Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Joy Project- Joy comes in the...?

I heard on a podcast that Facebook receives some of its heaviest traffic on Christmas Day. Yesterday evening, I scrolled through to see what other people had been up to through the course of the day, and I think that the podcast was telling the truth. Christmas cheer was posted everywhere. Families in front of Christmas trees, moms and dads putting together toys, babies in Christmas pj's, mine among them.

Christmas is a beautiful day. A day filled with joy. There are presents, there is food, there's time to think about the "reason for the season." I think the majority of people, no matter their location or their circumstances, seem to be thankful on Christmas day... or at least, that's the story that my Facebook told me.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate on this day, isn't it? But will the anxieties wake up with us on December 26th? Mine did. I didn't even make it until morning. I have a bad cold (so does Story, and Andy's not far behind, either) and the need to breath woke me up in the middle of the night. I prayed some, but sleep wouldn't come. Some wounds and worries are not so easily placated, even when life is at its happiest.

That's the thing about joy, though. It's not circumstantial the way that happiness is. Yesterday was an incredibly happy day. I give God thanks for that. But, as I am learning, joy is not happiness's side-kick. It comes on its own terms. The advent of the Christ-child is a perfect reminder of this. He is the ultimate reason for joy. But think about it... baby boys are born all the time. And I figure that more than one might have even been born in a stable in Judea. So why all the fuss over this one? Because He was born to die. The joy of His birth is nothing without the reality of His death on my behalf.

So joy is so often accompanied by hardship. And today, or rather, this middle of the night, is no different. Some of the sad things from the past, some of the anxieties over the future, they have kept me up. I confess, I started out feeling guilty about that. I wrote in my journal... "Is it me, Lord? What have I done or not done that's keeping me awake?" I'm still struggling to learn that it is okay, as a Christian, to have anxiety, to experience sadness, or to feel disappointment deep down. It's okay to ask, "Why?" or "How long, oh Lord?" As it turns out, God doesn't deny me joy when I feel this way or say these things. I guess this is why so many of David's words made it into the Bible. How comforting it is to know that God cherishes David's anxieties so much that He makes them a part of His holy word. God doesn't say that I'm never going to experience any of the keep-you-up-at-night hard stuff. In fact, in some ways, I think He wants it for me. But, what He does say is, "When you're up all night, I'll be right there with you."

Psalm 30:5 says that weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. I wonder, can you really experience the same measure of joy if you weren't weeping during the night? I don't know, but it's good to think that God apportions a special measure of joy to His up-all-nighters.

Let me clarify before I close. My circumstances aren't any different than they were when I woke up at 3AM. In fact, some of them aren't different than they were a year ago. As I spent some time with God this morning, I went back to old journal entries, and found prayers from over a year ago that are almost exactly the same as ones I prayed tonight. I am still waiting on the Lord. But the Lord, He is the same- yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But there is joy in knowing that I am free to come to Him any time, free to wrap myself up in His Word, free to cast every anxiety upon Him, because He cares for me. I'd love to look back on tonight's journal entries a year from now and see that God has caused the circumstances to change. But, if I sit here and say the same prayer one year from now, at least I know that I'll be able to rejoice, and I won't even have to wait for the morning.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Joy Project- Finding Joy... even if I can't find anything else

A week has past since having my family here for a fun-filled Thanksgiving week. And after a week of eating leftovers, it was time to go to the grocery store this morning. Story and I were both up a little after 7, and I had this vision of us getting the grocery journey done in time for nap. It was going to be great. We'd put on some comfy clothes, swing by the Starbucks and be in and out of the HEB in an hour's time.

Three hours later, here's what actually went down:

Starbucks was out of the salt that goes on the salted caramel mocha. Seriously, Starbucks, no reindeer on the cups AND you're out of the salt that makes that beverage worth purchasing?

Story spit up on me as we walked across the parking lot from Starbucks to HEB. Good-bye to my vision of looking like one of those with-it moms who totes baby on hip, Starbucks in one hand and looks cute in leggings. True, my baby was on my hip, and I did have on leggings, but they were saggy and covered with spit-up. And, of course, I somehow managed to spill some of that mocha down the sides of the red cup... how can I spill things when they have lids on them?

I did my usual maneuvers down the aisles of HEB, pushing the cart with one hand, and kicking it occasionally, because Story was getting fussy and ready for morning nap, so she didn't want to ride in her carrier in the cart. I went so early in the morning so that I could minimize the number of dirty looks I receive for taking up way too much space in the aisles. I'd say I only received four or five, as opposed to the dozens that I would have gotten if I'd gone later in the afternoon, so... winning.

