A Beautiful Girlhood Birthday Picnic (inspired, of course, by Nanny McPhee Returns) – Part Two

So, like I was saying in yesterday’s very important and explanatory post, on a Tuesday afternoon in early June, Rebekah’s siblings and a handful of beloved cousins departed to a remote and mysterious location, laying down a trail of flowers for her to follow to her picnic party.

Here they are again, in case you forgot how cute they looked. Please excuse my daddy’s ugly trackhoe…and backhoe…and tractor…in the background. They were NOT invited to the party, but they came anyway.

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About fifteen minutes later, my husband and I gave Rebekah her basket and informed her, with great melodrama and gravitas, that there was a trail of flowers for her to collect that would lead her to her party. Once every flower was picked up, not only would she be at her surprise you-know-what (pssst! “picnic”), she would be a “big girl”.

Daggnabit, I’m ’bout to cry again.

Stop looking at me. Here. Look at these pictures instead.

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"The Flower Path to Girlhood" - a rite of passage birthday party

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“The Flower Path to Girlhood”. I might have to frame this one.

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Gasp! I see a picnic up ahead!

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Now, before I show you the rest of our celebration, I’ll show you some pics Amy took of the party set-up before the guests arrived. To have a “Nanny McPhee” inspired picnic, all you really need is a wheat field, some quilts, some baskets, some potted plants, a miniature picnic table, a lot of food, some old furniture, some metal chairs and a thousand antique dishes. That’s all. But especially the wheat field.

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Our menu included fried chicken, biscuits, little mason jars of fruit salad, a basket of Gala apples (Rebekah’s favorite), chocolate pie, miniature apple, strawberry and blackberry pies, and homemade ice cream.

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To wet our whistles, we had lemonade, sweet tea and a little pitcher of water with sliced strawberries.

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Now, a word on these fantastic little drinking vessels. I noticed some very similar to these in the Nanny McPhee Returns movie, and, just happening to have a giftcard burning a hole in my purse, I went posthaste to Anthropologie to buy some of my own. Fortuitously, these glasses in my cabinets will now serve two purposes, 1. to hold thirst-quenching liquids and 2. to remind me of the day my 5-year old became a “big girl”. Oh, great. Now I’m going to cry again. Good thing I have these gorgeous glasses to catch my tears. (Click on the photo to find these glasses at Anthropologie!)

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This is skipping ahead a little, but speaking of drinks, I really liked the contraption my mom came up with the pour the tea into some glass bottles we brought along…

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it’s not every day that you find a lady with an antique enamel funnel laying around.

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Now, a series of food pictures. A bucket o’ glasses o’ fruit salad!

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apples!

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fried chicken!

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biscuits!

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pies!

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pies with hearts in the middle?! (Nice touch, mama).

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But, enough with the still-lifes. Let’s get back to the party! The flowers had all been collected…

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and it was time to par-tay.

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Now I have to interrupt this series of party pictures for a funny announcement. See this little boy eating an apple?

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This one right here?

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He’s about to lose a tooth.

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Ta-da!

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But wait, that’s not all! A couple of minutes later, Gideon’s cousin, Anna, ALSO lost a tooth!

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It must have been all those apples.

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In a funny twist, the apples that helped the big kids lose their teeth brought relief to Baby Shepherd who is GROWING teeth. Apples are hilarious!

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And, while we’re on the subject of apples, here’s my nephew, Abel, enjoying one, too…

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But, enough about them apples. Back to the party!

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After everyone had eaten to their belly’s content, we brought out the pie, Rebekah’s favorite, Grandmother’s chocolate meringue pie. This also happens to be MY favorite pie, so thank you, Rebekah. (And thank you, Grandmother!!)

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I think this next picture is funny because I was so beside myself as we lit the candles, thinking that Rebekah was probably also beside herself with excitement, when actually she was, you know, yawning and messing with her dress. Birthdays schmirthdays.

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Now, may I interrupt this party to tell you a little story about the stuffed piggies who attended our party? The following is from a Facebook status I shared back in June:

“A birthday story…

For Christmas, I impulsively bought a little stuffed pig for Rebekah’s stocking that was at the check-out counter at Pottery Barn Kids. It was on sale, and it was just sitting there looking at me, and Rebekah has this thing for pigs, so…I snatched it up and gave it to her for Christmas.

It turned out to be her favorite gift, and the two have been inseparable. She named her “Oinky” and it is the first thing she wants when she is sad. She LOVES that little piggy!

Last week, Rebekah’s Sunday School teacher approached me and told me that, when she asked her what she’d like for her birthday, Rebekah answered “a mama for Oinky so she’ll have someone to take care of her when I’m gone”.

Long story kind of short, we started looking, and there just so happened to be a mama-sized Oinky available at Amazon. We ordered it, and when Rebekah arrived at her class this morning, it was hiding in a birthday giftbag for her from Miss Linda.

When Rebekah pulled that big ol’ pig out of the bag, her face went through three levels of surprise before she could get a word out! “A mama for Oinky!!” she squealed (NOT like a pig). “I have to show her!!”

Together, we ran to the pew outside her Papa’s office where Oinky was hanging out with Baby Shep in his carseat.

I hid Oinky behind my back.

