There is no other way to describe the way she looked.
From the top of her head to the tips of her toes every inch of her was perfect. Every hair carefully and deliberately placed, the makeup (not that she needed any) accentuated her already beautiful features.
Everywhere she went, her smile lit up the room as if the sun had just come out from behind the clouds.
Her dress, perfectly flawless, fit like a glove.
The moment she appeared in the doorway of the sanctuary every eye was upon her.
...but enough about me.
If you thought I looked good, you should have seen the bride!
She was my sister.
(She still is.) But now she's a married woman standing on the threshold of life.
The last twenty years have been spent in preparation for this day: The presentation of the bride.
As a baby rocking her to sleep, comforting her when she cried, spoon feeding, wiping, hugging, talking to, smiling at, reading to, playing with... As she got older, there was the homework help, shoe shopping, the play dates, the making lunches and the curfews.
The smiles and the "No's" both had their place. It was all to prepare Chrissy for this life now before her. God only knows what her life will hold. All we know for sure is that she is to be the helper and biggest fan of Joseph Killgore.
Weddings make me remember.
I remember back to mine, 10 years ago. My groom was still wet behind the ears. Me? Two weeks prior I'd been a teenager! But we loved each other and had a source of income so nothing could stop us.
And it hasn't.
Now, ten years into the gig, I look down and see four little men eyes wide with wonder looking for the next adventure. This is my life. Who had any idea it would look like this?
Chrissy, who knows what your life will look like. So many possibilities! So many roads in front of you. Choices galore! I remember being newly married and thinking how mind blowing it was that Mike and I could do anything we wanted. Anything. We could get in the car and drive to California if we wanted to. We could go to the mall and play arcade games (yes, that was an age appropriate activity). We could lie on the couch while dishes piled up around us if we wanted to.
So many choices not yet made.
Don't get overwhelmed thinking about them.
You've already made the biggest one.
And now that you've made that one, you have beside you another voice. You've got another perspective. Double the wisdom --that means half the risk right? Together you two will think through, pray over discuss any decision that seems bigger than you. You will give council and advice to Joe. Joe will need it. He's going to make the call.
I have no doubt that Joe is going to love you and take care of you, that he will do his best to lead your family and will eat most all of your cooking (just take my advice and don't sneak onions into his bean burrito).
We only get to choose one family member in life, the rest are handed to us without even so much as a: "You think you can make this work?" We can't chose our grandparents, our parents, siblings, or children. We only choose our spouse.
I think you made a good choice.
You made a FABULOUS choice.
P.S. The next major choice you two are going to need to make is when to come visit us. I'll let you get home from your honeymoon before we compare schedules... unless you are bored over there and want to give me a call.
I made another Winner Dinner the other day. It was the second one in six months. I'm trying to decide whether this is an accomplishment or if maybe they should be coming more frequently. A winner dinner has to be healthy and a big hit with the majority of the family. Considering the less than mature taste buds I have to work with, twice in six months may not be that bad.
It was potato soup. In the middle of dinner Ty asked me for the recipe. Then he and Jack started imagining the response they would get in their own homes when they were men if they served this meal.
Jack: "I think when I'm a man and if I'm not in the air force (what does that have to do with it?) and I have a wife.... if I made this for her she would say: "Jack --I interrupt with: "Do you think she will call you Jack? Or will she call you Sweetie pie?"
There was a pause, then he responds: "Or she might call me 'Jackson.'"
True. Go on.
"If I make it for her, she might say: "Jackson, this is good."
Yes. She might.
Ty, You wanted the recipe for the soup, so I'll give it to you. You have to follow it to a t or it won't taste the same. I've made potato soup more times than you've brushed your teeth and I've never had such rave reviews, so pay attention. I'll try to be as specific as possible.
Jack and Ty's potato soup
Why am I titling it this? Because you two helped make it. and "no, I do not think that is the secret to my recent culinary breakthrough." Don't get too big for your britches. You guys were just the prep staff.
