The April day when I looked death in the face and it change my life forever.

There are certain seasons of my life when I have been brought face to face with the reality that my days here on Earth are numbered. It is during those times in my life that I find myself asking the age old question, “What is life on this big ball of dirt we call Earth all about?”

One of those seasons came 19 years ago during those beautiful early days of April, 1995.

I was a college freshman living in the dorms at my small liberal arts college in a small Arkansas town. Because I was living about 5 hours from home, I didn’t make the drive to south central Oklahoma every weekend.

Basketball season had come to an end in March and this meant for the first time since October, I could actually feel like a sort of ‘normal’ college girl on the weekends.

Since most weekends my closest friends went home, I often found myself going to eat Friday and Saturday dinner in the cafeteria we all loving called “Walt’s” to see who else was actually on campus for the weekend.

My normal Friday night cereal dinner at Walt’s (because Friday nights at Walt’s was…well let’s just say they didn’t spend much of the budget on weekend food) often led to an impromptu trip to Hot Springs with an eclectic group of people to go to a coffee shop and to hang out in the lobby of the Arlington hotel watching the ballroom dancers.

I know. My college life was wild and scandalous.

Give me a little credit. I was a Baptist preacher’s daughter, attending a Baptist university and so for me watching 80 year old people drink liquor and dance on a Friday night was quite scandalous for me in those days.

One April weekend of 1995 was different.

My roommate and my two suite mates were all staying on campus for the weekend and so we decided it would be fun on Saturday to make the hour long trip up interstate 30 to Little Rock and celebrate my suite mate Ami’s 20th birthday….the first one of us to cross out of the teenage years.

I don’t remember much about the day except for what we captured in a few pictures.

I remember loading up in my roommate Gwen’s sporty new to her gold Honda Accord with all the excitement that fills the heart of college kids who are enjoying the days of not having to ask parents permission to make an hour long trip to the city.

I remember a stop at a couple of stores.

We enjoyed a fun time full of laughter eating at the Olive Garden.

I don’t remember many details of that day except for what happened on the drive home.

There was road construction, which meant that for a long stretch of the trip the traffic seemed to be heavier than normal for a Saturday afternoon.

Gwen kept her eyes glued to the road as the four of us talked.

About halfway through the drive, I notice that there were many semi trucks on the highway that April afternoon.  Shortly after this thought a series of events occurred that I will never forget.

Being a Southern Oklahoma girl, I was soaking in the beauty of the pine trees that lined the Arkansas highway for much of the drive…something I was learning that all my native Arkansas friends took for granted.

I was sitting in the back behind the driver’s seat.

We were driving in the right lane.

I looked out the window to my left, and I could hear yet another semi truck coming up in the passing lane. For some reason I looked out the back window and noticed the truck’s speed and the fact that it was creeping dangerously close to the center line.

I remember saying “Gwen” and then about that time everyone in the car looked to the left and saw that the little two door Honda we were in was about to be side swiped by a speeding semi truck.

As most people would do, my sweet roommate, Gwen, looked out her driver’s window and the sight of a semi wheel caused her to turn the steering wheel quickly to the right in hopes of getting us out of the way of the semi that was crossing over into our lane.

The next 5 to 10 seconds of my life are forever ingrained in my mind in slow motion.

The little gold Honda did not stop turning right.

As our car was making a complete circle in the Southbound traffic, I closed my eyes and knew that at some point the car would come to a stop.

As you can imagine the car was full of screaming, while we awaited the inevitable impact.

Ami was sitting next to me in the backseat.

She threw her left arm across my chest. I guess since she was the oldest in the car it was natural for her to throw out the momma arm in attempts to protect me.

As we spun out of control in that car, Ami screamed out “Jesus, Jesus save us.”

Still traveling at 55 miles an hour, just as we were about to make a complete circle in the southbound lane, the wheels of that little Honda came off the ground and sent us airborne towards the median of that interstate.

The car made a half turn in the air and the inevitable impact came.

We crashed into one of those majestic pine trees in the median that I had just minutes before been admiring.

Our screams were interrupted by the loud sound of the crash followed by a silence that brought on a moment of terror.

The next few minutes are a bit surreal.

There I was strapped inside of a car that was now on its side in the middle of an interstate highway.

I remember the initial shock and then the terror of wondering if I was okay.

Was I injured? What about my friends?

Then came the questions.

“Gwen, are you okay?”

“I think so.” I have never been so thrilled to hear my roommate’s voice.

“Susan?”

“There’s some blood on my leg, but it doesn’t look bad.”

Because I was now dangling sideways above Ami, I look down at her and could see that she looked a bit shaken up but was okay.

Within seconds, there were people surrounding our car. Passersby who had seen the accident had pulled over to help.

They peered into the window.

I am sure they expected to find a horrific scene.

Because there was not a way for them to get us out of the car, I can still hear their calming voices assuring us that help was on its way.

When I realized I was okay and might be dangling there for a while, I undid my seat belt and stood on the backseat window that was now lying against the ground. I tried my best not to step on Ami’s head as she still sat in her seat.

Within 10 minutes we heard sirens and the car was surrounded by a team of first responders.

They told us to cover our eyes, and we listened while they broke through the front windshield.

One by one those men lifted the four of us out of the car and told us to sit down until we could be checked out by the EMTs who were on the scene.

The passersby sat next to us and did their best to provide calming words to all of us.

It was 1995 and not many people had mobile phones.

Miraculously one of the people sitting with us did and wanted us to call our parents.

Because all but Gwen’s parents lived hours away, I dialed Gwen’s dad and proceeded to recount the events. I told him that Gwen seemed in shock and the EMTs thought she should ride with them to the nearest hospital, but that the rest of us would be fine riding in the police car.

So that’s what happened. We rode with the police to an ER at the hospital of a small Arkansas town.

Sore necks, sore chest bones, and a few scratches on Gwen and Susan from the partially shattered front windshield.

That’s it.

Gwen’s parents arrived at the hospital to take us back to campus, and we spent the drive recounting the events and asking ourselves the ‘what ifs?

What if this had happened two miles earlier where there were no pine trees in the center media, and we had been launched into the northbound interstate traffic?

What if Ami hadn’t have put on her seat belt? She had mentioned that she never wears a seat belt in the backseat but only strapped it on because she saw me put mine on.

We all spent the next few weeks battling the body pains associated with the wreck and there were many tears as we recounted the scary details of those moments. Riding in a car was quite scary for each of us for a while.

But in those weeks and now years that have followed that crash, countless prayers of thanksgiving have been sent up to heaven for sparing our lives that day.

For some reason that April Saturday was not our time to go.

From what everyone at the scene said….we were lucky girls.

After all, I’ve known several amazing children of God that have had their lives cut short because of accidents.

Why was my life spared?

Why does it seem as I recount this story, that we must have had angels sent down from heaven to protect us?

Those are questions I struggle to answer.

But what I do know is that 19 years later, when my neck occasionally hurts from the injuries I sustained in that wreck…..I am reminded of life.

The pain in my neck is a sign of life.

A sign of a life spared.

Today life is quite different for the four of us college friends.

Over the years we had lost touch with each other, but in my love/hate relationship with Facebook….I have loved that social media allowed us to reconnect.

Ami had another birthday this past weekend.

Even more exiting, after years and years of not being able to have a baby….after having adopted three beautiful boys and raising them to be elementary aged kiddos…

Ami got pregnant a few months after I found out I was pregnant with Baby B.

Sweet Cora was born just a few weeks before Ami’s April birthday.

