Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

   We had a fun, family and friend-filled filled Christmas. I am so very happy that we now live closer in to town--it makes for lots of drop-in friends and random visitors--and I LOVE IT. As a young girl I always imagined my house one day being filled always with friends and neighbors, as a welcoming place for anyone who wanted to stop by! So that is a dream come true for me, and I am so thankful. 

My pretty mantle:

Sweet baby eating some Christmas treats: 

He melts my heart:

T.Mark and Gran in the teepee she and Pop lovingly made for him: 

My boys on Christmas morning:

Alligator wrestling, naturally:

Amos and Grandaddy:

Amos and his cousin Olivia. I couldn't survive without her! 

Sisters:

That belly! 

Baby cousin Sterling rockin out:


It takes a village:

Our friends Jimmy and James stopped by to see if T.Mark wanted to play! So off they went:

And, one of the best things about this Christmas--my best friend is home for a WHOLE WEEK! 

And here is a picture that somewhat sums up my Christmas this year. Jesus and the Christmas story. And a tiny little monster truck. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hope for the Hurting

   It happened. Despite my best intentions, it still happened. I bought almost all my gifts early (thank you, online shopping). I made lists. I was intentional about doing seasonal and spiritual activities with my kids. I vowed to not stress about little things like my house being in perfect condition for guests. A little grace goes a long way, towards both others and myself. 

 And yet here I am, on Christmas Eve, and things have certainly been less than perfect. The day has been more stressful than not, and I am guilty of having a slightly shorter fuse with those I Iove in the last couple of days. I often wonder why an occasion like this lends itself to that. Something as joyous at its core and magical in appearance as Christmastime so often is accompanied by stress and heartache. And I know it's not just me! But I think I finally figured it out. For those who did years ago, y'all just nod and smile and bear with me. I am a little slow. 
  
     The reason it is like this is because of the tension we feel, deep down in the depths of our being, between What Is, and What Should Be. 

    I was reminded tonight that that is why Jesus came. To reconcile us to himself. To make it possible for a dirty, messy, unclean people to stand before him white as snow. I don't know about you, but I need that. My life is not perfect. It is a mess of tangled threads that I have confidence will one day be woven into something beautiful, at the Last Day. 

So, Merry Christmas--joyously. And with anticipation and longing for what is to come. 

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee

Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Joy to those who long to see thee
Day-spring from on high appear
Come thou promised Rod of Jesse
Of Thy birth we long to hear

O'er the hills the angels singing
News glad tidings of a birth
Go to him your praises bringing
Christ the Lord has come to earth

Come to earth to taste our sadness
He whose glories knew no end
By his life he brings us gladness
Our Redeemer Shepherd Friend

Leaving riches without number
Born within a cattle stall
This the everlasting wonder
Christ was born Lord of all

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring

By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kentwood Christmas

This past Sunday we drove down to Kentwood, Louisiana, for some Christmas fun with Taylor's grandparents.  The tradition there is always gumbo, playing outside on their big spread of land (complete with a barn and donkeys), and opening presents. 

Caroline, me and Amos. Caroline and Travis found out last week that they are having a boy! I am looking forward to my boys having a fun boy cousin to grow up with! 

Amos wanted to be snuggled a lot that day due to all the noise and excitement. I happily obliged: 

T.Mark and the donkeys, Nubbin and Minnie:

T.Mark and his uncle Travis. We didn't have turkey, but is there tryptophan in gumbo? Because everyone looked kinda like this after the meal:

Granny and PawPaw with their great-grands, Amos, T.Mark, Trace, and Laiken:

The whole crew:


And home that night. T.Mark got to wear one of mama's t-shirts after his bath. He was so funny. 

I can't believe it is Christmas Eve. I hope you can savor these last couple days of this precious season, and I hope I can too! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas, Darling

   Christmas music is some of my very favorite. I start sneaking it in shortly after Halloween. Just in snippets. I start with Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You. That one pervades the season. Great for warming up the vocal chords. Then comes Elvis. Various and sundry hand picked songs particularly meaningful to me creep in next. So as not to attract too much dispute. We're close to Thanksgiving by this point. After then, it's a free for all. I listen to little else but Christmas music then, til the end of the year. All kinds. Classical. Country. Pop. R&B.

