Saturday, September 25, 2010

When the Storm Comes.....

I've been thinking about this one for a few days. Last Sunday, I caught a local minister's sermon on tv that struck a chord with me. He was talking about his experience of being in the midst of a hurricane and what they had to do to get out of it, etc.  That part was interesting - but what he said after telling his story is the thing I keep coming back to every day.  He said, "When the storm comes - and it WILL come - God will be there to bring you out."  (He may not have used those words - but it's close to that.)

 It's not a concept I've missed along the way. I know it to be true. I know that when we are weathering storms in our lives, God is the provider of comfort. And His guidance carries us through that storm even when we don't realize it until later.

 To live as though we are never going to experience fear or grief or failure  is foolish. But I think when something blindsides us, we are always surprised. At least I am.

This may not seem like a "storm" to you - but Billy's deployment has reached the 'difficult' stage for me. I guess I was living in this happy little bubble because he'd stayed in such close contact. He got on the boat - began floating around the world - and we just continued our daily conversations as if he still sat in his shop in North Carolina. Wow, this was going to be e.a.s.y.....no big deal at all! I can do this. I am Marine Mom - hear me roar!!

Nope. Didn't last.

 This week they have been in "River City" which means they keep very little communication open. Some have access to email, but most do not. And while I think I've still heard from Billy more than a lot of moms, it has been very hard. He can't tell me where they are - or what they are doing. But we know they aren't following the original plan. And I know that he's on a big fat aircraft carrier - and that they are safe.

Being a military mom isn't something I thought I'd ever experience. I've always carried around immense pride that my daddy is a Marine - and that my grandfather fought in World War II. Even when my brother went to Iraq - and it hit closer to home -  the main emotion I felt was pride. 

So this gut wrenching fear that comes over me sometimes feels like a storm brewing. It often consumes my thoughts to the point I quit focusing on anything else. I worry about him coming home changed from things he may or may not see. I worry about his sleeping in cramped quarters. I fret over him getting enough sleep.

For those of you that want to hear more about his deployment - here it is:
  •  It's fascinating to think about them floating across the globe - and it's frustrating because the amount of information we either get or can share is so limited. 
  • It's a badge of honor we all wear. I get to say "MY son is serving our country and is a Marine."  And it's an open wound just waiting to be bleed when I hear some song, see someone in uniform or read the news. (Go listen to Soldiers and Jesus...that one is the most recent one to get me...ugh.)
  • It's exciting to think of my child getting to experience places I'll never see. But it's terrifying to realize I can't get there to save him if he needs saving.
  • It's going to bed at night and feeling guilty that I have a soft, comfy bed to sleep in when I know he's cramped in a little bitty bunk stacked 3 or 4 high.
  • It's constantly thinking about what I can send in the next care package - and scouring the cards for something funny to send because the thought of him not getting any mail when they pass it out makes my stomach hurt.
  • It's knowing in my head that he's an adult, but feeling in my heart that he isn't old enough to do this!
  • It's incredible pride that he made this choice and has matured so much. That he's capable and ready - and that he's OURS.
So there ya go. A slow moving storm....one that I know I'll look back at next summer and say, "Wow! Thanks God! I didn't think I'd make it."

I'll leave you with this:  hug a mom whose son or daughter serves this country the next time you see her. You don't have to say anything. Just give her a hug.  I promise she needs it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh Happy Day...

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.
~ William Penn

I haven't written about Jason lately - and he'd probably be thankful if I never wrote about him again. BUT I'm an open book, and that makes him a default player in this game of my life via blog. ;) I mean, he's been one of my besties for 25 years! That should give me some level of authority, right?

So...here it goes:


Jason circa 1988....hahaha!
 Yesterday I had breakfast with my "go to" guy friend.

Jase and I have weathered a lot of life in these 25 years. He's listened to me cry about boys, and I've sat with him while he "got over" girls. He's lectured me about taking myself too seriously, and I've lectured him about not staying in touch with people who love him. He's driven me thousands of miles in all of his different vehicles over the years. (Brownie will always hold a special place in my heart.) And I've read thousands of words in novels we studied for classes, just to turn around and summarize those words for Jason to use in his assignment. (Sorry, Mrs. Billingsley.) We have a mutual trust in each other that could never be broken.

