Monday, September 9, 2013

Ridiculous Mama

I'll just be honest. 

If I...

Put a reminder on my iphone for "Hopscotch,"

Talk about the enchilada tortillas needing bath toys while they soak in chicken broth,

Wear earmuffs indoors because I might have a snow (cotton ball) fight,

Chase a squirrel up a tree,

March around the swing set seven times because it's "Jericho" (don't even get me started about the trumpets),


Get caught doing the country puzzle all by myself...

I'm going to feel very silly. Ridiculous, really. So please, Hunter--have a great first day ever of school tomorrow. But hurry home! You will be missed too many ways to count.


Friday, April 19, 2013

"Can You Still Say God is Good?" A Response to This Week in Our Country

As a kid, I used to sit in his big La-Z-Boy chair. In my grandpa Jack's lap, he and I talked and played. To the outside world, he was "Brother Jack" or the "Pastor," but to me, he was always just Jack. We chatted about everything from ice cream to getting married to television shows. But one question he posed to me all those years ago still circulates back into my mind from time to time:

"Courtney, could God make a rock so big that he couldn't lift it?"

The easy answer is to say "both" and explain the theological rationale of each side. But that's not how I was raised. My dad surely did not coach me on long road trips to "play debate"--urging me to give a rebuttal explaining why we needed a dog in the house--just for me to answer "both."

Of course, my stubborn, debate-fed, strong and first-born will wanted to give a solid answer to Jack. And of course, in my strong will I thought I knew the answer.

"No." Because there's nothing too strong for God to lift.

Years later, my answer changed. Surely I now knew more about God's sovereignty (wink). Jack was still an active grandfather in my life, although he no longer teased me with this question I still pondered.

My answer changed to, "Yes." Because God can do anything He chooses to do. If he chose to make a rock too heavy, He could. This was factual to me, not stating we have an emotionless God who just does what He pleases without love. This was a belief in a loving God who is able to do anything, plan anything. He is God of all, after all.

The shake of America occurring in Boston reminded me again of this question. Because we now hear whispers and shouts of another hard question. Some people ask it out loud; others in their hearts.

"How can you still say God is good? Is He?" 

I want you to know where I sit. Really. I'm not blogging from a tragedy-free life. This post is not from someone who claims to know everything (although I probably used to as a pre-teen!) I'm not writing this as if I never doubted or questioned God. This is from someone who grieves with Martin's parents this morning, whose been praying specifics for his Mama, who is sad for the death now associated with an event containing much spark of life.

It's late April. We're about to embark on a season of tourism. Everything---everything-- becomes an attraction. Families take monumental steps into Graceland, Mickey Mouse's house, and the Home of the World's Largest Peanut all in the name of vacation. I love it. Many vacation markers such as these come with a tour, a place where you can say "this is where this was made or began--right here!" I'm a sucker for where a famous person stood or the origin of something great.

What if we could tour God's heavenly "factory?" Essentially, this is what we mean when we ask if God is good. Our minds wonder if any of these evil outcomes on earth can be traced back to God. Questions pop up--- Was this His plan? Why didn't He stop this? Does He still love? I thought He was good.

It's important that we note that God does not need our PR. He doesn't need me to defend Him because of the attacks or disasters. But we ask and answer the question of God's goodness because we need the answer. Not as a crutch or feel good, flowery words to help us do good deeds. But because our souls need to know. It's the oxygen to our hearts.

We can get tangled up in this one, much like the "rock" question of my childhood. But they both have answers. Fast forward to the present, and I changed my answer to the rock question, yet again. This time, I think, for good. Reverting to childlike faith (distinguishable from childish), I believe that the answer is no.

He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot lift it.

This has everything to do with how we answer our adult question of if God is good.

Because the truth is there are things God simply cannot do.

He CANNOT lie.

God's Word says this as simply as I just stated. This answers that God is good because He "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13: 6).  He is good because when evil tries to end something, it's not the end of God's story. He has the final word. And it's a word wrapped in grace.  To those who believe in Him, there will be a giving back in abundance the years the locusts have eaten (what's been robbed from us).

He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot lift it. Because this is a question of His strength, His character, neither of which can be altered. And the created is never stronger than the Creator.
The question really was never about the size of the rock. It was about the  person behind the rock and if the characteristics of the person could change. We all long to know this. In every story, is He always the strongest? Most loving? Perfect? Not just good, but the best?

Is He still good when tragedy strikes? Yes.

It's just this--- He is good, and this world is not.