She hid “Piggy” (aka mama pig) behind her back…

“One…two…three…” we said, and we pulled the piggies out of hiding so they could meet.

I have to say, it was a pretty precious reunion.

Did they hug?

No.

Kiss?

No.

Rebekah grabbed Oinky and immediately settled him in to nurse.

Which, after having four little piglets of my own, is pretty much exactly how those first meetings go.”

All that to say, it was such a joy to have both Piggy and Oinky at our party. They were our honored guests!

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And the rest of our evening was spent just running around, snacking, playing, laughing, eating homemade ice cream, and getting bit by ticks. Simple, country fun, the best there is, and I am so happy that Amy and her kids could be in town on this beautiful afternoon to celebrate with us.

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As the peaceful evening wrapped to a close, Rebekah mozied back to the house with her basketful of flowers in her hand and a memorable rite-of-passage evening in her heart.

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She was a big girl now, and I could finally go to sleep that night feeling that the occasion had been appropriately memorialized.

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Happy Birthday, Rebekah Sunday! May your “beautiful girlhood” be as lovely as your golden hair, your Nanny-McPhee-Returns-inspired picnic and your favorite pink dress. Now quit makin’ me cry, you little stinker! You’re not allowed to turn 5, ever again, and that’s an order.

A Beautiful Girlhood Birthday Picnic (inspired, of course, by Nanny McPhee Returns)

So.

Who is PUMPED for some birthday party posts?!

This is going to be totally out of order, but I can’t wait any longer to share this particular party with you, so it gets to go first. But first, a tiny bit of backtracking…

As my eldest daughter’s 5th birthday approached, I found myself in alternating states of distress and bewilderment.

Still sinking under a lingering postpartum fog, I just could not get it together! My brain was kaput and, two weeks before her June birthday, I still hadn’t nailed down much of anything. State Fair party? Pretty picnic party? Lots of guests? Just the cousins? Meal? Just dessert? Presents? No presents?

I DON’T KNOW!!!!!

I was so heavily annoying myself that I can’t imagine what a bother I was being to my husband, my mom and my party-planning soulmate and sister-in-law, Amy, for not a day went by that I wasn’t discussing and hemming and hawing over what we were or weren’t going to do. It was sincerely obnoxious.

Finally, for the love of Pinterest, after flipping and flopping and switching and swapping, Rebekah’s 5th birthday extravaganza did me a favor and seemingly planned itself for me with a crazy-busy weekend:

On Friday, we attended Abigail’s 10-year old Kit Kittredge party (more on that later!) and stayed the night. Honestly? This would have been enough of a party for Rebekah. We could have put a candle on her piece of cake, sang her the birthday song and called it a day.

On Saturday, we popped over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house in OKC and spent the day swimming. This, too, would have been enough of a party for Rebekah, especially when she saw the giant “Frozen” balloons her Grandma bought as decorations.

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On Sunday morning (her actual birthday), before we left for Sunday School, we had a sweet little breakfast in the sunroom together. Again, this would have been enough of a party.

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On Sunday evening, we celebrated with our church friends after prayer services by sharing the cake Rebekah had been DREAMING of for an entire year: chocolate with chocolate icing, chocolate chips, marshmallows and M&Ms. This was all for her, a true gift from me (making bizarre custom cakes is not my love language), but when she saw it and thanked me over and over again, I had to admit it was completely worth is.

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And SERIOUSLY. I truly could have stopped there and it would have been a fun, blessed family-and-friends-filled weekend of celebratory birthdayness, MORE than enough for anyone, especially a FIVE-year old.

But you guys know me by now.

I needed to have just one more little party, not so much for Rebekah, but for me.

You see, we’d been zipping all over the place all weekend, bookending her birthday around church services, and I just needed to steal another day to celebrate my daughter.

Because, in my heart, birthdays are not just about my children. They’re about commemorating the days when our entire family’s life changed forever. This is big stuff we’re celebrating! And so it is an important personal ritual for me to meditate on the gifts of my children by sweating like a mule while I haul furniture and decorations all over the countryside to host a party that matches up with all the sentimentality of my heart. It’s what I want to do and what I need to do and what I like to do.

And so I did it.

And it turned out to be one of the sweetest days of my life.

The inspiration for this day sprang entirely from one of my favorite movies, “Nanny McPhee Returns”. I am so captivated by the Nanny McPhee movies, but the second one in particular is extremely dear to me. I love the set, the costumes, the scenery, the story, the casting and, did I mention the costumes? I die.

And every time I watched it and observed the family’s celebratory picnic in their wheat field, my heart swelled up with this longing to follow suit.

Well, with a very special birthday to celebrate and the perfect pink dress hanging in our closet, the time was right! Watching the movie once more and taking extra notice of the details, I made a few purchases and, added to a mountain of stuff I gathered from my own house, the perfect scene was set for our own Nanny McPhee picnic.

But, you guys, what really tickled me the most about our evening had to be the “Beautiful Girlhood” theme that sprang upon us at the last minute, adding a sweet rite-of-passage element to this party that nearly bowled me over. I could share all the details of how it came about and how it all centered around a heavily-discounted flower-picking basket that we stumbled upon at Williams Sonoma, but I’ll spare you and just tell you what we did:

After spending much of the day setting up in the surprise (and rather remote) location while the kids played in my parents’ backyard and my mom cooked up a storm, we all started getting gussied up in our Nanny McPhee inspired clothing.

