Today is Leap Day! One extra day every four years! The question is: why do I have to spend it working?? The last three years, my boss has not expected me to work this day. No one planned for any extra sales to be made on this day. As a matter of fact, most people probably forgot about it until just this month. So again, why do I have to be working?? This is clearly an infringement on my rights. So, I vote to start a movement to declare Leap Day a national holiday. Who's with me? We've got four years to get it passed!
Just in case you wanted more Ian stories, and to complement Karen's account....
Thursday, February 21, 2008 was like any other day. I'd been mostly packed for Ian's arrival for two weeks. The day before, I had fully packed before heading to Waco, just in case Karen went into labor. She didn't, but I'd kept everything in my bags, only pulling out my toothbrush and face wash. As I prepared for my marketing class on Thursday morning, I contemplated taking my things with me. But, since that involved two overnight bags, one camera bag, one video camera bag, plus my laptop for class, and since I would basically pass right by my house on the way to Waco in the event of labor, I decided to leave everything at home. Of course.
I made it to UTA at about 9:00, made the trek from the parking lot (where I realized I had the wrong parking tag....maybe they won't notice....) to class, and settled in and started taking notes from the first powerpoint slide. At 9:30, I could see my professor start to gather his thoughts for lecture. Then my phone rang. It was John! "Hi. It's time. We're at the hospital." Just about as deadpan as they come. Like this moment wasn't the beginning of the biggest challenge Karen had ever faced, like this wasn't going to change the rest of their lives. "What? Are you serious? You're kidding me!!" After he reassured me that he and Karen had been in the hospital since 8:00, I gathered all my stuff in my arms--not taking time to put my notebook or pen away--and started down the steps of the lecture hall. I dropped my phone, the battery fell out...sheesh.
With all my things still in my arms, I scrambled for the battery and phone pieces. As I rushed out the door, I explained to my professor, "My sister-in-law is in labor. I have to go!" He yelled a congratulations as I swept out the room. As I headed to the car, I put the phone back together to call John back. Karen answered (she was as calm as he), but handed the phone to John because the nurse was putting in an IV. Oh my gosh! It's really happening! I hung up and called Jon to let him know that I was heading out of town. At that point, I made it to my car...only to realize I'd left my purse in the classroom. Dang!! Forcing myself to calm down a little, I stopped and put my notebook and pen away, then headed back to class for the purse, passing the campus policeman writing tickets. I hoped he wouldn't make it to my car....
But he did. Back in my car 10 minutes and one ticket later, I called Mawmaw, who told me I needed to sit down, get something to drink (preferably not caffeinated) and calm down! I did decide to be responsible and not call anyone while I was driving. I felt the same way I felt after I was in my car accident--jittery and a little surreal. I had no idea I would be such a flake when "go time" came!
The trip to the hospital was uneventful, and a good time to calm down. By the time I got to the hospital, I was excited and ready to cheer Karen on until the baby came. By the time we made it to the 5th floor, the passengers in the elevator knew I was going to be an aunt! I got out, made it to the waiting room, and waited. And waited. And waited.
You know, after all that morning's excitement, it was a little anticlimactic. I didn't even get to see Karen (evidently searing labor pains don't make people very social) except for a brief hello. John was doing his duty well in keeping us out. It wasn't until 3:00 that we got to fill the labor and delivery room. Karen's parents, my parents, me and the nurse....with Karen feeling much better with the epidural, we had a good time visiting. Still...as lovely as that was, I think we were all wishing Ian would come! Karen's fever was a concern, and the time between her water breaking and the delivery was getting longer, meaning more chance of infection and complications.
At 9:00, the nurse decided, even though Karen wasn't quite fully dilated yet, that it was time to push. And push we did! The men left the room (John stayed, of course), and the women all held our breath as Karen pushed...willing the baby to come! It was so exciting, and Karen was a champion pusher. My birthing hero! Despite the different techniques and our efforts at "willing," Ian just wasn't coming.
Enter the doctor! With the skillful use of the forceps, and an epesiotomy that still makes me cringe, Ian came into the world. (I'd like to mention here that I was the only one that cried at this momentous occasion. That obviously means I love him most.)
He was beautiful, with a good hearty cry. And he wasn't nasty and bloody like I'd expected. I've always had a fear that I wouldn't want to hold my baby right at first, because he/she would be nasty, but this was not the case with Ian. After Karen got to hold him, a nurse transferred him to the warming table for cleanup. We all oohed and ahed from a distance until the nurse said we could take pictures. And that we did! Then we set down our cameras and each took our turn holding Ian--so tiny and precious, and so loved. What a blessing to come into a family that has loved you for 9 months, that will drop everything and drive anywhere to see you arrive, and that will pray for you and support you as you grow up.
