Sunday, January 30, 2011

I had a dream the other night, that there was someone else, someone else besides Daniel...

I have been having crazy dreams for several months now. Real, memorable dreams-- sometimes completely bazaar, sometimes coherent and worthwhile.  Of course all dreams are dreams, and the beginnings are never certain, but there usually seems to be understood premises that make the dream sensible, at least while you are in the midst of it.

So, I say all of this to set the context of this dream I dreamed. My life hadn't happened the way it had-- I believe I was older than I am now, though not even yet 25. Home was still all the things it meant to me before our wedding - my friends were the friends of my childhood, and I was still very close to my parents and siblings, and perhaps even still at home. I knew Daniel. I knew him well enough to have formed an opinion of his character, his personality and what was important to him as a person, but we had no formal relationship. In fact, in this dream, it seemed as if, perhaps, I had already said "no" to an offer. In the present time of my dream I was being pursued by another.

And so you are ready to hear it:
This man. my suitor, was perfect in all respects. He was godly and strong, wise and thoughtful, though certainly not boring. He was handsome, though I could not see his face. He had made a way for himself already, was rich,  and was several years older than I. My friends loved him, my family adored him, and I thought I did too.

So it happened one night that we went out for the evening, he and I. The restaurant was romantic and the food exquisite. We ordered wine before our meal, and with our meal, and after our meal. We were thoroughly enjoying the other's company, and savoring the evening, when he took my hand and began to tell me of his love. And before I knew what it was that was happening to me he was on his knees in front of me, with a large diamond in a velvet black box in his hand. 
I looked at him, and looked that the stunning diamond he was offering, but no joy sprung to my heart. I looked past his sincere face and saw Daniel, as if in a cloud, or a haze. It was as if I were seeing him as the perfection of himself -  I know not whether he was laughing or crying, or thinking... somehow, somehow it was the best of all three. Then I knew who it was I truly loved.
Perhaps I humbly apologized and calmly walked away, mindful I had just bruised the heart of a good, faithful man. But, I do not think I did, because I felt a sense of urgency, of near panic. I had to find him, wherever he was, so I began running, racing towards where ever I thought he might be....
We all know that rarely in dreams do you find what it is you are looking for, be it the hidden treasure, the lost child, or a haven from the attacking snakes, sharks or monsters. Dreams seems to have no way of escape or conclusion. Once you begin running it is a perpetual race, onward, forward... forever.

Yet somewhere in the midst of running I awoke. And beside me, resting peacefully in bed was my husband, my Daniel. I had found him. I nearly cried with thanksgiving as I wrapped my arms around him, and found a nook for my head on his chest. This was my husband, and he was better than even the perfect dream-guy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facebook and bets

One time for some reason Daniel and I made a bet about something. I don't remember when, where we were in our relationship, or why we were making a bet, but whatever it was, I lost. And for a whole week I had to have THIS picture as my facebook profile pic.

(yes, that's my husband's face)

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Days I Miss

working on letter sounds

Raspy three-year-old morning voices...

...snuggling in bed with a five-year-old who can't seem to fall asleep by herself...

...Reading through a science book with eager listeners...

                                          ...excited delight over the simplest things...

    ...watching chicken scratch writing become beautifully rounded letters over the course of a couple of weeks' practice...

...hearing new words form from a hesitant voice...
            ...making a whole batch of cookies and not having to freeze any...

                            ...Never-ending piles of laundry...

...people asking "are these yours?"...
                                                                   ...playground trips...

...snuggling on the couch to watch Pixar or Milo and Otis...

...hearing, "Can we go swing?"...

 ...dancing in the kitchen to Celtic Woman or the Sound of Music 
til no one can breathe anymore...

...children's catechism questions...

                                 ...watching two little girls play dress-up all day long...

       ...little girls using my scarfs for make-shift evening gowns...

         ...learning everyday how to be more patient...

                                      ...puzzles, Dr. Suess, coloring books...

...always having someone to talk to even if it was about nothing...

...Vacation Bible school songs getting stuck in your head for weeks...
                                                       ... a reason to get up before 7am...
                           ... a day full of funny little sayings...

and so many other things!

These are things I miss, but now they are also the things that I look forward to.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I had a 5-day weekend last week, which chiseled a perfect space in my calendar for some time thrifting with my favorite bargain hunter, Lydia Grace, and refinishing/painting our bedroom furniture. The thrifting finds were mostly in the clothing department, so no pictures. But, I am rather excited about the results of the painting project. The pictures do not capture the color quiet right, but our room is pulling together just in time for the end of our lease in April. :)

Voila! :) White is happy. I even hung up a white valence that I found on clearance at Wal-mart.