Thanks to Facebook, tears rolled down my cheeks as I saw my college friend holding the child she had prayed for for so very long.

There I sat holding my own sweet baby girl and looking at the picture of Cora, and I couldn’t help but remember that April day in 1995.  All I could do was lift my eyes to heaven and say, “Thank you Jesus.”

I don’t really know the answer to the “why did God choose to answer Ami’s prayer to save us?”

All I know is that from that day forward, I have been challenged to thank God for life when I am tempted to complain.

When my neck hurts, I try to turn my thoughts to the fact that the pain is actually a sign of the life I have been given that almost got cut short.

This morning when I was tempted to get frustrated at the grains of dirt sticking to my feet after I had just swept the floors yesterday….I was reminded to be thankful for the dirt.

Though I would love for my 11 year old to remember to take off his baseball cleats before he comes into the house, that dirt is actually a sign of life …the life of a little boy who is healthy enough to run and play baseball and I am honored to get to be his momma.

And last night…when baby B was having tummy troubles in the night, and I found myself changing diapers a few times in the night, I turned my thoughts to my two precious friends who in the last few weeks have both had to hold the body of their lifeless babies in their arms just after having had given birth to them…

Those late night diaper changing…well they are a sign of a life I don’t ever want to take for granted.

It took a brush with death to help me truly understand that I am not promised tomorrow and my days here on Earth are indeed numbered.
***Crazy addition to this story….this morning I read this to my sweet Joe in our morning time and tears filled his eyes. This afternoon just before I was about to post what I wrote to my blog, I get a text message from him “I think I just saw someone die in a car wreck” Turns out a small red car in front of him slammed up underneath a big semi truck. Life is fragile people. Let’s handle it with love and grace.

The next week we went back to see the car.  Needless to say, it was an emotional reunion.

The next week we went back to see the car. Needless to say, it was an emotional reunion.

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My beautiful friends who put up with all my late night basketball games and stinky laundry….and who always let me wear my basketball cap.

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The fun before the terror.

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Yep. This is where I spent many a college weekend. You’re jealous. I know.

Happy Birthday, sweet Ami!  That day you taught me to cry out to Jesus and I have been crying out ever since.

Happy Birthday, sweet Ami! That day you taught me to cry out to Jesus and I have been crying out ever since.

I sent this in the mail to my Ami this week.  So humbled that because our lives were spared, we get to share in blessing of being pregnant with our daughters at the same time....we just won't add up how old we will be when they graduate high school!

I sent this in the mail to my Ami this week. So humbled that because our lives were spared, we get to share in blessing of being pregnant with our daughters at the same time….we just won’t add up how old we will be when they graduate high school!

Diapers...one of the constant signs of life I have around my house these days.

Diapers…one of the constant signs of life I have around my house these days.

Dirty kitchen floor...a sign of a life I am thankful for...

Dirty kitchen floor…a sign of a life I am thankful for…

 

The time God told me to get off my B-U-T-T…

It’s been one of those weeks. A lot of “little things” that cause frustration with the kids, the hubby, my job, and the perpetually undone things around the house….well let’s just say somewhere along the way all those frustrations collided.

All it took was me having to repeat myself to the big kids for a third time to “set the table” and something that I think would resemble how some scientists propose the Big Bang occurred was set into action.

I had to call a family meeting later that night and ask the kids and the hubby for forgiveness.

It is kinda a funny thing to look a man and two preteens in the eyes and ask them to extend me grace and mercy during this season of balancing interrupted sleep, my job and housework all while crazy nursing hormones are racing through my body.

Looking back on that conversation….I might as well have been trying to explain Algebra to the baby and expecting her to understand.

I went to bed defeated and longing to do a better job of taking my thoughts captive so the devil doesn’t gain ground in our family. As I laid there in bed I knew there was something deeper that was causing me so much frustration.

A few weeks back I very clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell me to spend the days leading up to Easter doing three things that always  produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life…three disciplines that clear my mind of the negative thoughts and fill it with things of God, the fruit of His Spirit.

First, I heard God tell me to read through the Gospels from April 1st to Easter on the 20th. It was a very specific thing and something I had never thought about doing before so I knew it was God telling me to discipline myself to read about my Savior during this Easter season.

I counted it up and it was only going to be about 4 chapters a day. I can do that. Easy Peasy….or so I thought.

Second, God told me to get off my butt and start working out again. (Maybe God doesn’t use the B-U-T-T word with you, but sometimes this girl requires a firm word from her Daddy in heaven)

One morning, I was trying to get on some of my pre-pregnancy summer pants and found myself in disgust. That’s when I heard that gentle voice telling me I was beautiful in His sight and to join Him each morning for a walk or on the elliptical and we’d work on getting those pounds off together.

This was followed up with the “B-U-T-T” instruction I got from Him.

Love how He is gentle…yet firm with me. Exactly how I want to be with my own kiddos.

Third, I am supposed to be writing more and sharing what I write.

Over the past few weeks I have felt a familiar nudge in my heart.

A life lesson story from my past would come to mind and I would feel the need to go to the computer and write to record it so that someday my kids and grandkids will have these stories written down and perhaps learn from my life.

Not one time have I followed through and written the stories down.

The nudges to write also have come several times when something would happen during my day and I would clearly hear, “go write that down and share it because I want to use you to teach someone else what I am teaching you.”

Nope. I haven’t written a single thing.

Then there was the sweet girl from church that I really only know in passing. We always smile and say “Hi” when we pass each other in the hallways at church, but I don’t think we have even spoken a full sentence to each other before this past week.

I spotted her in the grocery store as I was trying to be incognito because I hadn’t had a shower that day and my outfit and baseball hat screamed of a momma needing a fashion intervention.

I got up the guts to say a cordial, “Hi, how are you?”

As always she gave a sweet smile and said “Hi” back, but then she continued.

“I read your blog and I love it. You are so real, and I enjoy reading it”

Okay. I almost laugh every time someone mentions “my blog.”

“My blog” was really something I only intended to write on for a few weeks as a 10th anniversary gift to my husband. I wanted the accountability of close friends and family who I thought might read ‘our story’ and keep me motivated until I got all of ‘our story’ written out. I had no intention of ever posting anything on there again after our tenth anniversary in 2009.

But then, somehow, other people started reading what I was writing.

Several of the people who were reading along as I wrote out my and Joe’s story wrote me long emails about how my words had helped them, and how they hoped I would keep writing.  Some of the emails came from people I barely knew.

I didn’t really get the whole blog thing. Who has time to sit around and read about other people’s lives? I am quite busy with my own life to read about all that is going on in the lives of others…especially people who I have never met.

So, I decided to just keep “my blog” active and figure out what to do with the requests of those who had emailed me.

Over the past 5 years, I have just used my little space on the internet to post something I write from time to time. . . occasionally I will write something and the Holy Spirit lets me know that someone else needs to read what I have written, so I post it.

Every time I post something I have second thoughts because the written word is so powerful and once written you can’t ever get it back. It goes into the hearts and minds of those who read it.

It has always been my desire for the words I speak and the words I write to reflect an authentic me. An imperfect follower of Jesus.

And if for some crazy reason someone chooses to “follow ‘my blog’” I want them to come away from it thinking and talking more about Jesus and not more about me or my words.

My heart’s desire is that words I use only point people who hear them or read them to be encouraged to read more of the ONLY words that bring life…the Word of God.

The Big Bang of emotions a few nights ago was not about the table that I ended up setting myself.

At the root of it all was the fact that I had not been obedient.

My own disobedience to do the things that God was clearly telling me to do had led to me spewing out anything but the fruit of the Spirit to the three people I love the most in my life.

