Birth of the Boy Child

You may have noticed that I added Candy Crush back to my phone… really, that’s not all that has kept me off the blog over the past few months.  We’ve completed another basketball season and another debate season, and I’ve been as busy as a one armed paper hanger.  (I love to sprinkle little Meme-isms into my writing!)

An important day is coming to the Ballou house.  Tomorrow marks 14 years since the Boy Child made his appearance two days late.  You might guess that I never let him forget that.  Truly, his late arrival fit perfectly with what was happening in our lives at that time.  I just had to overcome a little jealousy.  Four of us from college expected the blessed event within the last two weeks of March.  Each of those babies made their appearance, and I became more convinced that I would be the first person in history to be pregnant forever.  As I neared the end of that pregnancy, my Nanny was living her final days of Alzheimer’s.  She died in a nursing home nearby, and the whole family gathered for her funeral… on my due date… with my husband officiating the funeral.  Needless to say, once the family confirmed the date, I started praying this baby would stay in a little bit longer.

We made it through Nanny’s funeral and relatives began to disperse.  My parents returned to Longview knowing they would probably be back soon.  My sister and her family, including my six week old niece, stayed over until Sunday.  While we were at church, she fixed lunch, and they packed to return home.  At church that day, the pitying looks I received convinced me not to return until my pregnant status had changed.  I tried not to look miserable, but I really don’t do pregnancy well.  Of course, who does at 40+ weeks?

After lunch I realized I was very uncomfortable, but again, 40+ weeks and all that.  No one expects anything but discomfort.  Finally we realized these pains could be contractions.  I had a vague idea of what they felt like from Taylor.  Remember I’m the number one epidural promoter in all of blogdom so I wasn’t sure.  We decided to go ahead and go to the hospital and rejoiced that they admitted me!  Several hours later, after much pain, the doctor decided to break my water.  Then, she assured me, I could have my epidural. Ladies and gentlemen, the order of those two events is key to the birthing process.  I had no idea how much that water protected me from the worst of the contractions.  I’m sure thirty seconds passed from the rupturing to the anesthetizing, but it felt like 3 hours.  I think I appreciated that epidural more.  Never take for granted a good anesthesiologist! I also learned at this time that the lady next door was progressing at a similar rate and that there was only one private room left.  Suddenly we were racing in a process that neither of us could really control.  With the epidural, I felt like Superwoman, so the nurse cranked up the pitocin.   A few hours later, I began pushing.  The only problem with that came from the medicine they had given me several hours earlier to “take the edge off” the pain until I could get the epidural.  That drug is worthless for pain, but evidently it is great for insomnia.  I could not stay awake.  My most vivid memory of the boy child’s actual exodus from my body is WB waking me up to push then letting me take 30 second naps between pushes.  I spent about an hour and a half in cycles of 10 seconds of pushing and 30 seconds of sleeping, but finally his chalky sweet 8 pound 14 ounce body made an appearance!  And I won the private room!

I will attempt to describe the joy this boy has brought to my heart.  My sister and I had no brothers and only one boy cousin on either side of the family, so boys were a fairly foreign species.  I’m not sure if more joy comes from seeing his imagination that is so different from mine (I have a good Dr. Pepper story coming soon in a blog.) or from the things that come out of his mouth that are hilarious (i.e. WB is preparing a neti pot at the kitchen sink while talking to me about his recent run through the woods.  Boy Child politely says, “Dad, can you use that in the bathroom?  It’s kind of gross.”  Um, yes, it goes without saying that I wasn’t planning on cleaning out my nasal passages all over the kitchen sink.)  He can be cuddly… and not.  He can be sweet… and not.  He looks just like his daddy.  He often smells like a puppy.  He is my Boy Child and one of my top two favorite kids in the universe!

The Second Worst Christmas Eve Ever

As Christmas week approaches, I am reminded of all the reasons I love student ministry.  I love getting all of your Christmas cards with pictures of your sweet families.  I love seeing pictures on facebook of all of the babies being born.  There seems to be an abundance of you sweeties getting married and having babies right now!  One thing I don’t love in student ministry, but I always try to take in stride, is the way you show your love through your humor.  Although I use the word humor loosely since we all have different perspective on what is considered funny.

One December about 15 years ago, we embarked on a ski trip with a group of teenagers from Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston.  As happened often, we hired someone, a college student, to come over and take care of our dog once a day, and we begged someone, my parents, to take our daughter for the week.  I will mention that finding someone to feed a 120 pound Rottweiler was a bit more challenging than twisting my mom’s arm to entertain herself with a 14 month old cutie pie.  Compounding the issue, Walter is cautious about security issues like giving out house keys and letting people into our home.  He chooses carefully in these matters.

