Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Light Heart

After the last couple of blogs, I thought we might could all do with a happy one :)! Not that they haven't been happy...just maybe some light-hearted happiness. What could be more light-hearted than flying a kite...and eating chocolate?

This Sunday was a typical Seattle day:


I have laughed at Jeremiah, because he's started calling these days "beautiful." I hear him on the phone all the time saying, "Yeah, it's beautiful here today!" I look out the window, thinking maybe I missed something. When I question his truthfulness he says, "Baby, it's all relative." I guess he's right. Rain is not actually falling and for us, that's a beautiful thing.

So on this beautiful Sunday morning, while I was getting the girls dressed for church, Jeremiah packed us a picnic lunch and threw the kite that the girls got for Christmas into the back of his car. After the church service we went to Gasworks Park to have a picnic and fly a kite.



I'm really glad Jeremiah didn't tell us the plan, otherwise I would have taken play clothes for the girls and I wouldn't have gotten these shots of the adorable dresses that Moogie and Sashey gave them for Christmas. I love the bright colors of their dresses and the grass against the charcoal sky...That's one good thing about this weather.




(I think the dresses came from here, but my MIL got them at a little shop in Dothan, AL, and I didn't find them on the website, so I'm just not 100% sure.)

Some new, and already dear, friends of ours joined us. They have a little girl named Hannah.


Can you tell they're from the South too? Most people in Seattle don't dress their kids in cutesy dresses. You can pick us out pretty quick around here.



After the kite flying, we were all nearly frozen (I didn't know to bring play clothes OR jackets), so we went to a coffee shop to warm up. And then, we went to a chocolate factory just down the road. We'd heard about Theo, but never gotten to experience it for ourselves.

You can smell warm chocolate as you walk down the sidewalk. It's almost impossible not to go in.


And then, piles and piles and piles of free chocolate for the sampling...it was like a dream.




Thanks for all your sweet comments on the last blog. I love y'all. Thanks for sharing in our lives and adding a beautiful richness. Happy week!

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Undeserved Answer to a Hard Question

"Why did you tell us, and others, that you were going to heal Mom, and then not do it?" That question has been the root of some bitterness in my life for the past three years. You see, we (as in my family) believed God told us, members of our community, and even strangers that this was His plan for my Mom. He was going to heal her of the Ovarian cancer she had been battling for 13 years, and it was going to be miraculous, and it was going to be an earthly healing. We clung to that and believed it, until she took her last breath...and then we waited with one eye open to be sure He wasn't going to raise her from the dead.

I would have thought my belief in God would have been shattered over such an occurrence, but it wasn't. He had been too present during the fight, He'd held me too tightly for me to question His existence...or even His goodness. What was shattered was my faith. I still believed He had the power to heal, but I certainly wasn't planning to claim that healing for anybody else (or myself) ever again. I was happy for other people to claim it, I would even encourage them to do so, but I was done believing God for anything big in my life. It left me too vulnerable.


Then, I moved to Seattle and became desperate for the fellowship of other women and God. I missed Him and the good grind of knowing Him more deeply. So, I invited a few different women that I'd met here to do a study in our home, and I called my sister Kendall. Kendall's boyfriend's Mom (are you still following me, that's Watson) was one of my Mom's dearest friends in all the world--Mrs. Abby. She also collects Beth Moore Bible studies that she lends out to others. I asked Kendall if Mrs. Abby would be willing to lend me one. I didn't specify. Any 'ol Beth Moore study was fine with me. What did she send?...Believing God--experience a fresh explosion of faith. And Mrs. Abby added the note that it was the last study she and Mom ever did together.

Crap. That was my thought. It would be rude to send this back, but CRAP. I don't want to talk about faith; it's too sensitive. I don't want to dredge up old feelings about Mom; I'm not ready for that. However, I do know Him well enough to notice that He often asks of me things that I don't particularly like. The good lessons are never padded with satin and wrapped with a ribbon. So I opened by barbed-wire covered package and I stepped out--on the little bit of faith I'd managed to salvage.


On Day TWO of the study, we reached the scripture I was dreading the most. Hebrews 11:11 was probably the most quoted Scripture in our household for the last few months of Mom's life:

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 made the promise.

