Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why I'm really not all that awesome.

One Saturday afternoon last summer, a friend and I were reflecting on a well-concluded year in the ministry of MOPS.  I was on a high.  I had led ten young moms through discussion, playdates, nights outs, friendships for an entire year, and results were there.  I had perfect attendance for most of the weeks of the second semester.  Great relationships had been built.  We had completed a parenting book together outside of our meetings.  I was the go-to person many of these mamas went to when they had questions.  Three of them were joining the leadership team the following year.  I would be lying if I didn't say I was patting myself on the back quite nicely.  I had been pretty awesome that year.

During that Saturday afternoon, I asked my friend:  "If the Lord has given me such talents [the gift of being plain ol' awesome], where does God fit in after the gift has already been given?  After all, it was I who led these women.  It was I the one brought them together and encouraged them and helped them thrive."  I was basically saying -- how lucky of the Lord to have me.

The question was left in the air.  My friend may have said something wise or true.  Something to correct me, maybe.  But I was too wrapped up in my own self-centerness and awesomeness to pay any attention.

This moment was the beginning of a (so far) year-long story, during which the Lord began to tear me down.  

"If you think I [the Lord] am a small god that you can keep at safe distance, I will pounce upon you like a roaring lion, tear you to pieces, rip you to shreds, and break every bone in your body.  Then I will mend you, cradle you in my arms, and kiss you tenderly" -- Brennan Manning.

And such is my story.

Depression.

Tears.

Attacks by man.

Doubting.

And a whole lot of man-fearing.  

Irony would have it that my following year serving as a table leader in MOPS was not as awesome as my previous year.  So I began panicking and asking myself:  "What am I doing wrong, what do I need to improve, who can I blame for this?"  I'm ashamed to admit that this line of thinking lasted for the majority of the year, before the Lord in his kindness spoke to my heart:  "It's not you, it's never been you doing any of this."  Then Deuteronomy 8:17,18 comes knocking on my door:  

"You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.'  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today."

Aaaahhhh...  "it is he who gives you the ability..."

You mean to say, Lord, that everything good that I do does not come from within me, but from within you?

I've known this truth in my mind for years...  

But could it be that I now understand it in my heart as well?

Could it be that my self-centerness and arrogance and pride are the very things the Lord continues to allow me to struggle with, so that I would be reminded of my inability to meet God's standard of perfection, and thus falling on my knees time and time again, asking the Lord to forgive me and to hurry back?

Could it be that the Lord does not accomplish his work because of me, but in spite of me?

Could it be that I'm really not all that awesome?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eight years married

WOW!  Married for eight years.

I like to joke about how I am on my "third husband" and Byron is on his "fifth wife."  It's amazing how much we have grown and changed over the course of these last eight years.  I look back to that 22-year old girl on June 16, 2007 and cannot believe we're the same person.  

And that 28-year old young man.  That young man who showed up late to our "Welcome Party" two nights before our wedding because he was busy taking care of our guests.  As I cried in the hallway of my mother's house that evening, one of his aunts pulled me aside and looked at me with stern eyes and said:  "you are marrying a servant."

So over the course of these past eight years, it's been my privilege to see that side of my husband grow and mature.  

And so I wonder, how many more "husbands" will I have during the next eight years?


***

How did we celebrate eight years together?

With a full week with every single evening with a commitment, we decided "eat out" at home.

We got Carabba's take-out and ate it on our wedding china.  And some special cake slices from a local restaurant for dessert.


Asleep on the couch

Trying to sell our house while still living in it has not been as hard on us as I thought it might be.  With an average of one showing per week, it's certainly something I can pull off without driving myself nuts.  

I was informed last Monday at around 9:30 am if our house could be shown at 1:30 pm that afternoon.  At the time, I was keeping a friend's daughter, plus had a friend come with her two boys to hang out.  It was a beautiful and fun morning, but as soon as everyone left, the house needed some serious caring for.

I placed the kids in front of their "drug" (the TV) and put the movie Cars on (their favorite movie).