1/2 lb. country sausage
2 cans chicken broth
2 C milk
1/3 C flour
1/2 stick of butter
2 thick slices of ham cubed
Wait to begin dinner till 5:00. It creates a since of urgency to get dinner out before everyones blood sugar falls so low that all body functions shut down with the exception of the voice box.
Find a bored 6 year-old and a bored 4 year-old. Hand them both knives. Your goal is to provide the children with an activity, avoid sliced fingers, prepare a healthy meal and teach said children to love cooking and feel a sense of accomplishment at their work. I guess I should have listed the first ingredient as "pressure".
1. Apply pressure (to oneself)
2. Put a large pot on the stove and turn it on high. Immediately forget about the pot.
3. Get out 5 medium potatoes and 4 carrots. Hand them to the children wielding knives. Show them how to peal the vegetables. Exchange the knives with potato peelers.
4. Take out the country sausage. Cut open packaging to reveal the weirdest looking sausage you've ever seen. White/pink instead of pink/red. Call your Arkansasan friend (who you make fun of on a regular basis for being from Arkansas) and ask them what kind of meat Arkansasans use to make country sausage. She doesn't answer --could you blame her? Call your other friend. She doesn't answer either. Question whether they are really your friends. Use meat anyway.
5. Put the mystery meat in your wanna be non-stick skillet. Cook meat. Try not to burn.
6. Check on prep chefs. Discard the pealed to obliteration carrot. Show the four-year-old how to peal around the carrot, only getting rid of the outside.
7. Chop half an onion.
8. Remember the pot you put on the stove and turned on high. Turn it down to medium, but don't give it time to cool off before pouring in your two cans of chicken broth.
9. Watch the chicken broth sizzle and evaporate. (who knows how much was actually left)
10. Pour off the sausage grease, then saute the onion with the practically done sausage.
11. Chop up what is left of the carrots after being pealed.
12. Hand the four-year-old a knife and tell him to slice the potatoes. Tell the six-year-old he is doing great. Explain to him how important his job of pealing potatoes is --people join the army just so they can do this.
13. This is an unlucky step. We practically have a recipe for disaster already so let's just move on to step 14.
14. Put chopped potatoes and carrots in the chicken broth. Put lid on pot. Let cook for 15 minutes.
15. Melt butter in a small sauce pan on the stove over medium heat. In a separate dish mix milk and flour. Pour the mixture in with the butter. Have the six-year-old stir constantly while the four-year-old puts spoons and napkins on the table.
16. When thick (5 minutes later) pour into the big pot full of cooked potatoes.
17. Mash (or smash as they say in Arkansas) the potatoes by using the little wand mixer.
18. Add in the sausage and onion. Cube some ham and add it too.
19. Salt and pepper to taste
Now your soup is ready to go.
Sit back and enjoy with oyster crackers and a glass of water.
"Now you've just got to get it together. Just get it together Becca!"
That was the pep talk I was giving to myself at 10:59 this morning as I drove home from Jack's school. I had arrived an hour early for the party I was trying to attend.
"Learn how to read the handouts. Is it that hard? No. It's not. But clearly you are having trouble."
Yes. I was. I'd been excited about going to this Christmas party for weeks. I'd talked to a friend about keeping my little ones, but then we all got sick. Then as a last resort I asked Mike if he could watch them and he could! I couldn't believe it. He was scheduled to fly a night flight tonight so he didn't have to go in to work till 3:00. He didn't mind staying home with the kids while I went to the party.
"But I could have sworn that both handouts we got last week said the party would start at 10:50. Right, sure you could. But you were wrong. Wrong. Just like with last month's party when you sent the pumpkin pie on the wrong day. That teacher must think Jack gets all his cognitive ability from his dad. Actually, he probably does."
