Being greeted by a toothless, grinning, red-headed baby boy every morning (I will miss it when any one of these adjectives change.)
The sound a hardback book makes when you open it for the first time
The smell of ink on paper (of any age--new is my favorite)
Reading and studying the Bible with no time pressures
The tingle of warm sunshine on my skin, and the way it lasts even after I go back inside
The scents of Fall--spices, dank earth, hints of wood smoke in the air
The weight and feel of a book in my hands (What? I like books.)
New school supplies
Daisy, my rat terrier
A strong cup of Community Coffee with a dash of Hershey's Chocolate Caramel creamer by International Delight
Holding a sleeping baby
Being able to eat a gluten-free doughnut every morning without getting fat (This will change when I stop breastfeeding.)
The rush of adrenaline during exciting books (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a book I want to help make the New York Times bestseller list. Then, read her sequel Catching Fire.)
The feel of my husband's strong, welcoming arms and firm chest after a hard day; his smell
Teaching whatever; a student's success
Listening to my Aunt Mary tell stories about her childhood
Performing on stage
Making new friends; visiting old ones
Talking to Mom in person or over the phone
Exchanging dry humor with my dad
Finding common ground with my sister
Reminiscing good times
My friends and family
Grace, Redemption, Mercy
The Lord Jesus Christ
Growing old with the love of my life. Happy birthday, Brandon.
When you have a positive experience of any kind, there is an inevitability that something or someone will come along to ruin it for you, usually sooner than later. This is especially true if the positive experience was spiritual. Every time I have an encounter with God, that encounter is challenged. Maybe this is good for us, the way things should be. I mean, how do you know what you felt was real unless you are tested? But, oh man! Sometimes the test can be a real pain in the butt!
This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Beth Moore simulcast with a precious friend from church. I must be honest--when I agreed to go, I agreed for the same reason I might consent to eat cabbage--I know it's good for me even if I gag a little as it goes down. I know this isn't a healthy view of events such as these. That's not the point. I went. I learned. I changed. I have never been so happy to have my presumptions and prejudices proven wrong in my entire life. I gloried in my wrongness. I learned so much last weekend, but the lesson that has lingered most clearly in my mind was not taught in Beth Moore's absurdly large classroom. It was taught in a one on one tutoring session with God . . .
Last week, I spent several hours preparing a studio policy for my piano and voice students. It was good. It was close to fool proof. I felt secure that no one could take advantage of me after signing this bad mamma jamma. Thursday night, I had a meeting at my house for my students and their parents. The policy was signed by everyone, and I even had one family pay, which I was super excited about as I had in my policy in THREE separate places that all monies paid were NONREFUNDABLE. I already had $60, and I hadn't even taught lesson number one! Yay! Surely this family was serious! Surely they would be excellent clients! I said goodbye to everyone, excited about what possibilities laid in store for my new students. That was prior to my weekend with Beth Moore.
*Back to the tutoring session with God*
Less than 24 hours after the completion of the simulcast, a test literally came knocking on my door. Brandon and I had to teach children's church Sunday morning, and we were cutting it close with the time. I had just finished blow-drying my hair, hadn't yet put on my make-up and was not yet completely dressed. The doorbell rang. I looked at him and asked incredulously, "Who is ringing our doorbell on Sunday morning?" He shrugged, and answered the door while I began to flatiron my hair.
I heard someone ask to see me, but I knew my man would take care of it and send them away so we could make it on time for church. He said, "She's getting ready for church right now," and he began closing the door. The woman stepped over the threshold, ignoring my husband. I side-stepped out of the bathroom into the hall so I could see who this impertinent person was, and realized that I had never seen her in my life. I thought to myself, "Who does this stranger think she is? She's going to make me late, and people are depending on me."
"Ms. Keaster?" the woman asked. As she was over twice my age, I knew this little visit was most likely in reference to my studio. With as much dignity as one could muster when they look worse than they would if they had just rolled out of bed, I answered, "Yes."
