Friday, May 29, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part

Thirty three years ago today, Hamp and I were married in a small ceremony at his parent's house in Newnan. As I type those words, I have snapshots of our lives together racing through my mind. I don't have any to share with you because we still have our lives spread out in a couple of states and none of our early pictures are with us right now.

We met at a community Bible study and went to church at the same place. He was in the area to go to Southern Tech and I was the "city girl" that captured his heart away from a much different Newnan, GA than exists today. We were entirely too young to get married; I was 19 and he was 20. Tiffany joined the family 2 years later and by the time I was 25, we'd been married 6 years and had 3 children. We like to say that we grew up as our kids did.

Both of us were followers of Jesus when we met and were committed to making our marriage successful. But we both had serious issues that had never been dealt with because we hadn't grown up enough to do so. As you can imagine, once the excitement of being married and having babies faded, the reality of living out each day took its toll on our relationship. By the time our late 20's rolled around, the future seemed tedious and less than exciting. Hamp was busy trying to take care of his growing family and I became restless.

For about 2 or 3 years, I was more unhappy than not in our marriage. We were so busy taking care of kids that we didn't invest the needed time in each other. It was during this time that I experienced my first real crisis of faith. My head knew that all the things I believed about God and His word were true, but my heart wanted to take care of me. Yet, we were raising 3 small children to follow Jesus and I knew that their lives would be broken if I acted on my unhappiness in any way.

During this time of intense struggle between me and God, the only thing I could say at times and truly mean it was, "When it's all said and done, I want what You want so You're going to have to change my heart." It didn't happen overnight, but God brought friends, counselors, and truth into our lives that all affected things for the good. But for a while, the only way that I could love Hamp was to obey God. No feelings, no excitement, nothing - just an obedience because He said so.

And I guess, really, that's the point. In today's world of self love, self awareness, self discovery, or whatever other focuses of self you can think of, choosing to obey God simply because He tells you to is not something that's talked about much. We've packaged Him in relevance so as not to offend and then wonder why the divorce rate in the Church is now higher than in the world. Our family knows firsthand the heartbreak of trying to figure out how to separate what God joined together. We also know firsthand that He really does bring beauty out of ashes, but oh how much better it would be to not have to experience that heartbreak in the first place!

So as Hamp and I celebrate today away from family, friends, and familiarity, we will be thanking God for His faithfulness to us. And thanks to so many of you who have invested in our lives to enable us to reach this anniversary. We love you!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Gray Day

I am tired of the color gray. It's not a particularly attractive color anyway, but when you see it day after day, it seems to permeate everything around it. The air today has a smoky haze to it which you should be able to see from this picture.

Even though the air around the harbor is still not very pleasant to breathe, I thought maybe a walk would help redeem the day. Nope, not today. Let me explain why. This is a map of Fells Point which is where we live.

The area marked #13 is where our apartment is located. While we do technically live on the water, you can see that we're not really near open water. There are lots of piers along the streets and the water just kind of stops as it hits land. Consequently, debris and trash can end up there depending on the weather, water current, etc. There is a cool trash picking boat that comes around and cleans the water, but there are times it can't keep up. Today was one of those days and this was what the water looked like by our parking lot.

Kinda sad, huh? Then as I began walking, I noticed that some of the dead fish had drifted into our dead end water. Yuck!

I did have a smiley moment as I passed these two sleeping on the walkway where I stood to take the picture of the poor departed fish. I guess the water was a bit much for them today too.

Even now as I look out our window, the day is still just...gray. Yet, I find that surprisingly my soul is OK. I'm sure that's partly because I know that this stale air is about to be pushed out to sea bringing fresh air in its place. I think life is like that sometimes. What we see around us is so gray we can't imagine it ever changing. But above the clouds and in the winds of change, the sun is shining, the skies are blue, freshness is ushered in, and the world is bright again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I don't really have anything significant to pass along to you today, so I thought I'd catch you up with some of the little things that have made up my life since the last entry.

First off, can I just say that I am so ready to see the sun shine again?? I now get excited just to see the clouds a light gray and further up in the sky. I realize that most of you reading this live in the eastern United States and have been experiencing the same thing. And I also realize that we should be thankful there is no more drought to speak of in our regions. But a few days of sunshine strung together would be OK, don't you think? I actually put this picture back on my computer desktop that I took right after I moved here just for visual encouragement.

