Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (part 5)

Good day, sweet readers! On Monday, I shared the second resolution that has shaped 2016 and changed my some of my habits: Numbering my Days. You can read that by clicking here (and also find links to the other parts of this series). Today, I want to share some journal entries that I recorded while I was away from the blog that highlight how that resolution has played itself out in real life. My prayer is that it will minister to you today and draw your heart closer to love and family and home.

~

January 2, 2016

Sometimes it feels like you have had the best day of your entire life.

You look back on it to see what was so wonderful, and decide it had something to do with waking up in a tiny bed in your parent’s office with your 2-year old smushed up against your cheek. He is kicking and making racket because he is cold and you pull the hefty comforter back up to his chin and he calms down and says “tant too, Mommy!” from behind his big, pink pacifier. He squeezes his eyes shut and nuzzles your face with his head and, even though you hear the rest of the family stirring, you wouldn’t get up and disturb this moment for anything.

You just squeeze your eyes shut, too, and nuzzle back.

There is a glow between mamas and babies during togetherness like this, and it feels like time stops ticking for just a tiny bit as you focus your love on each other, two beams of pure affection meeting and filling the room around you with peace and innocence.

These glowing moments can’t last forever, but that’s okay because they fill you up just enough to last until the next one.

You are finally fetched, the two of you, by your eldest daughter, and you join the rest of the family for eggs made to order, biscuits, bacon, sausage and coffee.

The kitchen is bursting with the morning energy of nine children, aged 11 and younger, breakfast drinks are being poured like it is Spring Break in Breckenridge, coffee is being heated up in the microwave, and your age-defying mama is flipping eggs on the griddle and calling for the next lucky eater.

After breakfast, you wind up playing a fun game of Skip-bo at the kitchen table with your son and niece and sister-in-law, all of you still wearing your pajamas with bed hair sticking up all over the place.

Afterward, you plop down on the bus-sized sofa in a nest of feather pillows and flip through Country Living magazine for the first time in months and dream of making good food for your family and changing up your decor.

There are more meals to fix and eat and clean up, and at the end of it all, you sit around the fire pit in the back yard with your mama and sister-in-law and make dreamy plans for the new year ahead while your happy kids run amok all over the property.

You didn’t get one present.

You didn’t win the lottery.

You didn’t find out you were the recipient of your rich aunt’s fortune.

But you still have the gut feeling that you are wealthier than you ever deserved to be.

If I’m numbering my days and I am allotted 1,000 of them, I want at least 900 of them to be like this one.

~

January 21st, 2016

I just went upstairs, past midnight, to check on the big kids and turn down the lights.

Sometimes my heart speaks loudly enough to remind me to stop for a minute and drink in the room where they sleep. Three iron beds lined up in a row. Three sleeping children, all in their typical positions. Gideon, on his belly and all tucked under. Rebekah, sprawled out with her feet free of the covers. Betsie, body completely relaxed and draped across her toddler bed like she’s a marionnette, after the show.

Like a magnet, I was drawn first to Gideon. I sat quietly down on his bed, the creak of the bed-springs slicing through the room’s stillness. I reached down and quietly kissed him, happy that his sleeping hands were too unconscious to wipe it away.

“God…” I breathed, cupping his cheek in my hand. “Help me to do right by him.”

With my firstborn more than any of the others, I feel like I am failure. Like I am missing out on his best years. Like I am too hard on him and not understanding enough.

“Help me,” I continued, “to SEE him, to realize how young he is, to care about the things he cares about. Help me to LISTEN to him.”

I want to hear beyond the words he says and understand his heart, and I want to give him everything he needs to be happy-at-soul.

Next I moved to Rebekah.

I smiled, taking in the golden hair that lay wild all around her face. I tucked in a few stray hairs and then I cupped her cheek in my hand. I prayed for her protection, for her to be free from sin and free from danger. I thanked God for the light she brings to our home, the same prayer I pray a hundred times a day.

And then little Betsie.

Her bed, a toddler-sized version of her siblings, is more difficult to get to, and I crouched down on the floor beside her. The kiss on her cheek was full of love, as I have been desperate lately to convey to her how cherished she really is.

The third child, and the girl following a very bright and talented sister with the longest hair in the land, I worry that Betsie doesn’t feel seen enough.

