my favorite moments of the year

Friday, December 30, 2011

Herein I have compiled my list of some of my favorite moments of the year. Both my own and others'. (Did I mention that I love end of the year lists?) Some of these moments are deep; some are not. I'm not pretending like they are all of equal life importance and eternal value, but they are still all my favorite moments. Because like real life, my favorite life moments include the trivial and the significant, the fun and the serious, the extraordinary and the mundane.

1) Happy Adoption Day!
We became an official family on August 23, 2011, surrounded by our friends and family, filling the courtroom with the most people the judge had ever had at an adoption. This is what love looks like:

2) Joy! 
My favorite picture of the year - this is what Jesus looks like on someone's face. I love this picture more than I can say. It's from Carlos Whittaker's blog - check it out here: Jesus Shot Out - Ragamuffin Soul

3) Friday Night Lights - the Series Finale
Everything that a series finale should be. Everything. It was beautiful and tear-jerking and just everything lovely. It encapsulated everything about this little-watched, under-appreciated, done-far-too-soon show - just perfect. The last eight or so minutes are some of the best television I have ever seen.

4) One Thousand Gifts - halfway
You can read about it here. It was a defining moment in a defining year for me.

5) The Civil Wars in concert
This was just one great evening of music. Great venue, beautiful music, one of the best concerts I've ever been to. Loved it; love them. We saw them just as they were on the cusp of ridiculous popularity. It almost made me want to quit liking them because I have a natural aversion to trendiness, but they are just so flippin fantastic. I can't stop listening.


6) Learning how to pray for real
Not that I didn't know how to pray before, but there was a moment this year...It came flat on my face before God, asking and praying with boldness for Him to intervene NOW. Easily the boldest prayer I've ever prayed, and I'm not sorry that I've lost some inhibitions when it comes to seeking God's face and His intervention in my life and in the world.

7) Community - the Foosball Episode
Genius. Community is the smartest, funniest sitcom on television right now, and this episode is proof positive. I laughed more during this half-hour of TV than I have for a very long time.

8) The point at which I found peace
This was just an answer to the bold prayer that I prayed. We went to the final team meeting for Brenden and Raniah as their case switched to the adoption unit. Thirteen different people - case workers, supervisors, therapists, the head of the local medical center, CASA, foster parents...all of us around one table, everyone wanting what was best for our kids and their older sister. We left not knowing what would happen, but at peace. It was just a remarkable meeting. The rest of the people in that room may not have been believers, but God's presence was there. He worked; we witnessed it, and we left in awe. It was truly remarkable.

What was your favorite moment of this past year?

books of the year

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Once again, through a complicated series of equations, I have deduced my top five books of the year. Basically, just the ones I liked the most. I completely attained my goal of reading 50 books this year – 70 total! Of course, several of them were re-reads, and I tend to read a book fast the second time through. However, I was pretty pleased with myself. Reading has always been an extremely important part of my life. It rejuvenates me, it gives me greater focus for my life, it educates, it inspires, and above all else, it gives me great pleasure. I highly recommend each of these books, so if you’re not an avid reader and definitely need something that you know is good – take any one of them. Click on the picture to link through to Amazon.

1) One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp
If you’ve read this blog for long, this book doesn’t come as a surprise. It quite literally changed my life, and I consider it required reading for the Christian life.

2) The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh I just finished this book, and it was truly amazing. It is about a girl who ages out of foster care (obviously why I was interested in the first place), but the characters are well-developed and the writing is wonderful. It is simultaneously uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

3) Kisses from Katie – Katie Davis
It's not that this book is classic literature or anything; it's just that this woman's story is so incredibly compelling. Radical obedience, reckless abandon, total commitment to Jesus - this is the life I want to live too. Not that I want to move to Africa and be a single mom of 14 children - that's Katie's part of God's story. But I want my story to echo hers in exactly the ways that count. Sacrifice, service - following Jesus as close as I can.

4) Bossypants - Tina Fey
Of course Tina Fey is a favorite of mine, but this book is poignant, hilarious, and well worth your time. I laughed all the way through.

5) She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems
Caroline Kennedy

This is a beautifully edited book of poetry. I found myself picking it up night after night. It’s the kind of book made for a long bath, lit candles, and a glass of wine. I don’t even have a bathtub, so that’s something I’m just imagining myself doing. But it sounds awesome, and if I did, this is the book I’d be reading.

What's the best book you read this year? 

Christmas gifts

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As I counted the gifts through this past Christmas week, I have been overwhelmed with God's goodness in the face of difficulty, His grace in the face of undeservedness, and His faithfulness in a world that changes.

I am a grateful servant....

570. oranges, candy canes, and gingersnaps
571. lighting Advent candles nightly
572. crystal bowls to put Grandma Fisher's Christmas cranberry jello salad in
573. one more family member at the Christmas Eve dinner table
574. parents who have given us a legacy of faith, compassion, generosity, and always thinking of others first
575. a mama who always knows exactly what to give us. without lists.

576. sweet raised eyebrows and furrowed newborn brows
577. a van big enough for our family
578. light traffic, no rain, easy travels
579. yet even more unexpected generosity at just the right moment

albums of the year

Monday, December 26, 2011

End of the year list time! I completely adore end of the year lists. I don’t care if it is a list of the top five nano-particles, I’m going to read that article and pick my own favorite. Since I’m on vacation the last week of the year, you’ll probably see quite a few of these lists pop up. I’m thinking it serves three purposes: 1) to educate, inform, and inspire, 2) to keep record of the things I loved at this particular moment in time, and 3) to entertain – mostly me, but hopefully you readers too.

