Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two Rights Don't Make a Wrong


Something's bugging me. It has been for a while now. I normally try to shake it off but just can't seem to lately. There has been a lot of political wrangling and there are some pretty serious events unfolding in the world recently. It feels like there's quite a bit of of verbal flak whizzing around and it's almost impossible to avoid being caught in the crossfire. I want to, though. Avoid it, that is.

Don't misunderstand that statement as a lack of interest or concern about important issues. I care deeply about healthcare and about the environment and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am affected by the same issues as everyone else. I am concerned about the future of our country and I am very compassionate to the needs of others. I love being an American. I love free speech and I know everyone has the right to express their opinions and feelings, as do I.

Here's what's bothering me: I am witnessing a growing lack of tolerance, decorum, courtesy and respect for the opinions and feelings of others when it comes to publically expressing our views or opinions or when we are asserting the facts as we know them. It almost seems like everybody is talking and few seem to be listening. I'm not just talking about the's everywhere. I have received some emails lately from both sides of the healthcare issue that would curl your hair! I mean, wow!!

Listen, I understand about passion. I understand about conviction. I understand about determination. I understand outrage and frustration. I really do. I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that it is not always a simple matter of "I'm right, therefore YOU are wrong." What is right for you may not be right for me. And vice versa. I'm okay with that. Since we are all able to see the world differently based on our own knowledge, experiences, situations and beliefs, it stands to reason that we would have differing views and opinions and I think it's healthy to remember that. I'm not out to debate any particular issue here. That is not my intention. I am only trying to bring to light the fact that there are times when we become so inflamed with passion and conviction and the need to turn the tide and 'set things right' that we forget that we are not the only ones in the boat.

Am I saying that speaking out is wrong? Absolutely not. Those of you who know me are well aware that I have NO problem with speaking out! Healthy debate is something I have great respect for. It's the manner and the tone that I have an issue with. If someone is speaking angrily or using insults to make a point, I tend to shut down. Maybe it doesn't bother you...and that's great. For me...the disrespect, name-calling, accusatory statements and personal insults and attacks are a turn-off. Maybe it's just me. But I don't think so. Don't get me wrong. I'm not perfect. I very recently got sucked into an exchange of words with someone that didn't go very well. I could have handled it better and I wish things had gone differently. The thing is, I know I can do better and I intend to.

I know people are fed up...I am too. I am annoyed and aggravated and perturbed just like everybody else. There's something else I am, though. Grateful. Profoundly grateful to live in a free society where I can say what's on my mind when I feel like it. Grateful that my computer isn't censored. Grateful that my kids are in school and not working in a factory to help support the family. Grateful that I can go to church and worship my God freely. Grateful that I can get in the car and drive around without worrying a bomb will go off while I'm stopped at an intersection. Grateful that if disaster strikes, there is a plan in place to make help available for me and my family. Grateful that as a woman I am free to make decisions concerning the provision and care for my kids. Could things be better? Oh doubt about that. Could they be worse? We all know the answer to that one. Right now...I am just grateful be an American. Period.

Here is my wish list for the future. What I'm daring to dream for: I wish poverty was extinct. I wish peace was prevalent. I wish our environment and it's well-being was a priority for everyone. I wish civility was the norm. I wish chivalry was alive and well. I wish dignity and respect in our communication with each other was something we just took for granted. I wish honesty and integrity were examples of characteristics set by our leaders. I wish higher education was available to everyone. I wish politeness and kindness were practiced as a general rule. I wish the service men and women in our country were held up with the honor and appreciation they are due and were compensated appropriately for their sacrifice. I wish our children were able to play freely and without fear in our neighborhoods. I wish our rich diversity was celebrated with a sense of national pride. I wish that in disagreement, people would take a step back and give each other the respect and freedom that is their right. I wish our leaders would be impeccable with their word and would speak less often and listen more carefully. I wish our country would embrace the fact that 'God' is not a bad word and that we need Him more than ever right now! I wish people would hug more and yell less. I wish eveyone would kiss a puppy every day and that kittens and unicorns would freely cavort in the spring meadows, and that rainbows and happiness and sunshine....gotcha. Just wanted to see if you were still with me.

