Thursday, March 29, 2007

walking, talking, learning, living

I feel reconnected with God. A variety of people, places and ponderings (come on, I had to stick with the alliteration ...) have led me to this point. Some I expected, but most I didn't.

Since about 1996, I've heard many times people talk about their "walk with God," as a noun. Like it's something tangible. And, honestly, I've never truly understood that phrase until this week, as silly as that sounds. I get the "walk with God," as a verb, as in follow. But I've struggled with the noun.

Then I read this.

And I thought about walking.

Jaclyn and I walk regularly (so what if I chose a pedicure over walking one afternoon this week!), and I enjoy it for many reasons. First, I like Jaclyn as my walking partner. We know each other and we don't have to start with a bunch of background before launching into a story. We just launch, sometimes talking back and forth between subjects as we make the five laps around the trail at the park. Also, I like walking, as in exercising. Sure, I could always walk faster and longer and brisker. But something is better than nothing. Just ask my diabetes. And an added bonus this past year as been Luke. He loves being outside and the looks on his face these days are too precious for words.

So walking becomes a routine part of our day, but that doesn't make it any less valuable.

We walk. A verb.
We go on walks. Nouns.
Ask me how my walk was. That's also a noun. But it could easily be an analogy for our friendship.

OK, so back to the spiritual walk.

God is the creator the universe. But, hey, he likes for me to walk with him. (Verb.) So ask me how my walk is, something I really never understand. And I've come to learn that my walk (noun) is my relationship.

And, honestly, it's far from perfect. But God's been my walking partner lately. Just to bring the analogy full circle, some of the realization that I needed more spiritual exercise came while at the park, walking the loop with Jaclyn.

But some of the realization also came from strangers at the grocery store. And my husband. And co-workers. And song lyrics. And a baby that is expected to be born in six weeks. And my family as people I love deal with drama. And a sister-in-law with whom I'm building a friendship. And nieces and a nephew who give child-like faith new meaning to me. And ...

There are so many moments that are orchestrated so beautifully yet sometimes become background noise to our chaotic days that brought me here.

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. ... You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. --Galatians 3:22, 26-29

And then I read this amazing definition of grace that Beth Moore quotes in the study I am doing: "That which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude. A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor. (Grace) stands in direct antithesis to ... works, the two being mutually exclusive. God's grace affects man's sinfulness and not only forgives the repentant sinner, but brings joy and thankfulness to him. It changes the individual to a new creature without destroying his individuality."

And then I read about God as "Abba, Father," which I have heard Brennan Manning speak about before. But it hit home again.

Because you are sons (and daughters!), God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." -- Galatians 4:6

I thought about my family, and how despite threads of similarities, we are so different. I love them all the same, but I realize that just because "that's how I was raised" (something I much too often say to myself) doesn't mean that's how life has to be now. God allows plenty of room for gracious changes, even if it does cut into the heart.

Hearing that baby's heartbeat and see that girl's belly become bigger, I think about Cate's roots and Cate's future and the purpose in a beautiful, smart 19-year-old girl decided she needed to have this baby but never considered keeping her for herself.

... the moment you believed with your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, that genealogy became your own. Your heritage became a holy one. You're lineage became royalty. Your spiritual bloodline stems all the way back to Abraham ... you are a child of promise. ... We are added to the family of God by way of blessed adoption! --Beth Moore in "Living Beyond Yourself"

The fact God "adopts" me like we plan to do for Cate makes the attorney bills and paperwork seem so insignificant.

Jesus knew how difficult it would be to convince us to break old habits and to overcome our previous heritage. ... Not only did we receive a new Father, but we also were invited to partake in a very distinct relationship with that Father. ... Abba is a term of extreme endearment expressed by a young child to his beloved father, his hero, the one who kisses his scraped knee and dries his fresh tears. Abba would be the word used only for a parent who was familiar, available, trustworthy, and comforting. Literally, it is "Daddy, my Daddy."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

516 miles, a nursery and a beautiful niece

The theme of the weekend would definitely be babies.

On Friday, I drove 516 miles, mostly to hear the baby's heartbeat. Everything is going well there. The closer and more real this adoption becomes the more excited I get.

Then Greg and I spent a lot of time this weekend working on the baby room. This, of course, after the "professionals" drywalled (the situation was like this ...), constructed new baseboard trim and painted. The walls are painted mint ice cream, the crib is put together, the dresser/changer is put together, a few sleepers and other tiny clothes are ready for her to wear, an adorable butterfly rug is laid on the beautiful hardwood floor (which has been covered by carpet until recently), a ceiling fan is installed ...

