One of the things I remember about Maggie Lee was her ability to see. To notice.
It was probably three years or so ago this fall when my three- or four-year-old Anna Grace bopped into church sporting a brown corduroy dress, pig tailed buns, and some brown cowgirl boots laced with pink flowers on a chilly fall morning. Maggie Lee's mom Jinny later told me how Maggie Lee had seen us walking into church and described the scene to her mom, telling her how cute my little girl looked.
It wasn't a big deal, but it was a small comment spoken by a big heart that SAW things.
So in that spirit, I thought it might be appropriate for me to remember Maggie Lee tomorrow by noticing beauty in the people around me and telling them about it. I plan on sending texts and emails, but I am also challenging myself to see one stranger and encourage them with a word of encouragement about the beauty they've been given by a God who made and loves them.
It's my Maggie Lee for Good 2010.
She encouraged my heart.
I plan on passing it forward.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
I'm sure that everyone wants to know what I thought about this year's pumpkins at the Pumpkin Shine (I've recently had to teach AG about sarcasm), so I thought I would pick some winners from this year's event.
Drum roll please.
Third place goes to Thing One and Thing Two. Because we're definitely on a Dr. Seuss kick at my house.
In second place comes the Camping Theme with giant Smores.
But the grand prize winner (and isn't being the winner on my blog prize enough?) is the Sushi Punkins. So creative.
Of course, I've got to give Anna Grace's Jungle Kids an honorable mention because who are we kidding... we're a little biased.
Props to Willie Nelson (actually props should go to Irving Berlin who wrote the song in 1926- I learned something new today- thanks Jennifer!). Blue eyes... I mean skies... is one of my favorite songs.
And now it will always remind me of one of my favorite babies.
Left to right: my dad, my aunt, my uncle. Children at home.
Certain things don't lend themselves well to being blog material. Things like car trouble, fear, parenting blunders, or personal shortcomings just don't come up very often on this little venue. But despite the fact that what I most frequently convey here is hope and love and smiling babies and beauty, my life is riddled with difficulties common to the human experience. Life is hard because we live in a fallen world that has not yet been made new.
It's hard for us all.
But in the middle of the difficult and confusing and fearful things of life, the Lord sends whispers of hope that remind us of His greatness and His redeeming love.
Yesterday's church service included an anthem by Stephen Paulus. The words washed over my heart:
"Even before we call on Your name To ask You, O God, When we seek for the words to glorify You, You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love, Surpassing all we know. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, And to the Holy Spirit.
Even with darkness sealing us in, We breathe your name, And through all the days that follow so fast, We trust in you
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace, Beyond all mortal dream. Both now and forever, And unto ages and ages. Amen."
His name is salvation (Acts 4:12, Romans 10:13).
Like the oxygen that gives life to my body, his name gives life to my soul at every passing minute.
With beaded dollar store clip on earrings, a fancy blue skirt, and two pink flowers gracing her golden head, Anna Grace reveled in milking a goat and riding on hay bales behind a tractor amidst animal poop and mud-covered pigs. She's such a juxtaposition, that AGC.
Ten of her girl friends met us at Jubilee Zoo and we had a blast celebrating her six years of full throttle life.
Of course, we made up a song about a hayride and generally had fancy yet dirty fun.
Sometimes she leaves me weary and sometimes she makes me crazy, but mostly she inspires me to live life with gusto.
Her choice, Jubilee Zoo, was fun. It was delightfully dirty and sweetly sweaty fun.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
Oh, to trust in him.
It's so very very good- especially considering I understand so very very little. There may be no good segue for the picture, but I was the photographer at soccer practice tonight, so if you're reading this in the morning, consider this your pep talk to tackle the day, acknowledging the Lord in all your ways and persevering on the path that He makes straight.