Once everyone was dressed, Mr. Gore, Rebekah and I stayed at the house while the rest walked to the party and dropped a trail of flowers along the way that would lead Rebekah to them.

Twenty minutes later, with the flower-gathering basket on her arm, the three of us prepared to depart down (and go ahead and make fun of me) “THE FLOWER PATH TO GIRLHOOD”. Getting down on my knees, I looked into my 5-year-old daughter’s eyes and told her that, once she collected every flower, she would not only be at her surprise party in the woods, she would be a “big girl”.

Oh, man. Call me silly, call me sentimental, call me melodramatic, I don’t care, for, other than my wedding walk down the aisle, this was one of the sweetest and most meaningful walks I have taken! Not to mention that it fully captured the fancy of our girl who is entering the world of “beautiful girlhood” right before our eyes.

Sniffle, sniffle.

I’m so pleased to share our party with you today and, with it, the reminder that life is beautiful and so worth celebrating.

~

One of the biggest parts of this party was the clothes.

Rebekah’s girlhood has centered so much around this dress, for which I am forever indebted to my sister-in-law, Amy, who gave it to us after we accidentally stole it out of her dress up box. (Long story, but THANK YOU, Amy).

Vintage Gunne Sax, it makes Rebekah feel so beautiful and she wears it about every other day.

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I curled her hair with a curling iron (first time!) and I let her borrow my floral metal headband from Anthropologie…

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There is no doubt that much of her joy on this day had to do with how her dress and hair made her feel pretty and celebratory.

We all need days like that, don’t you think?

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And I was so thrilled by everyone’s clothes! One thing I love about my mom and Amy is that they “get me” and, never making me feel stupid, they just show up in the perfect ensembles to please my silly eyes and heart.

While I put some last-minute things together, Amy took some fun pictures of the kids in front of the corn crop.

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Finally, after a day of hard work and preparation, the hour had arrived.

Whisking Rebekah inside the house, her siblings and cousins fulfilled their task and began laying down the trail of flowers…

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and…

I’ll show you the rest tomorrow. :)

What A Day That Will Be

As my 2-year old Betsie would say, “Oh derr…”

Things are about to get all sentimental up in here.

The baby has left my tummy, and though it might make me sound a bit dramatic, I am already reconnecting to the old Mrs. Gore…

the one who really likes people and loves life and enjoys playing with my children and also the one who cries at beautiful things.

Not to be confused with Small Elephant who just cries at…things.

Like, seriously. Inanimate objects. Scents. Plants. Anything.

And my heart is light with relief, and delightfully heavy with an awareness of what I’ve been given, not just for this vapor of a life, but for eternity. Because He is good, I am so sure that God will save my children, and though my prayers for them are desperate, they are also confident. I think I will be with them forever, in the Eden we could have/should have/would have lived in were our hearts not so wicked and prone to wander…

and I rejoice in this knowledge.

But I live in a pilgrim’s body, with a pilgrim’s heart and a pilgrim’s understanding, and the dying part of me acutely feels the passing of each day we have on this earth together…

Even though I hope and believe in eternity, I long for it as if it doesn’t exist. And when I hold my newborn baby boy, a part of me praises God for the forever Kingdom we will be a part of, while another part of me mourns for this transient and blink-of-an-eye life that I can so tangibly feel in my arms and see with my eyes.

It passes so quickly, and the joys and beautiful moments and triumphs from which I would drink so deeply slip by as I scramble, wide-eyed, trying to hold on, trying to remember, trying to cling to the shadow rather than to the hope, and I am reminded over and over again that I am far too sinful and far too stupid to properly understand this great, big, mysterious, overwhelming life.

Holding Baby Shepherd…

it’s like holding Baby Gideon all over again.

6 and 1/2 years since the day my eldest and I were born into a mother/son relationship, 6 1/2 years since my soul was awakened to the nurturing fire of motherhood, 6 1/2 years since my feet were set on a path to dying more and loving more and feeling more and wanting less…

and as I breathe deeply of the sweetly indescribable scent of new life and baby lotion and as I feel once more that velvety soft baby skin underneath my chin, those 6 1/2 years of memories dance wildly about in my mind, causing me to cry, causing me to laugh, causing me to pray.

There are no words, really. Just silent meditations. Wordless pleas. Whispers of thanks. And maternal cries for help to survive the heartbreak of seeing them grow.

Gideon…

Rebekah…

Betsie…

and now Shepherd.

I would hold each of you just as you are for an eternity.

I would go back to any day in our history and stay there forever.

I would journey with you to our future and never leave your side.

And so I entrust us all to God, for safekeeping, knowing that one day our faith really will be made sight. The pilgrim will be gone. The citizen will be born. The mysteries will be revealed.

And we will rest in the place that our hearts have longed for since the day we first met.

“What a day, glorious day that will be…”

Mr. and Mrs. Gore: The Blushing Years (Part 1)

dedicated to my husband

~

How does  one sum up the most important moments and events in their memory?