Christmas that year was going to be at our house, so I meticulously decorated our real Christmas tree, which was dry and messy by that point.  The house sparkled and things were arranged perfectly to receive my parents and my sister’s family of 3 when we arrived home on Christmas Eve.  This required some intense planning on my part to have all gifts purchased and wrapped, food planned and purchased, and the house clean.  Did I mention how hard I worked to clean that house?

As we headed home on that charter bus for the 18+ hour ride back to Houston, I mentally shifted to how excited I was to see my baby again and have a Christmas she could enjoy after the last one where she basically slept through the whole thing.  My family would be arriving with her just a few hours after we got back from Colorado, so my to-do list needed to be short and shared between Walter and I.  Thankfully the guest bath tub had already been cleaned, so he could devote his attention to other tasks.  As the hours passed, the weather grew worse and the roads began covering with ice.  Being on a charter bus with other people’s children on icy roads amps up the stress level a bit.  When an 18 hour trip stretches to 27, the stress level also rises.

We realized that we weren’t going to be home in time to let my family, with two toddlers in tow, into the house, so Walter called our dog sitter to see if he could open the door for them.  For the sake of convenience, we’ll just call him Johnny.  Well, Johnny sheepishly admitted to my head of security husband that he had lost the key to our house after taking care of the dog the day before.  This was going to be a problem since they were all in on the road already.  The only solution we could think of was for them to hang out at a nearby McDonald’s and let the kids play while they waited for us to get there and open the door.  As soon as the bus stopped, I jumped off to run home and open the door before running back to help unload food and supplies from the bus.  Again, the stress level compounded by the exhaustion level was not conducive to a peaceful family holiday.  Then I opened my door and the stress level reached an all time high.  In the light from the entry way, I could see into the living room, but I couldn’t imagine why I was looking at the back of my dresser.  I walked into the living room and saw that my entire bedroom was in the living room.  Realizing that this couldn’t be dealt with at this moment, I closed the door and went up to the church to finish cleaning up from the trip.

Upon arrival at the church, I sought out Walter and promptly burst into tears explaining the mess that we faced when we got home.  We finished our work while some mystery person made some calls and explained to “Johnny” and his sidekicks (let’s just call them Drew and Wade) that Shelly didn’t seem to be enjoying their little joke.  Evidently these boys had decided it would be funny (again the distortion between what some people think is funny) to completely switch my bedroom with the dust and clutter stored under the bed and the living room with the live Christmas tree surrounded by presents and already breathing its last breath.  This included taking pictures from walls and doors from hinges to make the closest possible imitation of each room in the other’s space.  I must admit that I only heard this description from a female who had been present at the rearranging and wisely tried to explain to the 20 year old children that while Walter may laugh, Shelly most certainly wouldn’t.  The glance I got as I opened the door and promptly left did not do it justice.  When we arrived home, all of my family sat at the kitchen table while those three boys put the finishing touches on vacuuming the pine needles and returning my house to its former state.  Evidently they had received and earful from another sponsor who had been on the trip with us, was just as tired as we were, and had an extreme aversion to any kind of pranks to people’s houses, including toilet paper in the yard.  My mom said that wasn’t a pleasant discussion and my dad and brother in law informed us that it really was a great prank.  We will have to take their word for it because we never saw the completed product.  In fact, as divine justice would have it, Walter never saw even a tiny glimpse of what they did.  I can imagine the hours they spent getting everything just right and the hours it took to get it…well… just right back where they found it.  Two of those boys married and went into student ministry.  I still wish for them to face a similar prank.  Although Walter told them he would probably find it funny in a couple of years, I assured them I never would.

And that is the story of the second worst Christmas Eve ever.  Now those boys have finally received the notoriety their prank deserves!  If you are curious about why I changed the title, Walter did a funeral for an 18 year old boy involved in a ski accident on Christmas Eve one year.  I couldn’t imagine that my little inconvenient furniture arrangement could compare to that.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!  The Christmas card and letter aren’t happening from us this year, so consider yourselves loved.  We are truly thankful for all of the people God has brought into our lives to bless us and help us make wonderful memories!