Here’s my top seven albums of the year (10 seems too cliché, and I just had too many for five), calculated through a complicated algorithm involving various criteria such as talent, musical brilliance, and how much I personally love and listen to the album. OK, maybe it’s just entirely based on how much I love and listen to the album, but I wouldn’t love and listen to an album that wasn’t really good stuff.  I wouldn’t admit to loving and listening constantly to an album that wouldn’t objectively be viewed as great music. Click on the images to purchase through Amazon.

1) The Civil Wars – Barton Hallow
Brilliant. I have nothing else to say about that probably hasn’t already been said. I thought quite a bit before putting the rest of the albums in order, but this one was and is number one all year long. No doubt.



2) Adele – 21
I know Adele is everywhere, but I do not get tired of this record. She is one-of-a-kind. This album is fun for the whole family – my kids love it.




3) Gungor – Ghosts Upon the Earth
You can read more about what I think about this album here. You can also read some really thought provoking stuff from Michael Gungor here. This album is just so musically intricate and amazing. The talent contained in these songs continues to blow me away.



4) Jay Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
This here album is grown folk music. GROWN FOLK MUSIC. If your child learns some language you’d rather them not use because you play grown folk music in front of them, then I am absolved of all blame. That said, it’s brilliant. I absolutely love this album and listen to it nearly every time my kids aren’t in the car with me (which is unfortunately almost never). Nevertheless, I remain conflicted over all the language. I wish the music was cleaner. This also brings me to a pretty interesting post/comment thread that I read this past month: Rap, Jesus, and Self. What do you think?



5) The Decemberists – The King is Dead
This set of songs got a significant amount of playtime this year. Also, I went to see them in concert this spring. Great concert, great band, great album. They just keep getting better.



6) NeedToBreathe – The Reckoning
The band doesn’t get enough recognition. They are really amazing. They could hold their own in any musical arena. Their 2009 release is still a favorite, and this one is just so very good.




7) Shaun Groves – Third World Symphony
Simply put, this music is the heart of the believer put to words and music. It’s inspiring, worshipful, and just so very lovely.



Honorable mentions: How Emptiness Sings (Christa Wells), Torches (Foster the People), The Great Awakening (Leeland)

fresh mercy in the morning

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It seems like nothing has gone right for me the last couple days. (I know, I know – bloggers who use their blogs to only complain suck…but this has a point, I promise.) I’m overwhelmed with cleaning, working out our Christmas weekend schedule, preparing both physically and emotionally for our trip to Oklahoma, and dealing with two of our children who are having a particularly hard time right now. Oh, and I think that Niah is sick.

In addition, yesterday I gave up two things that were very close to my heart. One by choice; one was taken away from me. Both were extremely painful, and I’m not feeling at peace yet with either one. The weeks that are to come will be two of the most physically and emotionally draining weeks of my year. I will need supernatural strength and peace to overcome my own complicated emotions to be fully present for my children. I feel at the end already, and we haven’t even begun.

Then today, a friend. I hesitate to write that because true friendship is hard to find and online friendships often aren’t true, but online friendships can be true and genuine and intimate and above all else, understanding. I didn’t seek it out, but God brought something to me through a friend, a true friend whom I’ve never met in person and likely never will, that I didn’t expect and desperately needed.

Life to my soul.
Strength to my spirit.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth!
And break out in singing, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have mercy on His afflicted.
Isaiah 49:13

In the morning, when God brings His mercies new, He brought me this word.
I can lean into Him.
He comforts.
He is compassionate.
He has mercy.

Once again, right at the end of myself, I know that my Savior is there to do what I can’t. He fills in where I’m not. He gives strength when I am weak. He gives peace where I have none. He gives joy when I feel pain.

They were just typed words on a computer screen.
But they were God’s very Word spoken straight to my heart.
That’s what Love looks like to me today.

~Wishing yet again that I could write as beautifully as Ann. She expresses my heart today: When your Christmas stretches you...

love all

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This, the final week of Advent, brings us to the last and in my opinion, most fun week of Advent Conspiracy. Our family has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined when we started this all, but in ways that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

[love all]
When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.
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The main focus of our local church when it comes to this week is water. Clean water is the most basic of human needs, and yet a billion of the world’s most vulnerable people are without access to clean water. As a congregation, we’ve given our funds to Clean Water for Haiti which provides sand filters to Haitian communities and families in need. Haiti has been close to our church’s heart for a number of years as we also send at least one, if not more, of our members in service there yearly. (One might not seem like a lot to some of you, but our congregation is SMALL. One is significant.)

Other things our family likes to do include putting together Christmas food baskets for the needy in our own community, giving a donation to The Sudan Project in honor of the church and pastor who started this whole change of thought for us, participating in Operation Christmas Child, donating various items through World Vision’s gift catalog, and sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

We have also tried to buy local in support of growing our own struggling economy, buying direct handmade gifts, purchasing gifts that give back (like Toms, Noonday, Show Hope, etc.), and forgoing actual tangible items in favor of gifts to a charity (like World Vision, Compassion, Clean Water for Haiti, etc.)

There is a definite time and place for the discussion about helping versus hurting. There are valid concerns with the marketing of “charity”. I think that all of these ways to love all are important, but are not enough in and of themselves. Each problem in our world right now needs boots on the ground, preferably local boots. I do not believe Americans are the saviors of the world. That honor belongs to the true Savior alone who empowers each one of us, no matter our economic condition, no matter our geographic location to change the world where we’re at. Sometimes we need some help – thus the gifts, the money, the products. They’re not bad. But they’re not the answer. That said, I think they’re better than nothing, and I believe that purchasing with purpose and conscience is our responsibility as the richest (in finances, anyway) people on this earth.

