Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Honor Of...

MY 100th POST...

Casey and I came up with a new look for my blog. I think it's a better look for summer...much more cheerful. I am really happy with how it turned out. Thanks Casey!

Also, in honor of...

MY 100th POST...

there will be a Pleasant Places Giveaway! The prize...that requires a little explanation.

After a few great conversations with some amazing, godly friends, combined with my own desire to be a well-read Christian, I declared this summer - The Summer of Christian Dead Men. This means that all my spiritual-growth reading will be from Christian authors who have been dead quite a while, but are still blessing and encouraging the Saints with their wise and powerful words.

And, if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you already know that in the area of fiction literature, I pretty much stick with the classics, so most of those authors are dead too...sadly.

So, for the prize, the winner gets to chose one of these books...because I love books!...:

~ C.S. Lewis: Weight of Glory
~ Jonathan Edwards: Jonathan Edwards on Revival
~ Charles Spurgeon: Grace, God's Unmerited Favor

And one of these books, all of which I HIGHLY recommend:
(*= my all time favorites)

~ Louisa May Alcott: Little Women
~ Jane Austen: Pride & Prejudice*
~ Jane Austen: Emma
~ Jane Austen: Sense & Sensibility
~ Jane Austen: Mansfield Park
~ Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre (currently reading this...amazing!)
~ Charles Dickens: David Copperfield*
~ Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
~ Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

To enter the Pleasant Places 100th Post Giveaway just leave a lil' comment, and your name. I'll draw the winner June 1st and post who it is. I'll also post my email address so the winner can email me her/his info and she/he can tell me their book choices. IF...and I really can't imagine this...but IF you hate reading or you already have all of the books listed...we'll work something out...maybe something really sad like a Starbucks gift card. ;)

So comment away...especially any secret readers out there! Show yourself! :)
Oh, and your name will only be submitted once! Good Luck!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Top 5

Many a day ago now, I found my little name at the bottom of a Top 5 Blog tag. I'm finally gettin' to it. Here we go.

1. 5 things under $5 that I cannot live without:
* Large Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic (although, I have attempted to live without it a number of times)
* Neutrogena Daily Moisturizer with Sunblock
* Neutrogena Light Night Cream (If anyone knows about a better night cream, especially for eyes, let me know! I'm neurotic about wrinkle prevention! I have also recently - after my 28th birthday - given up sleeping and smiling. Apparently those things cause wrinkles. I haven't been real successful yet, but I know with a little perseverance, I can do it!)
* This week I found that I cannot live without hummus! It was an appetizer at the HaMoreh dinner, and then while we shopped for our stay at the lake house I picked up a tub. It is so delicious and now I will never be without it!
* Grande/Half-Caf/Two-Pump/Iced White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks.

2. 5 Favorite Movies:
* Pride&Prejudice
* Little Women
* Empire of the Sun
* Breakfast at Tiffany's
* Moulin Rouge

3. 5 baby names I love:
* Braelyn Nicole(of course)
* Caleb Campbell
* Audrey Elizabeth
* Anna Belle
* Ruby (Leave me alone...I love it!)

4. 5 song I could listen to over and over:
* White Horse and a Cherry Tree (not sure if that's the title)
* Your Song (by Elton John, also on the Moulin Rouge Soundtrack)
* That song that's out right now about crinkling my nose and tickling my toes, or something like that...I really like it.
* The Boat song from Once
* The new David Cook single...whenever it comes out, that is :) Give it up for D.C.!!!!!!!!!
(Phew! that was a tough one. I'm not a huge music person. I like older music usually.)

5. 5 people who have influenced me in a positive way, although there are a lot more:
* Casey Cease
* Mom
* Dad
* The Brace's
* The Vaughn's (This couple really showed us that being a Christian was more than just going to church.)

6. 5 things that are always in my purse/diaper bag:
* Wallet
* Wipes
* Lip Gloss
* Phone
* Something that will keep Braelyn happy in a crisis

7. 5 Moments that have changed my life forever:
* Becoming a Christian
* Marrying Casey
* Having Braelyn
* Going to London
* Moving to Brenham

8. 5 obsessions I have now:
* Reading!
* Um...blogging
* My shows...and watching them with my peeps! (AI, LOST, The Office)
* Walking
* As of this week, kicking my husband's rear end at Scrabble!!!!!
and, I can't leave out
* Preventing wrinkles
* Fresh flowers :)

9. 5 places I would like to go: (like there's only 5...ha!)
* Italy
* France
* Germany (OK, pretty much anywhere in Europe)
* Boston
* New York

10. 5 appliances or kitchen tools I cannot live without:
* Ol' mixer! :)
* the microwave
* Does it have to be in the kitchen? Cause in that case, my hair dryer
* DVR!!!
* The baby monitor!!!