I needed to make a pit-stop to the bathroom half-way through, and someone was taking forever in the family bathroom, so that meant that Story had to journey with me into the women's restroom and sit on my lap while I was in the stall. Pretty sure she's going to be exposed to all the major diseases. Go Story's immune system. Also, she is TERRIFIED by auto-flush toilets, and clings to me with little cat-claw hands when she has to go to accompany me on these escapades to the loo.

By the time we finally made it to the check-out line, she had been asleep for at least ten minutes. So much for making it home by nap time.

When I got home, unpacking the groceries turned into cleaning out my refrigerator, and some of my kitchen shelves. So the kitchen is now pretty much a wreck.

And, maybe best of all... somehow I managed to forget three things. Two of them were actually on my grocery list. So, score for me for making it home with four tiny bottles of Asti (not on the list), but no toilet paper (on the list and kind of important, know what I'm saying?)

But you know what? It's okay. As I've been putting away the groceries, I've been listening to our Christmas records. There's something great about hearing Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole crone away about the tiny baby in Bethlehem and the friends and family that gather to celebrate Him. So, somehow, even with spit-up on my  leggings, and a torn apart kitchen, I'm finding joy this morning. I'm also wondering if I'll ever be able to remember all the things on my grocery list ever again? Maybe, next time, I'll make that mocha a grande and see what happens. ;)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Joy Project- The Struggle Is Real

This week, I got to sit down with a young lady who has also been struggling with unhappiness. As we talked, she shared that she feels guilty about being unhappy because she has a lot of really good things going on in her life. Nice home, loving family, access to good education, etc.

I could relate. The same type of guilt creeps up on me. I have a precious baby, the most loving husband, a family I love and friends who have stood by me through many life challenges and changes. Seems that I don't have a good reason to be unhappy.

There were hard things going on in her life, too, don't get me wrong. But she could still see the many blessings, and questioned her unhappiness. 

When times are hard, it's easy to think that we just need to get through the current circumstances to find happiness.

If I could just lose weight...
If I were just married...
If I could just pay off ...
If I could just get a new job...
If I could just move into that neighborhood...
If I could just get her to understand where I'm coming from...

But what about when we maneuver through those difficult places and still find ourselves struggling? I've been in and out of a lot of challenges. I'm still unhappy sometimes. It seems that no matter where we find ourselves in life, the struggle always catches up to us somehow.

After our conversation, I remembered this C.S. Lewis quote.

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

I was made for another world. If I'm honest, if my life were any happier right now, I'd never think about eternity. If the bitter didn't come with the sweet, my sweet would satisfy and distract me away from the Eternal King. Here's an example of how that happens...

Every holiday season, I always want to commit to focusing on the true reason for the season. I want to be grateful to the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) during Thanksgiving. And I want to honor the Holy Baby who was laid in a manger (Luke 2: 16) during Christmas. But I usually get so distracted by the festivities, that these things occupy the minority of my time during this season. Don't get me wrong, I am usually very happy during the holidays. I love decorating and singing Christmas songs and baking and shopping. I am thrilled to get to travel home and spend time with friends and family. It's just that sometimes this happiness pushes my worship to the margin of my life.

But neediness and pain, unhappiness and frustration? They push me towards the throne room. They make worship the center of my life.

When I approach God throughout the day, I'm usually not "happy." I'm often sleepy, regularly frustrated, and every now and then anxious, angry or defeated. But these needs are actually just the right posture for entering the throne room. Because what I need to do in there is worship. And true worship comes when I acknowledge His perfection and my need. Right now in BSF, we're learning about what God looks like on His throne in heaven. It's intense, resplendent and a little terrifying. I won't physically enter that place during this life, but I'm invited to come in prayer at any time. I don't have to feel guilty about the emotions that drew me in. I just get to exchange them as I press into the truth that He is in control, and He has what I need.

At the end of our conversation, I prayed for the young lady and asked God to give her freedom from the pressure to feel happy all the time. As I prayed for her, I realized that's what I wanted for myself, too. But I don't want either of us to embrace unhappiness for its own sake. I want it to serve its purpose in helping us bow humbly before God, as we seek Him and ask Him for joy instead.

