Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Want to Know You Too

My friend Darby recently had a post where she asked all of you out there to take her on a vacation with your words. I thought this was a marvelous idea (very creative Darby!), and a great way to learn some things about you. So, I am not going to ask you take me on a vacation and copy her completely, but I would like to pose a question that greatly interests me, and then hopefully learn more about you.

This past Sunday, our pastor spoke on Heaven. It was a great sermon, where he talked about how Christians have a grave misconception that heaven is a place of eternal boredom--an eternal church service in the sky. He said that God gave us all things that we love, and are good at. Things like going on an adventure, or writing, or painting...are healthy desires that He gave us, and intends for us to still enjoy for eternity. In trying to make this point he quoted a line from Chariots of Fire (which I have never seen), that struck a chord in me:

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

Did that give you chills? Did your mind run to something you do in life when you feel God's pleasure? For me, it most definitely is not when I am running. I passed a girl running yesterday who maybe thought since I was wearing a matching running outfit like hers, I was a great runner. I am telling you the truth when I say she smiled so big at me I thought, "Wow, she must be feeling God's pleasure even out in this sweltering heat." I was just pushing through for those endorphins at the end of the run...Anyway, for some of you maybe it is running. For me, its writing. I have written about his before, so I won't go on and on, but there are times when I am writing that words just start appearing on the paper. Those times when I read back over what I've written and wonder, "Did I think those thoughts?" Those moments when you know there is something bigger than you, working through you, and it creates a sense of pleasure unlike any other.

Maybe it was when you had a baby, or painted a picture, or taught a child...I don't know, but I certainly am curious to learn. When do you feel God's pleasure, and what does it feel like to you?

Greater Love Hath No Sister Than This

This past week brought two big events for our family. First Dad and John David (Taylor's fiancee) made a week-long road trip from Arizona to Birmingham (with a LOT of stops in between) to gather furniture from gracious family donors across the south for their new home. Taylor is still in Arizona finishing up her internship, so that left Caroline, Kendall, and me to do the deep cleaning before the furniture was moved into the house. It really was not that hard of a job...you don't realize how much easier it is to clean a home when there's no clutter to get in the way. We scrubbed baseboards, dusted windowsills, swept and mopped. We did leave John David to the bathrooms--I figure love only goes so far :)

Once that was over, I gathered up my sisters and moved them over to my house. Mary Aplin's baby dedication was on Sunday and I needed some help getting the house in order, lunch for 25 prepared, and 2 baby girls entertained. So they came, with good attitudes, happy hearts, and earnest spirits, to tackle the muck and grime that has accumulated over here. As we cleaned, and booty danced, and sang songs, and cooked, I became more and more aware of just what it was they were doing for me. You see, this was Mom's old duty...coming up to Birmingham like a one-woman cleaning crew to help me prepare any time I had a party. It was our thing, and there was always that time the night before the party when we were delirious from cleaning, and we'd spend hours on end in the middle of the night making sure every serving dish was angled like it should be on the table and every flower was in its proper place and every dustball had been disposed of... This weekend, for me, could have potentially been very hard--doing it myself and missing her. Instead my sisters, without even realizing whose shoes they were filling, stepped in and worked their butts off, laughing all the while.
I can't fail to mention that my Dad, after spending his vacation week moving furniture, wrapped it up by trimming down the massive growth in my front yard (that I mentioned before I have been scared to trim for fear of doing it at the wrong time and it not growing back), cutting the grass, and weed eating--all in the pouring rain. Jeremiah was on call, so Dad was all on his own out there.

I love my family so bad, and I don't know how to express all the gratitude I feel for their constant love, support, and willingness to do whatever it takes. THANK YOU!

I'll end with some pictures from the baby dedication/lunch. I had a lot of fun, especially since this cleaning crew did all the dishes :)

My grandma made Mary Aplin's dress out of lace that Jeremiah's grandmother collected from travels during her precious life.
Bryan Johnson's family came to celebrate with us and he took some shots...Can we talk about how excited I am?! I'll post them as soon as he uploads them, and hopefully we'll have a better family shot than this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I LOVE this Little Thing!

