This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.


Remembering Hosea

5 06 2012

My husband and I celebrate 14 years of marriage today.  We were married during a candle-light ceremony on a Friday night in San Antonio.  It had been over 100 degrees that day (the whole week) and the air conditioning stopped working in the fellowship hall where our reception was held.  Matthew sang to me during the ceremony, and we had a bagpiper during the reception.  Oh the memories of that day. . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favorite memories, when I reflect on our wedding, come from two scriptures.  The first was one Matthew sent me at the end of an email shortly before our wedding.  It was Genesis 29:20 which reads, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”

Loving, sweet, tender man of mine sent me that.

In my haste to look up this reference in my Bible, I actually read one verse later, Genesis 29:21, which reads, “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.

I remember thinking, “Well, I know what’s on his mind.”  Of course we all had a good laugh when I realized my error.

On a more serious note, the most important verse that summarizes our wedding and the entirety of our marriage is one that is inscribed on our wedding bands, Hosea 2:19-20.  (Because my wedding band is so narrow, it looks more like Hoser than Hosea.)

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

When Matthew first suggested this verse for us, I thought it was an amazing description of the type of love God desires for a husband and wife to share in the covenant marriage relationship.  It was several years later that I realized this was first and foremost God’s love for us.

God can love us perfectly this way, and it is completely independent of anything we say or do or believe.  I cannot love this way on my own.  It is only through Christ that even after 14 years, my husband and I still desire this kind of love for one another and seek to make it our own with such passion.

Ninakupenda Mapenzi!  I am blown away when I think about what our future together will be like!

To My 4-Year-Old Blessing

28 03 2012

Jason - at Central Park in NYC, March 2012. Notice the cloud over his left shoulder looks like a heart.

To My 4-Year-Old Blessing,

You turned four this morning at 12:34 a.m.  I have to record these memories now, before I forget all the details (or before the story changes too much from what really happened).

You were due on the 20th, just like your brother, but arrived eight days late, just like your brother, and on the 28th of the month, just like your brother.  That’s pretty much where the similarities end.   

There is so much I could write about, but this will simply be the story of your birth. 

While you hung around in my womb for an extra week and then some, once you decided you wanted out, you wanted OUT!  NOW!

I was at the doctor the afternoon of your birth, and I was apparently having contractions every few minutes that I was not feeling.  At.  All.  The nurse was amazed.  I went home, had dinner, took the dog on a walk with my mom, and then I finally started feeling those twinges of contractions later that evening.

You daddy was busy working on getting his grades entered as they were due the very next day, and finally around 10:00 p.m. we decided to head to the hospital.  We stopped to return a movie on the way.

I had a hard time standing by the time we got to the ER, and the staff at check-in was in no particular hurry with me.  Daddy made it up to my room before I did.

The doctor, not my regular OB-GYN, but another from his office, checked me, and I was dilated a measly 5 centimeters.  If all went well, I figured I had a good 4-5 hours of painful contractions ahead of me.

I didn’t want any drugs; I wanted to do this naturally.  However, less than an hour later, I was in unreal pain and asked for the anesthesiologist.  The thought of enduring that much pain for several more hours was not appealing to me.  I had given birth to your brother without drugs, so I felt that I didn’t really have anything to lose by getting an epidural.  (Although, I really knew that if I caved and got an epidural I would have been disappointed with myself later.)

I was checked again while the anesthesiologist was taking my history, and I was now dilated to 8 centimeters.  No wonder the pain had intensified exponentially in such a short time!  It was also too late at that point for me to receive an epidural.  I was checked again about 15 minutes later and heard the sweetest words a woman can hear during labor, “You are ready to start pushing.”

It was just over an hour since we had checked in, and I was at 10 centimeters and ready to go.  I think I pushed for maybe three minutes, and out you came.  A resident at Vanderbilt was actually the one who delivered you.  I was glad that your birth provided experience to a new doctor.  (How else are they going to learn?)