What are some ways that you love all during the Christmas season?
What’s your favorite item-with-a-cause site? My new favorite is Noonday, but I’m easily persuaded.
What’s one way that you are going to forsake your comfort zone, sacrifice what you hold dear to love others this year?

this is what love looks like

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


hear the angels sing

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My favorite traditional Christmas carol is It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and that’s the song that is ringing in my heart during these sad past few days. It really has seemed like there is just so much heartache this year in particular. Death, illness, family break-ups; it is a crushing, crushing load.
This is the verse in particular that’s been in my heart:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

I’m praying for rest beside the weary road this Christmas season for those I know, for those I don’t know. During days when the glad and golden hours seem far off, I have peace that they are coming.
Jesus is coming.
Peace will reign.
Love will win.

in suffering

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yesterday, I came home from a perfectly lovely, although loud, girls’ night out (although, I’ve learned yet another truth about myself. I’m too old for a college area sports bar. Far. too. old.) to find that my mom’s first cousin had died in a car accident. He was kind, loved Jesus, was a father of 7 children, and we were bonded in a different way than I have with the other cousins as his youngest child was adopted through foster care about a year and a half ago. He and his wife talked with and encouraged me through our initial licensing and foster placement.

Today, while it is sad to lose your father in any circumstance, I am just broken for their little girl who was also in the car with her mom and dad. She has a broken collarbone, they think, nothing too serious. But I can’t stop grieving for yet another loss in this tiny little life who is the same age as my Brenden. For a little girl who has lost everything already and has now lost the father that she has known and loved for most of her life. For how she felt alone at the scene and in the hospital since her mom was also injured in the accident. I can hardly bear to think of it.

So today I grieve.
For his wife.
For his oldest daughter who is many, many states away from her parents and literally due with her first-born any day.
For that first grandchild whose birth will always be shadowed with this news, who will never know his or her grandfather.
For the rest of their boys who are now left to navigate teenage years and young adulthood without their dad to teach them how to be a godly man.
For the rest of the girls who will not have their father to walk them down the aisle at their weddings.
And for their youngest daughter who has already gone through more pain and loss than any person should ever experience and now will have even more.

I know the truth. I believe the truth. But I also believe God is not frightened by our suffering. He is not threatened by our angry questions. He definitely doesn’t get mad at us when we doubt. So while it is my temptation to answer all questions with Christian platitudes and to quote Scripture at tragedy, while truth is truth no matter the circumstances or feelings, while in my heart of hearts I trust the One who loves us, today I just want to ask…Why?

give more

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We’ve been working our way through the Advent Conspiracy this Advent season. You can find weeks 1 and 2 here and here. We’ve worshipped fully, spent less, and this week, we’re going to give more. (And at long last, I am caught up on Advent posts.)

[give more]
God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?
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What do my kids want this year? Well, they did make crazy lists with cell phones, toothbrushes, and various other items on them, but that’s not what they’ll remember year after year.

They want me to read them a story on demand rather than say, “In a minute,” and then never get around to it.
They want to cuddle on the couch while we watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
They want to hear Anne of Green Gables night after night beside the lights of the Christmas tree.
They want me to come to their Christmas concerts.
They want me to make them special Christmas goodies.
They want me to rock them to sleep.

They just want me.
Not presents.
My presence.

When we intentionally decide to forgo gifts and instead spend our time, effort, and even finances on spending time with one another, the Advent season is really fulfilled. Christmas is about the incarnation – God with us. Emmanuel.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (the message)

That’s the Gift God gave us – his very own Son.
Flesh and blood.
Living here in our mess with us.
Sharing joys and delights with us.
That’s the gift He calls us to give one another as well.
To be with.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On this past Sunday, we lit the third Advent candle – the candle of Joy. To be honest, I think joy is an over-talked-about attribute. Or maybe I just mean that it’s poorly discussed. I realize that the common Christian thing is to say that true joy is not equated with being happy. I looked it up though, and you know what the dictionary says about joy?

1 a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3: a source or cause of delight

That sounds an awful lot like being happy to me. I think that sometimes we take joy and make it something less. Maybe joy does mean being happy. Maybe joy means that you can choose to be happy for keeps.

A lot of things that make us happy fade…a good cup of freshly roasted, fair trade Chiapas coffee makes me exceedingly happy, but eventually that cup is gone. My really nice pair of leather riding boots with the double buckle at the top makes me feel like all is right in my little world, but I can only wear those boots so often. My freshly cut North Carolina Fraser fir lit with many strands of multi-colored lights makes my heart sing like no other Christmas decoration, but when Christmas is over, we take that tree down.

True joy lasts.

Usually it’s like this: Our circumstances dictate our feelings of happiness.
Joy is like this: Our joy dictates our feelings about our circumstances.

For me, it’s as simple as finding the delightful moments in my day and as complicated as realizing that my entire being is held together with the joy of the Lord.

In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah is in charge of rebuilding Jerusalem. The Jews have spent many years in captivity and have only recently returned to their homeland. They hear the law for the first time in the place where they belong, and they begin to grieve. I’m sure they were grieving for all they had lost, for the oppression they had endured, for their own failings and sins against a faithful and righteous God. I’m sure they had good reason to cry, but Nehemiah and the other leaders tell them to stop. Then the real fun starts:

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” – Nehemiah 8:10

Celebrate this holiday season. Feast. Share.

Yes, there’s brokenness.
Yes, this world is dark and painful.
Yes, we should feel those things deeply…

But God gave us another emotion as well.
We can have strength through the brokenness.
We can have light in the darkness.
We can choose joy.

