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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

I can't believe that this year is over. I've always heard that the older a person gets, the faster time flies, and I believe that because it seems like just yesterday I was looking back over 2010 and asking, "Where did it go?" Of course, this is coming from the girl who graduated high school 15 years ago but still feels like it is yesterday.

2011 has been a good year for the Bates family. Every year, I make resolutions, and every year I break them. I don't know that it is necessarily the whole keeping them that is the most important thing. I generally set pretty high expectations for myself, so showing just a little improvement is better than nothing. This year, I vowed I'd lose weight. I did that, although not quite as much as I'd have wanted. I resolved to be a better Mom and wife, and even though I still struggle with my temper and patience, I feel that I did better on that front as well. Caleb helped me resolve to listen more, and I feel like I did some better on that. I prompted myself to exercise more, and until about mid-October I did just that. I always feel better when I am active, and I know that in 2012 that's going to be another one of my focuses. I wanted to read my Bible through... I didn't do that, but I did complete several in-depth Bible Studies and I also worked on scripture memorization. No, I didn't memorize the 24 verses I set out to... but I did memorize bits and pieces of them, and these come to me when I am in need. I am more grateful, more positive, and I did laugh more this year (when you are around Caleb Bates, it is kind of hard not to).

With that being said, 2011 was a success. Looking back over the year, I had some spiritual growth. I realized that God loves me no matter what, and that He wants a relationship with me. I realized that everyone makes mistakes, but the important thing is to get up and keep going, that His mercies are new every morning (from Lamentations 3:23... my favorite verse of the year!). I grew emotionally. As mentioned before, I think I am more patient and understanding (my boys may disagree). I also realized that it is okay to be sad sometimes. It's okay to be upset and angry. It's not okay to let it linger and refuse to get over it.

Some of the things I loved about 2011: both of my grandmas turned 80 (Mamaw Na in January, Mamaw Bert in May) and we were able to give them both birthday parties to honor them. There's nothing like being with family and celebrating. June brought a trip to the Outer Banks with most of the Clemons Clan, and more family time. While there, I crossed parasailing off of my bucket list and hung onto Wallace's hand as tight as I could. (Kind of fitting, cause it's his hand that I usually hang onto when I am scared). July took us back to the beach with Helen, William, Greg, and Regina. August brought another year for me at HCTC, and along with that a new online component to the nursing program. I enjoyed the teaching online, although I will admit it was a struggle for me at first. September and October were filled with living for Friday nights, with a few volleyball games thrown in for good measure. I got to walk on the field with my girl, who grew up on me overnight. November... basketball, where it "isn't my first rodeo...and it isnt' going to be my last." We have been blessed to have a great group of girls going along for the ride. It also brought Wallace joining the Reserves as an officer, and a monthly trek to Louisville for him. Throw into the mix some great concerts (Chris Tomlin, JJ Heller, Toby Mac), backyard fireworks on the 4th of July, a couple of snow days, and several just lay around and do nothing days, some great books (The Help, The Hunger Games, Courageous, Unbroken), a hike at Natural Bridge, the purchase of a new treadmill, and Santa proving that I had in fact been a good girl with the gift of a Kindle Fire.

So, with that being said, Thanks, 2011. I'll be ringing you out with the Jackson City Lady Tigers. I'm excited about 2012. More resolutions to break. More to cross off my bucket list. More fun with Caleb and Wallace. A wedding for one sis, and high school graduation and college for the other. More of me, getting better... because I've heard that getting older really does mean getting better. Like a fine wine... not that I know anything about wine =)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Memories

Every year, I say this, "This was the best Christmas ever." And every year, I truly mean that. Christmas is such a special time of year, and as I get older, it is even more so. I now recognize that the Christmas season is about so much more than presents. It is about family. It's about laughter. And most importantly, it is about the birthday of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the reason that I can smile and remember...

Obviously, I can't remember Christmas at a young age. I can't remember certain presents from when I was little, but I can remember Christmas Eve at the Griffith house, with me performing concerts using my handmade wooden microphone and stand courtesy of Papaw Paul, of endless games of Scrabble and cards and of Grandma Bert squealing as she opened her "big" presents. (Grandma has always loved Christmas time).
I can remember going to Papaw Barlow and Mamaw Carrie's house and receiving an envelope with a crisp $5 bill in it. (Worth a million dollars when you realize that they lived on a fixed income and there are a whole lot of us Grandkids to pay...) Of Papaw Barlow turning his hearing aid down so that he can watch wrestling uninterrupted and of making the circle around their house a million times, of sitting on a hot vent to warm up until your bottom became TOO warm, and of Grandma's candy jar that never was empty.