You were 6 lb. 9 oz. and 19.5” long, a tiny little one.  I was amazed at how much you looked like your brother, but I actually thought that when I saw your ultrasound.  You also had the famous Huddleston mole on the left side of your forehead.  All Huddleston males–at least in Daddy’s immediate family for the past two generations–have a mole somewhere on them (so I have been told.)

You are also the second son of a second son of a second son of a second son of a second son—five generations!  (No pressure for when you start a family.)

Some of my favorite memories from your third year:

  • You say Dark Vader.  I tried to correct your pronunciation to Darth Vader (focusing on the “th” sound).  Your response was, “Well, but he is dark.”
  • You can make light sabers out of anything:  sticks, toothpicks, screws, straws, q-tips . . . anything.
  • After seeing several people get baptized at church in a Jacuzzi-type-tub, you began to refer to it as being bathtized.
  • Your memory is amazing, especially in retelling Bible stories.  One night at dinner, Daddy and I were talking about helpers.  You broke in with, “Jesus had 12 helpers.  They were . . .” and you proceeded to name all 12 disciples.  We had no idea you even knew this, but you learned it from the Bible story/song CD you listen to at bedtime.
  • You also need the least sleep of all of us, so it seems.  You can go to bed at 11:00 p.m. and be raring to go at 6:00 a.m.  Every. Day.  While not a favorite memory, it’s still something I won’t forget.
  • You request “the dancing song” almost every night before bed time.
  • Your favorite meal time prayer is “Share and Share.”
  • You LOVE to sing! One of your favorite songs is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” You also do a hilarious rendition of Styx’s “Renegade.”
  • You still love trains, but they are slowly being replaced by all things Star Wars.
  • You heard Daddy and me talking about the gathering (our house church group).  You broke in excitedly and said, “I want to go to the gathering.”  Then you proceeded to sing the chorus to Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” “a gathering of angels appeared above my head . . .”

There you go, my sweet, silly, train loving but not as much since Star Wars entered your life, light saber obsessing, fierce, head strong, stubborn, hilarious, ready to go at the crack of the sun’s first ray of light, song singing (especially at meals), Bible storytelling, strawberry eating, come play with me begging, midnight snuggler.

I love you with everything that is in me.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
-Psalm 103:1

Ragnar Relay 2010 – Running in Honor of a Norse King

9 11 2010
Ragnar logo195.5 miles + 10 runners + rain, snow, sleet + total sleep deprivation + temperatures between 20-40 degrees + 31:15:01 hours of non-stop running from Chattanooga to Nashville = Ragnar Relay = one of the most amazing, brutal and rewarding physical feats I’ve ever accomplished.

I first heard about the Ragnar in late April, right after I finished my second ½ marathon.  Ragnar is a 9th Century Norse King:  a pirate, an explorer, a raider, a conqueror, a wild man.  The Ragnar Relay embodies all these qualities and is definitely not for the faint of heart, mentally or physically.  Teams consist of 12 runners (or six runners if they do the ultra) who each run 3 legs ranging from 2.7 to 8.9 miles, non-stop from Chattanooga to Nashville, 195.5 miles total.  (Or in our case, 198 miles due to a missed turn on leg 34.)

Ragnar TN 2010 course

Ragnar TN 2010 course

Several friends and I talked about getting a team together, and by the end of July, we were registered as Team 109:  Smells Like Team Spirit.  By September, our roster was finalized with 10 runners instead of the usual 12.  Two of our runners would be “ultras,” meaning they would run 2 legs back-to-back, three times.  Once we got our order worked out, I was responsible for legs 11, 23, and 35 of the race.

The first five runners (Carrie, Josh, Michelle, Andrew, and Chassi) were in van 1 and had to be at the start line in Chattanooga by 9:30 a.m. which meant a very early start to their day.  I was in van 2 so we didn’t leave Nashville until noon to meet up with Van 1 at exchange 6.  (Each point where runners pass the “baton” is called an exchange.)

Van 1

Van 1 and their "inspirational" message. (Carrie, Chassi, Michelle, Josh, Andrew)

Van 2

Van 2 at exchange 6 (Echo, Lee, Kelly, Meg, Matthew was MIA)

Van 2

Van 2's inspirational message

Van 2

Van 2 - The TN RagMag did a feature story on me overcoming my asthma through running (page 1).

