Monday, November 30, 2009

Juxtapositions


Today was chilly

like the leaf-launching breeze that gave me goosebumps as the kids played outside

like the tile bathroom floor in the morning

like the cold metal frame of the grocery cart left outside all night






But today was also warm

like the okra and tomatoes bubbling on the stove

like the fog of the dryer that steamed up my kitchen windows

like the sound of Bela Fleck and my children's laughter from the other room

like the encouragement from a friend




like the glow of the table at our candlelit dinner

and like the satisfaction of knowing God and choosing to rest in Him.

It was a good day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hope of the age


Salvation, draw near us, our vision engage
One candle is lit for the hope of the age

I'm not sure if these words were just spoken by one person or the whole congregation as we lit the advent candle tonight. I was distracted by Zeke who held the end of the long wooden acolyte handle with great intensity as his daddy held the fire steady down that long, red carpeted isle. Actually, my focus was split between that and Anna Grace whose sweaty hand and unsure expression signaled that she wasn't sure about what we were doing. But despite the disconnect in my children's minds about what was happening and despite it being such a small thing, it was the Lord tenderly speaking hope to my heart. Again.

John Henson's picture

Oh, the things we've found




Apparently

when you've lived in the same house for over 50 years

and when you're of the generation that saw the Great Depression

and when you've lived a very full life including raising five kids and enjoying eleven grandkids

you tend to accumulate a lot of stuff.

That might be an understatement.

The special find of yesterday's work at my grandparent's house?

Captain America head wings.

My little superhero loves his transformation.

I just wish my gran and grandpa could be around to see it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving thanks and finding joy in the midst of it all


A little bit of what our holiday entailed:


Dancing and air guitar during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I think AG may have really watched the entire thing start to finish. With dancing and costume changes interspersed, of course.


Did I mention the costume changes?

Next up was the yummy turkey and casserole feast (complete with Strawn's pies) at BeBe's house. The wedding planning diversion was lots of fun as we anticipate Kate's upcoming July extravaganza, and we had to laugh at some of the insanely silly poses that they come up with for bridal gown models in wedding magazines.


And we got ready for Christmas.


Hooray!!!!!

Even baby Chaney got in on the holiday action, giving me some nice strong kicks at dinner tonight. He/she even performed for Aunt Kate who was the first to feel this baby's moves.

Tremendous blessings, profound gratitude.

Here's hoping for sustained perspective on the greatness of God and His immense wisdom in how He leads us through life.

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Instead


I love this picture of my Gran.

It was Christmas of 2004- the Christmas my three month old Anna Grace got baptized in a church without a working heater. We assembled for a little family reception at my mother's house afterwards and my grandmother just sat and held my little girl. Gran was never much one to smile for pictures, so this one is especially dear to my heart.

This morning, I received word that Gran had finished the race set before her. My mother and my aunt sat by her side as she took her last breath and entered the presence of God.

So today, the smile in this picture is a reminder to me that Eleanor Greve is no longer in pain, her body ravaged by cancer.

Instead, she knows the beauty of Jesus firsthand.

Instead, she is full of love and joy.

Instead, she has reunited with her earthly husband.

Instead, that emptiness and sorrow in her heart for the little boy she lost when he was only 12 years old is now healed and whole as she embraces her son whom she has so desperately missed all these years.

Instead, she can dance and sing and run with the best of them.

Instead, she has laughed and hugged my daddy.

No more tears. No more weariness. No more sorrow. No more pain.

No.

More.

Death.

This Thanksgiving, I'm going to remember this smile and thank God for the hope He offers and the victory He's so graciously given us.

I'm thankful for my grandmother and her sustaining presence in our family.

I'm thankful for my mother and the loving way she's seen this thing to the end.

I'm thankful for the friends and the family that have wrapped us up in their love and prayers.

And I'm thankful that He's going to give us the strength to carry on. Even as we wait for our own hope to be fulfilled.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The big reveal

So after another blood pressure/heartbeat check at the OB today (and everything was a-ok), we scheduled our ultrasound for December 14th. The big one. Girl Chaney or Boy Chaney- we'll soon know.

I absolutely cannot wait to know, but Jack is dead set on not finding out- in which case, all you blog readers won't know either. In fact, I'll have to be really careful about who I tell and who I don't (and we all know Anna Grace can't keep a secret for more than a day).

Hmmm...

If you didn't find out at the half-way point what the sex of your baby was (and I know there's at least one friend out there who didn't), how did you do it?