So, anyway, yesterday was the first time I've seen him since his diagnosis of colon cancer. And, since he's always been the "go to" one, this whole cancer thing has been hard for me to wrap my arms around. I wasn't sure how I was going to react when I saw him. We've been through a lot - but never anything of this magnitude.

The news has been really good. He's been through a few chemotherapy treatments - and his CEA levels are dropping drastically. He is working every day and feeling really good. When he returns to MD Anderson in November, he'll see how much the tumors have shrunk and maybe talk about surgery. He's handling this whole thing with grace under pressure that I only hope I'd have in a similar situation. He's been amazing.

But....I hadn't seen him or hugged him yet. It's all been over the phone, texts, emails, etc.  And let's face it:  I'm a crybaby. I was so excited to spend some time with him - but so concerned about how I'd hold it together when I got there. So as I walked into Bagel Place, I was a bit apprehensive. Then.........it was just normal.

No tears. No stress. Just me and Jase having another one of the countless meals we've eaten together. (Bagel Place is at least a step up from McDonalds during high school lunch hours.) Him teasing me about everything he can possibly think of, and me giving him updates on all our other friends. Looking through the pictures on my facebook, discussing my kids and his business.

We have such a natural comraderie that we slip right back into it like a favorite pair of jeans and an old t-shirt. "I love you" comes so easily and naturally - right along with all the laughter and silliness. I could have sat there for hours. But - we are grownups now. We can't sneak off to a movie or ditch class to take a nap. We had to go back to work. So we said our goodbyes - and promised to get together again soon.

How incredibly thankful I am that Jason is in my life. And with my plans to terrorize him in the nursing home someday, I am counting on all the prayers for healing to keep working.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sometimes the Good Girls Win...

"When in doubt, do the courageous things" ~ Jan Smuts

What makes you courageous?

I sometimes think I'm most courageous when I hold my tongue, because it's by far the hardest thing for me to do. I LIKE to speak my mind. haha! But I know that often, when I've been wronged or I'm in a situation that seems impossible, the best thing I can do is STOP.  Just like the old adage says, "actions speak louder than words."  But I have SO MANY WORDS!

When someone says something untrue about me, as happened not too long ago, I have a hard time not jumping to take up for myself and try to prove them wrong. Or better yet, discredit them by saying mean things in return. (A sort of, "oh yeah? Take that!" kinda thing.) Yet the times that I didn't attack the person who said something untrue are the ones that have turned out the best. Instead of retaliating, I chose to walk the high road.  And there I have always found that truth wins!

I know the world says stand up and fight - and I know there are times when that is the answer. But it takes a lot of courage for me to turn that other cheek! (Oddly, Kerry is the exact opposite! Only in the last few years has he started standing up for himself because he's so gentle to start with. His courage is definitely finding his voice.)

This week holding my tongue involved that whole picture drama I mentioned on Friday. You cannot imagine how hard it has been to just listen. I have endured hearing untruth after untruth - and wanting to fight back. I've felt like a counselor hearing every little problem....and I've sat silently and sympathized despite all the things I really wanted to say.  And guess what? It paid off! I have some PRECIOUS pictures of my son now.  (He did a whole lot of keeping his mouth shut too, so I guess we accomplished this one together! Way to go, Billy!)  Of course, the first act of courage was making the phone call...so I guess I wasn't completely silent. Ha! But once I made that contact, there was a whole lot of holding my tongue.

I'm sure courage manifests itself in me in all different ways. But this week...it was when I said little to nothing at all. I wonder what it'll look like next week!

So back to my question: what makes you courageous? And how does that look in your world?

Friday, September 10, 2010

What I learned THIS week...

I think I'll make this a Friday tradition. :)

1. Randi gets nervous when she rides with me because I drive fast. haha! Does this mean I should drive even FASTER when she's in the car just to make sure she's on her toes? Hmm....

