Friday, June 27, 2008

The Blessing of Needing Another

In July of 2006, after plans were in the works for Michael to become Pastor of Monroeville Presbyterian Church, our family made a trip to Monroeville to do a little house hunting. We arrived on a Sunday evening and made arrangements to drop the kids off at VBS on Monday morning while we looked around.

After a morning of perusing homes we returned to the church to pick up our kids and discovered something: My Caroline had made a friend – a friend that would turn out to be her “best friend”. Caroline G, as we call her, has been a fixture in our home, in our discussions or in our thoughts for nearly 2 years. This week we learned that Caroline G is moving, which has been very sad for Caroline M. It’s also been very sad for me.

A friend of mine told me once “you’ve got to have a bosom to be a bosom friend,” and I think she is exactly right. Women just desire and create an intensity in their friendships that men, well...don't. When we lived in Illinois, I had a friend named Dominai. She lived across the street from me and we were together ALL the time. She was one year older than me in school, but when we came home in the afternoons we were busy – busy watching TV or making up choreography to various REO Speedwagon tunes (Don't stop...Believing...Hold on to that Feelayayain'...). In the summer we traded clothes, played goofy games, spent the night at each other’s houses, played kick-the-can until well past dark, and tape recorded ourselves doing all these weird dramatic sketches. We rolled our first yards together. I remember when she moved away – it was as if one big chunk of my heart was loaded into that moving van for the long trek to Atlanta. I know how Caroline feels.

Watching Caroline G and Caroline M together has been fun as well as educational. The way little girls play together shows the capacity most females have for intimate relationships. Their games are usually relational: playing house, Barbies or school, or developing REO Speedwagon choreography. Girls hold hands and touch a lot (Michael used to think it was sooo weird that I almost could NOT have a conversation with Julie without holding her hand). They enjoy each other so much, and also get into the biggest fights. They finish each other’s sentences, and then punish each other with threats: “you’re not my best friend anymore!” This dichotomy has made clear to me one thing – real friendship, as wonderful and "worth-it" as it is, is sometimes hard. Perhaps friendship is a crucible for sanctification.

All of us have a tendency toward idolatry – to get life from something other than the Lord. Friendship is such a gift, but it becomes an idol when we seek approval or affirmation from our friends, or when we put ourselves out there as or strong women who never need anyone and long only for others to need us.

Honestly, I struggle with this. I hate to ask for help. I hate to ask anyone to keep my kids for an afternoon, or accept a meal for my family when I’m sick. God is showing me that it’s the pride in me that doesn’t want to be needy. But if I don’t let others love me, I’m not really loving them, either, and in turn, I miss out on the blessing of needing another.

Caroline and Caroline became friends in the first place because one needed the other. That day at VBS, Caroline G missed her mom and she needed encouragement. Caroline M gave that to her. As we were moving to Monroeville, Caroline M needed a good, stable, long-term friend. Caroline G gave that to her. What a beautiful picture of God providing for us through each other. After all, isn’t that really the point of friendship anyway?

When the day is done, Caroline G and Caroline M love each other, despite any bickering or silly hurt feelings. They love to be together, and being together teaches them more about what it means to love, to give, to need others. And that’s just a little piece of heaven.

We’ll miss you Caroline G!

Bless ya!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The OTHER Kind

Michael - don't read this...

Earlier today, after finishing our chores and watching one episode of "Little House on the Praire", I had the girls find a book and read for an hour. I typed away on the computer (writing my previous post, "Trifling Risks") while Caroline had her nose deep inside "The Chicken Pox Panic" - she loves to read.

Caroline looked up from her book and asked me, "Mommy, does Molly know about periods?"

"I don't think so YOU know about periods?" I asked in reply.

"Sure, mom, I know all about them," She said.

"Well, Caroline, I'm surpised to hear you say that. Wow! I had really hoped that you and I would one day have a discussion about that. Who told you about periods?" I asked.

"Mrs. Meyers. She told me last year when I was in kindergarten," Caroline answered.

"Oh, my goodness, Caroline! I am so shocked! I just can't believe she thought you were old enough for that sort of discussion - and to not send a note home or anything...that is very strange. Why didn't you tell me about this before now?" I bellowed.

