Monday, May 27, 2013

Road Trip

The girls and I got just got back from a 7.5 hour car ride from Arizona. It was supposed to be a 6 hour trip, but we hit traffic about 100 miles from home and sat on the freeway for an eternity. The girls did pretty good, Penelope only semi-melted down once when I ran out of Altoids. I semi-melted down a few more times. My driving leg fell asleep and never fully woke up until after we got home. For 2 hours, my foot was weird and tingly, my leg cramped, and my hip ached. It was a miserable 100 miles and home never felt so good.

The bad trip home didn't take away from the fun we had in the desert though. We visited with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for a few days over the holiday weekend and had a blast. We swam, ate dinner under the moon, stayed up late, and woke up early. The girls played hard, swam hard, and loved on their aunt Pam hard. Beatrice told me she wished Pam was her mom. 

We are home now and immediately snuffed out the empty house smell with bacon for dinner. My legs woke up while I unpacked. The girls went to bed early, dreaming of swimming no doubt. The terrible drive is a mere memory. We love our Arizona family and had a great time. Thanks Pam and family!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

At Some Point, I Need To Stop Writing About My Teeth

When I was 18, I went on a medical mission trip to Mexico. I was on the dental team and I will never forget how people waited for hours to voluntarily have their teeth pulled. Our clinics were set up in classrooms, churches, and sometimes under tents in people's yards. We brought state of the art equipment and followed strict sanitary guidelines, but the conditions were rudimentary and makeshift and people still lined up every day to have their teeth extracted without protest or hesitation.

What I didn't comprehend back then was that these people understood how serious tooth pain is. When they came to our clinics, they just cared about eliminating the pain even if it meant enduring some to relieve it. They didn't grimace or flinch when the doctor cut their gums open and scraped decayed tooth fragments out. They just wanted to feel better.

Fast forward to last Thursday. I had a routine teeth cleaning at my new dentist. The last one tortured me. I hadn't had a cleaning in 2 years so I was looking forward to having that super clean feeling from all the scraping and polishing. I was also excited about my new toothbrush and sample sized toothpaste dentists always give after appointments.

What I didn't expect was news that I had 6 (SIX!?!?!!!!) teeth in need of crowns, porcelain caps, and fillings. 6. I was dumbfounded. "But I floss every day!!" I protested. It didn't matter. All of my teeth with silver fillings (6) need major work because apparently silver shrinks over time allowing bacteria to get under the filling and inside the teeth. Awesome.

So, I am now in the process of repairing some of my teeth. Insurance only covers 2 of them so I'm also faced with the weird dilemma of determining how much the health of my teeth is really worth to me. Once again, I have found myself in a chair with torture devices in my mouth while someone drills holes in my teeth. All I can think about are those people in the remote Mexican jungle who lined up voluntarily for this stuff, and now I get it. This crap hurts and is a total schedule killer. A mouthful of rotten teeth? Ain't nobody got time for that. Pull those suckers out.

I don't really want to lose all of my teeth though. I think that's why I'm writing about them once again. (I've done this before). But I'm scared that's the road ahead of me and I'm totally bummed out about it. I also got news that my gums have receded 4 mm (5 mm being the beginning of the danger zone) and the inside of my teeth are super soft and more susceptible to cavities and decay. My issues are 95% genetics and 5% my fault. 

Here's what I know about teeth:

1. They are fragile. Watch what your chompers are chomping on. They could break while eating carne asada.
2. Pretty teeth aren't always a sign of healthy teeth. Mine are gorgeous and totally rotten.
3. They are important. When 1 (or 6) of them hurt, your whole mouth suffers. And it's really hard to eat.
4. They're not meant to last forever. Or maybe they are, I don't know. Mine probably aren't going to last forever.
5. They are expensive to repair.
6. It is really hard to reverse the condition of teeth. Take care of them while they are healthy.
7. Genetics play a huge role in the state of teeth. If you have bad teeth like me, it is okay to blame your ancestors. They did this to you.
8. I brush my teeth too hard. If you do too, stop it. They will eventually all fall out.
9. Teeth are a very personal issue. While discovering just how poor health my teeth are in, I've grown really insecure about it. I feel like I need to follow up every conservation about them with, "I brush and floss all day long, it's not my fault!"
10. It's hurts when you drill them. Do everything in your power to avoid this.