Am I idealistic? Sure. Naive? Probably. Wishing for too much? Maybe, but I don't think so. My beliefs tell me that God is in control. I try to let Him handle the big stuff. Of course, I have to do my part. It starts with me, as they say. I'm willing. I know that I'm capable of changing for the better. We all are. I believe that most people are really trying to do their best. I'm hoping we can level up our definition of 'best' when it comes to relating to each other as we move forward. I know that with God ALL things are possible. You might think I'm wrong about that. But I believe I'm right.

Be Blessed,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Making a Joyful Noise

This past Wednesday was a day I will never forget. It marked a new beginning for me that has been a long time coming. To really understand why, I'll need to give you a little background.

When I was a little girl I was always singing. I know a lot of people say that but when I say always...I mean always! I know I drove everyone crazy.
When I wasn't singing out loud, I was more than likely humming to myself in my head. It's like I was born with theme music. For me, music has been a constant companion that could always be depended upon. I come from a family of musical people. My great-grandmother taught herself to play the piano and could really rock out the 'ragtime' when she was feeling playful. My grandmother (her daughter) actually sang on her own radio show in Dallas when she was in her early years. My dad was a lounge singer at one time and had a great voice reminiscent of the Rat Pack days. Musicality is just in our genes and I'm so glad of that. A love for music is alive and well in my kids, too. We have big musical productions, complete with costumes and make-up, pretty often around here.

I sang in my school choirs, did church choir tours, and sang to anyone who was willing to listen (and those who weren't so willing, probably) whenever the opportunity would arise. I just loved to sing. All the time.
As result of all of this 'exposure' I was encouraged very often in my young life that I should be a singer. In fact, back in those days, I believed it was inevitable that I would be a famous singer (typical of me) and that it was only a matter of time before I would be discovered, adored and elevated immediately to celebrity status and that I would fall in love with a handsome movie star and would live fabulously ever after in blissful harmony. Yeah...well as you might have guessed, that's not exactly what happened.

As a teen who lived life in the midst of instability and uncertainty, I was searching to find myself and was most often looking in all the wrong places. In the middle of some intense family drama, my path became unclear and I started meandering around with little or no direction. I was pretty much 'on my own' since the age of sixteen. Of course I know now that Jesus never left my side during those times but I was not spiritually mature enough to call on him to direct my steps. Though I was saved I did not seek out the guidance required to grow in my faith until several years later. During this time, singing and waiting tables at Denny's paid the bills. I have such a long list of vocational skills from all of the odd jobs I have held in my life it is astounding. I was constantly dreaming of making it big and proving myself worthy through singing. At the time, I felt it was all I had to offer.

Since then, I have been fortunate to sing in some pretty remarkable places. I've toured all over the southern United States. I've sung in front of crowds of thousands at sporting events and air shows. I've performed in musical theatre productions. Always so much fun but sort of like eating nothing but salad. Nothing against salad, but it's just not quite satsifying enough when you really get down to it. Something was missing. Couldn't put my finger on it though. There were always people to tell me I was talented and should keep pursuing a career in music. Eventually, life happened and I just stopped dreaming as big. Then I became a wife and a mom and my priorities changed (as they should) so my focus was on my husband and kids and I let my dream take a back seat.

Fast forward to our move to Houston. At the time of our move I was not exactly happy about leaving the east coast and coming home to Texas. Too many old ghosts, I guess. I was not as trusting of God's plan and timing as I should have been and went through some pretty intense trials and testing as a result. We were searching and praying for a church to call home and one day David suggested we should give Lakewood Church a try.
That first Sunday at Lakewood would be the first day in a journey that has been, in my view, nothing short of miraculous. That Sunday God gave me a vision of myself singing on the stage with the worship team. A few weeks later, I went online to check service times at church and a window popped up extending an invitation to audition for Voices of Lakewood. I prayed and felt like I was led to try out for the choir. I felt my prayers had been answered and was so excited to be welcomed warmly into the choir. I was inspired by the commitment and love for the Lord in the music ministry and leadership. I have learned so much in my walk with the Lord from the amazing people I have served with in the choir. It has been an awesome experience to say the least. A couple of years later I auditioned for the ensemble and have had the honor of serving and worshiping on the mic with my choir family.