Sounds strange, but thinking through these things has me valuing the idea of an "unhappy holiday" just a tiny bit. I'd honestly rather have the true worship in the throne room over the exhaustion of chronic pursuit of happiness through constant entertainment. Sounds like food for thought for this week of rest. :)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Joy Project- What is joy?

I've been contemplating joy since my last post. I started by looking up the word "joy" in the dictionary. Here's what Google said: "a feeling of great pleasure or happiness."

Google's definition of joy reminds me of going to the yogurt place near our house. You get there, and there's a stack of tiny cups on a tray that you're allowed to take for free. You can go to the different yogurt flavor stations and try any flavor you like. Then, when you're sold on one, you can get a big giant cup and fill it up. So, according to this line of thought, happiness is sort of like the tiny cup and joy is like the deeper one.

But, after really thinking about joy, I've decided that joy is different from happiness. It's not just more of the same thing. For one, I think that happiness is an emotion. I think it's a great feeling that is created in your brain when positive stimuli makes certain neurotransmitters dance around in your synapses. Happiness is fun, it feels great. But does it come from God?

And what about when something really negative happens? We have completely different brain pathways and neurotransmitter dances that respond to the really hard stuff in life. Some of the emotions that come along with that include sadness, depression, defeat, anxiety, etc. And yet, I think that God expects us to be able to weather those tough times, and to even be joyful in them. "Be joyful in hope," he says. We don't really need hope when we're feeling happy. We need hope when it's hard. And yet, he says, "be joyful."

So I kept poking around on the internet and found a blog that opened up the concept of joy a little more. The blog was written by Kay Warren, a woman who most definitely has walked through some of the toughest stuff life can throw at a person. If you're interested, here's the link: The Definition of Joy

In the blog, Kay writes that people usually classify their life in seasons. Seasons of sadness, happy times, "the good, old days," that type of thing. But in reality, in every season, there are good things and bad things going on at the same time, and we experience the emotions that go along with those things throughout each stage of life. She says to think of the experiences and their emotions like parallel train tracks.

I really liked this line of thought. So, just in the past day or so, I've been thinking about the "train track" experiences I have had. Here are just a few:

Happy Track:

  • scored a soccer goal 
  • steaks with Andy on Friday night 
  • texts from friends 
  • students getting really excited about our creation vs. evolution "Great Debate" 
  • Story's little red coat hanging on the wall
  • getting ready for Thanksgiving guests 

Sad Track:

  • students asking "when will you have that posted/graded?" 
  • knowing I've hurt someone I love 
  • Story's first cold 
  • car troubles 
  • students who don't pay attention 
  • exhaustion 

So where does joy fit in? Kay doesn't say this in her blog, but one of the things that I've been wondering is... is joy a connection between the tracks? Could it be that both the happy and the sad can meet and have greater significance than just the emotions that the circumstances evoke?

I don't know, I've got a lot more thinking/digging in to do. But, I will say this... the experience that I would consider the most "joyful" in the past 24 hours came when I was driving home after picking Story up yesterday. I was feeling really defeated. Something about the day just had me feeling like a failure, like I hadn't communicated or loved well throughout the school day. Story was in the back of the car and I felt like I had no energy for my sweet one. And yet the rain was falling gently, and the prospect of a cold, rainy weekend snuggled up at home with my favorite humans sounded amazing. In that moment, the two tracks of my life had equal input, and I needed help sorting them out. I told Story I needed to talk to Jesus, so I did. I just told him about how I felt, how I felt like I hadn't done a good enough job teaching, how I needed his help in my relationships. But I thanked him because, no matter how I perform, he still loves me. And I think that he gave me some joy in that moment. I ceased worrying about the day. I didn't do something to generate more happiness (like shop or have a glass of wine or get something sweet to eat) I just stayed in the moment with Jesus until the bad connected with the good, and I could see that I would be okay.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Joy Project

When my mom was here over my birthday, I felt really happy. At one point, I texted BFF Lacy just to mark the moment in time- "I feel happy." I've sent her a lot of stressed out/overwhelmed texts over the past few months, so I thought I'd change it up a bit.

This morning, I sat down to journal about this. Why was it such a big deal to be happy when my mom was here? Because, as I wrote down in my journal this morning- "I am not happy."

This might sound strange. Or whiny. Or ungrateful. Maybe it is. But it is, nonetheless, true. I'm not happy. I haven't been happy in a long time. A mixture of chronic homesickness, stress and loneliness has made for an undertone of unhappiness in my life.