How can I possibly convey the beauty of a story that is really commonplace…people fall in love every day…but paramount in my own life? An event that set my feet on a path that I never could have dreamed of?

The task of retelling my love story is daunting, as it includes a hundred glances, thousands of moments blurring into days blurring into years, a depth of feeling that is unfathomable, and yet it is the billionth verse of the same song that people have been singing since the beginning of time…

We met, we fell in love, we married.

Nothing new.

But so very new to me…

I distinctly remember the first time I laid eyes on him. I was a cheerleader, standing in my usual spot on the football field, doing what I remember doing most of my high school years, constantly moving, and laughing. How I miss that energy…when I think about the girl I was just twelve short years ago, I see a girl who hardly sat still and who thought everything was throw-my-head-back-and-laugh hilarious.

I had one friend who inspired most of that laughter, who on game nights disappeared into a mascot uniform and took her place next to me on the field, persistently slaying me with her slapstick body language and witty comments. We were caricatures of a cheerleader and mascot, making fun by throwing ourselves into our respective roles with major gusto and exaggeration. Spirit fingers were our favorite.

Anyway, it was just a typical gamenight, Danielle and I cutting up and making those spirit fingers…until I looked up and saw a “new boy” following my youth minister up the ramp to our elevated bleachers. His shirt was namebrand, Tommy Hilfiger to be exact, his hair was red and curly (my Mom’s favorite) and I was immediately smitten.

Now before you melt into the floor at my love-at-first-sight retelling of our story, let me fess up and tell you that, at the time, I was smitten with anyone of the opposite sex, especially at first sight. I was not the brightest bulb in the something (see, I can’t even get cliches right), nor was I the most discerning. I. loved. boys.

Especially this one.

“Danielle,” I exhaled, grasping her arm with my slender and well-groomed teenager fingers. “Who is that?!”

I watched his ascent up the ramp as if a spotlight had landed upon him, illuminating his newness, his spectacular hair and the chiseled structure of his ruddy face, and the royal blue-and-white checkered-print on his shirt.

And for the remainder of the football game, my eyes involuntarily flitted to where he sat at least every five seconds. I couldn’t help it; I was dyin’ to know who this stranger was and what he was doing in my neck of the woods.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to find out…

For just hours later, in our church’s youth building, I sat on the floor alongside my youth group and many young people from the town, listening to this young man preach at our post-game Bible Study.

Any interest that had been piqued at the football game was now a full-fledged crush, for not only was he cute as a button, he was Southern Baptist, and even better, he was a preacher, conveniently meeting every major characteristic on my list of standards.

And if you think I’m talking about a proverbial list, then you don’t know Southern Baptist girls. We ALL had a list, a real one, tucked away in some special hidden place, with the must-have characteristics of our future husbands written out, in order of priority.

We’ll ogle over and flirt with anybody (I’m looking at you, Justin Timberlake), but when it comes to marriage, that list is law.

And so my heart was officially atwitter.

Sadly, I didn’t see the young Mr. Gore again until many months later at our church’s Spring Break retreat in Oklahoma City, where we were joined by another church…

but not just any another church.

Mr. Gore’s home church.

By this time I had solved the mystery of why he had come to our small town in the first place: my youth minister, Mat, was previously his youth minister and mentor, and the two were very close friends. And even though Mr. Gore was now a college freshman at Oklahoma Baptist University and no longer in his church’s youth group, I had my fingers crossed that he would make an appearance at some point during the week.

And oh, did he.

He was just as precious and funny and breathtaking as he had been in the Fall, causing those initial feelings of admiration I experienced when I first saw him to clench themselves into my heart and dig a little deeper.

In that half-week retreat, he went from being someone I had seen once and found attractive to being the boy who dominated my daydreams and made my heart pound in my chest. I was as smitten as ever, but for real this time, and almost exclusively. (What? A girl needs more than a week to be cured of boy craziness…).

Therefore, I am loathe to admit that Mr. Gore still did not know I existed. He has no memory of my being at that retreat or ever meeting me (even though we had a riveting one-minute discussion on why Honey Nut Cheerios trumped all other cereals!) which really just eats my lunch, for two reasons:

1. I was in no way used to not being noticed, and

2. I was painfully aware of him, each moment spent near him adding to my interest and my desire to know him better.

Which, praise be to God, eventually came just  a few months later…

~

Part Two, coming soon to Mrs. Gore’s Diary

The Weekend Confinement of Small Elephant

We had a bit of a scare on Friday morning.

I’ll spare you the specific details, but all of a sudden, our morning plans of a jaunt to the local library were exchanged for several nervous hours at the walk-in clinic of our doctor’s office.

And as I’ve discovered with most pregnancy situations, the symptoms I was experiencing could be perfectly normal…or dismally grave. As much as I love and employ the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, the thesis of its contents sometimes seems to be that “every pregnancy and every facet of every pregnancy is different…you never know…check with your doctor….you could be fine…or you could be dying.”

But once in an exam room, after finally locating our little peanut on the ultrasound screen, we all (including the doctor, I think) heaved a great sigh of relief to see that little heartbeat flickering just as it should be, and after giving us the best report we could have hoped for, I was sent home to “take it easy” and wait things out over the weekend.