Other than the practical preparations, I feel like it helps me prepare mentally and emotionally for what is coming.

Maybe I just don't like surprises. We'll see how this all shakes out. Should be interesting.

One thing's for sure: on the afternoon of December 14th, I'll be basking in the news with a smile.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

His strong arm


I was putting a wiggly and smiling Zeke to bed tonight when the song "Jesus Loves Me" happened to come up in his bedtime story. We started to sing. His sweet voice was so small and so soft. As he sang with his little grin "they are weak but He is strong," the theme of the past couple of weeks all kind of came together in my heart and mind.

1. When I am weak, then I am strong
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Sometimes, I think the Lord brings us to a point of weakness on purpose. It can even be really painful. But when we acknowledge our weakness and know our complete ineptitude in a really real way, we tend to press into the Lord, lean upon Him and we end up knowing His strength.

Life at the Chaney house hasn't been easy lately. We are undergoing all kinds of trials that are really uncomfortable. But as we squirm in this prickly place of problems, we're learning more and more about trusting in this great big God of ours that is as strong as He is loving. (Psalm 62:11)


2. This strength is not my own.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." Isaiah 40:28-29

"Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle." Psalm 24:8

"Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted." Psalm 89:13

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength..." Ephesians 18-19

When all our circumstances seem to form an impending storm around us from which there is no earthly way out, we have a choice. We can look at the storm and worry, or we can look to Jesus and ask Him to empower us with His strength to endure.

We are weak but He is strong.


3. I must choose, day by day, minute by minute, to walk in His strength and not my own

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

A page from a Bible from the 1500's featuring Hebrews, chapter 12, hangs over the mantle in our family room. The old English is hard to read, but since it came from my dad, it's one of my most treasured material possessions and the particular chapter it showcases has also become one of
my favorite. I love its call to perseverance and to look to the author and finisher of our faith. I find its explanation of our position as sons of God and therefore our receipt of discipline as encouraging, but I've often wondered about its admonition:

"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed." Hebrews 12:12

How can we strengthen our feeble arms and our weak knees? How are we to make level paths for our feet?

By exercising the power He offers us.

It's a tough choice to face the hard things of life and to choose to just trust this God that we can't see, but if we don't give up, we win. And if we keep up the practice of trusting in Him during trial after trial, we'll end up with a history of knowing His strength in a very real way.

What situation are you facing that seems too tough to face?

Are you caring for your dying mother? He offers you strength to love her well and to see her through this hard time until she meets her Maker face to face in complete joy.

Are you grieving for one that you loved? He offers you the strength to trust Him when it just doesn't seem fair.

Are you potty training a toddler? Dealing with temper tantrums? Trying to modify your children's diets? He offers you the quiet strength of his patient Spirit.

Are you facing unrighteousness at the office and a job that seems insurmountable? He offers to be your strength in every moment and every decision.

Are you just generally weak and tired and worn down by the cares of this life? He offers to renew and refresh and sustain you.

All we have to do is choose to surrender to the strength He provides and ask for an impartation of His great and mighty strength.

It's so simple, it's in a children's song. All we have to do is acknowledge our own weaknesses and ask for His.

Lord, come, and strengthen us in our weakness. We praise you today for your strong, beautiful, and loving arms that sustain us through the storms of this life.

Song of Solomon 5:14 "His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hey ya'll


Scarf buying and cupcake eating in Austin, TX with my sisters, sister in law, and my little girl.
Fun and yummy stuff.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Strength for today

My heart is very heavy today for my friend who buried her daddy's body today. I wept like a baby in the back of the sanctuary because I know all too well how hard it is to say goodbye for now. And I forgot my Kleenex.

But I also joined in the chorus, singing with all my heart "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand," and "worthy is the Lamb," and "Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

I know that my friend's dad and my dad are so fully alive and so full of joy while singing and jamming out in the presence of Jesus- for real- what could be better?

After the service, I picked up the kids and life kind of rolled on. When you have a five-year-old and a two-year-old, you don't have time to sit around and process your emotions. They were like whirling dervishes that left my house in a state of shambles this house has probably never seen.

But now, here I am, in a quiet house, thankful for the Lord imparting joy and hope in the midst of pain. I thought at first that my children's antics were a distraction- and I even got upset at one point at their crazy wild ways- but maybe they were to be a word to my heart. A way to find the strength to go on.