So here goes….(she writes with trembling fingers and all the anxiety in her heart that an introvert feels when they open themselves up to be known)

I’m going to be obedient.

Starting today I am going to read through the Gospels before Easter.

I’m going to write every day and post them more frequently to ‘my blog’ when I feel that ‘nudge.’

And by golly…I am going to get off my B-U-T-T so I can actually fit into a few of my summer clothes and believe the words that my Father speaks over me as I look in the mirror in disgust….”You are beautiful, my child”

Joe and I are currently memorizing some verses along with our kids.

This week’s verse is Matthew 5:6.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

I love that this verse does not say blessed are the righteous.

Instead, it says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed (which means happy) and will be filled.

The ‘do’ part of my obedience is worthless unless it is an overflow of my obedience to “be.”

In two weeks when Easter rolls around, I hope to have made it through the Gospels. I sure plan on having written and shared some things. And I would love it if my summer pants are a little closer to fitting over my thighs.

But truth is….my deepest desire is that on Easter morning I am filled….filled not because of what I have done but because of who I am in Christ….His child whom He loved enough to bear all my imperfections.

Making peace with my chubby legs….

It happened.  She noticed.

She’s a girl, so I knew it was coming, but nine years old…really?

I guess I am half responsible because I was a contributor of one of her X chromosomes.

Before Joe and I were married and we shared with each other our future ideas of a ‘perfect’ family…he mentioned that he would love a house full of girls.

I remember getting a huge knot in my stomach…you see… Joe and I never went on a date…we were engaged after only having known each other 3 months (please don’t tell our kids this).

{I actually started this little blog 5 years ago to record our love story to give to Joe as a 10 year wedding anniversary gift. . .you can read about that craziness starting here; I had no intention of continuing to post things to the blog after our anniversary that year, but I had lots of friends and family asking me to continue to post things I write…so this is where I do that from time to time when I write something that I think might help someone in their journey.}

Somehow, I didn’t think to ask the “how many kids do you want?” question before I said yes to marrying him.   Kind of an important thing to discuss if you plan to live together ’til death do us part’.

My parents will attest to the fact that from the time I was a kid, I had always said that IF I had kids I would adopt all boys that are at least 12 years old.

Being a tomboy, I didn’t really ‘get’ a lot of other girls a lot of time so I deduced at a young age that I would not make a good momma of girls…and quite honestly I didn’t think I could handle a house full of pink, make-up, and drama.

Growing up I tried to wear trendy clothes…but my athletic legs and size 11 shoes just didn’t look the same as all the other girls.  I always defaulted back to my Chuck Taylor’s (which were camo) and sweatshirts.

I tried my hand at the trendy big hair that was the rage of girls in the 80s…It took a gallon of Rave hairspray to get my permed, fine,thin hair to keep up with all the other girls’ hair.  I finally gave up.

My girly, girl sister dreamed of having a little sister that she could teach all the ways of the girl world….let’s just say I was a bit of a disappointment.

My childhood best friend was a fashionista with thick flowing locks and a gorgeous tan I tried and failed to achieve with baby oil and iodine.   Our friendship from 4th grade through college is recorded in a series of letters we wrote back and forth after she moved.  My letters consist of stories about bicycle rides and basketball scores.   Her letters were filled with details of how she decorated her room and what her boyfriend got her for Valentine’s Day.

Deep down I was often in turmoil.

I wanted to fit in with other girls…but I really didn’t.

I wanted to just be me.  To be a girl who preferred tennis shoes to high heels, sweatpants to dresses, and shooting hoops to shopping.

There was often a silent war raging for my soul.

The same athletic legs that helped me to run fast enough to be a part of a state championship relay team as a freshman in high school and do two collegiate sports…

The same musclely arms  that Joe fell in love with when we first met (and that women all across America are trying to obtain in CrossFit gyms)…

The same size 11 shoes…well really God?  You could have at least stopped them at size 10….I’ve never found a true benefit to such big feet.

Those same big muscles are the same muscles that I looked in the mirror and wished weren’t underneath my skin.

If the big quads and calves weren’t there…then surely I could fit in the size 1 jeans like all my friends.

If my deltoids and biceps didn’t look like a boys….then surely I would have a boy show interest in me.

Over the years I have learned to win that war in my mind over my body.   I daily make peace with my “athletic” body and remind myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator.

Having a daughter has made me all the more aware that I have to be on guard daily to fight and win this battle.

There we were sitting in the living room.

I made a comment to Joe about my daughter’s thin legs.

She was listening and because she speaks truth without a refined filter she replied to her Daddy

“and Momma’s legs are chubby.”

I turned in shock and asked with a sort of sincere smile, “What? “

“You know.  Your legs aren’t skinny like mine.  They are kind of chubby.  When you wear shorts they go like this..”.   And she proceeded to draw out with her hands in the air a shape that resembled an hourglass…a quite large hourglass.

She’s a girl…she noticed.

At the tender age of 9, she has already begun to compare.

And at the wise age of 38, I chose not to take her comment to heart.

I have much bigger dragons to slay in my life these days than being consumed with what others may think about my athletic or possibly even chubby legs….

Last night we were getting ready to head to a mother/daughter event.

She was getting dressed in her shirt and leggings that are supposed to be tight…but the tights wrinkle up and look more like pants because her thin legs don’t fill them out.

I was in the place I dread the most right now…my closet.

After having given birth to a baby almost three months ago, I gave away all my maternity clothes.  None of my pre-pregnancy clothes quite fits right.

My wardrobe right now consists of a few shirts and two pairs of pants.  (Well, I have lots of sweatpants and sweatshirts that fit…but my sister would argue that these are not to be counted as part of a wardrobe)

In that closet that night the war in my mind began to rage.

I was beating myself up for having only worked out twice in the past week.

In my mind, I scolded myself for eating pizza the night before with the kids.

As I squeezed my “athletic” legs into my pants, in my head I planned my workouts for the next week and hoped that they would not have the reverse effect that they sometimes do on a musclely girl…making her bigger instead of smaller.  (Can I get an ‘Amen’ from all the athletically built girls out there?!?!?).

I began promising myself that I would say no to pizza and ice cream next week.

After a frustrating 20 minutes trying on clothes in my closet, we made it to the mother/daughter event.

At one point in the evening she crawled into my lap.

Her thin legs draped across my not so thin legs.

In that moment I was reminded I have two girls that God has entrusted me with who are watching me closely.  Close enough to notice my chubby legs and no doubt they will be watching and listening to see how I respond to the body God has given me.

No doubt very soon she will be fighting mental battles of her own. It likely won’t be over athletically chubby legs…but there will be something…. something about her body that she won’t see through the lens of Gods perfect design for who He created her to be.

She’s a girl and bless her heart she got a mom who is fumbling her way through this whole parenting thing…

I may not be able to teach her how to walk in heels or create a smokey look with eye shadow, but she’s got a mom with strong legs (okay…they are more chubby than athletic looking these days…and I’m okay with that) and big biceps ….and by golly I’m ready to use them to help her fight to love her body when the evil one tries to wage war on her.

High School Senior pictures are an awkward thing for a tomboy.  The amazing Lawrence Anderson did a great job ...I remember getting this picture back and debating on whether I liked it or not because my biceps and quads looked 'too big'.  Oh to have my 18 year old body again!

High School Senior pictures are an awkward thing for a tomboy. The amazing Lawrence Anderson did a great job …I remember getting this picture back and debating on whether I liked it or not because my biceps and quads looked ‘too big’. Oh to have my 18-year-old body again!

