Pay It Forward Friday

This week in cyberspace has been all about Amy @ Mom of Two Princesses for me. As you already know, she is one of my reigning top three commenters. What you don’t know is that I also won this tote bag from her blog this week. Isn’t it gorgeous?

As if that weren’t enough love for one week, I found out this morning that Amy has featured me on her blog and kindly sent all her readers my way. It’s a game of linky tag called Pay It Forward Friday and it was started by An Iowa Mom.

To “pay it forward”, I now get to share with you a blog that is special to me. So, if I could send you to any blog in the world, it would have to be girl talk. This is a mom and three grown daughters with little ones of their own blogging about biblical womanhood and the issues that face Christian women today. These women write with such integrity and wisdom that I am encouraged and yet humbled every time I visit. I’ve been reading this blog since before I really even knew what a blog was, and God has blessed me through it.

Right now, they are doing a series on summertime, which includes some great recipes and ideas for entertaining little ones and spending time together as a family, as well as some deeper thoughts considering how we might make the best use of our time this summer for the Lord.

I have loved and benefited from so many of their posts and series of posts; it is hard to choose just one favorite. This post is a recent favorite from a series about coping with our emotions during seasons of hormonal changes (PMS, pregnancy, PPD, menopause). It reminds us that, although we may feel like we sin terribly during these seasons, we are never beyond saving by God’s grace through the gospel. Amen! The whole series is worth a read if you’re like me (that is, female!)

I’m not sure that the busy ladies at girl talk will have a chance to “Pay It Forward” (although I would love to know what blogs they find encouragement from), but if they did want to play along, the rules are here.

P.S.  Don’t forget to leave a comment on my 100th post to try to win some yummy Starbucks!

The Big One-O-O!

Apparently, this is my 100th post. I know this because when I logged in today, WordPress kindly told me “You have 99 posts.” That means this one has to be something special. Something unprecedented. Something worthy of the occasion.

So, in honor of my 100th post, I am declaring today Reader (that’s you!) Appreciation Day.  As such, I have two ways to show my appreciation to you, my faithful (or not-so-faithful-but-happen-to-be-reading-this- post) readers:

1.  The love-sharing!  This is an award I received from Deb @ Mom of 3 Girls.

It was created by Memoirs of a Mommy. It’s a very special award that she created in Honor Of The Donor That Saved (her son) Noah’s Life. Noah received a heart transplant, and she hopes that by passing this award around the blogosphere everyone can help raise awareness of the need for Organ Donation.

The rules of this award are: SHARE THE LOVE!!! Share this award with all those blogs out there that you love. All the people who make you smile. All those that make you laugh. All those that make your day. All those that leave uplifting comments on your blog. **All I ask, is that you include a link to this post with the award and ask your recipient to do the same**

I am giving this award to my top three commenters.  I didn’t really have to do a count in order to know who my top three commenters are, but I did, just so I could brag on them a little more specifically.

So, over the course of 99 posts, Oh Amanda has left me 54 comments, Amy @ Mom of Two Princesses has left me 40, and Deb @ Mom of 3 Girls (yeah, the one who gave me the award. Oh well) has left me 19 (and she’s only been reading since the Ultimate Blog Party!)  You ladies are so faithful, and your comments always make me smile.  Thank you so much!

2. The Giveaway!

One of you will be the lucky recipient of a $10 gift card to Starbucks (that’s one hundred dimes worth, if anyone’s looking for the connection to the occasion)! What could be better than free coffee, right?  But we are, of course, a non-partisan blog, so you tea and hot chocolate-drinkers out there, and even you frozen creamy or juicy concoction-drinkers, will surely find something to your liking at Starbucks. Failing all that, they have cookies, too.

There is only one catch: I have to know that you’re reading! All you have to do is leave me a comment on this post. It can say anything at all. Think of it as a little Jodilightful! readership roll call.

This is open to *everyone*. I can’t exclude friends and family, since they’re the majority of my readership, so you’re all just going to have to trust me that I really will just do a random drawing and not just pick my mom and make her use the gift card to buy me a coffee. It’s also open to my British readers. I don’t know how I’ll swing it, but I haven’t actually bought the prize yet, so I’m sure with the wonders of modern technology I can figure out a way to buy you a cup of coffee or two.

