28 April 2011

meaning

So, we experienced another round of devastating weather last night... well, we prepared for it. There was talk all week that severe weather might be cropping up again mid-week. Last night Brad had to go to work right after dinner so I watched the evening news to figure out where this storm was heading.

The videos from Tuscaloosa, AL were overwhelming to watch. Just unreal.

Our local weather guys were doing a live chat online in prep of the coming storm. Just before bed time the sirens on Fort Benning went off. And the creepy-man's-voice at the end said, "A Tornado Warning has been issued for Fort Benning." I went outside to hear the man's voice and couldn't believe what he was saying. Our NOAA weather radio hadn't gone off and the local station just had a 'tornado watch' up for our area. I checked the live chat online and the weather guy's comment was something like, "I have no idea why they are sounding sirens on Fort Benning. There is no severe weather in our area yet."

I decided it would be best to take all the coats out of the closet before bed since the boys were a bit geared-up after the sirens. We all (including the big dog) got in the closet for a trial-run and discovered there was plenty of room in there for us. Pretty sure Brad will fit too, if he's ever home during severe weather.

Wilson said he was "a little nervous" to go to bed. I told him it would be OK. He asked what we would do if all of our stuff blew all over the street and just our closet was left standing. I told him we would file an insurance claim for our stuff and we would thank God that we were alive.

Wilson decided to sleep on the top bunk in Walker's room. I was thankful for that decision. We prayed together before bed. We prayed that Daddy would be safe and we prayed that God's angels would protect us. I prayed that the boys would get the rest they need and that they wouldn't be scared, that they would remember that God was holding them.

After praying, Wilson said, "I hope we don't have a tornado."
"Me too," I nodded.
And then he added, "But if we do, there will be a meaning for it."

Of course, my eyes got teary and I marveled at the faith of this little guy. Oh Lord, let me trust that whatever we go through there will be a meaning for it.

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me." Matthew 18:2-5 The Message

Incidentally, all of the severe weather went north of us. A quick check of the news and you know that there are many families across the South that are devastated today due to these storms.

27 April 2011

messy

I don't think I'm the kinda gal that likes to be messy... I'm not sayin' that I mind if there are messes in my house... I'm sayin' I don't like to BE a mess...physically, emotionally or spiritually. But it happens.

I've been privileged a few times to be invited into the messiness of other people's lives. Whether, by phone, or email, or in a quiet conversation off to the side. I've been asked to get in the mess with them. Invited to get dirty on their behalf. Sometimes through tears.

I'm talking about praying for others. And not the "please be with them and bless them and take care of them and watch over them." Those prayers aren't so messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a young mother is going to get a second opinion about whether the cancer has spread. Messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a father-in-law doesn't have many days left. Messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a husband and wife are reaching the end of the rope. And neither wants to let go, but neither has much strength to hold on. Messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a judge is making a decision about whether or not a child will become yours or if they will be returned to a difficult home life. Messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a pregnancy hasn't come...after years and years and with various treatments. Messy.

I'm talking about the prayer when a soldier is deploying again...and again... and again. Messy.

These are the prayers that make me be quiet. These are the prayers that lead me to ask God to intercede in ways I can't begin to imagine...to send His peace like a rushing river to overwhelm the hurt, the fear, and the fatigue. These are the prayers that make me feel weary and grateful all at the same time. These are the prayers that remind me that His ways are not my ways. These are the prayers that make me rejoice in living life with others. Even if they are messy.

Because sometimes - not always - but sometimes, I get to see the beauty on the other side of the mess.

Last Thursday I got two emails - one with the subject line "In Labor" from my friend that was told she and her husband wouldn't have babies. The other email was news about my friend's adopted daughters' coming home soon. (very soon!)

And I bawled with joy at the beauty that He is bringing in these lives.

Of course it was before school and I was sniffling as I told Wilson to get his shoes on so I explained that I was crying-happy, not crying-sad. He said, "Oh like on Extreme Makeover Home Edition when the people see their new house and sometimes they cry?" YES! That's exactly it!

The other side of the mess isn't always crying-happy though. I've gotten the phone call that there was no earthly healing, but that the suffering had ended. I've cried with a desperate-mother-to-be when there was no pregnancy. I've wept when the decision was divorce. And yet, I still believe He's at work to make something beautiful come even in these messes.

I know when I am invited into a mess, there is no guarantee about what will be on the other side...and usually no timeline with a day circled at the end. But the honor and privilege to be still & quiet before our God on behalf of another is worth it every time. And while I know there won't always be a happy-ending here on earth, I would hate to miss out on some happy endings, because of the fear of sorrow on the other side of the mess.

