Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Story: Celebrating 15 Years

Wow! I look at that picture to the left and marvel at the story it tells and the story that waits to unfold for those two college seniors. Tim and I started dating prior to our last semester at Carson-Newman, and by the time we graduated, we knew with certainty that this was more than a college romance. Our courtship continued long distance for the next year and a half, as Tim pursued further degrees at Tennessee Tech and I worked for an attorney in LaFollette. Then finally, on a very cold New Year's Eve 1993, we married.

Today Tim and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We've truly grown up together during these past 15 years as we've walked hand-in-hand through both the joy and sorrow of life. And while I don't have enough words to tell you how fortunate I am to have Tim as my husband, partner, and best friend, I sure want to try. For each year that we've shared:

15. Let me start with this one: Tim is a genuine guy who is modest about his many wonderful qualities. He will find this post terribly embarrassing. (Sorry honey.)

14. When Tim tells me that I am beautiful, I know he means it. He not only esteems my outward charms, whatever they may be, but he sees my heart, and he finds it beautiful.

13. Tim loves our sons, and he seeks to be fully engaged as their father. With every word, every hug, and every moment he answers their question: Yes, they have what it takes.

12. My life has had a constant undercurrent of peace, despite the inevitable busyness and chaos of this age, because of Tim's calm and steadfast nature.

11. When I look at Tim, I see the same man that I see in this photograph: a man of conviction and devotion. He is steadfast in his love of God, his love of others, and his love of his bride.

10. I am blessed with a husband who is curious about this world. Whether we're meandering on a backroad, exploring a city, or dreaming about places we want to go, it's a wonderful journey.

9. Tim is a man of his word. I know when he says something, he means it; and when he makes a promise, he will keep it. There's great peace in living with such a man.

8. I am thankful that I have a husband who loves to read and who appreciates a good book. I'm also blessed by how he encourages me to write (but maybe no more after this post).

7. Tim has been by my side during the greatest joys of my life and during my greatest sorrow. Despite the rushing tide of these moments, his strength and support never waivered.

6. I am certain of Tim's commitment to our marriage, his devotion to me, and his desire to walk through every step of our lives together.

5. How wonderful that Tim gets me: my sense of humor, my wit, my sarcasm, my melancholy, ... even my fascination with slogans on church signs.

4. I love (and laugh at) how Tim engages life as an engineer. If assembly time is three hours, Tim will take six. He's thoughtful, thorough, and exact. Even though it drives me crazy at times, I truly appreciate how he does a job well.

3. Tim desires that his gifts and abilities be used by God, and he has pursued how he can unite his passions for God's glory. It has been a blessing to watch this unfold and is a joy to imagine how it will continue to do so.
2. I love that my husband is living in the Larger Story, that his sights are set on the Kingdom, and that together we walk and live in FREEDOM in Christ. Thank you, Jesus.

1. I am thrilled that this is just the beginning of our story, and I cannot wait to see what the next 15 years hold for our journey. (Now, dear blushing Tim, it's over. You can sigh with relief. Oh yeah, one more thing ... Happy anniversary. I love you.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Many Homes for the Holiday

Our Christmas was probably a lot like inauguration night will be for President-elect Obama. With 10 balls to attend, he will eventually fall into bed, reflecting, "Boy, that was a lot of fun, but I'm exhausted!" We returned home last night after visiting all of the family for holiday festivities, and it was great but also exhausting.

We started our holiday tour with four days in LaFollette with Mom, Dad, Beth and Barry. This always feels most like Christmas to me, as my parents still live in the home where I celebrated my childhood Christmases. Thanks to MiMi and her delicious cakes (coconut, red velvet, apple stack) and cookies (too many to name), I know what one of our new year's resolutions will be!

Next, we returned to Knoxville to enjoy Christmas eve and Christmas day at home. Christmas eve we were fortunate to have lunch with our dear friends, Joe and Amy Coker, and their sons, Layton and Connor; Doug and Lea Voiles, and their precious baby Rachel; and Tim's college roommate, Steve Garland. Since the Cokers now live in Texas, it was a real treat to enjoy some time with them.

Experiencing the holiday with Seth and Reed is always magical. Seth especially had trouble sleeping this year, and he was in our bed by 1:30 a.m. When I realized he had no intention of falling back to sleep, I sent him to his own bed where he could wait the six remaining hours until morning. (Thankfully his need for sleep finally overcame him.)

The day after Christmas we left for our holiday celebration with the Tuckers and the McCalmons in Chattanooga. And then, we headed to Nashville, where we enjoyed a night with my sister Beth and brother-in-law Barry. A special treat was indoor rock climbing while there.

Despite the hustle and bustle, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, and we hope the same is true for all of you. I'd like to end by saying that today we took it easy and rested, but I can't. Tomorrow is another celebration (our anniversary), so there were chores to be done. Oh well, it is at least nice to sleep again in our own beds.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Greetings

Dear friends,
We've never been a family who includes a Christmas letter with our annual card. I don't really know why, given how much I like to write. So, I thought I'd at least post a holiday greeting on our blog.

We hope that this year has been filled with many blessings, much love, and great joy. Ours certainly has been. As with every year for the past nine, a highlight of our days is watching our boys, Seth and Reed, grow in every way imaginable. They continue to amaze us with their sweet spirits, huge hearts, and unique gifts.

The boys transitioned to a new school this year, and they did it with a great attitude. Thankfully this has been a wonderful move, and they are thriving at CAK. Reed is enjoying first grade, and he is becoming quite a good reader. It is a joy for me to watch a love of reading blossom in him. Seth is in fourth grade, and he does well in every subject. Math and science are his favorites, like his Dad.

Tim continues his work at KUB. He's now been there for eight years! I manage to stay busy while the boys are away each day. This year I began volunteering in the library at CAK, and I am really enjoying it. I'm surrounded by books -- what's not to love?!

Our year has been filled with many memorable moments, but Tim and I have a couple that stand out. A highlight of Tim's year was traveling to the Dominican Republic with One Vision International just last month with several friends from our church. A highlight of mine was traveling to Colorado in March to once again serve on the work crew for the Captivating retreat. A special blessing this time was making the trip with my friend Jenn.

We count these blessings among many, many others. Good health, amazing friends, an incredible family, a wonderful church...our list goes on and on. But, we know that all good things are gifts from God, and we count the blessing of His love and His grace and the gift of His Son as the greatest of all gifts. We pray that this holiday season you experience the goodness of His love and the sweetness of His grace as you celebrate the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas to all.
The Tuckers

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Holiday Must-Read

On the last day of fall semester finals during my senior year, my creative writing professor read us a short story during our exam time: "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote. I will never forget it.

It is a beautiful and beautifully-written story about a little boy and the two older women who are raising him, and it takes place obviously during the Christmas season. I remember listening to Mr. Marion read the story aloud, his soft, gentle voice unfolding the tale.

Perhaps my memory of this reading stays with me because less than an hour after hearing it, I learned that a dear friend of mine had died that morning. The story of love and loss that is "A Christmas Memory" is ever woven with my own experience of love and loss.

