, which was really nice. The whole thing was lots of fun. Hubby and I did the cooking for our Mexican fiesta and it was great. My step-mom's best friend and neighbor, Betty, helped us pull it off. My favorite part was the cake. Our friend, Julie, (and the wife of Catherine's cousin Hank) was able to get her fabulous bakery to make a coconut cake with lemon curd filling, which is what Catherine's mom used to make for her birthday. Most of the decorations came from Party City, the invitations were from Walgreens, and we had the party at the family life center at the church. Although it wasn't super-unique or full of DIY cuteness, I was still proud of the whole thing. It was a great success, but we had a lot of food leftover. Still, I loved doing it and would have done it again in a heartbeat!

Next up was Jeff's 30th birthday. I knew that he wanted another surprise party (he had one when he was 16 that wasn't exactly a surprise) so I decided to put together a "beer tasting and barbeque" party for him. I was able to rent out Brother Zeke's BBQ and asked everyone to bring a few beers to taste and share. I got the invitations and tasting note cards from Michelle Purner Designs. I picked the colors and came up with the table settings. I also took some ideas from pinterest and made a centerpiece "cake" from beer cans. I also made little favors for everyone. We got cupcakes from Pastry Art Bake Shoppe and it was a great night. Although he had kind of figured out that SOMETHING was going to happen but didn't know exactly what or when, so it was nice that he was at least sort of surprised! We all had a wonderful time, and it was definitely a success.

Of course, now I have "party fever"! It's been kind of nice having other people asking me for tips and help with parties they are planning and I do have a few projects simmering. I like being "the party girl!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Five - Good Things

Today's Friday Five comes with simple instructions - list five things that are good. This task is not at all simple. It is important and profound and something that is incredibly necessary and really and truly should be done more often. This is not my reflections on life in general. This is my life at this very moment.

1. Hope and excitement about things to come - While I know the fears and challenges will make their way in, right now I'm thrilled to be moving forward.

2. Celebration - About two weeks ago my husband, brother, and I pulled off an awesome surprise birthday party for my step-mom's 60th birthday. I was honestly surprised that SHE was surprised, but the whole thing was wonderful and I had a blast planning it! On Monday, my sweet husband will turn 30 so we get to spend this weekend celebrating again. I'm a lucky girl to have so much love and celebration going right now!

3. Cuddles with my dogs - Because it's cold and rainy today, neither of the dogs want to be out, and I don't blame them. Instead, they are happy to sit with me. The little dog (a chihuahua) is happy to wedge herself between my leg and the armrest of the couch. The big dog (a lab mix) is on the floor next to my feet, occasionally popping up to place his paw on my leg or to put his head in my lap for a scratch behind the ears. I love these moments with these examples to me of unconditional love!

4. Rest - It's been a busy and challenging week, but today is my day of rest. It's much needed and even more appreciated!

5. Chocolate - I'm about to finish off the last of my Valentine's Day candy and it has been fabulous!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Moving Forward

This week has been a busy one for me, particularly in the professional realm.

First, I was on call at Children's on Sunday. It was a long, busy day and it really took a toll on me. I know it's part of the job, but it's still tough.

On Monday, I had a meeting in Atlanta with some folks at McAfee to talk about D.Min stuff. Although it wasn't exactly what I was expecting and I wasn't as on top of my game as I would have liked, it was generally a good experience and I came away very excited about the whole prospect.

After that, I had the chance to talk to the pastoral care department director at UAB. I'd already talked to my former CPE supervisor about the possibility of doing a senior (research) residency as a part of the D.Min and she was very supportive so it was nice to talk to him about it as well. He was also very supportive and it's nice to have good people in my corner who are willing to do whatever it takes to make this a good experience for everyone involved!

After that conversation, I came to the realization that it was time to make some contact with the folks at the conference office and inquire about my current status and my options going forward. After a very positive meeting, I now know what is needed for me to get back into the process of things. Although there are some mixed emotions, for the most part I think that I am ready to start taking those steps.

I really have needed these past several months of rest, peace, and reflection to get to this place. I'm more excited about the prospects for the future than I am intimidated by them. I don't necessarily have a timeline for what I want and when I want it, but I can tell that is a huge sign of growth for me! For the first time, I feel like I'm finally doing something I'm really excited about doing because it's completely for me, not because someone or some group is telling me that I have to do it.