Alright, that's me. Consider yourself tagged, especially Erin, whose little name was also on that list! Go Cutshall!!!!!

And I've got a special post comin' up...keep your eye out!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Back together again...And, Casey and I are watching the American Idol Finale as I type! Last night, we even did our part for AI and VOTED! Cook got two votes from the Cease's!

Sacred Parenting: Chapter 4: Seizing Heaven

This was a great chapter, but nothing I feel like I need to elaborate on. The subject of this chapter was how "raising children teaches us to listen to God."  It didn't really provide any new insight per se, but it was a great reminder. I always need to be reminded to do more listening and less talking in my conversations with the Lord. 

I'll share a few good quotes and then tell you a little story about this chapter.

"I stopped trying to run things the way I wanted many years ago. I started listening to God and letting Him have his way n everything. If men like you did that, you would find the answers, instead of spending your lives beaten by the problems that you yourselves create." ~ Frank Buchman can you add to that! 

"It is inconceivable to think that God would give us so much to do that we can no longer spend extended time with Him." ~ Gordon Smith

"If we ask our Heavenly Father - and just as important, patiently wait for an answer - God will often tip us off to what is really going on in our kids' hearts. My own insecurities and immaturity usually prompt me to focus on things in my kids that God could care less about while neglecting the very things God is most concerned about. For me, listening has provided vital corrections."

"Because listening is an active choice of love, it's greatest enemies are apathy and busyness."

So, I had finished this chapter several days ago, before "The Quest." Like I said, it was a good reminder, and so the idea of listening to God was more on my mind. Well, the day that I had my crisis of conscience over the shopping spree, I sat down and began writing this prayer: Lord, I want to learn to listen. I do so much talking..." There I stopped, and the tears began. Here I was, asking God to help me to listen to Him, when clearly He had been trying to speak to me all morning and all I wanted to do was ignore Him! I want to be a listener of God, and God speaks, and I ignore Him! Classic! Needless to say, I got more than one lesson on that tearful day. For my good and His glory! Amen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quest for Complete Ensemble: Aborted

Last Monday, I wrote to you about putting together a complete ensemble for the HaMoreh dinner. I had so much fun writing that post and I had fun imagining my final accessorized outfit. (It should be noted Reader, that it wasn't that I wanted to look particularly fabulous for the HaMoreh dinner, but the HaMoreh dinner just happened to be the excuse for a little self-indulgence.) After I published the post, I went to bed a happy girl.

During the course of the night, those happy, girly feelings must have deserted me, because when morning came, I found more sober company weighing heavily on my chest, shame and regret. I read through my post again. Indeed, I questioned the prudence of my words and could not deny that they gave legitimacy to the cause of my morning companions. I turned off the computer and went about my household jobs and tried to shake off this untimely and unwelcome change of heart. I was, after all, tingling with excitement for my "quest" and after all the trouble it took for me to secure such a mission, one does not want to be hindered by something so intangible as a conscience.

As I went about my day, conviction (although I wasn't ready to call it that yet) wrapped itself around me like a scarf, sometimes just loosely hanging, other times, it was wrapped around my neck again and again, guarding me from the cold of sin. I could think of nothing but what I had written, and the selfishness that had authored it.

Around 1:00, I sat down to do my quiet time. I was not there 2 minutes when tears poured down my cheeks. In that still and quiet moment, I was corrected and led to repentance by the gentle, but firm Spirit of God.

I have been doing so much reading and praying about how to create a godly household and how to demonstrate to Braelyn, with my life, that God is better than any worldly thing. I have been praying for the Words of Scripture to pierce my heart and take up residence there. That I would BELIEVE that His Words are true and live them out. But, somewhere in the course of that weekend, I began giving the seeds of my vanity a little attention. I gave them a little water and a little sunshine and in the anticipation of their bloom I decided to, momentarily, put a bookmark on those holier things. For I was conscious enough to know that I could not pursue both, whole-heartedly.