Pictures to come when it's complete. (How's that for a tease?!)

Then we spent some time with niece Ethne, nephew Elijah and sister-in-law Angela. Ethne and I bonded over a couple of meals and then gazed at the stars and "the moon up so high."

Greg stole a couple minutes with the precious 18-month-old, which was good because I needed a picture! I'm going to have to inspire him to take some snapshots once Cate arrives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The sky’s the limit: Intimate apparel idea has Murray natives soaring

See, not all my work is government and meetings. This time it involved underwear. And, I have to tell you, it was a fun story to do. From today's Ledger & Times ...

The first business venture for Mary Kay Howard Bowden, Kim Howard Willson and Morgan Blankenship Harbin was a lemonade stand on Olive Street.

Now after 23 years of friendship, the three Murray natives are marketing their intimate apparel company internationally.

The 27-year-old twins and their best friend, Morgan, 26, started MMK Brands in 2005 with their first product that addressed a predicament of living in fast-paced New York.

Called Passport Panties, the undergarments are packaged in a pouch that resembles a passport for women on the go. Also in the travel-sized package are cleansing towelettes and deodorant.

Living in New York after college, the three women found themselves on the go.

“Being busy in the city and traveling, women don’t always have time to run home and freshen up,” Morgan said. “We developed this product so women can have it with them.”

The travel theme is prevalent throughout the marketing for Passport Panties, which is carried in 350 boutiques internationally and online at passportpanties.com. In Murray, Vintage Rose carries the packaged panties.

Rather than the standard small, medium and large, the panties are labeled window, middle and aisle, respectively.

Among MMK’s famous customers are Murray native Molly Sims, who stars on NBC’s “Las Vegas,” and supermodel Nikki Taylor. Other celebrities learned of the product through the official Emmy Swag Bag and Fashion Week Live Bags.

MMK Brands is in the process of marketing another line of panties and camisoles, called the Bandeau collection. The women are working toward having a full lingerie line.

The newest collection uses spandex and mesh fabric so the products complement the natural curves of a woman’s body, according to a MMK Brands press release.

All 1998 Murray High School graduates, Morgan, Mary Kay and Kim met 23 years ago when they lived on Olive Street. From lemonade stands in the front yard to various MHS projects, the sisters and their friend learned how to work together.

They also credit their supportive mothers -- Cindy Howard and Mona Bolin -- for helping them along.

The Howard twins, who played soccer at MHS, went to Vanderbilt University after graduating from Murray while their best friend Morgan, a MHS cheerleader, went to Alabama. And they all ended up in New York, where they came up with Passport Panties over a night of martinis and mini-burgers.

Now, Mary Kay and Morgan live in Houston while Kim is in Memphis.

Yet they never lost sight of their hometown. They first traveled abroad with MHS French teacher Sue Spann, who they said taught them about being prepared. That lesson is the foundation for their first lingerie product.

Murray’s Oakwood Studio has taken their promotional pictures and Rudolph Distribution helped them perfect their distribution plan. ZAX printed them some T-shirts and local businesswomen such as those at Vintage Rose and Jean Marie’s helped them gain confidence.

Just because Murray is a small town doesn’t mean help isn’t available. Plus there’s better prices and a quicker willingness to help.

“It’s actually amazing how much you can get done in Murray,” Kim said. “You’d think since it was a small town you’d have to look elsewhere, but there are plenty of resources.”

A piece of candy for your thoughts?

I have determined based on an analysis of Greg and myself that how people eat hard candy explains much about their personality. I should add a disclaimer that I came to this deep revelation while my blood sugar was lower than it needed to be and I was feeling a bit dizzy.

I'll take you through my process of eating an orange mint Lifesaver. (SIDE NOTE: Have you had these? They are amazing. Seriously.)

I almost immediately bite down on it, and then I wonder why I'm wasting this delicious piece of candy by chewing it. INTERPRETATION: I tend to react quickly, sometimes too quickly.

So good thing I still have a couple small piece left in my mouth. INTERPRETATION: I recognize I can change, and there's plenty of room for improvement.

I eat these last pieces slower. INTERPRETATION: I try to change.

Then the next couple pieces, I continue with slower. INTERPRETATION: I still work toward changing.

Eventually I'll crunch down again. INTERPRETATION: I react emotionally again -- not because I don't care, but because there's just some stubborness, competitiveness, independence in me that is rooted deeply in who I am.

Meanwhile, Greg eats one piece at a time, each very slowly. INTREPRETATION: He's much more patient and laid-back than I am. And for that I'm very thankful. Hopefully the best parts of each of us will continue to rub off on one another.