I know it will be a lot of hard work, but I also know that it is work that will all make a difference, both to others and to me!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Academy 34 - Session 3

Another session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation has come and gone. This time I had a new experience of arriving very late on the first day because of our GPS class. I don't like being late. Ever. For anything. I didn't like missing out on the excitement of arrival time. I really didn't like missing our first worship service and my covenant group's first meeting. I got there Monday night around 10:15pm and went straight to bed, but it definitely took me a little while to get my bearings the next day.

As always, the week was wonderful. It was full of lots of laughter and tears. Our lecturers were great and I learned a lot and thought about a lot of things I might not have otherwise. I even wrote a psalm! I may get brave and share it here at some point. Although the week was filled with lots of intense emotions, thankfully my nudgings from the Holy Spirit (and there were plenty of them) were quite gentle. I don't know if it's because God knew that I could only absorb so much or that I'm simply paying closer attention so I don't need to be beaten over the head quite as much.

I did have the chance to share with my entire Academy community about our adoption stuff and I was just absolutely overwhelmed with all the love and support I got from everyone. I truly cannot put into words how much it has meant and continues to mean to have this community in my life, especially right now. I keep trying to express how much it meant to me to have so many people share their own experiences and to get so excited with and for me and to know that Jeff, I, and our future child (or children) are all being wrapped and held in prayer by so many people!

I've also been doing a lot of reflecting on where I stand professionally. Being with this community and in an environment where I get to learn again reminds me of how much I really did love school. I didn't love all the stress and the tests and the classes I had to take because they were required, but I did love the learning and growing. I still love learning and growing. I will probably always love it. I really and truly would be a career student if I thought I could get away with it. At the same time, I've been really hesitant to pursue more education because I'm not sure how it would benefit me in terms of getting a job. It's not necessarily something I "need." Still, the more I think about it the more benefit I think it would be to me to go back to school and perhaps pursue a doctor of ministry. It may or may not directly benefit me in terms of getting me a job, but I feel as though I would be a better person because of it, and that is my goal. I'm not going to do anything immediately, but it's kind of liberating to think about the possibilities. It also helps having support in that vein.

There are lots of changes happening in lots of different areas of my life and I'm so blessed to have this community as a support system. Knowing that this is a time-limited experience and that we're now almost to the halfway point, I'm already starting to grieve for the loss of this community. Maybe it's just grieving the end of this last session, but I also can't help but do a little bit of anticipatory grieving for the time that I know we will be leaving and not all coming back together in another 3 months. But for now, I will choose instead to celebrate this amazing blessing in my life!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Next Step

I have been a blogging slacker lately, but it's been because there's been nothing to write about really. Remember way back when I first posted about our attempts at becoming parents when I mentioned that, if I still wasn't pregnant by the time I went back to the doctor that we would start pursuing adoption as well? Obviously that time has come and gone, and while I haven't really posted a ton about that we have been looking into what our options might be.

 Although we love the idea of having an infant and going through all of those "firsts" we also are realists about the fact that lots of people who want to adopt want to adopt infants and the waiting lists are pretty long. However, we also know that there are lots of children in the world, and in fact in our own country, who are not infants but are still very much in need of loving parents. After lots of thought, prayer, and discussion we both felt that we were being led towards adoption through the foster care system. Neither of us feel that we have the gifts needed to serve as foster parents, but we recognize the importance of this program and the need of these children whose parents have had their rights terminated to have a permanent home and family that they can count on forever.

Despite the fact that there are lots of children who are waiting, there is still a somewhat involved process for adopting. Although there are moments when I am frustrated with the idea of waiting and want to scream "these babies have been waiting long enough!" I know that every step of the process is important both for them and for us so I have to keep reminding myself of that.

We have completed two of the ten weeks of Group Preparation and Selection (GPS) classes. Although not easy, GPS has already been a good, helpful, informative resource. It has been the source of a lot of good conversations both in and out of class. There have been a wide range of emotions we have both experienced and it has seemed very overwhelming at times. Still, we know it is necessary. There is a lot of paperwork and I mean A LOT. The bulk of it has been completed, but there's still plenty to stay on top of. The people who are teaching our classes have been very great and supportive and I think that by the time it's over we will be close to everyone in the classes with us.