Shelly

Merry Marriage Musings

Nothing seasons a marriage quite like those first holidays spent together.  As each person brings expectations and traditions from separate families seeking to merge into their own traditions, misunderstanding is inevitable.  The Ballous also learned some important lessons in those first years, and I decided to share a couple of them with you.

We moved into our first house one year after we were married, on the second day of school, in my first year of teaching my own class.  We like to maximize our stress when the opportunity presents itself.  We built this house, our very own track home in a neighborhood of such homes, which meant that right down the street and around the corner and in at least a dozen other places in the neighborhood, another house just like ours perched on its own patch of grass with two requisite Bradford Pear Trees and 6 shrubs planted outside.  I loved making that house our own and looked forward to our first Christmas there so much that I encouraged Walter to invite all of the youth workers over for a Christmas party.

The day of the party arrived and a few jobs remained to be done.  The first of which involved my selection of a Christmas tree skirt as the floor under our tree was unacceptably bare.  This job fell to me for obvious reasons.  Walter had no desire to fight the crowds at WalMart while reading my mind and determining the perfect skirt for our (okay my) taste and decor.  Since cell phones did not exist, I called him before leaving school to ask him to work on cleaning the house.  I had no idea when I would be home, company was coming, dishes were in the sink, and laundry was on the couch.  I assumed he would start on the areas where the party would be and went on about my shopping.  This might be a good place to mention that the whole reading of minds thing has never worked out well for us.  Marital tip #1 for this post would be to say what you want to be done rather than attempt to not be bossy and assume your partner will walk into the house, see the laundry and dishes, and tackle the mess.

I searched and searched and finally found the perfect ecru colored crocheted tree skirt.  The only one in the store of its kind, this one lacked any sort of price tag or label or match that could be used for pricing.  I braced myself for a long wait realizing that the tree skirts ranged in price from $35.97 to $6.97 for the cheap sparkly plastic-y ones.  Because no tree skirt in the store was as beautiful as this one or more perfect for our home, I nervously waited for the price checker to come back, knowing I couldn’t spend $35.97 on a tree skirt.  I really hoped my search would end here because I needed to get home and help with those dishes and laundry and a myriad of other tasks that only I could do to the level of perfection required by my newly  married self.  Imagine my delight when the sales person came up and told the cashier, “Just give it to her for $6.97.  I can’t find another one.”  What a gift!  That Christmas tree skirt is one in a long line of blessings the Lord has piled on us for no apparent reason other than the fact that He loves us.  We still use it 20 Christmases later and tell the story.  Marital tip #2 for this post is to walk through life as a team watching for how God wants to bless you.  It is so easy to push for our own agendas and desires and miss out on great things He wants to do!

I rushed home with only an hour to spare before the party.  As I let myself in, I couldn’t help but notice the laundry on the couch and the mess in the kitchen.  Had someone died?  Had there been an accident at the church?  A pregnant teenager?  A crisis only Walter could handle?   In Shelly world, something major had to have happened to have such a mess remaining when the party was imminent.  I methodically searched our 1500 square foot home in 7.2 seconds and finally found Walter.  In the guest bathroom.  Cleaning the bathtub.  That had never been used.  That would not be used at the party.  My brain scrambled to find a more appreciative reaction than the one that jumped to my mind and wanted to jump out of my mouth.  I’m pretty sure we threw the clean laundry into the clean bathtub, closed the shower curtain, and had a party!  Later (and for the next couple of decades) we would discuss the reasoning required to choose that chore to focus on at that time.  Marital tip #3 for this post goes back to the whole reading minds concept.  That doesn’t work out for us.

Fast forward a couple of years.  I decided, like only an amateur wife can decide, that I would help Walter out with the Christmas lights this year since he was so busy and surely it was only a matter of using a staple gun to attach a few strands of lights across the roof and around the eaves.  I say “eaves” like I know that is a part of the house that can be stapled into, but I’m actually not sure that is what the wooden part under the roof before the brick is called.  You get my drift.  To confirm my plan, I consulted with one of Walter’s friends who was known for his legendary light displays.  After imagining the wife of one of his good friends crawling up a ladder and over a roof to staple lights into shingles, he wisely offered to come over and help.  Let me review the facts of this situation in case you missed them.  My intention was to help my seminary student husband who was in the midst of finals with a job I was sure he would love to do if time allowed.  The friend’s intention was to help the wife of a good friend avoid broken bones or paralysis.  Neither of those intentions was the first thing Walter noticed when he drove up to the house and saw that his wife had recruited another man to do something to his house that he could have done himself.  Charles felt terrible.  I felt terrible (and misunderstood).  Walter felt unappreciated.  I learned that Christmas that Walter has no desire to put Christmas lights up and it isn’t worth it for me to do it myself, or recruit a friend, or hire a company, or especially to nag my husband into doing it.  We have a couple of light up metal things that we sometimes put in the yard, but otherwise we just put a wreath on the door and keep the peace.  Marital tip #4 is that no comparison to the neighbors is worth tension in your marriage.  Some things just need to be left alone.