At around 12:15 pm, this is what I find --


Fell asleep while watching his favorite movie, eating his favorite snack (goldfish) and drinking his favorite drink (milk).  This boy also rarely sleeps in any other place other than his crib.

Needless to say, naps for that day were shot.  And I was quite the tired mama by the time evening rolled around.

So is life while selling a house... crazy!

Family yard work

We had a family outdoor workday last Saturday.


Our neighbor's dawgs paid us a visit.


The hot and worn out trio.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

To the aquarium with Tia Alison



While in Mexico last month, Emma learned to love sharks from reading countless of Aunt Alison's old books (Alison loved sharks when she was a little girl herself).  Aunt Alison and Emma developed a sweet friendship while in Mexico by bonding over shark books.

Emma picked up a lot during that time.  Alison was impressed by her memory, and how well not only she could remember all the different names of the sharks, but by how she could identify them elsewhere (seeing a different picture in a different book, she could still tell you the kind of shark that it was).

This led to Alison wanting to take her to the Atlanta Aquarium when we got back.  So last Thursday Alison drove into Augusta, spent the night with us, then early Friday morning (7:30 am), the shark-loving duo were on their way to the aquarium.

They had a great time, and got to see some whale sharks, among many, many other things.  Emma says that her favorite part was seeing the penguins.  They also saw the dolphin show.  

Emma was so sad when she learned that Tia Alison would not be returning with her home that afternoon (I picked her up half-way), and cried a good bit on the way back home about this.

The best of friends

These two are such a gift to each other.  Little Byron especially misses his sister when for whatever reason she is not around.  He pretty much imitates her and follows her around.

They like to read side by side --


And fix the "baby's" crib --


And play Princess Anna and Princess Elsa (I tried convincing Emma that Byron would do a better Prince Haans, but that didn't last too long.  "Princess Elsa, SPEAK!" were Emma's helpless words as she tried to do some pretend playing with her little brother).




Little Byron

Little Byron is all boy.  He loves balls, and trucks, and cars, and planes, and helicopters, and Lighting McQueen.  And he loves sharks, and dinosaurs, and birds, and monkeys, and bears, and dogs.

He is also a rough boy.  Tackling, hitting, wrestling, falling, bumping his head, and picking his nose.

But my little boy is also very much a "daddy""--


(^) Feeding one of Emma's bears some breakfast this morning (^)

He loves "babies," so much so that he enjoys playing with Emma's doll.  He also likes to "cook" in Emma's kitchen.  He is EXTREEEEMELYYYY polite, saying "please" and "thank you" over just about anything.  He is quick to say sorry after he's been in time out ("pat pat" he says).  He says "scuse me" when he needs to get by you.  He loves to kiss and be kissed.  Loves to point out everybody's tuch (belly button).  He is very emotional, and gets his feelings hurt easily.  He loves to read and be read to.  He feels absolutely lost without his big sister.

Thankful for this boy.  I pray he would always love and enjoy the Lord whole-heartedly.  A man who is all man, yet all nurture and kindness.  I wonder how this little (almost) two year-old personality will look like in 20 years.   

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mommy-Daughter trip to Mexico

Mommy and Emma took a one-week trip to Mexico this month.  It was such an enjoyable time with my little girl.  She was such a trooper, with late nights and no naps.  She played well with her Oma, tagged along Mommy while I visited with friends and family.  All in all, a sweet trip.

At Atlanta airport, ready to leave.

 I packed her bookbag with coloring books, work books and notebooks.  She enjoyed herself so much doing that.  But don't be too impressed.  She watched her fair share of movies on the iPad as well.

Oma greeted us at the Cancun airport with yummy watermelon.



It was mango season, which means Emma got to enjoy mangos for literally breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Emma enjoyed picking fruit with Oma most mornings. 


The heat was brutal.  High 90's every day.  My fair skinned girl got blushed so so easily.


Picking mameys with Oma.


Family pic.  Three generations of women.


Emma and her basket full of mameys. 


Mooooore mangos!


