Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, Deer

How I have been wanting to use that title that last two days. We received a very large blessing from God and our friends the Wilmores in the shape of a meat-locker freezer. This sweet family is moving to Texas for a job change, and couldn't lug a freezer full of meat through 8 or so states. So, the parsonage has just acquired an upright freezer, circa 30 years old, full of meat. Chicken, ham (even a Smithfield), frozen fruit and veggies, and deer.

The deer....there is a lot of it.

Jerry is a hunter/gatherer type who enjoys the deer-hunting season in this area, as do the majority of men at our church. Paul keeps thinking it will be great fun for someone to take him sometime, but then looks at the fees and licenses you need and thinks "That's a lot of money for some deer jerky." Oh, I would love to see him tramping through a field in spanking new camos with nary a drop of blood on them. It would be quite sweet.

I'm not sure we are the deer hunting type of family. There are some things we like. The jerky, the summer sausage (my personal favorite), and whatever it is that our friend Matt makes after marinating it in Coke all day. Backstrap or something....really good stuff. I'm not quite into the stew meat and the stuff you have to cover in gravy to make it taste slightly less gamey.

But we now have about three shelves filled...I mean that word in its most literal form...filled from the surface of the shelf to the bottom of the shelf above it...with all manner of deer meat. We have a couple of bags of jerky that has not yet been marinated or seasoned or whatever you do with jerky, so if you have any good recipes (and I know that some of you must), you can send them my way.

And if you are interested in an old-fashioned venison cookout/dinner party, I will roll out the welcome mat. Because we have a lot of deer at this house. And when I think deer, I think party.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unbreakable, High Maintenance Me

Sorry I have gotten off the blogger track the last couple of weeks. I don't know if I just didn't know how to follow up a good droppin' a deuce story or if I was totally bogged down between sinus congestion and VBS over the last week, but here we are blogless two weeks later. So, I have a story and two thoughts for you.

As mentioned above, we did Outrigger Island for VBS last week at our church. It was really so much fun. I helped out with the music, which means that Tina, Judy, and I got to learn tons of sign language and hula moves to go with all of the songs. It is the closest we Baptists get to interpretive dance. We had over 100 kids every night, and I really did just think it was way fun. There was a song we did, the tear-jerker if you will, called The Word. It was the slow song meant to bring tears to every parents eyes on Family night. There is a line in the song that says "Unbreakable, unshakable Word of God." Now, Abigail has been practicing the songs with me over the last few weeks, and although her preschool class learned much simpler songs, she kind of took a liking to the "big kid" songs more. And she has been walking around the house the last few days singing, "I'm breakable, I'm shakable. I'm breakable, I'm shakable." I thought it was pretty cute at first that she had mixed up the "un" with an "I'm." Then today it hit me, as I do like to find deep spiritual truths in the ditties my kid sings around the house. I am breakable. I am shakable. The song was pertaining to God's word, but when we reverse that truth, we have an equal truth that by ourselves, we are breakable, shakable, feeble sorts of people. It is only when we realize how shaky our own ground really is that we need to stand on the firm Rock of our God. There are days when I am just flat-out shaky. When I am broken, I am in my best place to trust and lean on God. When we find ourselves admitting "I'm breakable. I'm shakable" then I think God looks at us and says, "Good. Now you can learn that I am not." See? You can learn a lot from a VBS song re-worded into toddler-speak. Guess I need to be a little more like a child in that sense.

Now onto High Maintenance Me. My other lesson that smacked me in the face was when I was looking in the mirror yesterday. I have to put up a couple of scriptures on my mirror, where I tend to spend some of my most self-scrutinizing moments. One of the scriptures is:

I Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

Over the last week, I have really do you say "pffffffftttt", like the sound a balloon makes when it is letting out its air slowly....when it comes to my quiet time with God. I usually try to have my time while Abigail takes her nap in the afternoon. Yes, I can hear the comments of my sweet friends who I have shared my 8 a.m. desires with, to rise with the Lord and slowly sip coffee and meditate on His blessings for my day...hasn't happened yet. So for now, I am sticking with Abigail's nap time in the afternoon. The problem with that last week was that I was really not feeling well and had a head stuffed full of cotton or gak or some other cool toy you can buy at WalMart. And I was facing an evening of putting on my most enthusiastic face for the 100-some kids who were coming to "Wiki Wiki" with me. So in my best efforts to pull through the week, I napped in the afternoons. The problem is, I am no longer at a point where I can nap guilt-free. I always feel like I could be doing at least 10 other very responsible things, and even feeling sick does not seem to be my best excuse. Oh, but don't feel too bad for me as I can see you all getting ready to post your comments about how it is okay to let your body rest when you are sick. Because I had two different times last week of going shopping for a dress for my brother's wedding, which is still two months away. I gathered up my stuffy self, and found dire need for some reason to shop for a dress last week. Oh, and I found one, too, a pretty little dress for 20 bucks on clearance. But I digress...

The point is, as I was getting ready for bed yesterday and looked at the verse on my mirror, I realized that I spent more time in my two shopping trips combined to find that dress than I did in God's word. In making my spirit gentle and quiet. In making myself more beautiful inside. Yes, I do realize that I can scratch last week off my list as an err on the side of grace and move forward. But I do hope that my daily wish, even when I mess up here and there, is to work on the hidden person, the one that God sees more than His concern over me finding that dress. See why I keep that scripture there? Because even when I put it up there, I thought, well, it's still important to care about how you look. And it is. But not at the expense of that time being taken from God. It is more than just how I use my time, though that is usually my issue of the day. It is about caring about my spirit as much as my skin, hair, nails, and special occasion dresses (even at 70% off).

So, I am taking this breakable, shakable me to sit on the couch and spend time with God.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reason #1 Why Paul Needs a Son

I really do promise that not all of my posts will have to do with potty-training, but when you live with a 2 1/2 year-old, well, such is life. And this IS life in the parsonage....potty-mouths and all. I have been developing a really great spiritual blog in my head, though, so no sweat, my pet (to quote the great Steve Irkel)....I'll get back to God-talk soon enough.

Just before I got into the shower, I was using the facilities. We pretty-well have an open-door policy on the bathroom, since it gives Abigail an open view of "Everybody Poops" (remember that bestseller?). She does understand what "I need some privacy" means, and often uses it herself on us, usually when she wants us to close the door so she can splash water all over the sink or empty out a shampoo bottle in the bathtub while fully clothed. Note to self: No toddler needs privacy.

Here was our conversation while she watched me go potty:
Abigail: Are you going poopoo?
Me: Yes.
Abigail: Are you DROPPING A DEUCE?

Wow, Paul, thanks so much for teaching her that. That is exactly why our next child needs to be a boy. Don't get me wrong, I am perfectly happy in the world of Disney princesses, sequins, pink ruffles, and pigtails that make your stomach do flips they are so cute. I could happily live in a world of girls until they are at least 12, in which case I am taking their preteen (or "tween") bottoms to their Memaw and Papa's house to live until college. They got through it once, they can do it again, right? But Paul makes it very clear that he needs a boy to talk poop with, to talk baseball with, to wrestle with (same reason he gives for needing a dog...a big dog). He needs a boy that can say proudly, "I gotta drop a deuce" and high fives will ensue.

Number 2 reason why Paul needs a son?
Because when Abigail watches wrestling with Paul, she says the wrestlers are wearing their "big boy panties." Oh, I love it.

This list is going to be good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Southern Belle

As a life-long Midwesterner, I love to see people from various other parts of the country. When Paul and I had been married one year, we spent the summer in Virginia Beach, VA working at a church. The people there were very "beachy" laid back...usually running late, no makeup, a visor to shield the sun (really, who wears a visor?), and any array of Hawaiian shirts. We went to a fancy restaurant for our first anniversary dinner, one on the water with a valet to park our car and everything. When I asked our hostess what to wear, she said, "Oh, capris is about as dressed up as anyone gets around here."