Thanks for reading this long post.  I have a great story to share about the worst Christmas Eve ever, so I’m sure you’ll be waiting on the edge of your seats for that burst of Christmas cheer!  It really is a funny story, if it didn’t happen to you.

Shelly

The Joy of Discipline

I confess to being a binge blogger.  I apologize for the spurts of writing then weeks of nothing in between.  I keep a list of topics I want to write about when I get a chance to sit down and do it.  This one isn’t on the list but is something I’ve been reading about and thinking about this morning.

Our topic is discipline.  We associate discipline with negative emotions and trouble, but in scripture we see that the discipline God offers his children has positive motivation and positive results.  Rest assured, I’m not ignoring the distinctly negative part that comes between the motivation of the discipliner and the results for the disciplined.  I’ve experienced that lesson as both the receiver and the giver of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-6 tell us not to make light of the Lord’s discipline because He disciplines those He loves.  This chapter goes on to refer casually, as if it goes without saying, to the discipline of parents on behalf of their children.

v. 7- “What son is not disciplined by his father?”

v. 9- “… we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.”

Discipline is an act of love.  I think we as modern parents have believed the lie that we show love to our children by not frustrating them or making them cry.  I’m too cautious to go into the specifics of what discipline should look like in your home.  The basics are that parents establish and explain an expectation for behavior that includes consideration of developing children that other people find pleasant to be around.  When that expectation is not met, consistent consequences occur.  Whatever those consequences look like, they should not be something pleasant that the child looks forward to.  Now I don’t mean that we should all parent to please others or meet their expectations.  Sixteen years of raising pastor’s kids has taught me that we will never please everyone.  We have to strive to please God, but we do them a disservice if our laziness or lack of willpower causes them to be the child that others don’t want in their homes or don’t want their kids to be around or ask to be moved away from in a restaurant because they are loud and disruptive.  That actually happened to me recently, but thankfully we were dining in a group so I could just assume that other people’s kids caused the problem.  Isn’t it nice to have someone else to blame?

I strive to keep this brief because I recognize the miracle that anyone actually clicked on a blog that is openly about discipline- bleh!  Let me clarify that I didn’t choose this topic because our parenting and children are perfect, and I wish yours were too.  Too many people do life with us and know that is untrue.  I chose this topic because I empathize with parents who hear so many messages from magazines and books and “experts” who share conflicting “wisdom” regarding discipline.  I encourage you to go back to the basics and recognize that you are the person God put in their lives to teach them how to be responsible, productive, pleasant adults one day.  It will challenge you daily, but I have to believe that it will be worth it when we get to the “end” of parenting, wherever that is, and see the adults they have become.  I challenge you to read Hebrews 12 and see what it says about how God disciplines us.  That is another topic for another time.

Stay strong!  Do hard things! The reward will be worth it!

October 18, 1997

This day started like a lot of days for a DINK couple.  We slept in then I did some light housework while Walter paid the bills.  We planned to go shopping for a little side table to go by a chair in our living room that afternoon, so I decided to take a shower.  On a side note, that missed shopping trip stands out in my memory because before we knew it we were meeting with our realtor to put our house on the market.  She politely told me that I probably needed to replace the plastic tub I used to hold my water bottle and burp rags and nursing pads and passy and all of those other little baby tools that I intended to put on that cute little table that I never got to shop for.  I cried, but remember the Houston church was interviewing us and change was imminent, so my hair trigger tear ducts were working overtime.