What a difference a year makes! She chose to dance again this year and is loving it. Sometimes she starts to complain about how hard it is, but then quickly catches herself and says how much she wants to learn how to dance because she knows I'm pulling her out in a heartbeat if she stops enjoying it. Her little legs seem to ache a little when it's over, but she has a singing and dancing soul and we both know it. Needless to say, parent observation day was fun.
I got to get my hands and my camera lens on my new nephew Alex today. He's four weeks old now and he's just as sweet as he looks. The baby grunts and the little toes and all things newborn just melt my heart.
And we got to love on William, too.
In fact, it was a lot of family togetherness. The picking up leaves in the front yard and sitting on the front porch kind of togetherness. I would say it was slow and easy, but nothing is really slow and easy with five small children around. But it was beautiful nonetheless.
In the weeks leading up to this weekend, I was unsure about whether I was making the right choice to leave my kids for a weekend away with my husband, brother, two sisters-in-law, and a brother-in-law to catch an Auburn football game in Alabama. I have a five-month-old baby, after all, and it's not exactly an easy gig to take care of the Chaney crew at this point.
There were a few instances of confirmation that this was right and good.
The first confirmation came when we got in the car with my little brother and his wife Amber. From the backseat, Jonny remarked that the last time he remembers us doing something together was the time we played frisbee golf down by the river. That hit me hard because that happened years ago. This reason alone was reason enough for it to settle it in my heart that this was meant to be. It's not that we haven't eaten many holiday meals together and even hung out at my house or talked, but to actually go and do something together that involves intensive interaction just hasn't happened in too long. And I really like my brother.
I'm just glad I didn't miss this.
My sister-in-law Amber comes in at reason number two this trip was a must-do. Amber is the Auburn fan of all Auburn fans and to be there for her first bite of a Momma's Love was fantastic. To see her shake that orange and blue shaker like it was her job was phenomenal. I love how she loves her Tigers and more than that, I love how she loves in general. It was worth it to build on the relationship and enjoy being sisters.
Third up is Kate. She was my let's-leave-the-game-in-the-third-quarter buddy (a mom's gotta pump when a mom's gotta pump) and we might have been as excited about our parking spot as we were about the free appetizer multiple touch downs we scored after we got a table at the Old Auburn Ale House. Victory!
Never a dull moment with my sister Kate! (or is she my sister-in-law? I've been asked so many times, I'm starting to get confused myself)
Fourth is Patrick, the newbie to the family. Just thinking about his impersonation of his Alabama Representative Holmes still makes me smile. Or maybe laugh- a lot. Either way, I love how he loves our Kate and I'm glad we're making memories together.
Of course, time with Jack sans kids is always treasured and my sweet husband wore his orange with great love.
We had a fantastic time.
And on the way home, I read Lydia's blog which really sealed the deal. The rejuvenation I get from a break from the kids might even been secondary to the special time that the kids get with their grandparents. Like Lydia points out, that time that they share is not just a perk, it's necessary and quite profoundly impacts our children and their hearts.
So yeah, I think I made the right decision.
I got to go back to the Alma Mater and cheer on my team, but much, much, much more than that, I got to give and receive love, building the bonds of family.
I had a dream once that the Lord was speaking the first few verses of the Gospel of John to me and all the while he was pointing to a wedding ring that he was holding in his hand. There was much more to the dream and to the story of the dream, but I was reminded of it this week during our Isaiah study in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).
The dream and what followed was transformational for me and as I've grown from there, I feel like I am starting to venture out ankle deep in the ocean of the love of God. I'm starting to see, if only in a very small way, the love He has for the world.
I've taken this venue (blogging) for granted- that I have the opportunity to freely proclaim the what a friend calls the big "G"- so tonight, I want you to know (you being the proverbial audience of I don't know who but God knows), that YOU are loved and YOU are being sought after and the Lord wants a relationship with YOU.
We have all fallen short of the glory of God and we are all sinners. But the GOOD NEWS is that God so loved YOU, the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.(John 3:16) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.(I John 1:9)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. NLT Romans 8:38-39