I've told Paul I love to visit places where the people are just a little bit crazy. Two such places...New York City and Bloomington, IN. I wouldn't want to live in either of these places, but they are very eclectic and interesting to visit. And the people are all just a little borderline. Almost certifiable in their own rights. When we got dressed up for our evening out in New York last summer, I wore a dress with (gasp) a hint of cleavage (I know, let's try to focus here). And I knew I could do that there because 1. I was there on vacation with my husband, 2. There are 2 or 10 million people there (I'm not really good with estimates), 3. We didn't know anyone except each other, and 4. Every nutjob in the country is either living in NY or visiting there as a tourist and my goodness, do you see some outfits. So as modest as I usually try to be, I felt my racy dress could pass just this once (hint, I was going to wear the same dress for a wedding in Marshall, and I just couldn't bring myself to do know, PW (pastor's wife) and all). Wow, that was a parentheses inside of a parentheses. Yeah, I have a degree in English and that just happened.

As for Bloomington, well, they are all just plain nutjobs. I mean, modern-day hippie, hacky-sack playing, dreadlock wearing, cover the back of your VW with Mother Earth bumper sticker wackos. But I do love that city. We went there for our anniversary last month. And folks, the weather was hot. And we do not have A/C in our car. Uncomfortable would be what we were that weekend (when not at our awesome B&B anyway). And I was commenting to Paul that although I would never, ever actually do this, in my mind I could consider on a hot day like that not wearing a certain up-top womanly undergarment just for the comfort factor. The reason I could consider this is because probably half of the women in Bloomington do not wear them either and no one would think anything about it but that I was a little off just like them.

But I digress. This blog is about Southern Women, not hippies. (And obviously contains no great spiritual lessons or truths either...sorry for slacking).

We were at the Southern Baptist Convention last month in Indianapolis. And if there is one thing that brings in the southerners, it is the annual SBC. I realized then and there that there is nothing quite as exquisite as a Southern Woman. Yes, I do mean of all ages, but in particular, the older ones. They were everywhere next to their husbands dressed in their suits, waving hellos to long-lost SBC friends that they may only see once a year. These women had impeccable taste, dressed in their Sunday best, complete with jewelry and matching purses and shoes. Their nails were done. Their hair was stylishly in place, and often the most gorgeous silver color. Their smiles were genuine and always there. And they would say things like "Huuuuuny" (honey, for you midwesterners). They looked like retired beauty queens, and their daughters looked like younger versions of them. Somehow, it didn't seem to have an ounce of fake about it. It certainly seemed to me that they were really that beautiful all the time.

Well, while at the convention center, Abigail was having an issue with the potties. They had automatic flushers on them, and they were very loud and apt to go off mid-stream (when you are so little, the potty sensors tend to think you have already evacuated the premises). She would pretty well freak out every time we would step into the bathroom. I was getting so frustrated because I knew she is a great little potty princess at home, and I couldn't figure out how to make these montrous flushes no big deal. When we walked out of the bathroom one of the times, having not accomplished the job we went in there for, there was the gorgeous Southern woman standing outside the restroom. She had on a plaid dress suit, she was thin, she had gold hoop earrings, and a perfect silver bob haircut. And I'm pretty sure she had waited outside that bathroom just for us.

She said to Abigail, "Oh huuuunny, what beautiful red shoes you have. Why, I wish I had a pair juuuust like them. Do you think they make them in my size?"
Abigail said, "Noooo."
The lady continued, "I heard that you were having a tough time in there with that big potty. My, what a big girl you are to use the potty. Those flushers are so loud, aren't they? Do you know what my granddaughter does when the flusher is loud? She just covers her little ears. That's just what she does, she just puts her little hands over her little ears, and that flusher isn't so loud. Do you think you could try that?"
Abigail, turning to me, "Mommy, I want to go put my hands on my ears."
I stood there, next to this beautiful woman, and realized that the thought never crossed my mind to have her cover her ears. So simple. So easy. So Southern, obviously.

And that little huuuunnny marched her little red shoes back into that bathroom, sat on the potty, covered her ears, and did the work she went in there to do. And now every time we are in a public bathroom, she says, "I want to cover my ears." It has never been a problem again.