Warning!  TMI coming.  Skip this paragraph if you can’t handle it!  Since I moved a loaded file cabinet early in my pregnancy, my bladder suffered the consequences throughout the pregnancy.  When I got ready to shower, I noticed a steady stream running down my leg and prepared for a real pity party.  This was getting ridiculous.  How could I go anywhere with this issue so obvious?  Then it hit me that perhaps my bladder wasn’t leaking.  I called Walter to confirm that this wasn’t the liquid I was used to dealing with.  At 39 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t going to get on the floor to investigate!  With the help of his olfactory senses we determined that my water had broken, so I immediately got into the shower to start beautifying myself and avoid bed head pictures in the hospital.  When I got out of the shower we called whoever it is the doctor had told us to call if I went into labor on a Saturday.  They told us to come on in, so I finished my hair and makeup, packed my bag, waited for Walter to pay the bills, then went to the car and waited some more.  This day was the one time in our marriage I allowed myself to honk for him to hurry.  By this point, I had been in “labor” for over an hour, so I felt entitled even though I hadn’t suffered a single contraction yet.  Surely pain would soon make itself known.  We stopped by the bank then headed to the hospital.

Upon arrival at Seton Medical Center,  I couldn’t help but notice a lack of trumpets and fanfare.  It was like they did this kind of thing every day although I was doing it for the first time in my life.  The room where they took us had the A&M vs. K State game playing, so Walter settled in to watch the game while I started filling out forms and wondered why it didn’t hurt yet.  I got to the part of the forms that asked for mother’s signature and explained to the nurse that my parents had left Longview about an hour ago, but she could sign it when she got there.  In a tribute to her professionalism, she did not laugh at me.  She just explained that I was the mother, so I needed to sign it.  That was the first time I signed as a mother!

After about 3 hours, friends from church started arriving and I was amazed that I still hadn’t had any contractions.  At my last doctor appointment I verified that I would be able to have an epidural at the first twinge of pain, because I had nothing to prove by enduring this without the benefit of modern medicine’s anesthetic accomplishments.  To me having “natural” childbirth meant that I didn’t sneeze it out of my nose, and I was pretty sure that option had been eliminated.  At 4:00 I started feeling some pain, which I discovered 2 1/2 years later in a similar situation was not that bad, so I asked for the epidural.  For the next 4-5 hours I chatted with friends and family and shivered a lot.  I found out that was a side effect of the anesthesia, but friends still piled on the blankets.  This experience caused me to recognize anesthesiologists as the heroes they are.  The world is a better place because these people exist!

Finally it was time to push, which I did for about an hour, and Taylor was born at 10:10 p.m.  She weighed 7 lbs. 6 oz.  At this point I decided that I was made for labor and could probably deliver about 10 kids if I didn’t have to be pregnant first.  Only later did I add to that list.  I could have 10 kids if I didn’t have to wake up all night with them… or potty train them… or teach them to read…  Basically there are harder things in parenting than giving birth.

The day ended and life changed.  I know now that God had just introduced me to one of His biggest blessings planned for me.  Motherhood to this Girl Child has taught me patience, grace, joy, and sacrificial, unconditional love, both as the giver and receiver of those things.  I will be forever grateful.

 

Sixteen Years Ago

Sixteen years ago today…

I dragged my hugely pregnant body to school (it was a Friday) hoping it would be the last Friday I had to do that but knowing I had 11 days until my due date.

I feasted on a Taco Cabana black bean burrito, which, along with Sonic lemon berry slushes, had dominated the nutritional contributions to the girl child in the past 6 months.

I sat through an entire high school football game.  On the bleachers.

I served hot dogs to about a hundred hungry high schoolers after the game.

I wrapped all of my Christmas presents then fell asleep waiting for my husband, who has asked me to write a couple of blogs not mentioning him, to come home.

Do you feel the anticipation?  I can’t wait to tell you about what happened sixteen years ago tomorrow!

My Honorary Masters Degree

My sweet husband reminds me occasionally that blog posts can be short.  I think he is hinting that I tend to get a little wordy.  Only those who know him well will recognize the irony in that.  So this morning I’m going to tell you a short story about my honorary masters degree.  I could probably also claim an honorary bachelors degree, but I have one of those of my own, so I won’t.

As mentioned previously, I started dating Walter my sophomore year of college, which was his junior year.  As also mentioned, he worked several jobs to pay for college.  When we met, he was sacking groceries at a little small town grocery store where the old ladies have been coming for years and have distinct opinions about said sacking, working as a custodian at the Methodist church, and starting his first youth ministry job.  In the spring he also taught at Disciple Now weekends almost every weekend.  Since those activities put a limit on the amount of time we could spend together, I had the brilliant idea that I could type his papers for him.  I knew my typing skills excelled past his, but I didn’t realize how valuable my writing skills would be.  Rather than type word for word, which would have been so boring, I challenged myself by changing his words and adding to his sentences.  He learned that if I typed for him, he could get to the 500 or 5000 word limit much more quickly and painlessly.  Thus we completed college with an abundance of “quality time” typing papers.