She introduced herself as one of my student's grandparents, and told me that her grandchild would not be able to take lessons this year. I asked if anything was wrong because I liked this particular child a good bit and had enjoyed teaching her during the month of July. The woman said that the child was fine, that she was going through "some life changes," which I thought was unreasonably vague. Naturally, this student was the one who had already paid for the month, and naturally, the woman asked for the money back. She was not the guardian that had accompanied my student on Thursday night, so I told her that I had gone over the policy the night that I was paid, and according to my policy, all monies paid are nonrefundable. I also said that I would think about it and get back to her, but I couldn't do anything about it at the moment. I was late for church. She then returns with, "As it wasn't due until her first lesson, I figured we could get the money back." She exited my home with a huff. Had her tone not been abrasive, I still would have been considerably more than irritated for the following reasons. One, I had spent a good amount of time on that policy, thank you very much. Two, I had basically read it to everyone and forced them to sign it before leaving the meeting on Thursday night. Three, she did not call to give me any warning about this visit. Four, she picks SUNDAY FREAKING MORNING to pull this little stunt. Finally, she didn't have to take that tone with me as she left. She bombarded me, while looking gosh-awful mind you, and I told her I would think about it . . . AGAINST MY POL-I-CY.
I'll be honest again. I didn't even fight to keep my temper in check. I began ranting to my husband at the top of my lungs, completely put out--We were late! She made me late! She came into my house without permission! She demanded money that was no longer hers! She got snippety on her way out! I ranted as we ran out the door. I ranted as we began driving down the road. I called someone at church to let them know we would be late. I also asked this dear one to say a prayer for me because I knew that I was in no shape to teach little kiddies about the Lord at that point. I hung up, and ranted some more.
About the time we left the town of Farmerville, words from Psalm 37, the passage we had studied only the day before, came to my mind like a slap to the face. It was as if the Lord said, "Melissa! Get a grip!" The words were "cease from your anger and forsake wrath," and "trust in Me, and do good." I stopped ranting for a moment, and chewed on that thought. I knew what I would do. I would do good. I would give the woman her money back. I knew that was what God was telling me to do, and I would do it. But I could still be mad about it, right? WRONG!!!! "Cease from anger," He whispered again, "forsake wrath." And then I was given a gift . . .
an image . . . a mental picture of what I must have looked like to that woman when she came through my door. And I'm passing this gift on to you because you won't fully understand why I did what I did next unless you see it for yourself. Understand that with this particular hair cut I look like this after flatironing my hair. This is how the public at large sees me on a day to day basis--
So, against the desires of my ego and self-respect, here is what I looked like when she saw me last Sunday morning-- Or better yet, scary hair with my "angry" face.
And that, my friends, is why Brandon and I laughed our heads off all the way to church, and were more than ready to teach our little kiddies when we arrived. And that, my friends, is how I forsook wrath, and took pleasure in doing some good.
Six months ago today, I watched as you entered the world, a moment that changed my life. I will never forget it. You came out all purpled with the cord wrapped around your neck. My heart stopped beating until you let out the most remarkable wail for a thing so tiny. Dr. Pennebaker held you up so I could see. Your brows were furrowed, the corners lips turned down, your delicate eyelids closed. The light in the room hugged your tiny frame and beamed outward, a true reflection of all that I was feeling in that glorious moment. I never believed in “love at first sight” until I met you. And not only did I love you, for the first time in my life, I loved someone naturally, thoroughly more than I loved myself. I knew then I would do anything for you, and in six months that feeling has not faltered, only grown.
