Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Letter to Grandparents, in Response to the Boston Marathon Attacks

Dear Mama and Papa, Cappy and Daboo,
in response to yesterday’s attacks...

We are grieving after yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. Grieving on so many levels. For the victims and their families, for the city of Boston in general, and for our country enduring yet another terrorist attack.

We are heartsick that your grandchildren are growing up in a world where “terrorist attack” is part of their vocabulary. That our young children are exposed to terrible crimes and horrific school shootings and cyber bullying that destroys lives of both the victims and the perpetrators.

We have a couple of friends who ran the marathon yesterday. One Fort Worth friend crossed the finish line about ten minutes before the bombings, and then she and the rest of her family (including one of Branson's baseball teammates) walked a few blocks from the finish line to get a better view of the runners. Their two older boys (14 and 9) were there to witness the events, and will no doubt come home to continue processing the experience. But their youngest baby boy, only about 6 months old, stayed home with his grandparents. 

So yesterday amidst the photos and images and news reports, I kept thinking of those sweet grandparents. Kept thinking about them holding that baby boy, waiting anxiously for the, "It's ok, we are all safe," phone call, hating that their older grandsons had to witness the events, and the dark grief that surely shadows their infant grandson’s future. What kind of world will these boys face?

And of course my thoughts to the four of you - our own parents - what kind of world faces your adult children and precious grandchildren? 

We were home as a family last night, an evening uniquely void of baseball games and practices. After a relaxed dinner on the back patio we heated up the hot tub and enjoyed an hour or so of just being together. Little Esther should have been headed to bed,  but the opportunity for time together trumped a generous night’s sleep.

Before getting out of the spa out and drying off, Corbin asked each of us to say a brief prayer - a sentence or two - for Boston and all those affected by the bombings.

Both our boys had seen images and updates of the bombings on Instagram, but the girls were unaware. Corbin explained the marathon tragedy in simple terms. Both girls instantly came over to sit close to us. Basden then turned her head away and asked why we told her. We explained we knew she’d hear about the attacks, and we wanted it to be from us. She could hardly bear it. Said it made her feel scared. 

The children’s prayers tugged at my heart: 
- A six-year-old asking God that no more bombs would go off and that those who were hurt would heal quickly.
- An 11-year-old acknowledging that God would bring something good out of it, that it was for a reason, and asking God to heal the families.
- A 13-year-old asking God to be with victim’s families, but also asking why He would allow this after December's Connecticut shootings. Your oldest grandson felt angry at the attackers, and hoped they stayed in jail forever.
- And lastly a sweet nine-year-old simply asking God to be with families, to comfort them.

So Mama and Papa, Cappy and Daboo, in light of yesterday’s tragic events and the ensuing conversations, my heart goes out to you, the grandparents. It’s hard enough to parent facing the unknowns of our future, but I think there must be an even deeper, despairing pull of our country’s decline through the weighted lens of a grandparent.

I want you to find comfort in the fact that as this crazy world continues to surprise and sadden us, we choose to find our comfort and trust and direction in the One who is Unchanging ~ the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is not surprised by any of this. 

Be assured that we will teach our children, your grandchildren:

- About the lives of our country’s heroes. About America’s history, of our foundation on a Godly, Biblical heritage  

- What the words of the Star Spangled Banner refer to. That as the kids remove their ball caps and sing along with the words at sporting events, chills should run up and down their spine in gratitude for the heroes before them and the freedom our country provides  

- Like those heroes, that there will be a time for them to choose courage. To be valiant. To stand up for what they believe, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

- About Biblical heroes: men and women with whom they can relate having dealt with sin and purity, pride and humility ~ stories woven for revealing God’s redemptive grace. 

- That we find peace not in this world, but only in Jesus. Jesus tells us not to assume that He came to bring peace to this world, but in fact he came with a sword. And then he also says, “In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Matt 10:34, Jn 16:33)

- That no matter what, the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. No matter nuclear attacks from North Korea, no matter America’s insane debt crisis, no matter horrific abortion clinics, and no matter even burglaries right here in our neighborhood. No matter what. The purposes of God’s heart stands firm through all generations - even your grandchildren’s! (Ps 33:11)  

After our prayer last night, we asked the kids if they remembered what song David Murphey walked up to for his at bats during last year's Ranger Games. Instantly, Basden started singing:
All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong...
(“Where I Belong”, Building 429)
But then, too, we reminded them of this cherished, old hymn, one that brings incredible comfort:
This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Practicing Gratitude 4.14.13

- Adults across our city breathing new life and energy into the Fort Worth Young Life Committee

- Elvia, Elvia, Elvia!! And my clean house!