A few years after Tim and I married, I found a copy of "A Christmas Memory" and bought it. We began to read it aloud during the holiday season. Each year as the story draws to its close, I still cry. The beauty of this simple tale still moves me.

If you enjoy a good story, then look for a copy of "A Christmas Memory." Read it this holiday season, and as you do, remember those people who have loved you well.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And the Stockings Were Hung...

As Christmas comes each year, I am reminded of my childhood Christmases and the things that made them special. The nativity set painted by my mother. The late-night Christmas Eve service at my church. Boiled custard and homemade cookies.

I remember waking my sister early on Christmas morning (or her waking me), tiptoeing down the hall to peer into the still-dark den. We could see the outlines of Santa's gifts in the shadows, and our hearts quickened as we flipped on the light to see them clearly.

One Christmas still stands out in my memories. I don't know how old I was, but by my looks in the pictures I must have been nine or ten (pre-braces). On this particular holiday, many of our relatives came to visit, and Mom made a stocking for each and every one of them. I can still see our mantle, hung with a dozen stockings or more -- each with the relative's initials stitched on.

Each year we used these stockings for the relatives who were visiting. Whoever was there had a spot on our mantle and found their stocking stuffed. Yet, as it happens, through the years fewer and fewer of these stockings were hung. I can recall pulling the stockings out as we prepared the house for the holidays and reading the initials of family members we'd lost.

Yet, this tradition also reminds me of how our family has grown. First, Tim got his stocking. Next, my brother-in-law Barry. And then, the biggest stockings (and I mean BIG) of them all: Seth and Reed. Mom made these stockings as well ... knitted them. And while she says she didn't realize they would turn out so large, I'm not buying it. I think MiMi knew exactly what she was doing.

I don't know what traditions stand out to my sons, or what their strongest holiday memories will be. Tim, Seth, Reed, and I are creating many traditions of our own as we celebrate the holidays. Yet, we still return to my childhood home each Christmas, so I know that some of their most cherished memories will be the same as mine.

Seth and Reed have also laid under the tree and rearranged MiMi's hand-painted nativity (now chipped in places); they've tasted oh-so-many of her homemade cookies (but not the boiled custard); and they too have looked to the mantle to see their stockings bulging with surprises. And now, my holiday memories include the sight of their excited faces on Christmas morn.

Friday, November 28, 2008


On Tuesday I experienced one of those parental moments that blindsides you. Each day I operate fully aware of how amazing my boys are, or so I think. And then ... they take my breath away and I realize the impact of their lives, even upon me. I should say, especially upon me.

At CAK Grandparents' Day, both Seth and Reed sang a worship song with their classes to the audience of several hundred. To watch my boys sing praise with such joy was amazing. But what overwhelmed me was that the song that Seth sang was the song that I desperately needed to hear.

I watched his sweet face as the tune started to play, and as the first words passed his lips, my tears started to fall. It was the reminder I needed about the constancy of God's love, His goodness, and His faithfulness in the seasons of our lives. And I knew, as I watched Seth, that he believes with stunning faith that each word of his song is true.

I felt Seth asking me, "Mom, can you sing this too? Do you believe this is true?" This wasn't the first time I've faced this question posed through a worship song. And, just like last time, I found myself answering through thick tears, "Yes, I can sing." Yes, Seth. I do believe it's true ... He is good.

I invite you to listen and to sing along with Seth and me (click below; You Are Good by Nichole Nordeman):

Beautiful Music

Earlier I posted about Seth's participation in Junior Praise at CAK this year. This 3rd-4th-5th grade choir has been diligently preparing for their concert season all semester, and we're now in the midst of it.

Last Thursday, Tim, Reed, and I traveled with a host of other proud parents and grandparents to see Junior Praise perform at Dollywood. Here's Seth standing among his choirmates preparing to sing:

Junior Praise did a beautiful job performing a selection of holiday music. Here's a photo of the entire choir:

Their next performance was this past Tuesday at CAK Grandparents' Day. My parents were able to attend, and they were blessed by Junior Praise's song, and also by special songs that both boys sang with the student body -- Reed with the K-1st-2nd graders and Seth with the 3rd-4th-5th graders. These worship songs, "I Just Want to Thank You" and "You Are Good," were so beautiful sung by these children. (Warning: If you come to visit us, we'll probably make you watch the video ... we've turned into those kinds of proud parents!!!)

Junior Praise has a busy week, as they followed their Grandparents' Day song with a performance at the Fantasy of Trees on Wednesday. Watching Seth stand on the big stage with spotlights and all that jazz was amazing. He sang his heart out, along with the rest of the choir, and did a wonderful job (pictured below, middle of back row).

We were happy that both my parents and Tim's mom were able to attend this show.

The choir will wrap its season next Saturday with a performance at an area nursing home and a shopping center. We're so proud of the hard work Seth has put in to this experience and for his courage as he's sung in front of crowds these past few weeks. It's been a tremendous blessing, as his parents, to watch him shine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hooray! Dad's Home

The boys and I were on our own November 8-14, as Tim traveled to the Dominican Republic with a group from One Vision International. The group, comprised of several friends from our church plus a few from other area churches, went to Santa Domingo to spend a week among the locals and to help several churches with building repairs.

Needless to say, the boys and I missed Tim terribly while he was away. On the day after his return, we refused his jet lag and instead urged him out into the beautiful fall day. We went to Ijams Nature Center to enjoy a hike through spectacular foliage and along the river. Here are some pictures of our afternoon:

The fall colors were stunning! I don't know that Seth and Reed appreciated the contrast of the purple berries and the golden leaves, but it was really beautiful.

With trails to the left and right, we had a tough time deciding which way to go. Tim had the final word, and he chose a great path that led us to a boardwalk that meandered along the river.

After a week apart, Tim and I had a lot of hugging to catch up on. The boys were patient as our hike often slowed to a hand-in-hand stroll. Of course, they found the perfect sticks and were "sword fighting" most of the way, so I don't think they really noticed.

After we crossed the boardwalk, it was time to wind our way out of the woods. We took our time, enjoying the crisp air, the myriad of colors, and the pleasure of each other. It was a great day, made perfect by Tim's safe return home to us.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I'm passing the time at the computer because I don't want to go to bed. Tim's not here. He left today for a week in the Dominican Republic. After 15 years of marriage, this obviously isn't our first time apart. But, I tell you, I don't like having the bed to myself. That's why I invited two little fellas to sleep in it tonight. So, I've given them enough time to stop talking and giggling and to warm up the sheets. Hopefully they've left me some room. : )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trick or Treat Translation

How do you say "Trick or Treat" in Swedish? This year we had a very special Halloween, as we had friends from Sweden with us for the festivities.

When I was a freshman in high school, my family hosted a Swedish exchange student, Lotta, for the year. While she's been back to visit the States a few times through the years, we've never had the pleasure of meeting her husband or her two sons until now.

Seth and Reed were curious how they would communicate with Karl and Melker, boys their same ages who speak very, very little English. And it was interesting to watch their first meeting, as they awkwardly tried to engage each other in play. However, it didn't take long. By the time we donned our costumes, they were arm in arm like lifelong buddies as they traipsed from house to house getting their goodies.

