Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sabbath: The Divine Embrace

The Sabbath takes us and rocks us until we remember who we are. - Wayne Muller

Last week's Sabbath was a little different. It had been a difficult week of disappointments and lots on my mind so I don't think I entered Sabbath the same as the week before. In true "Sabbath" form, I stayed in my robe and house shoes All.Day.Long. But I kept asking Mike is that was ok, wanting to "look my best" for him to impress him or something. (And, the robe, no makeup, hair undone was not cutting it for my reassurrence.) The whole day was spent trying not to fret or worry or simply think. On to the week - this attitude carried over throughout the week too. Hmmm, this was definitely not Sabbath. Right?

Fast forward to this week. I entered Sabbath differently. I did not want a repeat of the last Sunday. And, I did not want a repeat of the week. So, I consciously tried to not worry and remind myself that Sabbath was about remembering and observing. And, breathing YHWH.

Mike preached on the prodigal son and God used that to tell me what he had been trying to tell me since last week. Sabbath is meant to be a remembering that we are sons and daughters Just.As.We.Are. It does not matter if my hair is not done, i'm still in my robe, I look like "3am" hit all day long. It is meant to be held in a divine embrace until we remember who we truly are.

Aww, breathe YHWH.

Accept the ring and clothing and feasts of the Father who runs to us. In an undignified, full-out run.

Accept the embrace of the Father. The kisses of the Father.

Do not say, "Let me be a servant and no longer your daughter."

Watch YHWH sprint to you.

And breathe in the embrace. The Divine Embrace.

The past two Sabbath's were certainly a gentle embrace. A reminder that I am ok just as I am. A reminder that I am ok just as I am to my husband who does not care what I look like (or don't look like, for that matter). A reminder that I am ok just as I am to an adorable two year old that just wants to run in the grass or dance and sing like noone in watching.

A reminder that I am ok just as I am on a Sabbath to, most importantly, the Breather of YHWH.

At the end of yesterday, as I was reflecting on the day with a glorious bubble bath and Sabbath candles, I asked Mike "Am I ok"? Essentially "Am I loved?"

His response?

"You are loved. Rest in that."

Perhaps, YHWH breathes the divine embrace through the words of the spouses He puts in our lives.

Perhaps, YWHW breathes the divine embrace through kisses from a snotty-nosed, curly-headed toddler.

Perhaps, these are gentle reminders of YHWH's Divine Embrace, His Breath.
(This is an old picture but it's one of my favorites!)

In. And. Out.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Turning 30!

I turned 30 at the beginning of the month! And, i'm kindof excited about it. The 20s were great. I graduated from WBU with a B.S. degree, got married to my looovvveee, moved to South Carolina, met some lifetime friends in SC, met my best friend Gayla, graduated from USC with a MSPH in Epidemiology, moved back to Texas, had an adorable baby girl, and the 20s rounded out with being pregnant with a handsome baby boy. The 20s also had some very hard times but looking back at it as a "decade" brings more great life events than hardships. So, for all of this that happened I am looking forward to my 30s. And, i've been dreaming a little about it? What will the next 10 years bring? Hopefully more children (adopted and/or biological), hopefully a PhD, hopefully a start of a career, hopefully a start of Mike's career, raising our children...

In all of these dreams and wants and hopes I have, I am reminded that I have no idea what's to come. And, that's ok. Sort of. I am still waiting on PhD applications to come through as admissions or rejections. So, it's definitely hard to wait and trust. It's hard to be patient. But one day at a time, one year at a time, one decade at a time - I truly believe that we serve a God who is so good. And He has been so good to me over the past decade by giving me a great husband to walk through life with, adorable children, great family, great friends and mentors, and great work experiences and training. At the end of my 20s, I was met with lots of thankfulness - Knowing so far He has been so good. And I have a sneaky suspicion that that will continue. Isn't that part of His Character?!? =)

For my birthday, Mike and I were going to drop off Bella and go camping in Houston. wahooo!! I woke up that morning with the sniffles but didn't think too much of it. However, since we were going to spend alot of time in the great outdoors with the lows in the 40s at night, I decided to call my OB. She had me come in and do a quick strep swab "just to make sure". But we both agreed it wasn't strep since I wasn't feeling bad at all, no fever, no sore throat, no classic signs of the diagnosis. We decided to pack and head onto Houston. We dropped Bella off with the grandparents and off we were. 30 minutes out of the campsite the OB called and said, "Well, your test was positive!" What? I didn't feel bad at all! Thankfully she had given me an antiobiotic "just in case". I started on that and we decided that having strep and sleeping in the great outdoors was probably not wise, especially since I was pregnant. Detour!