If you're reading this post, no doubt you've been messy with us. I appreciate your willingness to go before the Throne on our behalf, to carry our burdens to Him for us. I love that we get to live life with you. Right now I feel this 'adoption process' is a mess. A long, drawn-out mess from where I sit. But I have hope that we will celebrate on the other side of this mess. Thank you for hanging in with us. Thank you for being quiet before Him for us.

Thank you for getting messy. I am humbled that you would do that for us.

26 April 2011

man vs. wild


I just HAD to snap a picture of Brad mowing the "lawn" this weekend. We only have to mow the fenced-in portion of our yard, and we are trying to grow some grass on the sandy spots. When the boys and I were on our little trip, Brad put out seed and starter fertilizer. He's been watering it daily and finally decided he needed to mow it this weekend.

I was worried snakes might start living out there.

24 April 2011

Happy Easter!

We went to Easter service on Good Friday because Brad had to work today. We were actually at a picnic in the afternoon and had to hurry home and clean up a bit before heading off to the service. Wilson snapped a picture of Brad and I......and we snapped a picture of them too. Our church had Easter egg hunts for each age group, so the boys brought their buckets from Aunt Casey with them.
The Easter service was really well done. Our praise team sang some well-known songs about the way our world lives life... and then blended that story into a telling of the Easter story using video and song. This was the last song they sang before Pastor came to speak... (its a tear-jerker)



Of course, Pastor gave an invitation - in the service we attended, he said 30+ people gave their lives to Jesus. After his talk, we sang some praise songs to celebrate the Victory we have in Jesus. It was really a wonderful celebration!

This morning, the boys and I went back to church while Brad went to work. I got to volunteer with the 3-year-olds for the first service and then was a greeter for the second service. There were a lot of 'first-timers' and quite a few, 'we haven't been here in awhile' folks. I hope each person that attended the services received a special blessing.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," 1 Peter 1:3

16 April 2011

a peek at BRC

This year Brad worked the same lane at BRC as he did last year.... except this year he was the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge). He has been working many hours to get this lane just right. I think its called the RFR - Ranger First Responder (I'm going to be so geeked if I got that acronym right). The lane is set up to simulate Rangers recovering wounded soldiers in an area that is sustaining enemy fire. Here's Brad (I labeled him "The Man") at the top of the lane getting a team ready to begin their task...I haven't located the camera charger yet, so I knew I wouldn't get much video... Here's a smidgen of what was happening at the bottom of the hill...before the camera died...



Yes, its that loud. Actually louder when the other thing goes off (heaven sakes I still don't know what that thing is... Walker cried again this year, but not for long).

In the little bit of video you saw that the competitors were on the far side of the helicopter. The lane is set up so that the teams alternate which side they come down on. This keeps the event moving a little more efficiently. After getting the wounded soldier medically assessed, the teams have to get him on a stretcher (gurney?) and carry him up a hill over/under some barbwire and then over a 6 foot (or taller) wall. Then they get him to a place to be picked up by a helicopter. The lane is set up with a left side and right side of each phase (two dummies, two hills, two barbwires, two walls...)

Its a pretty extensive event...with many moving parts. I'm really proud of the work that Brad put into it. More than once in the past few weeks, he had things set up only to have a rainstorm come through and have to go set it up again. You know how thorough a job Brad does too! I apologize that I didn't get more pictures/video of it. I know many of you would've liked to see it. If I find any good footage online in the next day or so, I'll post it here. Deal? Deal.

Brad will be spending another night at work and most of the day tomorrow too. The boys and I are going to try and make it to the finish line tomorrow afternoon.

shaken and thankful

You might know that we have a NOAA weather radio. I've whined and complained about that thing more times than I care to admit. We bought it when we lived in Oklahoma, and it was especially annoying when there was a flash-flood warning, since we lived on the top of a hill. Maybe we have a basic model, but it goes off for ANY weather WARNING in the counties that we choose. Often times, Brad and I joke about shutting it off if storms are coming, but then say it would be the one time we need it and well, we just deal with it. I don't think there is a volume on it... its LOUD. And across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Which is good, I guess, to ensure that we are really awake.

Last night Brad had to stay at work all night. He was about 5-6 miles south of us.

The weather radio went off at 3:15am or so with a severe thunderstorm warning for the county we live in... And the storm did seem to get a bit crazy, super strong winds, rain and a bit of thunder & lightning.

The alarm went off again at about 4:45 am with our county and the county just south of us in a severe thunderstorm warning. I got up, turned off the alarm and asked God to keep me alert if there should be a tornado warning coming. I barely finished this request when the alarm went off again, this time a TORNADO WARNING. I prayed again, God give me wisdom about whether to wake the boys up or not. I turned on the TV to the channel that had been covering the storms all night. The area of rotation looked to be south of us... our neighborhood is really easy to pick out on the map because we are right near two highways that intersect. I decided to just watch and pray for alertness - rather than try to cram the boys, myself and the big dog into the coat closet.