I have two goals for next year's Southern Baptist Convention. The first is to be more like Jesus. The second is to be Southern.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Suggestion Box

I've been trying to think of how to follow up that last blog. We have these friends from Muncie, and the first time we hung out with them, probably almost five years ago now, was about the best night of our whole friendship. We said it was like going on a first date and you didn't want the night to end. We ate dinner and stayed up and played cards and laughed and laughed and laughed. Of course, they only had one child then, who went to bed pretty early, and now there are two more kids between the two couples. But I digress...children never cut a fun night short, do they? I think we told about all of our best stories that night, and our funniest jokes, and well, we were all just at our best. All of that to say....we never had a night like that with them again. Oh sure, we have had plenty of wonderful, fun moments with them, but none quite so great as that first night. Maybe we told too much of ourselves on our first "date" with this couple, and then we just couldn't get there again. I kind of feel that way about that last blog. I laid it all out there. That was my heart that day. Feel kind of awkward as to where to go from there.... will you all go on another "date" with me?

As best as I can segue from that blog to today's, I was praying over my Big 3 today during my quiet time. And I started praying about the house. And I realized something...I need a much bigger view of God. The view is big, don't get me wrong, but I need a much deeper study on His "I AM" status...reading a great book about that currently by Louis Giglio. The reason for needing a good dose of "I am not"? I realized how many suggestions I was making to God. I was praying about our house, and I was saying "God, You could sell it this month, and then we would give you such big praise. Or you could send us a renter. I mean, You know our finances, God, and we simply cannot afford this change in our mortgage next month. We just can't. I guess you could provide in another way than selling the house. Like maybe anonymous gifts of money in our mailbox. Or paid writing gigs. Or...."

And then it hit me mid-prayer. Who am I to make suggestions to God of how He should handle this situation? Yes, I do believe in "Ask and it will be given to you." I do believe in "Approach the throne of grace with confidence." I do believe in "You do not have because you do not ask God." I believe that, yet I also know that God does not need my suggestions. He knows my heart. He has heard my requests. My suggestions were out of a spirit of fear. Fearing that maybe God had missed one of these ideas. Fear that He might think, as I often find myself saying to people's suggestions, "That's a great idea. I hadn't thought of that before." Fear that He doesn't understand the timeline that we are on. My prayers today (though tear-free...hooray!) were not prayers of trusting God. They were not approaching the throne of grace with confidence in Him. The confidence was in my own loose-lips. My own thoughts in my head that I knew all of the best ways for Him to handle this. While I do believe that I can fully share my heart with God and ask for the things that we need, He already knows. So, I think that I just need to quit putting little folded up pieces of paper in the suggestion box. Those suggestion boxes are just for people who think they have it all figured out anyway, and then they get mad if their suggestions aren't put into practice, like, yesterday. I don't want to be that way with my Jesus.

The missionary Hudson Taylor said, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply." This isn't even about God selling our house at this point, or Him providing the money on our doorstep. Our friend Roger gave us a book one time called "Your God is Too Small." Strange title, but I think many of our Gods are too small. And no, I don't mean "small g" gods. I mean Big G. I mean our vision, our picture of who God is to us, is simply too small. We don't understand how big He really is, and how completely able He is to care for us. Here's to my understanding of God getting bigger every day. He already is that BIG, for sure, but I need my thinking to catch up a little.

And here is to a lighter blog next time around... I don't want you to break up with me too soon. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Crybabies Unite

I remember a night in my high school years, probably some of the tougher times on my poor mom, that I came home from a football game and was just so down. She was always good at getting me to talk things out, and I remember saying, "Do you ever just feel like crying? You don't really know why, but you just want to cry?" Of course, I was asking my sweet, sensitive mother, who had been quite well-known in that time to shed a few tears here and there. And she kindly said, "You bet I do!" I don't know if this is just a disease that afflicts those of us from Venus and not those from Mars. Or at least the Martians probably wouldn't admit it. But there are those days....