One of my favorite things about Carols by Candlelight, our church's Christmas program, is that it gives me a free pass to start listening to Christmas music in my car in August. No one can object! It's wonderful.

I've noticed this year that there are many Christmas songs out there with a tinge of sadness intertwined in their notes. Merry Christmas, Darling by the Carpenters. Blue Christmas by Elvis. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas--the original one, by Judy Garland. (Goodness that girl could sing, and make you truly feel something.) I guess it is only fitting, in this world anyway, that a season so full of joy and happiness has at its root a necessary sadness too. Sadness at unfulfilled dreams, lost loved ones, or other broken parts of this life. I am thankful to know that this world is not all there is. I'm thankful for the hope Christmas brings, and as this season ends, and buds into spring, and Easter, I am thankful for the cross and the hope it gives for the future.  To quote Tolkien, I know that in the end, "everything sad will come untrue". And I anxiously await.

But, for now, it's still Christmas. If you need me, I'll be in my car, blaring the speakers to Mariah Carey Christmas. 

I tried to upload our Christmas card but had trouble. So here is a picture of a picture. Merry Christmas yall!! 





Sunday, December 7, 2014

Be Safe

  "Be safe."  Words uttered from my mouth fairly often.  Especially when someone I love is traveling.  Or going to a foreign country in particular.  My particular anxieties on this topic have been with me since childhood.  When I was a young girl and my parents would leave the house to go to dinner I would anxiously shout to them as they left, "Be safe!! Wear your seatbelt!!" I think even as I child I was painfully aware of the dangers in the world.

    But I have been convicted this week with this--am I holding those I love most in an open palm?  Will I have a willing heart, for example, if the Lord calls one of my babies, as a young man, to the foreign mission field?  Would I send him off with joy as the primary emotion in my heart for his answering the Lord's call, rather than fear or worry for his safety?  Those are hard questions, ones to wrestle with.  Obviously I know what the right answer is, and where my heart should be on it.  I know that if I have a heart level understanding that as Christians our citizenship is not in this world, my stance is clear.  But I must pray that when the rubber meets the road I would have that joyful heart.  God did not give his children a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power and boldness.  That is truly exciting when you remember that and learn to tap into it through relationship with Jesus.

   This weekend is world missions week at our church.  I got to hear from several different missionaries this morning who have left much behind and made many personal sacrifices to take the gospel to people groups around the world.  As a child I never liked this particular week at church, for various reasons--but now it is one of my very favorites.  It is so eye opening to hear their stories.  It gets me outside of myself and my little bubble of existence.  It helps me to examine and affirm if I am doing what I'm called to do.  A scary question when one has invested many years and lots of money into an education for a specific vocation!  But the prayerful examining is important.  Reminds me of Socrates' famous quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

   It is probably not a coincidence that I am currently reading "Follow Me", a book by David Platt, who is our denomination's current International Mission Board president.  I don't necessarily agree with everything theologically in the book, but overall, I think the heart of the book (so far--I'm about halfway through) is spot on.  He talks about being compelled to share Jesus out of an overflow of our joy in relationship with him, rather than simply because we (if you are a Christian) are commanded to.

   And here, just for fun--is a little video of my sweet T.Mark reciting some scripture he learned recently. I will do a blog post about that soon.  He is only two--and yet his little mind and heart are so ripe and receptive to it.  I have seen lately how the Lord so obviously primes and prepares little hearts to be open and interested in Him.  In the last few days (as part of an advent book I'm going through with him) it has really been evident.  I've been blown away honestly by how inquisitive he is about it and how much he wants to learn.

 
In the Beginning from Carter | Sledge Family Dentistry on Vimeo.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

 I love thanksgiving. Especially when all my cousins come to town. Here was our small, quiet, intimate family gathering: 


 Ha! I think we were quite the opposite of all those adjectives I just listed. We are a loud, boisterous, motley crew! But hey it wouldn't be family without the oddballs and crazies, right? 

Or maybe that's just my family. 