- Jessica's 40th birthday - and getting to celebrate right there with her


- Esther's note on my nightstand, waiting my return from Little Rock - her response to the note and "kisses" (Herseys) I'd left her

- Homemade granola (2 batches this week)

- That I still find them like this

- Last Sunday's game. Thankful in ALL things. I know, I know, it's just baseball. But baseball is at times an anvil in our home - a sharpening tool for all of us. To watch Bran jog up to that mound, bright and hopeful and excited to throw, and then a zillion pitches later (still in the 1st inning) having allowed a zillion (eleven!)  runs, sweat pouring down his face and all of us pleading for a 3rd out... ugh. And Coach Shope having the decency and wisdom to keep in ON the mound until the 3rd out.

- 4 loving grandparents on his team

- Hud taking batting practice, high weeds and all

- Bran discovering kites in our garage during a clean-out ~ bringing in Spring!

We moved to the park for more running space
- Spring swimming

 - Styrofoam coffee cups and a note by the pool house door

- Papa's handyman help

I love it! Thank you, Papa!
- MMS Moms in Prayer, Lori faithfully leading our prayer groups all these years

- Esther home sick for a day, and she waited at the front door like this the last hour before Basden came home from school. Anxious for big sister to get home.

- Sweet Brantley celebrating 1 year!

- Esther getting to go to Tulsa with Daboo for Brantley's birthday party

Before the pie-eating contest in Bogan's Sunday School (of course Esther volunteered)
And off they go!
- Basden as "Mrs. Stanbery" for the day

- Mrs. Burlin and her baby girls
Basden say she wants to be a music teacher when she grows up
- Bran playing... catcher???!! Let's just say it was a jovial night at the ballpark

- Look who else is at catch... haven't seen Hud here in awhile, love watching him behind the plate

- Getting to have Mama and Papa at baseball games

- A walk with Skylar (and Hud on his bike) - her radiant heart

- Where he practices casting

When he saw me snapping a photo... caught one!
- 42 on opening night. Absolutely loved.

- When we turn off the tv, he turns to this

- Our Saturday evening with just Hud and Basden: perfect spring weather for dinner on the back patio - ribs for Hud - with a fire, music, and this lovely chandelier. Apples to Apples, s'mores in the firepit, and last week's American Idol. An open afternoon and evening no schedule, just the four of us, restful and fun and easy.

- Basden's comment over s'mores - "My life would be miserable and boring without Bran and Esther."

 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I was with a good friend recently, who in describing her weekly cooking routine, said that her Sunday suppers were typically more gourmet, because that's the day she has free afternoon hours to spend in the kitchen.

In that moment, I was reminded that I clearly missed that cooking gene, that bent. Because not only would I never, on purpose, spend a Sabbath afternoon - intended for rest - in the kitchen, but I'm also missing the whole weekly cooking routine thing.

However, I do love hosting and hospitality and a home full of people. And since all those people have to eat (darn), I'm committed to trying to set out snacks and and meals and sweets that make our family and friends want to hang their hats and stay awhile. 

In Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequist invites us to her table, to the detailed snippets of her life told through fresh and funny and relatable stories. She infuses hilarious writing with meaningful consideration in short 5-10ish page essays.

In an early chapter on learning to cook, Shauna says,
"It takes some time to learn... But it's a lovely process, with not a minute wasted. If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that's a skill for life - like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive.
I'm not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day."
Here's the magic - after reading Bread & Wine, along with her other books, I feel like I've enjoyed a number of intimate dinner parties around Shauna's table.
I caught myself the other day, in telling someone about Bread & Wine, that Shauna was my friend. Er, I mean, an acquaintance. Oh wait, a friend of a friend. And then it hit me - I've never even met her! I was quite shocked.

Throughout Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, Shauna recounts her love for cooking for and sharing meals with loved ones around her table. But her newest book just released this month, Bread & Wine, focuses even more narrowly on hospitality as "a love letter to life around the table."

Bread & Wine is an engaging, inviting book to read. The only negative is that you can't read it all at once. While it may initially feel like a book you can't put down, it's kind of like those little molten chocolate cakes, that at first glance you think you'll finish the whole thing because it's hot out of the oven and warm and so yummy. But about half-way through, once the melted chocolate seeps across your plate, you realize the richness, and that by quickly devouring it, you'll rush right past savoring the flavor.
Shauna's stories are a little like that. They kind of settle in and work their way through your mind, because ingesting her thoughts and experiences make us consider our own thoughts and experiences. And it takes a while to digest.

A few things about Bread & Wine that I especially loved -
- "Run" (pg 74) Shauna's story about running the Chicago marathon. I'm not a runner, but this made me a little weepy. In part because I just watched Corbin run a half-marathon last month and understood what that entailed, but mostly because I was privy to Shauna's earlier stories through her two previous books, and I was simply celebrating this victory with her. Because of her transparent communication, we readers are allowed a small window into her soul.
- "Enough" (pg 55). Thoughts on friendship and safety goggles from Home Depot. Keep a kleenex handy. 
- While she concludes most chapters with a recipe that coincides with that story, sometimes she doesn't. Keeps the overall book from feeling forced or contrived in matching every story with a meaningful recipe.
- Includes gluten-free and diary-free recipes. I don't prepare foods that way very often. But I love Shauna's insistence that we are to prepare foods for the purpose of serving and loving others well. So even with the temptation to feel like picky eaters with dietary needs can be a pain, we love them well by preparing foods they can eat and enjoy. It's a gift we get to give. 