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I am sure that this Halloween was a nightmare come true for my sister. I never wanted to dress as a princess or anything girly…I was the Incredible Hulk one year, a mime one year, and this…Not sure what I was here but this was a real outfit of my brother’s that I secretly wanted to be mine and he let me wear on Halloween one year. I think maybe I thought I was a member of the group Stryper.

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This picture capture the difference in me and my bestie perfectly.

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My sister managed to get me in pink a few times.

Redemption and healing through drawing a mustache on a picture…

I’ve never really been a crier.  It takes a lot to evoke tears in me.

But today I was overwhelmed and the tears started flowing.

I was driving to a staff meeting we were having at an old church property that our church will be taking over soon, and the tears started flowing.

As the old church came into view, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

You see a few years back, I had driven to this church many times to help plan and direct a Vacation Bible School.

This church is like many city churches.  Over the past few decades, the neighborhood surrounding the church building changed.  Houses and businesses started getting run down and a new type of people began moving into the neighborhood.

To help this church try to reach its neighborhood, I agreed to help plan an outreach VBS.

At one of the first planning meetings, I met in a small parlor on a Sunday afternoon with a handful of eager volunteers.

Halfway through the meeting I looked up at the wall in front of me where there were large pictures of each of the church’s former pastors (and there were a lot of them).

I scanned each picture and then I did a double take.

There hanging on the wall was a picture of a man who had caused a lot of pain in my life.  I teared up and couldn’t believe my eyes.

I wanted to go draw devil horns and a pitch fork on his picture.  I know. I know.  That’s not very Christian of me.  But that was my gut instinct.

I refocused because I was leading the meeting and needed to wrap it up because there was a precious group of 80 something year old women who used the parlor for their Sunday night Training Union class (you have to be at least 35 and have a Southern Baptist background for that to make you smile).

On the way home that night, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

My mind strayed back to some of the words the man in that picture had spoken over me and Joe.

In one breath he had said that Joe was more like Jesus than anyone he had ever met and in the next breath he claimed that there is no place for someone like Joe on a church staff (hmmmm…..isn’t that a little weird)

During the time that these things were spoken to Joe, I was pregnant with my second child and finishing up my last 10 hours of my Master of Divinity in seminary.

My heart should have been bursting with excitement.

Instead I was discouraged and had taken words spoken to me to heart.  I began to feel that there was not a place for me in ministry at a church.

I didn’t make a very good children’s pastor’s wife…I never really liked kids much and try as I did I had a hard time faking it.

I tried my hand in women’s ministry.  But I don’t really fit in in that arena of ministry either.  I don’t like shopping.  My sense of fashion is nonexistent.  Since I’m not a mercy person, I had a difficult time sitting and listening to women complaining about their husbands not unloading the dishwasher correctly (I often zoned out when women would talk to me about their ‘problems’ such as these)

I thought there wasn’t much left for me when it comes to working at a church.  I don’t like kids and I don’t like women …(I’m joking…sort of)

All I knew was I longed for the days of ministry from my college years.  Leading a Bible study with my basketball team…a group of girls who the Christians on my Christian college campus pretty much ignored or kept an arms distance from because let’s face it…college women basketball players are intimidating…at least our biceps were.

I longed for the days I spent in a cabin at a camp for inner city kids where I spent nights praying over the darkness surrounding the lives of the preteen girls I grew to love that summer.

I loved church.  But it was during my time as children’s pastor’s wife that I began feeling like church just wasn’t for me.

I didn’t fit in.  I longed to use my passions and giftedness for the kingdom, but I began to believe that my love for the church and passion for ministering to the forgotten ones would never collide.

But there I sat in that parlor.  As the beautiful gray haired women filed into the room and we scurried out, I glanced one more time at that picture hanging on the wall.

God had used hurtful words to put a fire in our hearts. . .to give us a new vision, a new passion.

Three years ago as I greeted moms dropping of their dirty, hungry kids at the door of that old church to attend the VBS….

I knew that what the devil meant for harm, God intended for good.

As I listened to the children sing that night and as I hugged their moms when they picked them up, I felt God’s arms wrap around me and say . . .

“You were made for this.”

Today as I entered that church building again for the first time since I helped with that VBS, I was overcome with a feeling of redemption. 

Three years ago, I began praying that God would redeem this church, this community, the children and moms I loved on that week in VBS and God has been so good to let me see it happen before my eyes.

I walked down that old hallway to the parlor.  The pictures were still hanging there.

This time I was able to look at that picture from a heart that has been healed…a heart that has been redeemed.

I couldn’t help myself though…I may or may not have drawn a mustache on the face in that picture…It was all in good fun this time…I promise.

My seminary graduation

My seminary graduation….The joy of this moment was overshadowed by painful words spoken over our family. I wish I could grab that girl with that silly hat on and give her a hug and assure her that “God’s got this!!!”

My prayer for my daughter on the day of her birth…

Today is your big day sweet daughter of mine.

For 9 months I have dreamed of this day….the day I will get to kiss your cheek and tell you how much I love you and look forward to watching you grow into a woman.

I sit here with tears streaming down my cheeks thinking about how loved you are even before you have taken your first breath here on earth.

There are so many stories I can’t wait to tell you someday.

I will tell you about how your daddy is dreaming of holding you in his arms for hours at a time, and how he doesn’t wake up for much of anything at 4:30 am except fishing, hunting, and meeting you for the first time.

I can’t wait to tell you the stories of how your big brother and sister have fought over who gets to hold you first and how they have counted down the months, days and now hours until your arrival.

Your affectionate sister has her rocking chair all prepped for snuggling you, clothes all arranged to dress you up, and a special bracelet she made for you she can’t wait to put on your wrist.

Your tenderhearted brother has talked to you in my tummy and smiles from ear to ear everyday as he felt you kick and roll around .

So many stories to tell.

Family and friends all over the country and world are awaiting your arrival.  I don’t think I would be exaggerating to guess that hundreds of people have been praying for you and will wake up this morning anxious to hear the news of your birth.

There are two things I want to tell you today that I hope you carry with you from the moment you take your first breath until the second you take your last…

First I want you to always know that you are loved.

But second I want you always to know that there are hurting people all over the world who need you to share this love with them.

All around world today children will be born.

Some will be born into the love that you will know.

But many of these babies won’t have a line at the hospital of family waiting to have their turn to meet and hold them and tell them they love them.

There is a mom somewhere today that will hold her baby in her arms for the first time and feel many other emotions than the joy I am feeling right now.

Fear that she doesn’t have a safe, warm home to raise her baby.

Sadness that her child’s father doesn’t want anything to do with being a Daddy.

Around the world today babies will be born who will never know the comfort of a mother’s arm.  There are all kinds of reasons that the moms of these babies will choose or be forced to turn their baby over to the government to be raised in an orphanage or by a family that is not their own.

Some of these babies will be loved just as you are….a “forever” family has been praying for and dreaming of welcoming these children into their homes.  Some of the babies born on this day will have to wait for years to meet these forever families.  But the day will come and they will someday know the love of family that you will know from the first day of your life.

But sweet child of mine, most of these babies will grow into children and then become adults who have never known the love of family that you will get to experience every moment of your life.

As I have been getting things ready for your arrival, my prayer has been that all the days of your life you will not keep this love to yourself, but that it will pour out of you into the hearts of others.

In this past week I have thought of some things that I sure don’t want to forget to tell you….

I want you to know….the swing you will rock to sleep in was given to you by one of my elementary school teachers who used it for her beautiful grandson that was adopted into their family last year.