For those of you just tuning in, even though probably most of you know me well, let me catch you up to speed. I was debating how much to share of the crummy stuff, and when to share it (blog #2 sounds like a good place to start). My friend Luellen told me today, kindly and wisely, that there are people who care about me and want to know these things so that they can be praying. Well, get on your knees, Brothers and Sisters, because here we go. A few months ago, I had a miscarriage. There, I said it. And a lot of you who know me are thinking, what? I didn't know she was pregnant! Well, it was very early on. I had only known for about a week and a half or so that I was pregnant, and like any superstitious woman, was biding my time to make the big announcement. I had not yet "felt" pregnant. We told our families and that was about it because we were waiting for the right time. I started spotting the week after we told my family (Abigail even got to run into the kitchen wearing a sweatshirt that said "Big Sister"). I went to the doctor and was prepared for what was about to happen. Dr. Denise said that probably something just didn't line up right in the chromosomes, and that it was nothing I had done. I knew when it happened (when it started) and then it was pretty much over. I had a couple of days of feeling kind of sorry for myself. I know that might sound selfish, feeling sorry for myself. I think because I had not had "symptoms" of pregnancy, I had not really bonded with the idea of being pregnant yet. I could look at Abigail and realize that I am able to have kids and that this was just supposed to happen this way. Paul and I had some sweet moments to talk it over, and then we were ready to move forward. This was in March. I don't bring it up now for belated sympathy. I have very much accepted and moved on, and really it was not that "bad" of an experience over all, compared to what many women go through. I think as time has gone on, I just realized that it was not something I needed to keep inside. I have gradually told people when it pertained to the conversation, and we are all okay here in the Cooper house with this matter. It just felt like it was time to tell it.

And the rest...Paul's mom has stage 4 breast and bone cancer. Our house in Muncie still has not sold and the property taxes will be almost tripling in August (on the market over a year now). That's it. Those are my Big Three. The three things I pray about the most. The three things I cry over the most (really Paul's mom and the house are what I cry over....I am just waiting on God for the baby part). The three things that seem like they are always in the background of everything prayers, my/our decisions, my/our schedule, my/our checkbook. They are just there, and I have absolutely no control over any of them. And when I pray, I just see over and over again a big flash in my mind's eye of the word "WAIT". I have realized that the word "wait" has all new meaning to me now, and yet I have no idea how to do it.

So today, I was having one of those blue days. The kind of day where I still do laundry, and made spaghetti sauce homemade for dinner, and checked my email, and played with Abigail, but this hovering stuff is in my head. When Abigail took her nap this afternoon, I sat down for my quiet time. And I bawled. Before I even opened my Bible, I bawled. I tried to pray, and I cried. And I needed so desperately to hear from God. To know that He was hearing me. So first, I opened to my next chapter reading through I Samuel, and wouldn't you know was David and Goliath. I think whenever anyone is going through hard times, the number one suggestion is for them to read Job (anyone ever grow weary of turning to Job for someone who had it way worse?) and then you read David and Goliath. I kind of smiled through my tears, and told God all of the giants I am facing right now. And felt a little hopeful for the same victory that David had.

Then, I flipped over to Psalms. Sometimes I read whatever chapter corresponds with that day of the month. So, today being the 7th (or was it the 6th?), I began to turn toward chapter 7, but then got stopped to read chapter 6. And here, as I sat on my couch in my living room, crying about the same Big 3 I have cried about for much too long, is a portion of what I read:

Psalm 6:6
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.

I know, right? Here I had just read about David's slaying of this big giant, and then I read the psalm that HE WROTE saying that he gets wearing of crying out to God about the same stuff over and over again. And that he "DRENCHES HIS COUCH WITH WEEPING." I have been a believer since the fresh little age of 8, and have read this Psalm, I'm sure, many times (I love, love, love the Psalms). And here I am, drenching my couch with David. I don't think I have ever had a verse speak to me so much, right then and there. I don't think I have ever felt so related to, so watched, so understood. But that wasn't even the best part...