And there's usually a few pieces of candy (perhaps Cinnamon Discs or Wint-O-Green mints -- you know, the ones that spark when you crunch on them in a dark room! -- instead) sitting around our house. INTREPRETATION: Grace is a good thing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

gloriously enslaved

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
--Paul in Galatians 1:10

"Remember this one important face about God. He never asks anything of us to make himself look better. The demands he makes on our lives are never for his personal gain. We cannot make him any more God than he already is. He would be no less Lord of lords if no one believed. Every urging and exhortation of God to us is for one major reason. He desires that we have the pleasure of knowing, serving, and sharing him. ... Approval and servanthood are connected because we become immediate slaves to the persons from whom we seek approval. You can trust only One to constantly be on the lookout for your best interest. Only One holds the future in his hands and knowns your part in that future. Only One cares for you with a perfect and unconditional love. Only One can make 'all things work together for good' (Romans 8:28). Only One can safely, yes, gloriously enslave you!"

--Beth Moore in "Living Beyond Yourself"

'Horns failed to hook 'em

After four days of basketball games, I'm winning our work NCAA bracket thing.

I have a few more points that the second-place bracket and 14 of the 16 teams left. BUT the team I had winning it all lost yesterday. Texas wasn't really even in the game against USC. Come on, Kevin Durant, I was hoping you'd be like Carmelo Anthony a few years ago. Just kidding, the rest of your teammates didn't help your cause much. Guess that was USC's game plan.

The keeper of the brackets here at work says mathematically I'm still in it. (He did admit to trying his best to mathematically eliminate me after yesterday's game ... not yet possible!) To win the pot of money, I need all the big names to lose. Seriously, Purdue tried to help me yesterday. I have Florida going to the final game, but so does most of the country (and more importantly, the Ledger & Times participants). Kansas and North Carolina also need to be eliminated.

So here's to rooting for Butler, UNLV, SIU, Vanderbilt ...

Who said anything about gambling?

Friday, March 16, 2007

one of the (big) boys

Luke (He'll be 1 in about a month!) just wanted to be one of the boys Wednesday night ...


That's Greg, Bryan and Aaron, from the left. Bryan is the proud papa of that adorable boy and Greg and Aaron love being pseduo-uncles. The white T-shirts weren't planned. The big boys got warm while running around playing football and baseball, so they removed a layer, revealing those lovely white shirts. Luke, on the other hand, was sporting an adorable MSU T-shirt that his fake aunt Kristin and uncle Greg bought him for Christmas.



Thursday, March 15, 2007

MSU Circle

So I think this online network that Murray State started is better than My Space. At least to me, while the ultimate purpose of social networking seems to be about the same, at least there is the common thread of the university.

I think all Murray State alumni I know should sign up. It's not like I need more distractions at work, but, hey, it's entertaining to me. Yes, I realize this makes me a nerd.

Respecting Democracy

My column in today's Ledger & Times ...

People tend to elect people they think will meet their needs.

Teachers support politicians who push education. Union workers rally behind people who aid their cause. Conservatives look to those who share their family values.

The amount of money given to a certain program may vary from administration to administration. The emphasis may change with each inauguration.

But, thing is, our democracy isn’t threatened. We watch partisan ballots overshadow legitimate needs constantly in Washington and Frankfort. But in the end, democracy still wins.

While listening to former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto speak Tuesday evening, I kept thinking about how our country’s partisan bickering and even wars of words within either party is so senseless.

She talked about how without democracy people in her native country worry about their children being educated, their families having clean water, their cities being safe and their bodies being cared for. She has been jailed, been separated from her husband while he was in prison, and lived in exile because Pakistan’s other government said hers was corrupt.

Meanwhile, Al Gore lost his presidential bid after much debating and recounting and went on to win an Oscar for a documentary on global warming while his family lived a comfortable life.

So John Edwards waited four years to run for the Democratic presidential nomination again. So Mitt Romney is a Mormon and not a Christian like many conservatives hope for in a Republican presidential candidate. So Gov. Ernie Fletcher has some competition from his own party. So Lt. Gov. Steve Pence called Fletcher names and threw his support to former U.S. Congresswoman Anne Northup. So Kentucky Democrats have so many choices of who they want in the governor’s mansion.

So what. Really.

These people put themselves out there to run for public office — something someone like me never would want to do. Sure, they have their agendas and causes and issues and friends. Sure, they want to win and probably even want to do some good.

But if they lose, they move on. They tour the country speaking or find another office for which to run. They don’t have to move to other countries for their safety or because the person now in charge told them to.