Joy is the certainty that whatever leashes your life to less than Love, or whatever has stained your soul with shame or failure has been neutralized by the one power that can free and forgive us all –
the living Christ.
Jack Hayford

What things delight you during Christmastime?
Do you think joy is different than happiness? How so? I’d love to hear some other perspectives.

spend less

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The second week of Advent Conspiracy has come and gone. It tends to be the most difficult week for me because we live in a culture that is the exact opposite of what this week is about. That’s the Kingdom Jesus calls us to live in though – the upside-down Kingdom.

[Spend Less]
Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one.  Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.
Looking for ways to give gifts that don't cost a lot of money? Have a few ideas you'd like to share? Head to today.
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We do this several ways at our house, but no matter how many ways we try to spend less, there always seems to be one more thing that we need during the holiday season. This isn’t even all about presents – think about how much money you spend during the holidays on clothing for special events, food for holiday parties and baking, eating out when your schedule is so busy you don’t have time to make something at home, decorating for your home…it’s a lot of money.

One of the things that I’ve done is recent years is less baking and creating goodies. Instead of fourteen different kinds of treats, I just make two or three. We don’t need all the sugar anyway. It’s saved far more money than I initially anticipated. It’s kind of sad how much I was spending on food supplies during the Christmas season. We also try to simplify our schedule which helps with clothing and food purchases. Still, these are small things. Let’s talk about what this week is really about:

Presents. We celebrate birthdays big here so we don’t lack opportunity to give gifts to one another, and I’d love to get away from the consumerism that gifting at Christmas puts in our lives. I suggest this link for inspiration (it sure has made me pause): When Christmas gets radical... I so wish this is where our family was right now. However, I think the important part of the Voskamp family decision was that it was child-led. I don’t want my children to have to give up all gifts at Christmas unless they themselves decide to, and right now they’re pretty little for that. So I continue to talk about spending less, giving to other things instead; I continue to say, “Christmas is not your birthday.” Someday, I pray this will be our family’s story as well.

In the meantime, we do three gifts for each child – one educational, one clothing item, and one toy/for-fun item. Even that is seeming like a lot this year. The children give each other stocking stuffers, so the amount of items seems large to me this year. I’ve been thinking of ways we can pare down. We’ve done a lot of used items this year. Once Upon a Child and EBay have been my friend when shopping for the kids. Ben has picked out a couple of toys that are his to give to his younger siblings, eliminating any cost at all. Maggie enjoys making things; she is good at crafty items for gifts.

In our extended families, we don’t do gifts at all. The grandparents have been giving one gift to each child, but the siblings definitely do not exchange gifts. And you know what? No one has missed it. It’s freeing to just be together – the gift of our presence…but that’s next week.

This post didn’t at all flow the way I’d hoped, but I hope that you are challenged to think about this week’s (truthfully, it was last week) focus nevertheless. What are some ways that you are trying to spend less during the holiday season? Ideas?

peace, peace

Monday, December 12, 2011

A week ago yesterday, we lit the Advent candle for peace, which kicked off a week when I felt very little peace at all. A week where I came face to face with my own pride in a way that I didn’t realize was still (or ever) there. A week where I spent much time in anger and pain on behalf of some dear friends who are in the middle of a terribly emotional and painful battle. A week where I was overwhelmed with the pain and suffering that living in this broken world brings. The irony of the entire week was that even though I didn’t feel peace in many ways at all; if my life wasn’t grounded in the ‘peace that comes from the good news’ (Ephesians 6:15), I wouldn’t have been able to deal with any of that in any productive sort of way.

Sometimes, especially at Christmastime, we make peace all about white doves, musical angels, and happy children of many races. Often, however, peace is hard won in the midst of a battle. Peace can be violent, painful; many times, peace is about justice. It’s about so much more than ‘sleeping in heavenly peace’.

For many of us, we understand peace to be the absence of conflict. We talk about peace in the home or in the world or giving peace a chance. But the Hebraic understanding of shalom is far more than just the absence of conflict or strife.

Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It's the presence of wholeness, completeness.

So when Jesus tells the woman [
Luke 8] to go in peace, he is placing the blessing of God on all of her. Not just her physical body. He is blessing her with God's presence on her entire being. And this is because for Jesus, salvation is holistic in nature. For Jesus, being saved or reconciled to God involves far more than just the saving of your physical body or your soul - it involves all of you.
from Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

This past week, peace was just about the sure knowledge that my foundation is secure even when I don’t feel it. Peace is my whole life put right even when the world seems wrong. Peace is knowing Jesus.

Counting through the weeks of Advent…
529. answers to long-prayed prayers
530. eye prescription holding steady, four years running
531. a long overdue first visit to my sister's new apartment
532. hair clips on cat legs
533. busy nights with huge trees and good sales
534. building memories with extended family
535. the sweetest, bossiest two-year-old, her first birthday as our daughter
536. the most entertaining bridal shower I've ever been to
537. feet grounded in the gospel of peace
538. shelter from the everlasting, unending pouring rain
539. a sweet, understanding husband
540. friends to share small tragedies with
541. a God who forgives me my foolish pride
542. family to share burdens with, to encourage and pray for
543. happy children with sticky hot chocolate, candy cane, and pine needle scented fingers
544. the smell of a burning Scotch pine
545. return customers
546. more answered prayers and happy sisters
547. monkey cupcakes
548. bestest cousin friends
549. thankful gift-receiving
550. getting to be a part of seeing someone grow to spiritual maturity
551. father-daughter movie dates

with apologies

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I’ve had a rough and complicated week for a myriad of reasons that I may or may not blog about in the future. Since I didn’t get my Advent post done or my list of gifts done, and since I have a full weekend of working my Grandma’s Christmas tree farm and prepping for my baby’s 2-year-old birthday lunch, here are some links I’ve been collecting in case you have some extra time this weekend:

For a sweet and tender smile: White Bread - Jumping Tandem

For a thought-provoking read: Church, State, and The Least of These - Deeper Story

For a challenge: Why Does Skin Color Matter? - Multicultural Familia

For encouragement: Never Give In, Never Give In - One Thankful Mom

worship fully

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One of ways that our church community celebrates Advent each year is to take part in something called Advent Conspiracy. We’ve done this for four years now, and it has quite literally changed the way our family and I would guess a significant percentage of our church does Christmas. Our church joined the year after it started with just three churches in various parts of the country, but today there are thousands of churches participating all over the world. This is exactly the kind of thing the body of Christ should be known for, rather than the conspicuous consumption that overwhelms this season.