Christmas time at Grandma Na's when it was just me, Jen,and Glenn and we got tons of presents from everyone, and the year that the wall was knocked down and we started drawing names because of the three precious babies. Of Carol of the Bells and fake snow on the windows and the manger scene and the Village that is still set up. Of hiding in Mamaw's closet in the "secret" compartment.
Of climbing on Mom's steep roof to hang Christmas lights and of going to the Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect tree and of baking cookies and coming downstairs to home-sewn stockings hanging by the fireplace stuffed with goodies.
Of Santa making visits and the year that Caleb thought Santa looked an awful lot like cousin Glenn, of last minute Walmart runs and Legos and his excitement when seeing all of the presents under the tree.
In all of these memories, though, there is one common denominator. Love. Love between my parents. Love between my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Love between my in-laws and Wallace and Caleb, and the love of a perfect God who knew that He wanted us to be in relationship with Him, just like I'm in relationship with my family. Like a good Daddy who works for hours assembling the perfect toy, our Abba Father worked up a plan to redeem us so that we can forever be with Him. That perfect plan came in the form of a baby in a manger over 2000 years ago, of shepherds who wouldn't have been the most likely to receive the best news first, but somehow did through a Heavenly proclamation, of a young teenage girl and her older man who believed the unbelievable. And I can't help but think that He is watching us and delighting in our happiness this Christmas, just as I do with Caleb. Thank you, Lord, for these memories, and for my loved ones that You have blessed me with.
For unto us a child is born...Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Do...

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
Mignon McLaughlin

Twelve years ago, I walked down the aisle and married my best friend. I'd loved him for three years, a lifetime, it seemed. Now, it seems like yesterday. Yes, we've argued and fought. We've slammed doors and I've thrown things and there were times when I really wondered if we'd ever get that thing called marriage figured out. I know that we will have days when we still don't have it figured out, but on those days, I just have to remember...
A phone call asking me if my little boyfriend needed to be cuckoled. A first date when I was too nervous to eat and you were too nervous when I asked if I could sit in the middle of your truck. The look on your Mom's face when I told her you'd made me watch you eat instead of paying for my food. Our first trip to Lexington and you buying me perfume and a watch just cause you wanted to see me smile. You dressing up for a juvenile high school prom and counting out change as we went through McDonalds to share a Big Mac extra value meal. Rainy day Sundays after church spent watching football and napping.
Freshman botany classes where you studied like a mad man, and American Government when you didn't have to... Polo cologne... long weeks when it seemed like you'd never make that late night drive home from Ohio. Mark McGuire hitting homeruns and just missing seeing him break the record. Long car trips to Belfry and Gatlinburg where I inevitably got us lost but we had fun singing along to the radio anyway. John Grisham's The Client...
You being late to the wedding and telling Jordan Bellamy to make sure he held open the door so you could run out the back and Alex and Brayton fighting over your ring and you telling Alex that "Stone Cold is never doing that again." standing in the snow locked out of the car and our first married fight. Snow days and basketball games and trips...And did I mention ballgames?

Caleb. The look on your face when you found out he was a reality. His first ultrasound. Picking out a Pooh bear outfit to bring him home from the hospital. Figuring out how to put the car seat in your truck. You so scared and wanting to fight the doctor when it took him so long to get there. A million and one cappacinos from Central Baptist Hospital to keep you conscious. How his personality is so much like yours... never meets a stranger. Laughing over how mean he is... because he gets it from you.

How scared I was when you wrecked... you laying in the ER with your face all cut up asking me if I could still love you. Not knowing what to expect and thanking God that He kept you safe. Seeing how it's made you a better husband, a better father, and better person. Someone who never takes a minute for granted.