If there's anything He can't do, it's that He cannot lie, which means He can't change His character, or be anything less than so much more---than we could ever dream up.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Appetite: Bread and Wine

If you've been around me lately, I've probably brought this up in discussion. I've brought this book, Bread and Wine, to share with friends everywhere from a lunch date with a friend at La Madeline to couple's night out at City Center. It's my sister-in-law's birthday present (surprise, Samantha!). I've also carted it around Texas in my purse anywhere I thought I might have a spare moment to get in a chapter. Because few things simultaneously wet the appetite of the soul and stomach. In a world where everything points to satisfying one's personal appetite---this is a unique sell. Yes, it speaks to the appetite of serving spoon and fork, but it equally spurs the reader on to use more than eating tools--the doorknob of hospitality, the art of words aptly spoken and a table as the centerpiece of meaningful conversation and friendship.

To summarize my experience with this book, I keep returning to the word appetite. The author, Shauna Niequist, points our palates to the most important things in life. If I'm thinking along those lines, I can't help but to think of my life-long friend and mentor, Maci Barnett. She has consistently taught me about life, including what to savor.  Some of my first memories of our friendship surround the theme of physical appetite. Maci is one of those people you learn from, and she probably don't even know it because you learn just by the way she lives. The richest and the most authentic way to teach someone, by the way. When she and her husband were in medical school, she talked about her nutritional guide---a bigger than two-telephone book reference guide--from the Mayo Clinic. She had me so interested in nutrition and exercise that I ended up reading this for enjoyment. Sounds a little insane, but it taught me about what was good to put in my body, and Maci made it sound so exciting. On the flip side, one night Maci hosted a slumber party for some of the girls at my high school. She didn't blink an eye to serve (and eat herself) waffles TOPPED with Blue Bell Cookies 'n Cream ice cream for breakfast. This is just how she rolls, people. I think I even have a picture of this early morning concoction somewhere. To me, this was a novelty. To her, this was just life--you ebb, you flow--you have discipline in the most important areas, and you live a little.

She taught me the musts of life like learning to salsa dance, that the best meal of my life will be at Christopher's World Grill in College Station, and that when you love, love passionately and hard---especially when it's hard and difficult. Even to those who are hard and difficult. Oh, and when you're paying off student loans and you have very little square footage, just pretend you're in Spain, put the folding table up against the wall, and remake the living room into a dance floor. Just for a night. There's no other way to live.

You see, I could be one of those readers who thinks about me and Shauna being friends. And, yes I'll confess I do that. You can't read her chapters and not think of her as you make your grocery list or plan your next dinner party. But as I write this, I'm more convinced that she and Maci would be such kindred spirits. Both love life, food and love the people who are around their tables.

The stories in Bread and Wine are rich with detail and raw emotion we all encounter. Each chapter a different story, a distinct memory. But the best is yet to come. The chapters conclude with a recipe corresponding to the theme of the personal essay. And these aren't your typical recipes. They've been tweaked and loved on by the author herself. Fun flavors and explanations of her tweaking is included. I love it. I still can't believe I haven't seen a book with this essay-recipe match before. Seamless and brilliant.

Shauna's writing has inspired me to cook more, travel more, and worry less. Fling open my door more for imperfect and impromptu dinner parties. Love my friends and neighbors and really anyone--better. And (I didn't think this one possible)---to love my Pottery Barn dining room table even more. I've always loved that table. It's my favorite piece of furniture in the whole casa. When I grew up, my family had a huge wooden table. For years we sat there for breakfast, after school snack and dinner. Anytime our family had an important decision to make, we sat there together and called ourselves the "Knights of the Round Table." This table was huge. The chairs were made of thick, chunky, solid wood. The table alone sat 10 people and the lazy susan was the size of a small table top. But it could have been the smallest table known to man with very little construction to speak of. What mattered was we were together at that table. When Shauna writes about how much she loves the dining room table because of what happens at the dining room table--I get that. I connect with that because it's exactly how I've felt for a very long time. It's where the meat of community happens. Important words. Cheers. Decisions. Tears. Prayer.

In so many ways her text is "so me." And in a lot of ways it's laughably not. I'm laughing to myself because I know how little I've been able to cook since the Littles have been born. And if you know me, you know I don't really drink wine, so the pairings of food and wines aren't my strong suit. But, if we're talking on bread AND wine, I figure my love for carbs compensates completely.

The best part is it has pushed me to be more instead of do more, which is exactly what I think Shauna and God would want to accomplish. However, I will say, if you don't try to make risotto within two weeks of reading this book, you might want to get your pulse checked.

She makes it sound that good.

And one of my close and dearest friends, Erin, actually made it taste that good when she attempted it for the first time the other night at our "Shauna-inspired" dinner party. Risotto Rockstar you are, you are.

Happy cooking, reading and people-lovin' around your table if you take up this one!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sending My Oldest to School

It's just a blog post title--I'm not saying I actually did this yet. :)

Some of you know my passivity on this issue.

People ask -- "Is he in pre-k?"

I usually answer something to the effect of "eventually."