We were very close to Houston so we decided to make the best of it and go "camping" in the city. I found a great hotel rate on my iphone and booked it, having no idea what to expect! We drove the Galleria area and ended up at the DoubleTree Suites Hotel. Wait, wait. It gets better. Our room was 300 SQUARE FEET of a HUGE bedroom, full kitchen, living room and dining room. Uhm, camping and "roughin' it"? Yes please! hehe!

So, we arrived in our camping attire to this 5 star hotel, got settled, and headed to the Galleria to eat, albeit still in our camping attire. We went to the Cheesecake Factory (yes, roughin' in again), got dessert to go and went back to the hotel since my throat was actually hurting a little by this time. We got a movie in the room and slept in a real bed, instead of on the ground in a sleeping bag.

Remember we had packed to go camping so we had an ice chest packed with food for the weekend. So, the next morning we cooked eggs and pancakes in our kitchen and ate in the dining area. Ha! We did a little shopping in the Galleria, had a great lunch, went to bookstores, and just had a great time of being with one another. Although it wasn't what we had planned, it was a great time of simply being "there". It's amazing what 18 hours will do! After that, we made our way to Houston to spend the night with his parents and go see Bella. The mother-in-love, being her awesome self, made dinner and a cake for me.

Because I had strep, I needed some help in blowing out the candles. Notice Bella's face?
Notice Bella's face again?

Here's my sweet family Notice our attire? Yep, camping gear! I didn't even bring a brush. ha!
And, here's some pictures of sweet Bella.

Here's to the 30s!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

6.5 months!

What? Did I just say that? I can't believe we're at 6.5 months! I thought Bella was a mover and a shaker in utero. But this little boy is MOVING ALL THE TIME! We are going to have our hands full. Bella would punch and kick. But this little guy punch/rolls/kicks all at one time. I don't know what he's doing because it's so forceful. Uh oh. We'd better get ready. I'm still running and feeling fine in general. He wakes me up sometimes at night because he's kicking. Then i'll roll over and he seems to calm down. wow! Little man wants his space! It's pretty much following my pregnancy with Bella. The only difference I can think of is this little boy is much lower than Bella was. Maybe i'll be waddling towards the end?!? woohoo!

I'm still craving meat and cheese, like I did with Bella. But I also crave vegetables and big salads at strange times and those cravings are increasing. Hmmm, with a little girl I craved the meat/potatoes and with our little boy I'm craving salads? weird! Bella ate three pieces of cheese last night before bedtime so we'll see if our little man wants to eat 13 carrots before bedtime.

Here's an updated picture. I'm 5 pounds lighter at this point than I was with Bella. I'm not eating or exercising differently. So, it must be because the little man is moving so much. (Sorry about the quality of this picture. It was taken with my phone since our main camera is out of juice.)

And here's where I was with Bella. Did I really have my hair that short? Do y'all like it? (Come on you blog stalkers...feel free to comment away!)

People are FINALLY coming up and asking me if i'm pregnant. "YES!!!!". Then they ask if we're about 3 months. booo! All kidding aside, he is healthy and I am healthy so all is well in the Smith Household.

At our 6 month doctors appointment all of our measurements and heartbeats went great! Our doctor went to find his heartbeat and he kicked the doppler! When he did his heart rate spiked to 160 and then came back down to the normal 140. She was impressed by this because typically babies don't do that type of activity until 7-8 months. Little over-achiever!

