Swim lessons

The kids have been in swim lessons the last two weeks, which has left us all a little more tired than usual (thanks to later bedtimes).  Worth it?  You bet.

Breaking Lent to reflect on purpose….

I’m breaking my fast from “social networking” in the evenings for just a moment to reflect on what flooded my emotions tonight.

Just by chance, on two separate occasions today, I was asked to recount the circumstances of my firstborn’s birth. A very long story short, Erin was born, by emergency c-section, over two months early weighing 2# 14oz because I had HELLP Syndrome. The nurses told me a few days later that I almost died from complications including the rupture of my liver. As I reflect, there were SO MANY details of the story that I KNOW God stepped in and changed the trajectory of where I was headed. (Those amazing details will be saved for a later, much longer post.)

Also tonight, I was taking care of updating some billing information for a mission we give to–New Missions Systems International. On their front page they tell of a mom of four in their organization that died recently from brain bleeding complications from eclampsia (most likely the same as the HELLP Syndrome that I had). My heart hurts for her family. I was overwhelmed by the fact that my family’s life would be totally different (and basically non-existent) if God had not stepped in during those couple weeks previous to Erin’s birth.

Why me, Lord? Why did you save me? What do you want of me? What do you want of our family? We have been given a second chance. I don’t want to miss you in the mundane of life. I want to make everything I do count. I do not want to get so busy with our American, self-sufficient way of life that I forget that you are my Creator, my Redeemer, My Savior (in more ways than one), my Lord. I know I don’t have to do giant things to be worthy of your love and approval, but I do want to please you in the little things and allow you to work through me so that whatever I do, big or small, it is ONLY because of your grace and only for YOUR glory. Whether I am a big toe or a shoulder, an eyelash or an eyeball, I truly want to know that I am following YOUR purposes for me. Lord, “thank you” is not enough, but I don’t know what else to say…..

“Ama-se-ganalo” (thank you in Amharic/Ethiopian).

So I went to this women’s conference…

I–Michael–attended my first women’s conference this past weekend, the Hearts at Home annual conference in Normal, IL.  As detailed on their web site, Hearts at Home

…believes that motherhood is a valid profession. From beginning to end, our events professionalize the career of motherhood. We want to make it worth your time, because for most moms, spending a full day away from home isn’t always easy.  Our speakers, workshops, and exhibitors are all selected for their high quality and pertinent information.

I didn’t attend as a participant but rather as a photographer.  Suzanne has been attending for the last several years and, by coincidence or providence, we happened to cross paths with Mark and Jill Savage at a marriage retreat last fall.  Jill is the CEO of Hearts at Home.  Over the past several weeks, we’ve been conversing with Jill and some other staff members at Hearts about assisting in various ways with the event.  One thing led to another and Suzanne found herself on stage speaking to 4,500 women on Friday (I’ll let Suz tell her side of the story) and I was photographing the event on Saturday.  You’ll find a brief post and some photos over at my photography site.

What was remarkable to me about the event was a) how well organized it was and b) how moving it proved to be.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at the organization of the day; after all, they’ve been doing this for well over a decade.  But it’s an event that’s run almost entirely with volunteers and what they do is truly impressive.  I’ve attended some other conferences (that, by the way, cost significantly more than the registration fee for this event) that did not run nearly as smoothly as the Hearts at Home conference.  Kudos to Jill and her staff and volunteers.

I was also unprepared for the emotional impact the event would have on me.  I alluded to this on my photography site.  As I was making photographs during the worship segments led by Christy Nockels, I wanted to join in with the singing.  As I listened to the speakers made photographs during the workshops, I wanted to take notes.  Later in the day, I told Jeanie Fields, the marketing director for Hearts, that I couldn’t imagine a husband not wanting his wife to attend this event.  It’s that good.

We’re grateful for the good work God is doing through Hearts at Home and would encourage all wives and moms to attend this terrific event.  To get a look at what took place on Saturday, here’s a brief slideshow for you (if it doesn’t show up, just refresh the page).

Sandra Bullock thanks adoptive moms at Academy Awards

We were excited that Sandra Bullock won the best actress award at the Academy Awards tonight–both because she is my favorite actress and because it was for her role in The Blind Side. Michael and I got a little teary during her acceptance speech:

I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms who take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from. Those moms and parents never get thanked.

Then she went on to thank her own mom and all she did to encourage her while she was growing up. Sandra, you could have thanked a lot of people up there during your first Academy Award, but you chose to draw attention to all those important moms who love like Jesus does. Thank YOU.

It’s Suzanne’s birthday–surprise!

It’s not often that I can surprise my wife.  In a good way, that is.

Suz has planned and pulled off two surprise parties for me in the last few years–I’m a little slow on the uptake when it comes to paying attention to birthdays.  For my 40th birthday last summer, she invited some friends over and, even after they’d arrived, I still wasn’t aware it had been planned.  Duh.

Suzanne celebrated her 40th birthday last week and, with this milestone occasion, I felt we needed to do something special.  With the help of some of her friends, I began laying the groundwork several weeks ago for a surprise party on Friday.  I checked with her girlfriends to make sure the date was clear–no problem.  Friday, Feb. 26, was good.  The main issue was getting everyone to the house without blowing the surprise.  Normally we have Family Movie Night each Friday, which means we’re all in our PJs and the kids stay up later than usual.  I didn’t want to have guests show up unexpectedly while we were all in “relax mode;” that wouldn’t have been the good kind of surprise.

As it turns out, though, Ryan, the husband of Suz’s friend Deanne, shares the same birthday as Suzanne.  Deanne and I reckoned that we could get Suz to invite them over on Friday for a mutual birthday celebration.  Perfect!  This was the last piece we needed to keep the surprise a surprise.  So Suz and Deanne made their plans and everything else fell in place.

Instead of our usual movie night, we played a game with the kids and put them to bed earlier.  Ryan and Deanne came over around 7:45 and the other guests were instructed to arrive at 8:00.  As friends began appearing on our porch, Suzanne had no clue what was happening.  Mission accomplished: she was surprised.  In a good way.  She even said it was the best 40th birthday party ever.

Many thanks to Deanne, Ryan, Shannon, Rob, Chantell, Eric, Rachel, Natalie, and Bethany for being available, bringing food, and being our friends.  Thanks for making Suz feel loved.  And happy birthday to you, wife.  You are loved indeed.