Truthfully, God was working on my heart long before Advent Conspiracy came around. We used to attend another local church in addition to our own quite regularly, and many, many years ago, their pastor was convicted to change the way they did Christmas at their church and started The Sudan Project. One of his favorite things to say is something we’ve adopted in our family ever since we heard it the very first time years and years ago, “Christmas is not your birthday.” You’ll hear this phrase around our house nearly daily during the Christmas season. Christmas as Jesus’ birthday seems like something so juvenile and Sunday-school. But it’s the truth. We spend so much time making Christmas like our birthday – there’s gifts and games and parties and cookies…what are we doing to change the focus?

Brief plug: Mike has a new book out this year highlighting this – Christmas is not Your Birthday. Buy it – it’s good stuff.

So, for this year, I thought I’d do a series to highlight the various weeks of Advent Conspiracy. Hopefully inspire you to make some changes in how you celebrate the season! Originally, I had planned to do this series on Wednesdays. (That didn’t work this week, and I hope you don’t hold me to it in subsequent weeks.) I plan to share the basic principles of the week, and then some ways that our family is celebrating them this year.

The four weeks of Advent are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. Simple. Yet so very complicated given all of our cultural traditions and family pressures and selfish desires. Advent Conspiracy reminds me every year how very difficult it is to live a life of true discipleship.

[Worship Fully]
It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.
(description from adventconspiracy)

Here are some things we’re doing this year to worship God more fully:

  • Truth in the Tinsel – This is an Advent series specifically for kids. Last year, we did a Jesse Tree, but that was pretty difficult for Brenden and even Maggie to understand. This year, with Niah old enough to participate with certain things, I wanted something geared more towards the kids.
  • Advent candles – We have an Advent candle display on our dining room table. We’ll be lighting each candle each week and talking about each specific week. For example, this past week was the Hope candle. A question for the kids is, ‘Where, specifically, are you showing hope to someone around you?’ Even preschoolers can grasp this concept.
  • Music – We play a lot of Christmas music. Not just the ‘fun’ songs either. (Although, the Beibs has gotten quite a bit of play time lately. Don’t mock me. He’s a wonderful Christmas pop of delight.) I spend time talking with the kids about what the songs mean, what my favorite songs are and why, and we play a lot of newer Christmas worship music.
  • “The Prayers” – This is what Brenden continues to call my Common Prayer book. Building some regular devotion time, reading the same readings that people all over the world are reading each day – they both connect me to God and to His family here on earth in a way that other spiritual practices in my life do not.
  • Readings – I have a lot of Christmas books. I read them all every year. Sometimes for fun, sometimes for devotional purposes, sometimes alone, sometimes with the children. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites later this month.

What are you doing to worship God more fully this year?
What are some ways that you are changing the focus from ourselves to Jesus?

I’d love to hear your ideas and practices!

breathing life

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Right when I start to talk about the dry bones and God breathing life and the already and the not yet and how I’m hoping and expecting and longing for all of that to occur…

A phone conversation with my friend this morning turned my day upside down. We’ve been friends since the first grade. I’ve been praying for her dad to come to faith in Christ since I knew how to do so. Maybe not as diligently as I should have, but off and on for years and years and years and years. This morning, she shared with me that this is precisely what is happening in her dad’s life. Faith is growing. God’s breathing life into the dry bones of a full-grown man, a father, a grandfather. He is learning to follow Christ and recognizing God’s work in his life.

Yes and Amen. This is the season of hope, of longing, of expectation. This is the season where we pray for Jesus to come, but this is also the season where we see Him come right before our very eyes. Today, I’m reveling in this long-anticipated, yet still unexpected shower of grace.

Even in the valley of dry bones, God sends His Spirit and breathes life.
This is exactly what we’re waiting for. And sometimes, on a dreary gray, rainy day, in an ordinary phone call, we get a grace-filled moment; we get to see it happen.

Jesus has come. Already. Fulfilled.
Jesus is coming. Not yet. We’re waiting.

Today, it’s so very fresh in my heart: all is grace.

dry bones

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Advent season has always been happiness for me. Shiny, tinseled, bell-ringing joy. Full of color, full of life, full of fun. I used to long for the day that I could listen to Christmas music and put up all my decorations. Baking, game-playing, parties, carols, presents…I was always ready for the season. To be truthful, though, I was celebrating the dear-sweet-little-baby-Jesus-in-a-manger, Santa-on-the-rooftop cultural Advent. What most people commonly refer to as the Christmas season. (Or now that everything starts before Halloween – the ‘holiday’ season.)

Is that all Advent really is? The happy time that we use to shop for presents and bake cookies to eat with our families on Christmas? Is this why Jesus, the very Word of God, became flesh? Came to dwell among us? To just bring us happy times with our families, full of food and presents? I think we’ve trivialized this season for far too long.