“God, help her to rest in the love that surrounds her. Keep her safe, make her wise and strong. Help me to see her and to SHOW her that I see her.”

And then I thanked God for even the kindness of allowing me to pray specific prayers for each of my children, for I felt sure, on this night, that He was there beside me, giving words to my heart and turning them into requests to the only one who can do ANYTHING for our family, anything for the children I hold so dear.

I then leaned back against the wall and surveyed the nursery of my heart, and willed myself to see not what I wanted to accomplish there…not the unfinished toy boxes and the table that I want to move across the room…not the mess that the kids had made there in the aftermath of the holidays…

but the sheer beauty of childhood.

The nursery upstairs screams of innocence and of tender years, and just being there with eyes trained on the good fills me up inside.

It is a wonderfully good practice to sit for a minute while your children sleep and pray and love and think. I do it every night, some nights more intentionally than others, and then I turn off the lamp.

It helps me to count the day and to not forget that it happened.

~

January 25th, 2016

Gideon and I just meandered outside at my parent’s house to watch my dad and brother working with the sawmill.

There just comes a point in every day when it becomes obvious that your little boy needs to get outside and inhale a healthy portion of fresh air and get a day’s worth of wiggles out.

And, once the crisp air hit my lungs, I realized that it is probably good for a mama, too.

“Do you like to drink air?” Gideon asked, grinning up at me. I must have really been needing to get outside, for I was gulping in the change of atmosphere like I was on the brink of death.

“I do,” I laughed, taking in a big, exaggerated slurp. “I just wish I had a straw.”

He spent the rest of the short walk to the sawmill pretending to drink air through a straw.

Lucky for us, my brother, Jerry, was starting up the machine to cut the wood.

“Have you ever seen this work?” I asked Gid.

“Nah, I’ve only seen it break!” he replied. I’ve lost count of the number of times that boy has reminded me of Opie. And I had to laugh because that sawmill has, indeed, given my daddy a lot of heartache. But then, all machinery does. It’s just part of running a farm and business. Lots of stuff breaking all the time. I only have to deal with percolators and microwaves. His repairs and replacements are a little pricier.

I pulled the collar of my new grey sweater coat up around my neck, feeling so glad that I had, one, waited for it to go on sale and, two, purchased it with some of my leftover Christmas money. It is always difficult to let go of Christmas money, and I wasn’t sure when the coat arrived if I had made a wise choice.

But today, with that thick, soft warmth shrouding my entire body, I was finally able to let go of those last doubts.

Especially when Gideon decided to join me in it.

Trying to dissuade him from going back into the house where it was warm, I opened the coat and he leaned up against my body where I wrapped him up. He pulled the lapels up over his face, and the two of us rocked back and forth while my dad and brother slowly turned a huge log into planks of wood.

Before too long, Daddy came over to join us.

“Who wants to go feed the fish?” my dad asked in his boisterous and energetic way.

“Me!!” Gid yelled.

“Not me…” I thought.

“Run over to the garage,” he said, “and grab that bucket. Fill it up…”

“Wait,” I said, confused, “aren’t you going?”

“Nah!” he said. “You can go do it. Take the girls with you,” he said, gesturing to my daughters and niece in the yard nearby.

“But it will be so cold,” I protested.

“That’s why you need to go,” my dad said. “Movin’ around’ll git you warmed up.”

“But…”

“It’ll be fun! Holler at the girls…”

“But I don’t want them to go,” I insisted, inwardly sighing. “Me and Gid’ll go.” They would have loved it, for sure, but all I could picture was me, freezing to death, and trying to keep up with four kids who would also be freezing to death, and Betsie asking me to carry her for a quarter of a mile. While I was still freezing. To death.

An instant later, Gid and I were tearing secretly across the pasture, he with a red coffee bucket full of fish food held firmly in his hand, me holding onto my coat.

Heat tore into my shins and I realized that I had no recollection of the last time I had really RUN. It hurt. But it also felt good.

It surprised me how fast Gideon was. If I didn’t want to get left in his dust and miss out on feeding the fish, I had to actually put forth an effort.

“What if I had a heart attack right here on the spot?” I thought to myself as the cold air hit my lungs. I’d read too many stories this winter of people who had died shoveling snow. One minute you’re doing a normal outdoor activity, the next…

But we made it to the creek where a hidden amount of new trout, purchased by my daddy the previous winter, were hanging out, completely unaware that they were about to get a treat.