I don’t want to forget to tell you…the car seat you will ride in was given to you by a family who bought it for a precious foster child that they took care of for months and months.

I also want you to know…the Ethiopian coffee I will drink in the sleepy days to come was sent to me from a friend who just returned last month to bring home another child from an orphanage to welcome into their family.

I have to tell you….yesterday was parent child dedication at church.  You kicked wildly in my tummy as Daddy and I prayed over dear friends of ours who were dedicating three daughters that they have adopted into their family from the foster care system.

I also want to make sure you know…for the past few months a sweet teenager at church has been mesmerized by my growing belly.  She had rubbed on it and stared at it asking me all kinds of questions about you.  It was just a year ago that this teenager was an orphan in Ecuador.  But because our friends had love to share, they welcomed her into their home and are surrounding her with a love she has never known before.

Oh, and just last night…I tucked one of your brother’s friends into a bed in the room we have prepared for you.  Just four years ago this precious boy laid his head down to sleep in an orphanage on the other side of the world, but sweet friends of ours took in this boy and his two siblings to be a part of their family.

Sweet, sweet Bethanny.

In the years to come, you will learn that the unconditional love that you will be surrounded with all the days of your life, is the love that is given to us from God above.

You are surrounded by our family and friends who have chosen to not keep this love to themselves but to pour it out into the lives of others.

My forever prayer for you is this…to love God, to love who you are in Him, and to love others.

Do not take this love for granted, my child.

Share it as if it is not yours to keep.

Pour it out with abound to a world full of children and adults alike that are desperate to know such a love.

Baby girl Buxton...arriving November 2013

Pursuing peace…despite the hormones…

This morning I read chapter 14 of Romans.  This really should be a weekly reading for every believer.

A twice a day required reading for a pregnant woman.

If we all really put into practice the teachings of this passage, our relationships would be transformed.

I am sitting here typing this in my 38th week of pregnancy.

If anything is an enemy to the words of Romans 14:19…it is a woman’s hormones.

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”(Romans 14:19 ESV)

I think those who know me best, would classify me as a generally peaceful person.  Now…those same people who know my core know that I have never been afraid to speak up loudly when I see injustice…but in those times I always hope and pray that my pursuit of justice is intertwined with my pursuit for peace.

Enter hormones.

I remember early in this pregnancy I taught me 8-year-old and 10-year-old about hormones…

Let me set the stage for you…

I was in my first trimester of pregnancy.  My body chemistry was in overdrive as it was preparing a place to grow a tiny human in my womb.

It was a normal day running errands in the minivan.  A rather typical sibling rivalry was brewing in the back of the van…

Almost out of nowhere, my blood pressure skyrocketed and out of my mouth came a loud, “Stop it!!!  Shut up!!!!  Not another word until I tell you it is okay”

This is anything but normal for me.

I immediately knew I had blown it for the 100th time that week as a mom.  Tears filled my eyes.

I had silence in the van alright.  But the result was two kids trembling in the back of the van.  I had silence, but not peace.

Then without thinking I just started talking to them,

“Okay kids.  Your behavior was wrong.  But my response was wrong too.  Let me just tell you something about the next year….When a woman is pregnant there are these things in her body called hormones that help make the baby.  The hormones also for some reason make a woman more emotional where she cries a lot more.  And what you saw just now….hormones can make a woman very cranky and turn into something that resembles an angry bear.”

“So, just be warned….you never know when the bear might come out of momma.  That doesn’t make it okay….I am just giving you a warning.”

A week passed.  Long day at work.  Sibling rivalry in the van.  Tough day of homework.  Joe did something that irritated me when he got home.  (it was such a big deal that I don’t even remember what it was….he probably forgot to fill up the water pitcher or something huge like that).

The bear came out again on all three of them, and stormed out of the room in tears.

I sat on the couch in tears.

Frustrated that sibling rivalry exists, teacher’s assign homework, my husband doesn’t love water as much as I do, chips can’t be considered a health food.

Frustrated at myself for blowing my top.

Peaceful heart…where did you go?

In a few minutes around the corner comes my tender-hearted 10-year-old son.  He wraps his arms around me and says, “Hormones, right momma?”

Just what I needed to bring peace to my heart.

Joe and I exchanged a sweet glance, and I smiled and said, “Yes, son. Hormones.”

Romans instructs us to “pursue what makes for peace.”   I have learned that peace only comes with pursuit.  And peace must come to my own heart before I can pass along the peace to others.

This passage teaches me that my words and actions should have the purpose of “mutual upbuilding.”   Whether with my spouse, an acquaintance, my kids, or a coworker….the goal is peace.

As Christmas ads begin to flood my mailbox and TV and the colors red and green begin to color my world….hormones or not…

“Let there be peace on Earth….and let it begin in me.”

And a, “Your welcome” in advance to my future daughter-in-law out there….your future husband will be well trained on the biology of hormones in women.

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Friendship…the best gift of all…

Last night I laid my head on my pillow and literally almost giggled myself to sleep. I drifted off to sleep with such joy and thankfulness in my heart.

That’s what happens when you spend an evening with friends.

The kind of friends who have walked with you through heartache and celebrated with you during times of joy.

Friends that know sometimes what a girl needs is an evening of cupcakes, coffee, hot glue, and laughter.

As I drifted to sleep last night, my mind kept thinking back to 6 years ago.

Six years ago, our family had picked up and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma.   It was the next step in a leap of faith that we had taken for Joe to ‘start over’ in his career/ministry path.

We didn’t know a single person in Tulsa, but the excitement of a new direction in life filled our hearts as we drove northeastward on I-44 with our two preschool children and all of our possessions packed up in a minivan and U-haul.

I remember seeing the beauty of the Tulsa hills as we approached the city. Despite the beauty, the excitement turned to fear.

What in the world are we doing moving to a new state for the third time in our short 8 years of marriage?

I then remembered how difficult each move had been.  How lonely moving to a place where you know no one can be.  I had done it 6 times in my life.  I knew very well what was ahead for me.

No joke, I turned on the radio to see if I could find a good station to distract me and the Brandon Heath song, “Don’t Get Comfortable”  blared through my minivan.  Tears streamed down my face as I wanted to believe the words of this song, yet knowing that there were likely many lonely days ahead for me as a stay at home mom of two preschoolers in a city where I didn’t even have one single friend.

That first night in Tulsa was the first of many nights in the coming year that I would lay my head down in my pillow and soak it with tears.

I longed to have just one friend to call to come over and share a cup of coffee and conversation.

I mourned the friendships I had left behind in the two other states where we had lived.  The kind of friends who know from the sound of your voice and the look in your eyes that you need a word of encouragement or who come snatch your two preschool kids to give you the little break you desperately need from mothering little ones.

That almost seems like a lifetime ago.

During those first years in Tulsa, God brought two friends into my life who were just what I needed.

One of them was that friend who would call and come pick up my kids to go to her house to play…even though I hadn’t even told her I desperately needed a break.

The other friend is the polar opposite of me in almost every aspect, yet our paths divinely crossed in those first years in Tulsa because God knew I needed more laughter in my life.  And this friend…well hands down she is the funniest person I have met in my entire life.

Last night I spent the evening with these two friends who took it upon themselves to do something for me because they know it is exactly what I need.  These friends know me well enough to know that decorating a baby’s room is not high on a priority list for me.  They know that I am big and tired and well just not as motivated as I was as a young whipper snapper pregnant 20 something.