You have until tomorrow (Friday 6/13) at midnight EST to leave your comment and be entered in the drawing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading!  If it weren’t for you, I would be just another bloggy drop-out statistic.

How Great Is Our God!

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(Photo borrowed from Life with the Ferrells)
For the past several weeks, many of the ladies on my online messageboard and I have been following with heavy hearts the story of one family’s struggles with their new baby.  Little Nathan has had breathing issues since birth and was not showing the muscle tone development the pediatrician hoped to see.  After weeks of searching for an answer, he was given a preliminary diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  Everything pointed to this diagnosis, and there seemed to be very little doubt in the doctor’s mind.

His mother, Amber, discovered at home on the internet that this is a devastating progressive illness that is fatal, and then began the weeks-long wait for the genetic tests to confirm the doctor’s suspicions.

Meanwhile, she and her family, and many of her online friends prayed, and prayed hard.   Miraculously, during this time, Nate’s development began to improve in areas in which he had previously begun to regress.

This morning, I woke up to this incredible news: Nathan does not have SMA!  Please read her post about it so that you can shed tears of joy with her as I did.  Praise the Lord for His incredible mercy on this family!  Please also pray for baby Nate and his family as they continue to seek a diagnosis for him.

God does not always answer our prayers with a “Yes”.  When it is “No” or “Wait”, we can trust without exception that He is still acting for our best.  But when He does give a resounding “Yes!” to the cries of His people, how it makes our hearts swell with joy!

Psalm 40:1

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Lessons From A Bad Hair Life

To be fair, it isn’t strictly accurate to say that I’ve had a whole life of bad hair days.  I had beautiful golden waves, like Pippa’s, until I was about ten or eleven years old.  Then, all in the space of about two years, it turned brown and very, very curly.  For years, I embraced the curl.  I always pined for the sleek, bouncy, straight hair that it seemed every girl in my school had but me, but I did get complimented on my curls from time to time, and really, it wasn’t all that bad.  In hindsight, though, this is not a look I want to go back to.  Dana and Sara, I believe I owed you this picture anyway… This was taken at my 18th birthday party (remember, folks, we’re looking at hair here, not glasses.)  At its worst it was frizzy and out of control entirely, but even at it’s best, it was *big* hair.
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Sometime not long after I got married, a friend convinced me to let her straighten my hair one night, and I never looked back.  My hair has been forcibly straightened more days then not since that day.  Even having a baby, and then two, and then three has not interrupted my routine of straightening my hair each time I wash it (even if it has slightly decreased the frequency of the latter.)  It still didn’t always behave quite how I wanted, and it would more often than not end up pulled back, but on an exceptionally good day, I could leave it down and it would look something like this.
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Ah, those were the days…

Since then two things have happened to upset my temporarily happy hair world.
1. American summer weather in a home with no central air. The bathroom tends to be the hottest room in our house, anyway, let alone when I’m using a hairdryer and a straightening iron. Doing my hair these days involves frequent trips to the living room to try to stop sweating so that my hair doesn’t curl right back up *as* I’m straightening it. Not that fun.

2. Post-partum hair loss after Beatrix. It was textbook: began right about four months after she was born, ended at about eight. When I lost hair after the first two girls, I remember a few days of thinking, “wow, that’s a lot of hair I just pulled out of the drain.” I do *not* remember it looking like I had killed a cat in my bathroom every time I brushed my hair for three months! At first, I welcomed this shedding process – after all, I clearly had more (and bigger) hair than any human being needs, but when it got the the point that I was borrowing Pippa’s ponytail-holders, it slowly began to dawn on me: at some point, it would start growing back, and I would have new hair growth a couple inches long in a quantity comparable to the amount of hair that I currently had.  I would be a human Chia pet.

And that is where I am now. And this is what that looks like. (Younger and more sensitive readers may wish to avert their eyes.)
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That’s *after* straightening, folks.

A few nights ago, I was lamenting this situation to my dear husband. In the interest of full disclosure, I was lamenting that I would have to go to *church* with bad hair the next morning.  No sooner had the words escaped my lips than these verses flashed through my mind.