And lastly, we've taught Bella how to say "Hi Bro" and she'll wave to my stomach. She can say brother but i'm teaching her "bro" since it's more ghetto. ha! Can I get a what what up in heaareer?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An experiment in Sabbath

“The letters of the name of God in Hebrew… are infrequently pronounced Yahweh. But in truth they are inutterable….This word {YHWY} is the sound of breathing. The holiest name in the world, the Name of Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.That these letters are unpronounceable is no accident. Just as it is no accident that they are also the root letters of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’… God’s name is name of Being itself.” ~ Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

YHWY: Breathing.
Y = yod — Hand
H = heh — window of breath, Behold
W = vav — Nail
H = heh — window of breath, Behold

Last year, we tried to practice "Sabbath". Every once in a while we would succeed in getting everything done on Saturday and having one full day (Sunday) to not do anything. However, to make this happen our Saturdays were frenzied days of busyness and shopping and preparation and exhaustion by the time we were done. Sunday became a recoup day. Hmmm, was this Sabbath? Most of the time it occurred, honestly, when it was convenient. But then papers still needed to be written, clothes still needed to be folded, dishes still needed to be put away.... So, our "Sabbath" may be 5 hours on a Sunday. Although this was still relaxing, sort of, I don't think it's what the word "Sabbath" truly means. This year, I really wanted to embrace this word and see if God really knew what He was doing when he commanded us to do this.

I've been reading a book called "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives" that has catapulted my want to start on this journey. Last year, Mike and I wrote out a couple of "who we want to be as individuals, as spouses, and as family" statements. It was a family-mission-statement, if you will. Without going into too much detail, we wanted to be intentional, non-hurried, hard-working, passionate, lovable, available... One of the centering thoughts for me was to be non-hurried, to experience life as we went, to not look back 10 years later and wonder what we did other than achieve, consume, pursue. It's kindof ironic (or comical, depending on how you look at it) that reading the book on Sabbath pulls alot of those themes together. Six days of the week are for work, diligent work, hard work, focused work. Then one day is simply to stop. And know that the world will keep going. And know that God really does love us. And that life is ok.

I decided to start the Sabbath experience differently this year. Traditionally in Jewish custom, it is observed from sun-down to sun-down. (Hence, maybe it would get rid of the "I have to work until midnight on Saturday to get everything done...then I can rest" mentality.) I read up a little on other traditional customs for Sabbath too. You make challah bread,
you prepare two candles, you set a nice meal, you get grape juice (wine, if you're not pregnant or would prefer it), essentially you get everything ready for the next day of rest. All day yesterday was spent doing laundry, cleaning, going to the store, cooking, and baking.

By 4:30, I was actually excited about the Sabbath. While Mike was in the study, I set the table with our nice china, laid out the candles, finished baking the challah bread (which, thankfully, came out ok), and put final touches on the house to get it ready for "rest". The two candles are to symbolize remembering and observing - these two can constitute another blog to itself. 5:30 hit, the sun was going down, and we were all at the table.
Traditionally, the woman of the house lights the candles and gives the blessing of the food before the meal. And I do have to say that I got semi-tearied saying thanks to God. I think I was reminded how blessed I am - by family, financial security, the ability to even buy nice things, the ability to bake bread, the ability to have nice china, the ability to hold hands with my family. I was also expectant of something to come.
YHWY breathed and so did I.

(Just say Yahweh and see how it feels. It's an inhale. And an exhale. An inhale. And an exhale.)

We enjoyed a very nice, leisurely meal of taco soup, chips, and challah bread. (Not kosher but hey, i'm not that good.) At one point in the meal, I freaked out because I needed to buy two candles that are only used during Sabbath. After a few moments of panic and "I got this all wrong" I figured the point of Sabbath was to rest, not freak out. Right? Ok, moving on. I'll buy those this coming week. But the ones I found in the house sufficed for the night.

After dinner, we played. We gave Bella a bath. We put her down to bed. We read. And we were asleep by 8:30. Hmm, the YHWY must have breathed rest into us early!

Sunday came. We woke up to a clean house and absolutely nothing to do. I lit the two candles again to remember and observe. We got ready for church, drove to Milano, had a wonderful service, and came home. Mike's sermon was about spending time "with" the Father allows us to know the "for" of the Father. The "for" (service, ambition, etc) flows out of the "with". It was a great reminder to myself to simply be "with". We will probably find out in the next month if and where I got into the PhD programs I applied to. So the waiting to see the "for" has been hard. The reminder to be "with" for now was centering. Again, YHWY breathed. And I did too.

After lunch, Bella napped for not long at all! Oh well. We got up with her and played for a little bit. Mike feel asleep so Bella and I went into the study to play with blocks and color. I also checked my emails, read some blogs, and didn't do anything hurried. I had some music going and ended up having a neat time of reading the bible and prayer. Then we played some more and Mike joined us after his nap. This time was really relaxing and precious and a time of "with". I wasn't hurried at all and could actually write a letter to a friend without hurrying to put a stamp on it and run out the door. (Anyone else know what i'm talking about here? Sometimes in our "good things we do", we still stress out? No? I'm the only one? Oh well.)