These two girlfriends, who are both unfairly talented in their crafting and decorating skills, gathered some of my other sweet friends and last night we all worked together on craft projects to decorate baby Bethanny’s room.

Curtains, pillowcases, hair accessory frame, letters to spell Bethanny’s name, a lamp, a canvas

And though all of these things were amazing, the sweetest part of the evening was the laughter that filled the rooms as we spent the evening together.

I wish I could go back to that young mom of two preschoolers that I was six years ago and wrap my arms around her and tell her, “Hang on.  Trust in God’s promises.  Believe in the prayers that your mother prayed over you as a child to have friends who are there for you in times of need, and that influence you in a path of chasing after the Father.  Rest in His arms now, friends are on their way….and by the way you wouldn’t even believe it if I told you how truly amazing these friends will be.”

As I laid my head down on my pillow last night, my eyes were teary but this time my heart was overflowing with joy as I recounted the stories told throughout the evening and thought about the adorable room that awaits our sweet Bethanny.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning”  Psalm 30:5

There are still a few things being finished up but here’s just a few of the amazing things my friends did for sweet Bethanny’s room.

I promised them that with the next child I will keep it to two or three letters

I promised them that with the next child I will keep it to two or three letters

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Dresser cycled into a changing table... like I said these friends are unfairly talented.

Dresser upcycled into a changing table… like I said these friends are unfairly talented.

Baby Buxton finally has a name.

I think people were beginning to think that we had a name and were just keeping it a secret.

The last straw for Caleb was on Friday when he came home and told me that we needed a name for the baby soon because the girls at school were driving him crazy asking him if the baby had a name yet.

The honest truth is, we had some names we had tossed around, but really hadn’t put too much thought into it.

I would like to sound all spiritual and say that we spent hours in prayer waiting for God to give us the name.

And I wish we could say that we spent tons of time going over names and researching meanings.

We did do all of that the first time I got pregnant.

Life was so precious during that time…we were a decade younger.  A decade
‘more clueless’ of how our world was about to be rocked by dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and rearranging our lives around a crying, snotty nosed bundle of ‘joy.’

We were only 6 weeks pregnant and set out on one of those adventures that we loved to do together before kids….camp in a tent under the stars.  On the way to the campsite, we picked up one of those enormous baby name books at a bookstore (this was long before access to internet on phones where all those tools are at your fingertips).

I have etched in my memory spending hours on that trip going through every name in that book by flashlight in that cozy tent.

Most of the names we crossed out right away because of someone in our lives that had ‘ruined’ that name for us.  Some we circled to consider and toss around for the next couple of months until a name stuck.

That pregnancy ended in miscarriage as did our next two pregnancies.

I never cracked that thick baby name book open again.   Some things are a little too painful to revisit….and I choose to focus on the happy moments Joe and I had dreaming of what our baby would look like and the ‘perfect’ name  instead of pain that came later when we didn’t have the chance to see what he or she looked like or to call them by name.

So…

I really don’t know if the lack of urgency to pick a name was some deep emotional wound, or simply the perspective we have a decade later…we really don’t need all the answers to everyone’s questions in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Have you picked out a name?
Are you planning on having more children?
Do you have a nursery?
Are you going to nurse?
What preschool are you going to put your child in?

I want to say to all the first time moms out there “Slow down.  Take a load off.  Let’s all agree to take life one day at a time.”

Back to naming this baby.

Each of us had a few names that we liked more than others.

Big brother was stuck on Farboogle.
Big sister campaigned for  Braelynn.
Daddy has voted for Molly with every pregnancy (Holly and Molly in the same family….too confusing for me)
Momma…well I was stuck.  No names rising to the top.

Then, this past week, as I was getting ready to go to work, a name we had tossed around was stuck in my head.

It all started many months ago when Brook was desperately wanting to watch a movie.  Her go to movie to get us to say yes to getting to watch a movie is “Soul Surfer.”  She loves the movie, but she is also a pretty savvy girl and knows we like the movie too and love the message of it.

After making her movie request she said…

“What about Bethany?  Like the girl in Soul Surfer.  That’s a great name.”

We all shook our head in agreement.  It was a good name.  No childhood friends, former students, or kids in our kids ministries that had ruined it for us.

But still…it wasn’t a name that we were ready to have monogrammed on baby blankets (not that I have any of my kids names monogrammed on anything…as does my sister who monograms new backpacks and lunchboxes every school year…my kids names are Sharpied on the inside of the lunchboxes …and they just may have had the same lunch boxes since kindergarten…hopefully they aren’t forever scarred by my lack of excitement about such frivolous things as monogramming)

Months passed.

We threw several more names around but still the growing child in my womb was referred to as ‘baby.’

Then it happened.

As if God monogrammed it for me on my mind.

This time of year I spend a lot of time thinking about my sweet niece Daisy.  She would have been 5 years old this fall.  If you don’t know the story you can read more about precious Daisy here.

Though I never got to even hold beautiful Daisy or buy her a cute pair of tennis shoes :)…I loved her and mourn each year along with the rest of my family.

As I was praying for my brother and sister in law who live on the other side of the world, and thinking about how painful this time of year is for them…. it occurred to me.

Daisy’s middle name was Elizabeth.  Then the name Bethany popped in my brain.

In my mind it was settled.  Bethany was her name.  I just needed to convince the rest of the family.

So, I went to the internet hoping that there was some beautiful meaning attached to it.

There is was glaring at me, “house of pain and misery.”

What a terrible meaning for a name.

You would have thought my training in Biblical languages and history would have alerted me to the etymology of this word.

Once again that degree failed me.

Of course.  “Beth” means house.  I had that on a flashcard in seminary once upon a time.

I researched a little more and found some other meanings that were a little easier to swallow.
“daughter of The Lord”–I don’t follow how they get the meaning but its a great meaning if it is true.  Sounds like someone making up their own meaning to make the meaning of the name more ‘meaningful’

“House of figs/dates”–Not a fan of figs or dates…but l would like to live in a house of figs and dates more than I would like living in a house of pain and misery.”

Then as if God once again stepped in and assured me that this was the name of our daughter it occurred to me….

I want more than anything for my children to be a safe haven for those in pain and misery.

When all the world rejects the poor, the diseased, the addicted, the person with the past….

My deepest desire for my children is for them to be a place these people can find hope, grace, and love….

Sort of a home, a safe haven for those in misery and pain.

Bethany.

Then there was the dreaded middle name.

That name that usually only is significant for one of two reason.
1.  For parents to use when they want their child to know they mean business.
2.  For a teacher to use when you have two kids in your class that have the same name…story of my life…Holly Hicks did not have a middle name.  My middle name was Ann…so everyone who knew me from age 5 to 18 think my intended name was HollyAnn.    It really was something our moms and teachers started calling me because Holly Hicks And Holly Higle were attached at the hip from ages 6 to age 12.

I had a middle name picked out for a long, long time.  One I wanted to use but always got vetoed by sweet Joe.

Don.  Boy or girl.  Dawn.

Joe too was attached to his middle name growing up.  Anyone who knew him in his childhood knew him as Joe Don.  His friends and family back home only know him as Joe Don.

In college, he began simply calling himself Joe and so because we met when he was in his later twenties I only got to know him as Joe.

Joe Don and Holly Ann…sounds sweet and very southern….pass the sweet tea.

I always liked his middle name, but it was not natural for me to call him Joe Don because that is not what I first got to know him as.

In the past few years the name Don has taken on a whole new significance to my family.

A few years ago we said goodbye to a dear cousin of mine, Don.  Don was always someone I admired.  He and his wife Sharon were always a couple I looked up to as an example of a marriage that I hoped to have someday.