Here's the twist, though... is being unhappy actually a big deal? I don't know, but I don't really think so.

I wonder if Jesus was happy. I think as a Christian, we think we have to be happy. Like we're not being spiritual enough if we aren't happy. In fact, I feel like I'll be judged just for putting down here that, most of the time, I'm not happy. It's sort of shocking to hear a Christian say something like that. But Jesus was a "man of sorrows," was He not? He wept over his friends, He grieved over Jerusalem, He suffered a lot of rejection and misunderstanding. I'm not saying Jesus was never happy. But maybe happiness was a part of His life's rhythm, not the goal of it.

Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to be happy. Just yesterday I heard someone say that "happy teachers make happy students." Sorry. I cannot promise that. And I think that's okay. The Bible doesn't promise me happiness... how can I guarantee that I'll be happy for my students if the Bible doesn't say that God will provide it for me? If I'm learning anything right now, it's that trying to conjure up anything that God hasn't said that He will provide is an absolute drain.

Anyway, getting to the point. The Bible doesn't promise happiness. God never said, "Follow me, and I will make you happy." But He does say that knowing Him, and being filled with His Spirit will fill me with joy.

So, the holiday season is approaching, and I'm going to try something out. I have no idea how- this is just in the fledgling stages- but I'm going to seek out joy. Because it's a promise.

"You will fill me with joy in your presence." Psalm 16:11

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace..." Galatians 5:22

So, hopefully there will be some more finite thoughts about how to seek joy, and where I'm finding it, coming soon.

p.s. I must say that Story is a tremendous source of joy and happiness. But, I'm away from her for 40+ hours a week, and that right there makes most new mommas unhappy :(

Saturday, October 31, 2015

To build a kingdom

When I was a younger Christian- back in my twenties- I heard and read a lot about "building God's kingdom." I didn't understand what that meant.  For one thing, as an American in the 21st century,  "kingdom" is a fairy-tail word. It makes me think of Arthur or Narnia or something. For another, I thought of"building" as something that needed to be tangible, and, for whatever reason, something that started from scratch.

I've been down and out as a Christian because of these misconceptions that I had. I thought that I needed to go to the "mission field"- wherever that place is. Or, at the very least, I'd need to start up a non-profit or something.

But now that I'm in my thirties, I have a different spin on kingdom building. And this week taught me a good lesson about it...

Teaching has been incredibly stressful this year- I shared that much in my last post. I have five preps, a challenging schedule, and I have some leadership roles that require focused attention and effort. On top of that is the added pressure to perform in such a way that nothing goes ungraded for too long, no assignment goes unposted on our school software system, each parent is informed of each failing grade, and every class in infused with Biblical worldview. You get the picture.

Anyway, this week, an unexpected challenge came my way that crushed me. I actually had to leave school for a while just to process this thing.

That's when I started to see an interesting phenomenon. It happened when I looked at my students. Teenagers are funny, you know? They're pretty self-focused a lot of the time (that's not a judgement, it's part of their brain chemistry at that age) but when they catch sight of an adult in tears, they're kind of stunned.

I remember this happening to me back in high school. Probably the most memorable day of all my years at Fayetteville Academy was the day my English teacher cried as she sat on her stool in front of our class and told us about her son, who had recently been diagnosed with autism. As a student, you think your teacher is an impenetrable force. A person who delights in marking problems wrong and has nothing else to do but sit around grading papers. But the moment you see that teacher start to waver, your reality is spun upside down.

Maybe some students felt that way watching me leave school this week. I didn't share details about my challenge as Mrs. Kizer did, it wouldn't have been the wise thing to do. But they knew I was stressed and what I picked up just from looking at their little faces was- "I hope you are okay. Please be okay."

I wasn't okay. I was in a dark, angry, frustrated, want-to-give-up place. And in the midst of that place, my BSF lesson had me read Ephesians 4. I didn't even want to read it because I knew what was in there... "Be completely humble and gentle... in your anger, do not not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs."

Let me tell you, I am far from being a super-clean Christian, particularly these days. Unwholesome talk flows from my mouth when I get stressed or don't make time to spend with God daily. And I, like many other Christians, am truly weary of choosing to obey Christ while other people just do their own thing. It's hard to stay motivated to work for Jesus when people don't own their end of the mess and still proclaim to be His. I have no strength, and you have to be strong to be a builder. So I asked God for His strength as I drove to work the next day.