It is now Saturday afternoon, and I am happy to report that, for now, all seems to be well, and that scary situation that took place on Friday morning has happened no more.

Am I “out of the woods”?

Well…no.

And not because I am necessarily still afraid I might be miscarrying, but because I became painfully (and yet happily) aware of a reality yesterday morning that I had failed to understand before: Friday was no different than any other day. Just because I was faced with the slight possibility of losing my baby did not change the fact that, if God wants me to have this baby, I’m going to have this baby. I might have been excruciatingly aware of the delicate balance between life and death, afraid to move or breathe for fear of upsetting it, but nothing had really changed from the hundreds of days before this one.

Such is the unseen truth that surrounds our comings and goings every day of our life. We are never “out of the woods” when it comes to possible sicknesses, losses, death…but then again, we are ever and always held fast in the palm of God’s hand. As the great missionary John Paton put it, “Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done.” If we really believe what the Bible says, we, too, must adopt the theology that we (and our children) are immortal until our work is done.

This brought me great comfort, and I realized that my fears that day were not based on whether or not God was in control, but on what He was going to ask of me, and although I was still discouraged by my erratically beating heart and my nerve-clenched stomach in the face of the unknown, I was so happy to note the spiritual growth that has taken place in my life since my last traumatic experience…

for it wasn’t too very long ago that I frequently displayed (by my fears and anxieties and my panicked speech) that I didn’t really believe God was in control at’all.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the day was saturated with obvious grace. On our long drive to the clinic, Mr. Gore and I prayed together. Comically, our routine (per my request) is for me to pray first and then for him to follow and “clean it up”.  But as I prayed, I began to note the seeming coincidences that were lining our day…

1. My Mom had been planning on taking the kids and me to the library at 9:00, so she was at our house early, dressed, and inexplicably armed with a bag of paperwork that she needed to work on. Mr. Gore met her at the sidewalk to explain our situation, and 20 minutes later, we were on our way, hearts at rest knowing our kids would be in good hands regardless of what our day held.

2. Our servant-hearted friend, Kodi, on hearing that I’ve been having nightly bouts of “morning sickness” starting at about 5:00 p.m., kindly offered to take our kids one night this week and make us supper. We had originally scheduled for Tuesday, but when something came up, we switched to Friday. Again, our hearts were at rest as we drove to the doctor, knowing that our kids would have a fun evening at Kodi’s house, and that our supper would be taken care of.

3. And then we could have gone on and on about how God was obviously taking care of us: Mr. Gore was not out of town. Mr. Gore has a flexible job that allows him to take me to the doctor should the need arise. This happened on the morning of a Friday, giving us the freedom to make it to the doctor rather than being anxious all weekend…

I could continue, but the conclusion of our prayer was this: your kindness and grace in caring for us so fully, God, gives us faith that you will continue to care for us. We so badly want to have this baby, but we trust your Word and we can tell that you love us, and so we know you will only do what is best. We’ve been learning in church how grace and peace are often coupled together, because when we contemplate the great grace of God and focus on what He has done and is doing, our hearts will be at peace concerning the future. I am an extremely weak vessel, and so “tremulous” was still the state of my being as we sat in that exam room, but at the heart of me, the truth was ringing that God would be faithful to us, no matter what. I share these things as a memorial for my family and for my own forgetful heart. May we never forget how good He has been.

Well, as I said, things are looking extremely optimistic, and in the meantime, I have been perched ever-so-elegantly in my king-sized bed, sometimes laying on my left side, sometimes laying on my right side, sometimes sitting cross-legged on my bum, but always with several sources of entertainment nearby, along with a variety of tempting foods and beverages. My Mom has been my faithful nurse, laundress, nanny, housekeeper and cook, my friends have blessed me with childcare and yummy foods, my church has encouraged me to tears with tender sentiments and prayers, and I am feeling incredibly blessed, regardless of the fact that Friday was one of the scariest days of my life.

And, as ever, I have found in my little family a sweet source of encouragement and entertainment to get me through the weekend.

My firstborn crept into bed yesterday afternoon before going to Kodi’s house and asked me if I was feeling okay. When I asked him to pray for me, he took both of my hands in his and said, so solemnly, “Dear God, please make it easy for Mama to have her baby. And if you don’t make it easy, we’ll just come back and ask you again to make it easy.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks by the time he finished his sweet and tender prayer, but he has grown so accustomed to seeing this evidence of my sentimental heart that he doesn’t even mention it anymore.

Miss Sunday has, not surprisingly, been less tender in her ministrations, and, donning her nurse pinafore and armed with her trusty doctor’s bag, shoved mini marshmallow “pills” into my mouth and barked at anyone who came near her “patient”. Still yet, if I am ever forced to go out into battle, I want that girl at my side.

And sweet Baby Betsie toddles in every so often and brightens my room with her nonsensical chatter and her frequent hugs and kisses.

I mustn’t paint too idyllic a picture, however, and will confess that when all three are here at the same time, I feel the urge to flee from my “sickbed”.

I would never envy the life of an invalid, but for this weekend at least, there has been a silver lining in my unexpected confinement: being loved, knowing God better, resting my body and my mind…

and I’ll confess, having hot food delivered straight into my hands whenever I want it is pretty near to heaven, especially for a ravenous pregnant woman.