Now I was headed home for 45 minutes to fix the kids lunch and check on the baby. Mike came down with the man flu yesterday --worst case I'd ever seen. He was useless. I had intended on leaving the kids with Mike. What I actually did was leave Mike with the kids. I felt they could take care of him for 45 minutes. I'd already given him his vitamin C and a heating pad. He'd survive while I was gone.
"I wonder if she bought it. Does she actually think I dropped by just to check and make sure the party is today? Or does she know I came at the wrong time because I can't keep anything straight? What again did I say when I walked in? Oh yes... 'Is the party today? Cause I'm always afraid I'll get the days mixed up.' Ha! I'll bet she was thinking: 'Girl, you DO always get the days mixed up.' Whatever. I'm raising four boys. Give me a break.... Maybe she did actually buy it. I mean, she responded with: 'Ohh! You can always text me if you want.' (As if the FOUR handouts weren't enough). Oh well."
I got home. The boys were fine. Ty's eyes blurry from the amount of TV he had watched this morning. Austin had helped himself to the Danish Butter Cookies and had the tin sitting on the tray of Brady's walker --which he had confiscated. That kid is a genius. He knew this was the day to help himself to a box full of sugary goodness. Who would stop him? Brady was still napping and Mike was up and dressed! What? He was on death's doorstep when I left him. Crazy what a vitamin C can do for you. I made some lunches then left again 25 minutes later. I'm glad we only live 4 minutes from the school.
"Oh great. Now I have to walk back in and act like everything is going according to the plans. Don't blow it Becca. If you can't get it together, then at least learn to act. I hope I'm not the only one not in my PJs. What? Why are you so nervous? It's a Kindergarten party. For your son. How is this scary? Now, park here and go on in. Wait. Is that Jack's class out playing? Yes it is. Why aren't they inside getting ready for the parents? Is this the right day?"
Yes it was. A few minutes later the kids filed into the classroom for the party. I went on in and stood near Jack's table and waited.
"Well here I am. Now what do I do with my hands? And my purse. Should I put it down? Should I sit down? Can we talk in here? No one's talking. This is awkward. Wait, that kid is. He's talking to me. Never mind. He's just telling on the girl next to him for touching the supplies on the table. Apparently this is a no touching, no talking, stand still and hold your purse type of party.... Oh good, one of the moms is about to get this thing moving."
Jack and the kids were soon busy putting together a foam picture frame. I got to help Jack's tablemates. Yay! My hands had something to do! The kids photos were sweet. Jack's, however, looked like a surprise picture. You know what a surprise picture is. It's when you turn around and "poof!" someone takes a picture of you. "Surprise! I just took your picture!" We will be laughing at this one for quite a while. I need to make sure it always gets returned to the Christmas box each year.
"Speaking of photos. Take some. It doesn't seem to be uncool. Who really knows though. I'll just pull my phone out and look like I'm checking facebook or something. No one will ever know I'm taking a picture. ...except that the flash was turned on. hmm. That's par for the day no doubt."
The party was great. There were crafts, the kids put together their own mix of munchies, and they each brought a book for the book exchange. I nearly teared up when the sweet little boy sitting to Jack's left looked at his present and exclaimed, "Mine is from 'Emma!' Emma! Thank you! Thank you for the present!" It was so so sweet. True thankfulness. He thanked her even before he opened it.
We walked down to the cafeteria for lunch. I sat with Jack while he ate. I made him eat the green beans. He likes green beans, but this was school and Mom's not usually at school so it didn't occur to him to eat them.
I think Jack was glad I came. He better have been after the stress it caused me! But that raised eyebrow grin says it all.
"Music is medicine for the soul." That's what they say.
So this morning I turned on Pandora right after Mike and Jack left for school and work. Christmas music would cheer me up and help my grieving soul, I thought.
Our normally healthy home has had sickness work it's way through for the last two weeks. RSV and the flu (I think) have pounded us. I've logged hours of baby holding. Every time I would get up, Austin would say: "I need you. Mama I need you." The look in Brady's matted eyes told me the same thing.