I can only assume how Bhutto feels about abortion and civil rights. You can look at her resume and see how she feels about education.

Despite the sacrifice that went with being the first female leader of a modern Muslim nation, Bhutto raised three kids and her marriage survived the drama of politics we’ll never grasp. That’s family values.

So we may disagree with the judges she wants appointed or the programs she chooses to support most, but she is lobbying for a free democracy more than anything specific.

We have opponents here in our political races, but nothing like Bhutto’s opponent, which she describes as a military dictatorship that turns its head to terrorists.

Forget our partisan squabbles and just vote. Vote in the primary races this May. (Yes, even Republicans get a chance to do that this time.) Then vote in November’s general election. And do it all again next year.

Become informed before you vote. Talk to your friends. Talk to your opponents. Read newspapers. Ask questions. Write your representatives. Follow issues.

Do it all for the sake of our country. But more importantly do it for the sake of the democracy that allows us to make these choices.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

opening, swirling, passing, wearing, crashing

Spring is here. The question is whether it will stay.

We had our windows opened and ceiling fans on last night. The sounds of cars passing is strangely soothing.

The storm last night even made me glad spring is trying to push aside winter. Mother Nature's crashing and banging was welcomed background noise.

But the real news: I wore a white pair of pants yesterday and I didn't get anything on them. Call it a personal victory because I notoriously drop a drip of ketchup or a glob of salsa on my lap. I actually was going to wear the pants (which, by the way, with the identical pair I have in yellow are quickly becoming my favorite pants) on Monday, but I knew Jaclyn and I were going to have lunch at Pizza Hut. That was just asking for a mess, so I patiently waited until Tuesday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

483.7 miles

Random thoughts from my quick trip from Murray to Louisville and back in 34 hours ...

Baby Cate has a crib on the way and a black dresser at her grandma's house that should arrive in Murray at least by Easter. I thought I had her another changing table/dresser combo thing, but apparently the Babies R Us warehouse is out of the one I want. I hesitated to commit to that specific piece only to be disappointed. (Yes, definitely a minor disappointment.) Still, I made progress this weekend with the furniture for her room, which is under renovation as we speak. The drywall guys are scheduled to get started today, which means I need to go to Lowe's and pick out a paint color.

...

I tuned into EPSN radion to hear about the NCAA Tournament bracket. It's just as good as watching CBS' program really. I guess the team reactions are better on TV, otherwise, analysis is analysis and the guys on ESPN are probably funnier. Anyway, so before the bracket unveiling, Doug Gottlieb talked about an epiphany he had earlier that day: The college basketball season is like Christianity because no team is perfect and even when they mess up, they keep playing, they get another chance to get into heaven. Heaven in this case heaven is the tournament. But then he compared the tournament selection committee to Moronism, which believes in levels of heaven. In other words, these teams' season are judged and then they are placed accordingly in basketball heaven.

Appropriately Gottlieb's epiphany came on a Sunday. THE SUNDAY in college basketball.

...

I ate almost a whole box of Tagalongs. Almost. I knew I shouldn't have bought that box from the Girl Scouts set up in front of Borders. I'm pretty weak when it comes to peanut butter and chocolate.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

spring is coming ...

The yellow pants I'm wearing today make me ready for spring.

With spring comes the sunshine and warmth. I'm ready to break out my sandals too.

And with this spring comes our baby girl who seems to be growing appropriately for being 31 weeks along, according to the doctor's measurements yesterday. The birth mother looks healthy and pregnant and it was good to visit with her again yesterday.

The transitions are nice and definitely a necessary part of the process because there's something to be said for anticipation of the much-hoped for moments.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

No, I'm not nervous ...

She asked me if I was nervous. You know, I hadn't thought to be nervous. And even after thinking about whether I should be nervous I thankfully can't conjure up that feeling.

While waiting for Baby Cate to arrive, I've been excited ... and reflective ... and thankful ... and focused. I've thought about getting paperwork finished for the social worker ... and questions to ask the attorney ... and how to decorate her room ... and how to balance work and motherhood ... and where to register ... and what to register for. I've been reading ... and talking to people ... and e-mailing my girlfriends ... and going to doctor's visits with the birth mother.

But in the nearly three months we've been pursuing this adoption, I haven't thought to be nervous.

Sure, I've thought about whether a schedule is best. I've thought about how adoptive babies have some different needs from biological children. I realize I'm going to have to stay in Indiana for 3-10 days before we can truly bring Cate home, but I'm actually looking forward to that time -- our time -- in some Hoosier hotel room.