But most of all, I am praising God that, for today, my little baby #4 is still with us, enjoying the sweet blessings of love and home and family.

~

Want to read more on the extraordinary life of John Paton? Click here.

On Location and Feeling Grateful

This is Mrs. Gore, coming to you LIVE once more, from, that’s right…Panera Bread.

Mr. Gore, looking studious with his navy blue cardigan and handsome with his new haircut (courtesy of yours, truly)  is sitting across from me with his Elders in Congregational Life book, pen in hand, cinnamon crumb cake and Horizon Organic milk with a sippy straw nearby. We’ve really got to get this guy hooked on coffee.

And I’m just feeling quite grateful, in general, but quite specifically for you. That’s right, you, the one who takes time to bop over to Mrs. Gore’s Diary and read the words that I stay up late – or ignore my children for during the day – to type.

Gid the Kid is growing into no-nap territory…each day is a toss-up as to whether or not he will crash before the day’s end or not…but we still have him go upstairs to lay down after lunch. Today, he called me upstairs 6 or 7 times to see quite useless things – the way his racecar can flip off the bed, the pile of animals stacked precariously atop his stuffed Batman toy, the -

…excuse me, a new piping hot vat of Hazelnut was just put out…

Oh yeah. That’s some good stuff.

But where was I? Gideon. So he calls me upstairs all the time to see all kinds of random things that I have to force myself to get excited about.

And that made me think of me and you.

Hey guys, wanna see pictures of Gideon’s birthday party?

Guess what I’m thinking about right this minute, everybody?

Do you want to know what I got for Christmas? Its awesome.

And I publish it here and I share it on facebook and I pin it on Pinterest and I call my Mom and ask if she saw it and if she talked to Aunt Bea about it and what she thought and I check back a hundred times a day to see if anyone ‘liked’ it or left comments about it and how many people read and it and where they were from and what time it was when they read it.

I’m like Gideon, constantly feeling the need to share the mundane with someone who cares.

Thank you, for caring.

I need you in my life, just like Gideon needs his Mama.

This cup of coffee I’m drinking? It is totally in your honor.

Mother Hen Goes to the Hospital

~ written on the monumental day of Miss Sunday’s first and hopefully last surgery ~

Sure it was a “minor surgery”. But it was MAJOR to me…

So this morning at 4:00, I woke up, showered, fixed my coffee, put on my make-up, ate some yogurt and raspberries, and silently carried her to the car as the rest of the town lay sleeping.

By 6:00 a.m., we were sitting in the hospital waiting room, her legs straddling my waist, her sleep-mussed hair tickling my chin as she alternated between laying her head on my chest and looking up and leaning back to talk to me and her Papa in that high-pitched voice that has been mesmerizing and entertaining us for these 2 sweet years. My heart was much calmer than I could ever have guessed, proof that God answers our prayers when we trust Him to fight our innermost battles alongside us. Worry and doubt have been my longtime frenemies and this looming (and very minor) surgery has been the perfect opportunity to show them that they no longer have dominion over me. Except for when they do.

The highlight of our waiting room visit was when another little girl came into the waiting room with her family, also wearing her pajamas, also toting a humongous stuffed horse, also dragging a beloved pink blanket behind her and also looking to be the tender age of 2 or 3. Rebekah, of course, had to go and say “hello” and “I like your horse’s pink nose.” Which I think really means “I adore you and think we should be best friends forever.” Too bad we forgot to get her number…

And just like that we were in the prep area, dressing our doll-baby in a miniature tiger-printed hospital gown, donning her feet with slip-resistant socks, bathing her in our silent and constant prayers as we touched her and kissed her and held her close at every possible opportunity. True to form, she charmed the entire prep room, conversing with each nurse and doctor and anesthesiologist that stopped to talk to us, happy to do what we asked of her, completely unaware of the pain and trauma that awaited her.

And miracle upon miracles, the food- and drink-lover who asks for milk or orange juice or water or tea or goldfish or marshmallows or grapes or apples or crackers or raisins or fruit snacks or pizza every five minutes never even mentioned the fact that she was hungry or thirsty, even though her last bite and sip had taken place early the night before. My heart was so relieved, even as it continued to dread hearing her oft-uttered statement of “I’m hungwy”.

Soon it was time for her to drink what the staff called “happy juice” (not to be confused with “bug juice”…sorry, Rebekah) to ease her into surgery mode. Within five minutes, she was stumbling all over the place and singing a made-up song titled “we say yes, ma’am!” That special juice did the trick, and moments later, she was unblinkingly being loaded up into an old-fashioned red wagon with her big stuffed horsey and her crocheted pink covers and being carted off, taking a weighty and much-needed piece of my heart with her. Grandpa and Grandma – who drove from OKC the night before and stayed in a hotel close to the hospital – were admitted back just in time to kiss her goodbye.

“Rebekah!” I exclaimed. “You look like you’re in a parade!” She grinned, even as her head swayed in drunkenness and began to wave at everyone we passed, bringing smiles to each face. But behind my smile was a veil of tears, and a barely-suppressed urge to snatch her out of that wagon and take her home, crooked and unusable finger and all.