Do you ever have a flash of memory AS you’re doing something that you used to do, something that you completely forgot about? As I grabbed handfuls of the little brown pellets and cast them into the water where they fell like raindrops, I was instantly taken back to days I had long forgotten, accompanying my daddy to the smaller pond next to our old barn on a sweet little corner of our property. I would throw the food into the water, and here and there the sight of a fish would prick the surface, followed directly by a wide circle in the water that proved my eyes hadn’t been deceiving me.

It was exciting and soothing at the same time, and it made me feel important. Like I was helping out on the farm, and making the fish grow, and being a real country girl.

And now, here I was at the age of 34, with my son, experiencing all those feelings over again.

Gideon had obviously done this a few times with his granddaddy, and we soon turned the feeding into a competition to see who could throw their handful of food the farthest.

My heart hitched up within me to see how happy he was. Sometimes we make things so awkward for our kids, breathing down their necks and trying to get them to open up to us and reveal their hearts to us when, really, we maybe just need to take them outside and fill up their mind with something other than the parent who is staring at them and asking to them to share their feelings.

The words begin to flow, easily, and it warms me up all over to have shared a sacred moment with my boy today, discussing his upcoming birthday and talking about hard work and godliness and just carving out a memory together when we didn’t even have it on the calendar.

I have my daddy to thank, and his hungry fish.

Some days you “number” in advance – you know they’re going to special and you go into them with intentionality and care – but other days you number once they’re over because you never, EVER want to forget them.

~

Stay tuned for more! Next I’ll be talkin’ about husbands and marriage. Hubba hubba.

 

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery

UpstairsDownstairs

Every Sunday night when the season is right, you will find Mr. Gore and me, after banishing…er, tucking in…the children upstairs, settling down into our favorite living room chairs to catch up on the latest drama at Downton Abbey.

This historically-trenched soap opera thoroughly entertains me, and the characters are often referenced in our house.

A lover of history, it is just pure fun for me to see a page from the past come to life on my television screen, and the opportunity to visually become better acquainted with the practices and lifestyles of years gone by is a gift, of sorts, even though the propagation of modern beliefs can be laid on pretty thick, at times.

I can overlook that, though, for the pleasure of hearing Lady Violet’s latest display of side-splitting drollery.

downton

(source)

3af073bb4874ba041641ec4f0a4f4f80

(source)

But as I was anticipating a new season of Downton this week, and daydreaming about the maids who work downstairs and the ladies of society that live upstairs, I realized, maybe for the first time ever, how many tasks I am personally responsible for as a homemaker, in general, and a homemaker with children, in particular, in my home.

The same is true for you, I’m quite sure of it.

Ignore the little fact that Downton is a vastly larger estate than many of us will probably ever even visit on this side of heaven and that our own houses are surely elfin in comparison, and just stay with me for a minute.

For starters, I literally go upstairs and downstairs a lot. We built a two-story house five years ago because I thought it would be “fun”, and when I’m not hauling baskets of stuff from the downstairs to the upstairs, I’m hauling baskets of stuff from the upstairs to the downstairs. And when I say “baskets”, I mean baskets.

But those aren’t the only “upstairs and downstairs” I’m talking about, the literal ones.

I’m talking about how, as homemakers and mothers, we juggle the upstairs and downstairs of an entire estate.

We are the “lady of the manor.” The event planner. The scullery maid. The chamber maid. The housekeeper. The chef. The nanny. The chauffeur. The lady’s maid. The butler. Add homeschooling to that, and we’re also the governess!

And I’m not pointing these things out to whine – puh-lease don’t get me wrong on that! – but, rather, to present a realistic picture of what we’re up against.

Mostly so I can get to this single question: Why in the WORLD are we continually heaping all this crazy guilt upon ourselves?!

What is with the insane, superhuman expectations?

Why do we continually feel like failures because we can’t “do it all”?

Tell me, if Mrs. Patmore was teaching George and Sybbie their lessons and giving them their baths and tucking them in at night and keeping the entire house clean and all the laundry done, do we sincerely think she would have time to make a fancy, gourmet meal even ONE time a day? No way! PB&J for lunch it would be, no problem.