Not long after we were married, he started seminary.  We continued the same pattern, completing papers while we both worked also.  I remember a couple of times that I stayed up all night at the church office typing his dictated words on the secretary’s computer then going home to shower and go teach school all day.  I did this without complaint knowing that someday I could brag to the six friends who might read this blog.  I resisted the urge to add my name to the bottom of that piece of paper from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but I know it should be there.

This is the end of my short post.

October 12, 1990

Today is a special anniversary for Frog Hair and I.  Allow me to take you back to 1989.  I was a freshman in college, and some friends and I had connected on one of the first weekends with a group of other students who were upper classmen that we hadn’t already met at all of the freshman events.  As is typical of teenage girls, at least that’s what I tell myself, we all scoped out the guys to see who we might be interested in.  One guy really stuck out to me, so I couldn’t wait to tell my roommate about my discovery.  When we got back to the room, she dramatically fell back onto her bed and proclaimed, “I think I’m in love!”  In the interest of politeness, I let her go first, deciding to tell her about my interest after she told me about hers.

“His name is Walter Ballou!”  What?  Oh no!  I guess I would have to just pick someone else, but it really didn’t matter, because I did not plan to do any flirting or anything.  I picked The Guy from the Cigarette Commercial.  We had nicknames for everyone that only we knew about.  We could discuss The Guy in the Pink Shirt, Q-Tip, and several others without anyone else knowing who we were talking about.  As the days passed, I learned some things about my roomie.  She could flirt like a professional!  This stood out to me because I had mastered the art of being a wallflower.  We found out where his classes were and “happened” to walk by the building at the end of class for each class that we could be available.  Of course she couldn’t walk by the same building every 3 minutes by herself, so I was with her almost every time she saw Walter.  We checked our mail 7 times a day just in case he might be in the student center playing ping pong.  We went to the cafeteria as soon as a meal started and stayed until the last person left hoping he would come in while we were there.  I’m telling you!  It was masterful!  This shy girl learned so much, and I’m convinced that this story would end here if she hadn’t pushed me to get to know him by being with her.  She asked Walter to Sadie Hawkins that fall, and he told me years later that the guys in the dorm gave him a hard time about whether I would be going on their date with them since she and I were always together.  That was as mortifying as it sounds!  He called our room to talk to her one time, and I answered.  He provided multiple suggestions of who I should ask to Sadie Hawkins.  Gasp!  Like I would EVER ask a boy out.  Not happening!  Now I realize he was probably just trying to make sure he didn’t have to take both of us.

Things were on again off again in her interest in Walter, but I was so careful not to let anyone know that I liked him until I knew that she realized she didn’t like him anymore.  I decided it wasn’t worth the tension in our friendship to complicate matters over a guy, even one that I was pretty sure I had been praying for since I was about 10 years old!  I discovered a secret to help me stay sane.  I had given some thoughts to the verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I reasoned that if my desires matched God’s will, I could avoid a lot of heartache in my life.  I began praying that God would change the desires of my heart to match His will.  I knew that if Walter Ballou wasn’t part of His will for my life, He would be faithful to take away my desire for him.  By that summer, I was able to tell a few friends of my extreme infatuation with Walter.  One of my friends spent a lot of time in Harleton, where he was a youth minister, because her boyfriend coached basketball in the same town.  She spied on him and let me know who seemed to be coming to his softball games and who showed up at church.  I may have written him one letter that summer because we had become friends over my first year of college.  I couldn’t be too forward, but I prayed like the persistent widow for God to show him I was the woman of his dreams.  Evidently other girls had an interest in him, and some of them could probably do a better job of getting his attention.

When school started up again in the fall, we found ourselves spending more and more time together, taking walks around campus, sitting at the student center and talking, and eating meals together in the cafeteria.  I rushed to finish my assignments for my classes just in case he called and wanted to meet somewhere and hang out.  When he called and asked, “What are you doing?” I couldn’t say, “Waiting anxiously by the phone.”  So I told him I was cutting out light bulbs, which is what I actually was doing the first time he called.  I didn’t realize that he thought of that as a brush off, similar to “I need to wash my hair” or something.  That became a joke every time we got together about me needing to cut out light bulbs when I really just wanted him to leave me alone.  As if I ever did.  By the way, the light bulbs were for my first mini lesson about inventions.  Our friendship grew and grew, but part of me still wondered if he would ever want to be more than friends.  On a small campus where the motto is “ring by spring or your money back,” people noticed the time we spent together.  I loved that other people thought we would be perfect together, but I still thought Walter was going to have to realize that before I could start planning how many children we would have.  Then in early October, he asked me to go with him to visit his former pastor who had moved to a town about an hour away.  I thought this could be a monumental visit because he had so much respect for this pastor and his wife and would probably be looking for some wisdom from them.