I'm standing on the diving board of deep thoughts, but it's late and I'm so very tired. Instead, I leave you with Anna Grace and Zeke- my two snug bugs in a rug.
video
I hope they make you smile like they do me.

And I hope that I don't have to go to so many funerals in 2010...

What the...


Dear Parents,
Enclosed you will find pages to a book. Over the holidays, please find some time to illustrate this book with your child. When we have received all the pages... Below are some different ways you and your child may choose to illustrate the book page.

Photographs

Pictures from the Internet

Actual objects cut and pasted on the page

Hand drawn pictures

Copies of pictures from a book, coloring book, etc

Magazine cut outs

Mix of all of the above

Okay... So how am I supposed to explain to Anna Grace what "excelsis" is. Did we get a bum deal or what? I'm going to have to call on whoever reads this and cares to help me come up with ways to illustrate excelsis.

On a different yet related note, I need to send a shout out to my friend Rebecca for helping me be a good snack mom and sharing her wisdom on how to create the cutest cornucopias ever (waffle cones and Trix). Thanks, friend!

Now back to eXcelsis...

Monday, November 16, 2009

At least they match

I've been going to the gym now for weeks with holes in my shoes. Maybe it's because I don't want to go shoe shopping with two children in tow. Maybe it's because I just haven't had time. Maybe it's because it just doesn't bother me that much. In any case, I am kind of amusing myself by just cruising along with holes in my shoes. Maybe I'm just weird. But you know what's really weird? That those holes happened in the first place.

So many things to love


A few of the things I love about you, Ezekiel David...

  • the way you pretend to make coffee almost every night when you take a bath
  • the way you flex those tiny muscles of yours to show us what Spiderman does
  • the way you kind of bounce from side to side when you run like you're some kind of weeble
  • the way you always ask, "Where we going mommy?" when we get in the car
  • the way you say okay all the time. Like, "Don't take my cup, okay mommy?" and "I wear my hat, okay?"
  • the way you announce that it's time for pancakes every morning. Six thirty is a little early, buddy, but you totally make up for it by going to bed like a champion every night and at every nap time without the slightest effort
  • the way you always smile and laugh with your sister
  • your sweet little belly and your so-soft cheeks
  • the way you pat my back when you give me one of your fabulous hugs
I'm telling you, my little one, you can turn any frown upside down with one glance of your eyes.

How I love you, Zeke.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More mourning, more hoping


This morning, someone special ran into the arms of Jesus in great victory. I urge you to click here as I am remembering him today and thanking God for the work He's done through this great man. Like his daughter so wisely said, cancer lost. He is now fully healed and fully alive in the presence of Jesus and for that, we are joyful.

But if you can, pray for his family.

While you're at it, talk to the Lord about strengthening my family's heart as well- especially my mom. It was my dad's birthday yesterday and we all miss him a lot. She's also having to say goodbye to her mother who will finish her race any day now. We just said goodbye to her dad in September.

My older sister has lost her father-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and grandfather all within weeks of each other, and now we're having to say goodbye to Gran, too.

All that to say, it's just a lot of mourning.

The good news is that these are but momentary and light afflictions. We have great Hope. This is not the end of the story.

How could I possibly endure if this weren't the truth? Geesh...

Wherever you are, I urge you to put your trust and hope in Jesus Christ. He is good. He is faithful. He leads with great love. And I say this to you in the midst of great sorrow. He is real and He came to bind up our broken hearts and free us from our bondage to sin.

The thing is, one day, all of us will face death. I want to live well and be ready for that day.

Don't you?

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How full is your tank today?

It turns out that you can do a lot of things for your children and yet miss out on giving them what they need the most: your time.

Anna Grace Chaney is my Exibit A. Lately, she's been losing her cool at the slightest glitch in life and for a while, it befuddled Jack and me. We were at a loss until, that is, we sat down to think about it. We then decided that she just needed a refueling of what my friend likes to call her "love tank."

All children are different and therefore their hearts respond differently in different situations, but I've learned that Anna Grace is a little more sensitive than your Average Joe. It really matters to her that we stop what we're doing and really listen to her and tune in to what's on her heart.

I'm happy to report that after a breakfast at Chick-fil-a with her daddy and some time alone with mom, the song returned to her heart. It took a lot of listening and a lot of talking, but she just needed to feel heard- and she really didn't have anything much to say.

But it brought the song back to her heart.