Mary Aplin is 9months old! It's so hard to believe... She still hasn't had her official check-up, but we did go in for her ear infection last week and she weighed 18 1/2 lbs and was around the 50th percentile for height and weight. Yeah!! All that nursing AND bottle feeding paid off. Just so you know, I gave up the nursing on her 9 month birthday. I had a cold (to put it mildly), I needed Jeremiah to give me some decent medication (besides Tylenol), and I just said OK I'm ready and so is she. There were no tears, no engorgement it was just time. Now let's be honest, there's a freedom that comes with going to the bottle. The bond of nursing is precious and sweet and a gift only a mother can give her little squeeze, but it also ties you to that little bundle and won't let you go. So I loved it, but I am feeling some relief to be done.

Dapple DoYa, as Pace calls her now (really this child gets a new nickname almost every day), is cruising around, standing for longer and longer periods on her own, and is finally crawling the "right" way. There were a couple of months where Pace said, "Mommy, is Mary Aplin playing snake?" every time she started propelling herself across the floor. I feel like we're still questioning whether or not she knows who she is talking about when she says Dada. Its definitely her favorite babble, but she also seems to say it a lot more when Jeremiah is in the room. Anyway, we aren't claiming the first word quite yet, but she is focusing a lot on words now. I love when you start to see those little minds working! Now, when I say words slowly and point to what I'm saying, she watches my lips and is so still...just trying to absorb it. One day soon, I feel sure, we're going to start hearing a few "words" coming back out.

Her smile is still always just below the surface--waiting to beam out at the next person who grins her way. That is, as long as Mommy is holding her and she doesn't feel like you are about to take her out of my arms. This has been a new experience for me. Pace would reach her arms out to every stranger that approached me, happy to be held by one and all. Mary Aplin only wants me, and she clutches my arm like a vice whenever anybody walks toward us. I haven't done anything different with the two of them. I let anybody who wanted to hold her as an infant, just like I did with Pace, but Mapple Dapple is simply a Momma's girl. My friends keep telling me to enjoy it because it won't last long, but I'm going to tell you that sometimes my arm gets tired. This new Independence of being able to explore on her own has made a HUGE difference in my day to day life. I can actually use 2 arms to make dinner every once in a while now, while she empties out the tupperware cabinet. I'll take a mess that needs to be cleaned any day over the shoulder cramps and bicep aches of constant holding.
Pace adores her baby sister still...most of the time. Its weird how every once in a while she'll just hit her, not hard, she doesn't even seem to be aggravated, its like she wants to test the waters. Last week, my cruiser was holding on to the part of the door jamb where the hinges are as she moved along the wall. I was sewing (and half paying attention) when suddenly Pace just ran up and decided to slam the door. Ohh, it still makes my insides ache! Those seconds it took to run and get the door open seemed like minutes and those sweet chubby fingers had a deep dent. My skin is crawling.
Mainly, things have finally gotten...easier. I had a moment with Pace (I can still see the little yellow onesie she was wearing and I was loading her in the car to go see Mom in the hospital) when she was 5 months old where I suddenly said, "Wow, this is FUN!" I had that moment yesterday when I was going to meet Mallory for lunch. Mary Aplin was wearing a little smocked sun dress, Pace was smiling at us from her car seat and I thought, "Wow, this is fun!" It took nine months to get there with two, but I feel like we've hit that milestone. Not that there hasn't been tons of joy before now, but it's more of knowing that I can "control" the girls when we get out of the house. Mary Aplin can feed herself food, or play with my straw, or... and I am not going to be standing beside the table eating with one hand while I bounce Mary Aplin and try to get her to calm down. That's another thing about Dapples first eight or so months: She is either smiling so hard and so happy she can't get her smile big enough OR she's screaming mad. Not a whole lot of in between.

So, Mary Aplin is 9 months, she brings a lot of joy (and rapidly decreasing amounts of stress :)) to our home, and I love that little thing!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