I knew that the Holy Spirit in me was securing this victory when a hundred Scriptures and quotes of Godly men ran through my mind. None were condemning. All were pointing to Truth, that I don't HAVE to consume, that is for the old self. The new self is satisfied in Christ, no matter how unfashionable she is. Can I also tell you, Reader, that I don't know exactly what this all means? I know for this instance it would have been sin for me to go indulge myself as I had intended to do, for my conscience was quite clear in its message. Will I never shop again? Doubtful. When, then is it okay for me buy things for myself? I don't now the answers to these questions, but thankfully, I have friends with whom I can struggle through these things. I, for sure cannot do it alone.

Perhaps this discourse seems a little dramatic for a pair of wedges and a snakeskin clutch, but this my friends, was a hard lesson for me. Materialism and vanity; these sins are deep and firmly established in me, and when we truly confront sin, I think, it has to hurt, it has to devastate our lives to some extent. And this hurt.

So, by God's grace, I did not lose myself and my senses in a day full of shopping. I wore the blue dress that I showed you, some brown heeled sandals that I already had, and my sweet friend Brandi let me borrow a big wooded bangle, which I do think "completed my ensemble." :) I did purchase a tan clutch purse, as I can honestly say, I had nothing even resembling an evening bag...I hope you don't think me hypocritical. I went to the dinner so relieved that I had not done what I so desperately wanted to do. I would have spent the evening wrapped up in myself and my silly outfit and the work that God is doing in Africa would have been a secondary concern. I was blessed by my time with friends and I was blessed as I heard how the Gospel is more than ENOUGH for people who have nothing and who find everyday a gift.

I'll close with some of the Scriptures that brought me back to holier things. And a picture or two.

* All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:12

* For the love of Christ controls (constrains) us... ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14

* The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. ~ Romans 14:22

* No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth. ~ Matthew 6:24

* Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. ~ Proverbs 31:30-31

Monday, May 19, 2008

At the Lake...

Alright, :::sigh:::, so much has happened over the last quest for fashion...Chapter 4 of Sacred birthday...and I haven't been able to post about any of it. But now, Casey and I are here at our friend's BEAUtiful lake house and I will have ample time to fill you in on all the things that have been going on.

I am really grateful for this week. It is going to be so restful...a much needed calm before the storm. The coming weeks are going to be so crazy! Next week around Thursday, I'll be back in Sugar Land for a few special events, Casey speaks at both Crossbridge and Christ Church and then the next day we leave for South Padre, the first of 7 of Casey's summer camps. So needless to say, I am going to savor every second we are here. And by the way, Casey and I are here by ourselves untill Wednesday evening, and then Braelyn will join us for the remainder of our stay. The perfect plan, I think! :)

We got here late last night (Sunday) so we could begin our getaway right off the bat this afternoon...we didn't get up till 11:00. GLORIOUS! However, our vacation has only been going on officially for 2 hours and 15 minutes, and already we have encountered a minor catastrophe. After we got up, Casey and I enjoyed a light breakfast in the sun room. We decided that we would read/study (Casey is preparing for summer) for the next few hours and then we would go swimming. We gather our dishes and head inside...

Me: um, Case, the door's locked!
Casey: No problem, I'll go 'round front and use the code lock.
He returns to the back porch.
Casey: Um...last night I put the bar lock on. (The kind were you can open the door like 2 inches) Haha, that's funny, right?
I give him the wife glare.
Casey: No problem, I'll go to the neighbor's house and get her key.
He returns to the back porch.
Casey: A locksmith is on his way.

So yes, after one hour of vacating, we were locked out of the house, in our pajamas. Good grief! Luckily, the locksmith came very quickly and we have returned to the read/study plan and are as happy as larks. :)

This is where we were trapped. If one must be trapped, this isn't a bad place to be.

Well, I'm gonna do a little reading for a while and later I'll post on my shopping excursion...or rather, the excursion that never happened. ;)

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Quest for a Complete Ensemble

Alright friends, I am super excited! I am coming to the Sugar Land on Wednesday for a couple of reasons.

1. Casey will be there all week for school and because I don't want to be in Brenham all week by myself, I am going to join him on Wednesday.
2. We have a Fundraising Dinner for HaMoreh on Friday night.
3. I didn't get to see our families on Mother's Day so we will celebrate that, along with some other silly event that shall remain nameless at this time.
4. On Sunday, we will leave our baby girl behind (at Nonnie and Bop's), Casey and I will come to Brenham for church, and then Monday morning we will head to a friend's lake house for a couple of quiet, relaxing days. (The real reason is so Casey can write and prepare for summer, but I will be doing a lot of relaxing! Yea!)