I'm recovering from my driving stupor of last Friday, so over the weekend Hamp and I decided to check out a new grocery store. I probably won't go there often because it's further away and doesn't really have enough of a variety to justify the trip. I've tried to keep a good attitude about all the things that are not available but I do miss Publix. They sell a cornbread muffin that is amazing and I have seen nothing that even resembles that here. I checked at the new store to see what they might carry and this is what I found.

While not muffin shaped, they taste exactly like the Publix cornbread and I was quite excited. If you'll look closely, you'll also see that those are Vidalia onions. Yes, it's the little things that can make a difference when you're trying to settle in a new place and create home.

I can't fully share our latest discovery because so far there's no way to transport a smell across cyberspace. Over the last few days, the algae growing in the harbor has bloomed, which lowered the oxygen content in the water. This, combined with extra pollution from the run off of recent rains, has caused lots of fishies to die which in turn has caused the air to smell like dead fish in polluted water. Today was better and I actually did go for a walk, but do not envy me being able to breathe in fresh, salty air because that is certainly not happening right now!

That's pretty much it for now. If you don't usually read Tiffany's blog, I encourage you to check it out here. God has done and is doing amazing things in her life and I loved the illustration she shared about His unfailing love and faithfulness. For most of us, life hasn't turned out like we thought it would, but my prayer is that no matter what circumstances may come our way, we will always be able to say "it is well with my soul".

Monday, May 25, 2009

No Longer An Option

Happy Memorial Day to everyone! Obviously, I made it back safely to Baltimore, but it was not without mishap. Friday, as I was traveling north on Interstate 77, there was a terrible accident that caused traffic to be detoured off of the interstate through Elkin, NC. Never heard of Elkin, NC? Neither had I, but after TWO hours of meandering through the countryside in this lovely farmland community, I have now. To help pass the time, I took some pictures out of both car windows and actually got some pretty good shots.

This is corn just beginning to come up.

Are you beginning to wonder about my mental state that would cause me to actually think about taking pictures? Well, this is what the road looked like the entire time until we got back on the interstate and we were stopped more than we moved. Add to that an increasing need to go to the bathroom and it was the only socially acceptable solution I could come up with.

If you've ever questioned if God has a sense of humor, you no longer have to. This sign next to a church I passed was my answer for pretty much anything I could come up with to whine about as the minutes ticked by.

Later in the day, I stopped at a rest area to stretch my complaining back. As I bent over, this was the first thing I saw. I took it as another sign and while it wilted quickly once picked, I did have an uneventful drive the rest of way home.

When I finally arrived, I was greeted not only by Hamp and Kit, but also by Michael and his friend, Connor. Yes, he did just land in Boston on Thursday afternoon. But he's taking Hebrew this summer and this window of time was all he had to show Connor the south and we're a good stopping point between Boston and Atlanta. So Saturday we enjoyed showing Connor around some and we all had our first water taxi ride. This will be my preferred choice of travel for the summer if I need to get to the Inner Harbor area as long as I'm not in a hurry.

And now, here I am...back in Baltimore for three weeks before leaving for Boston to help Tiffany get ready to move to Orlando. I have lots to do to catch up from being gone and also need to let my soul take a breath as the realization hits again that I'm actually living here now.

As I was sitting in traffic on Friday, one of my favorite illustrations by Mary Engelbreit kept coming to mind and I decided to share it with you. It's not only appropriate for the driving adventure I experienced, but also for life more often than I'd like sometimes.

To close for today, I want to thank publicly all of the men and women who have served in the military to keep our country free to this point. My nephew, Joey, is one of them and on behalf of Americans everywhere, thank you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baby Love

Well, this is attempt number two at this blog entry. I'm not really sure what I did, but the first post is gone. Sigh......

I arrived in Charlotte to spend the night with Rich and Judy and was greeted with the sweet smiles of their 2 1/2 year old grandson. He's with them so his mom and dad can go to the hospital to "get his baby sister out".

We had a fun walk after dinner and I loved the "big" words that came out of such a small but very intelligent person. You can't help but smile when you're around a child.

Speaking of children, I wanted to share with you Mary Beth Chapman's blog post from today. It's the anniversary of the tragic accident that took their sweet Maria to be home with Jesus. Her raw, honest, and yet trusting transparency is such a blessing to read. Pray for them, will you? This is a hard time and it's that very childlike trust I was talking about that sent Maria running to her big brother's car so he could put her on the monkey bars.