It turns out "Trick or Treat" is an easy phrase to learn. We could hear Karl say it with gusto at each neighbor's door. In the end, the four fast friends had a great time together, and somehow Karl and Melker found room in their luggage to carry all of their sugary loot.

Making the Connection

I admit it. I get lost in movies. Swept away by a good story. Caught up in great characters. I saw a movie recently, and while I wouldn't say it had either of the above, it did have something I liked a lot: relationships. The movie is aptly titled "The Women," and its focus is on the relationships between the four women in the story.

Throughout the movie you watch these extremely busy, very different women connect with each other ... over lunch, over manicures, over the telephone ... and you get a sense of how important they are to one another. Sure, in a glance it looks superficial, but I think a deeper look reveals a picture of people investing in each other without need of excuse or the pull for productivity.

I don't know about you, but I don't spend a lot of time with my friends. I'm talking about "no agenda, no errands, no exercise, no excuse" together-for-the-fun-of-it time. In the past when I've "made time" for my girlfriends, it has been with a premise: book club, scrapbooking, exercising, Bible study, or some other pursuit. Watching the women in this film made me wonder, "Isn't relationship alone a worthy enough reason to be with one another?"

Today I had such an experience when I met two friends for lunch. Usually this means a quick bite and then we're off our separate ways to run errands. Today, however, we sat outside enjoying the unseasonable warmth and, before I knew it, two hours passed in relaxed, real conversation.

I tell you -- it was just what I needed. If it hadn't been time to pick up the boys, I probably could have sat with them for another two hours. It felt luxurious. Pampering. Good for me. And for a moment, I felt guilty. Indulgent. Selfish. (I know I'm not alone in this reaction.) Why? Why did I need to justify the two wonderful hours I spent with these friends?

The truth is we need each other. We need to invite friends into our lives. We need to invest our time in relationships. We need to share our stories. We need to relax and laugh together. It's refreshing; it's restorative; and it's really, really okay.

So, the next time I see girlfriends on the big screen, I'm going to let them serve as a reminder that I need some time with my friends. Not to DO anything ... just to BE (be together, be real, be comfortable, be content, be silly, be fed, be encouraged, be relaxed, be loved, BE).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dress Rehearsal

This semester Seth is participating in Junior Praise at his school. This is a choir for grades 3-5, and they perform several times throughout the holiday season. We "encouraged" Seth to join (that is a gentle way of saying we made him do it), but he has enjoyed his weekly rehearsals. Now, they are getting ready to take the show on the road.

Their first performance is tomorrow evening as the opening act for the middle school presentation of "Willy Wonka." Today was their "dress rehearsal" standing on the risers in the gym where they will sing tomorrow night. It's a much bigger stage than the tiny choir room where the 40 or so boys and girls gather each week to rehearse.

Reed and I arrived early for pick up and were delighted to catch them in the middle of their rehearsal. Unbeknownst to Seth, we peeked in to watch them sing their two selections: the classics "I have a cold in my nose" and "Hot chocolate." Not only do they sing with gusto, they have accompanying hand motions. It is so incredibly cute!

After they practiced marching in and marching out, they ran through their two numbers again, and this time Reed and I snuck in to watch from a seat in the audience. I was afraid our presence would distract Seth, but when he saw us, he smiled hugely without missing a beat.

I am so proud of Seth for giving Junior Praise a try. I am impressed by how he has learned his music, his lyrics, and the motions. I pray for his nerves tomorrow night and that he'll experience great joy in performing. And I can't wait to catch the rest of the shows in November (with performances at CAK chapel, a local nursing home, Dollywood, and the Fantasy of Trees).

If you happen to catch one of the shows, look for Seth. He's third from the right on the back row ... you'll know him by his huge grin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dodgeball Drama

On Friday Tim picked the boys up from school. I asked what information he got about their school days on the drive home. As usual, it wasn't much (they are their father's sons, so chit-chat isn't something they're prone to do). However, we did get a great peek into their playground personalities.

Seth told his dad that he has been given the nickname "The Peacemaker" when playing dodgeball and battle ball. I had all sorts of heartwarming thoughts when I heard this, thinking of Seth and his kind, gentle heart. Then, Tim filled me in that he's earned this nickname because he runs around making the peace sign while avoiding personal attack. Hmm, not as heartwarming, but pretty darn funny to imagine his spunk as he taunts his opponents.

Reed nonchalantly informed his dad that he hit two girls in the face during dodgeball that very day. "Did they cry?" Tim asked. Reed replied that one maybe did. Okay, some thirty years ago, I was that girl! (Really, we're still playing dodgeball?!) I won't hold it against Reed ... I know it wasn't intentional (he's moving too fast to aim). After all, in a (dodgeball) battle, self-preservation is key and the enemy is the enemy -- regardless of whether they have pigtails.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Finally Free

A dear friend introduced me to this beautiful song by Nichole Nordeman recently. I wanted to share it with you. Here are the lyrics (to listen, click here:

No chain is strong enough, no choice is wrong enough
No mountain high enough that He can't climb
No shadow dark enough, no night is black enough
No road is lost enough that He can't find

And if the Son has set us free, then we must be free indeed
Let the chains fall away, starting today
Everything has changed...I'm finally free

No pain is deep enough, no heart could bleed enough
Nothing but Jesus' love can make a way

And if the Son has set us free, then we must be free indeed
Let the chains fall away, starting today
Everything has changed...I'm finally free

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Honesty of a Child

This morning I was saying goodbye to the boys. When I hugged Reed, he said, "Whew, Mom. You need a shower." Okay, I've learned I just have to laugh and marvel in the incredible honesty of children.

Last night we were at dinner, and I said to the boys, "Tell me something you like about your mom." (Yes, I know I'm setting myself up in that moment for a fall.) First on Reed's list: "You're not funny..." I cracked up. I'm not sure why he likes that I'm "not funny." Maybe my mere (and apparently failing) attempts at humor somehow entertain him. Who knows?

A couple of years ago, I asked Reed for a kiss. He came toward me to bestow it and stopped short. "Mom, your breath stinks!" he declared. I looked into his angelic face and considered the zing that had just escaped from his little lips. I even asked him to repeat it ... I couldn't believe he was refusing me. But he was -- even a four-year-old has standards! Brush your teeth first, please Mom!

I tell you, engaging with your children can be risky. You're likely to get an honest reaction or a truthful opinion, so you need to be prepared to take it. I know that in times like these, I get delightful practice in accepting criticism with a smile, seeing humor in my flaws, and learning to laugh at myself.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reality Rambling

I wouldn't say that I'm a "reality junkie." Sure, I've been a fan of Survivor, The Bachelor & The Bachelorette (I hate to confess that!), The Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, What Not to Wear, and Project Runway, but not at the same time. Well ... not all at the same time! Really! (Who'd have time to watch all of those programs in a week?)

Right now, however, I watch the latter three fairly faithfully (we just got Tivo -- love it!). I was wondering why I'm drawn to these three shows specifically, when there are so many reality fixes available. Here's what I came up with:

I enjoy watching people step into their own. To see the blinders come off as they really see themselves. To watch as they surprise themselves with their talent or beauty or promise. I like watching as they deal with challenging situations with creativity, tenacity, and vulnerability. And I love watching them succeed.