I will say that working together on our autobiographies has been a really great experience for us as a couple. Sharing these stories, some of which we've told each other before and others we are only now sharing, has been an incredibly meaningful and intimate experience. No matter what is the result of this experience, I am thankful for the gifts it has already given me.

There is plenty more still to be done and I'm sure there will be lots of waiting and hoping and praying. But for now, we are taking it one day, one week, one step, one class at a time. And with each "to do" that gets crossed off the list, each class that is completed, and each piece of paper that is handed in, I know we are one step closer to our "forever family."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Five - Never Again

Today's Friday Five invites us to reflect on some things that maybe seemed like a good idea at the time but we aren't eager to repeat.

1. Whitewater Rafting - I went with a college group from my home church because the guy I was dating at the time enjoyed that kind of thing (which was probably my first mistake!) My boat got tipped pretty early on. Between the stories of how many ways you could die in the river (or just lose a limb), not being a really strong swimmer, and having the raft land on top of my head as soon as I surfaced, I was not happy. The fact that I had to stay in that blooming raft for another hour and a half to get to the end of the course was miserable and by the time we got to the end I had to CRAWL up to dry ground because my legs were shaking so badly I couldn't walk.

2. Goliath at Six Flags over Georgia - Hubby and I were offered free tickets to Six Flags along with his mom, aunt, and cousin. He isn't much for roller coasters but I kind of like them. He didn't want to ride much of anything, but his aunt mentioned that there was this one coaster that she actually liked so I eagerly went to ride it with her. I was not amused, mostly because it only had a lap bar that let my rear end leave my seat a little bit. I don't mind tall, fast, or even flipping upside down, but I want to be strapped so securely into my seat that I don't move AT ALL (and I also really want to have those handles on my chest that I can hold onto!)

3. Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World - I did it in high school with my friends because I was determined to try everything. I can now say I've done it and have no desire to do it again. I'm hesitant to say "never" because if we ever have a child that wants to do it, I'll have to be the one to go with them because goodness knows my loving husband won't! Maybe this is the perfect reason to bring my brother along!

4. Eating Scallops - I just can't stand the texture of them. I'm not a huge seafood fan anyway, but that's one thing I never have any desire to try again.

5. Snow Sports - My desire is still there to try stuff like skiing or ice skating again, but my poor, uncoordinated body apparently doesn't agree. Between busting my knee in high school from ice skating or almost knocking myself unconscious by hitting my head on a patch of ice while skiing, it's probably better if I simply sit and provide moral support for others!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Champy's Chicken - Alabaster

After what seemed like FOREVER (but really wasn't that long) staring at a "coming soon" sign in front of a restaurant that has been vacant for as long as we've lived here, Champy's finally opened on Monday. I had done a little digging online so I knew a little bit about it. My brother knew about them because they started in Chattanooga, which is where he went to high school and still has several friends so we knew. Jeff generally has a rule that he doesn't like to patronize a brand new place right after they open to give them a chance to get the kinks worked out. I understand, so I didn't give him a hard time about the opening of Champy's. I figured it would be at least a few weeks, but I was pleasantly surprised when he suggested it for dinner yesterday.

We headed in right about 5pm before things got too busy. The place wasn't empty, but it wasn't packed. We were greeted by several people and told to just have a seat wherever. We got menus and ordered our drinks. We thought about ordering an appetizer, especially since Jeff loves fried pickle spears and they aren't available many places,  but the price sort of scared us off. We agreed next time we will try some tamales, especially after hearing a waitress at another table say they can do a plate of 3 (even though the menu only says 6 and 12!)

For dinner, Jeff got a 3 piece white meat plate, which comes with beans, slaw, and white bread. I got a 4 piece chicken finger basket with fries. Why the chicken finger plate is 3 pieces and the basket is 4 is beyond my comprehension. The food was all very fresh and tasty. Jeff loved his beans and slaw and also had good things to say about my fries. I enjoyed the little bite of Jeff's chicken breast he shared also. We both enjoyed whatever kind of sauce came with the chicken finger basket, although I don't know if there are any other options because there was nothing on the menu and I was never given a choice of what kind of sauce I wanted. Next time I'll ask if they have something else! The Key Lime Pie for dessert was just ok. It wasn't bad, it was just a lot sweeter than what I would expect for key lime pie. I wouldn't order it again.