Everyone thinks their baby is the most beautiful, gifted baby in the world, but I know for a fact that you actually are. You were a lovely newborn, something very rare, but your beauty has only increased with each new day. Today, you have large, expressive eyes that fall somewhere between brown and gray, and they are framed by long, curling lashes. You have beautiful red hair that curls slightly at the tips when it is damp from sweat or your bath, a feature especially ordered by your Grandma. You have the sweetest heart-shaped little face, decorated with a cleft chin. You have Grandma’s elf ear, Daddy’s lips, Mommy’s forehead, and Grandpa Boyce’s stout physique. You are marvelously unique and beautiful, crafted by the Creator’s loving hand. You are as wonderful in character as you are in body. You are a sweet, easy going, contented baby, full of laughter and smiles for everyone whether young or old. You go along with whatever we throw at you—new people, bottles or breast, varying feeding times and bedtimes--whatever. We can take you anywhere, which is why we’ve taken you with us on two different vacations. You have captured everyone’s heart with your sweetness, which is a good thing because you love, love, love attention and cry when you don’t get it. One of my favorite things you do is that you wake up so happy from your naps. I won’t even know you’re awake until I hear your gentle coos from your crib. It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world. The only damper on your pleasant moods is your awful tummy aches. We have them mostly under control with medication, but you still have trouble from time to time.
In addition to being beautiful and darling, you are a quick learner. You were holding your head up a bit before we even came home from the hospital. You were rolling over both ways on your one month birthday. At three months, you were smiling, laughing, cooing, crowing, jumping (in your jumper), and standing with a little help. You were razzing, babbling, and creeping on your tummy at four months. At five months, you had mastered “da-da,” “ma-ma,” “dub-dub” and squealing, as well as sitting up without help, and copying some movement. You could also locate, pick up, and play with a toy. You can almost put your own pacifier in your mouth. Today, you are well on your way to crawling, as you can push up your chest and get up on your knees, albeit not at the same time (see video below and forgive Mommy for getting a little too excited about things). You have Grandma and Pops thinking you’ll be a genius, but don’t worry, there’s no pressure.
It’s true you have accomplished several physical feats, but you are also a well-traveled and experienced baby. You have been to or traveled through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. You have visited the mountains and the beach. You are a good traveler and you really like the sand and ocean! You’ve been swimming. I think you like it. You’ve seen three movies in the theater. You enjoy television, especially Baby Einstein DVDs. You like books, your cloth book in particular, which you can play with and attempt to eat. You’ve been to several of Mommy’s voice lessons, you enjoy playing the piano with mommy (see video below), and although you have heard everything from pop to country to classical to rock to hymns to rap, your favorite song is “Roll Over,” which indicates your flawless musical taste. Your food palate is slightly less extended than your musical one due to your mommy’s allergies. Thus far, you have only had breast milk, goat milk, pear juice, rice cereal and avocado (see video below). Your favorite is avocado, which your daddy is super excited about—he sees lots and lots of guacamole in his future. You’re on this kick where you like to touch, pet, scratch, and taste everything. You are fascinated by the textures of blue jeans, Mommy’s skin and Daddy’s hair.
Micah, you are the only person in the world that I am happy to see at any hour of the day or night. You are the only person in the world that incites me to cry with him when he has a tummy ache. You are the only person in the world that can make this feministic go-getter want to stay home with her child instead of pursuing a career. You are the only person in this world that makes being a stay-at-home mom feel like my real job. You’ve been doing all of this learning, but you’ve also been doing a lot of teaching. You have taught your mommy to slow down, enjoy the moment and not be anxious for things to come. You have taught your mommy to be patient, something no one has ever been able to teach her. You have taught your mommy how to love sacrificially, unconditionally and without bounds. You have given her a glimpse into the heart of our Heavenly Father, into His great, great love for His children. You have brought more joy, light and laughter into our home than I could have ever imagined, and no matter what I give of myself, it will never measure up to what you have given me. Thank you, little one, “for the gladness you have brought me as I have walked these heavy miles.” You have made life oh so sweet. I love you.
All of me,
P.S. I have a few bits of advice to give you before I’m done.