This past week, the phone rang, and it was a guy from the Birmingham news, asking if we wanted a free 1-month trial of the newspaper. I said, "No, Thank-you," but of course he launched into his little spill about what a great deal the paper was and how marvelous it would be. I hate how they do that. How a salesman hears you say one thing, but just takes it as his opportunity to take away some more precious minutes of your day telling you about their product. So, determined not have my time stolen away against my will, I interrupted him, "We are blissfully ignorant about what is going on in the world, and I'd like for it to stay that way. So you see, we won't be needing a paper." I am not sure where that even came from, but it sure stopped him right in the middle of his sales pitch. He sat there for a couple of seconds and then said, "Would one month just be too much information for you?" Can you hear the sarcasm in his voice? So I said, "Actually it would, because its never just one month...Next thing I know, I'll be getting a bill from ya'll because I've inadvertently gone a week over my free month, then there's the hassle of cancellation...Thank you, but again, no." I hung up and laughed a little to myself thinking that that guy was probably going to tell all his buddies up at the newspaper sales center about the ignorant Southern girl he'd just talked to.
That night, I told Jeremiah my little story, and he looked at me with a very straight face and said, "Abby, that just isn't true. You don't want to be ignorant."

"Yes I do!" I rebutted, "I know enough to be aware that our country is in a recession, we're fighting a war, and that the media makes my skin crawl with the way they're always bent towards the liberal agenda. I don't want to pay to have it all splashed before my face every morning in a newspaper."

"But Abby, you don't want to be ignorant. You don't want to sit at a dinner table and have to wear a blank stare during conversation you can't follow because you have no clue what is going on in the world. You don't want to be intimidated by people who understand politics."

Those husbands, sometimes they just know us a little too well! I just wanted him to laugh at my interaction with the annoying salesman, and instead he had me feeling guilty about ignorance...and he was exactly right. There are a lot of areas in life that intimidate me, and instead of taking some time and initiative to educate myself, I just play the innocent little girl card and stay scared. Who am I, Paris Hilton? That certainly isn't who I want to be, but that is precisely the way I had presented myself to that man from the newspaper.
So, there are lots of areas that I need some education. I have decided that I have had enough living in fear about things that I don't understand. Here are a few of the areas I want to conquer:
Iraq: Why are they all killing each other over there, and do I really believe we should be interfering, or do I just say we should because that's the Republican stance?

Afghanistan: Why are we fighting in Iraq if we still haven't killed Osama bin Laden?

The Stock Market: My heart started beating fast just typing that. How does it work? What the heck is it? If it can send Martha to prison, how safe can it be?

The Bank: What is a CD? Do I need one? What about a Money Market Account?

Politics: I get that the Democrats have decided on Obama as their presidential candidate, but is McCain for sure the Republican candidate? If he is, why did nobody ask me if he was who I wanted as my candidate? I still love George W., even though our country does seem to be a wreck.

Gardening: When do I plant? When can I cut my bushes back and have them regrow in a relatively short period of time? How much do I water?

Taxes: If I mess up, and its an accident, can I still go to jail? Does the IRS really want me to save all my bills and RECEIPTS? If so, how long do I have to keep them? What all in our day to day lives do I need to keep track of because it is deductible?

Sewing: Oh yeah! I conquered this fear last week :) No longer will I excuse myself in embarrassment if someone asks, "Did you make that? Is that a Lucy?" No longer will I look at a sewing machine and feel small because it knows more than I do! I am the proud creator of three and a half dresses...they may all be the same style...but we're taking it a day at the time. Mainly, I no longer feel ignorant about it.

There's my list. For all of you to see how little I know. Why didn't they teach anything useful like this in college? Why don't I have a reference book I can read to learn more? All that is past, but I feel like now, I can take one subject at a time and work until I get my questions answered. Then maybe I can go to a dinner party and not tune out you people who talk politics or the stock market or... I know that for me, ignorance has not been bliss, its just been fear.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy 4th on the 16th!

While I still have not gotten my computer to work, I did manage to get to Sams and have all my pictures developed/put on a CD. We spent the weekend at the beach with Jeremiah's parents, my Dad, and my baby sister, Kendall. We had such a good time that I actually cried when we left. Vacations, when our family--including Jeremiah--are all present are so rare. We soaked it up while we could! So as Pace said all weekend, "Happy Futhajuly!"
(I am not sure why they are so grainy looking...sorry, but I tried. I am hoping its just my computer.)

The girls in their red and blue...I wish you could see Pace's blue and red sandals that matched. Latte (my Aunt Alice) gave Pace her outfit and Bebe and Grandmama made Mary Aplin's dress for Pace 2 summers ago.

Take a look at my new teefers! (There you go Taylor :))

Somebody was H A P P Y to be at the beach!