A tradition was started in 1981 (three years before I was even around) in my family called "Roll Call", where we all line up according to age and everyone is videoed stating their name, age, and something about themselves. We do it only every few years, usually when as many people as possible are there. It has been a while, and all the cousins were present, so I took it upon myself to be a little bit of a nazi and make sure it happened this year. I think everyone was glad! I hope so anyway. I have been trying to upload the video here but have had some trouble. Hopefully I will figure it out and add it soon. 

Me and my sweet babies.


T.Mark and his cousin Sterling:

My little fam:

Kyle, Angie, and Amos chatting: 

Sweet potatoes....yum:

Okay so maybe that is mostly sugar and marshmallows, but there is a sweet potato or two somewhere in there, I promise. I should have taken a picture of my contribution to the meal this year--a deep dish chocolate chip Nutella cookie pie. Oh yes. You read that right. It. Was. Delicious. If I do say so myself. It was basically a ginormous cookie made out of homemade dough on top of another ginormous cookie, baked together with a thick layer of Nutella in between.

  My Christmas decorations are slowly but surely going up, most important of which is the tree:

It is so sweet to see T.Mark get so excited about the lights and the tree. He's at such a fun age. 

I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

T.Mark--An Update

 "Thank you for crackers, mama."
 "Thank you for my kiss, mama."
 "Thank you for my sprite, mama." 
 "Thank you for my medicine."

All out of the mouth of my sweet, sick little boy yesterday morning. Unsolicited. You will not meet a sweeter two year old. He has his moments, but 99 percent of the time he is the sweetest child in the world. Not that I'm biased or anything. 

He had a short bout with the flu (our second this season!!) but he is back to bouncing off the walls today. 





Here is a little update on my big baby boy:

 T.Mark, you are two and half! You are a precious, funny boy. You love trucks of all kinds, M&Ms, four-wheelers, your grandparents, and your teacher Mrs. Julie. You are a very verbal child and you love to please. My favorite moments are when you say things like "Come sit and talk to me mama" or "Will you come play with me mama?" in that sweet little voice. You are working on potty training, slowly but surely. This week you have just started telling us when you need to go, rather than us asking you whether you need to. Hopefully we will move from pull-ups to big-boy underwear soon! You love to make "tall tall towers" with your blocks, and your little imagination is developing greatly. You like to get in your tractor or your cozy coupe and "go to the store" to "get some tomatoes."  You are an adventurous and healthy eater--you will try just about anything. For example you love to snack on sliced raw bell peppers and carrots. It makes me so proud when your teachers ask how I get you to eat so healthfully! However you love some chocolate as much as the next guy! 

   You have memorized many scripture verses, which also makes me very proud. You know your letters and numbers. You love to hug and kiss your family and friends. Your memory is pretty impeccable-much better than mine! You do not forget new friends you make-you almost always remember names, faces, and places. 

   I am so very thankful to God for you, my beautiful firstborn boy. I pray daily that  the Lord will shape your little heart to be like His. 

     Mama 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tiredness

 Y'all. (All three of you who read this little blog). I am falling apart. I wake up every morning with my jaw sore from grinding my teeth. I haven't slept through the night in three months. Caffeine=my means to survival right now. 

I can honestly say that the selfish mommy moments I remember when T.Mark was an infant--the "maybe I'll get to drink a cup of coffee today without simultaneously holding a tiny crying person", or "maybe I'll get to pee alone today" moments, are relatively nonexistent this time around. I have the perspective to know that in basically two seconds my tiny baby will be a big boy who knows all his colors and is wearing pull-ups. And then he'll be 16. And then he'll go to college. And then he will get married to some VERY lucky girl and will hopefully give me a million grandchildren. 

However. The tiredness is real, y'all.  And I feel so inadequate. Because my tiredness makes me think of others who must be more so than I. So I think--ok, I need to take a meal to that friend who is going through the tough time. Or--I need to take that sweet new baby a gift. Or--I need to load up my babies and go visit that elderly person. I am tired of being the person on the receiving end of the thoughtfulness and care, if that kind of crazy makes any sense to you. I want to be the person giving the care and being thoughtful. But most of the time right now, it doesn't happen. I do try to send encouraging texts each day to friends or family who may need them, but beyond that I basically collapse into bed each night triple exhausted and hoping against hope I will get a three hour stretch of sleep that night.