Because I battled nerves the whole night, I don’t remember a whole lot about dinner. However, I can’t forget an embarrassing moment driving to their house.  We saw a sign not far from campus that said “Rabbit Ears for sale.”  I immediately went into a tirade about the crazy things some people ate.  I had recently learned about sow ears and chicken feet and chitlins and fatback.  What in the world could be tasty about rabbit ears?  To his credit, he didn’t pull over to laugh at me.  He just kindly pointed out that the sign was written on a television then patiently waited for me to realize the sign referred to antennas for televisions.  I know I would have gotten that immediately if I hadn’t been so nervous!  There is a lot to be said for thinking before speaking.  I’m hoping to learn that lesson eventually.

Evidently he got a thumbs up from the pastor, because when we got back to campus we had “the talk” about wanting to be more than friends.  He explained that since he was working several jobs and paying for his own college, we couldn’t really do much “dating.”  I am convinced that if he had finished that statement with saying, “so I think we should just go ahead and get married,” I would have agreed and started planning it for the next available weekend.  As it was I floated back to the dorm and went straight to my former roommate’s room and woke her up and told her that Walter and I were finally dating!  She celebrated with me, and  I truly don’t think I stopped smiling for a week.  Even now, every year on October 12, my heart goes a little mushy when I think about that happy day!

The Prayers of a Young Minister’s Wife

As you might have guessed from the title, this blog has something of a historical flavor.  It has been a few years (20) since I have been a young minister’s wife, but I would like to share a story about a prayer God chose to answer 20 years later.

When I married Frog Hair, we had both just finished college and had been traveling to Pflugerville on weekends for his new student ministry job, a job that I realized the wife has to interview for as well.  You may be thinking that of course I should have to interview for that job.  After all, I would be teaching Vacation Bible School, singing in the choir, teaching a youth Sunday School class, and working with Frog Hair.  I can tell you that the interview is the fastest way to cause a young fiance to question her reasoning in agreeing to this whole minister’s wife thing.  I survived without completely embarrassing both of us, and we got the job.  I married, moved five hours from home, and started life as a minister’s wife all in a matter of a couple of weeks.  We moved into a 480 square foot apartment, and I started playing house.  I was in my element!  Then the first Sunday came.  I was sitting in church ignoring the covert stares checking me out (I just knew that they knew that I was sleeping with the youth minister! Gasp!) when out of the blue “Because He Lives” started playing from the piano and organ.  That day I learned that some hymns are just emotional triggers for me.  I started crying, delicately I like to think, and didn’t stop until the last hymn was sung.  That day I also learned that I don’t do change well.  Not long after that, while I was still adapting, I read an article that said the average time for a youth minister to stay at a church was 18 months.  Oh no!  I could not do this again in 18 months.  Thankfully, my husband lives by the saying, “Go where you’re sent.  Stay where you’re put.  Give what you got.”  He assured me we would stay until God clearly sent us elsewhere, and I prayed that God would keep us there for 10 years.  I’m not sure how I picked that number, but I clearly remember praying that and thinking that was close to forever.

Fast forward 5ish years.  We were so happy in our church and our community.  I loved my job, although I was making plans to come home as soon as I popped that baby out.  We had great friends and a wonderful group of volunteers and students in the student ministry.  Frog Hair informed me when I was seven months pregnant that a church in Houston had contacted him asking for a resume.  Once I determined that he didn’t have one, I felt good, but I could tell that God was working.  The quick version of that story is that we ended up moving when Girl Child was 5 weeks old, and I revisited the idea that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this ministry thing and reminded God of my 10 year prayer that I was still waiting for Him to answer.  I have already written about the tears and the mascara stained t-shirt that came out of that move, so suffice it to say that I still couldn’t be described as adaptable.