A few months ago I auditioned for the worship team and God made a way for me there as well. All I can say is WOW!! God resurrected a childhood dream for me in a way that has far exceeded my expectations for myself. My daddy always said I would end up singing for Jesus and he was so right! On Wednesday night I walked onto the platform to serve on the worship team for the first time. There was a peace and joy in my spirit that I can't put into words. It was like coming home. As a singer, there is a sense of completeness that only comes when I sing in praise and worship. It's meat and potatoes after a long period of salad only. It's all I want to do. To exalt Jesus and not myself. I am aspiring to lift up the name of the Lord. I'm making my joyful noise! How wonderful is that? God is so Good.

My dreams for myself have been gently and lovingly unraveled and reworked into the perfect plan for my life by my heavenly Father. I did marry a handsome man (thankfully not a movie star) and have the family I have always prayed for. I am living fabulously,(but not always blissfully), ever after, after all. There is harmony at last. Makes me feel like singing!

Be blessed,

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sister Mary Sunshine

There's something you should know about me. I might as well come clean right now. I have a chronic condition that makes some people uncomfortable. No, really. It can actually be downright annoying to some people. They have even told me so. To my face. What is it? Okay...I'll just say it right now. I have...OPTIMISM. (You, gasping, "Nooo..say it isn't...what? Optimism? Is that all?") Yes. I am an optimist. You wouldn't think that would be a bad thing, would you? Well, some people don't enjoy being around optimism. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that a lot of folks try to squash it immediately if you are optimistic in their presence. It's true and I have proof. Take this story for example:

When I was expecting Mattie and Michael, we had just moved to Chesapeake, VA. In fact, I found out I was pregnant the day the movers were packing us up in Massachussetts. The nurse from Baystate IVF called and said "Catherine,'re pregnant. According to your numbers, you are VERY pregnant." My articulate response was something along the lines of "Whoa." I had to go sit down for a minute. Then I called David, gave him the news and then got back to the business of moving. I remember thinking 'Wow...ok...well, this is going to be a great adventure for our little family.' And it was. Then we got to Chesapeake, settled into our temporary residence and the morning sickness hit. And some very scary and emotional medical issues (too involved to go into) came along. Oh, and Patrick got really sick. Still, we persevered and had fun where we could and managed to be excited about the blessings coming our way. We were building a house at this time (right smack in the middle of the holidays) and I was going back and forth from our apartment to the building site with Patrick on my hip and two babies in my rapidly expanding belly. So one day the contractor met me at the new house and we were discussing the sprinkler system. It was pouring rain and he said "What a horrible day. I hate the rain." I told him I was grateful for the rain because it would be good for the new sod they were laying. He sort of snorted and said "Sod isn't going to grow in the winter, lady. I don't know why the builders even put it in when it's this time of year." I told him I believed they knew what they were doing and that I was believing for grass in the spring, thank you very much! He said, smirking, "We'll just have to see, won't we?" So he asked me when my baby was due and I told him we were expecting twins in May and that I was really getting excited. Now this guy had many responses to choose from but this is what he decided to say to me in that moment: "Well, I had a sister who was pregnant with twins. She went into premature labor and both of the babies died." Umm...are you kidding me? Now don't get me wrong...I sincerely feel compassion that his family has had to deal with that kind of pain. But was that the appropriate time to pull that particular piece of history out of his family laundry basket? I would answer that with a resounding 'no'.
It's a wierd phenomenon. There are people who will, for some unknown reason, just drop a bomb of negativity on you when you least expect it. It happens a LOT when women are expecting. Never have I heard more pregnancy and childbirth horror stories than when I was expecting. So strange...I just don't get it!