Ok, so back to the point of this quest for a complete ensemble!
A couple of weekends ago I got this dress from the Gap: (I'm not sure why The Gap cut that girl's head off, she seems like a very attractive girl.)

I tried it on just for fun, but then I saw that it was big time on sale so I impulse-bought it. Anyways, it turned out to be a great purchase, I have just mentioned above, I have a Dinner to go to on Friday. Perfect!

So, at some point over the weekend, I started daydreaming about "completing my outfit" with shoes and jewelry and a, it would actually all go together! I NEVER shop this way. If I get a new outfit, I always consider if I have shoes that will go with it before I buy it. If I happen to have jewelry that would look nice, bonus...otherwise, I'm sporting the minimalist look.

On Sunday, I asked this dear friend, for a little shoe advice, you know...just in case, there is a chance that I could maybe, get some shoes. Of course, she had super cute suggestions, and so my daydreaming was nudged into actual wanting. I started looking around online, you know, just browsing, and I just happened to peek at (meaning: tried on) a few pieces of footwear during my trip to College Station today.

I was just chatting with my sweet husband, and I mentioned to him this very serious dilemma of my ensemble being incomplete. He was nearly brought to tears over my wardrobe injustice. Being the gentle and doting husband that he is, he gave me a handsome, but reasonable budget and his blessing to accessorize! YEA!

I am so excited about my (dramatic voice here) Quest for Fashion!!! I will be sure to tell you how it goes and post a picture of my Complete Look :) And yes, I totally get the gross irony that I am fussing about my outfit for a dinner where we will hear about people in Africa who have nothing. Don't judge!...I have a future engagement where I will be sure to utilize my 10 year reunion! Can you believe it?! UGH! I think it even says on the invitation YOU MUST WEAR FABULOUS SHOES! (Yes, yes it does, I just checked). And, I will definitely only look/buy things that can be worn with more than just this dress. There. Perfectly justified.

Anyways...wish me luck! And to my dear and helpful friend...I'll probably be calling you to consult! You know I need help with that coordinating, but not too matchy thing! :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To All the Moms...

Happy Mother's Day!!!

To the moms in our lives~
Thank you for your constant, unwavering support. Thank you for raising us with such patience and kindness and gentleness and love. Thank you for the rich example you have set for us, we refer to it often and it has blessed our home. Thank you for loving us and our daughter so intensely. We understand now, (a little more than we did before we had Braelyn) how much you sacrificed, how little you thought of yourselves, how much of your time and energy was taken for granted. Let us say thank you now, for all the things that we never noticed before. We love you. ~Casey and Steph

For all of us moms out there~
My dear friend, Brandi, sent me this precious story a while ago. It is a fitting story to share on this special day. I hope it encourages you as much as it encouraged me.

Invisible Woman

It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young fella?"

"Nobody," he shrugged. Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family - like "Turn the TV down, please" - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would someone turn the TV down?" Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when you are." He just kept right on talking.

I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this?
Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going¸ she's going¸ she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over.
You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.
As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at
4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table."
That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

~~Author Unknown

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sacred Parenting: Chapter 3: The Gold Behind the Guilt

I felt a little apprehensive about writing on this chapter.'s such a complex thing. After reading the chapter, I didn't necessarily disagree with what he said, but at times I would find myself feeling uncomfortable...cautious to put too much stock into what he was saying. Is guilt a healthy thing? Or is it deceitful and distracting? Or is it both? In my life, guilt is like a schizophrenic friend, one minute she's helpful and convicting and directs me back to my Savior, the next minute she pulls me to the ground defeated and suffocating in my own self-absorption. How was I to post a discussion on this?! So, I read the chapter again. The second time, I didn't focus so much on the task of reconciling the tension of guilt, and I found he had some really helpful things to say.

1. Being a Perfect Parent:
I do want, try, pray to be a perfect parent. I don't say those words, "perfect parent" in my mind or in my prayers, but that is my goal, my expectation. (I am certainly not praying, "God, I really hope to be an above average parent." Thus, the only other option -in my mind -perfection.) This of course, being a foolish and impossible dream, leaves me feeling guilty everyday about something, sometimes it's just a little, sometimes it's a lot. Thomas lovingly exposes us...that we as parents will fail at times, we will do less than our best at times, we will make mistakes, and we will feel guilty for it, we just do. But in our tiresome, guilt-ridden effort to avoid mistakes and our misguided hope for perfection, we miss the point. God knows that we need Him to do this job, and He wants us to need Him. As we pray for our sons and daughters to become godly men and women, He is equally concerned with how we are learning and growing and being made holy. I thought the illustration at the end of the chapter was so helpful. Is God going to be more pleased with a parent who sought after perfection, came up short-handed and is frustrated and bitter? Or is He going to delight in the child (we are still His children, even if we are parents) who has tried hard, made mistakes, turned to Him for help and forgiveness and come out glorifying Him more because of it? I definitely think the latter!