It's harder to see this in real life. Perhaps it's because our challenges aren't concentrated and edited neatly for an hour-long viewing. Maybe it's because we're not often challenged or we fail to share our successes. Or it could be that all-too-familiar enemy, fear, that keeps us from giving it a shot.

But when I do see it, it's glorious. I think of Charlie and Debbie after they finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 2003. And the women who brave the journey to Colorado to attend Captivating. And Seth as he hits a baseball. And Reed as he reads through an entire book on his own.

I think of my first 5K with Jennifer. As I crossed the finish line, I felt like a mask had been removed, my excuses broken into pieces, and my true and brave and capable self evident to all -- even myself. It was overwhelming and glorious.

I cried then (boy, did I!), and I cry often as I watch these shows. I know, it may seem nuts. But it's really a beautiful thing to watch these people, whether they are reaching a goal, winning a challenge, or seeing themselves in a new light.

To get there requires risk, courage, and vulnerability. The reward? Much more than a title, cash prize, or runway show. It's a moment of glory, when your true self and abundant strength shine through.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Year, New School

We're now a month into the new school year, so I wanted to post a word about how the boys are doing. Many of you know we moved Seth and Reed from public school to the Christian Academy of Knoxville. Reed is in first grade; Seth is in fourth.

As we discussed this move with the boys earlier this year, they questioned us (as many others did) about what led to our decision. We tried to explain how there were many factors, but largely we felt like this was where God wanted the boys. Tim and I pray about their education and felt His urging to make the move now. Reed made us smile when he asked, "Will He tell you to move us again?"

The boys have been blessed with two amazing teachers this year. Seth's teacher has been in the classroom for 33 years, and understandably, Seth instantly remarked how much she reminds him of Tim's mom, who has been a teacher just as long. Fourth grade is challenging Seth with a work load he wasn't used to in prior grades. We're having to develop an afternoon routine so he can get all of his homework done with playtime to spare.

Reed's teacher is a veteran of the classroom too, with a vivacious personality. We were happy to see him connect with several boys in his class quickly (he tends to form friendships with the girls -- already a ladies' man!). He keeps a weekly journal, and it's a delight to read through them (and see the accompanying illustrations). One hilarious 1st grade moment came last week, when he told his teacher that she was "getting more gray hair." Thankfully she has a great sense of humor!

We've been so pleased with their experience thus far at the new school! They've adjusted quickly, made friends easily, and seem happy and settled. It's a delight to watch them encounter the difference in the environment there ... from memorizing scripture each week to sharing prayer requests with their peers to humming worship songs that their teachers play in class. We are so happy and so grateful that they can have this experience.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A New Name

I've been studying Eve. It's stunning, really, to consider the swell of God's handiwork culminating with Woman--the crown of creation and image bearer of God. She lived in perfect union with Adam and walked intimately with God ... until.

The love story turns into a tragedy, as Woman falls prey to the serpent and is deceived by the enemy. Perfect union is destroyed as Adam goes passive and fails to rescue Woman. And intimacy with God is shattered as sin and shame are introduced into the garden. As a result, a series of curses are bestowed upon the serpent, Adam, and Woman.

Genesis 3:16 tells us, "To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; In pain you will bring forth your children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.' " Agony, loneliness, and striving are introduced into Woman's world. She's fallen from glory, separated from God, and living under a curse.

But this is not where her story ends. The hope of redemption is introduced into her story, with the giving of a new name: "Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20)

Eve. Adam could have chosen any name to bestow – temptress, weakling, failure, destroyer, sinner – but he doesn’t choose one that reflects Woman’s fallen state. He selects a name that is stunning in its revelation of staggering grace – the grace of the one whose image he also bears, the grace of God. What is significant about the name change?

Eve means “life,” “life giving,” and “mother of all living,” which describes her function and her destiny in spiritual history. Can you imagine the impact of this moment? How Woman felt when she heard her new name? How this new identity removed the mantle of guilt and shame she was carrying? Can you feel the seed of hope it planted in her heart – hope for restoration to her former glory and for reunion with God?

In Genesis 3:15, Eve is among the first to receive the prophecy of the cross: " 'And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.' "

Yes, Eve would experience the turmoil and tragedy of life in a fallen world. Yet, she knew God, she believed He was still present, and she raised her children in this faith. And through the line of her son, Seth, the savior Jesus would be born. Eve knew of God’s promise, and she expected the redemption and the restoration of mankind – herself included.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guilty Pie

I often joke that I lose the "Mother of the Year Award" the day after Mother's Day each year. Perhaps I blow it by losing my temper or by refusing to play knights and dragons or by desperately needing a nap. There are any number of ways I feel like I fail my boys. But today I really did blow it. Big time. (No, really!)

Around 8:30 a.m. I received a phone call with a small, sweet voice on the other end. "Mom, you didn't send in my lunch form," Reed said. "Yes, I did sweetie. I sent it with Seth's," I replied. "No, my teacher said you didn't," he explained. "Is there a grown up there with you? Please put her on the phone." So, I explained to the woman on the other end that I send both lunch order forms in with Reed's older brother. Everything is fine (or so I think).

When I pick Reed and Seth up this afternoon, I mention my phone call with Reed that morning. Huge tears well up in his eyes. "You didn't sign me up for lunch today, and I didn't have anything to eat," he cries. Okay, now I understand. You see, last week we planned for Reed to take his lunch on the day that Panera caters for the school, which I thought was tomorrow. My was today.

"Did they give you something to eat?" I ask. "Roast beef, but I didn't like it. I'm STARVING," he replies, as tears drip down his cheeks. I quickly drive home, fix Reed a corn dog (and then a second, which he completely devours), and fix myself a big, heaping dish of guilty pie.

As I chew (guilty pie is tough to swallow), I resolve to pay more attention to the details, and I will try. But I know that this isn't the last time I will mess up, disappoint my sons, or miss the mark as their mom. I spit out the bitter bite of guilty pie and exchange it for a more filling slice of humble pie.

I ask Reed for his forgiveness. He looks at me curiously (he has nearly forgotten the "no lunch-yukky roast beef" crisis of his day). But hopefully the boys learn, in moments like these, that it's okay to make mistakes, it's honorable to admit them, and it's important to seek forgiveness.

And, for your information, tomorrow's lunch is from Wendy's ... and I did send in the order form for both boys!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Valley Song

Today I'm grieving for friends who are in the midst of a battle. It seems like the enemy of our hearts has won. I am so sad, but I know it cannot compare to their sorrow. Yesterday this song by Jars of Clay came to mind. My friend, Janna, shared it with me a few months ago, and it was truly like a balm for my soul. Here are the lyrics (to hear it, click here: )

verse 1
You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I'm crying out to you

I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

When death like a Gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear you aren't listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness and the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

verse 2
While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

And though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

Jesus proclaims: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19). Other translations read, "He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives."