The service wasn't bad, but I definitely felt like our waitress was a little over-eager. We had barely had our dinner for five minutes (I hadn't even finished my first chicken finger!) when she was asking us if we wanted dessert. We ordered a slice of key lime pie and about 3 minutes after bringing the pie (still, less than halfway done with our dinner and hadn't even touched the pie) she was asking if we were ready for the check. Jeff just said "If you want to go ahead and bring it to us you can," and I ended up boxing up half my food, even though I wasn't really done eating, and just finished it at home.

If I have one big hang-up with this place, it's the use of so much disposable stuff, especially styrofoam. Normally I don't especially care. I'm not fundamentally opposed to styrofoam. I get that this is a casual place, but to me it seemed a bit excessive, especially for a table-service restaurant. Jeff and I have a theory that they put a piece of white bread UNDER the fried chicken to help soak up a little of the grease but to also keep the hot chicken from melting the plate! I don't care quite as much about pre-portioned sauce in little cups with lids, but I don't get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I get a slice of pie that's already sliced and in a little container with a lid because my general assumption is that it's been sitting for a while. I'd love to see them switch to even re-usable plastic cups and metal forks, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Yes, I am sure we will be returning. I could definitely see this being a good take out option for us and there are plenty of other things on the menu we still want to try!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Five - Resolution and Absolution

Today's Friday Five is all about the good intentions that seem to come with each year's "fresh start." For me, the summer is typically my time of the ending of something and the beginning of something else. Between 20 years of school and that schedule or the Conference year in the church that always started and ended in June, January was simply the chance to breathe after the chaos of Christmas and the midpoint of my year. But this year is different because this is the first year that I can remember when I haven't found myself and my life somewhat controlled by one of those schedules. There is something new and hopeful about this year and this time in my life. Here's hoping it sticks! So without further ado, my Friday Five.


1. Start by sharing your success stories with us: In the past, what resolution has been the most successful? What change have you made that has been the most beneficial, to your mood, health, finances, or other way of being in the world? As previously stated, January 1 has rarely represented much of a beginning to me, so resolutions haven't ever been a huge part of my life. A couple of years ago I started a list of 101 things in 101 weeks and while I accomplished a lot on my list, my most important learning came from NOT achieving my goal. 

2. What is one thing you hope to do differently this year in regards to health, either physical or spiritual? If you are satisfied with your current status in both areas, perhaps you would be willing to share something you have already done (or regularly do) to care for yourself? My resolutions this year all all about health in various forms, but the one I most want to do for myself is the physical, which is training for and running a 5k. Although not completely satisfied, one thing I do regularly to care for myself that is incredibly meaningful is a yoga class on Thursday nights. The small but devoted community has a special place in my heart and while the class itself is good for my body, the real benefit for me is the tea party we have at the end where we can all sit and talk and laugh and where my spirit is refreshed!

3. What is one thing you hope your family (of origin, of choice, however you define your primary place of mutual emotional sustenance) will do differently this year? A new tradition for birthdays? More vacation time? Game night? Feel free to really dream about ways to deepen your connections with those you love. Well, as stated in my other resolution list, I want to spend some time "unplugged" with my husband, but my real dream for my family for this year is that it will GROW! In addition to our journey through infertility testing and treatment, this month Jeff and I will begin taking the classes required to adopt a child with special needs from the foster care system. I am already praying daily (and have lots of people joining me in this) for the child or children that will be joining our family, but in addition to welcoming them into my heart, I'd love to welcome them into my arms! Feel free to add your prayers for all of us!

4. What is one thing you hope your community of faith will consider doing differently this year? New music? Different approaches to preaching? Rearranging the furniture? If you are in a position to introduce change, share some of your enthusiasm and/ or anxiety with us!  Since I am not currently a part of a community of faith, my big change will be to join one! I'm really excited about this one.


5. In what area would you most like to learn to be gentle with yourself? For what would you most like to forgive yourself? Share your ideas and strategies for extending yourself the kind of grace we know we are assured of. Honestly, I'm not really sure. If there is one area where I feel like I have really grown and improved in the past year or two, it's this area. I know I still take on the burden of guilt that isn't mine to bear, but it is much less often that it once was and I am not able to think of any one specific area where I need to allow myself a good deal more grace. Of course, check with me again once I am a mother and I'm sure that will change!