The worst part about this ordeal is that I have to be an adult and deal with the drilling and the payments and the torture. I don't want to. I want to ignore my 6 decaying teeth. I want to avoid the dentist for the rest of my life. But I am an adult. I am going to go back to the chair, voluntarily, to take care of it.  Because I finally get it: my mouth hurts and I just want to feel better.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aly and the Whale

I have an awesome friend here in California. She is my neighbor, but I became friends with her through the Bible study she led at our neighborhood community center last fall. She has brought me cough syrup late at night while JD was out of town, she has checked my scalp for lice, she has dropped everything to lend me cinnamon when I was in the middle of baking, and she has spent countless times praying with me, counseling me, and mentoring me in the Lord, all while mothering her own 4 daughters. She has such a servant's heart and is a huge inspiration to me.

Whenever she asked me for a favor though, for one reason or another, I never could help her out. It sucked. I wanted so badly to repay some of her acts of kindness toward me. When I got a text from her one afternoon in February that read, "can I ask you a huge favor?", I wanted to help. I prayed, "God, please let me be able to say yes to whatever she's asking." In my heart, I committed that whatever she needed - a babysitter for the night or $500 - I was going to say yes.

"Can you teach the next Bible study? It's a 12 week series and I feel like you're the right one to lead it."

Ummmmmm, gulp.

Leading a Bible study was nowhere on my radar. I have been a learner in countless studies, but I definitely didn't feel qualified to facilitate one. I'm goofy and awkward and snort when I laugh. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I make jokes that no one laughs at. I am not comfortable with public speaking. I wanted to say no. I wanted to delete the text and pretend I never saw it. I wanted to cry. But I already committed to saying yes to whatever she needed and asked God to hold me accountable, it was a difficult situation.

"I don't feel qualified to lead the study, but I want to be open to an invitation from God," I wrote back. And just like that, I was leading a Bible study.

Except it didn't go that smoothly. As quickly as I agreed to do it, things became difficult. There were obstacles and delays with receiving the study materials, I began having doubts about my ability to be available for the group, and I started to panic about the public speaking. I developed a really bad attitude about the whole thing and set about looking for ways to back out.

I emailed my friend and told her I was not the right person to lead the next study. I came up with a ton of legitimate reasons on why I couldn't do it, but I felt so guilty. How do you say no to God after you asked Him to keep you accountable? I was having a total Jonah moment and I knew it. I was running from God, and fast.

I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. I was so afraid of not preparing enough for the meetings, of sounding stupid, but mostly, I was afraid of letting God down. I told my friend all of these things and she encouraged me not to act in my fear, but rather be obedient to what God called me to. I apologized to her and repented to God for going back on my word. Once again, I was leading a Bible study.

And I led it. It was hard and scary, I was late a lot (I blame my kids), and my discussion questions were often met with the sounds of crickets, but I trusted God and learned that even when I suck at commitment, He is faithful. I learned that I can trust Him. He used my awkwardness and strange sense of humor and translated it into enthusiasm that infected the other ladies to keep returning. For 12 weeks, we dug deep into the Word of God and sought a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ. We studied Beth Moore's Revelation study called Here and Now, There and Then. So, so good.

Yesterday was our last meeting. I'm both relieved and sad that it's over. There was a lot of preparation involved that I really enjoyed, but the public speaking never got easier. I wasn't great at redirecting the conversation when we got off track, but I thrived in sharing the truths that we were learning with the other ladies, my friends. My faith was stretched, my capacity to serve was stretched, and my comfortable, safe Christian existence was stretched. I became very limber throughout this experience, spiritually speaking.

This is not a story about me facilitating a Bible study though. This is not even a me story. It's an account of taking a leap of faith where I wasn't qualified, of learning to trust God and meet Him in His Word, and kicking fear in the teeth while declaring, "I will not be defeated by you!" And it's about being used by God. I can't tell you how humbling it is to be considered for His purposes, especially after spending so many years being so rotten.

What happened to me was a setup. God knew I would find a hundred reasons to say no, so He used my sweet friend's kindness toward me to lure me into committing to whatever she asked before knowing what it was. He knows I have trouble committing and have issues with acting in faith because of fear. He's knows me well and He still used me. He's too much, too generous, too good. Oh how I love Him!

I have no idea if I will ever lead another Bible study, but I know how to respond to God's invitations in my life now: boldly, unafraid, and full of enthusiasm toward Him and His Word. How are you responding to Him? 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dear Mom

I never appreciated my mother very much when I was a child. I knew she did a lot for us, but I never realized how much until I became a mother. And now that I am a mama, I understand that she didn't just do a ton for my family, but she taught me some valuable things as well.