We've also added some new pieces to other parts of the house. One item, a gorgeous knotted pine tv hutch was generously given to us by some friends-of-friends. The other, a black antique-looking shelf I found in the dumpster pile-- because it was missing a door! Well, I just yanked that door off, and spray painted the naked wood.

We have a mis-matched home, but I love it. Eventually it'll all pull together well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow, snow, snow!

Monday morning dawned white and wintry, making this Yankee very happy! I joyfully skipped outside to start the car ten minutes before I needed to leave for work, and spun circles in the dusty whiteness. Birds still sing in the winter downhere, which made the morning all the better.

By 10am we had a good covering
A very fat mama Robin Red Breast
Sledding with the kids -  it was a blast!

This beautiful snow storm turned to ice by the end of Monday, which gave the kids a second snow day. Things were still a bit choppy Wednesday, so they called another snow day! They finally returned to school yesterday with a two hour delay.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feminine Toughness

Because I think of this often, and am inspired to live it out by the example set for me by my own mother, who taught me much of what it means to be a true woman, I am reposting Feminine Toughness from the days of my Serendipitous Reveries as a teenage girl trying to discover life.
The quest for true femininity is difficult in a culture full of emasculate men and chauvinistic women, who hardly understand their gender, let alone that consequent role. There are a lot of characteristics Christian women strive for that are certainly important: modesty, gentleness, hospitality, submission, contentment, graciousness, &etc. But during a family meeting this evening something my father said struck me in a new way.

Our family discussion this evening led to the responsibility of older children to encourage, correct and especially to lead younger children by example. The respect and privileges that you naturally gain with age are also accompanied by responsibility. Taking up that responsibility, having the courage to lead, and the discipline to resist the temptations and allurements of the world takes what my dad referred to as toughness. And he was not just talking to his sons!

Think of Rahab, hiding those spies in the basket, while soldiers from the king demand she hand over the men they knew had come to her. I do not imagine she stood in her kitchen anxiously wringing her hands behind a dish towel, and biting her bottom lip while she lied to those men. I do not imagine that Abigail wasted time nervously fretting about how to approach David and his men when the Bible tells us “Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs…”. And somehow, I do not really believe that the Veggie Tale version of Ester accurately displays the young queen’s emotions, as if she was nervous and shaky, and terrified. Could a faltering woman put the kind of fear into Haman that we’re told she does in Ester 7:6 when just after revealing his plot Haman “was terrified before the king and the queen.” (emphasis added)

Boldness. Courage. Strength.

Totally, completely, entirely feminine toughness.

So here’s a news flash: Tough is not Angelina Jolie as Mrs. Smith (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), or Franky (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), it is not Kurtz’s African Mistress in Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, or Agent 99’s stubbornness. Tough is not found in enduring a 10-hour workday. You don’t need a gun, a sword, success, power, or even army greens to be tough. You don’t even need bulging biceps or thighs of steel. Toughness is not only physical.

Webster says it is: “demonstrating a strict and uncompromising attitude or approach.”

It’s a characteristic that every Christian needs. Even women.

Or perhaps, especially women, because we’re emotional, and fragile and need to be protected; because we are divinely deigned the weaker vessels; and because there is something in us that is more easily swayed in the midst of adversity of any kind. Because God created us feminine, beautiful, gentle, sweet, and lovely.

In so many ways toughness seems to be a contrast to what we would expect biblical femininity to be, but in so many more ways I think it beautifies true femininity.

Think for a moment of what would happen to our families, our churches, and our culture if we had truly beautiful women demonstrate a strong, yet gentle and uncompromising attitude toward godliness? What would happen to our families if we had godly, beautiful wives demonstrate an uncompromising approach to loving service? To not eating the bread of idleness? To contentment? What would happen to our churches if the young girls took an uncompromising approach to purity and modesty?

Toughness is not masculine. It’s not rough. It’s not dirty. Toughness is a firmness of mind, conviction and spirit that every Christian needs. Perhaps the apostle Paul is admonishing us to be a little tougher when he tells us in Ephesians 6 to stand firm.

We live in a postmodern world swayed by a relativistic philosophy that has caused even good Christians to lower their standards of godliness and Christian living. Perhaps we’ve not completely lost our sense of good and evil, but so many things have been lost in a hazy fog of “grey.” We’re no longer tough. We’re weak and flimsy, and easily swayed back and forth by every contemporary fad that catches our eye, or pulls our heart strings.

