Changing Churches

I have been in church since I was one week old. Every Sunday of my life has been about going to church or not going to church. After twenty-five years of attending one church, my family is changing churches. Just typing it is hard, but I wanted to share this change with as many friends as possible, all at once.

I dread talking about it to anyone because church choice is so personal. Churches are family. The church we are leaving is where we got married, dedicated all our babies, and watched them do Christmas programs and VBS songs. We forged friendships that enriched who we are as people. That church poured out amazing love on us when we had a serious house fire. The pastor there listened with love as I unpacked my issues in a heap at his feet and he helped me face them. He was quick to offer resources when we were out of our depth with problems our family had to take on more recently. For all this, all the teaching, the talks, the meals, we will forever be grateful to that church.

We are blessed to be leaving with no falling-out, no church split, no ugly drama that so many people have to deal with in their churches. I would still recommend our former church to anyone looking for all they have to offer. But, and you knew there had to be a “but”, that church has grown and changed into something different than what it was. Not something worse, but different. We have grown and changed from what we were. It no longer fits us as well as the new church we are attending. I hesitate to say that God led us to move on because it sounds like a  vague cop out. Honestly, that is exactly what happened. I went from not being able to think of leaving to being ready to leave in a matter of days. Only God can do that. It was not about anything negative forcing us out, but God was drawing us away to the next phase of our life.

The church we are going to now is a plant from the one we are leaving, so I like to think we are just branching out from the same family. The friends from church that I’ve talked to have been very supportive. This post is for the ones I won’t get to talk to directly. I’m so thankful for Facebook. It will allow me to see you, watch your kids grow up, and stay in touch with the very special people I treasure there. God has used you to grow me and my family. Thank you so much.

Twenty-five years and Counting

Today is our 25th anniversary! On such a big day I’m gonna go ahead and be happy and proud with no holding back. It’s a universally acknowledged accomplishment to celebrate openly. That being said, I don’t take credit for success or rest on my laurels. By God’s grace we have come this far and we will lean heavily on His grace to continue on. But to His glory, we are together and happy.

The earthly odds were against us. I was only 18 when we married. He is 10 years older than me. People talked to my parents, trying to prevent our relationship. Two of my teachers showed up where I worked to question me about my future and my goals, obviously opposed to my choices. One substitute teacher told me flat out we wouldn’t make it two years. With all this great support, we headed into marriage without any doubts ourselves. I never questioned if I could live with him. I knew for sure I couldn’t imagine living without him.

If I had followed conventional wisdom, oh what I would’ve missed, like our first sweet baby who arrived ten months later. She was such a joy to raise, we just kept adding on til six kids were here to make our lives complete. If you’ve met my kids, you know I got a lot better than I deserve. Then to add two sons-in-law and a grand baby! This is the very picture of good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

There were trials, but so much less than what others have to go through. Financial struggles, several job lay-offs, a house fire, night school,  hospital stays and too many funerals. We grew up together and forged a bond that resembles the alchemy of metals than makes and refines silver. The silver anniversary makes a lot of sense to me now. Many elements come together through fire to produce a shimmering, highly conductive product that can be useful, or decorative. I’m getting less decorative with every passing year so I’m striving to be  more useful. And let me just say, the conductivity after all these years is all good. Ok, moving on.

This feels like rambling but I couldn’t let this big milestone pass without writing about it. I have to say thank you to God for being faithful to us even when we were not faithful to Him. Thank you to my family for the strong arm of support as we swam against the tide. And thanks to my husband for knowing how to do everything, being willing to do everything and for being the best person to do nothing with. Your heart has been open to God and to me, and that is the one essential element needed for a beautiful marriage. I love you and I love us. Here’s to the next 25 years with you!


Facebook DOs and DON’Ts for Teens

monalisaduckfaceiscontagious-24924Last week I shared my teenager’s birth story with you and mentioned that she was getting a Facebook profile. After sitting beside her through a few of her first sessions, it took less than five minutes for me to jot down a list of what-not-to-do-on-Facebook for teens. You adults know all these already. I have only made things easier for you by gathering them all in one place.

1. Don’t ask me what the plural for “status” is, because I still haven’t nailed that one down to something I can live with.