Our excitement was palpable on the drive down, although I was a little sad Matthew, who was the runner right before me, was not with us.  He had a work engagement to attend to, but he met up with us right before his first leg.  The runners in van 2 were Lee, Echo, Meg, Matthew and myself.  Sky, Meg’s husband, drove for us.  We all knew each other pretty well, except for Lee who was a new-comer to our group, but what an amazing blessing he turned out to be!

There are hours worth of stories to tell from our discussions in the van about rotting bananas, body odor, Snickers, Motrin versus Tylenol, and the various digestive issues several runners were experiencing.  However, I’m going to focus the rest of this post on my own experience.

Kelly at leg 11

Waiting at leg 11 for my first leg to start. From 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. all runners were required to wear full protective gear: reflective vest, headlamp, and LCD light on the back.

My first leg was leg 11:  5.3 miles through the University of the South in Sewanee.  I began around 8:00 p.m., and the temperature was already in the 40s, the coldest weather I’ve ever run in.  I was nervous going into the race because cold weather has always been a trigger for an asthma attack, and I do not train in cold weather.  I was amazed that my breathing was fine; I had no issues with my asthma.  This was the first of several victories I had during the race.  Six years ago, I could not run for one minute at a very slow pace without wanting to collapse and needing a puff of my inhaler.  Three days ago, I was running a sub-10-minute mile in 40 degree weather.  Though this was the longest of my three legs, it was the easiest, flattest, and fastest.

Leg 11

Leg 11

Leg 23

Leg 23

My second leg was leg 23:  4.6 miles northwest of Shelbyville (middle of nowhere TN).  I started this one at 4:00 a.m., and the temperature had dropped another 20 degrees.  This was the loneliest of my runs.  In the 4.6 miles, I encountered one other runner.  I am so, so thankful for my teammates in van 2 and their incredible encouragement during this leg.  They would drive ahead a mile, wait for me on the side of the road, and cheer me on ridiculously until I passed.  Repeat four more times.  We did this for all our runners, but that little extreme burst of encouragement meant the world to me.

Physically I was tired, having been awake for almost 24 hours at this point.  Most of my thoughts during this leg were simply:  “You can do this.”  “This is what you’ve been training for.”  “You’re closer to the finish than you were a few minutes ago.”  “A few more steps.”   Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  I also had this horrible, horrible HP commercial jingle repeating in my head for many minutes at a time:  “I’ve got a pair of brand new roller skates, you’ve got a ??? in me. . .”  Only, for some reason I replaced roller skates with underpants thinking it was an ad for some new toddler pull-up training underwear.  I tried to compute Fibonacci series in my head, but that jingle would always sneak back.  I want to scream every time I hear that commercial now.

During this leg, more so than any other, I was struck by the realization that people were praying for me.  I don’t expect anyone was actually awake between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. praying for my running, but I felt those prayers in a very tangible way.

Once we all finished our second legs, we had about five hours of down time till our third legs began.  Lee’s house was only two miles from our last major exchange, so he invited us all to crash at his house.  He called his wife, and a van of six smelly strangers showed up at their door around 5:30 a.m.  Most immediately found space on the floor or couch and promptly fell asleep.  I opted for a hot shower first and crawled into their guest bed.  What a blessing those two hours of sleep were, in a real bed, with access to a real bathroom.  Port-a-potties get really old in below-freezing weather.

After that rest, some lunch at Chick-Fil-A and more driving and cheering, my final leg began around 4:00 p.m.  It was by far the toughest.  I had gotten about two hours of sleep total in the past 36 hours, and the course was incredibly hilly (for me anyway).  I was pretty psyched getting ready for it, but Matthew, who was the runner right before me, missed a turn and ran about two extra miles before finally making it to the exchange where I was to start.  Though I ran this one a lot slower than originally anticipated, I was proud that I ran the whole thing without walking.