I do wonder how soon she'll sleep through the night or if she'll hate her car seat. I think about what my very first thought will be the first time I hold her. I hope I pay close enough attention to document this beautiful experience.

But I haven't thought to be nervous. And I think only once did I wonder if Cate and I would bond.

Today at lunch my friend asked me if I was nervous. I quickly flipped through the ever-growing list in mind of all the logistics and emotions and responsiblities and possiblities and still didn't find the desire to be nervous.

I'm pretty thankful for that. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. I realize there are stages, and I'll experience a range of emotions with the phone call that she's in labor and on the 4 1/2-hour drive to the hospital and while in the hospital at first and then the hotel and finally when we come home. But this is what we want and we believe it's all perfectly meant to be.

I think the lack of nerves is the presence of peace.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Sunday morning

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." --Matthew 18:2-4

She wore a candy-apple red dress. It was shiny and had all the little girl frills and ruffles. As she bounced to the worship music, her long, dark hair bounced. She stood there, not the slightest bit worried what anyone else would think. The mandolin and guitars and singers with microphones drowned out her sound, but nothing would block her spirit.

Then she realized it could be better. So she adjusted the microphone that was meant for the guitar next to her and moved a music stand just enough to the left that she could slide closer to the microphone. Now everyone could hear her.

... is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above ...

We exchanged smiles, but kept singing.

... With wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God.

And she definitely kept singing and bouncing and smiling without a care in the world. Living proof of faith like a child.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Saturday

We shopped at JC Penney (although we didn't find anything), Hibbet's Sports (they don't sell basketball backboards?) Elder-Beerman, Hallmark (again, nothing worth buying), Old Navy, World Market and Kohl's. Notice I restrained myself for buying scrapbooking supplies at both Hobby Lobby and Michael's, which we drove right by.

The best deal of the whole day ...

Greg found a pair of dress pants for $4.99. Let me say they are nice. Pin-striped and all. (NO, we will never be Yankee fans!) Originally priced at $100, they had been marked down to $59.99, and apparently they really wanted to get rid of them. What a steal.

And here I thought $51 for two pair of pants (a dress pair and some jeans) were a good deal. Hey, there were both half off!

Then later that night we lounged at home, reading and watching TV. I finished "Between, Georgia" and started "Gone." Two totally different genres but both have characters who are completely engaging and plots that keep the pages turning.

Friday, March 2, 2007

meet the birth mother

She's 5-foot-10 with a very sweet face. She's big-boned and beautiful. Her dark hair is mostly straight but seems to want to flip just a bit as it grows back. She likes pink, just look at her tennis shoes.

Growing up in a Midwest family, she's the youngest of three. She loves sports and plays card. Even though Christmas is her favorite holiday, she chooses to be outside in warm weather. She likes pizza, chocolate and root beer.

Her middle name, by the way, is Catherine.

She could raise the baby growing inside, and truly I have no doubt she's be a fine mother. But she's 19. She thinks about going to medical school, or at least pursuing a career in the medical field. An occupational therapist, perhaps. Somehow she'll end up helping people. Maybe that's why she battled and survived Hodgkins disease. She wears a yellow Livestrong bracelet.

And she's giving Greg and me part of herself -- literally. A thank-you note and the biggest card package ever will never do the trick. I can tell her time and time again I appreciate what she's doing -- not just for herself and her boyfriend, but for us, for Cate. I only hope our baby has part of her determined spirit and positive attitude. And then I can say it's in the genes.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

the arms of government; the hands of time

Is it weird the government literally controls the time?

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a reminder that daylight saving time will begin at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11, three weeks earlier than in recent years.  

Prior to this year, daylight saving time has been observed from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. As a result of legislation enacted by Congress in 2005, beginning this year daylight saving time will begin the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday of November. As a result, this year daylight saving time will run from March 11 to Nov. 4. 

When daylight saving time begins, clocks will be set ahead one hour, providing an additional hour of daylight in the evening. 

Federal law does not require any area to observe daylight saving time. But if a state chooses to observe daylight saving time, it must follow the starting and ending dates set by the law. In those parts of the country that do not observe daylight time, no resetting of clocks is required. Those states and territories include Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.   

Daylight saving time is a change in the standard time of each time zone. Time zones were first used in the United States in 1883 by the railroads to standardize their schedules. In 1918, Congress made the railroad zones official under federal law and assigned the responsibility for any changes that might be needed to the Interstate Commerce Commission. In the Uniform Time Act of 1966, Congress established uniform dates for daylight saving time and transferred responsibility for the time laws to the U.S. Department of Transportation.