Our years in Houston impacted my life amazingly.  I participated in MOPS and women’s Bible studies, researched homeschooling and connected with people who offered wisdom on that, and made lifetime friends.  I had Boy Child and enjoyed so much the toddler/preschool years.  I also developed hideous allergies and asthma and spent approximately $100 per month just to breathe.  So one day when Frog Hair came home and told me that Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler had called him looking for student minister recommendations, I asked, “Did you recommend yourself?”  He asked, “Do YOU want to move?”  Somehow he had gotten the impression that I wouldn’t be open to that.  I quickly blew it off as not being a good time to ask when my allergies were acting up.  In God’s grace, He continued nudging us to obedience until Frog Hair finally gave in and contacted the personnel committee about sending a resume.  They had already narrowed their choices down to the final two, but they agreed to just take his resume so we could be obedient and stop hearing the words “green acres”  every day and meeting people from Tyler at random places.  Fast forward through some interviews both in Houston and in Tyler with both of us and just Frog Hair, and we found ourselves preparing for another move.  In typical mood swing fashion, I was devastated to leave our home, where we had just replaced the blue carpet after living with it and waiting patiently for five years.  I also didn’t want to leave the little homeschool group I had found and my friends and my Bible study group.  It had only been six years and I had asked the Lord for ten!  Sending us off with prayers and a pitchfork and a catchy little tune about Green Acres being the place to be, our friends in Houston wished us the best.

In those first months I made several trips to Houston for real estate tasks and ear infection tasks, but we had moved into a house located right behind the church and generously offered for free until we could find a home and a neighborhood where we wanted to settle in.  The trials that came with that blessing blew my mind!  The oven broke on Thanksgiving Day while I was hosting the family.  An infestation of huge flies invaded the boxes we had piled up in the sunroom because I just knew we would only be there for a few weeks.  The plumbing backed up driving me to my parents house in Longview just before a nervous breakdown claimed my sanity.  The only explanation came from Girl Child saying, “Meme, we have worms in our potty and diarrhea in our shower.”  I still treasure my friends who reminded me to appreciate the blessing in this situation.  I also treasure my friends who didn’t tell me how ungrateful I seemed.  The Lord brought us through those tearful months and provided a great house and more friends and experiences and memories.  That season of tears was ten years ago this month, and I can’t help but think how much God must love me to let this be our ten year church!  His timing was perfect, and I don’t hesitate to ask for ten more!

By the way, I can’t imagine any life but the one I live as a minister’s wife, and if you were curious, I did not nor will I ever sing in the choir.  You’re welcome!

Numbering My Days

I am walking through a book with a group of ladies from our student ministry, and I came across a verse this week that really spoke to me.  Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver is a book I’ve read and highlighted and learned from before, but new lessons hit me each time I read it.  Numbering my days is one of those lessons.  Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  I would like to analyze two parts of that verse- “number our days” and “heart of wisdom.”

In seeking to number my days, I have to ponder how much of my days the Lord allows me to see.  How many of us would love to know that we have 5,475 days left or 10, 475 days.  I even think I would like to know if I only have 57 days left, so I can take care of some things before I leave.  Obviously if we knew we were going to be dying in the next couple of months, we would ignore things like housework and laundry and exercise and dental work and all of those things that won’t matter when we’re dead anyway but that we need to do if we’re going to live a few more years.  What I’m thinking of involves the things that dominate my thoughts and time.  Do those things have eternal value or just value here on earth?  A life spent making memories with my kids and sharing Jesus  with everyone I meet and leaving those temporary things undone would probably land me on a reality show similar to Hoarders with perhaps less stuff but definitely more filth.  Practically speaking, there are things that have to be done that don’t have eternal value beyond teaching my kids that clean people live this way not that way.  I have to examine how much of my time I let them control; how much of my mood I let them control; and how much of my resources I let them control.  I have less than 3 years before my daughter graduates and less than 5 before my son graduates.  I have to number those days and recognize the priority of every day I get to wake up and take a breath and make an impact in someone’s life.  I hope it will be the someones He gave me to raise and maybe a few others if He really blesses me.

Finally I have some thoughts on wisdom.  Most of us would say we would love to have a heart of wisdom.  Then we would never find ourselves regretting something we said or an opportunity we wasted.  There would be no consequences because there would be no sins or mistakes committed.  Recognizing that perfection comes with death, what can we do to avoid as much heartache and make the most of the time we have.  James tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom, he can ask God, who gives it generously.

I imagine a spiral effect in these concepts from Psalm 90:12.  As we number our days by recognizing the value of making the most of every day God gives us, we gain wisdom.  As we gain wisdom, we are able to better know how to make the most of every day God gives us.

Since I am holding up progress on today’s schoolwork by taking so much computer time, let me close with this quote from Andy Stanley that I saw this morning.  “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.”  Number your days wisely!