2. Don’t  jump at attention bait. There will be those friends who leave vague statuses, (statusis? statii?) in an attempt to get you to feel their pain or ask what’s wrong. If you read, “I hate my life.” or “People can be so mean sometimes!”, stay out of that mess. It’s a trap.

3. Don’t become attention bait. Facebook is not a place to cry for help or vent. It is not a diary and certainly not a place to complain about your parents, your life, your body, or Facebook itself.

4. Don’t use a duck-face or gang signs in any pics. Ever.The sad thing is, I had to explain to my daughter that duck-face is ugly and ridiculous. I really don’t think she ever believed me. She has seen people she thinks are cool do it, therefore it is cool. It is up to moms to break that horrible cycle. You may think gang signs are not a problem in suburbia. Wrong. Parents must warn against virtually all hand gestures because they are most likely gang signs, ignorantly copied by unaware young people. No one in your little part of the world needs to know that you are representing for the West side, little thug.

5. Do learn how to kick someone off your feed. If someone is violating any of these rules or just getting on your nerves, no need to unfriend. Just hover over their name, look for the check beside “show in newsfeed” and uncheck that sucker without a shred of guilt. It is the key to Fb happiness. Anyone using profanity or posting anything Mom doesn’t like gets unchecked without discussion.

6. Don’t watch videos with vague titles shared by unlikely sharers. If your bff’s mom shares a video with a title like, “You will never believe what happened next!” absolutely do not watch it. Move along.

7. Don’t take selfie after selfie and then post them one after the other. Along with this goes, don’t change your profile pic too often. Once a month is a good guide to how often people want to see your giant pic in their feed. They will hide you if you overdo it because they know about #5.

8. Don’t share too many pics from sites with names like OMG or ILoveCatsAllDay, or whaaat?.com. People assume you love your sister, hate Mondays, or whatever unnecessary information comes from these posters that will also get you hidden from their feed. hate mondays

9. Do use punctuation and correct spelling. Save that awful shorthand kids use now for text messaging. Also, get off my lawn. Stand up straight.

10. Don’t choose “public” as a setting for anything. If there is a tiny globe on your timeline, you’re doing it wrong.

11. Do carefully consider before making a nickname middle name. Your friends on Fb tend to associate the name they see by your pic with you without even realizing it. Do you really want to be Claire LuvsSoftball Blanton to people, possibly forever?

12. Don’t like your own photos or statuses. (spell check is fine with “statuses”) You are awesome and your pics are awesome, but you are required to act like you don’t know that to get by in polite society. Your mother, however, can and will like everything likeable you post. Get over it.

I know you other moms have more advice to offer. What would you add to the list of Do’s and Don’ts on Facebook?

How to (or not to) Have a Baby in a Van

Sorry Mom but this pic is the best

Sorry Mom but this pic is the best

Today is my 4th daughter’s 13th birthday. For a while there I only had one teenager in the house. Now we are back to two. Not only does it mark the day she becomes a teenager, but it is the day she gets a Facebook. (getting a fb before 13 goes on the “no” list). Lord help me as I try to convey to her why a duck face is a bad choice. These are the things my mother never had to worry about.

By now you are wondering about the baby in the van and guessing that she was that baby and you would be right. Back before I knew better, I let my registered, hospital-delivering midwife plan a day to induce me by “natural” means and nothing went as planned from there. It is the birth story I rarely tell because it ends the conversation like I am trying to outdo everyone. Rarely can a woman beat it, though it should never be a competition. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it is funny in retrospect.

The plan was simple and great. Come in for an exam and a “stripping of the membranes”. If you don’t know what that is, just be glad and keep reading. Then I would go shopping and eat some lunch. Then she would check me to see how things were progressing. Then I would go home (almost 30 minutes away) and take a shower, grab my bag and come back to check my progress four hours later. Sounds like a perfect day doesn’t it? After that second check, we would get in the van and drive up the mountain from Forest City, where her office was, to Fletcher, where the hospital she practiced in is. That’s about a 40-minute drive. There the baby would be born, of course.