Psalm 6:9
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

I needed so badly to hear from Him. My dear friend Charlotte (get used to this name, I'm sure I will mention her more) loves one of God's names being "The God Who Sees Me" (Genesis 16:13). The One who sees me cry. The One who sees my heart. The One who sees me exactly where I am today. I felt so "seen". The fact that I opened to that Psalm, not being sure whether today was the 6th or the 7th, and reading the psalm that spoke to me right where I was, crying on my couch....I was being watched, for sure.

So, that is where I was today, and probably will be again. I don't want to be in this place as often as I am, but I wait. Today, tomorrow when I wake up, I will actively choose to wait on God. To wait on Him to act. To wait on Him to provide. To wait on Him to heal. To wait on Him to breathe life. And this is the verse I was given while looking for the one listed above:
Isaiah 64:4
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

So, I will wait on the God who Sees me.

The Private Life of the Minister's Wife

This was the title of a book that Paul gave me long ago. Sadly, it was one that never really got read, and ended up in the rear window of the car, which faded all of its 70s retro-glory to a pale blue and yellow. I was trying to think of a catchy title for this blog, which has been something I have wanted to do for some time. I have blogged on myspace for a couple of years now, and love it, but the readers are limited to those who have myspace accounts. And instead of trying to convince the rest of you why you should get sucked into the time-wasting trap of social profile sites (I have already "corrupted" my best friend Alison to its snares!), I figured I would just join the ranks of bloggers in the world. It is my voice, my English major studies being put to no major use, my love for writing getting sparked again.

Anyway, back to the title. My first thought was "Wake Up, O Sleeper" because that is usually the challenge of my day. My second thought was "Amy in Progress". Then I went to the King of Alliteration, Pastor Paulie himself. He came up with some smart ones, some sassy ones that made me laugh but I cannot post on here (but I can tell you in person). He suggested the Private Life of the Minister's Wife. I quickly turned it down, for one, figuring there was some long-lost copyright on that title, and two, not wanting anyone to think they were going to be "gettin' the goods on the minister's wife." In this age where everything seems up for public consumption, I figure some things still should remain modestly private, so I didn't want the blog title to be misleading. We suggested everything from A Fish Called Wanda to Bullet Toes (yes, my toes are short and chubby like little bullets) to Prada in the Parsonage (my expensive tastes on my $20 knock-off Prada budget). We settled on Inside the Parsonage. I hope it serves the blog well.

So, the private life of a minister's wife....I guess there is such a thing. I am still figuring out all of this "pastor's wife" stuff. Before moving to the church about a year ago, I helped Paul side by side in campus ministry for four years, so yes, there have been some role adjustments here. Nothing I couldn't adjust to, but learning all the same. I am learning that life in a parsonage is not immune from the challenges of life. Yes, we do have dear church members who mow the grass and we had a guy just show up last week to change the filter on our air conditioner, sent over by the church. I guess in many ways, we are well cared-for. Yet, we have had some of our most challenging months here. And many of those challenges have nothing to do with the church at all. Just life challenges, family challenges. Some tough stuff. I didn't want my first official blog to be a downer, so I'll save some of those meanderings for later. God has taught me, or is trying His best to teach me, about Waiting and Hope and Trust and Provision in ways I've never had to learn before.

There have been sweet moments, too, in this parsonage. Being closer to my parents...watching Abigail and her Papa swing on her swingset. Having Thanksgiving in my living room with my parents. All of our joy as we watched Abigail get her first REAL babydoll for Christmas, nearly jumping out of Paul's arms when she saw it under the tree. Coffee with the Coopers. Staining a porch swing with my friend, Lori. Going on walks, catching quick lunch hours with friends. Having our family Deacon, Charlie, show up at my door not once, but TWICE with fresh flowers for me, telling me he is giving Paul a run for his money. Late night swims. Fresh vegetables and homemade jam from people in our church. My friend's husband fixing our car in our garage, using his talents to bless us. Yes, the moments have been sweet in spite of the challenges.

So, this is my blog. I don't know how often I will do it. I don't know what I will feel like blogging about. I can't guarantee it will always be the brightest side of life in the parsonage (or life in general). I hope I can just write as my soul needs to, and that you might enjoy reading it.