Last night as she took her shower, she had me sit in the bathroom and write the lyrics to the song she was creating. In case you can't read it, the highlights include "I sing this song with all my heart, I sing this song like birds in a tart," and, "My heart is great, my heart is good, it's good for beating, it's good for hood, and now this song is about to end, thank you Lord for my song."

I wish you could hear her sing it. She, of course, decorated it and hung it on a piece of cardboard in Zeke's room.

It was amazing. And it got me thinking about my own love tank- how I fill it or don't fill it and what the repercussions are in my life. How do I lash out when I haven't filled up- when I don't take the time out with my Heavenly Father to be heard, to be loved?

Turns out, it's important. It's a matter of the heart.

Maybe I should sign off to go fill 'er up...

They're goin to the chapel


I've gotten a lot of bad news lately, so I'm REALLY happy to have gotten THE call last night.

My sweet sister-in-law Kate and her boyfriend Patrick are getting married!!!!!!!

We huddled around Jack's phone last night as she gave us the news and we all shrieked with joy. Of course, Anna Grace asked if she could be the flower girl, prompting Zeke to ask if he could be Superman.

Of course. What's a wedding without a flowergirl and a Superman?

Congratulations, Kate and Patrick! May your life together be blessed!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hello, second trimester!

I try not to be too concerned about how I look like I'm more like 25 weeks pregnant than 13, but this is my third baby and I only have 5 feet and one inch of height to work with so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the comments from the peanut gallery started today in full force. It was amazing.

However, I'm parading my pregnant pooch and I'm proud of it.

I can't wait to meet this baby.

And I think if it's a girl I might have to include Hope in her name in some way. I would have a hard time even starting to describe the myriad of ways that we're dealing with death right now. I just can't even begin to go into all of it, but like I told my sister tonight, if I didn't know Jesus, it would be pretty ugly right now. And depressing.

I need a little Hope.

Don't we all?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The intruder

Because you asked, Melissa....

I pulled up to the house on Friday morning only to find a furry creature sunning himself on the windowsill of my bedroom.

Great. I really had a busy day lined up and this little guy ruined my plans for a shower, among other things.

However, overall, I'm grateful for all this little rodent taught me.

So, because I know you want to know, here's the list:

1. Animal control and all other pest control services wash their hands of squirrels. I don't know why they discriminate, but they do. No help there.
2. You can get some really amusing although largely unhelpful advice when you solicit it on Facebook via a frantic status update (VexCon?, squirrel stew).
3. It's kind of fun to call your best friend and kind of screech about it. I mean, when your days kind of run together sometimes like mine do, a squirrel in your house can kind of ruin your day, but also add a little excitement.
4. I am completely and utterly inept at the business of pest control. I may like the "Brown Squirrel" song, but I don't ever want to get anywhere near them as they shake their bushy tails.
5. Never, and I mean never, underestimate what Jack Chaney can do with his hard hat, safety goggles, and a broom. If only I had a picture of that part of our Friday afternoon excitement...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Singing bird, flowing fountains

Kathy, one of my most faithful encouragers and recent traveler to the top of a Hawaiian volcano (isn't this picture amazing?), sent me an email on Thursday letting me know that I and the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" were on her heart and mind.

Of all the lyrics, "singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee" really stuck out to me.

Call me crazy, but all I could think about were my two kids. My singing bird? Anna Grace. My flowing fountain? Zeke's victory in potty training. He doesn't wear diapers- ever. Not even at night. It's amazing and wonderful. I'm thankful for flowing fountains of urine. Is that weird?

I guess I just have the mind of a mother.

But I'm dead serious. It causes me to rejoice in Jesus.

Not only that, but for the Father love reigning over me and Kathy- binding us together in a bond even death cannot break. I am so grateful.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.

May you find Joy today. Like my peculiar joy found at the toilet goes to show, it may be in the oddest or most ordinary place, but it's waiting for you just the same.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Picture of the Day

Proverbs 15:13 "A happy heart makes the face cheerful"

by Nora Greer

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is life really worth?

Here they are: Anna Grace and Benjamin age 5 and
Zeke and Samuel age 2.

My friend Lydia and I have been pregnant at the same time for about 80% of our gestational experiences thus far and so it has been a bit strange that we're not sharing the same physical manifestations of welcoming new life into the world this time around. In a way, I feel like I'm flying solo.