1 Timothy 2:9-10

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness, with good works.

I have never thought of myself as a vain person.  I’m very low maintenance as girls go.  I didn’t start wearing make-up until I was in my twenties, and I still don’t wear much.  I can get myself ready to go out in about 15 minutes flat, and that’s with little ones running in and out asking to brush their teeth and similar.

Nevertheless,  there it was staring me in the face:  I don’t like going to church with bad hair.  This tells me two things about myself.

1. That my focus is severely misplaced on Sunday mornings.   Of course there is nothing wrong with looking one’s best on a Sunday morning, but when *not* looking my best causes me to be in a bad mood all morning, something is clearly wrong with my heart and my motivation for trying to look my best.

2.  That I have believed the world’s lies about what makes a woman beautiful.  I have believed that shiny, bouncy hair and flattering clothes make me more attractive and therefore more valuable, instead of believing God when He tells me what I ought to wear in order to look my best.  God says I should adorn myself not with expensive clothes and jewelry and well-styled hair, but  “with good works” if I am a woman who professes a desire to be godly.

I wonder, if I spent as much worrying about whether I have been kind to my family or how I can best serve my brothers and sisters in the Lord on a Sunday morning as I do worrying about how my hair looks or what I’m going to wear, how much more useful I could be to the Lord?  It would certainly take me longer than fifteen minutes to get ready.

I’d Like to Propose… A Roast!

PhotobucketActually, I’d really rather not, but this Sunday is my father’s sixtieth birthday party, and apparently it falls to me as the firstborn to mock him mercilessly in front of all of his friends and family on the big day.

I agreed to this weeks ago.  I had asked my stepmother, Debbie, what I could do to help with the party preparations, and at the time I felt like I’d gotten off lightly when she asked me to do this.  After all, she could have asked to make potato salad for 50 or something.  A  speech?  No problem.

Until I sat down to write it.  Now, I’m imagining delivering this thing to an audience including my 80-something-year-old grandparents, a handful of my dad’s cousins whom I haven’t seen since I was ten, and my 12-year-old sister, and I may well be doing it while holding a baby or two – there is just no anecdote funny enough for this situation!

So, I’ve decided to give it a practice spin here, not least because I feel more inclined to blog this afternoon than to work on this speech.  Here goes.

***

Anybody who knows my dad knows that he is just the guy to have around in a lot of situations.  If you need someone to tell you which house to buy, or to listen to a funny noise your car has started making, or to turn an end table into a coffee table, Bruce Gilbert is the man to call.  If, on the other hand, you need to drive to the airport during rush hour and want someone to keep you company, you’d probably better ask someone else.

My dad has many interesting ideas about driving, and one of them is that it is *always* preferable to be moving, even if it is in the exact opposite direction of where you’re trying to go.  This means that he will often do a U-turn on Buck Road rather than sit through even one light.  If he has no choice but to sit at a traffic light that has just changed, you will almost certainly hear him say the words, “The *full* red!”

He also truly believes that road signs are intended for less capable drivers than himself.  To him, a stop sign means “Glance Around and Slow Down Slightly If Necessary”, and he thinks “No Thru Traffic” should be followed by “Unless You Grew Up In This Neighborhood.”  Traffic laws do not apply at all in the snow.  And, in general, the answer to any driving rule that is contrary to what my dad wants to do is: “But I’m Bruce Gilbert!”  In fact, that is probably exactly what he said to the cop who found him hiding in his shed after trying to escape a speeding ticket on his motorcycle.

In light of all this, it is a good thing that my Dad has an uncanny way of surviving dangerous, potentially life-threatening incidents.  He has fallen off a roof, crashed a motorcycle and skidded 20 feet on his back, and tipped over a 25-ton backhoe and yet he has hardly seen the inside of a hospital.  (I’m sure Debbie wishes she had the same superpower!)