In this valley, I will sing and worship and pray for a glimpse of the river beyond the next bend. I pray for my friends to cling to this hope ... for Jesus has come to rescue, to redeem, and to restore. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I think about grace a lot. For one reason, because it's a word God spoke to me several years ago ... maybe a name, but maybe more of a truth he wanted me to consider and understand. Because I associate "grace" (elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action -- which I often feel sorely lacking) with "GRACE" (the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God), my stumbling, stammering self serves as a daily reminder of my lack of creditials, my missing the mark, and my inability to deserve such a gift.

Sometimes my lack of grace is something only I am aware of, as I miss a step and trip down the stairs unnoticed. Other times I do this in front of others, and my face flushes crimson. And then there are those times that I just have to laugh when my spectacular lack of grace takes center stage and the spotlight is on. Yesterday I had such a moment.

The boys and I went bowling with my cousin, and we had the alley nearly to ourselves -- thank goodness! I stepped over into lane 10 to take a picture of Seth in action on lane 12, when I stepped over the line. Okay, no one ever told me that they slick the bowling lanes down with baby oil or butter or something. My bowling shoe-clad feet whipped out from under me, and I believe I hovered in mid-air before crashing to the hardwoods on my right buttock. Ow!

Bad enough. I am thinking, "Who saw that?" while also thinking, "Man, that hurt!!!" The kids are checking on me, my cousin is concerned, and I am just wanting the world to keep spinning while I remain unnoticed. That's when the voice on the loudspeaker, no joke, comes on. "Please do not step onto the lanes. They are very slippery." Hmmm ... first thought, "No kidding!" Second thought, "Little late for that instruction." Third thought ... never mind, I'll keep that one to myself.

Moments like these (and there are many) remind me of my imperfections, my foibles, my flaws. Yet, they bring the idea of grace to my mind and make me aware of how generous God was to gift someone as ungraceful as me with his GRACE. Underserved, unmerited favor. And whether I am as graceful as Olympic diver or as clumsy as circus clown, his GRACE covers me -- completely. I may lack grace, but I overflow and swim deeply in his GRACE.

Friday, August 8, 2008


This week my boys and I went home ... to my home in LaFollette, which my parents built when I was two years old and where they have lived ever since. It's a trip we frequently make, as we're blessed to live only an hour from them, and it is a joy to watch the boys play there.

As I was tucking Reed in on Wednesday night, I said, "Do you know whose bed this used to be?" It was mine throughout my childhood, with the neighboring twin bed occupied many years by my sister (until she moved into her own room next door). I looked around the room and remembered playing in that space, running down the hall, hiding behind the door to the den and peeking through the crack to see what Mom and Dad were watching on tv.

Now it is my boys turn. They had some "spy gear" with them on this trip, so they attached the "lock" to their bedroom door. Anytime one of us would try to open it, an alarm would blast and I could hear them whisper and giggle behind the door. Papers slid out from the crack under the door with secret messages written in code, and when one ventured out, he had to give the password to reenter.

I have vivid memories of playing at my grandparents' house when I was a child ... the sight of my grandmother, Amma, standing in her small kitchen cooking chicken and dumplings or homemade biscuits. My grandfather reclining in his large red leather chair or sitting at the dining table, mixing his molasses and butter with a fork for those homemade biscuits. I can recall the knick-knacks on the shelves, the cherry-scented Jergens lotion in the bathroom, and the big tree out front that we climbed on.

I watch my boys sneaking through the halls of my childhood home, up to some mischief, or enacting some battle or adventure in the yard, and it makes me smile. I know that Seth and Reed will always recall the smell of this house, the sight of BaBa on his mower, the expectation of MiMi in her kitchen, and the deep sense of home that they feel when they are here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jumpin' July

Our blog has suffered from a busy month of summer fun. Let me catch you up on what our family has been doing in July.

The month started with a visit from our friend Joe Coker, his son Layton, and his new wife Amy and stepson Conner. It was so fun to have them here, to celebrate the Fourth of July with them (a nearly annual tradition), and to honor them with a small dinner gathering of our Carson-Newman friends. They are moving at the end of the summer to Texas, where Joe will begin teaching at Baylor University. We're so excited for them!

Soon after their visit, the boys and I headed to Nashville for a few days with my sister, Beth, and her husband, Barry. You can see photos of the highlight of the trip below: rock climbing at an indoor climbing center. The boys were just amazing, as they both climbed with determination and focus for several hours. We also enjoyed a very hot day at the Nashville Zoo.

We returned from Nashville to welcome our dear friends, the Teichmillers, for a few days at our home. Jinda, Will, Sara, and Jack's visit was great fun, as the boys LOVE playing together, and I enjoyed the "girl time" with Jinda and Sara. Thanks to them, I was able to see the American Girl movie, which my boys would never have agreed to!

The next week Seth and Reed attended soccer camp at Christian Academy of Knoxville. The boys will be attending school there starting this fall, so we were excited to have them on campus and connecting with other kids who attend CAK (hopefully minimized their anxiety a bit). They had a good time and were real troopers spending four hours in the hot July sun each day.

Ahhhh...isn't July over yet? Not hardly. After soccer camp, the boys headed to Chattanooga for their annual visit with Tim's mom, Ann. They spend nearly a week with her every summer, and they love it! Chuck E. Cheese, the aquarium, movies, and time with their cousins ... it's no wonder we have to detox them after such a week!

Yet, they have gone from a busy week in Chattanooga to a busy one at home, as our church is having our version of vacation Bible school this week -- Kamp Kidstuf. Each night from 6-9, the boys are participating in the "Danger Zone" track of KK: dodgeball, zip line, marshmallow guns, a mud pit, slip 'n slide, and more! They, along with about 170 other kids, are gathering at Providence each night for lots of fun in the various tracks but more importantly to learn about God and His amazing love. It's such a great week!

So the month comes to a close. It has been a memorable and meaningful one, full of friends and family! Now, we're so thankful to have another week and a half of summer break left. We intend to savor every minute until the new school year begins!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fireball Fun

Backstory: In 2006, I decided that I was going to start running. I don't really know why. I've NEVER been a runner or an athlete of any form or fashion. But I'd recently lost quite a bit of weight and was feeling healthier than I had in long time, so I felt inspired to push my body and see what I could do.

At first, I could only run a few feet. In fact, I set my goal to run from one light pole to the next; then, past two light poles. Eventually I increased my goal to run from my neighborhood to the neighborhood just up the street. I thought I'd never get there. After I achieved this goal, I wondered, "Could I run a mile?" I'd clock it on my car's odometer over and over -- the firestation. I had to run to the firestation.

Well, after much training with my friend Jennifer, we ran to the firestation. Then we set a new goal: to run a 5K. We trained for four months last year for our first race, the Turkey Trot, and last November we ran every step of the 3.2 miles. I just can't tell you how amazing this was for me -- to accomplish something so athletic, to push my body, and to reach my goal.

Last Thursday (7/03) I ran in my second 5K -- the Fireball -- with Tim. It was a 9 p.m. race, thank goodness! The July heat and humidity was tough enough, even at that late hour. Tim ran the Turkey Trot with me too, but since I had my running buddy Jennifer then, he went to the front of the pack to make good time. This time he committed to run with me the whole distance.