Leg 35

Leg 35

This was the only leg I ran in the daylight, but it was still cold and windy.  My body temperature increased enough to make me sweat, but I never felt warm.  In fact, I kept shivering for almost two hours after I finished; I simply could not get warm.

Smells Like Team Spirit at the finish line

Team 109 Smells Like Team Spirit at the finish line, 31:15:01

Our team crossed the finish line together over 31 hours after Carrie started on leg 1.  Team 109 had finished in 109th place.  Though we were elated, amazed, and slightly crazy from sleep deprivation, I found the finish line festivities underwhelming.  Due to the cold, most teams left immediately after getting their medals so there were barely any people around.  We did take advantage of the boxes of free candy, granola bars, Wheaties, and fruit.

This race challenged me like none other.  It was cruel, brutal, and insane.

Sign me up for 2011!

Surrendering to Christ (the first time)

25 10 2010

Fifteen years ago today (October 25, 2010) I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.  There were no cheers or well wishes.  No one sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  No miracles were performed.  It was a quiet, still, cold night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when I made this decision.  I don’t think I really knew what this decision fully entailed at the time.  I was alone.  And clueless.  And helpless.  But I knew my life needed something more. 

I grew up Catholic, and through my many 20+ years in the Catholic Church, I learned a great deal about Catholicism.  I knew the difference between a mortal and a venial sin.  I knew the progression from hell to heaven, who belonged where, and how to get from one stage to next (hell – purgatory – limbo – heaven).  I learned the Stages of the Cross and how to pray a Rosary and the various “mysteries.”  I knew all the right prayers for different occasions.  I learned some facts about the Bible and the people mentioned in it.  I also knew how to recite an entire mass by heart—all the priest’s lines as well as the congregants’ replies.  I can still come pretty close today when I attend a Catholic mass.

However, I didn’t really learn what “faith” was.  I had a general sense of “there must be more to this religion-spirituality thing” but I could never grasp what was missing.  I questioned our Catholic traditions a lot, especially in my teenage years. 

I remember frustrating my mom quite a bit as I questioned the idea that we could eat fish on Fridays during Lent, but we couldn’t eat meat.  It never made sense.  My arguments would go like this:  “First of all, fish is a meat isn’t it?  Secondly, wouldn’t giving up fish and having a hamburger be more of a sacrifice because fish was a plentiful and very common meal in the days of Jesus?”

I really wanted to understand this tradition, but I was also probably pretty snotty with my mom when this topic came up.  I don’t recall for certain, but I was probably grounded many times during each Lenten season.

(My intent here is not to condemn the Catholic Church.  I know many Catholics whose faith in Christ is a solid rock.  I’m only saying that for me, Catholicism confused me terribly growing up.  I didn’t understand its teachings, and because of that, God didn’t feel “real” to me.)

Despite my questions, I was still a pretty good kid.  I made good grades and never did drugs, drank, or slept around.  I had a job or two and was very responsible.  I went to church on Sundays and CCD on Wednesdays.  However, when I finally moved out of my parents’ home my sophomore year in college, I gave up on going to church.  Not just the Catholic Church, but any church.  I never stopped believing that God existed, but I had always felt that He had very little to do with me unless I said the right prayers or performed the correct rituals (confession, confirmation, saying a Rosary).  I was tired of trying to perform for God.

When I transferred from UW-Parkside (in Kenosha, WI) to UW-Eau Claire on the other side of the state, my dorm neighbors were born-again Christians.  They were my friends first, but then they began to pursue my heart’s longing for something more in life.  They invited me to Bible studies and fellowship times with their group from Campus Crusade for Christ or the Navigators.  (I don’t remember which.)  They began to question me, gently, persistently.

What did I believe? 

Who was Jesus Christ? 

Who was Jesus Christ to me?

That last question was the one that really got me thinking.  I didn’t know how to answer that question.  Over the course of many months (I had graduated from college and was working at a travel agency at this point), I came to a slow realization that Christ died for me. 


If I was the only human on earth who had ever sinned, He still would have come to earth, and suffered, and died to save my soul.