But having a dad who is a little bit of a rule-bender and a little bit fearless made growing up in this house so much fun.  No one else’s dad would climb into the rafters to fetch an escaped balloon, and then do a handstand while he’s up there.  Just for fun.  No one else’s dad would take everyone for rides in a trailor attached to the lawnmower at their birthday parties.  No one else’s dad would drag the hose up through the house and saw a hole in the bathroom door in order to decisively win a water fight that started with a tiny splash of dishwater.  My dad is just cool.

But what was cool when I was little doesn’t always seem so cool now that I have children of my own.  A favorite pass-time among the dozens of kids who seem to live here is to take a yellow plastic toy car all the way up to the top of the hill and ride it all the way down.  The object of the game is to end up as close to the cliff as possible.  (Yeah.)  I imagine that my dad invented this game and taught it to them.  While I was in the hospital last summer having Beatrix, my dad and Debbie had the girls for a day.   I learned a few days later that while my dad was casually chatting with a neighbor, Pippa, who was not quite three at the time, had taken the yellow car halfway up the hill and was barrelling, totally out of control, straight toward a tree.  Fortunately, the neighbor noticed and asked if she should be doing that just in time for my dad to dive in the way and stop her.  Pop-pop is no longer allowed to babysit.

Still, I owe a lot to my dad.  I have him to thank for my quirky sense of humor, and my ability to quote movie lines in any situation.  (“It was like he was wearing a suit.  An… E(d)gar suit.”)  I am also thankful that he and Debbie are always so willing to take in strays, whether they be cats or recently immigrated families of four.

Daddy, as much as I don’t want to be around when you cut a board too short or discover a new scratch on your truck, I love you and I wish you a very happy birthday!

***

Okay, so I need to flesh out some of the stories and work on the transitions, and I’m totally going to lose my nerve on some of it, but we’ll call it a first draft anyway.  What do you think?  Too mean?  Too nice?  Constructive criticism is welcome.  In fact, I’d be delighted if I woke up tomorrow morning to find a complete re-write in my comment box.

And of course, the real question is: What am I going to wear?!?

Unspoken Conversation With An (Almost) Eleven-Month-Old

PhotobucketThis morning, while dozing/playing on Mommy’s bed before the big girls woke up, Bea and I had the following conversation.

Her: I love you, Mommy.  Can I eat your nose?

Me: No, Sweetie, that’s not a good plan, but I love you, too.

Her:  Okay, but can I just stick my finger in it?  Look, it fits!

Me: No, thank you, Sweetie.

Her: Okay.  Can I eat your cheek?

Me: No.  Do you want this pink bunny instead?

Her: Ummm, no thanks.  Maybe I could just play with your teeth?   Look, my fingers fit in there, too.  It’s so cool!

Me:  Well, that’s not my favorite.  Perhaps you’d like this pink bunny…

Her: Mommy, I’m just going to check out  what happens if I crawl off the bed.

Me: No, that’s not a great idea either.

Her: But I really think it would be fun.

Me: No, Honey, it wouldn’t be.  It would hurt you. Let’s just stay over here.  I’m going to get your belly…

Her:  Oh, Mommy, you’re the funniest!  I love you so much…  Can I eat your nose?

***

Why does parenting have to get so much harder than this?
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The New Girl

I finally cracked her.  She absolutely does *not* have time for a blog, what with working sixty hours a week and trying to keep two very needy and demanding daughters happy, but nevertheless, you’re going to want to go check out my mom’s blog.  You’re going to want to blogline her, and you’re going to want to leave her such an outpouring of comment love that she has no choice but to stick around and continue to share her wit and wisdom with all of us 20- and 30-somethings who think we know something about motherhood.  You might also want to ask her about the superhero tanning booth incident.  It’s definitely blogworthy.

Really, She Can… Honest

I’ve been meaning to get a video of Bea’s unique caterpillar crawl for weeks, because I know that one of these days I’ll blink and she’ll be crawling for real. Well, maybe by her birthday.  We don’t exactly have motor skills prodigies around here.

Here is yesterday’s attempt in three takes.
Take 1:
(Not much happening, but she does do a decent ring-wraith impression. We all have our gifts.)

Take 2:
(Thwarted by my faithful assistant.)Take 3:
(There! Did you see it at the beginning? After that… I give up!)Aww, she’ll be turning into a beautiful butterfly before we know it!