Babies are such a nice way to start people and also a very sobering reminder that some of us are further around the circle of life than we'd like to be. I think that's why God continually admonishes us to life in the moment. I think I'm starting to get that just a tiny bit. It's what keeps me driving north as life is continually evolving in our family.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Weddings, A Shower, and A Birthday

It's hard to believe, but my extended stay in GA is up and I leave in the morning to begin the journey back to Baltimore. My first stop is the airport where I will drop Michael off so he can return to Boston and then I will head to Charlotte to stay for the night. It's really nice of Rich and Judy to live there so I have a place to sleep as I travel to and from Atlanta.

Friday I will take the longer and less stressful route to avoid DC as Memorial Day weekend begins. It's been a great visit with lots of celebration and time spent with friends and family. My brain is still trying to absorb the fact that I don't live here anymore and it's not convinced yet. It's been very surreal trying to process all that has come across my path in the last two weeks and I'm guessing it will take some time. I'm sure you will be the recipient of some of the ponderings in the days to come.

This past weekend was Nathan and Whitni's wedding and it was a wonderful couple of days. As has been the case in recent months, the past and present collided which reinforced yet again how life is like a tapestry with every person and experience a part of the whole. Our family had some special moments with friends from years back as well as those we've recently left behind.

The highlight of the weekend, obviously, was Nathan and Whitni's wedding. But we also captured some nice shots of random people, the beautiful surroundings, and whatever happened to catch our eye. Baby Grant Baldwin, Hannah and Jaq's sweet son found himself passed around often and the object of many pictures.

Some tender moments were captured of Nathan and Whitni as prayers were prayed over them several times during the rehearsal evening and wedding day.

The happy bride and groom were excited throughout the ceremony and we were all challenged to support them and the covenant they were making to God and to each other.

Even though it was a solemn and serious commitment being made, when good friends get together, fun is going to break out. At the reception, there was a photo booth where you could get pictures taken like we did with friends many years ago. Don't tell us we're too old to do something like this or that we won't fit anymore. That's just a challenge that this group won't back down from.

Before I head to bed, I want to wish Matthew a very happy 29th birthday. Michael and I stayed in town an extra two days so we could celebrate with him. It's a hard time of year to have a birthday because as a teacher, he's always at the end of the school year and not able to really get away, so we bring the party to him. Matthew, I can't wait to see what God has planned for you in this last year of your 20's. You are a gifted and handsome young man and God has a plan for you that is good and will bring hope. May God bless you with your best year yet!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Be Here Now

Time is a funny thing. It actually is one of the few truly constant things in life. There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. Yet depending on what the circumstances are in our lives, time can feel like it has stopped or that it's going by so fast you can't keep up. Life consists of beginnings and endings, but when it's all said and done all we really have is the this moment.

I've written about this before as I was reading Brennan Manning where he shares how we are to live in nowhere; in now/here. Steven Curtis Chapman has exhorted us through song to live in this moment, and God Himself tells us the same. Yet if you're like me, you spend most of your time either looking back or looking ahead and not present in the here and now.

Having your world shattered apart and not knowing where the pieces will land is an effective way to begin to break this pattern. So is packing up a lifetime of possessions and memories and unpacking them in an unfamiliar place. The past has been wrapped up for the most part by the nature of the process. The future is a blank slate because you don't know what's down the street, let alone around the corner. And I think God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed both to come to our family.

It has been helpful having a car here these two weeks because everyone has been so busy with all that's been going on so I didn't have to inconvenience anyone. Plus, I've gotten lots of errands run and been able to see a few friends here and there.

I've been at Matthew's house this week and not really able to relax much because he and Joey have been just as busy. While we were eating dinner a couple nights ago, we did see part of the cute bunny family that lives in the thicket at the end of his back yard. The baby ran off too fast, but here's an older and apparently calmer member of the family that cooperated for the picture.

After a quieter day today, I'll be picking up the rest of the out of town family members from the airport around lunchtime tomorrow and then we head to Stone Mountain for a fun wedding weekend. Those are still bittersweet times for us, but God continues to heal and we can truly rejoice with those who rejoice. We will probably look back a moment or two, and probably ponder the future's horizon, but at the end of the day, we hope to be here now...where God is still "I am".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do It Anyway

Wow - two posts in one day! If I can stay caught up, then when inspiration hits, I can share it with you. And that's what happened tonight. I went to the final chorus concert of Hillgrove High School for the year, not as a parent of a student singing, but as the GA "parent" of their teacher.

