Friday, August 30, 2013

Sperry...

As a car whirred past me during my morning power walk, I barely heard my Dad's voice through my ear buds, "How's Sperry?" Although the words were tough to hear, I could hear the small smile on his face.

Sperry. Our cute dog. Our "bundle of mischief." He couldn't have asked at a better time. "Sperry's on my list!" I exclaimed as I pressed onward up the hill towards the busy intersection with mini-vans and school buses nearing the elementary school.

"Uh oh!" Again, I heard my Dad's smile as it grew across his face followed by a soft chuckle.

Over a year ago, David and I rescued a sweet little puppy from Little Rock Animal Services. Honestly, he's still just as cute as he was then. Like my dad says, "Cute dogs can get away with anything." And Sperry seems to be no different.

I recount to my dad how Sperry has learned that there are times when we leave food unattended on the kitchen counter and that if he stretches just right, he can reach it. In one week he'd managed to steal two chicken breasts and at least a third pound of ground bison left-overs. I walked into the kitchen, horrified, by the sight of that expensive bison strewn all over the kitchen counter, under the Keurig, and across the white-tiled kitchen floor.

He'd done a few other things lately that were out of character. Too much, and really not important enough to write about here, but basically, after it all, I'd decided that Sperry was going to become an outdoor dog. No forgiveness. He was a dog, after all. He could sleep inside and come in and stay downstairs if it got too hot, but I'd had it.

I informed David of my decision, and he reminded me that banishing Sperry outdoors wouldn't fix the problem. He'd still jump and steal meat off the grill if we didn't address the issue directly.

I knew he was right ... on so many levels.

So, I resolved to permit him to maintain indoor/outdoor status ...

Later this afternoon, as I plopped myself on the living room couch and opened my laptop, I felt a heavy, hot, furry mass lay itself on my feet. I looked down and saw Sperry tenderly put his paw over one of my feet while resting his head on the other.

I remembered a comment David had made to me several weeks ago when I'd gotten mad at Sperry and threatened to send him to my in-laws new farm ... "Lindsay, we adopted him. We made him our responsibility. We're not giving him away when we can teach it out him."

Teach it out him. Here I am supposed to be teaching this dog, and as he nuzzles my foot I realize how much God's using this dog to teach me.

It doesn't matter what I do to him (leave him outside, threaten to give him away, or haul him to his crate for punishment when he eats my leftovers), no matter what happens between us, Sperry always loves me. When I shower, even when David is home, Sperry lays in front of the bathroom door as my protector. When I'm working, he lays nearby between me and the nearest door. And in these moments of complete ignorance, when I don't know or care where he is, He comes and sweetly reminds me he's there, and he wants to be my buddy.

Isn't that how God is? When I go a week without doing my quiet time, the whole day without praising His name, or when I doubt His plan, He is the same God who stood at the door of my heart and knocked and knocked and knocked. He's the same God who forgives me over and over again. His love never fails, even though I don't deserve it.

My foot begins to fall asleep under the weight of Sperry's head, but I let it stay there a minute more. I reach down and rub my cute dog's head and am grateful for a Lord who is faithful, a husband who is steady with a heart after God, and a dog who occasionally drives me crazy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Nice To Read Again

I finished a great book over the weekend ("Full Disclosure" by Dee Henderson). It has been a LONG time since I'd read a novel that I enjoyed that much. 

I started another book last night. I put it away when it was time to go to bed, and David asked me how I liked my new book. I honestly replied that I wasn't sure yet because I wasn't that far into it ... but, regardless, it was nice to read again. 

He asked me what I meant by that. As I tried to form an answer, I felt this strange release inside, like something was waking up...

When I was a young girl, I'd read every night before I went to bed (ask my sister - we shared a room!). I read Nancy Drew, all the Little House on the Prairie books ... so many novels. I just loved to read! It might be part of the reason I ended up falling in love with writing - I desperately appreciate the written word. In fact, I got pretty fired up in college during my speech class when we learned about the creation of the printing press and how the world was so dramatically changed after that invention. I've placed Johann Gutenberg above the guy who invented air conditioning on my list of most appreciated inventors!

I can't remember exactly when I stopped reading, but I know by the time I was in nursing school I wasn't reading for fun anymore. There just wasn't any time. Eventually, I managed to pick up a non-fiction, Christian book every now and then and finish it over a period of months. 

Then, a couple years ago, David and I were in a used bookstore, and I picked up a novel. It was about a First Lady, it looked good, and I thought I'd give it a try. Little did I realize it's contents were X-rated. After returning the book and notifying the store they might want to move it to the "adult section," I was incredibly hesitant to try reading a novel again, simply because I didn't want to stumble into that kind of content again. I decided I'd just wait until someone I trusted read something good and referred it to me, then I'd start reading for fun again. 