And He gave it. The stressful situation completely resolved, and, not only that, was turned into an opportunity to sit together with some colleagues and do that "kingdom building" I was talking about at the beginning of the post. Only, I understand it a little better now. Each day, I have an opportunity to build up other people. I don't have to move to Africa or start a non-profit. Some people do, but it's not a requirement for being a Kingdom builder. I can choose to give focused attention, loving words, and patient understanding to teenagers. I can choose to put work aside and give Andy a hug, or sing Story a song. I can teach a lesson about the brain and I can choose to marvel at God's creativity. I can pause and actually check in with my co-workers. Those are the things that I can build. And this kind of building is hard work.

The end result is pretty cool, though. When you're committed to building, and other people around you are committed to building, too, then those stunned teenage faces can relax. They come to realize that you are going to be okay. And there's a tiny piece of them that is a little more okay because you are okay. And, Lord willing, there will be a time and a place to share how Ephesians 4 and God's Spirit had everything to do with that.

So on I go. Until the next challenge comes. Maybe, the next time I'm feeling the pain that comes with this occupation, I'll ask God to remind me that I'm not just a teacher- I'm a builder.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Four Months with Story Lamm

Story's about two and a half months in this picture. I love this look. So Munchie.

It's October 25, which means that the three month and four month posts are getting wrapped up into this one four-and-a-half month blurb. Here's a little look at our life since school started.

Summer was this beautiful, fleeting glimpse into another type of life- the type of life where focusing on baby and family is the norm. Where everything was feeding times and diaper changes and taking pictures on my iPhone. Then, school started. And that life slipped away- for better or worse.

Teaching school and taking care of Story is hands-down the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. There are days my heart aches when I drop her off. There are times when I am so angry that I cannot just focus on her anymore. And then there are times when I know- I absolutely know- that my students wrestle the selfishness out of me in a way that nothing else ever could. Some days are good. Some days aren't. But I'm not here to write about school. This is about Story, so here are some highlights from the month of September.

Over Labor Day weekend, we hosted our first get together since having Story. We invited some friends we'd made through Square One, and some neighbors. My brother was in town visiting his friend Patience, so they were here too. Andy smoked a brisket and he deserves gold stars because I told the guests that it would be ready at 1PM, not realizing that would require him to get up at 4AM to start the charcoal. It was amazing... and so is he.

Hanging out with Uncle Grant at the Labor Day cookout. 

Chillaxed with Patience. 

Enjoying some hammock time with Daddy post-cookout.

Life is good.
The next weekend, Story and I headed to North Carolina. Andy had drill, and it had been over a month since I had seen my parents, so we took off on a Thursday night. We hit some weather over Atlanta that almost caused us to miss our connection. Two lessons learned- 1) Prayer is awesome. God worked it out for us to make our connection and I didn't burst into tears from the stress. 2) Schedule at least a two hour layover when flying with a baby- why put God to the test!?

My travel buddy was so good on all her flights.

Visiting Grandaddy at his office

Naptastic 3.0

This girl LOVES to sleep when Grandaddy holds her. 
During our visit home, Story got to meet her friends Annabelle McLean and Simmie and Mary Prescott Kells for the first time! Confession: I am really terrible at remembering to capture these moments in time. I do not have photo evidence of this first visit... I get so caught up in the moment of it that I don't stop to take pics. Sometimes this is a good thing. I like just fully living in the moment, but I wish I had a picture to share. Rosemary took one... but I Facebook stalked and couldn't find it. Anyway, we all decided that the visit was way too short. Both the McLean family and Kells family were about to hit the road for a family vacation before saying good-bye to the summer. So we'll hopefully get to carve out more time (and take more pictures) over Christmas.

Mom had a cookout for some friends and family the Saturday night we were home. Fortunately, Mr. Howard, a good family friend, is not as forgetful with his camera as I.

More nap with Grandaddy! 

Aunt Julia thought Story would be quite at home on Uncle Grant's shoulders.

Me and my girl enjoying the evening.

Sweet Haleys ;) 
Mr. Howard took this one after church on Sunday. Just enough time for a quick photo shoot before rushing off to catch a flight back to Austin!

Air travel is no big deal when you have a thumb. 