Sickness has made my body weary. Friday's tragedy made my soul weary.
I turned on the music. It began to play. As I clean the kitchen, I hear lines like:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without you"
and "I'll be home for Christmas"
and "It's a beautiful sight, we're happy tonight."
This isn't working.
My mind cannot get away from the families whose babies "won't be home for Christmas." The families who aren't "Happy tonight."
For the first time, I am able to see a huge contrast between the happy, fun, "merry" Christmas songs and the ones that sing about the birth of Jesus.
Right now, I don't want to hear about winter wonderlands, because winter wonderlands don't comfort. The holidays are only merry and bright when everything around us is right. When the finances are stable, when the body is healthy, when the ones we love are close...
But what about when they aren't?
What about when someone takes your baby from you? What about when your marriage is falling apart? What about when your husband is deployed?
Sleigh rides and a crackling fire can't fix it.
I walked over and changed the music.
I want real hope.
A couple weeks ago an idea popped into my head. I had just about finished decorating the house for Christmas. The wreath was over the mantle, the lights on the house, the nutcrackers standing guard and the mistletoe hung. I was excited to decorate this year as we had spent the last two Decembers moving. Instead of twinkle lights, our walls had been lined with boxes labeled "attic" or "hall closet" or "extra blankets." Our late nights were the result of organizing and cleaning instead of fun holiday parties . This year we would be in the same home for the entire month of December. I was excited.
Everything was going up. Along with the decorations we'd had for years, I wanted something else. I wanted words on our wall. Words that meant something.
A phrase came to mind and stayed there for several days before I knew what to do with it.
"Hope has come"
Then came the idea. I'll buy a jigsaw and cut the words out of a sheet of some sort of plywood! I excitedly shared my plan with a couple people who I didn't think would discourage it.
Then I went to Home Depot, bought the thinnest sheet of wood I could find. My Christmas money from my Grandmother bought the jig.
The next few nights, after the children went to bed, I found the font I wanted to copy, sketched the letters on my canvas and carefully cut them out.
I finished the three words, but felt something was missing. "Of course!" An exclamation point was needed. These words aren't words you mumble under your breath as you finally make it out of the line at the post office. They aren't words you casually bring up in the middle of a conversation about the recent rain. These are words that burst out of the mouths of the angels. These are exciting words --they need an exclamation point.
I finally got them on the wall. Projects take a while when your babies are sick.
Now the words are there. Words that I had no idea would mean so much to me on December 17, 2012. I turn and look at them moments after sending my oldest son out the door to go to school. I am sad. I am so sad for the families who lost their babies and, for most of them, have lost their hope. In those homes there will be no excited faces opening presents this year --maybe there will never be joy at Christmas time again for them.
How do you keep going when you have no hope?
I have no answer.
How wonderful it is, in the midst of tragedy, to know there is hope. Sadness surrounds, but there is hope. People waited with expectation for hundreds of years for something to happen or someone to come to bring peace, contentment, love, fulfillment to their lives. Someone to fix our messes.
Then it came. It came as God in the form of a baby. "His name is Emmanuel." --God with us.
Hope has come. He came to give life to the fullest. He came to heal. He came to offer help. He came to rescue. And he does.
Maybe music is medicine for the soul. If so, right now I want the kind that isn't conditional of your circumstances. I want music that speaks of the hope for all mankind.
Let nothing you dismay; Remember Christ, our Saviour, Was born on Christmas day, To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray.
--"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth
--"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" by Charles Wesley
"There is no peace on earth," I said, "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men." Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men."
--"I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
O ye, beneath life's crushing load Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow; Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing; O rest beside the weary road And hear the angels sing.
--"It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" by Edmund H. Sears
I am a sinner who has been redeemed. I love serving and being a part of the body of Christ. I am the wife of an Air Force Navigator.
I am kept busy by my four little boys. My husband and I long to be useful to God. We pray that our sons would one day forsake all to follow Jesus.