One thing I love about these races is the start: the huddled crowd waiting for the start, full of adrenaline and nervous chatter, and then the view of the runners slowly spreading out along the race route, a constant stream of people moving in unison. However, I quickly try to block out the other runners so I can establish my own pace and stick with it. And for the first mile, I do well. I love having Tim right by my side, matching my steps.

Then, a side cramp hits. Ugh. This didn't happen at the Turkey Trot. I try to push through and keep running but I can't. I have to slow down and walk. And I'm upset. I feel like a failure. I urge Tim to keep running, but he won't. He stays by my side and encourages me every step of the way. "You're amazing," he says, over and over again, whether I am walking or running (I do more of both). And my heart swells because I know that he believes this to his core. I may not be running a glorious race, but I feel glorious because of Tim's words.

In the end, we ran more than we walked, and we completed the race by running across the finish line (only 3 minutes slower than my Turkey Trot time). I find that I learn a lot about myself in my running, but on this night, chief among the lessons I learned was how blessed I am to have my biggest fan beside my side every day and every night -- keeping pace with me, urging me on, and inspiring me to keep running.

We're not sure when our next race will be, but we do intend to run the Knoxville 1/2 marathon in the Spring of '09. I can assure you that Tim and I will not keep the same pace in this race, so if anyone wants to be my running buddy, I'd love to have you join me! And if you've never run before, begin in the morning by running from one light pole to the next -- it's a start!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Shack

Have any of you read The Shack yet? It's the tale of Mack, who has experienced horrific tragedy, and a rather unusual invitation he receives from God. Most accurately, it's about what happens when he responds to that invitation.

Mack is understandably confused by the tragic event that has taken place and God role in it. He's also very angry with God. However, he's dealt with these feelings by refusing to deal with them. Life is moving on, as best it can, he believes.

As I read The Shack, I recognized how all-too-common this response is. We're hurt or devastated by something in this life; but, rather than seek healing and wholeness, we diminish our hurt, ignore our wound, or stew in our anger. We live in our brokenness.

And though our invitation doesn't arrive as Mack's does, God does invite each of us to come to him, to engage in relationship with him, and to seek healing from the only source that can truly bind our broken hearts. Yet, we have a choice, and how rarely we choose to accept his invitation.

Last night I attended my mom's book club, which was discussing The Shack. A woman there beautifully shared how she chose to express her devastation to God and pursue answers from him after the untimely death of her 20-year-old daughter.

She explained that she took her many questions to God, and in the course of the past 10 years God has answered each and every one of them. She bravely fought to keep her heart alive and to invite God to restore it, when she could have chosen to shut down and self-protect. Her presence last night was radiant and her story impactful -- we were all blessed that she chose relationship and then shared the beauty and bounty of that relationship with us.

As I listened to her, I was reminded of my experience after the death of our baby last year. God was so generous to provide a spacious place and time to dialogue with him about our loss soon after it happened. In that moment, in the midst of heartache, I had to choose to enter into this and to engage him -- i.e. choose relationship. And he was gracious to respond, to answer my questions, and to provide much healing.

Back to Mack...The Shack raises the question of relationship with God and what keeps us from it or substitutes for it. Pick up a copy to read, and let me know what you think. And if you get stuck when Elouisa opens the door, push through and read on. Ask God to reveal what he'd have you consider. I believe he'll show you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A World Away

Our 18-year-old nephew, Mario, is in Kenya for a month this summer. Below is a Facebook post I just received from him. It is stunning to read about what he's seeing and doing at the orphanage he's visiting. Mario's an incredible guy -- he's from Bulgaria, lives in Chattanooga, very well traveled, and voracious about seeing the world -- and he's about to start his senior year in high school. He went on this trip to Africa on his own! We're so proud of him!

It has been absolutely amazing. I have so many things to do here. It is a new orphanage, so I have a ton of responsibilities. On my first day of field work, I found a kid in the very first home that I visited and decided that he should be taken to the orphanage because of the conditions that he was living in. The next day, I decided to go and get him tested for HIV and he turned out to be positive, which was horrible. I've been running around to doctors and decided to test every kid that is affiliated with the program, so I am organizing groups of them to come and get tested on Fridays. The guy who began the orphanage, Geoffrey, decided that I should give an HIV education class next week to everyone associated with the organization.

There are three parts: an orphanage, a sanitary program, and a sponsorship program. There are 14 kids at the orphanage and around 50 more that are sponsored or awaiting sponsorship. It really has been the most incredible trip I've ever taken, and I wish I could stay for longer. I am definitely coming back. I've also met a ton of really awesome people that I will keep in touch with. I haven't really gotten around to traveling around Kenya but I will go to the beach and to visit the Massai Mara national park. Next year I am going to come back, hopefully with some friends from school, just travel around East Africa. It is like another world over here...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

To Dad, for working selflessly, giving lavishly, loving deeply, and encouraging constantly ... I love you.

To Charlie, for parenting, shepherding, and mentoring this man I am blessed to share life with ... Thank you!

To Tim, for loving these boys of ours with abandon, for fighting for our family with your whole heart, and for raising Seth and Reed to be men of integrity and warriors for our King. Thank you for answering their question as only their father can -- Yes, they have what it takes! They are truly blessed (as am I).

And to all of the amazing fathers we know ... Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ten Years of Fun in the Sun

Beach Bliss

We've just returned from our beach trip with my (Susan's) family. This year was our 10th annual trip with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. The first five were spent on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Alabama; the past five at Litchfield Beach, South Carolina.

This is always a favorite time of year for us -- one of the rare times we all gather for extended time together and also the official start to our summer holiday. It has gotten even better as the boys have become strong swimmers. Tim and I are able to relax in a new way now that we know that they are capable in the water.

Uncle Barry and Aunt Beth introduced a new element to the beach trip this year by encouraging us to try bowling. I know...I had never bowled!!! So, I gave it a shot (or rather a roll) along with new bowlers Seth and Reed. I found that, unfortunately, it was much different than bowling on the Wii, where I'm quite the pro. I wish that I had been allowed to bowl on the boys' lane, with the bumpers up, rather than with the grown-ups. Even still, I had fun and was overjoyed to break 50 on my second game (yes, that tells you how sorry I was). Kudos to Seth for two strikes!

Now we're home, and our summer holidays are officially underway. The remaining weeks of the boys' break are filled with VBS, soccer camp, day trips to the mountains (playing in the creek), riding our bikes, visits with grandparents, and hopefully a weekend getaway to Gatlinburg. We hope, in the midst of all of the activity, we can maintain a relaxed spirit about it all and enjoy the slower pace of summer. We hope this for you too!

And if your summer journeys lead you this way, please give us a call or stop by for a visit. We'd love to see you!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This afternoon I've been making excuses why I can't write the two articles I need to complete for my latest freelance assignment. The boys are home on summer vacation...I need to pack for the beach (we leave tomorrow)...I don't know what to write about... . On and on the excuses leap to mind. So, I finally at least sit down at my computer and get as far as my home page when the title of this news story catches my eye: "Tenn. woman, 61, dies in iron lung after outage."