Pool time with Oma.


Playing Candy Land.  She is quite good at it.


Post Candy Land selfie.


Playing with play doh.


One morning I took Emma to the mall with me.  We rode the indoor train and had a sweet, great time together.



And of course, I had to get my weekly Costco fix :)


Got to see some family.  With my cousin Sihan.


And with about half of my cousins (some with their special somebodies).


This is the fish tank that wooed Emma into becoming the fish-loving girl she is.



Our last day in Mexico, waiting for our bus to drive us to Cancun to catch our plane.  Emma and Oma wasted no time and read lots and lots of books during the wait.


Getting our home ready for sale

Daddy did some landscaping in our front lawn to help get our home ready for sale.  Home has been on the market for three weeks.  Shown five time already.  No offers yet.

Kids were happy to be outdoors "helping" daddy.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why I don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo

It seems like for the last couple of years on May 5th I've posted some snarky remark on Facebook "educating" the American community about Cinco de Mayo.  I really don't know why I feel so compelled to do so, other than the fact that I am plain ol' embarrassed by the whole affair.

You see, us Mexicans love to party.  Just last week (April 30th) all schools across the country suspended regular activities in order to party.  What was the great occasion, you may ask?  Children's Day.  That's right, Children's Day!  The fact that I have to look up on Wikipedia what Cinco de Mayo celebrates should in itself drive my point home -- it's not that big of a deal.

Yes, yes, some parts of Mexico do make a big deal over it.  Yes, yes, some cities even have a big parade and dress-up and what-not.  Yes, yes, we did win a battle, against the French, over something I'm not entirely sure about.  And I'm thankful for those who sacrificed their lives for it.

But it is not a holiday equally celebrated throughout the country.  In my 18 years of life growing up in Mexico, I never once remember celebrating it, commemorating it, or missing school because of it. 

But here is a list of some of the holidays I do remember celebrating, commemorating, and/or missing school because of:

- Constitution Day (February 5th)
- Flag Day (February 24th)
-  Carnival (February-ish)
- Benito Juarez's birthday (March 16th)
- Labor day (May 1st)
- Independance Day (September 16th)
-  Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd)
- Revolution Day (November 20th)
-  Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12th)

But don't get me wrong.  I think Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a Hispanic Heritage Day, which is very much OK.  I just wish it was called that instead of Cinco de Mayo.  I believe that over the years Cinco de Mayo has become more of an American holiday, rather than a Mexican holiday. 

But I feel like I owe the gringo community a social service here by educating them -- Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day, so don't congratulate a Mexican because of it (or worse yet, a non-Mexican Latin American).  If you still feel like enjoying the day with an extra large margarita, then by all means.  Thanks for giving the Mexican restaurants in town some business. 

Needless to say -- !VIVA MEXICO!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fishing with daddy

For months Emma had been begging daddy to take her fishing.  Daddy kept saying that when "it gets warm" they could go.  Her long awaited wish came true yesterday when Byron took her to the river to fish.  They didn't catch anything, but Emma had a blast, and in Byron's words, "she was such a chatterbox the entire time."


Ready to be potty trained?

Providence would have it so that our second-born is also ready to be potty trained before the parents are ready for it.  At 20 months he is very aware of when he goes to the bathroom, BEGS to be changed often, and then the other day this is what I found --

"Maaaammmiiiii, Maaaammmmiiiiiii.  Pee pee.  Maaaammmiiii, Mammmmmiiii.  Pee pee." 


He climbed on the toilet and was pretending to go to the potty like his big sister :)

Cousin time

Cousin Ames came over to play last week, and all three children had a great time.  Little Byron made sure to imitate everything the "big children" did.


I was impressed by how well the three of them entertained themselves.  Before I knew it, the big kids stripped down to their undies and Emma pretended to be the mama.  She did a great job reading to them :)



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why we did not rent for Masters this year.