My Joe reminds me a lot of my cousin Don.   Both men of integrity, grace, and compassion, and humbleness…characteristics I pray all my children will have.

So to me… Dawn was the perfect middle name to give our little girl.

I had my case prepared to argue my name choice and I would take it to the breakfast table when everyone woke up and cross my fingers.

Bethany Dawn.

We sat down to breakfast and I explained my name selection.

Who knew it would be so easy?

We took a vote by thumb.  Caleb was the temporary hold out…still thinking we might give in to Farboogle.

As simply, and yet as miraculously as that….

Our sweet daughter has a name.

We began a discussion of name spelling.  We all agreed that Don should be the Dawn version.

The kids were sold when I told them that it was cousin Don’s daughter’s middle name, April Dawn.  Cousin April is one of their favorite people in the entire world.

Bethany morphed into Bethanny.

Two n’s like Brooklynn and cousin Ashlynn.  “Ann” like my middle name.

Destined for a life of never finding a souvenir with her correct name spelling and always having to correct people when they just put one ‘n.’

Oh how we are all so excited to meet our

Bethanny Dawn Buxton

Now…{wipes head in relief} that one is checked off the list of million things I hope to get done before Bethanny arrives in 9 or so weeks.

Four thumbs up fro Bethanny.  A bent thumb from the one who was holding out for farboogle.

Four thumbs up for Bethanny. A bent thumb from the one who was holding out for Farboogle.

The kids were thrilled to finally have a name to share with family.

The kids were thrilled to finally have a name to share with family.

One of the bazillion teams Holly Hicks and Holly Higle were on together, thus my childhood as Holly Ann.

One of the bazillion teams Holly Hicks and Holly Higle were on together, thus my childhood as Holly Ann.

The kids proudly wearing their "The Dash" shirts at their jog-a-thon in memory of Cousin Don.

The kids proudly wearing their “The Dash” shirts at their jog-a-thon in memory of Cousin Don.

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The kids love their “cousin” April Dawn

This was the phrase Don, who was a football coach, always asked his players.  Your life is represented by the dash.  My prayer is that all my kids will make a difference in this world during the "The Dash" God has given them.

This was the phrase Don, who was a football coach, always asked his players. Your life is represented by the dash on your tombstone. My prayer is that all my kids will make a difference in this world during “The Dash” God has given them here on earth.  .  . just as Donald Keith Hendrix did with his.

My first published book…laughing in the face of the great Accuser who told me over and over I could never do it

The urge hits me every so often, and this week it was stronger than ever.

More than anything, I wanted to run to the store and pick up a beautiful journal to record all that my heart felt this past week.  Several times I picked up one of my favorite pens and looked at it wishing more than anything that I could pour my heart out onto paper through that pen.

I know this seems like a rather silly desire.  But when you have lost the ability to be able to do a “normal” thing there are moments when your heart intensely feels the pain of the loss and you cry out to God longing to have just ‘one day’ of being “normal” again.

Up until a few years ago, I kept quiet about a debilitating disorder I have lived with for twenty years now.  Only family and my closest friends knew about the quiet struggle I face every day living life unable to do one of life’s most common tasks.

I finally found the freedom to share this part of my story openly  here and here and here on my blog.

Because I went into detail about the disorder in the above blogs, I won’t recount the details here.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.   When I was a Senior in high school, I started having difficulty writing.  After two years of struggling and consulting doctors, I was diagnosed with having a focal dystonia medically termed mogigraphia or Schriver’s Palsy.

More commonly this disorder is termed Writer’s Cramp.

Yes.  There is a true writer’s cramp.

And it isn’t simply a tired feeling you get when you have handwritten dozens of wedding thank you cards or a three page essay for school.

It is a real, rare condition that robs the diagnosed of the ability to write with a pen.

As I recounted in the above blogs, for someone who loved to write cards to friends, has dozens of handwritten journals from childhood and college stored away in boxes, and who was a biology major struggling to take notes in class and complete Chemistry homework in less than 5 hours….the struggle has more than once led to a quiet battle with depression.

Over the past 20 years, there were times when the struggle with the inability to write and the pain associated with the disorder has caused me to press into God more than ever.

At other times, I would find myself going months on end without spending quality time in prayer because of the frustration.

Spending alone time with God  used to be easy for me.

My family and college roommates would testify that I rarely missed a morning when my alarm would go off before anyone else I was living with and plop myself in a chair with my Bible, Bible study book, and journal to spend 30 minutes or more in prayer and Bible study.

I have boxes of beautifully handwritten prayer journals and Bible study books that have every blank neatly filled in with my thoughts.

As my condition progressed, I found myself spending much of my ‘quiet time’ frustrated that I couldn’t record my prayers in my journals or complete the ‘blanks’ in my Beth Moore study or neatly draw the symbols Kay Arthur urges you to draw.

Over time, I stopped writing.  No more writing cards, writing prayers, taking sermon notes, or recording memories I didn’t want to forget.

Though I am extremely fortunate to live in a digital age, typing on a computer is just not the same to me.

I would give up everything digital I own to be able to neatly handwrite a card to a friend without pain.  .  .

My deepest desire is to be able to crack open a beautiful journal and pick up my favorite pen to record my dreams and prayers for my kids in a journal for them.

One of the dreams I have had hidden in my heart has been to someday write a book.  The dream includes handwriting the book using pen and paper….old school style.

Short of a miracle, this dream is far-fetched for me.

But, I saw a glimpse of that dream coming true this past week.

This week a box containing a book I authored arrived on my doorstep.

Granted..

—The book is really more of a booklet.

—My dad’s publishing company published it.

—It is a book(let) for kids….which makes me laugh out loud.  Literally.

For someone who didn’t really like kids much until I had kids of my own (gasp from those who don’t know me well and have only met me in the past decade when I have either been a children’s pastor’s wife or been on staff myself doing ministry with kids), the fact that I have written a book for kids is almost comical if you knew me in the first 25 years of my life.

When I cracked open the book, emotion trembled through my body.

That’s when the urge to run out to Hobby Lobby and buy a beautiful journal rushed through my veins.

Who am I?

Who am I to write such a book?

I was a teenager who saw babysitting kids as torture.

I was a college young woman who could not understand why in the world my college friends were actually CHOOSING a career that would trap them in a classroom with snotty nosed kids all day long.

I was a young children’s pastor’s wife who would find myself sitting in awe of my husband’s natural ability to relate to kids.  I often would sit silently as his co-teacher to 4th and 5th graders because I had no idea how to relate to them.

I was a mother of two preschool children who had to avoid reading mommy blogs and going to playdates because I would get overwhelmed at my lack of natural mommy instincts that every other mother in the world seemed to have.

But there it was glaring at me “Deepening Your Spiritual Roots….FOR KIDS” and at the bottom underneath my dad’s name was my name….

Holly Higle Buxton

I wish I could time warp back to show the book to high school Holly, or college Holly, or mother of two kids under the age of two Holly.

I guarantee they would never believe it was real.   .  .  that it had to be a joke.

Maybe a book on how to shoot a free throw.

Or possibly a book on theology.

Or a biography of a family member.

Or maybe a how-to-book on how to navigate the world of church when you are an introverted woman who doesn’t fit in with other women who love shopping, high heels, and decorating their bathrooms.

But a book for kids.  Not in a million years.

Isn’t that just like God?

He did it with Moses.  With the disciples.  With the woman at the well.

He used the inept.  The under-qualified.