Twelve years (fifteen if you count our dating) is a long time for making memories. You have made me laugh, you've made me cry, you've made me furious... but you've also made me so very proud and amazed. I've said it before, how it is funny that God could make two people who are so very different work, but I think that's exactly why we do work. To be totally sappy (I can see you rolling your eyes)... "You Complete me. You had me at Hello." This may not be a Hollywood love story, but I'm so glad it's mine. Love you!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1,000 gifts... or Maybe Just 10

I'm reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. It is a lovely book, full of big words and complicated thought processes that come down to one simple context: gratitude. The whole theme is how we are the most full when we are thankful, when we are fully living in the moment and appreciating those little things around us. I've tried to be more thankful. Through November, I really did try to post one thing I'm thankful for... and there are so many blessings that I can't name. But deliberately live in the moment, and truly be grateful? That somehow seems out of reach, to be 100% present all of the time. However, her words on the screen of my Kindle make me think that maybe, they aren't just for her; that maybe those special memories can truly be mine, also, if I'd just learn to appreciate. To hold fast to the NOW instead of the Hurry Up or the to do or the got to get it done. So, today, on this mid-week day, are my gifts...
1. Wallace's warmth when I crawl into bed late at night with cold feet.
2. Rain on a tin roof coaxing me to sleep.
3. Rain drops dangling on the tree limbs outside my office window at work.
4. The creaks of the floor as I walk from my office to the printer. Yes, my building is cold, but it is an educational marker in my community and I am blessed to be part of it.
5. Brand new planners, free from ink or markings or appointments. Bright blue ink pens to start marking it up.
6. Sheepskin Ugg boots against my feet.
7. Belly laughing from little boys who can't tell a lie because the twinkle in their eye give them away.
8.Mcdonalds French Fries and ketchup, piled high on a tray to be shared
9. Words on a page or a device, for me to devour and lose myself in
10. The hint of snow in the rain, telling me winter is finally here.
What are your everyday gifts? To be continued...

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-Ephesians 5:20

Monday, December 5, 2011

Immanuel: The With Us God

Isaiah 9:6-7- For to us a child is born,to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The Jews were looking for a Messiah. A Savior. Someone to overthrow Roman government and save them and redeem them. They were looking for a Ruler, who would establish His kingdom. What they got instead, came in the form of an innocent, humble baby. Born to a teenaged mother and a confused earthly father. Born in an animal's home, with only rags to wrap Him in to keep out the cold. Immanuel. God With Us... or the With Us God.

Today, I've been thinking a lot about this with us God. I've really been thinking of Mary. I can't imagine how she would have felt on this night so long ago. This close, her belly would have been large with child. She probably couldn't get comfortable if her life depended on it. Exhaustion would have been a normal state, most likely. Add to that the whispers of those around her. So many who probably didn't believe her story, who doubted what she said, who might have even thought she was crazy. Talk about teenage drama! And then there was Joseph. What a guy! Standing up for his beloved, having faith that the angel was right, and that this was the plan... THE plan.

The plan. For the With Us God. A stand-in for our sins, one who had to be tempted as we are, but without sin. Tempted and trialed by poverty at a young age. Danger enough to make his parents flee to a far off country. Learning at a young age that He was different. Human rules didn't necessarily apply to this Young boy... but still... the Word made Flesh. Tempted by the devil. Hungry. Thirsty. Ridiculed by His own earthly family and so many others. Then, suffering persecution, hatred, scorn to die on a cross for my sins. And Yours. The God With us... the God who died FOR us... because we were unable. Yes, He will be everything that the Jews were looking for when He returns to rule His kingdom. He will be the Prince of Peace. He is our Everlasting Father. He is a Mighty God, and a Wonderful Counselor when you have problems. But today, tonight, in this moment... He is Immanuel. Right here with us. In the midst. Thank You, Lord, that Your death ripped the veil and I have access, and that I can call on You whenever, wherever. How amazing is Your plan! God With Us... Grace, personified.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sucker for a Love Story