If you know nothing about the Masters tournament, allow me to give you a brief (and informal) introduction to it -- 

The Masters tournament is considered one of the most prestigious golf tournaments around the world.  I heard on TV last week that the Masters green jacket awarded to the winner is considered one of the most coveted clothing items in the world of sports.  It takes place every year in Augusta, GA at the golf course located only half a mile from our home.  Needless to say, things get *a bit* crazy around here this time of year.  

And just to give you an idea of the kind of money that flows around here.  Our middle class home (3 bedroom/1.5 bathroom) has been rented out every year to "the patrons" for an average of $3,000 for ONE week.

Our home is one of the lowest paying homes.  Depending on the size and location of the house, many Augusta residents rent out their homes for tens of thousands of dollars for the week (!!!!!).

But this year we did not rent our home.  After four years in a row of renting out our house, we decided to take the year off.

WHY?

Did we not need the money?  Actually, yes, we did need the money.  We are a one-income family, and the husband changed jobs six months ago, taking a pay cut while at it.  Top that with the fact that we just purchased a new and larger home.

Could we use an extra $3,000?  You betcha! 

So why didn't we?

Well, the easiest answer to this is that we are about to move homes (remember I said we just bought a new house?), and leading up to Masters week, there was a chance that I would have to be in Mexico during that week (which did not end up happening, btw, but still...).

But there is more to the story.  You see, a funny thing happens inside of me every year at around Masters week -- I become very greedy.  I begin to compare myself and how much my house is rented for compared to others.  I become angry and resentful towards people who get more money for their house.  People who rent out for less days, or have a "lesser home" than mine, yet get "a better deal."

Do you see where this is going?

These are not fun emotions to deal with, especially as I realize that I've been given all that I am in need of... 

YET...

I'm incredibly ungrateful for it.

I want more, yet this "more" I'm after is not enough.

This hit home last week in a very unique way as I was reading through the account of the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5.

The gist of the account is this -- Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram (a foreign country), had leprosy.  His wife's slave girl, an Israelite, told her master's wife about the prophet Elisha in Israel who could cure him.  Naaman asks the king for permission to leave for Israel to be cured, and the king allows it.  Naaman takes with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (v. 5).  He plans on paying Elisha for his services with this.  In verse 16, after he is cured from his leprosy, we see Elisha refusing this payment.

Why did he refuse the payment?  I'm not sure.  Maybe because Naaman was an enemy of Israel.  But I'm really not sure.

What we do know is that Elisha's servant Gehazi did not think refusing the payment was the best thing to do.  So he hurried after Naaman and asked for a talent of silver and two sets of clothing, a small fraction of what Naaman was offering to pay (v. 22).  Gehazi gets the money and the clothes, but is later cursed by Elisha with Naaman's leprosy instead. 

My guess is that the talent of silver and the two sets of clothing were worth a lot in those times (just like my Masters money... do you see where this is going?)...

BUT...

He did not need the money.

And I don't need the money either.

The talent of silver and the two sets of clothing would have been a nice boost, but they did not need it.

The extra $3,000 would have been a nice boost for us as well, but we did not need it.

Remember in 1 Kings 17:2-6, how the Lord supplied Elijah with water from the brook and food through the ravens?  Elisha was Elijah's apprentice, and Gehazi was Elisha's servant.  Chances are that Gehazi had heard of Elijah's miraculous provision, and had probably continued to see this provision first hand himself throughout his life.

Point being, neither Elisha nor Gehazi needed the boost.  They had been given all that they were in need of.  

And similarly, though the $3,000 would have been a nice financial boost for us this year, we did not need it.  Even in the mist of being a one-income family and the new house, we have enough!  We'd love more, I'm not going to lie, but we have enough!

There is nothing wrong with renting out our house for Masters every year.  We hope to get to do it next year again and for the rest of our lives.  I'd love to get to do extra things with that money in the future.  But not this year.  This year we took the year off.  We tucked away the greed and resentment that inevitably always rises up this time of year, and watched the Lord continue to provide for us. 

I don't want to be like Gheazi, and forget about God's continuing provision.  I know I have all that I'm in need of, and anything extra is just that... extra :)