Brad called to see if we were awake. I told him I was watching the news. They reported a possible tornado in the north part of Fort Benning area.

I kept watching really carefully, quite concerned about where Brad was... as well as everyone else involved in the Best Ranger Competition. I didn't know if they were sleeping in tents or barracks or what... (I use the word "sleeping" really loosely).

Anyway, the news channel did a stellar job covering the storm. They said that it had passed out of our county... AND THEN the sirens went off. The weather guys seemed as surprised to hear them as I did. Whoever makes the decision about the siren button might need to get on it a bit quicker.

We were all safe, nothing around our house looked out of place. Brad called this morning to say that a tornado did go through post by the new gate. I am guessing this is about a mile from where most the BRC stuff was. Praise God it wasn't any closer. The boys and I surveyed the area a little bit after watching the BRC events. It was much worse than I expected (although not nearly as bad as other places!) I took a couple pics with my phone, our camera charger is MIA at the moment.This is a new building, there was another mangled pile of metal at the opposite end of this parking lot.

There were a bunch of trees down as well. I am pretty sure nobody got hurt on-post. I am so thankful that the tornado went through in a less-populated area. I can only imagine if one touched down in one of our crammed-in-neighborhoods...or where the competitors & support for BRC were staying.

14 April 2011

this beach

I've had the opportunity to stand on many sandy beaches. Some on tiny lakes, some on Great Lakes, some on Oceans. Something about the sand and the water and the breeze just makes me feel so peaceful. I love to curl my toes into the sand, whether the sand be hot and dry or cold and wet. I love to watch the waves roll up the shore, each one different yet the same.

Each ocean beach is always compared in my mind.

At Long Beach the waves were much colder & forceful than...
And Newport Beach & Laguna Beach seemed more like a neighborhood beach than...
Clearwater Beach had calmer waves and better groomed shores than...
Oceanside Beach had sparklier sand than...
Off the coast of the Gambia the water was so much warmer than...
In the Caribbean the water was bluer than...
Panama City had finer, whiter sand than...



...this beach.

This beach holds history for me. Myrtle Beach will always, always, be a reminder of family. Even with my horrible memory-bank, I recall long, long ago when we camped at the beach every Easter vacation. As many of the Lewis crew as possible would load up and drive down (with as few vehicles as possible, if I recall correctly). I remember spending miles and miles in the back-end of a Chevrolet Cavalier...happily! Eventually, the campground was demolished but not before Grandpa & Grandma invested in a condo timeshare. Family trips continued! And as the family grew, so did the number of condo units... now there are 2 units for 2 weeks in the Spring and 1 unit for 1 week in the fall!

So when the opportunity came up for the boys and I to head over there last week, I couldn't pass it up. Brad & I had gone together once when I was pregnant with Wilson. I believe everyone in the Lewis family that was there that week will attest to it being the ABSOLUTE worst weather ever. So there weren't a lot of picture-perfect memories from that trip, but there has been a lot of laughter about it since... and we did all watch as the Iraqi people toppled that statue of Saddam Husein and then hit its head with their sandals once it fell. That's something.

I went again with Wilson when Brad was in Basic Combat Training. I found out while I was there that I was pregnant with Walker. It was fun to share that news with my mom, grandparents, and a couple of my aunts. We even found an "I'm the Big Brother" t-shirt for Wilson to wear when we got back to MI.

I guess it only makes sense that we went back this year while we are once again expecting - this time through adoption!

Here are the boys on a brisk morning on the beach, scouring for shells from the high tide. PJ's, sweatshirts and ocean breezes... What a great way to wake up!And this just makes the whole trip worth it. My words fail to describe the emotions I feel about being blessed to spend time on This Beach with Grandpa & the boys.
Grandpa loves this beach. He enjoyed his time down there every day. It was great to watch him watch the boys... and then he'd spot a shell he needed to add to his collection. It was just so wonderful! It was so incredibly hard to visit him at the nursing home at Christmastime. I told Brad when we got home, that Grandpa just seemed so happy down there at the beach.
And these pictures by the Condo sign have been a tradition for as long as they've been going there. Aunt Lori teared up as we got ready to get the picture snapped. Which of course, made me tear up. Grandma is deeply missed. Grieving is messy and hard and hits at unexpected moments. But even in the midst of the grief there is joy... and I think this picture captures that!

Supposedly timeshares are a bad investment, but I'm sure Grandpa doesn't regret it for a minute. Sure the dividends might not be reflected in his bank account, but there are immeasurable joyful memories stored up in each member of the Lewis clan because of Grandpa & Grandma's decision to buy this timeshare.