The next weekend, Andy's parents came for a visit- their first time meeting Story! I pulled another photo fail and have no pics from the entire weekend. But, we did have a nice visit. Friday, we got to take them out for some Tex-Mex and to the first Hill Country home football game.  Saturday, we went for a walk around Town Lake, drove through UT campus, and enjoyed some steaks on the grill. And there were plenty of Story snuggles throughout. :)

The next week was the busiest of all weeks of the school year- homecoming. My role as student council faculty advisor hasn't changed much, even with an infant. The week was slammed. But this picture, taken in the calm before the "storm" of homecoming game and dance (actually, all went really smoothly this year) might have made it all worth while. 

Story's appearance at the annual homecoming kickoff games and decorating night was a big hit. 

Cannot tell you how good it was to start the homecoming dress-up days off with some help from my international teaching crew. We all dressed alike for "Matching Monday"- taking our cue from Robin's school uniform in Moscow. 

When the homecoming queen is the type of young lady who stops you randomly during homecoming week and asks, "Mrs. Wermel, how are you doing? Can I pray for you?" it's a pretty big win for everybody. I love all four of these amazing kids. They're a blessing every day. 
In the midst of all of these happenings, Story had some milestones. One day I picked up Story from Elizabeth's and she asked me if she had been rolling over at home. I admitted that I hadn't seen it yet, but that very afternoon, as soon as I laid her down on her activity gym mat, she flipped herself from back to tummy. So she got this sticker and picture.

She also turned three months just before Andy's parents visit. We got these fun tu-tu pics, but didn't have time for a blog. Also, here are a few sweet, random moments from around that three month mark.

After homecoming, we had a couple of weeks to catch our breath. But work has continued to be challenging and the unrelenting heat and drought made things tough, too. Andy has been my constant comforter and encourager. I cherish our evenings and weekends at home together.

Relaxing in the backyard in the evenings is pretty norm. 

First Broncos game! 

Old dog and new baby = pure joy

Andy brought me these flowers and sweets just to cheer me up on a really tough day. 


Baby legs are the BEST. 

As September gave way to October, we had more visits with family and friends to look forward to. Aunt Lacy came to Austin for a few days. Again, photo fail. But we loved her company. She spent the night and somehow managed to do lots of laundry and take care of baby Story the next day- lots of practice, I guess. It was such a treat to have her here mid-week.

I also got to spend a day at home with Story on Columbus Day. I'd been wanting to take her four month pictures, and also wanted to get some poses of her in her beautiful smocked pumpkin dress. The four month pics were a win. But the pumpkin pics... well... that was more of a challenge than I expected it to be.

At four months, Story is super obsessed with her hands.

We went to our four month doctor's appointment the next day. Story weighed 13 pounds, 2 ounces. She's perfectly healthy, doesn't need a helmet (yay!) and she's been sleeping through the night since two months (thank you LORD!)

Waiting for Dr. Dudley
The next weekend, we went up to the Dallas area and visited our cousins- the Rogers and Winder families. We made our way over to the Texas State Fair on Saturday, and also got to have brunch with Ashton and Collin before heading back to Austin on Sunday.

Granddaddy keeps saying that Story needs a cheeseburger. When at the State Fair... j/k no solids for at least another month and a half. 

The Texas Star is the tallest ferris wheel at any state fair.

And because it is the tallest ferris wheel, it was kind of scary to good old, scared of heights Meredith. 

Story meets Big Tex. 

Daddy's side of this line. 
This past week was my 33rd birthday. We went out to dinner, and I had to put Story in this bow. Because when it's your birthday, you want something with a bow on it. ;)

 The best birthday present I could have asked for was a visit from my Mom. She came in on Tuesday night, and stayed through today. She stayed home with Story Wednesday thru Friday. Having her here brought a restfulness that I haven't experienced since the summer. It was great to have slower mornings, since we didn't have to rush Story out the door. And it was wonderful to get up, have a cup of coffee or tea and talk about BSF and holiday plans for this year. She also brought back the rain. The dry earth is refreshed, and so am I.

So life is busy, beautiful and really challenging. Story is an amazing baby. Right now, she loves trying out her voice. She's grasping at toys and loves putting things in her mouth. She is a great sleeper and has such a sweet spirit.

I really struggle with balancing home and work. It's the most heart-rending thing I've ever been through. I cannot do what my job requires in just eight hours a day, but I don't want to be behind a screen while I'm home with Story. It seems impossible. Please pray for our family- that God will give me supernatural ability to work efficiently at work, so that I won't fall behind, and that I will be able to disconnect from work when I'm at home and give my full focus to Story and Andy.

Thanks for checking in on us, and I hope it won't be such a long time between posts next time.