Yesterday, we lit the first Advent candle. One lone flicker to remind us that Jesus is coming. Traditionally, it’s called the Prophet’s Candle or the Candle of Hope. When I think about the prophets in Scripture, I think about darkness. Sadness. Lament. Judgment. They aren’t tremendously fun books to read. The last words in the Old Testament are those of the prophets speaking of judgment. They were dark times. Times of rebellion, brokenness, exile, and suffering.

The words of the prophet Ezekiel that we read yesterday in our worship service:

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.

Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!

I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.

Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD.

I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’” (Ezekiel 37)

Cheery, right? Bones. Exactly what you think about when you think about Wonderful Christmastime. So antithetical that our worship leader made an entirely different set list with different Scriptures. Arguing with God about whether it was right. (One thing to explain about our church is that we are a grass-roots community, so to speak. There isn’t one person in charge of the whole service. We sometimes give a general theme, but not always. So when the speaker got up to bring the message and his primary Scripture was this very passage, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s from God.)

It’s really kind of dark. Not your regular happy Christmas celebration. I love that our faith community is comfortable with this part of it. Lament doesn’t scare us. We don’t have to end everything with happiness every time. Sometimes it’s ok to know that some things don’t get better. In truth, as much I want it to be full of lights and sparkles, Advent is just a dark season. We’re longing for God. We’re reaching for hope. We’re waiting on the true Light.

The beauty of the continuing to observe Advent year after year is in the ‘already, but not yet’ part of God’s kingdom. Yes, the prophets spoke darkness, but they also spoke hope. So God’s people waited. The last words of the Old Testament were written, and then they waited. They waited for months, years, decades – they waited for four hundred years before any official recorded word from God. The beauty of that? The next time God spoke – He spoke in flesh. Jesus, the Word of God. That was the next thing God had to say to His people.

He said Jesus.

Jesus, the Light of the World, became flesh to dwell among us.
He came.

And yet…
we are still waiting on Him to come.
It’s already.
It’s not yet.
We’re waiting.

Last year, this time, our family was barely afloat. There was a lot of darkness in our house. I felt that the flickering light of that first lone Advent candle was all the light I could see. This year, I don’t feel immersed in the darkness as much, but I am much more comfortable with the barrenness of this season than I have been in the past. I’ve passed that desire to fill my home with the shiny, pretty things that I used to fill my season with. I’m comfortable with the dry bones. There’s brokenness. There’s suffering. I don’t need to cover it up with all the frosting of the season. This year, I’m ok with barrenness. I’m spending time with the dry bones in my life. I’m acutely aware of the broken pieces of my life, of my family, of our community, of the world. I’m hoping, longing for their redemption and restoration. I’m waiting on the Light.

There’s the beauty of the prophet Ezekiel’s message: our hope is in the Lord. The Lord has spoken. The Lord puts His spirit in us. The Lord breathes life. I don’t have to do it myself. My work is to hope; it’s God’s work to bring life.

In this commercialized holiday season, I don’t have to buy pretty.
In these oh-so-tempting-days of Pinterest, I don’t have to create beauty.
I don’t have to fill my house with shiny things.
I don’t have to manufacture happiness.
I don’t have to fix all that’s broken.

Jesus is coming.
He is Light.
He is beauty.
He is coming to redeem and restore.
He is coming to shower us with grace.
He is coming to be WITH us. Here.
In the valley of dry bones, he is coming to breathe life into us and into all those bones we’re surrounded by. That’s the hope we have during this desolate season of Advent.

Jesus is coming.
We’re waiting.

What are the dry bones you are waiting for the Spirit to breathe life into?
What are you waiting for?

Counting the gifts as I wait:

517. a second visit of much-needed assistance from my Aunt Marcia
518. shipping management so we can get our Christmas trees on time
519. a lot full of beautiful, fragrant Christmas trees
520. the sticky feel of sap on my fingers
521. cheesy made-for-TV Christmas movies
522. crispy sausage stuffing
523. ruby red cranberry relish
524. carrying on my Grandpa's legacy
525. that my dad always wears a bike helmet
526. crazy exhausted children
527. expectation and longing of Advent
528. new life for dry bones

with thanks to my boys

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I beg a self-indulgent moment today while I thank my boys:

He brings me water. Hot tea. Crackers and cheese in the dead middle of the night when the pain becomes excruciating, but I can’t take the medication without getting sick. He feeds the children, gets them dressed and to the bus, helps with homework. He rubs lotion on my legs, sleeps downstairs when I need the whole bed to get comfortable, hugs me when I cry with frustration and pain. He takes time off work to help me recover, to bring me lunch, to care for the children when I need to take my medication. (You know all those warnings about narcotics being addictive. Not an issue for me. Vicodin makes me so very sick. Woozy. I really can’t take it around people.)

I planned extra time to get ready for a very important day because I move so slowly. Still, I found myself panicking because I was running out of time. He helps me get dressed – held my shirts so I could get into them. Threaded my belt through the loops. Put the backs on my earrings.
He takes me to the doctor. Picks up my prescriptions. Helps me change my bandage.

My husband rocks.

He comes from school and gets the baby up from the crib when I can’t lift her. He unloads the dishwasher before he leaves for school in the morning and loads it again after dinner. He makes meals. He sweeps the floor, helps his sister with her homework, helps his little sister get dressed. He picks up, helps with laundry, gets the mail, and takes out the trash. He does more than is reasonable for any ten year old because it is what helps our family function with a little bit of normalcy. He does it without complaint.

He hugs me when I’m in pain. He tells me he wishes it was him who hurt instead of me. He rallies the other children to help more, to be quieter, to be better than they really need to be to make things easier.

My son rocks.