The events of October 25, 1995, took place during this time of questioning.  I had a really bad day at work; I was passed over for a promotion that many coworkers thought I should have received.  Though I enjoyed the place I worked, I didn’t really like the work I was doing, and I thought this promotion was the answer to helping me out of my slump.  I was angry and depressed, and so that evening in my bedroom, alone, I quietly cried out to God to help me. 

I think those were my exact words, “Help me.” 

I didn’t know what else to pray for, but for the first time in my life, I felt God’s presence.  I felt like He really did care for me in a personal way.  My life mattered to Him.  The decisions I made were important to Him.  He wanted better for me.  Most importantly, I knew He would be by my side always, and He wouldn’t give up on me.  I was certain of His unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion and a hundred other adjectives to describe the creator of the universe and the author of my life.

There’s a lot more to this story.  Someday I may share some of the painful moments when I hurt others with my new faith as well as how I was hurt for having a new faith.  There have also been numerous mountain-top experiences where I experienced God’s miracles on my heart and mind in amazing ways.

I have been on an amazing journey these past 15 years as a follower of Christ, and I look forward to the rest of eternity with my Savior by my side.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them. . .

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.”
-Psalm 145:18-19, 21

Words I Fail to Say

13 10 2010

Hosea 2:19-20 is inscribed on my husband’s and my wedding bands: 

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion. 
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.”

First and foremost, that is a promise of the way God loves us:  for eternity, justly, faithfully, righteously, compassionately.  Secondly, that is a description of the way my husband loves me and the way I love him, though I seem to fall far short of that ideal way too often.

After my husband and I had a long, hard, but ultimately good talk last night about some issues we are struggling with in our marriage, I knew I had to get my thoughts on paper, mainly to bless my husband, but as therapy for myself as well.

To my love,

These are words I need to say more often, every day, probably several times a day.  I have a hard time getting them out, though.

  1. I’m sorry.  I don’t think I can ever say that enough.  For all the things I have done over the past 12 years that have hurt you and laid you low, I’m so, so very sorry.
  2. I love you more than you will ever know.  Ever!  I know I definitely need to say this more.
  3. You are the only one I want.  Ever!  You are the only one I want to walk through the muck and mire of life with.  It’s not fun wading through all the crap, but you are the one I want by my side.
  4. I love you!  (Did I already say that?  I think I need to say it again.)
  5. You surpass all others in being a great dad, especially considering you were one who never really wanted kids.  I look at how you deal with our boys, how you love them, how you discipline them, how you play with them, how you train them, and I am continually blessed that they have you for a dad.  I am confident they will look back on their childhood and realize what an amazing role model you have been for them (and will continue to be throughout their lives).
  6. Your rock-solid faith continually inspires, amazes, and blesses me.  Even in the middle of the pit you feel yourself in at times, you still cling to Christ.  I pity those husbands that do not have your faith, and I hurt for those wives who do not have husbands of such deep, firm faith.
  7. I want to grow young with you.  I want to be 80 years old, holding your hand on a porch swing someday as we look out at the world around us.  I want to live a peaceful, content life with you at my side.
  8. I need to change.  I will always be in a state of needing to change.  I will only stop needing to change when I am face-to-face with Jesus.  I need your patience and lots of grace during this process.
  9. Ninakupenda Mapenzi!
  10. For those of you who don’t understand Swahili, #9 is worth repeating in English:  I love you, my love!


Small Victories

4 10 2010
No cussing zone

No cussing zone

Last night in our home church group, the gathering, the topic of discussion was “how do we make our religion worthless?”  We read from Mark 7:1-23 and James 1:26:  “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”  We spent some time alone with God then broke into groups of guys and gals to share.

When hearing/reading/listening to scripture on “the tongue” I am always first and foremost convicted about my tendency to cuss—mainly in the car and at computers.  When I look back on my life, I can point to learning this habit as a child.  I grew up in a home where cussing was standard fare when being cut off by a rude driver or if the computer wasn’t functioning properly.  After spending 20 years in that household, cussing is a part of me, but it manifests itself most while driving or working on a non-cooperative computer. 