[Several of you have asked, so I thought I'd put a post up about it. This will also serve as "meeting notes" for me in the future. As it is, these are notes and not really "arguments," though many points could be. The reasoning behind each, and the conversation surrounding it during the meeting would require quite a bit more time to write down!]
Last Saturday night, we invited anyone from Sunday School who was interested to join us for coffee and a discussion about church planting. In all we had nine couples express interest! 5 1/2 of those couples were able to make it to the coffee.
A little surprised by the number of people, we started off our meeting with the question, "Why are you here?" There were many answers, including: We want to show support. You are a step ahead of us, and we want to see how you got to this point. We want to know your story. How can we better pray for you? We'd like to think about how to structure a church, and this would be a good forum for discussion.
Above all, it seemed that the Experiencing God bullet point, "Go to where God is at work," was what drew people to our home. I tried to draw them in with cake and coffee, but I have a feeling they would have come if we were standing outside in the rain. Not because of us, but because of God!
After hearing everyone's answers, Jon and I both gave our testimonies of our salvation and calling to ministry. We explained a little of our background for those who didn't know us very well, and how we ended up here.
We began to answer the questions Who, What, Where, When, Why and How as we walked through where we believe God has led us. (We didn't answer them in order, which bothers the part of me that likes that, but oh well.)
Why? There are people who have never heard the good news of Jesus--in our own country! Also, we'd like to consider if there's a better way to structure a church than the way we've always done it. What? Our primary goal is disciple-making. The question we asked ourselves was, "What should the end product of a church be, and how do we get there?" We realized that the end product of a church is a maturing Christian, and we get there through discipleship.
How? Through books and discussion, Jon's come to the realization that a Senior Pastor is not always the best thing. A church inevitably comes to look like its pastor--both his strengths and his weaknesses. An Elder-driven church has the advantage of no single person in charge, which leads to more accountability and less likelihood of picking up the weaknesses of one person.
Also, we discussed the lack of knowledge among Christians about their own faith. We'd like to teach Biblical history, Church history, and above all, solid theology. We'd like to train families how to be responsible for their children's spiritual learning, and how to be responsible for their own, as well, so we--to use a cliché--teach them how to fish.
Regarding the nuts and bolts of church planting, we'd probably go at first bivocationally, with each couple needing to find jobs to support themselves. What it would look like later, we don't know.
In this next year (and perhaps longer), we will prepare to go. We will be preparing ourselves--growing spiritually as we read books about church planting and meet together to discuss. Preparing our marriages--recognizing that church planting is hard on marriages, we will work to strengthen ours, as well as keep our finances in order. This step is the most exciting to me at the moment, because it means that in a year or so, not only will we be stepping out to start a church, but we will be changed people. In this time of preparation, God will be molding us and readying us for battle. (He should be doing this already, but without a clear reason to do it, we seldom allow Him to.) When? Jon graduates in December of this year, so we will be able to go after that point. Some people on the team might not be able to go for another 6 mos or a year. We will be willing to wait for them. We are not tied to the seminary housing or jobs, so we can stay here indefinitely after we graduate. Where? We don't have a specific location, but we do have a few parameters:
Unreached: Low ratio of evangelical churches to population. We don't know what that ratio is right now, but further research will give us an idea of what to look for. This parameter is to insure that we're not "sheep stealing" from other churches. This means that we will be most likely in the north (east, mid, or west), well away from the Bible Belt. We will still be in the states, though Canada is an option as well. (Note to self: buy wool socks. Lots of them.)
Mid- to large-size city: Population of 100,000 or more. We're trying to find jobs for many people, so size is important. It also means we'll be able to reach more people.
University town: We will not be a college ministry, but a university is a sign of growth and openness to new things.
Who? Us and whoever wants to come with us! We've only asked people our age who are still in transition and were going to be moving within the next couple of years anyway. That said, the offer is open to others.
Some questions that were posed (that we haven't answered) and thoughts/recommendations:
Where does evangelism and teaching happen? Do we evangelize in the large group, and do the deep teaching in small Bible studies? Vice versa? Both or neither?
How do we deal with theological differences among the Elders? I answered this question to a small degree by comparing it to a marriage. In a marriage, we don't have to agree on everything, but we do have to agree on the foundational theological truths. For the most part, we will agree on the foundational truths (we're all Southern Baptist, so we'll probably have similar thoughts on theology). Any differences can actually make us better. After all, what's the point of multiple leaders if they're all the same?
Research other elder-led churches: Covenant Life Church, Bethlehem Church and Hope (in Tupelo, MS)
In the next year (and more) of planning, do we want to include only those committed to go, or can others who want to just learn join in on meetings and discussion? Others are welcome to come at this point.