2. Our Wednesday night group is good for my soul. I was so excited to see every single one of them - and missed the ones who were unable to be there. There's just something about coming together and reconnecting after the summer that feels right!

3. Gracey is growing up. We didn't have to pester her once this week about homework. I can't believe it! She's doing so well this year - and has matured so much! I can't believe she's already in 7th grade.

4. Sadie and her quick wit is going to make our lives more interesting the older she gets. She has such quick comebacks! And since she's so much like her mother (cough, cough), she often pops off without thinking of the consequences for those words.

5. I learned that sometimes the idea of how a situation is going to transpire is VERY far from the way it really happens. I made a simple phone call last week to try to get some childhood pictures of Billy, and now I'm stuck in this crazy situation that reminds me how he came to be mine AND makes me wish even more that I'd just given birth to him to start with! (And he is just laughing at me because it was MY brilliant idea to call.)

6. September is the crappiest month for flower shops. I forget how miserable it is...till it happens. LOL Good thing Christmas isn't too far away!

7. Nothing can compete with a monthly get together with childhood friends. Tomorrow is our pedicure day - and I can hardly wait to catch up with the girls. It's funny how 22 years falls away when we all sit down and start talking. I'm so thankful we've all reconnected as adults.

8. Thinking up stuff for care packages to Billy is hard - and you people didn't give me ONE SINGLE IDEA. I know you are reading this, so you have no excuse! *grumble grumble*

9. I may have a little buyer ( and catcher) remorse over the guinea pigs. I don't WANT to have to fix them a salad to eat every day. Nor do I want to clean their boxes. Clearly the girls are going to have to step up and take care of them because as much as I think they are cute pets, I didn't need more mouths to feed.

10. I need some book ideas! I'm reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest - but once that's done...I'm going to need something else! Help! :) 

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Living In The Middle

Today I said goodbye to a friend.

It was an unexpected goodbye - as most are - and such a loss for everyone who knew him. Mark Robertson-Baker was an amazing and wonderful friend. Heaven is a better place now that it has a guy as great as MRB living there.

His memorial service was one of the most beautiful I have ever attended. Various friends and family members eulogized him, and shared memories of his antics. They made me laugh because I experienced some of the same moments with him, and they made me cry because I won't get to do that again. One of the speakers said something that really gave me pause. He said, "Mark was one of those people who didn't live in the middle." (Or something close to that.) He then explained that people who don't live in the middle live in the extremes of one edge or the other.

As I apply that thought to my life, I realize that there are areas of my life that I definitely live in the middle, and there are others where I insist on standing on the edge. I'll tell you some of mine, and then I'll challenge you to think about your own because I think it's worth stopping and considering.

If you know me, then you know I'm a "do-er".  I get things done. I try to make things happen. And I usually move forward with confidence (even when I don't feel it) when I'm busy "doing".  It's one of my extremes. I'd rather do than think. And sometimes that's a great trait to have. But sometimes it's just pushy. haha! I know that - and I really do try to temper it with humor, wit and overall charm. Doesn't always work...but I try. I sit on that edge and almost never even look the other direction. I just dangle my feet of that edge and wait for the next thing I can "do."

Based on that aspect of my personality, I guess you'd assume that I live by faith in the same way. That my walk with God would be the same extreme and I'd always be "doing" something with/for God. But I'm afraid I've become a classic case of the "lukewarm" Christian that Francis Chan talks about in his book "Crazy Love." I can give lip service to stepping out and doing something big for God, but it's been a long time since I've really done it. I've been too busy living in the middle to even realize it. So along with my "no" issue, I'm going to try to move that needle a little farther in the direction of action. I want God to pull me out of the middle! No more laying down in the middle and pretending I don't hear Him calling me. I need to walk closer to that edge and make a difference.

Another edgy part of me is my fierce loyalty and love for my friends and family. If you are in - you are in. But under no circumstance am I ever sitting in the middle when it come to my loved ones. No one hurts my children, my family or my true blue friends. And I don't apologize for it. Hurt one of them, or take advantage of one of them, and you'll see for yourself. Forget dangling my feet off that edge. I often want to jump off the end!