Again, if you follow my blog regularly, you know our family's story from the last two years and the related story of our Polarican "daughter", Nikki. Though the reasons she moved to GA are no longer a part of her life, our family has had the joy of embracing her as one of us. She is my dark haired daughter, a kindred spirit, and "sister" and soon-to-be roommate of Tiffany.

Over the last three years, Nikki took a brand new chorus program and grew it from a few students to a well-respected presence in Cobb County. I went to her very first concert then and because I happened to be in town, I got to be at her very last one tonight. It was amazing to see the growth not only in numbers, but also in the talent of the students.

Because tonight was her last concert with them since she is moving to Orlando, it was an emotional time for her students as well as for Nikki. Instead of trying to verbally come up with something to say at the end, she thrilled her kids by singing her message to them instead. She chose the song, "Do It Anyway" by Martina McBride and not being a country music fan, I didn't know it. As she sang the words, however, I realized it was Nikki's way of not only giving her kids the sum of herself; I also knew that it was her public stand before God saying, "I'm yours and I trust You". Even though I had tears coming down my face, I was able to get a picture somehow of her singing and it actually turned out pretty good. So here is my sweet girl offering a sacrifice of praise to her God before those who know and love her most. I've included the words under the picture so you can fully appreciate what transpired on that stage tonight.

Congratulations on finishing well, Nikki, and I can't wait to see what God has next. It's going to be awesome!

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away ... build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way ... dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway ... I do it anyway

This worlds gone crazy and it's hard to believe,
That tomorrow will be better than today ... believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart, for all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away ... love em anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway ... yeah, I do it anyway

You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway ... yeah, sing it anyway yeah, yeah

I sing ... I dream ... I love ... Anyway

Taking a Break

I have a request for all of you - remind me the next time I'm complaining about not really having much to do as a newcomer to Baltimore how tired I am right now! Since leaving last Thursday, I've driven to Charlotte, the rest of the way to Kennesaw, went to/helped with a rehearsal dinner, went to a wedding, went to/helped with a baby shower, was treated to a Mother's Day lunch, drove to Publix in Vinings to celebrate with my mom, and went to the May gathering of Passion City Church. And all of this was before I went to bed Sunday night.

I have a few pictures from the rehearsal dinner and wedding that I wanted to share for those of you not on Facebook. Friends of the bride's family graciously opened their home and back yard for the rehearsal dinner and it was absolutely beautiful! This shot of the pool with the waterfall gives you an idea of the setting.

Not to take away from the finished result of all the planning, cooking, and organizing, I must confess my favorite thing was the groom's cake. We first met Ryan and his family when he and Tiffany were in elementary school and then they were in band together in high school. For any other band parents out there, you know that means we spent LOTS of time together on trips, hauling percussion equipment on and off the field, etc. Since he's newly married and now an "adult", I'll just say that the cake was perfect for Ryan and leave it at that.

The wedding on Saturday was fun as I got to see a lot of friends of my kids from high school and college days. We were sad our whole family couldn't be here for it, but between distance, work, and school schedules, it couldn't be helped. Ryan and Rachel were very ready for the day and the wedding ceremony was one of the best I've heard. Sadly, marriage in today's world doesn't seem to be taken as seriously as God intended and the church is not exempt from this reality. The pastor made very clear the seriousness of the commitment they made to each other and to God and the responsibility of those attending to help them keep that same commitment. Congratulations, Ryan and Rachel, and may God bless your new family.

In between weddings, I'm trying to see some friends, get some errands run since I know where everything is, cook a meal or two for Matthew and Joey, and be available to help where needed for the next wedding. The rest of the family arrives Friday afternoon and once I pick them up from the airport, we head to Stone Mountain for the weekend which is where the wedding is taking place.

Oh - for those of you that have been praying for Tiffany, she is doing better. The severe symptoms of the detox process have eased considerably and she's able to eat more and is feeling more like herself. She only has a couple of weeks left at work and then will be getting ready to move to Orlando. And, yes, I'll be back on the road again helping her and Ellie do just that. There should be lots of fun stories in the near future to share!