We finished a football game and read books and played some more with Bella. So far so good. Sabbath was breathing YHWY.

Then, 4:00 hit and my mind started racing with a list. I was actually thinking that I could hit the ground running at 6pm and get everything done before tomorrow.
1. Take check to bank.
2. Get face wash at Macy's.
3. Remember to put the clothes in the dryer.
4. Take back item to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Whoa, detour! "Hey Mike, do you think it's ok to do that on the Sabbath?" He chuckled a little...was that an answer? Oh well. I rationalized in my mind that shopping is relaxing to me. And I wouldn't worry about my list if I actually was able to check off those items. (yes, feel free to laugh. I am now that i'm looking back at it.) I was just restless. So I paced a little and tried to find something to do. So I took a bath. And if you know me, you know I don't like taking baths because I can't do anything. But I knew it would probably help. The first 10 minutes I was still in "list-multi-tasking" mode. I read but it was hurried and I was still thinking. But after a minute my body finally relaxed again. I brought the two candles in and thought of "remembering and observing". YHWY breathed and so did I.
(As i'm writing this, Mike came in and said "Wow, that sabbath thing worked". Ha! He totally saw my restlessness-freak-out moment before I took the bath.)

Perhaps the breathing deeply of YHWY brings us back to the depths of who we are, who we were made to be. I was reminded of the things that stirred my heart at the end of the day. Maybe it was because I was ready the new book by Paul Farmer. Perhaps it was also because I was forced to stop. And maybe I would finally hear my heart, His Heart. YHWH breathed. And so did I.

I do not pretend to know what Sabbath really is. Barbara Brown Taylor, a professor and pastor, says that it took her 7 years to "kindof get it". I'm also not pretending I know what the "dos" and "do-nots" of Sabbath are yet.

At the end of the day, the sun is about to go down. And I don't dread the busyness of the week (which I usually do after coming home from a great vacation - you know, when you need a vacation from your vacation). As Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, "To remember the Sabbath is to remember what it means to be made in God's image and, when the Sabbath ends, to join God in the holy work of mending the world". The next six days are my contribution to mend the world. I'm almost hesitant to blow out the Sabbath candles. But I am very thankful for the past 25 hours.

To remember and observe the Sabbath. For me, it's been

A softening

A stopping

A stirring

A stilling

A breathing


Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas part II: Mainly more pictures

As you can tell, Christmas was spent R.E.L.A.X.I.N.G. Bella also relaxed with a backrub from her mom who was getting a back rub from her dad!
Little Miss in a chair that was my grandmother's.
Isn't this the cutest hat ever?

I LOVE that Bella is getting to play the piano with my dad. That is how I learned to play.
Look at the form of those fingers! She's going to be a piano player in no time.
She needed a little help from Granddad on her finger positions.

LOVE LOVE LOVE this one!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas with the Hogue's

After visiting the Smith side of the family in Amarillo, we trekked over to Lovington to visit the Hogue side of the family. Bella was met with lots of attention and toys and love! (Mike and I were too...) My dad, Mike and I went to see "The Little Fockers" one afternoon - as a disclaimer, Iwould not recommend the movie. It was not good like the previous movies and most of the time was just really crude.

When we returned from the movie, mom had put two braids in Bella's hair like she used to put in mine and Allison's. So sweet but it made her look too old!

Bella and Granddad playing with the birds on the little tree.

One of Bella's presents was a ginormous tiger! Dad said it was comical when they bought it. Just imagine a huge tiger sticking out of a basket!
Bella sure did enjoy it!
We had Christmas dinner the first night we were there. Bella sat in between my parents and would reach over to "steal" Granddad's napkin. She is so michevious! She would make this "innocent" face as she would put it behind her back or sit on it.
Then she would put her hands out and say, "Where'd it go?"
"Oh no, where'd it go, Granddad"

There it is!
Bella seriously played this game the entire meal. She thought she was so sneaky.

Most every night we were there, we would have a dance party after dinner. Mike and Granddad were the first to join in the fun and all would do the same dance moves. I love family!

We also had a chance to visit Great Grandmother. Bella wasted no time in crawling in her lap to color.

Be ready for more pictures to come!