I feel like at this point I should put the disclaimer: #firstworldproblems. That's constantly the thought in my head when I consider that I have the health and the lives of my precious children and my family intact, that I have a home and a community and friends and a good job, not to mention a Savior who loves and forgives me my many inadequacies. 

But--whatever "hard" you are in can still seem pretty hard when you're in it, if that makes any sense.

Update to this post***I wrote the above last night as I was drifting off to sleep around 10:45 (probably not a good idea to blog then, but that is when my thoughts seem to run most freely and I have to put a pen to them then before they clam back up). And sweet Amos slept until 2:40! He had gone to sleep after a fussy evening at around 9:30...so that is FIVE hours! I couldn't believe it.  So I am thankful for that this morning. 

This post leads to another one that I will write soon about creating some margin in life. Writing it out helps me to work through it. I have begun to learn, finally, in the months since Amos was born, that if I am going to be effective in the various roles I have been given in my life, I've got to (at least in this season) give myself a little bit of space to breathe, and stop jam-packing every second with a bullheaded full speed ahead. I have never been very good at that. So I'm working on it. I'll let you know how it goes.




Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Little Update

  So a couple days ago a large portion of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, or the "Ag Museum" burned down. I was in tears. I have many treasured memories there. Most recently, I took T.Mark on his first school field trip there. We went on a hayride, visited a pumpkin patch, and explored the barn full of animals. My favorite of which, I must say, is the peacock. Always has been. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, and all the animals escaped unharmed. This also calmed sweet T.Mark's little heart. He was particularly concerned about the pigs! 

  I so hope that the ag museum buildings can be rebuilt and that this wonderful Mississippi resource will continue to be used well into the future. 
  
   I want to do a couple of posts on what my sweet boys are up to at their particular stage in life. This one will be for Amos. T.Mark will be next! 

    Amos, you will be three months old this week! I can't believe it. I have been back at work for a week and a half and I have been missing those sweet smiles so very much. You are not stingy with them! You are such a happy, easygoing baby. You love to lay on my thighs facing me after you've nursed and have a little chat with mama! You "talk" up a storm--cooing and smiling and laughing. You have been enjoying being with Gran while I am at work. You take 6 oz bottles of milk while I am away, which everyone says is a lot for a breastfed baby. Hungry boy! You are wearing 6 month clothing already. You still wake every 2-3 hours in the night to eat, but I don't mind. You drift right back off to sleep when your tummy is full. You have now "graduated" to size 2 diapers.

  You stayed in the nursery for the first time on a Wednesday night (you've been several Sundays already) last week. When I came down to get you, you were asleep in one of the swings. I gently woke you up, so I could change your diaper before we headed home. When your eyes finally focused well and you realized it was me, you smiled so big and for so long that I thought your little face might break. It absolutely melted me. 

You are still sleeping right next to me but have moved from the bassinet to a pack n play, because you are so big! You are trying to roll over but haven't made it quite yet. You've discovered your little hands and your fingers. What wonderful built-in toys! 

   Your favorite things are: watching your brother play or eat, and, well...me. Ha! 

   Mama and Daddy love you so much Amos, and can't wait to continue watching you grow! 

   

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why Happiness Shouldn't Matter

   "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11-13.

    I want to learn that secret too. I haven't yet. 

    These verses are such a 180 degree shift in philosophy from what our culture preaches. What we hear pretty much 24/7 is that happiness is the ultimate goal. "Do what makes you happy." Now I am not saying that happiness is a bad thing. It's a great thing. I hope that you and I both have lots of it throughout life. But if we are seeking it as the ultimate goal, we will be disappointed often, and life will become one big pointless chase after things that do not have eternal value. The world can be a very sad place. Joy vs. happiness is an important distinction to learn.

   There was an mid 90s Steven Curtis Chapman song called "Rubber Meets the Road" that I loved. It spoke to truly living the Christian life and not just simply talking the talk. It is applicable in this same discussion. Sometimes for the rubber to meet the road, sacrifices have to be made. A new set of "perspectacles" must be put on. At times, this is very, very hard.