2. If Not Perfection, then What?
I totally came away from this chapter with a healthier, more Biblical vision for our family. Before, I sort of pictured that "one day" Casey and I would be just about as close to perfect as parents can get, saying everything perfect and godly, having a Bible verse for every discussion and situation, no longer struggling with sin of our own, but ready and eager to direct our dear ones towards the God that we knew so perfectly. UGH! Gross! Again, I wouldn't have said that, but I honestly think I had some version of that ridiculousness floating around in my head. Thomas encourages a much more Christ-centered, real, authentic goal for our homes. He talks about our homes being like any other community we would want to be a part of...with real people, who make real mistakes, and have real struggles and can confess them and learn from one another. So, instead of mom and dad having all the perfect answers and the children simply watch, listen, and obey, we have parents who seek after God, confess when they fall short, and invite their children into the learning process with them. Let's teach our children how to respond when they sin...confession...repentance...instead of teaching them how to hide it! I liked these quotes:

"God had created an institution - the family - through which He can shape, mold, and form all of us, parents included. We come into the family as imperfect people, and we sin against each other everyday; yet through rubbing shoulders and learning to ask for, and offer, forgiveness, we all come out richer for taking part in this sometimes painful process."

"What is better for the kingdom of God? That my son and daughter would say, "I can never serve God like Dad did" or "If God can use my dad, he can use me"? There is no question - the latter statement is the reality that most serves God's purposes long term."

The goal is to create homes in which we are all seeking God. We make mistakes and we confess them. Our kids make mistakes and we forgive them. The aim isn't that our kids worship us - it is that they worship God and understand how much they need Him.

3. Women...We Need Other Women!
Thomas didn't talk about this really, but as I was reading this chapter and thinking through a conversation I had with some friends this week, the importance of community just fell on me once again. Just this week, I was struggling with these very things, feeling the weight of this responsibility. Feeling the weight of passing my sin onto my children. Feeling deeply inadequate. On Tuesday evenings the women of Christ Church get together to pray and I shared some of these things with them. Just confessing to them, sharing my struggles, praying together was such a blessing! I AM NOT ALONE! I am so blessed to have such friends, that I can reveal my imperfections and TOGETHER, we turn our hearts towards God and ask for help.

My second time through this chapter, I thought of Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, when he says, "It's supposed to be hard, that's what makes it great." There is beauty in the struggle. If we were all perfect, I wouldn't need you and you wouldn't need me and we wouldn't ever cry out to God. But knowing how we've tried and failed and hurt and prayed for help, how much sweeter will these words be: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

I left out a lot of good stuff, so those who are reading along, please bring to the table what you found important. I was going to put chapter 4 up tomorrow, but I think I'm going to wait a couple of days. Readers, let me know how you think this might work best...I'm still feeling it out.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

We're back from San Antonio and had a GREAT time! Unfortunately, Tyler did break his hand, so he did not get to play baseball, but on the bright side, we got to spend a lot more time with him...which I LOVED! On Saturday, we spent a little time on the Riverwalk and then rode the trolley to El Mercado...where Braelyn got a suitable ensemble for Cinco de Mayo. :)

In other news, Casey will be done with school for this semester in about 20 minutes! Praise the Lord!

And one more little announcement for my book clubbers: I will continue to post the chapters like I did for 1 and 2, but once I post something else, like this post, I will link the chapters in a section on the right side of the blog (under my profile and above the pictures) so that the discussion can continue.

Chapters 3 and 4 will be up either Thursday or Friday evening.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sacred Parenting: Chapter 2: The Hardest Hurt of All

I'll start by saying that I didn't agree with every detail of this chapter, but because of Romans 5:3 (We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.) and James 1:2-4 (Count it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its' full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.) I couldn't disagree with his main point, which is, that even though nothing hurts more than seeing our children hurt, part of raising spiritually deep, loving, compassionate, selfless children is letting them face hard things. We certainly should not create these hard circumstances in their lives, but we should be careful of how much we intervene to prevent them.