"Was she not supposed to do that? She told our whole class. She told us about question marks, too."

Bless ya!

Trifling Risks

Michael has decided that this summer Mason will take some steps "out of the nest". He will now be allowed to ride his bike to swim team practice as well as our church, which is right off the square (about a mile away). There are sidewalks almost the entire way both places, but I've still been nervous about it. I told Michael that if Mason was going to be allowed to do this, I wanted him to be able to have some form of communication - a walkie-talkie, a cell phone - something.

We borrowed walkie-talkies from a neighbor, but they wouldn't reach all the way to the square. We investigated adding a cell phone to our plan, but it would be an extra $10 per month. Not gonna happen. It seemed we had hit a wall in the communication options search, so I rested easier, hoping the whole suject might be tabled until next year.

Imagine my dismay when Michael walked in yesterday evening with a "go-phone". I didn't even know such a device existed.

Michael brought the phone home (my favorite line from ET) last night - a complete surprise to Mason, who was beside himself with joy. He tinkered and pressed buttons and got it all set up to his liking. Then I knew: the next morning he would be wanting to take off on his own and head to swim practice, phone-in-hand.

This morning over a cup of coffee I was writing in my journal while Mason was all aflutter around me. He packed his goggles, towel and (of course) his phone into his backpack and waited eagerly for his departure time.

Before he left I gave him strict instructions: call me as soon as you get there; call me when you are about to come home. Stop at stop signs, look both ways, pay attention. Then, Michael quizzed him: what should you do if _________________ ? Feeling good about things, we sent him off.

You know what? I know it's just not that big a deal. The pool isn't far. Really, the square isn't that far, either. There's just something a little unsettling about sending my child - my nine year old child - out on his own.

The Lord brought a couple of facts to heart as I sat with my coffee this morning. First, He reminded me that He, himself, loves my son. He loves him and has a plan for his life. He loves him, in fact, even more than I love him. Second, I was reminded that my boy - and all boys have to face "dangers" as part of their growth. It's just part of how God made them. Last spring I walked outside to find Mason and a friend at least 30 feet up my neighbor's magnolia tree. I have this great quote from RM Ballantyne's book "The Gorilla Hunters" on my kitchen cabinet. It says:

"Boys should be inured from childhood to trifling risks and slight dangers of every possible description, such as tumbling into ponds and off of trees, etc., in order to strengthen their nervous system...They ought to practice leaping off heights into deep water. They ought never to hesitate to cross a stream over a narrow unsafe plank for fear of falling. They ought never to decline to climb a tree to pull fruit merely because there is a possibility of their falling off and breaking their necks. I firmly believe that boys were intended to encounter all kinds of risks, in order to prepare them to meet and grapple with risks and dangers incident to man's career with cool, cautious self-posession..."

I watched him peddle away, said a quick prayer, then returned to my writing.

A few minutes later I heard the wonderful sound of the phone.

"Hey Mom!...I made it!!"

Bless ya!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Daddy's Day!

I'd like to say "Happy Father's Day" to two very important dads in my life.

First, to my own father, Butch Carden. I love you, dad! Everytime I look at you I see God's hand and his work in your life. Christopher and I have benfitted from your help throughout our lives...I hope you have a terrific day.

Also, to Michael, my beloved. You deserve a day to celebrate all that you are and do - because we both know I don't do a good enough job of showing you my appreciation. Mason, Caroline, Molly and Ethan are so blessed to have you as a strong, present influence in their lives. Your love for them, and for me, inspires us all and is a safe harbor.

You both are great...and loved...and appreciated.

Bless ya!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lysol and Lunchables

Getting away from the routine of life is soooo good for the soul, isn’t it?

We left last Sunday for General Assembly in Dallas, Texas. Our intention was to leave Monroeville and drive to Houston, spend a couple nights with Michael’s sister and family there, then drive on to Dallas Tuesday morning.

We got about 15 minutes down the road when Michael got a call – both Marissa (his sister) and her oldest child had a stomach virus.

Now, if you don’t know much about the MacCaughelty kids, know this: if there is a stomach bug or some other creepy form of germ within a 12 mile radius, they will catch it…oftentimes all four at once.

We turned the car around.

I really didn’t want to go back home because I had prepared the house for the carpet cleaning that would take place in our absence, plus the kids were really psyched. We made a couple calls, found a place to stay in Birmingham and reserved a room in Dallas for a night early.

We hit Birmingham around dinner time, and we were able to make the most of it: dinner with Roger and Lynne Means (Lynne is like my older sister), Herbie and Ashley (another one of Michael’s sisters) and family, then a visit with Steve and Tracy Whitner & family at their house. Finally we made it to Michael’s mom’s house where we visited a while and then hit the sack.

We were up at 5:30am the next day, packed and on our way out between 6:30am and 7:00am. The day was great. The kids did great, the weather was great, no traffic, etc.

We stopped along the way at a Walgreen's becasue I had to pick up a few things. Sunglasses (since I evidently lost mine somewhere in Birmingham), hand sanitizer (our car bottle was nearly empty), and lysol (to spray the hotel room with before we descended on it. I know that probably sounds's just a thing I do. We don't want any of those nasty bugs, now do we!?).

We hit Dallas about 8pm, easily found our hotel, sprayed the room down and settled in for the night. Tuesday morning we took the shuttle to the Hyatt, where GA was being held, and the fun began.

The kids had a great time! The first afternoon they went to the Aquarium, then saw an Imax movie. The second day was VBS, followed by the Dallas Zoo, then Thursday was VBS followed by the Science Exploreum thing-a-ma-bob. They saw all their friends from last year, made some new ones and absolutely loved every minute of it.

While Michael was in seminars and meetings, I entertained myself. The Hyatt sold Starbucks, so there ya go. I also was able to meet up with some pastor’s wives from GAs before, and met some new friends as well – Hi, Rae!

The Hyatt was right there at Dealey Plaza. I took a picture of the “grassy knoll”, got to see the Texas Schoolbook Depository, and the big white “X” on the street where JFK was shot. It was very surreal.

The seminars I went to were wonderful, and the conversations I was able to have with other women in the same “place” as I am were refreshing and inspiring. I learned, again, that the things I struggle with – as a pastor’s wife and regular old “sinner” – are not particular to me. I heard lots of stories this week, and I was reminded that every church is flawed (because they are made up of selfish, sinful people like me), but that God has blessed our family with a healthy, wonderful church who loves us and cares for us so well, is patient with our mistakes and faux pas, and is very supportive.

Our evenings were spent in the pool or just hanging out in the room. Good times.

We loaded up Friday morning for the ride back home, our souls refreshed, our children tired from a week’s worth of fun. As I sat sipping my coffee in the breakfast area of the hotel, I said to Michael, “this has been the best, easiest trip we have ever had as a family…”

Dum-dum-dum-duuuuh! (That’s supposed to be foreboding music). Cue the dryer! It’s time for a little opportunity for sanctification!!!

Driving along. We hit Jackson, Mississippi at about 5pm. Not a good plan, but what could we do? The Friday evening traffic was horrible. I was driving while Michael took a nap. Ethan started to get whiny, but I just figured he was sick of sitting in his car seat. He was sick all right, but not of the car seat. Let’s just say this: in our experience, “Jackson” will now be referred to as “Yack-son”.

Let me back up and interject a bit of info here: Michael and I politely disagreed about where to stop for lunch. (Actually, he was more polite than I, my having called his idea “asinine”.) He wanted to go to Wal Mart where we could pick up a Lunchable, eat it in the car, and also grab some snacks, since we were out at this point. (Another aside…we packed our snacks instead of stopping at gas stations. Hmmmm. I didn’t get one gas station snack to tide me over. Well, except for that one I bought during a bathroom stop while everyone else was in the car. I kept that knowledge (and those m&ms) to myself.). My idea was to stop at a Wendy’s or something and let the kids run around a bit. I have an aversion to lunchables after a not-so-lovely experience as a kid. We went with his idea.

As I said, the whining started when we hit Yackson. I am driving in bumper-to-bumper Yackson traffic when – you guessed it! We get to see the Lunchable again!

And again.

And again.

And yet again.

Michael yells at me to pull over, but I see a turn up ahead that will get us off the road. A battle of the wills ensues, during which, Ethan is crying, Caroline is crying, Molly wants to know when we’re stopping for dinner, and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is blaring in the background.

I submit (let me be clear: only outwardly. Inside I was reveling in my perceived rightness. Sorry, Honey. I know now that was not the time to argue).

We clean Ethan up as best as we can. We are still a good 3 hours from home. Maybe it was just something he ate? We really just don’t have much with which to be able to clean him. Michael used his T-shirt…then his undershirt. He was standing on the side of the road, in Yackson, during rush hour, with a bare chest. We looked like “country come to town” to passersby, I’m sure. Beach towels…pillowcases. You cannot believe this scene, I promise you. Between Yackson and Monroeville, Ethan has on 3 different sets of clothes, Michael had on 4 different shirts. If my baby hadn’t been so sick and pitiful, it would have been comical. I’m trying to set it all up for you and be descriptive, without being too gross. I hope I’ve done my job.

Needless to say, today I’m spending most of the day doing laundry.

As we were pulling into Monroeville, I commented to Michael how funny it was that I had just remarked to him that morning about how easy the trip had been. He then reminded me of a couple of things: One, Ethan didn’t get sick on the way TO Dallas, but rather on the way HOME. God’s grace to us. Second, Ethan got sick in YACKSON rather than in SHREVEPORT. God’s grace to us. Third, no one ELSE got sick, just Ethan. God’s grace to us yet again. We had a safe trip, a fun trip, a refreshing trip, and we get to come home to a place we love and want to be. I also learned that no matter how much I try to make things go my way (i.e. Lysol in the hotel room...Ethan probably picked up that bug from being in the GA nursery after all that spraying I did of our room) The father is ultimately concerned with our hearts and teaching us to depend on him when things are tough. Even a little bit. That's his grace to us, too. God is good!

Bless ya!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Car Snacks and a God-Pleasing Perspective

We are leaving Sunday for Texas - General Assembly (Dallas) and visit to Michael's sister (Houston).

Time in the car - this much time, mind you - just about puts me over the edge. I don't mind car rides, but it will be 10 or so hours to Houston and at least 12 home from Dallas. I'm packing some good books (R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton, Songs in Oridinary Time by Mary Morris, and Heaven by Randy Alcorn - I wanted to bring 1776 by McCullough, but I can't find it at the Library!!) for the ride, but I know the walls will eventually close in on me. I can't sleep in the car at all, so that's out. The kids will have dvds to watch and books to read, but they'll eventually want to wrestle and be loud (in essence: be kids).

Do you know what the saving grace will be on such a long road trip?

Gas station snacks.

Yes, I'll pack some nibbles for the ride, but let's face it: there's just something delicious about the sweet and salties perched on the shelves of small town Texaco. Overpriced treats one would never really think of consuming in day-t0-day life (at least not me, living on a budget and all) beckon to us from their dusty abodes next to the aisle of canned ham and spoons with state names on them. My favorite? Those Starbucks frappacino drinks in the refrigerator case. Of course, I can also do with a good trail mix - but I like the one that has peanut butter chips in it.

Do they still make coffee nips? If so, maybe I should just purchase a box of those and take them like medicine.

I remembered my lesson last November at the beach taking our Christmas picture. Whatever my attitude, so goes the family's. Talk about having great power...and not in a good way.

Would you do me a favor? Would you pray for me? I want to have a wonderful time - both in the car and in the heat at General Assembly. Please pray (as I prayed for myself this morning) that I would remember that God's strength is shown in my weakness and I need only to depend on him. I'm 100% sure there will be opportunities for sanctification in abundance.

Yes, even when the decibel levels are high, the road is bumpy, and my stomach is growling for Starbucks frappacino, God is good.

Bless ya!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Trial by Bug

I know many of my faithful friends have given up on me and will never visit "Crayons" again, as a result of my having neglected to post anything new or even remotely interesting in quite a while. It's a terrible disappointment to me to go to a blog I enjoy reading and find it resting on the same post week after week (example? You know who you are, Dawn Cwynar!!)

Well, this morning I have a story to tell.

Michael and I, over the course of our nearly 11 years together, have had many experiences with critters. In our first apartment we had what we called our "welcome home roach". Every time we were out for the evening, upon our return there would be a single roach waiting for us in some part of our apartment. One time we returned and didn't find our little friend waiting for us...until we pulled down our sheets to go to bed!!!

Then, in Cullman we shared our abode with a family of squirrels. We could hear them rustling and eating through our wires above our heads while we watched TV. Once when I was cooking dinner on the stove I heard a thump in the vent above the cooktop. Michael went up into the attic with (unbeknownst to me) a pellet gun. The poor squirrel had fallen down into the vent and was trapped. Michael shot him in the vent...while I was cooking dinner...and squirrel fur puffed out all over our dinner and the dead squirrel was hanging out, bloody, over whatever it was I was cooking. I think we went to Chik-fil-A that night.

Then, right after we moved here to Monroeville, I was folding clothes in the girls' room and heard a strange sound. I stopped and looked around, but found nothing. Then I heard it again...nothing. Then I saw it - a giant black and blue lizard on the carpet right next to me. I had to call Michael home from work to get it. I know now it was a "skink". But I don't care, and neither should you.

All that to say (and I could go on), we are no stangers to the occasional critter.

I have been spring cleaning. Basically, I am going room by room and giving it the thorough "once over"...baseboards, organizing drawers, cabinets and closets, vacuuming furniture, laundering curtains and anything else that's not nailed down. Sadly, it is giving life to me in some very weird ways...but that's another blog entry altogether.

Anyhoo, while cleaning the hardwood floor underneath my bed, I came across an old People magazine. (Incidentally, if anyone has any tips on how to keep the underbelly of a bed clean, I'd love to hear them! It is always a bevy of dust-bunnies). The magazine was open and face-down. I pulled it out and discovered 2 small-ish piles of what appeared to be sawdust.

"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "Maybe there is a screw or something coming loose in one of the slats - hence the piles..."

But deep in my heart I knew that wasn't it.

Later that night - about 10:30 pm or so, while Michael and I were getting ready for bed - I remembered the 2 piles of sawdust planted on Brittney Spears face and showed them to Michael. He got on his stomach and glanced under the bed. "I don't see anything!"

Well, of course you wouldn't see anything. It's dark under there, you're practically asleep. Good grief! I, then, go in search of the flashlight. With Michael on one side of the bed and I on the other, I shine the light towards the vicinity of the piles. Something's...well...something is there! I can clearly see 2 objects that appear to be antennae hanging down from the slat.

"Michael, don't you see that?" I inquire.

"Yeah...I see it," He replies.


Turns out, it was a bug. A weird, demonic bug with a voracious appetite for slats. He had eaten a tunnel into one part of the slat and had come out about 6 inches down-slat. How long had he been there? Your guess is as good as mine. But for however long, I had been sleeping over a demon bug and didn't know it.

OK..Michael then puts the bug into a ziplock bag so he can keep it and find out what kind it is. Meanwhile, I am on Google trying to find out myself. I NEED to know, right now at 11pm, whether or not this bug is some kind of mutant termite and if my walls are about to come crashing down. So, I smartly Google "brown wood eating bug insect white spots on back mutant termite from hell".

For some reason, Michael finds this funny (someone please tell him! THAT'S how you do Google!!). Meanwhile, bug is still twitching in side the bag. We named him "Google", then put him out of his misery. (I don't like bugs, but I'm not cruel to them! Well, except for the black widow spider that Michael caught and caged yesterday to show the kids. I insisted she be smashed). Michael has a friend who works in the entymology department at Oregon. We may have to fed-ex the bug to him.

Needless to say, my Google search gave me about 48,000 results. Not helpful.

You might think the story ends here...but you'd be wrong.

"Let's go to bed," my sweetheart suggests.

Oh, no - I'm not sleeping with that demon bug's habitat underneath me. What if it has laid millions of eggs inside my slat? What if they hatch tonight and we go crashing to the floor? Or worse...what if they move to other slats, or walls, or children? No, honey - that slat's coming off TONIGHT!

So, late as it was, my sweet, wonderful, sacrificial husband took the mattress off...and the box springs, got out his drill, unscrewed the slat, put a new slat in its place, and threw the demon-possessed slat out into the yard.

Then we got into bed and laughed.

I still have the bug. I still want to know what it is. But life has to go on. I still have many, many more closets to clean.

Bless ya!