Moogie (Jeremiah's Mom)

Popon (Jeremiah's Dad)

Papa (my Dad)

One more of Mapple Dapples in her outfit with those teefers :)

Keke (my sister Kendall). You don't get much sweeter than that...

Friday, July 11, 2008


In the eighth grade, somebody told me (maybe I saw it on Oprah??) that 11:11 was a time when all of God's angels stood ready to take commands from Him to answer His people's prayers. I feel like that is probably a big load but nevertheless, I set my watch alarm to go off every day at 11:11 to say a prayer that Ben Barron would fall in love with me (Anna--I think I've told you I used to be obsessed with your husband, but if not, you know now :)). Sadly enough, my daily prayers did nothing for me as far as my eighth grade crush was concerned, but Ben did seem to fall a bit in love with my mother that year. Maybe God was setting the precedent for how He would use those numbers for Mom's benefit in the future :)

While I don't know what Biblical evidence there could possibly be to support the idea that 11:11 is a time when the gates between heaven and earth seem to open a little bit wider, I do know that God likes numbers. He uses 3 and 7 over and over through scripture, and he also gives his people many physical reminders of his love and provision. So, while it may sound a bit superstitious, I believe God used 11:11 to encourage Mom through her battle.
Years ago, God gave Mom Hebrews 11:11

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

It was through Abraham's faith that God's promise of a miracle was able to come to fruition. That was precisely what Mom was doing: having faith in a God who she considered faithful to fulfill his promise. Obviously, that promise wasn't fulfilled in the manner we expected, but that's another whole blog.

So, God gave Mom the 11:11 verse, and she also started seeing 11:11 on clocks ALL the time. Mom rarely wore a watch, but it seemed as though her eyes were always being drawn to clocks at precisely that time. If you were with her, she'd point it out to you as well, and then usually say, "Thank you Lord!" or "By faith Abraham!" or "I believe!" It became God's reminder that he was walking through this battle with her. She told me once that it felt like a hug from Him.

Since she's been gone, my Dad and my Mom's childhood best friend Kendall have started to see 11:11 all over the place. Just in the past couple months, I've started seeing it too. Every time I do, it makes me smile, and I think about Mom and her "By faith Abraham"'s.

Last night, Jeremiah was on call and I decided to use the late night quiet to try and conquer the sewing machine. Riley's (Caroline's boyfriend) Mom gave me a sewing lesson last week. My grandma has tried to teach me a couple of times, and I've been laboring over whether or not to invest in a machine that intimidated the heck out of me. So, I took the plunge yesterday, bought a machine, and spent a couple of hours last night reading the instruction manual, learning how to turn it on, thread a bobbin, thread the machine, and sew in a somewhat straight line while telling myself over and over, "You're a chemical engineer. You can do this. Don't let it beat you, even if you did almost break the needle off because you got a piece of plastic stuck underneath it and you don't know how to raise the needle."
I finally felt appeased by my progress with the machine. I did eventually figure out how to raise that needle, and even managed to sew some straight lines. As I put the cover over the sewing machine I felt that hollowness that comes from time to time these days. The emptiness of having something I want to share with her, and knowing she can't answer if I call. I took a deep breath and stood still for a second to ward off the tears. Then, as I walked through the kitchen on my way to our bedroom my eyes were drawn to the clock, and there it was, 11:11. My heart felt like warm water had just spilled over it, and I smiled, and knew that she was hugging me. Letting me know that she was proud and she did know. I said, "Thanks Mom" right out loud, and then went to bed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gettin' Crazy in the Kitchen

I love to cook. I do not like to bake. Cooking leaves room for experimentation; baking is like a chemistry experiment where any little variation from the instructions can cause a disaster. Where is there room for creativity in chemistry...or baking? I spent a lot of years telling myself that if only I practiced baking more, knew more about it,...then surely it could be fun as well. However, my friend Pam is a professionally trained cook, and when I asked her about creative baking and her response was, "Well, it can be if you know the right ratios for what makes things rise the way you want, or be the consistency you want..." I just tuned out and signed off on baking as an art form right then.