God had given Mom this verse and we claimed it with her over and over. God was going to heal her, even against how bleak it all looked--because she considered Him faithful who made the promise. The verse still pierces my heart.

However, on day two of this study, facing my dread, I read on and God broke truth over my heart like a sparkling wave of light. If you read on, verses 13-16 say this:

All these people were still living by faith when they DIED. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw then and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. [Emphasis mine]

Tears were streaming down my face as I realized what He was telling me, and as I sat there the sun, the literal sun, broke through the clouds on this rainy Seattle Saturday--on a day when the cloud-cover was so thick I would have thought it impossible--and the warm sun suddenly spilled all over my face. It was a hug from God. Pure and bright and palpable.


I wrote down what He spoke to me, and I wrote it just like He was saying it. I felt like a secretary trying to scratch it all down so that I didn't miss a word. He said:

She wasn't wrong. You weren't wrong. You did what I required, what pleases me. You had faith to believe what I promised, but I gave her a choice. The free-will that is also my gift. And she chose me...she loves you but not more than ME. What would all that journey have been worth if she didn't? I foreknew the choice she would make and the promise is completed now. She is healed. She is healed and if she had chosen the promises' fulfillment to have been made on earth, I would have gladly given her that as well. But once I'd brought her to the place where I wanted her, the place where her heart desired me more than anything else--then the earthly healing no longer seemed so important. Who wants the shadow when offered the substance?

Now I need you to understand this. To bind it on your heart. I need more than the quarter of a mustard seed you walked away from this experience with. You've been content to tuck that in your pocket. I need you to take it out now. I'm ready to grow it.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Love and Hate of Handmade Gifts

I love handmade gifts. I cherish the time the giver takes to conceive the idea and then craft it with love. I love to be the giver of a handmade gift--committing a part of myself to someone else and anticipating the love with which it will be received.

I also hate handmade gifts :). I've already shared my grinch-y-ness with y'all over the Christmas season. I thought Jeremiah was going burn all the nightgowns up before I could finish embroidering them and demand his wife back. I still have two to finish, and we're eeking up on the middle of January (don't tell Jeremiah--he thinks I've abandoned the projects).

I've admitted something else this Christmas season--I love store-bought gifts too. Especially when they come from clothing stores ;). If you've been around long you know that shopping doesn't fit into our residency/fellowship budget. This year, I acknowledged the anticipation I hold for Christmas to bring a MUCH needed spark to my wardrobe. Having a handful of new items to mix in with the old faithfuls makes a WORLD of difference. For Pace and Mary Aplin, who outgrow their clothes between seasons, it's more a state of necessity than desire for a few new items. When a once long-sleeve shirt goes past three-quarter length and begins inching close to the elbow, it's time for a new shirt.

While I'm extremely excited about handmade and non-handmade gifts from this year, I've taken pictures of the handmade ones to share with you:

My Mom's friend, Kendall Boggs, is an artist and I won this in a giveaway on her blog--sort of. Somebody else was actually drawn to win, but she gave me one too. I love it, and I'm counting it as a homemade Christmas present. You should check out some of her other artwork--here.

Alex, Jeremiah's baby sister, made this collage of pictures for us. Jeremiah's Grandmother Maddox made GI-normous picture collages of their family throughout the years. When Jeremiah and I were dating, I used to stand in front of them and love seeing the changes grow across the wall--from three little boys and a young preacher with his wife, to teenage boys with their girlfriends and, later, wives. Grandchildren playing baseball and riding horses--you could see the whole family grow up before your eyes. It was a big day for me when I finally made a debut in one of those collages! One small picture of Jeremiah and me at the first concert we ever went to together. And now, Allie, I feel like I have been truly inaugurated! Our very own family collage. Grandmother would be so proud :)

Taylor took that favorite picture of Mom that I shared in the last blog and did an "acetate transfer" (don't tell Taylor, but I have no idea what that means). I think the vintage and whimsical look that created is fascinating,

especially when paired with a "love you" written in Mom's own hand-writing...