I am so grateful that God blessed us with this semi-spur-of-the-moment trip to this beach!

13 April 2011

spring break in words...

Ok, so as you know, Linds & Ari were here...for part of Spring Break. Sadly, they couldn't stay all week. We ran around Columbus on Monday - savoring donuts, and the thrift mall, as well as Chick-Fil-A. Linds even has some pictures to go with it, I brought my camera with me and left it in my purse all day. You can see the pics on her blog, click here. It was so wonderful to have them come visit! The boys enjoyed multiple board games and walks with them. I think Ari might have some great pictures somewhere too... I'll let you know if I ever see them! I even found out some of the things that I thought might be slightly alarming in regards to my health (or mental state) might just run in the family. For example, Lindsay says her memory is horrible. She has no childhood memories, or maybe very few.... That made my fading memory seem so normal. Also, her hands swell when she walks. How did I not know this about her already? Maybe we talked about it before and we both forgot! And finally, one night she said, "I just want you to know I'm having chest pains, so if anything happens you can tell someone..." Ok, truthfully those might not be her EXACT words, but I can't help it because I've said something similar so many times that I can't be sure which are my words and which are hers. It was great to know I'm not crazy - but she did say Marvin does this more often than she does... is that true, Marv? I like to think it runs in our family.

Linds & Ari had to leave Monday evening though. So after they left, and a few tears were shed, the boys and I packed our bags for the beach. I had gotten word earlier in the weekend via Aunt Pam on FB that one of the two family condos was going to be empty all week. How could we pass that up? Brad strongly encouraged me to take the boys and go, so we did! It was great spending time with Great Grandpa Lewis, Aunt Lori, Uncle Joe and Chance. I did remember to take my camera out of my bag a few days at the beach... here's a photo collage (no worries, there will be a beach post with pics all to itself)
The way the condo timeshare works, our condo check-out time was 10 am Saturday. I thought we should take advantage of being so close to David & Casey and head up that way. It was an easy drive from the beach, less than 2 hours and we were there!

It was so wonderful to get see David & Casey's home. Of course, Aunt Casey had some goodies waiting for the boys' arrival! We had a great time just hanging out and chatting. Our visits in MI are always so full with running here & there that we hardly ever get a chance to just sit and chat. I even discovered that David thinks Casey is as forgetful as Brad thinks I am. And both Casey and I admitted that they might be right. It was fantastic to discover that my memory problems are so normal! Plus I got to feel my little nephew moving around in Casey's darling-little-baby-bump-of-a-belly! It was especially sweet when I sat down with Casey and put my hand on her tummy and said a little prayer for their growing family - that little guy was wriggling around the entire time it seemed! I loved it, and I'll treasure that memory for a long, long time! The boys had such fun with Samson, and the raised-bed garden. Walker "snuggled" up with Uncle David when we watched The Next Karate Kid...I use the term snuggle quite loosely because Walker really just dug his elbows and knees into every possible part of David's body as he tried not to fall asleep! We are planning on getting together with them again soon... this time with Brad.

I really appreciated that Brad was willing to let us go for the trip. Of course, he was greatly missed, but we made the best of it. I think the boys really enjoyed it, and its such a gift to get to see extended family.

12 April 2011

morning show


eventually I'll update the blog about our Spring Break... for now I'll just let you see this one... I told Brad that the kids would like the condo because I was pretty sure it had cable and they could watch whatever shows they wanted... Instead their favorite show in the morning was the ocean.

04 April 2011

fun with cousins...

Linds & Ari are in town visiting. They originally planned on flying, but plane ticket prices were crazy so they drove. In the meantime, I had offered to throw a baby shower for a friend which was planned for the same day they arrived! (More on the shower later). So they got here Saturday morning and we went to a garage sale in the neighborhood (of course!). Then I got ready for the shower. Brad and the boys took them on a tour around Fort Benning and Columbus while I was at the shower.

Then, Saturday night we went downtown for dinner. Lindsay got us a gift certificate from restaurant.com, so we tried out a new place. Locos Amigos, I think. It was pretty good and we had fun...Brad kindly took a picture of us a by a "structure" downtown, which is actually "Uptown" but I always forget to call it that.
You can kind of tell that the boys are happy to have them around, can't you?
Oh, and on the menu, this place said the first basket of chips and salsa was complimentary, and then it was $2.50 after that. After we ate our first basket, more kept appearing... at one point our table was filled with chips and salsa... Wilson and Ari posed with it so I could get a picture. There was more salsa in those bowls than could possibly be eaten with all those chips...

...oh, and when the bill came, we didn't get charged for any of it ;)

More fun to come today...Family is such a blessing!