I followed behind her to the surgery door, and just as she disappeared from sight, she turned around, hospital cap crowning her strawberry blonde wisps of hair, pink pacifier in her mouth, yellow gown ribbons tied just below the nape of her neck and midway down her back and she waved at me, her Precious Moments-shaped blue eyes looking at me dolefully like the cutest puppy that ever graced the hospital hallway.

I blew her a kiss.

She blew one back.

And I took a picture of her with my mind that I put in my keepsake box of painfully precious memories.

“Rebekah!” my heart cried. And the doors shut between us.

The next hour or so was not as bad as I thought it would be – one of my dear friends who works at the hospital sent us an occasional update – and my father- and mother-in-law kept us well-distracted by their company. Our quiet discussion was interspersed with my nervous laughter, and many, many deep breaths as I begged my heart to believe the mantra I had repeated for the last 3 weeks: “God MADE her. God LOVES her more than I do. God HAS A PLAN for her life.” But when I heard the name “Rebekah Gore” called from the front desk, I leapt up, even as my feet suctioned themselves to the ground. What would await us? Was this good news? Or was it the morbidly tragic scene that had been haunting my ridiculous imagination for weeks?

My desire to see her again propelled me forward…

and then I heard her crying.

I could no longer see or hear anyone else as I followed her voice through a door and a hallway. I came upon a small glassed-in room where lots of commotion was taking place, and as my eyes fixed on it, praise God, I saw her, surrounded by a company of nurses, thrashing on a hospital bed, coming awake from anesthesia and morphine in confusion and fear and pain and discomfort. She was ripping at the tight and bulky dressing now cloaking her entire left hand, screaming “Get it off! Get if off!”

The staff had prepared me for this, as had my facebook friends. This was the worst part, everyone said, as children do not wake well from drug-induced sleeps and stupors.

But, sweet life abundant, before I knew it, they had me seated in a rocking chair, the 36 irresistible lbs of toddler flesh I had been craving to hold settled right in my lap where she belonged. It didn’t matter so much to me that she was out of her mind or even that she might be hurting. She was with me once more. She was breathing. For crying out loud, she was bossing!

I had my Rebekah – a tangible representation of so much light and so much hope – for another day on this earth. And Mother Hen was happy and thankful and breathed another huge sigh of relief.

We spent the next two hours sitting in that recovery cubicle waiting for our drugged-up baby to wake up so we could go home. A heavy dose of morphine completely knocked her out, and we saw many other patients – including our 3-year old friend – come and go before our little girl was cognizant enough to get a release form. In the meantime, I got a generous glimpse of what Mr. Gore and my Mom have spent years of their lives enduring as they try to wake me up in the mornings – sassy, sloppy, incoherent behavior – as Miss Sunday would flutter her eyelids open to mutter at us (including a pointed request to “leave me alone!”) before falling heavily over in mouth-agape sleep.

(And oh my heavens, does hospital breath stink. My darling daughter positively reeks of surgery and hospital and this Mother Hen cannot wait to scrub her down in a nice warm bubble bath).

And can you believe this? Mrs. Gore did not cry all day long, not until tonight, that is, when I held Miss Sunday close against my heart as she watched cartoons and a near mountain of gratitude and relief came crashing down in my soul, as well as a sobering reminder that today was only one measly day of survival in our pilgrimage through this fallen and depraved world.

Stepping heavenward we are. And oh, is it bittersweet. Tastes of Eden and perfection and absolute beauty lift us up and cause us to soar through this life, all while dangers, toils and snares daily surround us on every side. The Spirit speaks inerrant and resonating truth to our hearts while the “old man” inside of us continues to rail against the narrow way to life.  And Mother Hen continues on her journey, sheltering her chicks under her wings while begging the God of the universe to continue to show her family grace and mercy.

But the moral of the story? By the grace of God, she survived her first surgery.

And so did Miss Sunday.

Mother Hen has never been so happy to be back in her nest.

The Gift of a Still, Small Voice

We Christians worship the Creator of the world, who is manifested in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

I had the stupidest idea of who the Spirit of God was until this year.

I used to think that He was some invisible ghost-like figure who roamed the aisles of the church at invitation-time, begging folks to come forward and say the “sinner’s prayer”. I thought He could be easily scared away (a.k.a. “quenched”) when the microphones messed up during my pre-sermon “special music” or when the electricity went off during the most emotional climax of a sermon. I thought that He was there to help me to “witness” door-to-door, so long as I got the words right and asked all the questions on my “Share Jesus Without Fear” card in their proper order. I thought, in short, that He was sensitive. That I had some kind of control over His ability. That He was…tiny.

Boy was I wrong.

This year, this “tiny” Holy Spirit of God pulled out the big guns and blew my ridiculous theology to smithereens.

He has, by the grace of God, revealed to me who is who in this relationship.

And guess what?…

Mrs. Gore is the tiny one.