Well, my husband and I got through the having lunch part and then went shopping at Wal-mart. I remember standing in line to pay and thinking I was hurting a little now. Good! Things were progressing. At that first check at the two hour mark, it was determined that I was progressing more quickly than she thought I would. To this day, I can’t imagine why she thought a 4th baby would take all day, but anyway…I wasn’t going to get that shower and my bag. The only thing was, I  thought I needed the camera that was in my bag. Back then, ya know how you had one camera and it had film and batteries and you didn’t take it with you everywhere? So, I called my sister to get my bag and then drive the 30 minutes to the office. We would head up the mountain when she arrived.

While she was grabbing my bag and getting lost all over Forest City ( no gps or cell phones back then either) I was in terrible pain on an office exam table, bad enough to ask for some IV drugs to take the edge off. All my midwife friends are screaming right now, but please don’t fuss. I know better now. After I was relaxed and waiting, my water broke on the exam table. Due to my IV drugs, I was pretty chill about this. Strangely enough, we continued to wait on my camera to arrive for too long after this. Finally after nearly an hour, we decide to go on to the hospital.

During this time, my husband called to check on our other kids, 10, 6, and 3, who were staying with my mother. After many rings, the phone was answered by the 3 year old, Emma. He asked her what was going on and she replied, “Grandma is broken.” What do you mean broken?!? She answered, “broken like a toy.” Funny now, very alarming then, except to me, because I’m on drugs. Turns out, Grandma had broken her ankle playing soccer with them and had to send them to fetch Grandpa who was working on their broken air conditioning. This means they needed a new babysitter and everything, all while my water was breaking. Almost a separate blog by itself. Anyway…..

she turns out fine

she turns out fine

When they tried to get me to the car, I knew I was in transition – the ugly part of labor where things are really getting rough. I was thinking, it’s too late, this won’t work, but too relaxed to convey that to everyone else, and really, what were my options at that point? I got in the midwife’s van, passenger’s seat, and my husband followed in our van with the practical thinking of needing our van when we left the hospital later.

Only minutes after we started up the road, I got the urge to push. I’ve always said that I could never blow through the urge to push. Turns out I can. For nearly forty minutes. The midwife started flying up the mountain while my husband is behind her, none the wiser, thinking she makes this trip this way every time. It was a long blurry trip with the kind of exaggerated breathing you only see on TV birth scenes. As the sign for the hospital came into view, I started to feel a new sensation. The OB term is “crowning”, but when you are fully clothed, it presents as the feeling of your clothes moving away from your body.

When I felt this sensation, I threw off my seat belt and put my seat back. Meanwhile the midwife is asking, “What’s happening, what are you doing, is she coming?” I felt “coming”  was the wrong word considering and I answered, “She’s here!” At these words, I peeled my pants off and plopped my feet up on the dash, stirrups style. We were rounding the curves of the longest winding drive to any hospital anywhere while all this was going on. She had an emergency cell phone that she decided to finally use at this point, to have ER staff waiting and ready for us.

When we arrived at the curb of the hospital ER parking lot, they pulled up a wheelchair for me to ride in. So cute that they thought I would be able to sit in a chair with a baby’s head in the way. So they lined the seat and the floor and just let what was happening happen. At one point I looked up to see about 12 lab coats with heads, competing for a space in the windshield so they could watch.  My husband had parked and run around to help me out of the van, only to see that our baby was being born then and there. Once I relaxed, it took something less than what could be called a push, and the baby was out, being suctioned and clamped and plopped onto my belly.

I don’t remember being put on a gurney, but I do remember riding on one with my baby, who was too shocked to give the good solid cry we all wanted to hear. They took her away from me, one of the many things I would have never allowed if I knew then what I know now, and I waited to hear that she was fine and ready to be fed. Eventually she ended up in my arms where I could hold her and tell her I was sorry for all I had put her through.

claire teachingToday she is spending her birthday morning teaching a 5-day club for children in low-income housing as a part of her summer mission for Child Evangelism Fellowship. She is a very competitive child. We tease her that she was trying to beat us all to the hospital. She’s a great softball player, gifted teacher, and big sister to the two children I had after her – in the water of a birthing tub, in a hospital with low lights and calm and quiet. One adventurous birth is quite enough. I don’t share my story often, but it is fun to read about a woman who had her baby in her yard or in a car and think to myself, been there- done that.

Having it All

A re-post for Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!