Something I've been wanting to write about for a long time, not so much so you could read it, but more so that I could write it, was how I probably met fear for the first time when I had Braelyn. I was overwhelmed with such love and with that, came a choking fear just at the thought of something unspeakable happening to her. Feeling a little paralyzed by this feeling one night, I began to pray that nothing bad would ever happen to her. But I stopped in the middle of the thought, as I realized that that might be a small and selfish prayer. I didn't know what to pray. I just sat there, rocking my sweet baby, speechless, and torn and confused before God. On one hand, I would do anything to keep anything bad from happening to Braelyn, but on the other, I knew from my own life that it is the hard things that have grown me the most. I still pray that nothing unspeakable would happen to her, but I also pray that she would be a godly woman, and I know that means she will face trails of many kinds.

I love the story Thomas shares about his father. How when he was a child, he slept in the same bed with his siblings and how even the children had jobs whose income was vital to the family. I love what he writes:

"He had none of the advantages enjoyed by most kids today (my own included). But oh, for another thousand men of his character!"

After reading the chapter I thought about the woman I hope Braelyn becomes. Wise. Loving. Compassionate. Brave. Selfless. Humble. Thoughtful. Believer of God's Word. Faithful. Patient. Sets her mind on things above. I don't think you become those things by getting whatever you want, whenever you want.

This is a hard subject I think. It takes great wisdom and prayer to know when we as parents must intervene and when we should allow our children grow in character through struggle. Even now, I'm thinking, "does this apply to me and my 2 year old, or do I have a few years to think about this?"

Gosh, as I write my mind is just spinning and I have more and more to say. But I think I'll close with my favorite quotes. Hopefully, as we flush this out a little, my thoughts will solidify a bit.

My favorite quote, and one that will be added to my blog's list of quotes:
"Sunshine without rain is the recipe for a desert." ~ Arab Proverb

"Do not forsake eternal truths for temporal gain."

Said by a bedridden mother, whose children spent much of their time caring for her:
"I do not believe that pain is good. But when I look at my children, I think that my life has been good, and I would not wish away the parts that have been hard."

Sacred Parenting: Chapter 1: Papa God

When Casey and I first began trying to have a baby, I remember getting waves of "cold feet," and I would ask Casey, "Why do we want to have a baby?" His reply, " because God said, 'Be fruitful and multiply...". I honestly thought him a little old fashioned for saying that, and instead of taking his words and His Words to heart, I put my confidence in the fact that lots of people have kids and seem happy with that arrangement while I waited for my feet to warm up again. Now, having a child and knowing what a joy and privilege it is to have her, I feel foolish for trusting so little in my husband's leadership and my God's command.

It's an important question: Why do we have children? I love how Thomas suggests that if we have the right answer to this question...because God commands it...we will better understand that our purpose is to raise them up to know, serve and love God. When we have children for any other reason, our parenting becomes a selfish endeavor and the romance of it quickly fades away. Thomas says this:

"When we realize that having children isn't about us but it is rather about God, then the trials and sacrifices of parenting are more easily borne."


"The ultimate issue is no longer how proud my children make me, but how faithful I've been to discharge the duties God has given me."

After Braelyn was born, I remember thinking, "So, this is what it feels like to die to myself." It sort of haunted me how unfamiliar the feeling was, but I was encouraged at the same time. I knew that in this hard, tiring, beautiful, sanctifying process of parenting, I would come to know God more. And it's true...I have come to know Him more, but the moment I lose sight of the WHY, His command and His Kingdom, (which I do lose sight of, often) I grow weary of not getting enough sleep, and tired of getting up from my dinner 10 times every night, and jealous of people whose date night doesn't mean spaghetti on TV trays and a Netflicks movie. I must, we must as Believers, keep our minds and hearts fixed on the WHY.

Here are a few more of my favorite quotes from this chapter:

"Once we realize that we are sinners, that the children God has given us are sinners, and that together, as a family, we are to grow toward God, then family life takes on an entirely new purpose and context. It becomes a sacred enterprise (I love that!) when we finally understand God can baptize dirty diapers, toddlers' tantrums, and teenagers' silence in order to transform us into people who more closely resemble Jesus Christ."

"Parenting will lead us to confront spiritual sins we never knew existed. It will point out inner weaknesses that we thought were strengths. It will reveal holes big enough to drive our minivans and SUVs through."

"A God-centered parent, acts out of reverence for God."