Think about books, studies, etc. that we will want to complete before going. Jon is hoping to take a class on church finances, and any other church planting course that might be available. We would also like to go through the Crown Financial study. Books to read: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Love Your God with All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland. I'm sure other books, sermons, etc. will come up that we'll all want to read/hear and discuss.
How do we, a bunch of southerners, move into a northern city and not look like we're a cult (a little bit of hyperbole there, but it could be an issue) or like it's an "us vs. them" scenario? We have to pray for God to work this out. We do have a couple interested in joining us who is not from the South, and we'd also hope to incorporate "the locals" quickly.
So those are the notes. By the end of the meeting, everyone seemed very excited about what God was doing. None gave a commitment of joining right then, but we have since had discussions or plans for discussions with four couples. I'm sure we'll try to contact each before too long. We will have a follow-up meeting on March 29th, with the charge to think and pray until then!
After we had discussed everything, someone asked if they could pray for us, and they did, which was neat. It's good to have so much support going into something that's so...unlike us! I have a feeling that each person's thought and discussions will be invaluable in the next year or so of preparation.
Thanks to each of you for praying for us! To parents and grandparents reading this, thanks for the spiritual impact you've had in our lives. Thanks for teaching (by word and example) that we need to live according to God's will, no matter how crazy.
This year, Jon and I are reading through the Bible with Holly. We're made it to the book of Joshua so far. The Israelites' story is one of faith and disobedience. It can be pretty frustrating to read, actually. But sometimes, their faith is awe-inspiring. Take their walk through the Jordan river, for example. They're all lined up, ready to go. The Levites are in the front, carrying the ark of the covenant. They're at the edge of the river, and the water at its peak due to the flood season. It seems crazy, but God told them to walk to the other side, so the first in line step into the water. That's what they're called to do, and they have to rely on God to do the rest. And he does! At that first step, the waters part for the Israelites to cross over.
That's a little the way I feel right now. Jon and I feel that God has called us to church planting. And not just us, but a team of us. Who will be on our team? We don't know. But we feel that's the way God is leading, so we decided to step into the water. We shared a little of our vision with our Sunday School class, and invited anyone interested to join us for coffee tomorrow night to discuss it further. We have 6 couples who expressed interest! What confirmation! The waters are parting....
I'm sure that each step in this process will be a step of faith, and I pray that God continues to part the waters. Please pray with and for us as we begin this journey. And I'll keep you posted!
So we went to the mall tonight to get our minds off of everything. I only made a few purchases.
I got a couple new pairs of shoes, taking advantage of Payless's Buy One Get One half off deal.
And then I got a second earring in my left ear (I used Photo Booth to take the picture, and it takes a mirror image, so it really is the left ear).
I know it's random. Some people get tattoos or plant a tree. I guess I felt the need to do something, since we didn't get to bury Friday, and there's nothing to say, "He died. Here is where we remember him." And I'm sure I won't think of Friday's death every time I look at it, and I won't get a new piercing every time I experience loss, but this is my marker. (And yes, Jon was there when I got it done--Holly's first question when I called and told her I was doing it.)
I love animals. I always have. When I was young, I pored over flashcards with animals facts, I read about animals in the encyclopedia, and volunteered at the vet's office to learn more about them. Today, I still wave to animals and tell them hi--even the crazy goats in the trailer in front of me on the highway. I don't cry much, but I cry when an animal dies in a book or movie, and a pang of sadness hits me if I see an animal, lifeless, on the roadside.
I particularly love cats. From painting my cat's nails when I was a kid, to hanging posters, to subscribing to a newsletter all about cats--I learned everything I could about cats, and loved it.
When Friday came into our lives, it was a natural fit. Instead of the kid who doted on her pet, I became a responsible parental figure to this tiny creature. (And of course, I continued to dote on him.) We taught him how to eat, clean himself, and play with string. We saved his baby teeth and witnessed his first big jump from the floor to the window sill. Friday taught me how important discipline is, and he taught Jon what a wonderful thing it is to be a cat owner.
Our little kitty was always the underdog, which is why Jon loved him so much. He came to us so pitiful, and he stayed that way for the majority of his first year with us. Roundworm, ringworm, and ear mites was the first round, then a scare when we found out he had a heart murmur, then--of all things--visits to a feline ophthalmologist. With each round, we thought it might be the end, but each round, Friday pulled through. He was our miracle kitty.