A paragraph from "Open the Door," (pg 105) perfectly communicates what I interpret as Shauna's primary message in Bread & Wine -
"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take their shoes off and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd."
So, whether you were born with that cooking-gene or not, we are all created to engage others in hospitality. Shauna's words will simply provide lots of laughter and insight along the way. Enjoy!

To purchase Bread & Wine on Amazon

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Practicing Gratitude 4.3.13

- God-timed conversations on Monday mornings

- Jesus Calling. No matter how popular that little devotional book gets, it remains right-on and incredibly encouraging. Thankful for Sarah Young's listening in writing those devos.

- Davis family.  What they are to so many, how brightly they glorify You, Lord. We are so grateful for Steve's life and influence, and humbly ask for his complete healing.

- Our Moms in Prayer group. A balm to my heart to pray with other school moms for our children, teachers, and school as a whole. Always, always encourages me in the trenches of parenting.

- A new team, new energy, new teammates. A privilege to play with these boys and coaches.

- Oh my gosh. What a story! This wedding, on this beach, with this precious, precious pastor marrying them. Only God could weave all these things together.

- Esther's 1st grade Texas trails play. Trying to pay attention to all of these "lasts" as we encounter them.
Esther toward the bottom right in the red skirt. Like her older brothers and sister, no reservations with being on stage.
Even arriving ten minutes early, we were on the VERY back row. Our school outgrew this auditorium years ago... thankful for lots of parents and grandparents who make the effort to attend these events.
- Opening day at ULL. Grateful for such a fantastic little league community.

- Our loyal fans in the bleachers - so thankful for all four grandparents. Don't want to take that for granted for a minute. A tremendous gift.
Aren't they the cutest?!
These guys are pretty cute too.
- Celebrating a new little life on its way.
Noah James has no idea what great parents he's been given in Katie and Tom
- When Esther sets the table

- Corbin chuckling at Basden's note on my desk ~ her reminder that next year is her year to put the star on the Christmas tree (the note was put up sometime in Jan). Always surprises me what's important to these precious kiddos

- Bran and Hud's new beds! After months and months of Bran's mattresses on the floor after breaking his bed frame last summer... I just didn't get to Ikea in all that time. And now, after assembling both beds, Corbin may never let me in that store again.

- Esther and Basden totally entertained by a new pair of walkie-talkies

- Jojoba oil from Mama. I'm not a product gal, but I love, love this for my skin.

- Where the puppies play - ON the trampoline!
Now that they are older and not chewing everything in sight, really thankful there are two, that they have each other to play with
- Wrestling in prayer

- Hud and Basden ironing for $$. Never before has my ironing basket been empty!

- Hosting Corbin's office for dinner. I would absolutely repeat the dinner, but I hope to never again repeat the crazy hour or so before. Corbin could handle my frazzled attitude, but one ugly complaint uttered from my mouth just a few minutes before everyone arrived set us both over the edge. I realized too late the influence my negative words and attitudes can have on my entire family. I think we were serving dessert before Corbin and I could even speak to each other. So, I am choosing gratitude in ALL things, even in learning (again) the power of my negative words.We had been wanting to have these friends over for literally months. More than anything, we wanted to express our gratitude for such great co-workers for Corbin. His staff is a bright-spot in what can be a demanding and pressure-filled position. Hopefully we'll get the opportunity again, because they are great families to spend an evening with!
Fish that Corbin, Bran and Hud caught on Lake Grapevine. And I was informed by multiple friends that you can't have a fish fry without hushpuppies!
Hud and Esther made these bite-size salads

Maddy & Esther - double trouble

- Easter week, Holy week. Especially Southcliff's Tenebrae service (with Daboo in the choir), and the overwhelming remembrance of Christ's suffering for my sin

- Our Lent tree ~ an idea adopted from No Ordinary Home. Gives us opportunities in the weeks before Easter to be reminded of God's redemptive story throughout Scripture leading up Christ's sacrificial gift.

- Good Friday off of school. It was wonderful. We spent the lazy morning doing things that some years we don't take time for - making Bunny Bait, dying eggs, filling eggs for Sunday's hunt... loved being in the kitchen with my kiddos.

- Getting to make bunny-butt pancakes with Basden (thank you, Pinterest)

- Worshiping at church on Saturday evening, love that option over Easter weekend.
We were on speaking terms here...

Touching to see these friends baptized, along with a couple of special others. Started the Easter service in such a meaningful way.
- Easter morning at home

- Our beautiful family in Tulsa! Luke and Julie and their darling boys. Love them so much.
Thanks, Julie, for the Easter pic!
 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12