  Sometimes Scripture comes alive as we go through life in ways that it might not have before. Because I was raised up hearing the words in Philippians 4 often, and also because I come from an upper middle class American background, where I wanted for nothing and had every need met before I even knew it was a need--I don't know that I truly know, in the deepest sense of the word, what these words mean. Paul wrote them while in prison. I have experienced nothing even CLOSE to what he had at the time of his writings. But, what I do know is that while my life is quite different from Paul's, I can apply the Lord's words through him to my own life in different ways.

 T.Mark has a habit of asking for more of something before he is through with what he already has. He will be halfway through eating a cookie, and ask for more. He will get upset when I give him a little baggie of Cheerios because as he says (in a whining voice), he wants "LOT of 'em!". I have to remind him over and over that he has plenty right in front of him, and that if he finishes them all and needs more, I will be happy to give him some. Or, in some scenarios, if I know for whatever reason (we are having supper soon, etc) that it is best for him not to have any more, then I will tell him he has enough. 

  And whoo-wee the tantrum that will occasionally ensue. Thankfully we are halfway through the twos and just now hitting the terrible--which isn't really all that bad--but those tantrums are no fun when they come around. A sweet friend with a little boy the same age as T.Mark texted me the following, verbatim, a few days ago: "The. Patience. It. Takes. To. Deal. With. A. Toddler. All. Day." 

   I laughed, because I totally got where she is coming from. But my next thought was, I wonder if the Lord ever thinks to himself, "The. Patience. It. Takes. To. Deal. With. Catherine. All. Day." 

   Contentment is going to be the word of the week around here. It will not necessarily be easy, but I am going to pray for and seek it wholeheartedly. 

   

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Whistle While You Work

So my day was made when I saw this guy in my side yard yesterday:

It's a gardenia. There are several of these bushes that I had not noticed, or rather had noticed but had no idea what kind of plant they were. I am an appreciator of nature but I'm afraid not very studied in it.  

  But gardenias may be my very favorite. They are beautiful, similar to a rose, but have the most intoxicating, beautiful scent. Possibly my second favorite smell in the world, if I have to give it a ranking. (I am big on smells, if you can't tell.) 

   I went back to work yesterday. It was a half day. Today because of a doctor's appointment and some scheduling issues I ended up not scheduling patients. I will work part time the rest of the week and then resume a normal schedule next week. 

    I am so thankful for a profession that I love. I am even more thankful for a positive work environment, a great partner, and family support. And also for the afternoons I have off. But my goodness it is hard to leave my babies!! It almost killed me yesterday when I talked to T.Mark on the way to work (he wakes up after I leave, which also just about kills me) and he said "Will you please come back to the yellow house, Mama?" (He calls our new house "the yellow house.") 

  I will say this-already it has made me more efficient and productive than I have ever been. There is no time to waste time if people in my house are going to have clean clothes to wear and food to eat! I have also already been more intentional with my time with T.Mark as I have been preparing for going back to work. We've been playing outside more, talking more about the scriptures he is learning, and reinforcing what he learned at school each day. Being intentional with Amos isn't as much of an issue because he is just my little sidekick at this stage! It has begun the start of a transition though as I go back to pumping at work so he can take bottles while I am away from him. 

   I guess the saying goes that the only thing that doesn't change is change, right? Or something like that. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Progression of Bumps

I was blessed with the gift of going through this pregnancy with my sweet friend Brittnye. We went through our first pregnancies together too, but we were about a month apart. This time around it was less than a week apart! So every so often and then every week towards the end, we'd take a picture together. This weekend the babies finally got to meet! So I thought I'd do a post putting all these pics together. I know I will love looking back at it one day. 


















Poor Amos was asleep in this picture, but miss Rayley is quite alert. We will have to take another one soon, and get the whole crew of sweet nursing mamas in it. Several girls at church just had babies and a couple more are coming soon, so we are looking forward to the party in the "mommy and me" room each Sunday morning! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Trick or Treat

 We had the opportunity to attend several Halloween functions over the last week or so. The church's fall festival kicked off the week last Sunday: 
 


Next was T.Mark's little school parade and party midweek:

And then last night was trick or treating and our neighborhood's Boo Bash:

T.Mark had a great time as a fireman! Amos did not really dress up but he very much enjoyed being strapped to mama in the carrier and walking around the neighborhood. 

Hope you had a happy Halloween!