Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Fair and Losing Nemo

I've loved going to the West Texas Fair and Rodeo for as long as I can remember. I love the rides, the games that cost a fortune, the rodeo, and (of course) the food. I got extra excited this year because I realized that the kids would love going this year PLUS I'm guaranteed to 'need' to go for at least the next 8 years, you know, for the kids. 

Off we went with Carter and Harrison in tow. Mom and Dad met us there, plus Leslie and Jordan. We gorged on food (first things first) then headed over to let Carter ride some rides. I was doubtful that he would get on any of those rides for several reasons: 1) he generally takes about 30 minutes to warm up to a new place 2) he would have to talk to the 'carnies' (carnival workers) and he hates talking to strangers 3) he would have to ride by himself because the rest of us were either too tall or too small to ride the poorly constructed kiddie rides. 

I could not have been more wrong. 

My oldest child, the one who refuses to wave hello to sweet little old ladies at church and who is too fearful to get a stamp on his hand from a librarian at reading time marched right up to every toothless, grimacing, heavily tattooed carnie and bravely asked for a ride and also a high five. Who is his child?!?  I'm officially concerned that he may grow up and join the circus. 

In my state of shock after the rides, I somehow managed to win 2 live goldfish to take home. Oops. As we left the fair grounds, I asked Carter what he wanted to name the fish. Not surprisingly, he responded, "Nemo." 

"But what do you want to name the other one?" I asked. 

"Nemo's dad."


"No. Nemo's Dad."

Great choice, buddy. 

Jeffrey's first question when I got home was what I was going to tell Carter if they died. I thought for a moment and decided that we would just pretend we lost them. Not ready for death conversations yet. 

And die, they did. Nemo went first, and then (much like the movie) Nemo's Dad went after him. Carter only asked once where he fish went. I pleaded ignorance ('I'm not sure, buddy, maybe they swam off somewhere...can't find 'em."). It worked. All's well that ends well. 

See you next year, Fair and Rodeo. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Letter to the Church, on my leaving

How I wish I had the words that those men of faith in the New Testament! Unfortunately I do not but nevertheless I was asked by our former preacher to write a letter to the church before we moved from Temple to Abilene, I did it.
Dear Western Hills,

I remember one night at a middle school youth group meeting when the question that was posed by the teacher (who may have actually been our own Scott Meyer, coincidentally) was this: If your house were on fire and you only had time to grab three items, what would you take? Many of us said that we would grab our Bibles. Lots of us said we would grab a family photo album. (Of course nowadays no one would grab these items, but instead reinstall their Bible app and recover their photos from The Cloud. (I'm old, I know)

Some asked if people counted as "items" because they wanted to make sure their family stayed intact. The practical ones chose a sturdy pair of jeans and sensible tennis shoes. The sentimental ones picked heirloom jewelry. Perhaps it was a morbid lesson for a middle school audience, but of course the purpose of the exercise wasn't meant to focus on the tragedy but rather to elucidate the things in our young lives that meant the most to us. 

Barring a disaster like the one in our scenario, the closest each of us may come to facing a choice like the one above is when we move, as my family is preparing to do. As soon as our family found out that our careers would take us to a new city, we began to ask ourselves the important questions involved with such a task. What will we carry with us? What will we store away? What will we leave behind? As the physical packing commenced, we simultaneously started the process of packing up emotionally, too, by planning dates for farewell parties, last dinners with friends, and taking one long look at the time we've 
spent here in Temple and at Western Hills.  

Out of the time spent looking back, this letter was born. Church, if you'll permit me a few moments of nostalgia, I'd like to leave you with this letter.

The things you take with you
I will carry with me so many precious friendships because you welcomed me with open arms when we arrived in your pews three years ago. With a husband who was often working long hours at the hospital and me being pregnant for nigh unto half of my time at Western Hills, you carried me through some of the longest days, weeks, and years I have been challenged with in my life. You carried me physically,with meals brought over after the birth of my sons and outstanding nursery and children's ministry volunteers who lovingly cared for our boys so that I could listen to a sermon and be spiritually refreshed. You carried me to the Lord in prayer when I brought requests for myself or for others. You carried me through my first months and years of being a mother, with gentle advice and hugs and assurance that 
his sprinting to the front of the auditorium during the sermon is probably just a phase. You have carried me, and now I will carry you. I will carry on the tradition of showering brides and mothers with gifts to prepare for joy to come. I will carry your hurts and prayer requests to the Lord whenever I think of you. I hope to carry away all the good and selfless and honest and kind lessons you taught me to my new church and to my new home. 

The things you store away
Just as I lovingly packed up what seemed like four billion cardboard boxes of knick-knacks and clothes and children's toys, I also prepared great memories for long term storage. Oh, the memories we all share! Do you remember how sweet our WHY students looked all dressed up for the Sweetheart Banquet?  The way the boys held out their elbows to escort the lovely ladies of the church to their seats. Do you remember how our preacher stood in front of the congregation only days after his mother passed away and preached a sermon full of hope and joy? "She will rest and she will rise," he said, with conviction that only comes from a faith that has been tested and found true. Do you remember the Trunk or Treat party at the Liles' farm last year? It was about four thousand degrees Fahrenheit on that October day in Texas, and yet we had kids and adults of all ages smiling and sweating for the sake of the young ones. Do you remember the arcade games made out of cardboard by the 56 students? The freshly baked bread loaves made each week for visitors? The Christmas parties? The home groups? The Spring tea party? The baptisms? All these memories, and so many more, I store away in my heart.

The things you leave behind

As we make our exit, I feel an emptiness inside at the thought of not seeing each of you regularly, however, it also occurs to me that we leave behind an emptiness for you, as well. The church will need a new soprano in the Praise Team rotation (and they've been begging for another tenor or two, as well), so if singing is your gift, consider this letter your call to action. In February of 2016, the Sweetheart Banquet will need someone, or perhaps a few folks, to spearhead the planning of this event. If you volunteer for this position, you won't regret it. You'll be so impressed by the way our Western Hills Youth work and conduct themselves, you'll want to do it year after year. The children's ministry will need a new worker to cover the months in which there is a 5th Sunday, although technically I forgot
almost every 5th Sunday, so perhaps they've needed another volunteer in my place all along. Last but not least, friends, please remember that we're all moving. Much like our silly middle school game suggested, this earthly home is destined to perish and we will all need to choose what to carry with us, what to store away, and what to leave behind. So I say this: Continue to carry each other, store away all the love and sweet memories you can muster, and leave behind a legacy. 

Thanks for the memories, Western Hills. We're going to miss you.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Splish, Splash! Birthday Bash!

There is nothing my Harrison likes better than water.  Almost since the moment he was born, he's been happiest when he's splashing around in it, so it was only natural that we would have a splish, splash, birthday bash for him when he turned one.  *Not to mention* it's been at least 100 degrees every day for a month, so that played a small part in the decision, too.

We blew up beach balls and inflatable pools until we were dizzy, created a 'lagoon' out of a tarp and pool noodles, and set up every hose and sprinkler we could find to ensure that our baby had all the water he could want.  There was a bubble machine and watermelon slices and balloons and streamers.  No party is complete without a cake, so we had three or four (there was some mix up at the store, so we ended up with some extra cakes--what a shame). 

Many of our friends and family were present to celebrate H.E. turning one.  They brought him all kinds of presents (that Carter promptly stole) and lavished him with all the attention he could possibly desire.  It was a really fun day filled with all the things H loves, and we all really loved seeing his joy.  Cheers, buddy.  This was only the first of many.