People told me when I had my second that I'd go crazy with the older one at home. They were right. I go crazy somedays. Other people told me I made the right decision because I just couldn't add one more schedule to the mix at that time. New baby and starting school all within one month was too much for my planning, preparation personality. Let's just be real. I'm still in the club that celebrates when we get to take a shower. #babyville

But you know, the other group was right too. Most days I'm happy--thrilled even--with the decision we made to wait on school.

 A couple of weeks ago, while I was rocking down the littlest one, I was in tears the thinking that it will only be a matter of months before H starts a school program. I'm not afraid of this; it's just a sadness with the passage of time. We raise him as much as we've raised him 6 more times, and he's out of the house. I told Josh the other night, "That's all we get."

No sooner had I been a little teary that night rocking P, God spoke clearly. Next year, in pre-school, "He will thrive." Thrive. That's a word I can work with. If it's where he's supposed to be, if it's where he will grow and be his best--- Sign. Me. Up. Don't worry, that's a figure of speech. I'm going to sign him up, and no, I'm not signing myself up to sit next to him.

Today I made the call.

Classes are full, and we are on a waiting list.

You might think I did a happy dance at this news, but I didn't. God told me he would thrive there, and I wanted him there---never mind that I also want a sheep in the Christmas play next year. Badly. God told me to be still, to wait, that He would make a way.

Josh asked if there were other schools that we might want to sign up for just in case. I don't feel like that's the way God is leading yet. And if it's not, J and I certainly don't want to bring Hagar into this situation.

I confess I'm a control person who's trying to turn away from ungodly grips. When they told me there was a waiting list, I gave an undisturbed, "Ok." I gave them my information. I didn't ask what percentage of people from the waiting list get in. I didn't ask how many little tikes were ahead of mine. I didn't make sure they transposed my phone number correctly. I didn't ask when I could hear back. I wanted to---but I didn't.

So, I didn't know it was time to register for school. But I can't beat myself up for that. I'm just going forward with what God has said. When he goes to school next year, he will thrive.

Now, the other option is he can "stay home and be an idiot." My grandmother used to chase me around with this phrase, begging me to stay home every semester break from college.

I did graduate from college, and he will go to school. Eventually. I'm still believing strongly for this fall.

Until then, I'm cherishing my extra time with my always singing, sticker-loving, carrot eating, sock-slinging Goliath-fighter.

Life is good with you, H.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Facebook Frosting

You might not know it by this term, but you've no doubt been exposed.

Facebook frosting are those not intrinsically bad, "yummy" posts.

"Date night last night...followed by 8 hours of sleep...and tomorrow we leave to backpack through Tuscany!"

There's nothing wrong with these posts. But if this is the entirety of what you tell and hear-- that's another story.

About 3 years into marriage, Josh and I revisited our honeymoon spot -- West Palm Beach, Florida. We had a blast crossing off every pizza dive and fun memory we "just had to do again" from our first visit. Of course, when our nostalgia list ran low, we allowed a couple of new places to cross our path. We had our eye on an ice cream parlor for days called Kilwins. The waffle cone smell determined our destiny. The night we decided to try it, the cone baking smell was so intoxicating we somehow thought it a good idea to skip dinner and get a waffle BOWL full of ice cream as our full meal deal. Hmmmm... About 30 minutes later, we raced to a Subway, laughing through the belly aches at our newfound knowledge----"this is why our parents told us not to let dessert ruin our dinner!" Dessert was never supposed to replace our dinner either!

The frosting on our facebook pages are like that--they're fun and interesting. But wouldn't you agree the sustenance comes from the updates of real life? Wrestling over a hard decision. Emotions about your children growing up. Fears. Striving. Wishing you had time to put on something besides sweatpants before your husband gets home from work. That's real life.

Maybe it's a personal preference to leave your facebook audience out of real life details and that's completely fine. But do we have someone or a handful of someones in our life that we share the real life struggles with? Not to find pleasure in someone else's trial--but to find community.

And it's not just for your benefit. Think about your friends' stories that have meant something to you. It's been years, but I still think about Amanda's "I Missed the Party" post. Before I linked her blog, I pulled up the name of the post from memory. When we relate, these stories get engrained into us. It's an encouragement to see fellow believers who know how to celebrate life as well process disappointments. I love getting ideas from others about girls' night activities, projects and family vacations. But a delectable combination occurs when I hear from those same people I admire in the positive matters of life about how they came on the other side of a struggle. These are the things that cement in others' brains. This is the stuff we remember. These are the stories we take to heart and literally become our heart when we find ourselves in a similar situation.

Beware of a life solely made of facebook frosting. Make sure it doesn't transcend into all of your relationships. The real life stories build us up, open us up and bind us together.

Photo credit:]
Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID