I can’t believe it has been over a year since I posted anything here. So much has happened, and there is no way to catch up. So I will begin afresh. (Is afresh a word? I don’t know, but it sounds very literary).

I have realized a few things about myself in the last two and a half years. I am not as patient as I once thought I was, I need a fair amount of quiet time, and I can bake a mean cake. But those aren’t really relevant. The biggest thing is that I write best when I am writing for myself. I really appreciate the encouragement many people have given me, telling me how much they love my blogs and how I should write a book, but once I actually started writing a book I got a serious case of writer’s block. I got stuck, and put too much pressure on myself. So I will be writing for myself, and if you get something out of it, or if it eventually is made into a book or a Lifetime Original Movie (because I’m fairly certain my life story wouldn’t work for a Spike original series), then so be it.

In every house I have lived in there is a place where I store things. It may be a closet, it may be a garage, but somewhere there is a place where things go when I don’t know what else to do with them. I’m not good at getting rid of my things. I am, however, great at getting rid of Ashley’s things (or at least suggesting that she get rid of them – I haven’t been married for 18 years and learned nothing). So when I have something that I want to keep but don’t have a place for it, I put it in that place. This is not terrible – especially when the place is not visible or you don’t have to pass it very often. But then you need something, and you are fairly certain that it is in your storage place, and you have to take a deep breath and dig in.

I bring this up – not to audition for “Hoarders,” but because I have realized the same is true of my mind. I have a place in my mind where I store things that I don’t need or know what to do with. Memories, information, goals, insights…there are a ton of things that I keep tucked away – out of sight and out of…well, you know what I mean. I have most of three good books (and one bad one) in there, if only I could dig through and organize it all. The more stuff that is in there, the bigger the mess, and the more I avoid it. I know that I need to deal with it somehow, but some things are too big to move, some things don’t have a place to go and, to be honest, some things are just too painful and I want to keep buried.

I have found that writing is the best way for me to sort through my junk. Good for me, but bad for you. (I am writing this with the assumption that someone will read it. If you are reading this, thank you. If you aren’t…then carry on.) I can record my insights, organize my thoughts somehow, or at the very least get rid of useless bits of information that I have been storing. Maybe if I can get some of this mess organized, I can finally get something accomplished.

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I had the following conversation with Hannah today on my way home from lunch. We were talking about Ashley’s friend who is coming to visit later today.

H: Maybe she speaks English.
L: She does.
H: I speak English sometimes. Sometimes I don’t.
L: What language do you speak when you don’t speak English?
H: Ummm…I speak shark…and whale.
L: You do?
H: Well, not shark. Just whale.

My life is too good.

P6270001Saturday was so hot, and Will got a new pool for his birthday, so I finally quit stalling and took the kids outside to play in the water. I have to admit that the prospect of going outside in the heat, setting up a pool and a slip-n-slide, and dealing with all of the clean-up had caused me to put this whole inevitable experience off for some time now. But we did it, and thanks to a little nice timing from Ashley, it all worked out well. Will had a great time in his pool once I added bath toys, but the lure of the slip-n-slide was too much. He kept going back and forth. Next time I’ll put them closer together.

Everybody wanted in on the froggy fun

Everybody wanted in on the froggy fun

"Hey, look at all that water!"

"Hey, look at all that water!"

Of course we all got popsicles

Of course we all got popsicles

Trying to figure it out.

Trying to figure it out.

Hannah playing peek-a-boo.

Hannah playing peek-a-boo.

Always used under close supervision.

Always used under close supervision.

We finally took the plunge and got Will’s hair cut for the first time. We went to a friend from church who is learning to be a hairstylist (otherwise I would have gone to a barber). He did really well – considering. We only had to bribe him with a few Vanilla Wafers to get him to sit relatively still. It is amazing how much a little trim makes a difference in his appearance. He looks so grown up now. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

Before

Before

Will got the cool cape.

Will got the cool cape.

Can you sense the action in this shot?

Can you sense the action in this shot?

Still friends with Miss Jenny

Still friends with Miss Jenny

The end result

The end result

Here are some things that I was thinking while making fresh sourdough bread:

“I sure do love making bread.”
“I should do this more often.”
“The kids are all being so quiet. How nice.”
“What a great day this is.”
“What a great dad I am.”

What I should have been thinking while making bread:

“Hmmm. Sure is quiet. I should go check on things.”
“Is it possible that the bathroom door is still open?”
“Do you think Will could possibly get hold of a whole tub of Vaseline?”
“I wonder if Will could get the top off of the tub of Vaseline?”
“What kind of huge mess could a one-year-old make if he were to get the top off of a tub of Vaseline?”
“How long will it take me to clean up the mess made by said one-year-old if he not only got the top off of the Vaseline but got gobs of it on his hands, smeared it on the floors and cabinets in the bathroom, and then walked into the living room?”

This is a statement that I had prepared to read Sunday morning to our church family, but other things took precedence. I typed it instead, cleaned it up a bit, and decided to post it here as well. Just read it out loud, cry all the way through it, and it will be as if I had read it to you myself.
Love to you all,
Lee

Thursday we celebrated Will’s 1st birthday, and naturally we spent some time reflecting back over the events leading up to and following his birth, and through each part of that experience we see God working through you. Even as we take joy in knowing that things worked out the way we wanted, we are also thankful for the difficult times as well. It was in these times, when we didn’t think we could take the next step, that you carried us. We didn’t know how we would handle adversity, but now we know that God is more than able to sustain us, no matter the situation.

I want to take this opportunity first of all to thank you again for the tremendous gift you gave us, but I also want to take a minute to encourage you as well. Just as we were at a low point almost a year ago when Will’s birth parents took him back for a few days, there are members of our body who are at a low point now. I have always taken great comfort from the following words of Moses found in Deuteronomy 8.

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”

The Wilderness plays an important role throughout the history of God’s people, but maybe nowhere more prominently than in the story of the Exodus. I typically thought of the Wilderness as a punishment for disobedience, but now I am coming to understand that it was more than that. God doesn’t just punish His people, but disciplines them. Everything He does is to teach, to instruct, and to prepare His people for what is to come, and to maintain His relationship with them. The Israelites needed to learn to trust God, to obey Him because He knew what was best for them.

I believe that we are in the Wilderness – we have trusted God to lead us out of slavery, but we are still waiting for the Promised Land. And in the journey God wants to prepare us, to teach us to trust Him. Sometimes that means that we experience loss, heartache or broken relationships. Sometimes we have difficulty with our job or our finances. Sometimes we struggle through an illness, a habit or a sin – whether it is because of something I have done or something that someone has done to me, or even just a random occurrence, God is able to use any circumstance to teach me to trust Him more, knowing that the journey is only temporary, but the reward is eternal.

I was reading about this subject once, and learned more about the Wilderness. Whereas I used to think about the Wilderness as a desert, it seems actually to be full of vegetation and plant life, but only the kind that could sustain you for a short time. It was okay to pass through, but was not suitable for settling down. Knowing this helps me greatly, because I know that when I experience pain or sorrow, it reminds me that this world is not my home, that I haven’t settled down here, but I am on my way to a better place. God gives me all that I need to sustain me for the time that I am here, but there is something much better to come.

As we begin Will’s second year, we are thankful that for all of you who are on this journey with us. We know that no matter what happens, God has given us a family that will gladly share our burdens and our joys. We love you all so much, and just like our love for our children increases each day, so our love for you grows more and more. Thank you for loving us in the amazing way that you have, and know that when Will’s story is told, God will be glorified.

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June 11, 2008

As the day begins I want to take a few minutes to publicly celebrate not only Will’s birth, but also his addition to our family. It is difficult to remember, sitting here a year later, all of the emotions we experienced, and I suppose that is a blessing.

We had only known for a little more than a month that we were going to be adopting him, so there was a major rush to prepare not only our home, but also get all of our paperwork done. We began the process not knowing how we would pay for it, but God answered that particular prayer in a definitive way through our church family. We also weren’t totally sure it would all happen, and for a while it didn’t, but again our church family (up to and including our physical families) were up to the challenge.As I think more about it, that day was full of excitement and fear and joy and apprehension, and all of it had to be restrained. All of these emotions, and several more, were present, but none could be given full rein. We just had to sit and wait, and that was perhaps the hardest thing of all.

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Jaycie with her new brother - a few days old

I want to also pause and thank Will’s birth parents. Part of what made that day (and the following weeks) difficult is that we saw in their faces how much they loved him, and we could only imagine the battle that was raging within them. They had made a good but tough decision, but they weren’t prepared for the love that they felt when he was born. We could see them struggle, and to this day I continue to be amazed that they made the decision that they did. To admit that you are not prepared for a child and to know that no matter how much it hurts you, he will have a better life with another family has got to be one of the hardest things to do.

So to his birth parents, thank you for this gift. He has brought us all so much joy, from his first smile to his first steps, we have cherished each day. We love him as our own, and will continue to teach, nurture and guide him the best we can. And as we tell his story, he will always know that you love him.

One final gift we have been given in the last year is spiritual in nature. As we have experienced each step of this journey we have known true love. We have seen love like God has when Will’s birth parents gave him to us. We have felt some semblance of the love God has when they decided to take him back. We were completely crushed, yet we felt God wrapping his arms around us through the love of our Christian brothers and sisters.

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Just a few days old.

If the story had ended there, we would have had a great story to tell of God’s care and concern for us. But He saw fit to give our son back to us, and the love we have felt for Will helps remind us once again of the love God has to adopt us as His sons and daughters, no matter the cost or the pain or the heartache we cause Him. We have also been overwhelmed through each step of the way by the love we have felt from so many people who we haven’t seen in years, all over the country, who care so deeply about us and have lifted our family up in prayer. There are no words to express the great comfort we received from you.

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Hannah with her "buddy" - August

I am so thankful for each piece of this story – the good and the bad. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I know that if needed, we could do it because it is God who sustains us. He gives us what we need, and He knows best what that is better than I do.

Okay, enough stalling. I have a cake to bake. Enjoy these pictures of our “little” boy.

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Will in September

Adoption Day!

Adoption Day! October 22, 2008

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Jackson's Orchard - October

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December (Duh!)

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January 2009

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March - starting to cruise the furniture already

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Easter - the first picture when he looks all grown up

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June - walking all alone (not his sunglasses, btw)

I realize that I have been grossly negligent of both my readers in the last year, but I haven’t been too worried about it. I figure that if God saw fit to give husbands a year off after the birth of a child, then I can slack off somewhat with no guilt. In fact, I’m pretty sure if Leviticus were written today it would include a whole chapter on housework, landscaping and blogging, among other things, that you are allowed to let slide during that first year. As my year of self-pity comes to a close, I hereby make a solemn semi-promise to make somewhat more of an effort to write a little more. (Was that enough qualifiers to allow me an out if I need it?)

I am not promising anything earth-shattering or life-altering. I also am not promising any additional housework or landscaping, in case Ashley is reading between the lines. I guess that the only thing I can promise is more moments like this:

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As I was writing the above paragraph, the house was reasonably quiet and I was wondering why I haven’t posted more to this point. Then Hannah ran into the room saying “Oh my goodness! Will spilled the coffee!” I went into the kitchen and saw that Will was engaging in his new favorite pastime, putting things into and out of the garbage can. I had just emptied the coffee grounds into the garbage can, etc. etc. and ended up giving him a bath. I always wondered why people who blog all the time have so many funny things to share. Now I am starting to think that people who blog all the time get carried away and their kids do funny things. So, in my pathetic attempt to follow in their footsteps, I went back, grabbed the camera to take a few photos before cleaning everything (and everybody) up.

Hannah has always been hilarious – I always am amazed at how such a big personality has come in such a small body. But just the last few days there have been a couple of things that I had to write down. If I put it on paper I’ll lose it, but the Internet…that will last forever.

One was last night. Ashley put her to bed while I was feeding/rocking/wrestling Will. I heard them reading one of Hannah’s new favorite books – “Do You Know The Muffin Man?” Later I went back to check on her, and as I hugged her I told her how much I love her and how thankful I am that God put her in our family. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Hannah: Where does God live?
Lee (eager for the first spiritual conversation with his daughter): God lives everywhere. He lives in us.
Hannah: Where is Jesus?
Lee (so far, so good): Jesus is with God.
Hannah: I know where Jesus lives.
Lee: Really, where?
Hannah: He lives on Jesus Lane.

It took me a second to make the connection to the muffin man song.

The other that just made me lose it happened today. Hannah was in the living room watching TV. I was in the kitchen making dinner.

Hannah (yelling in her most demanding voice):  “Daddy! Get me chocolate milk!”
Lee (I, of course, am not going to respond): “Excuse me?”
Hannah: “Chocolate Milk!”
Lee: “Excuse me?”
Hannah: “I want more chocolate milk!”
Lee: “Excuse me?”
Hannah then comes into the kitchen, puts her hand on her hip and looks at me and says: “How many times do I have to say Chocolate milk?”

After a long period of slacking off, I am working to get back into the habit of studying my Bible on a regular basis. I was somewhat torn about what to read, and decided to read John again. I got to the second chapter and the account of Jesus going to the temple and, finding it a “place of business,” made a whip and drove out all those who were taking the focus away from worship. Obviously I have read this many times before, but always with the focus on our church buildings. I have been convicted that we must avoid the “business” of church and focus instead on worship.

While I still think that is true, on this reading I looked at it a little differently. If it is true, as we believe, that our body is the Lord’s Temple, shouldn’t we be concerned to make sure that we are focused on worship and not on the business of the world? Aren’t I more concerned sometimes with my financial state or my job or my house repairs than I am with worship? Doesn’t that explain why I haven’t been studying recently, choosing instead to attend to the myriad of things that constantly demand to be done (even though they never get finished).

So the question that haunts me today is this: If Jesus came into my life, what would He see that would make Him so mad that He would drive them out with a whip? What have I added to my life that takes my focus away from worshipping God?

Before someone smarter than me responds to correct me, I have also heard the thought that the “body” described as the temple of God actually refers to the people who make up His Church. I can buy that, and the same principle applies. But Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is only so long, and therefore my time also is limited. That is another topic for another day.