A couple of years ago, I gave in to the temptation and read the Twilight series. I didn't want to. Didn't think I'd like it, even though I had always enjoyed Anne Rice books growing up. However, like many others, I fell in love. Not necessarily with the vampires or the werewolfs, but rather with the love story itself. There's Edward, the vampire, who loves Bella so much that he leaves because he knows he's bad for her. There's Jacob, the werewolf, who comforts her but then steps out of the way when Edward comes back. Team Edward or Team Jacob... I found myself pulled in two directions, because they both had such redeeming qualities.
So tonight, I found myself in a dark theatre by myself. Wallace and Caleb were having a Daddy-Caleb day but were gracious enough to let me bum a ride to the theatre. And there I sat, as Bella walked down the aisle and married the love of her life, knowing the repercussions. I'll admit, I even got a little teary-eyed throughout.
One line really hit me. Edward told Bella, "No amount of time will ever be enough with you, so let's just start with forever." The rest of this evening, that line has gone around and around in my head, because in our society, "forever" doesn't really mean that. It saddens me to think about divorce rates. I know there are perfectly good reasons for divorces, and many of my good friends and family have went through the pain of messy break-ups. However, I'd like to say that as a true romantic, I still believe in happily ever after. Wallace sometimes tells me that's one of my weaknesses, but that's ok. Because I like to think that it makes me look past his faults, because he's still my knight in shining armor. (And don't get me started on his faults). I like to think that if he were as romantic as Edward, he'd say the same words to me, but I guess I'll just have to settle for him twirling with my hair before we go to bed at night. And that's ok, because I have faults that he has to look past, too. That's the difference between storybook romance and real-life relationship. Real-life relationships are a struggle, a give and take where you have to sacrifice and put up with some things that you might not like. Sometimes you have to change the way you do things or look at things or respond in certain situations. And sometimes you have to sit through hours of scouting ballgames when you'd rather be at home reading a book (although I have gotten smart and I now take the book with me... the best of both worlds). On the other hand, Wallace has had to sit through his share of chick flicks. The moral of this story is, no matter how hard it gets, or how bad we've gotten, life is better with him by my side. It might not be as exciting as vampires and werewolfs fighting over me... but that's my idea of a storybook romance. <3

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger

I have always been a temperamental person. As a young child, I loved to stomp and slam doors. As a teenager, this behavior continued, but was usually followed by long periods of sulking where I hated the world. And sassy??? It should have had my picture next to the word in the dictionary. I apologize frequently to my Mama for my behavior.
As I've gotten older, I've gotten a little calmer, but certain things still push my buttons. I get angry when I see someone being treated unfairly. I get angry when I see someone being hurt. I get angry when Caleb smarts off or doesn't listen or when I am stressed out and impatient and allow myself to react. I get angry at Wallace... well, a lot. And what always makes me even madder at Wallace is that I like to verbally spar, and he... doesn't. I get angry when I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. I get angry when someone hurts someone I love.
My first reaction when I am angry? You guessed it right if you said spout out at the mouth. I want to tell everyone. I want to make the injustice known and hopefully have someone agree with me. My second reaction? To run it into the ground. Over and over and over. I hold grudges, even when I know I'm not supposed to.
This goes strictly against what I'm supposed to do. In James 1:19, we are instructed to be "Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger."
What, God??? Are you serious???? I'm supposed to sit quietly while I listen to what others say... often when what they are saying is far from the truth and reflect their version of the story. When what they are saying hurts the people I love... or me? When the whole time that I am TRYING to maintain my calmness while I listen inside my head I am screaming, "BUT"... Yep. Quick to listen. Because there are two sides to every story. And everyone has the right to speak their peace. And because often, when you truly listen (not just to the words, but to what they say), you'll really hear what a person is saying. And maybe what they're saying isn't what you thought they were saying at first at all.
Next, we're supposed to be slow to speak. I think this means we're supposed to think about what we say, and how we say it. In a world full of instant access, social media and tweets and status updates and emails, I think this verse is never more important. Because once words are spoken, or typed or sent, they can't be taken back. And words hurt.
Slow to anger... I think this is last because IF we are quick to listen, really listen to others, and IF we are slow to speak, allowing our brains to process what our hearts are screaming, we CAN be slow to anger, because we are given the opportunity to respond appropriately.
I'm not saying that I have this down pat. Far from it. I'm not a good listener; in fact, I'm often formulating my counter-attack in my head while the person is speaking. I still run my mouth, and use that tone that grates on Wallace's nerves. And I still get angry. In fact, I got angry tonight over a situation that I shouldn't have. Anger isn't a sin. Jesus even got angry; think of what he did when he found them selling in his Father's house (Matt 21:12) Actions that are rooted in anger sometimes become sin. I think this is why God brought this verse that I read the beginning of the week to mind. Not all battles are mine; in fact, none of them are. My job is to do the best I can to be a light in this dark world, and to show love even when it seems like it's hard. So Lord, help me keep my ears open, my mouth shut, and my heart on fire only for You.