From one tear-jerker to the next! It was sort of a weepy Christmas around here :)

Caroline was going through Mom's sewing kit, and she found a poem written on this needlepoint canvas.
It says:
Abby Catherine, bundle of joy,
Tiny and helpless, beautiful to see.
How did you come to belong to me?
Little hands that hold on tight,
Sweet small mouth to kiss goodnight.
Growing, growing every day,
If only you could stay this way.
In need of me for everything,
Hold you close and softly sing.
Jesus loves you this I know,
Designed you, formed you, and watched you grow.
Dimpled grins are all in fun,
When up your back the angles run.
Chinkypen eyes sent to me from above,
Abby, you'll always have my love.
May, 14 1982

Still crying every time I read it.

Nice to know she really loved that honeymoon accident...

I vaguely remember her reading me this poem that she wrote for me as a baby. I remember asking her why she thought it kind to call my small eyes "chinkypen." (I hope nobody is offended by what seems like a racial slur to me as an adult :) Apparently, she thought it was a compliment fit for her newborn!) I also have a very vague recollection of her telling me she loved to run her fingers up the angles of my back, and watch the way I wriggled and grinned under her touch.

Caroline learned to needlepoint, so that she could finish this project for me, that Mom started so many years ago.

And finally, those embroidered nightgowns. Pretty sure I promised Caroline I was photographing the nightgown and not her face. Pretty sure I assured her I wouldn't post any of her face...I lied :)

The quote says: "Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister." I felt like that quote captured perfectly the last three years for the four of us.

The back. That deep fold is the zipper running down the middle of the back of the dress.
Caroline and her sweet mother-in-law, Mrs. Melinda, sewed all these nightgowns for me. I adore them and am so thankful for smart people who can turn ideas into substance with a sewing machine. I am a pitiful seamstress, but I do love to embroider.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of all the nightgowns (four down, two to go), and they're all a little different. However, here is a close-up of Taylor's.

The non-handmade gifts will be appearing on the blog as well...as we wear them out :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Game Day!

I woke up this morning wishing I had a friend I could shout "War Eagle!" to (Thanks Darby, for not thinking I'd lost my mind when I couldn't resist the urge). I dressed the girls for gameday, and mourned all the years I've spent rolling my eyes at how the entire state of Alabama shuts down when there's a big game.

Tonight, we have community group at our house and I didn't know how to break it to my house full of non-football fans that...I wanted to watch a bunch of grown men knocking each other down instead of talking about a sermon tonight. Back home, it would have been assumed. There would have been a note in the church bulletin canceling all community groups for Monday night and encouraging everybody to just get together for fellowship instead...Nobody seemed to know that here.

So now, I hope my family (who considers me the puniest football fan who ever lived) is getting a good laugh over my brave attempt to turn my cherished community group into a tailgate party.

The group, however, is officially on-board (though I'm not sure they understand why) and have even agreed to bring tailgate food (though they had to ask me what, exactly, that was :)).

Look for Watson Downs #51!! Kendall's sweet boyfriend who offered us his seats in the football family section of the game...and now I'm wondering how/why in the world we didn't take out a loan and GO!!!

War Eagle!!!!

(This is my favorite picture of my Mom--and it's her on the field cheering for Auburn)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Similarities and Differences of the Clark Girls

We may not have gotten to go home for Christmas, but we did get to spend close to a week with my three sisters and two brother-in-laws here in Seattle.

What a precious gift!

Our house is not the place to come for a relaxing vacation. We love the city much too much to allow anybody to sit still for long around here. So, we wore each other slam out, but I'm pretty sure we made some memories we will never forget.



I've been thinking about how I want to word this post...we didn't do many things new--that I've never blogged about before--so I don't really want to just throw the pictures up and tell you what we're doing. I've decided to tell you instead some things that I learned about my sisters on this trip. It's funny what can be made new when you haven't gotten to experience the day-to-day with someone for a long time. Yes we change some, but more than that I think time away affords you room to see small things that have been left unappreciated all along.