Could Lady Grantham arrive at her nightly dinner party, perfectly coiffed and at ease after a hectic afternoon of cleaning out the automobiles, weeding the rose bushes and dusting the ceiling fan? I’m going to pretend like she couldn’t.

And so, while this silliest of blog posts is in no way grounds for entitlement or pity, it IS a light-hearted attempt to wake you up, woman.

In today’s culture, we ARE the upstairs and the downstairs of our life and we have a LOT on our plates, which calls for some very practical wisdom.

Namely, this: Pick a lane, m’lady.

We cannot “do it all”, every day. It’s impossible.

So instead of habitually trying, and then crashing and burning into sizzling heaps of frustration, why don’t we just start picking a few things to do really well in one day and call it good?

It’s simple, really, especially if you think of it in terms of the Downton staff…

Let’s see, who shall I be today? Will I be Mrs. Patmore, and make a really delicious and beautiful and painstaking meal for my family? And a homemade three-layer cake, perhaps, for dessert? Wonderful! But this means I can’t also try to pull a Mrs. Hughes and orchestrate a deep-cleaning of the house.

Or, if I DO want to be Mrs. Hughes and get all of my rooms tidied and oversee the organization of the entire house, I CAN’T be Mrs. Patmore. I will give myself and my family grace and order a pizza instead! (Or at the very least, pull out a Crock-pot.)

Shall I be Mr. Carson and get all of our affairs in order?

Shall I be Lady Grantham and host some friends for the evening?

Shall I be Tom (circa Season 1) and shuttle us hither and thither, running errands?

Shall I be Mrs. Crawley and fill up my day with good deeds toward the community?

Shall I be Lady Edith and…um…gaze worriedly into the distance? (Poor Edith. God bless her.)

Shall I be Anna and tend to the ones I’ve been entrusted with? Shall I gently brush their hair and groom their fingernails and see to their winter wardrobes?

Or who knows? Maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes on Saturdays, so we can start the week with a clean house. Then I can be Mrs. Patmore on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Or maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes in the mornings while the big kids do their independent schoolwork and be Mrs. Patmore from 3:00 – 5:00 in the afternoon. But then I can’t be Anna or Tom or Mr. Carson, too.

Or maybe…just MAYBE…I’ll be Lady Mary Crawly and I’ll put on my fancy clothes and I’ll go out to dinner.

Even better? Maybe I’ll be the Dowager Countess and sit in my favorite room with tea and scones and read a BOOK if I wanna!!!

(Okay, you’re right. There’s only ONE Dowager Countess. Forgive me for trying.)

Obviously, I could go on and on with this crazy string of mathematics, but you get the point.

How about we stop trying to be Downton-Abbey-in-the-flesh and simplify things a bit?

How about we work hard at whatever it is that we set our minds to, give it our very best, love the people we’re doing it for, commit the whole lot of it to our Creator, and then…

well, RELAX.

Mistress of the manor, why in the world would you shame yourself for the Mrs. Patmore meal that your friend just described cooking on Facebook??

You’ve been Mrs. Hughes-ing it all. day. long.

Dear lady, how could you possibly feel like a loser to come home to a messy house today? You got a houseful of kiddos ready and chauffered them around from morning till evening! And brought groceries home, to boot!

So here’s what I think you should do, and this is a gentle, Mrs. Hughes-esque order. (Because, really, why would ANYBODY, in their right mind, argue with Mrs. Hughes?)

You’re going to stop pretending like it is possible to be an entire household staff all day, every day. You’re going to put in your hours as one who is working for the Lord, and at the end of a long day, you’re going to focus on what you’ve DONE rather than what you HAVEN’T done and you’re going to feel good that, though things will never be as sparklingly perfect and well-run as Downton, you do a pretty bang-up job at manning the upstairs and the downstairs of your own personal estate.

And then, just for kicks, you’re going to fix yourself a treat, you’re going to set yourself down, you’re going to put up your feet, and you’re going to enjoy a couple of hours of mindless television.

May I kindly recommend PBS?

Sunday, 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.

~

Thanks for reading!

Special thanks to the blog Austenprose for helping me get my Downton titles right: A Downton Abbey Etiquette Primer: How to greet the Earl of Grantham and other British forms of address

If you’d like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, follow our page on Facebook!