And while I'm fiercely protective of those I love, I don't think I'm as hung up on myself. I definitely live in the middle on the "me" stuff. I don't take myself too seriously nor do I find myself too amusing. I don't think I'm too ugly or feel that I'm too pretty. I think I'm just a middle of the road kinda girl. And, in this case, I'm ok with that! Like I said before. I just am who I am. :) You'll never see me try to be something that I'm not.

Lastly, I used to be a much bigger risk taker. I lived more on the edge about things than I do now. A lot of that has to do with motherhood, I think. So any 'risks' I might take are usually more of a spontaneous roadtrip kind rather than a "let's go skydive" kind. Nothing good or bad about that. I just think it's a middle point for me. And if I've learned anything from the various people around me who have experienced tragedy and loss lately, I know that it's time to get a bit riskier. Life is too short to sit in the middle. (But don't look for me on the edge for Heaven's sake!)

I know that guy was right about Mark. He did live in the extremes. And I loved him for it.

In fact, one of my favorite quotes from him on Facebook was when he read about Billy. He said to me, "Just when I thought I couldn't love you more - you go and do something like this. Hooray for you, Kerry, Billy and the girls. Just exceptional."   I knew he meant every single word - because he WAS the guy that didn't live in the middle.  And if loving people the way he loved people is an extreme that I can live too, you can bet your booty I'm going to try.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I, Charee, take you, Kerry.....

“Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would I'd never leave.”
 ~ Winnie the Pooh

Once upon a time, two friends fell in love. Not quickly - and not "at first sight", but slowly over time. In fact, the boy didn't even like the girl when he first met her! ("How is that POSSIBLE?" you say. I know. I KNOW!) And now....13 years and 3 children later....those two friends are still in love.

My husband Kerry is the best husband in the world. Without him, I would perish.

He was my best friend and roommate for 3 1/2 years before we ever dated. And he was a great roommate too! We had so much fun throwing parties, going to clubs, hanging out with other friends. He put up with all the frogs I kissed along the way, and never once tried to change who I was.  (I'm sorry to any of you frogs who might be reading this. You were perfectly nice frogs..just not destined to be my prince.) He fell in love with me right where I was. And I fell in love with him.

The night before I went on my Walk to Emmaus, he kissed me. And for 72 hours, we were unable to communicate. I spent the weekend getting closer to God. Kerry spent the weekend informing everyone we knew that he and I were dating. haha!  From that moment on, we've never looked back. We knew our future was sealed.

September 6, 1997, before 300+ friends and family, we pledged our love and devotion to each other. I'd do it again right now. It was the best decision of my life, and I am thankful every day that God gave me such a wonderful person with whom to share my life.

Kerry knows me better than any other person on the planet - and loves me anyway. He can probably predict my next move. Every morning, he fixes me a cup of coffee and brings it to me. (Yes. I know.) He fills my car with gas, takes out the trash, and goes to the store (over and over) when I've forgotten something. He is beyond patient with me when I am cranky, and he loves me unconditionally. I am spoiled beyond anything I deserve.

No matter what happens, we know we have each other. It hasn't always been perfect - or easy, but at the end of the day we have done it together. God has blessed us with 3 beautiful children, an opportunity to own our business, good friends to share our time, and complete understanding and trust in each other. What more could we possibly ask?!

So....all of this to say.....

Happy Anniversary to my precious husband Kerry. The love of my life. Thank you for letting me putting my cold toes under your warm legs every single night. ;)

(PS. I'll refrain from posting wedding pics..since they aren't scanned...haha)

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I've Learned This Week...

Just thought I'd list a few things I've learned this week. No philosophy...just random things:

1. In order to ship a care package to Billy, I have to fill out a customs form. Imagine how funny the list of items will begin to look as I find interesting things to send him along the way: "Silly string .8 oz $1; Christmas Stocking .01 oz $5" It almost takes me on a personal mission to find really funny stuff. If you have any ideas, send them to me. hee hee

2. Not all guinea pigs like each other. We bought Harriett a friend because we worried that she'd be lonely. Apparently, she is a LONER. If you've never seen one guinea pig try to beat up another guinea pig, you are missing a scary show. Needless to say, we now have 2 guinea pig houses. (Ugh!)