Then, a couple weeks ago we were in Barnes & Noble while a horrible thunderstorm poured down outside. I mean sheets and sheets of rain and lightning that looked like it was going to come through the windows! While the clouds dumped their furry over North Little Rock, we had fun waiting out the storm looking at board games and puzzles before making our way over to the law section for David. We passed a table featuring Christian fiction. I stopped and skimmed the titles as David pressed on down the wide aisle. "Full Disclosure" caught my eye. I picked it up and read the back of the book. It sounded really good and apparently the author was well established and had won several awards for her books. And she was a Christian. It was like a light bulb turned on. I realized that I didn't need to wait for someone else to refer a good book to me. There are plenty of Christian authors out there who write good fiction, and their books would not only be entertaining but likely not include the racy material I wanted to avoid. 

I was blown away by "Full Disclosure." It is amazingly written and captivating, and more so, I feel like processing the characters' stories challenged me in my walk with Christ. Usually it's the non-fiction, Christian books that do that. But this was fiction - a story

I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, isn't that how Jesus taught... with stories? Isn't that how I teach best... by incorporating a concept or lesson into a skit? 

If you're looking for a good, fiction book, try one of Dee Henderson's. I've just ordered another one of her's online and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival by mail. Maybe, like me, it will wake up a part of you that was asleep for a while. Or, light a flame that is yet to be lit. 

Maybe, like me, reading a good book will birth a passion inside of you too. I think every good writer started out as a good story lover. But, I also think good stories can teach us just as well as personal experience can. A wise man once told me, "When I feel like I need to give someone advice, but I know they don't want to hear it, I'll tell them a story." Stories are powerful things. Thank goodness there are good writers to put them on paper... and printing presses to put them into good books. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Transition

I've been waiting all summer for this weekend. This is the weekend everything changes. The weekend when we transition from summer to Fall Semester.

David and I have been thoroughly grateful for the cooler temps that blew into Arkansas (and much of the South) this week. It's made gearing up for the Fall Semester THAT much more exciting. Pumpkin things are popping up everywhere, Razorback decor is on every other front door, we even have leaves on our back deck.

It's seems kind of ironic, but things in our home will feel as if they've returned to normal pace on Monday.

I mean, technically, our days and evenings and weekends during Fall Semester will be filled with more extracurricular activities and meetings and service opportunities etc, and of course David will be taking another full load of law school (and doing an internship), so you would think life would be feeling as if it were picking up, but to me it just feels like it will be getting back to normal.

My dear friend Libba and I were talking about this wonderful time of year just this week. As we talked about the transition that takes place between summer and Fall Semester, we both agreed, we prefer Fall Semester to summer. Of course, there's so much excitement in the Fall (cooler weather, holidays around the corner, football games) ... We both love these things, but mostly we prefer the routine that comes along with it.

I feel like I learn so much more about myself with every passing season. My mother will laugh and my father will smile as they read this, but this summer I officially learned that I prefer structure. I like knowing where the lines are. I like routine. To an extent, I can go with the flow (David can certainly testify that I'm getting a lot better with this), but I do better with go-with-the-flow when it's the time or place for it.

I think about how God established order in Creation, and I'm so grateful to see that this preference I have is something Our Maker is quite fond of Himself.

This week, as I excitedly welcomed this transition, I came to another understanding about summer. While Spring is ending and Summer is approaching we're excited about the unknown adventure Summer brings. All of us are. (Even those with seasonal depression look forward to summer!) Summer is when you'll learn that thing you've always wanted to learn, you'll finish that task that's been on your to-do list since New Year's, you'll meet THE ONE and fall in love, you'll go an adventure to somewhere new or someplace incredibly familiar where you always feel yourself... Summer is a blank slate of new beginnings and opportunities. But, for most of us, no matter how wonderful our summer might be, the reality is our summers never pan out to be exactly what we expected them to. Sometimes they're better! Sometimes they're not. Summer, quite simply, if full of the unexpected.

As I chew on this realization, I feel that perhaps summer reminds us of the reality that life itself is incredibly unexpected. That we all look back 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago and marvel at the experiences we walked through and say, "If you had told me 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago that this is where'd I'd be, I'm not sure I would have believed you..." That's when I'm glad life wasn't up to me. When I'm glad I gave up the pen to my story some time ago. That it's only through the unexpected, unplanned adventure of the story God's writing for me that I've become the woman I am today.