As I flipped through my first published book, I got teary eyed.   Though I can’t record my emotions with a pen in a beautiful journal…..this computer will have to do.

As I penned the book (technically typed…I just like the sound of penned), my prayer was that through this booklet thousands of children and parents all over the world would learn to dig their roots deep into the things of God.

This morning as I am typing this, I am fighting off the feelings of pain in my hand and shoulder.  This is one of the effects that writer’s cramp has….gripping a pen awkwardly to write the things you have to write (checks, forms for school, occasional thank you notes) causes joint damage.

Typing too much aggravates the wrist, fingers, shoulder and back.

It is a vicious cycle of pain and frustration that often gets the best of me and keeps me from writing a note to friend or typing a journal entry on the computer.

As I hold my book in my hand, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite verses in the Bible.

Revelation 12:10-11

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

How many times the great accuser (the devil) tried to get me to throw in the towel!  His voice in my head would tell me it couldn’t be done.

“Holly, you can’t grip a pen to write a single sentence or sit at a computer typing for more than an hour without being in pain.”

“Holly, are you kidding yourself?  What qualifies you to write a book for kids?  What will people think when they hear that you used to jokingly tell people that you really don’t like kids?”

I don’t write this to brag on myself.  I am writing this to encourage those out there who have ever battle the voice of the accuser.

I have and will continue to overcome the evil one by the blood of my sweet Jesus and by telling the story of how God took a girl who didn’t like kids and who struggles to write a single sentence and used her to write a book that will no doubt will be read by thousands and thousands of kids and parents over the coming years.

To Him and Him alone be the glory.  Amen!

By the way, if you have left your children in my care over the past few years…I promise I love them….really I do…most of them I have actually grown to like!  Kids have grown on me.

Huge shout out to my high school classmate who brought the book to life through his illustrations.  And to my sweet friend Sarah who was able to capture a lovely headshot of my pregnancy swollen face.

Huge shout out to my high school classmate Corey who brought the book to life through his illustrations. And to my sweet friend Sarah who was able to capture a lovely headshot of my pregnancy swollen face.  Sarah oozes creativity and you can follow her on her blog Twenty One Fifty Nine.

I should have been feeling pure excitement to open the box that contained my first batch of books.  But I may just have pulled a prank or two on the ladies at my Dad's publishing company that I knew would be packing this box.  My gut instinct was right.  I am just thankful there was not a dead animal or spider in it.

I should have been feeling pure excitement to open the box that contained my first batch of books. However, I was a bit scared.  In my younger years, I may just have pulled a prank or two on the ladies at my Dad’s publishing company that I knew would be packing this box. My gut instinct was right. I am just thankful there was not a dead animal or spider in it.

Am I ready for a baby? Why do we choose public education? Deep thoughts from a hospital waiting room…

This morning I am sitting in the waiting room of the hospital lab waiting an hour for the nasty glucose drink to make it into my system so they can test my blood sugar.

I had forgotten about this glorious pregnancy experience.

Funny thing is… as I am waiting, I am thinking about how quickly time flies.

In the past few weeks, several people have asked me if I am ready for the sleepless nights, monthly doctor’s visits, and poopy diapers that are in my near future.

Up until last week, I would answer these questions with a less than confident, “Sure.”

What I really want to say to these questions is  “ Of course we aren’t. Is anyone ever truly ready for their world to be rocked by the relentless demands of a tiny human who can do nothing for themselves except scream and dirty diapers?”

Last week, it struck me.  I am indeed ready.

Last week my oldest nephew started college.  He was born my freshman year of college.

Last week my son started his last year of elementary school and it won’t be long before I will officially be the mother of a teenager.

Last week I realized my son is in the same grade that Joe’s little brother was in when I met Joe…5th grade.  Now little brother Bucky is an ambitious vet school student creeping closer to the age of 30.

When I was the mother of two kids under the age of two, I remember well-meaning mothers who were sending their own kids to middle school or college reassuring me that time flies by and to enjoy my kids when they are babies.

I would smile and nod.  But I wasn’t really sure how to respond.  During the throws of potty training a two year old and nursing a three month old….time was not flying.

Some days time seemed to stand still, and I would count down the minutes until nap time and bed time.

Funny thing.  Somewhere along the way…time did indeed start flying.  I can’t even tell you when I felt the clock start speeding up….it just did.

The kids both learned to wipe their own bottoms.

They no longer need me to read books to them (although I still do).

And last week, a conversation with my son reminded me that indeed I am ready and even honored to get to help God mold another human life into a world changer in His Kingdom. . . even if it means going through sleepless nights, ear infections, and stinky diapers all over again.

Friday afternoon I picked up the kids from school after completing their first full week, and they both about collapsed in the car from exhaustion.

Caleb asked me, “Mom, can I take a two day nap?”

I looked back at him and for a moment thought, “Is this going to school thing worth it?” 

Each year Joe and I revisit our own decision for educating our kids in the public school system.

I am privileged to have many dear friends who have chosen different paths of educating their children.  Each family making the choice that is a best fit for their own kids and family.

Home education.  Private school.  Large and small public schools.  Classical education. Montessori education.

We see the lives of our home school friends and think the perks of being a homeschooling family seem incredible.

We hear about the Bible classes at the schools of our Christian private school friends and would love Bible as a class choice for our own kids.

Many of my friend’s young kids are studying Latin in their amazing classical education or learning at their own pace in their Montessori method school, and my mommy heart sometimes skips a beat in jealousy at the educational opportunities the kids in these schools have.

My head often swirls with doubt that I have made the wrong choice….that somewhere along the way I misheard the Holy Spirit and need to pull my kids out and home school or look more closely into the private schools available in our city.

Looking into the eyes of my exhausted son, I began to doubt  once again our decision to educate our children in the public school system.

Then the conversation on the drive home turned from tiredness to this…..

 “Momma, I found out today that the girl sitting next to me has never read the Bible.”

Caleb went on to tell me that he and the little girl sitting next to him were having a discussion about something the class had read.  He had mentioned to her that it was similar to how the Israelites in the Bible were persecuted by Pharaoh.

Caleb explained to me in shock that this 5th grade girl had never read any stories of the Bible and that she had only been to a church one time on Easter when she saw pictures “of a man getting beaten by a whip.”

My heart beamed with pride as he told me about telling her about Jesus.

The conversation was the perfect time for me to remind Caleb that throughout his life God will perfectly position him next to people who need to hear about the hope that is found in Jesus.

I fought back the tears.  It was if the Lord knew in that moment I needed reassurance that God had made Joe and I the parents of our children and that He had given us the wisdom needed to parent them to be world changers for Him.

The same Biblical wisdom that helped us answer these parenting questions we have faced…

Should I let him cry it out to get him to go back to sleep? 

Am I dooming her to a life of ill heath and insecurity if I go back to work full-time and stop breastfeeding?

Does learning to write her name and to read in a coffee shop count as preschool?

Home school?  Private school?  Public school?

As I write this, I am typing on a keyboard in my lap as I continue to wait out this hour of letting the glucose settle in my system so the nurse can draw my blood.

My lap is getting smaller these days. . .a constant reminder that God is entrusting Joe and me to yet another child.

Am I ready?  Sure.  And that is a confident ‘sure.’

I have an advantage this time around as a mother of a newborn.   I know firsthand that time truly does fly and that the sleepless nights and yucky diapers are just a blink in the grand scheme of parenting.

And that with every difficult parenting decision we will face, God’s wisdom will guide us to shape our sweet number 3, just as He has numbers 1 and 2.

Now…if only the next 10 minutes will fly by as I a wait for them to call my name!

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