She taught me how to kiss boo-boos and comfort sick babies.

She taught me how to clean, do laundry, and cook for my family.

She taught me that sometimes moms eat peanut butter and crackers so the kids can have turkey sandwiches and fruit.

She taught me that a mother's job continues well after the kids go to bed.

She taught me that the worst day can be rescued with a hug and a kiss from a little one.

She taught me that kids grow up to be adults, and while disobedience and sass may be cute when they're little, it's not cute when they are older.

She taught me how to discipline my children.

She taught me how to sacrifice for my children.

She taught me how to delight in my children.

She taught me that my strength comes from God.

She taught me how to raise my children in the admonition of the Lord and that teaching them to love Him is the most valuable thing I can give them.

She taught me that my mood determines the moods of everyone else in my home.

She taught me that moms are not perfect and tomorrow's a new day to do better.

She taught me that my girls are watching me. What I do and how I conduct myself is the biggest (and first) education my girls will get on how to follow God.

She taught me how to follow God.

She taught me how to make peanut butter cookies.

She taught me to clean the kitchen every night before bed, no exceptions.

She taught me how to be a mama.

I love you, mom!

Happy Mother's Day! I love being these girls' mama. Thanks for teaching me how.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sailing With Friends

I am a terrible swimmer. Despite multiple summers of lessons, I barely mastered the doggy paddle. I love to swim, but if my feet can't touch the bottom of the pool or ocean, there is a pretty good chance water is going into my lungs. I'm pretty afraid of deep waters. For this reason, I avoid them.

JD has a crippling fear of sharks. He is not a fan of open waters, closed waters, or any waters other than chlorinated pool waters. So when our friends invited us to go for a sunset sail ON THE OCEAN, we said, "sure! Why not?!"

Maybe it was the libations, maybe it was the company of good friends, or maybe it was sailing safely within the confines of the Long Beach harbor, but I never once feared for my life out on those deep waters.

We sailed at sunset and saw the most beautiful orange sky.

It rained a little. We laughed a lot. We sailed for an hour and a half, each couple settling closer into one another as it got dark. We took cheesy silhouette shots too.

I wouldn't say we are sailors now, but we did overcome our fears of the deep blue last night and made some fun memories doing it. Ahoy!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad

During college, one of my favorite jobs was working for a small coffee shop/cafe on the town square back in Tennessee. I had previously worked at Starbucks and enjoyed learning everything the corporate coffee world had to teach, but working for a mom and pop place was so much fun.

The one thing I have carried with me all these years from that cafe has nothing to do with coffee though, it's their chicken salad recipe. It is so good. The original recipe calls for grapes, orzo pasta, and a few other ingredients I don't always add, but the base is always the same and tastes great with other flavors integrated in for endless sandwich possibilities. My favorite lately is a cilantro lime concoction that tastes fresh and bold, perfect for a bland Monday afternoon.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad

1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 hard boiled egg, diced
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 TBSP yellow mustard
Zest and juice from 1 lime, more depending on size of lime
1 clove garlic, pressed or grated
1 green onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, dice or tear leaves, discard stems
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up, tasting as you go. I like to taste a lot of lime so I usually add more zest and juice after I mix everything together, but this recipe is so easy and versatile, you can add and omit items to your preference. Pile it high on wheat bread with sliced tomatoes and avocados, mmm.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lemon Tree

Our 5th wedding anniversary was a few weeks ago. The traditional gift for 5 years of marriage is wood and it just so happened that I was in need of a tree, a lemon tree. JD was quick to act on tradition and gifted me with a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. It's the best thing he's ever given me.

I really wanted a full size lemon tree for the yard, but because we are in a rental and share a yard with our neighbors, planting a large tree wasn't possible. JD chose a dwarf Meyer because they do great in containers. We keep it out front for now, but it can come live inside our house during the colder winter months. I'm so excited to bring him in!

Dwarf Meyer trees start producing fruit very young so I was thrilled to see a baby lemon already growing on my tree. The branches are filled with tiny lemons that are going to be big lemons by the end of the summer. I can already taste the lemonade...

My thumb wants to be green, it really does, but it is pretty black. I kill most plants because I over-water and under-fertilize. I am really nervous about caring for this little tree. I'm praying it makes it for the long haul and that our mild climate makes up for my killer touch.

I'll keep you posted!