 

 

The Day I Took a Walk

On June 11, 2005, I took a walk.

My daddy’s arm was intertwined with mine and, as we passed by the long rows of white chairs holding our lifelong family members and friends in the backyard of our country home, my white satin gown was dragging the ground behind me, and I thought that I must be the happiest girl in the world.

Mr. Gore met me at the end of that early evening stroll, and he took my hand and he made me a promise.

1005572_10152873378550464_1828264501_n (1)

Ten years have passed since that beautiful day in June and, as the months were drawing nearer to the day of our anniversary, my husband and I began to discuss how we might celebrate. Our anniversary, bringing up the rear in a string of family birthdays, always seems to take the back burner, and the last time we actually appropriately celebrated our special day had been about five years and counting.

We wanted to do things right this time.

There were talks of returning to the seminary in Louisville, KY, where we spent our first years as man and wife.

There were dreams — okay, maybe just on my part — of taking a road trip through Texas’s Hill Country during bluebonnet season.

We even volleyed about the idea of traveling to Colorado with the kids, a state we’ve wanted to introduce them to for years.

But none of the ideas we came up with, fabulous as they sounded, seemed to match up with the weightiness I was feeling in my heart concerning this important milestone we were about to celebrate.

My heart was deeply stirred, drenched in sentimentality, and I couldn’t shake the persistent yearning to partake in an anniversary celebration that would satisfy all of the thoughts and emotions that were welling up within me concerning my husband, our life together, and the ten years we have traveled through as man and wife.

Fast forward to last week, the week after our anniversary, when a friend at church asked me how I had come up with the idea for the celebration we ended up settling on.

I was speechless for a minute, but finally, I responded with the only answer that seemed truthful.

“I think it was actually the Holy Spirit,” I laughed.

And I really mean that.

~

Marriage is under attack on a worldwide level.

And I’m not talking about the political agenda of the democratic party, or the recent Supreme Court decision.

I’m talking about within the Church.

Every day, it seems, there is news of another divorce amongst professing believers, another scandalous affair, another set of vows crumbling under the weight of our culture’s wooing. It breaks my heart.

And, believe me, it’s not as if I think I am better.

I’m terrified, actually, and when I hear these stories, I am driven to my knees, not because I’m sad on a purely sympathetic level, but because I’m scared.

That could be me, you know.

That could be Mr. Gore.

That could be us.

Because, if I’ve learned one thing in the last ten years about the union of marriage, it is that a lifelong agreement between two sinners is in most desperate need of a divine Helper.

I didn’t understand marriage when I first got married, no, not at all.

When we first said our “I do’s” I, like so many brides, was dizzy under the fog of romance and fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Yes, I tried to agree somewhere in my brain with all the Christian platitudes that we were proclaiming about marriage being a picture of Christ and the Church and so on and so forth and whatever else the preacher said that day, but…

secretly, I knew we were going to “make it” in this business of marriage because we were in LOVE! Mr. Gore was my Prince Charming and I was his dream wife. We were PERFECT for each other!

However, as the pixie dust fell slowly to the ground in the wake of years and babies and surgeries and budgets, my love underwent a steady transformation, morphing into something a little less fluffy and naive and more realistic and grounded.

But here’s the good part, and the part that I am most passionate to proclaim to anyone reading today…

it has been a love no less beautiful.

In fact, I truly believe the love I have for my husband today is even more beautiful than it was the day I became a bride, and I am sure that many wives of Christian husbands who are eager to love them in grace and truth, would agree.

I love my husband now not simply because he makes my heart flitter around like a thousand butterflies, but because God helps me to love him.

I die for him not just because he fills up my mind and my heart on a 24-hour a day basis, but because God enables me to lay down my life for his sake, even, incredibly, when I don’t want to.

And would you believe that these sorts of binding matrimonial chains are incredibly freeing?

In fact, I daresay they taketh my breath away!

The world is an expert in downplaying the beauty of marital love. They make it look ugly and fat and boring and like something that is only worth celebrating on day one.

The bridal industry is booming, while years and sometimes only months down the road, marriages are unraveling like the Berber carpet on our stairs. In other words, everyone wants to be a bride, but few people want to be a wife.