How about we go in birth order? I am the oldest. A honeymoon baby and an utter accident :) There are four and a half years between Taylor and I, and then the next three happened all in a row. I think that partly because of this age gap, partly because of my personality, and partly because it's just the way it normally goes with the oldest child in a big family--I've always been the mother hen.
The settler of arguments and the meeter (what a great word that is) of needs. I admitted something about my past self to my sisters this weekend, and I'm not sure they thought it nearly as big a revelation as I found it to be. We were re-living memories when the old "You never wanted us to be around you or your friends," joke came up. It is true, and I feel bad about it now, but they are right. I spent my childhood trying to be away from them, and I feel like I've spent my adulthood giving anything to be close to them. This is not knew knowledge, however.

What became clear as we perused some funny memories was that I resented them. I was always in charge, always telling them them "no," and my summers seemed like one very, very long babysitting job that I never got paid to do. It wasn't that I was just some angst-filled teenager that wanted my peace and quiet, I was angry at the responsibility they were to me. Whew, nice to get that out and move forward!

Taylor, number 2:
The defender of the family. I've mentioned before that I can have a scrappy nature. However, if I really had a problem with anybody, I'd call Taylor. We have a story that sort of sums this up. One night, Mom and all four of us girls were staying at my house in Birmingham. It was not long after a string of robberies had occurred in our neighborhood and everybody was feeling a bit on edge as we went to sleep. In the night, we were all awakened by a loud sound outside (I still don't know what it was), and Taylor's immediate response was to jump out of bed and cry, "I'll fight to my death!"

I still laugh out loud every time I think about it.

This is how riled her spirit became at the thought of harm coming to any one of us. She is always the one I call if I get my feelings hurt. By the end of our conversation, I end up excusing away the injustice in order to calm her down. It's a great way to get over things. It is NOT great, however, to be the one IN a fight with Taylor. All three of us have been there as well :)


Caroline, number 3:
The eternal optimist. To Caroline, there is no problem that is not fixed with a simple answer. There is no bad day that will not surely be followed by a better one. If life seems like a burden to carry, I call Caroline. She always has a little sunshine to shower on it.

Throughout childhood she was known as "The Aggravater." Most poignant example was when she found Kendall crying in her room one day after getting in trouble. Caroline slid softly up to her side in, what looked like, an effort to console her little sister. Instead what we heard was, "You know what else, Kendall? I have your baby..." To which Kendall wailed all the more loudly. Sometimes, we still see this tendency creep up. Like this week when she sang the most random and annoying songs out loud, just long enough to get them stuck in our head, and then stopped. Over and over.


Kendall, number 4 (I feel the need to say that this glamour shot photo is a joke):
The surprising chameleon. I've been chewing hard on this one. I think if you asked any of the three of us, we'd probably say we have the most in common with and argued the least growing up with--Kendall. I feel like she's taken us all in over the past 21 years--she observed the good and the bad that we were all making a big deal over, and she quietly picked up the things around her that she liked and did it herself, without all the fuss the rest of us made.

For example, graduating from Houston Academy (my college prep high school)...nearly killed me. The drama show I must have been over my chemistry tests and Calculus exams! Then, a few years later, Kendall just graduated, and I realized I'd never heard her complain. She's still doing it. I feel like she sneaks up beside each one of us and can truly celebrate whatever is happening in our lives--partially because she just does whatever we're stressing over doing.

And she's pretty fun too :)


Time with the three people who know my core more innately than anyone else, is always a joy. The surprising new blessing in all of our lives, however, is the addition of brothers.

I would say that if I thought about it at all in the past, it was to dread there being men in our lives that would come in and disrupt our sweet sisterly communion. I could never have imagined the gift it would be to have these new additions. I feel extraordinarily blessed by God to not only love but enjoy my brother-in-laws. I love to see the parts of my sisters they draw out,


and the similarities they recognize in the four of us that often we cannot see.


Unfortunately, they have also formed a support group for "Men who have to deal with the Clark girls," but they at least help us laugh at out short-comings as we recognize them. And they are also committed to loving us deeply as they help us reign in these sin natures.

And don't think we don't dish it back to them as well :)

Thank you Taylor, John David, Caroline, Riley, and Kendall for taking the time and expense to come and be with us. We love you so much!! and I can't think of any other way I'd rather have started 2011...