3. Always have a few "go to" friends that you can call at a moment's notice and they will say yes. Because you never know when a need will arise, and you just need someone to say "of course!"

4. Gracey and I may argue like we are mortal enemies sometimes, but she's got to be one of the sweetest children on earth. I am contiuously proud of the way she treats her friends, and the way she carries herself in public. (She's also beautiful. HOW did I give birth to such a beautiful child??)

5. Sadie talks more than me. I realize this will be shocking to you...but it's true. She can talk me under the table. And the darn thing is, she's so CUTE that I can't get mad. Annoyed and worn out by it? yes. Mad? No. I think we would have been a very boring family if Sadie hadn't come along 9 years ago!

6. I married the right guy. Not that I didn't KNOW this before, but I have been reminded of that this week as we approach our 13th wedding anniversary. He is definitely the yin to yang, the peanut butter to my jelly. What a lucky girl! Kerry, I LOVE YOU!

7. The newest, coolest app for my iphone is Dragon Dictation. You can talk into it, and it types out an email or a text! I love it! (Refer to #5 about me talking a lot.) So neat and quite accurate.

8. Drinking more water requires a lot of extra bathroom time. I'm determined to get healthier - but I'm not sure I have that many extra minutes to spare to run to the bathroom constantly! Are Depends in my future???

9. There's no better conversation than when you are walking with a friend. I was blessed to walk with a few different friends this week. Nothing beats a good walk and a good friend!!!

10. Billy continues to astound me and make me proud. He has handled his deployment beautifully and shown wisdom beyond his years about some childhood stuff that has resurfaced. He is such a precious part of our family, and I am thankful every day that he is ours.

So.......that's what I've learned. How about you? Any new insights in your life? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"No."

What comes to mind when you hear that word? And how do you react? I find that although I am 40 (gulp) years old, I tend to immediately get defiant when I hear it. I automatically think, "Is THAT right?" or "Who are YOU to tell me no?" Isn't that so childish?

I don't like to be told no. Ask anyone who knows me. Tell me no, and I'll take it as a personal challenge. I'm going to get you to say yes if it kills us both. I like to "win" that battle.

But I do know that God wants me to be obedient. And I understand that with that obedience comes a whole bunch of "no" or "not right now" moments. And if I wasn't so hell bent on defying His plan, then I'm sure my life would remain less complicated, and I'd worry a lot less.

There was a theory in parenting when my cousin was born that if you never used the word no, but offered alternative ideas to the child, you would get farther with them. I still recall travelling to Houston to visit them and my aunt telling us, "We don't tell Amber no." I thought my grandfather's head was going to spin off, and yet he remained very calm and didn't say a word. I was about 10 or 11, and even I thought it was ridiculous. See? I was even defiant about NOT being told no.

(Don't ask me how it turned out. I was a kid and don't remember. But Amber is a great girl, so I guess there could have been something to it.)

As a Godwin, I am naturally stubborn. We Godwins really like things our way. (Right Sarah?) So I have a lot of support for this affliction! We all do it - and oddly we are prideful about it too!! It seems the reperucussions of our pride just aren't as important to us as "winning the argument." Yes, pray for our spouses. They probably need a support group.

So...all that to say....

My goal this month is to be more obedient. To stop looking for a way to defy every "no" I get - whether it's from God, Kerry, friends, or even the cashier at the grocery store. When I read a passage in a book that tells me to stop or change, I am going to do my best to think of HOW I can do it rather than my normal, "Oh yeah? Sit back and watch me!"

I'll still have my opinions. And I'm sure I won't be perfect in my quest for obedience. But I'm going to give it my best shot. Pray for me....!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Laughter

I love to laugh...so below are a few of my favorite YouTube Videos to get you giggling...