We need help.

Love that is easy and without blemish is sweet to look at. I’d be lying if I said the moony eyes of a young couple in love didn’t soften my heart and lead me to all kinds of goose-bumpy nostalgia.

But love that has learned to endure, love that has found triumph and joy after seasons of busyness, of coldness, of exhaustion, of stress…

it is a city on a hill.

Because that sort of love, while admittedly more gritty than the newlywed version, points back to a loving Savior who makes the broken whole, who can enable men and women to die to themselves daily, and who can cause the naturally faithless to cling to one another in an oath that causes them to soar.

The glory of it all makes me desperate.

I want my kids to witness this truthful and biblical beauty of marriage, on a daily basis. The after-the-happily-ever-after. The romance of “true love”, but mixed with a little bit of life and proof.

And do you know what? I want the Church and the world to see it, too.

Thus, it soon became clear that I didn’t want to go to Texas or Colorado or Kentucky for our 10-year anniversary.

I wanted to take a walk, and I wanted my kids to be there with me.

~

I am beyond excited to share this anniversary series with you! Please stay tuned for Part Two, coming up tomorrow!

To the Little Pipsqueaks

Untitled presentation (23)

To the little pipsqueaks who try to run my house,

You try to fool me.

You, with your loud crying that blocks out my sensory abilities and causes my confidence to shrink to the size of a popcorn kernel.

I can’t think of what to do for you because you know what? I CAN’T THINK!!!

You older ones pepper me with enough rapid-fire questions that I forget all of the knowledge about all of the things. I’m not just unconfident now, I’m also dumb!

Sure, I might have a college degree gathering dust on top of the filing cabinet, but your unanswerable questions have caused me to wonder if I got my money’s worth.

Sometimes,  especially during the dreaded witching hour, you peck at me as a unit until I am a shell of a woman, hunkered down and shoveling snacks into my mouth like a starving goblin. My favorite is your puffy Cheetoh’s because they pile up in my teeth and I can feel something again.

You know what? This is called bullying, and it is really looked down upon on the internet.

When the phone rings, I dive under the table in horror. Phones were scary to me before, but now? With the clamor of your childhood in the background? The thought of trying to talk to a medical professional or an insurance person whilst peeling your ten thousand fingers off of my clothes and getting away from you is enough to break me out in hives!

I have gone through three sets of shut and locked doors before to flee from your presence and ended up having a phone conversation in the toilet room of the bathroom with my finger in my free ear SO I COULD HEAR! Anxiety. So much anxiety.

And even though you are a pipsqueak, do you know what I do?

I let you grow bigger than ME! And I hurry to cut the crust off your sandwich and I surf Netflix for two-and-a-half hours trying to find a show that will please the highnesses and I let you squeeze me into the middle of my king-sized bed with just enough breathing room to keep me alive for the night.

But you know what I realize sometimes as I’m slathering shampoo on your scrawny heads and you’re standing, naked, in the shower and you don’t even reach my belly-button?

I’m taller than you!

And you don’t even know how to get this shampoo out of your hair!

And the ways that I am bigger and older and smarter than you are COUNTLESS, my minions.

I can write in cursive. You can’t even write.

I can cook foods of various sorts. You’re not allowed to touch the toaster. Even the simplest of all the breakfast foods – dry toast! – is out of your grasp.

I have lots of important numbers and passwords memorized. I know your grandma’s telephone number and who to call in case of an emergency and how to order pizza. You don’t even know how to SPELL pizza and if you tried, you would leave out one of the z’s because you don’t know the RULES. I know all the rules.

I have big girl panties and you don’t. Like, seriously, they’re really, really big.

I have bras and lipstick and high heels and slips and keys and flashdrives and all of the grown-up stuff, and I’ve had it for YEARS.

I haven’t wet the bed since my last pregnancy.

I can chew gum anytime I want because you know what? I am responsible. I know what to do with gum. I don’t swallow it. I don’t stick it under the bed. I don’t play with it. I chew it and I throw it away when I’m done and I have THREE packs of it in my purse in three different flavors because why? I’m an adult. With fresh breath! Your breath smells like a gutwagon all day long. I’m not kidding. It stinks so bad.

And so it’s obvious. I’m the grown-up here. I have 5 feet and 8 inches of mommy girth in my favor and enough leftover baby weight to make a small human.