1) Go ahead and mouth as much as you like. It’s a part of your learning process. Just please stay away from the books. You’ll want to read them someday, and never mind the bit I read you from Ezekial a few weeks ago. The only books that taste like honey are the ones God will hand you Himself.
2) Never equate your size with your ability.
3) Regardless of what other parents do, I’m not going to puff you up with nonsense about abilities you don’t actually have in the name of building your self-esteem. I probably won’t even let you win very often, specifically at Boggle. It will be all in the name of love. I can’t have you making a jackass of yourself on national television. You are a child of God, born with a unique set of gifts and purpose. Find your value in Him, and that will be enough.
4) Cling to your innocence. It is far too undervalued in our culture.
5) Strive for balance in all things. Avoid dogmatism at all cost.
6) Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s an everyday part of life. Without risk, there is no reward.
7) Find humor in everything, especially the crappy parts of life. It’s there; I promise, and it will lighten your load when times get tough.
8) Don’t be embarrassed by your last name. You come from good stock, and it will build character.
9) Adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Enjoy your childhood.
10) Seek God first. Keep your heart pure and tender. Read your Bible every day. Pray about everything. In God alone will you find joy, peace, comfort and hope. Times are only getting harder from here, and you’re going to need Him. He is the only One who will never fail you.
Patience. It is a quality that people generally lack. Most would say that they wish they were more patient. Some people think that patience is a birthright—few have it; most don’t--while other people think of it more as a cosmic trinket from God that they can magically and instantly own. This view is popular among Christians. It is requested of Him often in many prayer circles. There once was a time that I belonged to this group. I quickly learned that I did not really want “the gift” patience, and I now pity those who ask for it without understanding or sincerity.
Galatians 5:22 tells us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. My translation actually uses the synonym “longsuffering.” I like the term longsuffering because anyone with an average intelligence quotient can dissect and rearrange the word into “suffering long.” Suffering long and producing fruit both require a couple of key ingredients—time and nurture. The reason most people flippantly pray for patience or offer the excuse, “I’m just not a patient person,” is because they do not understand the nature of patience. Patience is not something to be received beautifully gift-wrapped and easily opened. Rather, it is something to be earned through much focused practice and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The focus must be on the goal. The only sensible reason to become patient is to be more like Jesus Christ. I see no other rational motive. What other benefit is there in being patient? Patience is not good for self. It does not make us feel better. The cost is not really worth simply being a better person. There are other ways to do that. To become more like Jesus, we must seek Him through the only means with which He has provided us—His word and prayer, and then live as He has commanded us. The focus must be on the goal, for attempting to live the life to which He calls us is difficult, and we will fail miserably if we rely on our instincts. Our instincts are self-seeking, which is why most people are disappointed with the results of their request for this illusive thing. What most people actually want when they ask for patience is the absence of conditions that try their patience, but to request such a thing in front of others or even in private would reveal the worst about themselves. Few of us want to confront such depravity. In reality, to ask for patience is really to ask for the opportunity to practice patience. These opportunities are rarely pleasant. They come in the form of heavy traffic when late, an abrasive personality, a repeated offense, a surrender of our own agendas. The time to pray for patience is not at a moment when there is nothing to try it, but at the very moment of our need. Our reaction to these learning opportunities is what will produce patience, and our only hope of responding well is in remembering God’s patience with us, and calling upon the Holy Spirit.
I will not often use this blog as a soap box. The only reason I chose to write about this topic today is because I have had several opportunities to practice patience in the last 48 hours, and I have mostly failed. I need to confess, refocus and recommit. I am beginning to think that having a child is the fruition of all those well-intended but ill-conceived prayers for patience, for Micah has given me more opportunities to practice patience in these last three months than I have known over my entire 25 years. I have won some, and lost some. While I do not always enjoy denying myself or relinquishing my plans to meet his needs, I find the classroom of parenthood a pleasant one, and as long as I can keep properly focused upon the Great Teacher, I have much to gain.