People live with far worse disabilities and far more pain than this complication from my wrist surgery; I’m not trying in the least bit to compare. However, this past week and a half has been one of the most unpleasant times for our family in a very long time. It seems to be getting better now, but it’s not done. Recovery will be much longer and more painful than anticipated. I couldn’t do it without my boys. They are amazing. Truly. I have never appreciated them more.

It’s good to be in a family.

halfway through the thousand gifts…the exhale

Monday, November 21, 2011

For me, some thoughts are the inhale. The sharp intake of breath. The ones you wrestle with, ponder deeply, struggle over. The ones that just don’t sit well immediately. You work to find the truth. You need to breathe them in. You’re gasping for air.

Then there are the thoughts that just plant in your soul. They settle in as though you had been believing them, thinking over them for years. Even if they aren’t your ‘original’ thoughts, they belong deep in your spirit. These thoughts, you know they’re true, they sit well, they bring peace – the exhale.

That’s what counting the gifts has been for me. The exhale. I realize that I spend a lot of time thinking about what God wants from me. The better question (loosely based on a sermon by Dan Cruver that I did not actually hear) that I should be pondering is the one concerning who God is.

Obviously, God is many things. I grew up in church; I could recite lists of God’s attributes, His names, His works, on and on. It’s always different when you learn it firsthand. The primary lesson I’ve learned of late: God is the Giver.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Psalm 36:5-10

Who is God? According to this Psalm, He is the fountain, the river, abundance, a refuge, full of righteousness and justice. He gives. He gives and gives, and then He gives more. I think this is the essence of the life change that I’ve experienced through counting the gifts. I honestly didn’t expect this discipline to impact my life so profoundly. When I see God as the Giver, then I can give in return. Out of the abundance he’s given me, I have so much more to pour out. So many times these past year, as I’ve been recording the gifts in my little Moleskine, when I lost my step and forgot my focus, God was there. Giving. Ever giving. An eternal fountain of life, filling me with light, spilling forth to others. I never ran dry, never came up completely short, because even on the worst day, when I had the least within me, when I got to the very end, God brought up the slack. Finished it out. I believe He gave me so much more than I could bear, so that when I hit the very limits of my being, He could be there to give me even more.

He’s the Giver.


Here’s where I make it halfway:
481. healthy, beating hearts
482. my sweet father-in-law
483. only minor damage
484. my husband's first 35 years
485. a sister willing to drive quite a ways just to help during my surgery
486. a little lidocaine pre-IV insertion - a small kindness that made a difference in my day
487. quick anesthesia recovery
488. supper from my mama
489. some relief from pain
490. clear breaths of air thanks to my inhaler
491. medical intervention
492. my beautiful and gracious Aunt Marcia
493. bent fingers
494. relief of pain
495. a committed and selfless husband
496. being carried to the table - weak and broken by the fall
497. the certainty that my pain and discomfort will end - a hope not everyone has
498. toddler cousin love
499. the most mature ten year old I know - a gift to our whole family
500. my Moleskine filled with page after page of gifts. A life-changing discipline I did not expect
501. a system-wide legacy
502. meeting my children's sister's mom for the first time
503. my four-year-old who, after a year and a half, finally believes that he's 'dorable
504. opened doors of opportunity
505. the hope of further influence
506. teamwork through disagreement
507. buttoning my own pants
508. a husband to help me dress for an important meeting when I can't manage it all myself
509. the start of my favorite season
510. the 'boys' - who'll stay late, work hard, mow lots to get our tasks done
511. princess hats during church
512. baby love during church
513. the sweet anticipation of my first meeting with my nephew
514. handmade owls and flower arrangements
515. a beautiful woodland baby shower
516. wishes for Truett

a sampling…

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Still recuperating from what should’ve been not that big of a deal. Thank you surgery-gone-wrong….
Since I’m all out of scheduled posts and I have no drafts even remotely close to being finished, here is a sampling from my RSS feed this week:

What I’m making as soon as my hand can remotely function:
Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake

The post that has maybe convicted more than any other this week (especially as we near the holidays):
When You'd Really Like To Wear Sheer Joy - Ann Voskamp
”What if we wanted to be beautiful more than we wanted to buy beautiful?”

The posts that moved me:
On Community, Suffering, and Hope - Amber Haines for (in)courage
”And as a woman working out my salvation as best I can, I’ve seen gorgeous God unfold in their healed faith, their honesty and humility – oh the beautiful church, there.”

ShePonders: Another Anointing - Kelley Johnson-Nikondeha for SheLovesMagazine
”This anointing pushes others toward their true call. We are invited to anoint each other toward the things that matter–for our sake, for their sake and for the sake of the world in need of transformation.”

so far

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This past May, I received some of the best news of my life. It capped off the hardest year and a half of my life. By the end of August, the process to adopt my youngest two children was complete. I was tired.

We had parties. We did special memory-making things. We shared that memorable day with almost all of our family and our best friends. We shared our joy with all the rest of our friends and family. The thing was, I wasn’t really feeling the joy the way everyone else was, the way my husband wanted me to, the way I thought I should. I was just tired.

I wish I had known this next verse then…

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” 2 Samuel 7:18

In my small group bible study, we are doing Beth Moore’s David: Seeking a Heart Like His. (I haven’t done this particular study for about 10 years, so much of it still seems fresh. Plus, she’s redone the videos so that material is definitely all new.)

One of the notable things in this verse that Beth points out is that David didn’t kneel before the Lord, he didn’t fall on his face, he didn’t dance, and he didn’t even stand and lift his hands in praise. He just sat. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Just sit there. She attributes it to him being overwhelmed with praise. I actually think that maybe he was just tired. David had just spent years on the run, afraid for his life. He had suffered the loss of his best friend, his king, his profession. He had battled lions, bears, giants, and whole armies to the death. He had dealt with sin, betrayal, loneliness, grief, and a myriad of other emotions. He had endured years of stress and seeking God in the hardest places.