ANYWAY, we often have nights where I throw whatever is in the cabinet together to find out what happens, and I am proud to say there has only been one memorable flop (This happened when I decided that if white wine, crm chkn soup, and chkn breasts mix well in the crock pot, why not try this left-over red wine. The result was one of the most unappetizing, putrid purple colors you can imagine. Although, if you could make yourself put it in your mouth, it really tasted pretty good :)). Last night, I was wondering, as I have many a night, what in the world I could do with my hamburger meat besides A)spaghetti B)beef stroganoff C)hamburger steak. I have a pretty serious addiction to all things Mexican and spicy, and I got pretty excited when I saw the ingredients waiting for me in that cabinet.

1 1/2 lb lean hamburger meat
1/2 yellow onion
minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

taco seasoning packet
chili powder

2 Uncle Bens microwave pouches of Spanish rice
1 can black beans--drained and rinsed
1 can corn--drained
1 can diced tomatoes

shredded cheddar cheese

Sautee first 4 ingredients together until meat is browned. Drain and rinse. Replace in pan and simmer with next 3 seasonings to taste. Cook rice according to packet instructions and combine with next 3 ingredients in 9x13 pyrex. Add meat to rice/veggie mix and add more seasoning if needed. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake at 350 until hot throughout (about 25 minutes). Garnish with salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos.

We LOVED this! All of us including Mapple Dapple :) and it was super easy.

My Grandma

My Grandma was born Catherine Evelyn Luker, in the tiny southwest Alabama town of Aimwell. She grew up the only girl in a house overflowing with 6 brothers. Affectionately, she was known as "sister." Sister grew up, married "Little Preacher," and had five babies of her own. She managed to raise them without ever learning how to drive. These are some of the most simple facts about my Grandma, but there is something extraordinary about this sweet woman.

I have never been able to really wrap my mind around all that she is, and some days my heart feels like it wants to burst to try and explain just what compels me to stand in awe of her. I think one part of it is that she can't imagine there being anything about her worth somebody's notice. She works hard, all the time. As I rack my memories I have a difficult time knowing what she looks like sitting down. She's always up, always serving. The first place she goes when she walks into our house in Dothan is the laundry room. If there's too much for her to finish during her visit, then she loads it up and takes it home. She would show up with breakfast at our house every morning if we would let her. In all honesty, I think that if the doctor told her that I needed a new heart, she would lay down on the table without one moment's hesitation and ask him to take hers. If I protested, she would shush me angrily and say, "Well, Abby, you need it!" As though that should be explanation enough.
She is also an accomplished seamstress. She made my Mom's wedding gown, my prom dress, and Pace's Christening gown. Not to mention countless dresses, outfits, curtains, and bedding for her grandchildren. I am always amazed at her appreciation for modern fashion. She can look at a new dress and marvel at the fabric and cuts. I bet she would have made a great fashion designer if she'd been given the opportunity.
She laughs hard and loves to hear all the intimate details of our love lives, baby dramas, or friendship struggles. She has always been our allie. Begging Mom and Dad to let us spend the night with her, and then letting us uproot every closet and drawer in the house, cook in her kitchen, walk to the store down the street to buy our own treat, stay up late watching whatever we wanted on TV, giving us spoons and telling us to go ahead and make mud pies, leading us to a huge jar of pennies and encouraging us to use them to bet in card games, and watching all this chaos unfold around her with a smile on her face. You will never leave Grandma's house in want of nourishment. She asks every 10-12 minutes if you want something to eat, and when an actual meal hour does roll around her famous phrase is, "Get up there and go to eatin'."

She has taught a 4th grade Sunday school class at her church for a million years and still takes the time to study her lesson and gather materials for her craft-time every Saturday night. She has GREAT faith, and it is profound in its simplicity. There have been countless times that my immediate family has been comforted by her matter-of-fact belief in her God and His sovereignty.

In essence, she is a saint that walks among men and she can't even fathom it. She has lived life with little in the way of worldly possessions or noble accolades. However, she has served God and others without ceasing, and that is beautiful. I hope she is with us for a long time yet, but when God does gather her into his arms I can't wait to see the honor he gives her in her new home. I hope that she will finally allow herself to be seated and served...but I doubt it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just So You Know

I have been trying VERY hard to post a July 4th blog. I tried Friday morning, yesterday, and today...but sadly our computer is on its last leg, and it is refusing to let me download pictures from my camera. Anyway, I'll be back as soon as I can get this dinosaur working properly!

Also, this happens to be my 100th post! Woohoo!