So, although I gratefully embrace the routine that's beginning this weekend, I remember that routine is not control, routine is simply order. I like order. But I don't want to control my life. I want God to do that. He did a pretty good job with the World. I think He can handle my life. We surrender this semester to Our Maker. And we pray that if it too is filled with unexpected twists and turns, He'd faithfully remind us that He's still in control.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Amazing Love

"Hey, can you preach on Saturday?"

I looked at the text message and stopped in my tracks. Gasp. What day is it today? Do I have time to pull together a talk? What is the topic? I should know what the topic is ... I was in the planning meeting....

I text Nati, my friend and director of the children's ministry at the AR Dream Center, "Yikes! Um, not sure about that!!! What's the topic??"

She texts me back, "It's Jesus birth... It's the Bible lesson on God loving them so much that He sent His Son!"

I relax as I realize it's Wednesday, and I can definitely make time to pull together a talk on that. I mean, Jesus' birth, I could tell that story without any prep work.

But it's me, and I take ministering to children pretty seriously, so of course, the next day, I sit down with my chronological Bible and read the various passages describing the events surrounded Christ's birth.

I consider the gravity of my little talk. And decide I'll share the story from Mary's perspective in costume. I rehearse in the kitchen the day after while homemade granola bakes in the oven and the smell of chocolate wafts through the room.

I'm one of those method actors. I put myself there where my character is. I consider everything surrounding the scene and go back into my character's history.

Standing on the white tiles of my kitchen, I picture straw and hay surrounding my feet. A goat to my right laying down. A small lamb nestled into a sheep. The smell of animal waste hangs in the night air. And then the baby cries. Mary's tired. They'd barely made it into the cave before the baby had begun to crown. No one could spare even a corner of their home. Bethlehem was so crowded because of the census. It's dark in the cave, and Joseph has gone to get water. It's just Mary and the Baby. Just Mary and the Savior of the World ... with ten little fingers and ten little toes. With eyes that look like hers. Men's voices are getting closer, they sound excited, something about angels singing... And as she picks up the Baby to re-swaddle Him and the gravity of the story is simplified ...

He must have loved us a lot to come to us this way...

The timer goes off, and I take the granola out of the oven.

Saturday morning I sit on the floor with four little girls at the AR Dream Center and tell them about the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. With bright eyes they listen. And when I ask little Tiffany, "Isn't that crazy?" she shakes her head. I ask, "No, it isn't crazy?" And she just looks at me confidently and shakes her head, and I realize I chose the wrong word... "It was amazing." And she nods and quietly whispers, "Yes, it was amazing."



Amazing love. That's what it was.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lake Trip 2013

Lake Martin, AL is a huge, beautiful lake about 45 minutes from Auburn, AL. All summer we'd been really excited about spending the week with my family there. In fact, we were so excited, that we left Arkansas a day early to ensure that we'd be there as soon as my parents could pick up the key to the lake house they'd rented for our family.

 A quick stop & walk at the Chick-Fil-A in Olive Branch, MS.

We had so much fun swimming, tubing, jet-skiing, playing games, and learning how to drive the boat. (Mom taught me, Dad taught Katie, and I think Mom taught Paul... David was already a pro.) Plus, Danielle, Katie's best friend got to come as did our grandparents, Grampa & Gramma Clark! And, of course we can't forget Scarlet.... : ) Scarlet came too, for a day, and then went to "camp" up the road!

This Summer Scarlet realized she could swim and has become quite the dare-devil jumping into pools! We weren't about to watch her jump into the lake without a flotation device!

Every evening was filled with star gazing (except for two nights because it was cloudy) and fishing.

Grandpa was being a great model for me!

David found the most comfy fishing spot... 

And it paid off!

Danielle was a fish catching machine this night! She could have fed the whole family!

One of my favorite pictures from the whole trip! Katie Marie & Dad .... and the fish.

Mom caught the first catfish! 

Of course, I wasn't the only one NOT fishing. Gramma sat back with me soaking in the last bit of sunlight and watching for the first stars to come out.

Gramma Clark & Katie Marie

Mom & Paul

Grampa surprised us all by taking Dad out for a spin on one of the jet skis. They definitely looked like they were having fun!

Dad & Grampa Clark

For dinner the last night, the five of us who were still at the lake (me, David, Mom, Dad, and Paul) went out to eat after returning the boat and jet ski. We had such a great time eating funny, fried food (i.e. Fried Oreos - yum!) and enjoying each other's company. 


David and I were so grateful to get to spend time with my family. It was hard for me when we moved last year, so long weeks like this where we're all in one place are truly a special gift to my spirit. My sweet friend Sarah reminded me last night that we're not promised tomorrow, and her words have been echoing in my mind all day. So, I'm soaking in the fun, happy memories of our week at the lake, and am praising God for the multitude of blessings that He's bestowed upon my family.