So anyway, I'm an eternal optimist. I'm even optimistic about eternity. I have always believed that things would turn out all right if I would just stay in faith and keep moving forward. Have I ever been discouraged? Of course. Fearful? You bet. Angry? Yes. The thing is that I don't dwell in those dark places for very long. I don't like the dark. When I was a kid and things at home were at their worst, I would be imagining how great it would be when I was older and could make better choices for myself. It's just the way I'm wired. A beloved family member has joked to me on occasion; "Well, aren't we Sister Mary Sunshine today?" Same person refers to me as a 'Pollyanna' sometimes. Well why not? I choose to trust that the Lord is in control and that no matter how deep the sorrow, "joy comes with the morning." God's answer may not come in the way or at the time we expect it but I've found His answers always make perfect sense when they do come.

Yes, I'll admit it right now. I am happy. I am optimistic. I believe in miracles. I really try to see the good in people. I don't hate anyone. I trust Jesus. I can't hold a grudge. If you tell me your troubles I will probably tell you that everything will be all right. Because it will, one way or another. Nope, there's nothing to be done for it...I have incurable hope. Oh, I almost forgot. The grass grew in perfectly and right on time just as expected. Never doubted it for a second.

Be blessed.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Thumbsucking Karma

Karma is the only word I can think of to describe what's going on at my house these days. It's funny...I'm pretty sure I tuned my mother out a lot when I was a kid but certain things she said have been popping into my head (and out of my mouth) lately. The other day I caught myself saying "Michael, put that down! You could poke someone in the eye with that!" And he reacted the same way all kids do when mothers say that (including myself when I was little, I'm sure): That's right, the old heavy sigh/eye roll combination. He was so comical I had to turn the other way so he wouldn't catch me laughing. He really has a future in stand-up if he decides to take that route. (I pray that he doesn't). While doing Mattie's hair one morning recently I heard myself quote Mom word for word. "Little girl," I said, "this hair is just like a bird's nest...what am I supposed to do with all of this crazy hair?" She said "I guess you're just gonna have to deal with it, Mama." Too cute.
Anyway, one thing my mother used to say that has been bouncing around in my memory is this..."Catherine Elizabeth, someday you'll have a child just like you and then you'll see why I get so frustrated sometimes! I swear, you bring me such joy and then such aggravation!" Of course, I would think to myself..."Ha! I should be so lucky to have a child as cool and funny as I am and if I did, I would never, ever yell at them and never make them clean their room or clean out the catbox or do anything at all that they don't like to do and I wouldn't even send them to school because I would want to play with them all day and they could eat all the candy and ice cream they want and they could suck their thumbs whenever they felt like it because I would be the COOLEST MOM EVER!" You know the drill.

This brings me to the subject of thumbsucking. Many of you have strong opinions about this. I know that because COMPLETE STRANGERS have approached (or should I say reproached) me in public when the twins were little to weigh in on the issue. Listen, I get it. Of course, I wish my children would stop sucking their thumbs. I know it's bad for their teeth. I know they are carrying around germs on their thumbs and that it is not exactly a hygenic thing to do. But as a mother of a very busy 2 1/2 year old and newborn twin babies with no family around...I gotta tell was great when they were little. Never had to run around trying to find their 'binky'. They barely cried and could soothe themselves to sleep. That was priceless to me! These days, they don't really suck their thumbs in public and don't do it at school at all so we are making steady progress.
I'm sure I would be more distressed over all of this if it weren't for the fact that I was an epic thumbsucker myself. So I understand. I know why they do it and why they don't want to let go of it. They were sucking their thumbs in every ultrasound picture and immediately after they were born. I did the same thing when I was little. It was a comfort to me and yes, it became a habit that was pretty tough to break. (I'm happy to report that I did eventually stop and am -in my humble opinion- pretty well-adjusted and healthy). Well, I did have to wear a retainer, but no braces. We probably won't be that lucky.
Here is what we won't be doing: Shaming them or embarrassing them or making them feel defective. This is unfortuately what my parents chose to do. Tabasco sauce, Nail-biter, bitters and jalapeno juice didn't work. Band-aids and tape and even making me wear a pacifier around my neck to school didn't work. Like most kids, the more they harrassed me about it, the more stressed I was and the more I sucked my thumb. It's just not worth it.
Someday I will remember these times and wish I could turn back the hands of time. When their little voices were so sweet and their giggles would float down the stairs and cover me with a warmth like no other. I'm treasuring every moment. They are young for such a short time. Pretty soon, the thumbs and blankets will be replaced with footballs and pom-poms and cell phones and I-pods. Call me crazy...but I will miss the thumbsucking days...frustrating as they can be sometimes...I will surely miss them.
I did end up with a kid just like me. Mattie is a little mini-me. Sometimes she frustrates me but mostly she is an unbelievable joy. I'll bet my mom is in heaven looking down and laughing it up at my expense. I know she's also crying tears of happiness and pride over her precious grandchildren. So...just for you Mom...the thing you most loved hearing me say: "You were right, Mom."
Miss you mucho!


Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Making My Head Spin

Is it just me or is anyone else in total shock that March is already here? Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time flies these days. Weren't my children just crawling and babbling and smiling at me through toothless grins? Now they are toothless again but for completely different reasons. The tooth fairy is racking up major frequent flyer miles these days making trips to our house. Patrick and Mattie each lost a tooth last week (Mattie's first) and now Michael's got a couple of wiggly ones, too. I just can't get over how fast it all goes by. Makes my head spin.

I'm going to be completely honest here...Sometimes I just can't seem to keep up with it all. There are days it feels like I'm playing an endless game of Whack a Mole. I am swinging all over the place and getting in some good hits but things just keep popping up. Anybody else experiencing this? Yes? Well...I'm glad I'm not the only one. At least I'm in good company!

The message in church this week was a timely one for me. I'll boil it down this way: our pastor was explaining that we need to start making relaxation and fun a priority in our lives. To just ratchet down the furious pace of our lives so that we can enjoy our families and friends and the simple things in life. I couldn't agree more. I am usually pretty good at making time for fun and family but there are also times when I get distracted, lose focus, and then I'm right back on the head-spinning merry-go-round of life again.

I am trying to find a more healthy balance in my life. As with everything else, I know the first step is to pray for God to guide me through this process. The next step is to revisit my list of priorities and see if any adjustments can be made there. I mean what is REALLY important. I'm finally beginning to get it that having my house picked up every day is not actually a priority. Yes, you heard me isn't! I am trying to de-program myself from the misconception that perfection (or at least the appearance of perfection) must be maintained at all times. Perfection is not possible and pursuing it can be exhausting and frustrating. If you already know this and are living your lives accordingly... my hat's off to you. I have had my share of struggles with the need to do everything 'right' or perfectly and at times this has added unneccesary stress to my life. Not just mine, either. My stress trickles down into the lives of my husband and kids, too. I have to be mindful of that. I'm taking it easier on myself these days. Am I completely transformed into a laid-back, easy going, messy version of my former self? Nope. Probably never will be, either...but that's okay. I'm a work in progress, and God will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in me. I really believe that.

So why don't you join me in making a new list of priorities. Here are some things I am determined to do more of in the coming days:

~Spend more of my prayer time praising and listening.
~Work out every day. No excuses!
~Spend more time with my kids that has nothing to do with homework or school.
~Stop EVERYTHING when my husband walks in the door and greet him with all of the attention he deserves!
~Take 10 minutes out of my day to play with and cuddle the dog.
~Fill the birdfeeder every day and take time outside to really enjoy the beautiful setting we are blessed with.
~STOP and listen ( with undivided attention) when my kids are trying to tell me something that's important to them.

I think that's a great place for me to start!

Time will continue to fly by and the kids will keep experiencing new milestones that I can barely keep up with. I know it's impossible to stop the merry-go-round of life. What I'm learning is that I can hop off once in a while and just be a spectator while others enjoy the ride. At least until my head stops spinning.

Thanks so much for visiting this site. I'd love to know you were here and to hear your stories, too. Please leave your comments below. Be blessed ~Cat