But even though she's not pregnant, she is. She's pregnant just as much as I am- waiting on the imminent adoption of her baby girl. For me, it's been a really different and almost strange experience waiting for news of Bethany's birth and I know for Lydia that it's making her a little bit crazy. At least I have a due date. She just has to wait.

Today, I was chatting with my friend and discussing the conundrum of how much money we're going to have shell out for the birth of our little Chaney. That's life with a high deductible HSA. In the midst of my schpeel, Lydia shared about what she has learned through fighting for Bethany by having to garner support and raise money for the expensive venture of taking in orphaned children.

She reminded me that Jesus told us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

It helped me take a step back and look at the proverbial big picture. It's going to cost us- lots of time and money and energy. But what is a life worth? We will endeavor to raise this child to know and love Jesus and in turn inherit a life that will eternally glorify God. A few thousand dollars is nothing in the long run. Neither is a string of sleepless months or a few years of having to deal with toddler tantrums.

Where is my treasure? What am I investing in?

When you think about investments, you think about your return- what kind of gains you might make or what kind of losses you might sustain.

In the short term, adding little family members can seem like a loss, but I don't want to be short-sighted. The return on this investment is eternal and it's all to the end of giving your life away, in love, to the One who gave it.

Malachi 2:15 "Didn't the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth." (NLT, emphasis mine)

For those of us in the place of being able to bring forth life, we do well to respond to the Spirit's nudges to give ourselves to the work of parenthood. But even if you're not in a place to have a baby, you're in a place to promote life. Check out Randy Bohlender's thoughts on the subject. It may not be all that comfortable and it may not make all that much sense to the world at large and admittedly even to me and my selfish tendencies, but the investment is going to pay off.

It's worth it.

Whether it's giving financially or breaking through administrative red tape or dealing with morning sickness, sometimes we just have to fight for life and know that every exhausting battle is worth it all.

Post Script: And sometimes you get your lawyer friend to pump you up for a gang-busters meeting with your OB's business office to advocate for your rights as an insurance carrying consumer. Turns out, there's lots of ways to fight for life. Thanks friends. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

My little helper



















Our little moments

Forget trick-or-treating... the party was enough!

I didn't get too many pictures of the big event because it was so bananas, but I think my little Native American birthday girl had a great time.

A few highlights of the event:
My friend Bethany has crazy-good cake-making skills. I just wish you could taste it through your computer screen. If you ever read this, my friend, thanks again! It was AMAZING!

Mario was just plain funny. That's my nephew Cavett. Anna Grace kept asking, "what's up with the belly?" I was SO glad that my both of my sisters and their families could make it.



This is the Southern Living owl that taunted me for about a day and a half. I worked so hard on him. Super cute idea with the Moon Pie and the open face Oreos and the candy corn but the problem is, they just didn't say on their stick. It may have worked in North Dakota, but not in the lovely South where the confectioner's glue warms to a humid 75 degrees. I tried, but let's face it- I'm not even close to a Martha Stewart wannabe. It's just the ugly truth. I don't think Anna Grace cared. So I shouldn't either.


The potato sack races were generally entertaining as was the pin-the-nose-on-the-pumpkin game. Crazy, but fun. Kind of the theme of the day.

Like I said, crazy but fun. I had so many more friends I wanted to invite, but I learned that you can only do so much when you have a party in your mom's front yard. I thought we did pretty well finding chairs for all 25 kids. Pretty amazing...

And I hear the Z man had a good time.

So there you have it. Anna Grace is five. Ka-stinkin-chow!

What a day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hoping


If you know me, you probably knew this was coming.

I miss my daddy.

Most especially, I just can't get over that my kids won't know him on this side of Jesus' return. I was talking to Anna Grace about him today and I just couldn't get over how she didn't know him- how I had to tell her that she would just love him. I see so much of his personality in her.

It was a busy day- a busy weekend for that matter. I didn't have much time to process anything.

But words of life and blessing and hope and love came through anyway- via calls and texts and emails and especially sweet whispers of love from my Father's heart to mine today.

Little things.

Like a beautiful blue sky, the fulfillment that comes with serving others, the laughter of my son, and watching my little girl dance and raise her arms while worshiping her King Jesus in the back of the church today.

It's been seven years now since I last saw my dad.

But somehow, while I watched Anna Grace dance, I knew that my God was very near. He always is. And He comes to give life- even in the places of my heart that ache the most.

In hope, I wait for Him.

May you also find hope in Him today.

Isaiah 35:10 "...gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."