When Caleb, my oldest, was two, I heard him utter his first curse words.  I was in the kitchen trying to get a lid off a jar and was getting frustrated.  I think I said, “ugghhhhh” or “grrrrrr”, but I know for a fact I didn’t cuss.  Caleb did.  He was sitting on the floor playing with some plastic containers, and he looked up at me, and smiled, and said “G—D—” in response to my irritation.  At that age, he had no clue what the words meant.  In his innocence, he only knew that’s what mommy said when she was annoyed, and he probably thought he was helping me out.

For a moment I was stunned into silence, then I cried while Caleb continued playing peacefully.  I was so overcome with guilt and conviction as to how completely ugly this habit was.  I prayed for forgiveness and for help in overcoming this struggle.  I have continued that same prayer almost every day of my life since then.  I do not want my children to grow up in a home where coarse language is tolerated and accepted as the norm.  I do not want to pass this behavior on to my children as it was passed on to me.

In the years following that incident with Caleb, Matthew 18:6 was a constant, harsh reminder to me of my charge as a parent to not only train my children to walk in the way of righteousness, but to do everything in my power to NOT be the cause of their sin:  “But if anyone causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” 

I am very blessed to have a child like Caleb whose sensitive spirit literally causes him to cry when he hears me go off as I do sometimes, mostly in the car.  Caleb has no choice, not being old enough to drive himself, so he is captive to my destructive words on the road.  I thank God that Caleb’s nature thus far is not to repeat what I say.  He is the one calling attention to my sin and encouraging me to respond differently.  He graciously forgives me every time.  God couldn’t give me a more tangible reminder of the love and forgiveness He continually offers me.

When Caleb was four, he told me of the three words you “never, ever say.”  I’m not sure how he came up with this list, but he said, “These are the worst words you can say, mommy.   Shut up!  Stuuuupid.  And F—.”  The first two he said with lots of emotion and expression.  The last one was very matter of fact.  My first reaction was to stifle a giggle.  But once again, I was quickly convicted that even my four-year-old knew the repulsiveness of those words.

Jason, my youngest son, on the other hand. . .his spirit is quite the opposite.  While he cracks me up and is a delight and joy, Jason is stubborn, headstrong, determined, fierce, and prone to ridiculous fits of anger (he’s two of course, but he takes after his momma quite a bit.)  Jason is the one who will pick up this nasty habit of mine by the time he’s in school.  Jason is the one I really have to watch out for.  I feel like time is running out on me to change this caustic behavior in myself.  I hate being the double-minded person James speaks of in 3:9-10:  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.”

So last night, I brought up this struggle again in our small group.  (This is no surprise to my friends.)  I mentioned things I have done in the past to help:  pray, listen to music, sing along to a CD, talk to Caleb.  But nothing sticks for more than a few days. 

My friend suggests the root of this struggle is much deeper than being just a habit.  There is something going on with my internals that needs to change.  She suggested I become a woman of great compassion for people.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, rather than living by my defaults and rattling off a phrase a sailor would be proud of, pray for that person.  Who is he?  What kind of day has she had?  What is going on in his life that is causing him to be rude?  Did someone close just die?  Did he lose his job?  Is her child sick?  Is he hurrying to the hospital?  Maybe she’s just a jerk.  No matter, pray for them.

So I tried that this morning on the way to school.  I hope I am not jinxing myself, but the worst thing I said or even thought was “oh my word” when I saw the driver of a school bus full of kids completely blow through a stop sign without even slowing down.  I didn’t cuss.  There’s a small victory. 

While a step in the right direction, not cussing is still not equivalent to showing compassion.  I then wondered, what exactly does it look like to show that person compassion, practically speaking?  How do I show compassion to a person who does something so dangerous and literally places several dozen lives at stake—her life, the lives of the children on the bus, the lives of those in her vehicle’s path?

Then I realized that simply the act of praying for this bus driver was an act of compassion.  Another small victory.

Then I prayed.  Victory!

I cherish your prayers as I continue in my struggle to overcome this ungodly habit.