If it weren’t for me, this house would be an infested germ pool of filth and nastiness and you would be eating string cheese and dry Cheerio’s for supper.

Okay, so that’s what I actually just fed you for supper, but you get my point.

I can just see it so clearly sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

You’re little.

I’m big.

I’m capable.

You’re dependent.

I’m the grown-up in this house and I will ALWAYS be the grown-up in your life, even when you have gum and passwords of your own.

I’m going to try to have more confidence in myself and more patience with you.

You don’t know what you’re doing here, do you?

I don’t either, really, but the good thing for both of us is that I at least know more than you, you precious, darling, “spirited” little pipsqueak.

Now get out of my bathroom, please. I need to make a phone call.

~

Thank you for reading this all-in-good-fun post! Kids are the best, especially when we see them as they are: LITTLE. Join us for more fun and inspiration at our Facebook page!

Kenneth and Virginia.

I wrote the following words many, many months ago and, compelled by the Spirit, have held onto them prayerfully. Content to share them for the good of the Church OR to take them to my grave, I asked the Lord to give me guidance as to which course I should take.

This week, after much prayer, I am feeling the inexplicable nudge to share them, with faith that God will use them for good and not pain. The following thoughts and stories come from the most sacred and vulnerable places of my heart, and I am entrusting them to you, dear readers, with humility and trembling. Please read in good faith of my intentions, as one who adores the Church and longs to see her purified.

~

It was a crowning moment, as far as moments go.

Heaven met earth, mysteries were revealed, and life, for just a little bit, made absolutely perfect sense.

And as I slipped my arm through his and walked down the aisle next to his side, our history flashed before me…

~

I was a teenager when I first began to really notice him.

He was a married man, but it was actually his relationship with his wife that caught my eye.

They were so alike, the two of them, with a gentleness, a friendliness, and a sweetness that was perfectly matched. They both wore polyester pants every Sunday. And their hair was the exact same shade of white.

Looking back, there was nothing spectacular about the day my heart chose them. There was no voice from the sky, there was no spotlight, there were no goosebumps or premonitions…

I just liked them and, in a rush of spontaneous affection, I wanted to know them better.

How could I know then that God had a specific plan for us?

How could I know that their story would one day intertwine so beautifully with mine?

And how could I, a young and clueless teen, have any idea that, though sad days lie ahead, God would use every sorrow we endured for the good of all of us and for the glory of His name?

Obviously, I could not.

Not even a little bit.

During that particular time in my life my heart was beginning to soften toward the elderly, in general; by His grace, God had been tuning my ears to appreciate their wisdom and tweaking my sensibilities to sympathize with their season; I couldn’t even enter a Braum’s during those days without being brought to tears by the elderly men who ate there alone. “Did that man’s wife die?” I would wonder. “Is he lonely?

But in a moment of supernatural sovereignty, God specifically trained my eyes upon Kenneth and Virginia.

They easily returned my affection, recounting stories of my childhood days when I was less aware of them, and fully embracing me with their encouraging words and faithful interest in my life.

Hardly a week went by that Virginia didn’t recall her memory of me, as a young girl, coming into the church library where she volunteered, setting a book down on the table and staring up at her with giant, solemn eyes. I was too shy to speak a word, but she, in her thoughtful manner, didn’t press me and went straight to stamping my library card so I could take a new treasure home with me.

She and Kenneth were as proud of me as my grandparents and I flourished under their friendship.

And week by week and month by month, my love for them grew as God continued to focus my eyes upon their well-being.

Before too long, however, that love would turn fierce.

Midway through my college years, the unthinkable happened. A tragedy, really.

For reasons too manifold to name and for faults on every possible side (including my own), the church that my parents had been a part of since the day my daddy became a believer, the church that had been my home since the day I was born, split right down the middle.

The building was still there and the foundation was still in place, but the real church, the body of Christ, was ripped violently in two.

It was the darkest day I’ve ever lived through, and the darkest I have experienced since.

Those of us left behind after this massive divorce were hit by wave after wave of aftershock, marking the beginning of a rather intense decade of consistent pruning and shifting of which the repurcussions continue to this day.