Last Friday, I took Friday for his annual checkup and shots. I marveled that he had not been to the vet's office in so long. He had become a beautiful, pure white and soft adult cat. His pink nose and ears gave us reason to tease him some, but he was truly handsome. Besides the aspirin, the eye that would always water, and the occasional allergies, Friday seemed to have risen above the bedraggled kitten he once was. Friday morning, he was so playful--my wonderful wild child--I hated to drag him to the vet. He stood on the "cat tree" I made out of cardboard boxes while I dangled a string toy for him to catch. It was our favorite game of late, but we eventually had to stop and head to the vet. The vet techs, on seeing him, all reminisced about how pitiful he had been and complimented what he had become.
His checkup went well--his temp was good, his heart okay, a few questions about his breathing, but we determined he was just really nervous. His weight was good. His gums were red (though his teeth were fine), so the vet decided to put him on an antibiotic for a week. After his shots, we were done and headed back home. As he always does after vaccinations, Friday slept the rest of the day.
On Saturday he continued to sleep. Finally, on Sunday, he started eating and being a little more social, joining us in whatever room we were in. I spent Sunday evening on the computer, and Friday laid with half his body on the keyboard of my laptop, his chin resting on his paws, which were punching the "d" and "x" on the keyboard. We played a game of "How fast can Friday type letters and can Lydia keep up deleting them?" I'm not sure he knew he was playing, but at least it kept me entertained.
Monday morning, when Jon and I woke up, I commented to Jon how Friday never came up to sleep on the bed with us, like he normally does. Jon turned on the light, and Friday was laying by the closet, a favorite spot of his. As I looked closer, I realized his eyes weren't closed all the way, and his mouth was open slightly. "Oh my gosh, Jon, I think something's wrong...." Thinking he might be in pain, we didn't try to touch him. Instead, we called his name, clapped, did whatever we could to try to wake him. Finally, I ran my hand along his side. He felt like a specimen in a taxidermy shop--stiff and cool. The tears of fear became tears of loss. I thought of the fun playtime we had before heading to the vet, and the time over the weekend that I got to just love on him, and what a beautiful, wonderful cat he was.
And now he was gone.
Jon and I were in shock. We knew he wouldn't live as long as most cats, but neither of us expected it to be so soon. Our little baby....
We bundled him up in a towel in his pet carrier. The trip to the vet was quiet, and we were the first there that morning. Heather, who saw Friday the first day we brought him in over two years ago, could tell by our faces that something was wrong. When she saw Friday, she joined us in our tears, saying, "But I love this kitty...." Since we don't have a place to call our own, and we're not ones to keep urns with ashes, we asked that the vet take care of Friday. With that, we left, and it was done.
My mom came for the day, and she helped me put Friday's things away and make the house feel fresh. A florist came by with a rose from the vet's office, and Margie came at lunch with happy yellow flowers. (Margie had come to the house for Pilates early that morning, only minutes after we found out Friday died.) I'm an emotional shopper, and we stopped at Big Lots after lunch and came back with things for the house. Jon--an emotional eater--came home from the grocery store that afternoon with ice cream, a cake mix, and candy. (It's a good thing hard things don't hit us too often.)
Today has been better than yesterday. Today, I've only cried a few times: when I came out of the shower, and Friday is always at the door waiting to jump into the wet bathtub; when I sat down at the couch with my computer, and thought of our time on Sunday night; when Jon called and said he was having a tough day; and now, when I'm writing this.
We miss him so much. We'd rub his head, and he would lean back and purr, his mouth opening just enough for his purr to come out funny. He loved to play in the laundry while we folded clothes, lunging for each piece of clothing we picked up. He drank water by tapping his paw in his bowl and then licking his paw--a very messy way to drink, but it looked so dainty. He'd make us sleepy as we watched him bathe so methodically. He loved to get under the quilt Grandma made, and sleep in his bed on the windowsill that my mom gave him. If Jon and I were arguing, he'd always walk in and doing something silly, or demand petting. And who can stay angry when they're petting a kitty? He kept me company--more than I realized, as I've looked around for him so many times today, like a person looks at their wrist expecting to see a watch.
Many people have called or e-mailed. Ken wrote, "As we get older our love for our pets stays as strong as when we are young, so when we have to part with them it doesn't get any easier." And it's true. I kind of hoped it wouldn't be, and I felt a little silly yesterday because of how much it hurt. But our pets are our best friends, and while I won't say they have the same value as people, they do make us better. And they fill something in us that nothing else can.
I'm so thankful that Friday had a good life here, that he found a family that loved him so much. I'm thankful that he died peacefully, and that Jon and I weren't faced with a difficult decision at the end of his life. And I'm so thankful for Friday--for his soft fur, his quiet purr, his sweet nature, and his love of play. He was a great cat, and I miss him.