Not only that, but he had also experienced all that’s good of life. At a time when the Spirit of the Lord wasn’t given to all believers, David received an anointing. He was declared the future king of Israel. He was honored and revered by his countrymen. (and many, many women) He had known the best of friendships. He had experienced incredible intimacy with God. He brought the ark of the covenant to its rightful place in Jerusalem. He had celebrated like it was 1999, and on top of all that, he received a word of prophecy from the Lord about his future, his country’s future, and his children’s future. Let’s just summarize by saying it’s good news. David had known the depths of despair; he had known the heights of glory. I think he was tired.

I spent so much hours over the past couple years on my knees and even more time flat on my face before God pleading, begging, weeping, in total confusion and despair. I experienced deeper sorrow than I’ve ever known, I felt the sting of betrayal, and I was brought to brokenness in ways I did not expect. I learned to be friends with the darkness, with insomnia, with secrets, with constant and extreme stress. I had to go to many of these dark places alone. I learned what true and deep loneliness felt like, but I also learned the depths of true friendship, the power of unafraid prayer, and an incredible intimacy with God. I grieved, and I celebrated. I spent time standing before the Lord in wonder, in gratitude, in praise – sometimes with lifted hands, sometimes with pure dancing joy. And I was tired.

Scientifically, I think a large part of it is the emotional exhaustion and let-down that comes over you after a stressful time. I was so used to operating under constant, extreme stress that when it was gone, my body literally didn’t know how to function normally. I also got bogged down in the scary parts of our future. I lost sight of the fact that I didn’t need to do or feel anything else. I didn’t have to be the happiest I’ve ever been. I didn’t need to dwell on how much of our journey has yet to be travelled. I don’t need to be on my face in sorrow or dancing in praise; like David, I can just sit before the Lord. In praise, in wonder, in thankfulness, or with none of that. Nothing required of me. When there are just no words, there are no feelings, there is no energy, there is just nothing left but just to sit before Him and utter the words of David: ‘Who am I? What is my family that You have done this? That you have brought us here?’

God gives and gives. I bear witness to that. What makes me think He’ll stop? The same God who allows me to sit before him can be trusted with my future. I can praise Him for how far He’s brought me. I can sit in complete peace before Him knowing that He knows how far I have to go.

Praise to God who has brought me so far.

of few words

Friday, November 11, 2011

As I cannot type for real due to a wrist surgery that I had on Wednesday, I am forced to do a modified hunt and peck with one hand. This makes me much less inclined to write lengthy posts right now. Well, that and the loopiness brought on by all the vicodin. I hate narcotics with an all-consuming passion, but I’m thankful that it at least kills some of the pain.

In lieu of a real post, enjoy this music on your Friday night. We’re going to see this band in January; I’m enjoying them on YouTube in the meantime. Plus planning my own sister band. One of us is going to have to learn the guitar a whole lot better first.


random happenings

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1) My youngest son copes with anxiety and stress by increasing his OCD tendencies. As it doesn’t interfere with his life, I’m thankful that it’s a mostly pain-free, innocuous way for him to regain some control. While my mother-in-law was here, it came out during a finger food lunch. He kept biting his cheese and crackers and pepperoni until they were all exactly the same size. If you can imagine a four year old trying to visually determine size, then biting the appropriate amount off…wait, too much off that cracker, now I have to bite the cheese…wait, now the cracker’s bigger again, time to fix the cheese… went on awhile.  It bordered on truly obsessive; I wasn’t sure he’d be able to quit, but in truth, eventually all the pieces were so small he had eaten all his food. Since she’s been gone, it’s been mostly about cleaning and clothing and stuff, but yesterday we were shopping, and he wouldn’t quit touching stuff in the clearance section we were in. I started to get on him until I realized that he was organizing it. Ha. At least he’s performing a viable service; we all know how terrible clearance sections are. Maybe retail is in his future.

2) I have a wicked respiratory thing going on, and I cannot express the overwhelming affection I have towards my inhaler. I don’t want to go anywhere without it. I count the hours until I can use it again. Albuterol is one amazing drug. (But hopefully not addictive. after I re-read this point, I can see some dangerous tendencies on my part…)

3) I just finished a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined'>The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined'>The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. It is easily the most fascinating book I’ve read in years. I highly recommend it. Basically the entire premise is that we live in the most peaceful, least violent, safest time in all of recorded human history. Not at all what you hear on the news…

4) My youngest might flat out drive me to the heavy drink. She is so outrageously difficult right now. I have some suspicions as to what’s going on with her, but no way to confirm them without a myriad of tests and multiple doctor visits. So I’m trying some home interventions in hopes of making things better. They haven’t worked so far.

5) I agreed via phone call a couple weeks ago to donate some clothing to a national foundation. They were sending a truck around to get the box on a specific day last week. I left the box, appropriately labeled, on the front porch. They called me later saying that they could not pick up the box because there was a dog loose so their driver couldn’t exit his vehicle. If I could just restrain the dog, they would be happy to come and pick up the box. Restrain my BASSET HOUND? What would that even look like? I could stand beside him while he didn’t move. Since that’s how he spends 95% of his day. Not moving. Even the UPS guy, who is notoriously afraid of dogs (my theory is that he’s been bit) does not even show the slightest bit of hesitation with our dog. Give me a break. If you can’t get out of the car because of a basset hound, you do not deserve my donations. I’m sorry. It’s a line I have to draw.

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