First off, I have to apologize for using the most overused title in all of women’s literature. For many reasons, this is a subject that is often discussed and will never be resolved. Women ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” For the people who really know me, this is a funny question because I don’t really do that much. It is a lot of smoke and mirrors, truly. This is especially true compared to the women who came before me.

I have six kids. My mom had seven. From the time she was 22, until the time she was 53, she had children that needed raising. She had no formal college degree and no work experience to speak of, even well into her 30′s. But when my dad finished his education and went to work for the IRS, he was not allowed to work a second job, so Mom went to work outside the home. She applied at a Piece Goods store, something she knew about because she sewed all our clothes for years. That was the beginning of my mom’s life as a “working mom.” It was the 70′s. She was not alone.

I’m about to turn 39 in a few days. The first time I was aware of my mother’s age was at her 39th birthday. I was five years old. My youngest is now five. This was near the beginning of her working mom days. I have never been to college or had a job. Well, not since I filed and answered phones for an insurance office my senior year in high school. I have wondered if I could do what she did, and she would say, “of course you would if you had to, like I did.” But becoming the manager of a store is not exactly having it all, granted.

My mother circa 1965ish

Later, my shy mother would take on a sales job that was totally out of her range of experience. She would go on to be very successful at her job, even making more money than my dad for a few years. It was the 80′s. She was not alone in this either. I was entering my teens and I knew my mother did not like this job most of the time, but she was very good at it nonetheless. It was a time when we needed that income for college for my sisters and all the things teenagers need. I really don’t think I could do that, but she would tell me I could, if I had to, like she did. But again, a door to-door, drive-all-over-the-territory, fill-out-Saturday-paperwork job ain’t exactly having it all, I know.

In 1988, when I was 17, Mom landed the perfect job for her. She became a tour guide for a local bus tour company. Mom has said many times that raising seven children uniquely prepared her for leading retirees around all over the country. She got to travel and make money doing it. She got to take my dad with her occasionally and she got to visit her children and grandchildren around the country. She was loved by everyone who traveled with her. She had been preparing for this all her life, raising children, managing a store, going door to door until the shyness was no more. She was in her 50′s and she got to see the country and have a great time doing it. This I’m sure I could not do, no matter what you say, Mom.

My mom is a praying woman who leaves the worries of this life to a mighty God. She was 39 like me, with no IRA, no 401k, probably not even money in a jar anywhere. Now she has been retired from the travel job for years. At 70 years old, she and my dad celebrated 50 years of marriage. She enjoys her grandchildren, bakes cookies, visits the nursing homes, gets her nails done, and does needlework. That may not be your dream, but it is the very definition of fulfillment for her. At no one time did she “have it all” but if you add it all up now, it is more than she ever dreamed.

Knowing all this history about my mom has always helped me not to panic about what I don’t know or haven’t done yet. I feel sure there is a plan for me and I try to stay ready for what I am meant to do. I’m pretty sure, I’m meant to have it all.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 29:11

Two Years of Blogging

birthday-candle-2-thumb63639961Today is the second anniversary of starting my blog. I still don’t know what the point of it all is except that people still do searches looking for help and ideas and they read what I have learned. The blog has over 14,000 views now. That’s pretty cool, right?

People find me mostly through Google searches. As I have shared before, this can get pretty weird. There’s still an undercurrent of jealousy toward Ann Voskamp that leads to this blog. There are a lot of parents reluctant to send their kids to sleepovers that can read this post. And then there’s one Google search that should make us all reluctant to send our kids to sleepovers. Everyone, seriously look into what your kids are searching. There are several searches that cause me to send up a prayer. I will type it out exactly as it is on my search information on my analytics: how to get dirty at an all girls sleepover 5th grade. I wish I was kidding and I hope they ended up doing something like this. 

Anyway, if you have been reading, I appreciate it so much. I am compelled to write by a drive I don’t fully understand. Thanks for participating while I figure it all out.

Our “Most Pressing Decorating Dilemma” ?

coffee tableIn addition to themed baths and elaborate birthday parties, we have important household responsibilities. Has your coffee table been sitting around un-styled? Come on you slacker. Get it together. You can squeeze in some coffee table styling if you would just organize your time better. Thankfully, we have this article to help us with this priority. Don’t just sit there! Go!