And where’s the beauty in that, I’d like to know? Dad hit it home with a brief touch on personal responsibility and Christian toughness. Girls, we can’t be truly feminine if we aren’t able to stand firm.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maura and Michael

Nearly every evening I get home from work, and hope to have a chance to blog about the hilariously entertaining, all-around fun kids I get to spend my afternoons with. It's hard to believe only a little more than 4 months ago I had never met them. We've gotten to know each other very quickly, and have lots and lots of memories.

Maura is a quiet and sensitive, all-girl (except she doesn't like pink), and kind-hearted. Her name is Irish for Mary. She was named after Mary the mother of Jesus, and her maternal grandmother, Mary, who is Irish. On a good day she is slightly goofy, likes to incorporates her little brother in her projects, games and ideas, has fun dressing herself to the nines with multi-colored leggings, socks, skirts, shirts and headbands, and loves her puppy, Isabelle. She likes to be praised and share quality one-on-one time, dislikes correction, is easily hurt (physically and emotionally). She is finally warming up to physical affection-- I was so happy when she voluntarily held my hand for the first time.

The words to describe Michael are harder to find. Loud, funny, goofy, rough, and high-energy are a few. He is all boy, I guess. He is slowly learning his limits, and recently learned what patience and self-control mean-- though practicing them are still a challenge. He can always make us laugh, even when we shouldn't. He has lots and lots of questions. He likes to talk (they both do). He likes to climb on top of the Expedition, the banister, the couch, the counter top-- anything higher than the ground-- and see how long it takes me to notice. He has a sweet side, too, that is appreciated. With a little coaxing he will quietly snuggle up with me on the couch to read books.

Over their two week Christmas break we had a lot of fun. Before break we made a list of all the fun things we would like to do, and then we coordinated with their mom to work out days to do it all. We hit Chuck E. Cheese one afternoon with Daniel, went ice skating twice, went swimming at the YMCA, had friends over to play, made play dough, went to the park (some days its still mild here in Charlotte) and did little crafts and games to fill up at-home time.

Horseback Riding at Latta Plantation

Ice Skating-  Michael spent a lot of time ON the ice

Lazy 5 Ranch

Many days I especially enjoy the 20 minute car ride home from school (granted, sometimes it's the hardest part of the day), because it allows us to just talk. They ask questions, tell stories, ask me about my family, and tell me about their day. One day Michael and I were talking about missionaries. He was curious about what they did. I explained that usually missionaries would go into different countries to share Jesus with the people there. He was excited about that and said, "I think when I grow up I'll be a missionary. That is a good thing to do for the Lord." I, of course, encouraged him, but laughed a little to myself. After a short pause (where he was obviously thinking), he began again, "Or, maybe, Ashlee, I'll be a saint. Then I would spend all day praying."

Near the begin of my time with them he started calling me Ashlee Presley. I have no idea why. Maura has caught on now too. His latest nickname, though, is Ashlee Wells-Fargo. ???

Being with kids for a good part of the day allows for some great conversations. I've already briefly mentioned the car rides. There are so many stories I could tell. One afternoon Michael bumped into a very difficult topic. "Ashlee, did you know if you try hard enough you could be perfect?" I turned to face him, still grasping what he'd said. A Gospel opportunity presented itself, and a big-blue-eyed kiddo and I got to talk about whether or not we thought that really was possible, and since it wasn't, Who could help us. Those are the moments I remember. I hope they do too.

Making "worms" and learning about polymers

Playing with a Basset Hound at the Puppy Store
At Chuck E. Cheese
They both love Daniel
 My husband has been a topic of conversation from the very first day. Michael soon realized if I'm married to Daniel the same way his mom is married to his dad, then we must go, as he puts it, "Kissy-kissy." Soon it became a daily game on the way home from school to get the windows up and locked before he shouted out to the passing cars, "Ashlee and Daniel sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G..." But then I began telling them about Daniel. How he's funny. He loves to read. He loves pizza. And a whole bunch of other things. The evening we went to see the nativity Michael asked Daniel if he liked something, and when Daniel answered yes, Michael burst with excitement, "We are so alike!!"

Evie and Maura making play-dough

Michael and Nate -  silly faces
All in all it's been fun. A challenge at times, but then, whenever was working with kids a breeze? At the end of the day I know I'm blessed, and certain I am being sanctified. And I'm thankful. Thankful that somehow, in someway I'm at least planting a seed in the hearts of these children, in hopes that someday they'll love Jesus, too. And having fun, too.