I think, "What year is it?" and confess I didn't realize that these apparatus were still used in health care. I click on the link and read about this woman, Dianne Odell. Striken with polio when she was three-years-old (three years before the vaccine was available), Ms. Odell spent her life in the iron lung. The article says, "Though confined inside the 750-pound apparatus, Odell managed to get a high school diploma, take college courses and write a children's book."

It continues, "The iron lung that she used was a cylindrical chamber with a seal at the neck. She lay on her back in the device with only her head exposed, and made eye contact with visitors using an angled mirror above her head. The lung worked by producing positive and negative pressure on the lungs that caused them to expand and contract so that she could breathe."

How does someone trapped in such a situation see beyond her confines? How does she dream, pursue, and accomplish? Yet, she did. The article explains, "A voice-activated computer allowed her to write a children's book, 'Less Light,' about Blinky, a tiny star who dreams of becoming a wishing star. In a 2001 interview with The Associated Press, she said she wanted to show children, especially those with physical disabilities, that they should never give up."

I am humbled by her courage and determination. And I am ashamed of my own tendency to put off, to give up, and to make excuses. So, as I sit here, I take a deep breath and savor the amazing gift of being able to do so in my own strength. As I set to work on my articles, I decide to shed the shackles I've allowed to restrain me (excuses) and write with deep thanks for the flow of words and ideas, the opportunity to express myself, and the freedom and ability to stand up and walk away from the computer when I am finished.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Soccer Mom

Okay, so I'm not actually a "soccer mom," in that my boys don't play the sport. But I am a woman who stays at home, whose time is primarily devoted to domestic life. My place in this world has been the object of much consideration since electing to stay home with the boys eight years ago. And lately my place, in terms of my age, has drawn a good bit of my attention.

I'm 38, and 40 is looming large as I celebrate this milestone with my best friend and my sister this year. Many other things have sharply brought this reality to me. One is the reflection in the mirror -- when did I get those lines beside my eyes (do I really have to call them wrinkles!)? When did Miss Clairol become an intimate acquaintence? And how many lotions and creams are required in just daily maintenance?!

Pop culture dates me as well. I remember when the previous three Indiana Jones movies debuted. I remember Jimmer Rogers wearing a fedora to class in homage to Indy. I remember when Michael Jackson's Thriller was #1 for 37 weeks straight, and boys wore zippered jackets like MJ wore in the "Beat It" video. I remember when Tom Cruise slid across the floor in "Risky Business" and serenaded Kelly McGillis in "Top Gun."

I feel like this was all yesterday, and it's impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that Tom Cruise has been making movies for 25 years, Indiana Jones (i.e. Harrison Ford) is a 60+-year-old man, and Thriller is 25 years old and Michael Jackson is ... well, what can I say there? Wow, all of the cliches are true -- time marches on, time flies, time is of the essence...

But even as the reality of all of this sinks in, I marvel at the goodness of today, the blessings of my life, the mystery of growing up (a continual process), and the fun in being a child of the 80s. Another cliche rings true: There's no time like the present. Indy's on yet another adventure, Tom is still making movies, and I'm learning to age -- sometimes grudingly, sometimes glumly, and sometimes (smile) gracefully.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Seth!

Today Seth is 9 years old! This past year has been one of incredible growth in Seth, and we feel like we are glimpsing the teenager he's becoming and the man he will grow to be. It is taking our breath away.

Just last Christmas Seth and I were walking through the mall and I reached to hold his hand. He pulled away. Ouch. Yet I know that his response is natural and that he is no longer my baby. I am learning to honor that, but I confess, as his mother, it's tough.

God has been gracious, though, to bless me with an amazing gift in the midst of these changes. Earlier this year, Seth asked if he could start running with me. We went on a date to buy him some running shoes, and then a few days later took our first run together. Throughout the mile run, Seth provided ongoing commentary -- about the weather, scenery, animals, and so on. He talked the entire run. It was such a beautiful time and such a blessing to see how our relationship will continue to grow as he grows up.

There are just no adequate words to describe Seth -- such an amazing person, gifted with a gentle, caring heart and such a sweet, kind spirit. Such a heart, such a man ... we just can't imagine how he will impact others in his lifetime. He truly enriches this family, and we are so happy to celebrate him and his life on this day! Happy birthday, Seth!

Friday, May 2, 2008


I've been thinking a lot this week about choices and what they can tell us about the state of our heart. It seems to be true, no matter how big or small the choice. My choices can reveal where I am abiding (in Christ or elsewhere); how Satan is attacking me; and how aware I am of the larger story I am a part of (the story where God [not me] is THE central character).

An example: food. Many of you know my weight has been an issue for the past several years. When losing weight back in 2006, I realized how I was turning to food for more than a physical hunger -- I know I am not alone in this tendency to fill a void through the immediate gratification of a milkshake, chocolate bar, cheetos, or all of the above. I was turning to food rather than turning to God. Food had become one of my "abiding places."

Food was also one way the enemy took me out. I was so focused on my weight, my changing body, my lack of energy, and everything else that came along with my struggle, that I failed to wholly offer myself to others. And when we are hiding, we aren't fulfilling our calling: to reveal the glory of God.

My weight also became my main preoccupation and distraction, and often it was the story in which I was living as the central character. And ohhhh, there is so much more. There was (and is) a larger story unfolding all around me that I was invited to participate in, but I failed to step into my glorious role.

So, the choice. What to eat for lunch today? The combo with waffle fries and a cookies 'n cream milkshake or the grilled chicken wrap with Diet Coke? I know it seems small...really inconsequential...but I know it's actually not. I know each time I choose wisely, I am caring for my body, disarming the enemy, and staying focused on the bigger picture of my LIFE with God.

Of course, some choices seem weightier than others: where to live, work, go to school, etc. And some choices seem easier: what to wear today, what to do this weekend, etc. But they all require something of me -- I have to decide if I will impulsively follow my own desires, or if I will consider what my choice reveals about the condition of my heart.

I believe our choices should bring us freedom to walk with God and teach us how to do this more wholly, more intimately, and more fearlessly. Oh, and by the way, I had the wrap and Diet Coke. In one way, I'm still hungry, but in another way (the way that truly matters) I am filled.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Reed!

Today Reed is six years old! Wow!

Reed is the most amazing little boy! Even in my womb, he was constantly active. Then, at birth, with only two pushes, he was here. I laugh when I remember it, as it seemed he was saying, "There's no way I'm waiting for you to push for hours. Let's get this party started!"

And a party it has been! Reed is a delight -- from his appearance, with golden hair and a huge smile that radiate warmth, to a spirit and energy that do the same. He brings much life and great joy to this family!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wrestling With God

This weekend Tim and I were fortunate to attend a one-day conference in Chapel Hill, NC, with Dan Allender. A counselor, writer, and teacher, Allender is also presently the president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. We've read several of his books (To Be Told, How Children Raise Parents, The Intimate Mystery...) and are great fans of his writing and his teaching.