Aided by cultural transience, a widening gap between morality and church attendance, and an overabundance of rural churches, this initial and unprecedented uprooting began a new era in which it has become normal and, sadly, even expected to see person after person and family after family depart from our fellowship for any number of reasons.

And while I have naturally had personal hurts to work through from these heart-wrenching losses and doubt that I will ever completely get over the pain of what happened among us, at the end of the day, my sadness seemed to hover particularly over the senior citizens in our church.

Especially Ken and Virginia, who, without the body, would be utterly alone in this world.

Does anybody see them?” I finally found myself wondering in frustration as another brother or sister departed through our doors, never to return, “How many people are going to walk away from them and never look back?!…

And, before I move on, I want to be very clear here that it was not that I was good and others were not.

It’s not as if I had compassion while everyone else was heartless.

Church disagreements and splits are a complex and seemingly insurmountable beast, with a thousand nuances that cannot always be nailed down to a group of good people versus a group of bad people or a group of people who “get it” and a group of people who do not, and I say that to assure you of this: if I was strong in this one tiny area, I was hopelessly weak in a hundred others.

No, I was not good, but this was God’s will for me, to see and feel these things.

And from that time on, He sealed a longing firmly inside my heart, that I would never have to leave our congregation for another and that I could see these brothers and sisters through to the end.

And while this plea was on the behalf of our entire church, my eyes were still on Kenneth and Virginia.

They had no children?

God, let us be their children.

They had no family?

God, let your Church be their family.

~

To be continued…

(Read Part Two here)

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.

IMG_3422_fotor

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.

flower

 

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

walk

IMG_3462_fotor

IMG_3463_fotor

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

IMG_3467_fotor

Gasp! I see a picnic up ahead!

IMG_3469_fotor - Version 2

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.

IMG_3425_fotor

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.

IMG_3427_fotor

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

IMG_3430_fotor

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!)

IMG_3432_fotor

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…

IMG_3508_fotor

 

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

IMG_3510_fotor

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

IMG_3445_fotor

apples!

IMG_3517_fotor

fried chicken!

IMG_3522_fotor

biscuits!

IMG_3521_fotor

pies!

IMG_3705_fotor

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

IMG_3681

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

IMG_3526_fotor

and it was time to par-tay.

IMG_3471_fotor

IMG_3476_fotor

IMG_3480_fotor

IMG_3481_fotor

IMG_3500_fotor

IMG_3499_fotor

IMG_3434_fotor

IMG_3487_fotor

IMG_3492

IMG_3587

IMG_3588_fotor

IMG_3503_fotor

IMG_3513_fotor

IMG_3523_fotor

IMG_3535_fotor

IMG_3546_fotor

IMG_3602_fotor

IMG_3607_fotor

IMG_3561_fotor

IMG_3566_fotor

IMG_3584_fotor

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

IMG_3555_fotor

This one right here?

IMG_3558_fotor

He’s about to lose a tooth.

IMG_3570_fotor

Ta-da!

IMG_3617_fotor

IMG_3592_fotor

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

IMG_3630_fotor

It must have been all those apples.

IMG_3625_fotor

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!

IMG_3596_fotor

IMG_3598_fotor

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

IMG_3836_fotor

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

IMG_3609_fotor

IMG_3664_fotor

IMG_3650_fotor

IMG_3553_fotor

IMG_3667_fotor

IMG_3627_fotor

IMG_3686_fotor

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!!)

IMG_3680_fotor

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.

IMG_3698_fotor

IMG_3703_fotor

IMG_3712_fotor

 

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!

IMG_3711_fotor

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.

IMG_3722_fotor

IMG_3735_fotor

IMG_3732_fotor

IMG_3743_fotor

IMG_3771_fotor

IMG_3775_fotor

IMG_3782_fotor

IMG_3788_fotor
IMG_3814

IMG_3795

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.

IMG_3826_fotor

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

IMG_3839_fotor

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.

IMG_3200

IMG_3201

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.

IMG_3274

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.

IMG_3290

IMG_3306

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.

IMG_3377_fotor

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

IMG_3380_fotor

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?

IMG_3388_fotor

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.

IMG_3390_fotor

IMG_3395_fotor

IMG_3396_fotor

IMG_3411_fotor

IMG_3416_fotor

IMG_3417_fotor

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…

IMG_3422_fotor

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.