I used to try so hard to cultivate Christian growth in my life. We had lists, you know. Each Christian needed a daily quiet time, a daily prayer time, an accountability partner, a journal, weekly church attendance, and a scripture memory chart. We would check them off if we accomplished them and berate ourselves if we didn’t. I would never try to downplay the importance of those Christian disciplines – they are all good things, after all – but I had it so backwards. My devotion to all of the above was about as deep as Baby Betsie’s bathwater. Two or so days a week, I would get “serious” and sit with my Bible, struggling over what to read. I would try to pray through the ACTS prayer, devoting two minutes to each subject. I would memorize a stack of scripture verses written on organized note cards that I would misplace a month later…

I worked “so hard!” to be a good Christian. And the saddest thing is that my best efforts were actually quite lackadaisical and puny.

It was when we moved to Kentucky that things really began to change for me. All of a sudden, by the sweet grace of God, the girl who thought she had it all figured out found herself kinda speechless.

Was it the outstanding expository preaching and teaching that did it? Was it marriage to a godly shepherd and question-answerer? Was it simply my time to be on the receiving end of God’s amazing grace?…

I don’t know. Maybe all of the above, with a strong emphasis on the last one.

But what I do know is, I have been changed.

It used to frustrate me so much that I didn’t love to read my Bible on my own. I would struggle over it, I would cry over it, I would try new methods, new devotional books, new schedules. And then Chris gave me some advice one day as we sat in our tiny seminary apartment that has changed everything about the way I do this Christian life. He said “pray and ask God to give you a love for His Word.”

Come again? That was so simple! And yet it was so ridiculously obvious. Why had I not thought of doing this before? Why had I exhausted all of my own ideas and efforts before going to the One who can breathe life into dead bones?

Even still, I was a bit skeptical. It sounded too easy.

I began to notice that Chris gave this advice quite often. When I was doubtful of my salvation, struggling over whether or not I was “born again”? Ask God to give you faith, he said. When I was having great trouble loving and forgiving a fellow believer? Ask God to give you love for them and to change your heart, he said. When I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety over what the future held? Ask God to chase away your fears, he said.

This advice slightly annoyed me…

I wanted to do something.

I wanted to MAKE myself a better person, a more devoted follower, a less hypocritical believer.

But, as usual, Mr. Gore was on to something. As I slowly began to understand and acknowledge that my abilities to be holy were limited indeed, and cried out for help, God began to answer. He sent me the Comforter. You know, the Holy Spirit. That “tiny” part of God that I had kind of  ignored for all those years…

And as a result, I have been swept away.

The Spirit is a master craftsman. He takes words that you could not understand for years and years and plants them in the deepest part of your soul where they spring forth and flood darkness with light, blindness with sight. He pursues you like a hound, never leaving you as you are, always asking for more, even in the night when the rest of the world is at rest. He surrounds you when you are weeping on your knees, confused, unsure of what lies ahead, and quietly ministers to you when no one else could possibly understand how badly your heart is broken.

He is not tiny.

For years and years, I had exchanged the truth for a lie. I thought I could measure God’s love for me in the things I had…my health, my happy marriage, my obedient children, my possessions, my spick-and-span church, and in the things I did. I told others about the redeeming work of Jesus and ridiculed works-based salvation, all while trying to generate goodness and obedience in my heart.

But when this amazing Spirit of God turned on the lights, revealing to me my nakedness, my depravity, my white-washed exterior…oh, dear God, He took away everything.

And in its place, He gave me this gift — the gift of a still, small voice — and the greatest avenue to knowing and understanding and loving Jesus.

Best. gift. ever.

Little Friend

One day as we were driving down the road, Gideon, seeing two horses running in a pasture, said quite forlornly…

“Why did God make all these animals but not give me any?”

It took all of our willpower to not go out that very minute and find the boy a dog.

However, every once in awhile, God does provide a little friend to keep him occupied until we get  a good fence built…

Creepy crawlies, I suppose, are the next best thing to a “man’s best friend”.

 

Simple.

Something about spring-type days in February makes a gal all kinds of grateful and content. When the sun is shining – but not too hot – and the breeze is blowing – but not too hard – and the birds are chirping – but the wasps are not – I find myself thinking how very little we need to survive in this world. As long as there is sufficient food in the pantry, clean sheets on the bed, some comfy clothes to wear, and a whole lotta books to look at, I am h.a.p.p.y. On days like this, the rest of the stuff in my house frankly starts getting on my nerves and I am moments away from donating it to a hoarder.

I love to watch my kids play in the yard. They don’t really need the junky toys we’ve bought for them. Sticks…rocks…dirt…grass…once a child gets lost in their outside play, God’s creation is more than sufficient to keep them busy for hours. As they laugh and work and play and I watch with the breeze gently blowing in my face and the baby in my lap, I think we are much closer to the heart of God in those moments than when we are holed up in the house with our possessions and our technology and our one thousand avenues of entertainment.

And I know in my heart that this simple life of pilgrimage that we are beginning to live, though heavy with self-sacrifice and war on the flesh, is the secret to true and lasting joy. Once the journey on the narrow road really begins, we find that all of those deadlines and stresses and aspirations that cause us to hurry and fret and load up in the car a hundred times a week are self-imposed and absolutely unnecessary.

What is the best thing I can give my children? The gospel. What do I want them to be when they grow up? Christ-followers. What do we need to do with our time, money and talents? Glorify God.

Simple, isn’t it?

I am basking in this simplicity. And so are my kids.

Of course, the popsicles help.