The conference was titled "Wrestling with God: Jacob's Story, Our Story," (read Jacob's story in Genesis 26-50) with the tagline, "What if you could lead and live in relationship with God and others in passionate, life-changing ways?"

As I look back over my notes from the day, a mere three sessions, I am amazed at how much Allender taught, the questions he raised, the truth he offered for consideration, the stories he told. At times, I felt as if I was clinging, just trying to stay with him, as his words were so thick with meaning I couldn't possibly absorb the impact and implications of them all in such a short period.

So much good stuff I'd love to share...about how God works through our weakness, intends to rouse our desire, and values relationship with us. But I want to share a bit of what Allender said about "Calling," as that is one idea that Tim and I have been pondering for a while now. As I write, though, I see that it all weaves together...calling, wrestling, desire, relationship.

Consider this: "What is your calling on this earth? All of us are meant to reveal God through our character. What does this mean? You have a role to play on this earth, and when you live out your character, you reveal the character of God."

Allender asks, "Do you spend time studying you and how God has made you? The repetitive themes that show up in your life? Have you been wrestled to the ground by your own story? If not, then you want to be a part of God's plan from a safe distance. If you want God, it is a bloody affair -- God mugs those he loves and provokes us to open our hearts to desire."

"Wrestling with God takes you to his blessing: He chooses to bring something beautiful in spite of you, for you, for others, and for Him. It is in our brokeness and weakness that we reveal God's strength and his glory. So the question is -- Will you participate with joy in being used by God?"

I left the day with so much to ponder, but this one overwhelming thought: the God of the universe, who pursued Jacob -- as flawed as he was -- and gave him a new name and a blessing, pursues us as well. He still pursues, he still speaks, and he wants to bless us and give us a new name. As Allender says, "Every story in the Bible is OUR story -- they don't just have an effect on us; they are OUR story. Our lives have crossroads written by God to invite us into a mugging -- God is trying to wake us up."

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Screamer

You're probably well aware that I'm not an adventure junkie. I like my feet firmly planted, to obey the speed limit, and to remain well in control of my situation. So, something called "The Screamer" normally wouldn't attract me. But on this, my third time to Frontier Ranch, I knew it was something I had to do. It wasn't my first attempt. Two years ago when I attended Captivating with my friend Jinda, I stood in the line with her, waiting to do The Screamer. After watching one pair of ladies do it, I said, "Who am I kidding?" and walked away.

Let me explain: The Screamer is a massive two-person cable swing situated in a grove of trees, with a clearing just wide enough to pass through. To do it, you don a harness and helmet, climb up on a platform (I wish I knew how high...let me just say VERY HIGH), and get tethered to a partner. A plastic swing (much like on a child's swing set) is put underneath each of you, a rope is attached to the front of your harnesses, and you hold on to a trapeze bar with both hands. And then, on the count of three, you both step off the platform into thin air.

Why? Good question. Many ladies assured me "It's great, fun, a blast, ...." And so I suppose that is why many folks do it...for the thrill. Well, as I have already explained, I'm not a thrill seeker. But I felt, as I approached this fourth Captivating, that God wanted to continue deepening a work He began last year when I was at the retreat -- the whole idea of living fearlessly. And I knew that The Screamer was part of this deepening.

So, Thursday afternoon, with much trembling, I donned my helmet and harness and climbed alongside Jennifer (and dear David from Young Life) to stand on the edge of a platform high in a grove of pines. David counted "3...2...1..." and I stepped off into thin air. For a moment I felt like I was hovering, and then gravity took hold and we plunged, WHOOSH! (See photo, Susan on left; Jenn on right.)

I wish I could say I enjoyed it, that I am transformed into an adventure-loving woman. But to be honest, I will NEVER do it again. I was TERRIFIED and confess I kept my eyes closed almost the entire time (except when Jenn told me it was safe to open them. Silly me, I trusted her and found myself face-to-face with the trunk of a pine tree -- no truly, what an amazing friend to take such a leap by my side!)

But, in retrospect, I don't feel disappointed that I didn't love it or ashamed that I couldn't open my eyes. I realize that the whole experience was about this: "3...2...1...step." In that moment, as I stepped off of the platform, I felt no fear or hesitation. I was completely and utterly brave.

There's something larger in this: I think it is such a metaphor for walking with God, at least for me. I am learning to completely trust, even though it may feel like free-falling, that He is able, that He is good, and that He will catch me. And so I am called to be courageous, even when the initial step is a doozy.

Rocky Mountain High

Last Wednesday (4/2) my friend Jennifer and I flew to Colorado to attend Captivating, a women's retreat led by Ransomed Heart. This was my fourth journey to Captivating and my second time serving on the event's work crew. (Some of you may be familiar with Captivating, as there's also a book by the same title, written by John and Stasi Eldredge).

We had such an amazing time, it is difficult to know how to put it into words. The landscape of the Rockies is just so spectacular, and we were blessed with incredible weather -- blue skies, moments of light snowfall, and really pleasant temperatures for enjoying the outdoors.

Speaking of the outdoors, we started our Colorado adventure with a hike through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The stunning rock formations were shadowed by the snowy pinnacle of Pikes Peak. We watched as rock climbers scaled the seemingly smooth surface of the rocks, finding hand- and foot-holds that were unseen to our eyes. It was amazing to watch their slow, deliberate movements inch them closer to the top and imagine the courage it took to hang there as they figured out their next step.

After meeting up with the work crew and the team from Ransomed Heart on Wednesday afternoon, we caravaned to our final destination: Frontier Ranch, located near Buena Vista. This Young Life ranch is situated on Mt. Princeton, one of Colorado's 54 "14ers" (mountain summits over 14,000 feet). This specific area of Colorado is known for its 14ers, and in one stretch of highway you pass a total of 10 14,000 foot peaks on either side of Buena Vista. All this to state (or understate), it's breathtaking.

The whole weekend was breathtaking -- to watch women from all over the country and even the world (attendees from Australia, England, Switzerland, Canada, and other places as well) gather for worship, restoration, and fellowship. I am so grateful that I was able to attend, serve alongside the Ransomed Heart team, hear the stories of so many women, and share the experience with Jenn.

(I have to conclude this post by encouraging all of you reading to visit Ransomed Heart's Web site and check out their events page. Tim and I both would urge you to check out upcoming dates for the Wild At Heart men's retreat and Captivating women's retreat. They are truly life changing.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Family Fun


Welcome to our blog! This has been something I (Susan) have thought about doing for a while now, but to sit down and make it happen was somewhat intimidating. I don't know why...perhaps the fear that we have nothing to say or the fear that no one wants to read it. But we know where fear comes from (and where it doesn't), so I will go ahead and blog away.

Why blog? Well, we thought it would be a fun way to let you know what we're up to and more importantly, what God's up to in our family. Also, we've never gotten on the Christmas letter bandwagon, so our annual photo card doesn't communicate much (other than who was feeling particularly cooperative on picture day and who wasn't). So, as you check in to this blog you can check out what news we have...where we've been and what we've been doing. Hopefully we can better keep in touch this way.

Thanks for visiting our blog, and come again as we update with the adventures of life. Love to all!