Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Giver

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sig praise to Your name, O Most High.
~Psalm 9:1-2
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was my most favorite holiday.  It was about family and food.  

It was the day that began with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  Can I tell you I used to think that parade was the most grandest thing ever?!  Keep in mind it was the early 80s, it was a farming community in the middle of rural Georgia and we did not have cable TV, only the major channels on the turn dial.  And I didn't get out very much.  

And then we would go to Pa and Grandmother's house.  We would eat turkey and dressing and all the trimmings and ambrosia and pound cake for dessert.  The menu was the same year after year after year.  It's funny to me.  Whenever I came to Louisiana, people talked about eating all. the. time.  We'd be eating breakfast, and the conversation would be about what's for supper!  I quickly learned that eating is a way of life here.  The first thing Seth does when he gets home from work is rattle my pots to see what's for supper.  People here live to eat.  I ate some good food when I was growing up, and my mama and both of my grandmothers were outstanding cooks.  But I ate to live.  However, Thanksgiving was the day that I lived to eat!  All of the adults would sit at that long table that stretched the length of the dining room, and the eight of us cousins would sit at the kid table in the kitchen.  There were place cards for everyone.  It didn't matter that we all sat in the exact same seat year after year, holiday after holiday.  There were always place cards.  I used to think it was so weird that other families didn't have place cards!  The cousins and I would play and stomp all through that rambling farm house.

And then we would go to Granddaddy and MeMama's house for supper.  We'd always watch the lighting of the tree at Rich's Department Store.  It sat on top of the crystal bridge.  And then it was the lighting of the Macy's tree.  And then it moved to Underground.  I don't think they even do it anymore.  Besides, I always thought it was the best when it sat on the crystal bridge.  The choirs would sing, each level would light up and finally the tree would light at the end, usually on the high note of O Holy Night.  Granddaddy would pop popcorn for us.  His popcorn was always the best.  This was before you popped a bag in the microwave.

Thanksgiving Day was the same from the earliest memories I have all the way until I moved to Louisiana in 2000.  The. Same.  It was always such a grand day in my mind.  The parade, the food, the family, the tree lighting . . . it all sounds so simple.  But it is so much bigger than that in my memories.

I find myself on this day trying to recreate as much of my childhood as I can.  I turned on the parade this morning and begged my children to watch it with me.  Mason was not impressed.  At all.  I'm not sure if Hannah Kate really enjoyed it or if she was just humoring me because she knew how badly I wanted her to watch it with me.  I spent the last two days in my kitchen so I wouldn't have to spend so much time in there today.  I made the cornbread dressing, which is just my absolutely favorite Thanksgiving food.  No one makes it as good as Grandmother did.  I have tried and tried.  But it's not the same.  I have to say, though, that this year's was most definitely the closest I have gotten.  I made squash casserole and broccoli and rice casserole.  I made sweet potato casserole for Seth.  I looked at him yesterday and told him that I'd finally figured out what was missing this year.  Corn.  Grandmother would also "put some Silver Queen corn up" so we could enjoy it at the Thanksgiving table.  And this year I made a pumpkin cheesecake.  No one cared for it except me.

We ate lunch with Seth's parents and grandmother.  It was a small, quiet Thanksgiving (well, as quiet as anything can be with Mason, Hannah Kate and Ellie, which is not very!).  And since LSU has decided to begin a new tradition this year, the football game is currently on my TV instead of a tree lighting somewhere.     

No.  She didn't eat all of that food.  She ate the fries.  And three bites of turkey.  And then she was done and down.
No, your eyes do not deceive you.  Turkey, french fries and rolls.  I can't even.  I mean, French fries?!

Tonight when I put the children to bed, I asked them to name some things they are thankful for.  Mason wanted to go first.  He said he was thankful that Jesus died on the cross for his sins and also for his family.  My cousins are laughing right now.  Even though he eats French fries on Thanksgiving, he's definitely my child, as evidenced in that answer.  But I know him, and I also know that's his honest and true answer.  Hannah Kate gave a rather lengthy list.  It started with Jesus, the Bible, her family, friends, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and then went on from there.  I finally had to ask her to stop so Ellie could have a turn.  Ellie said she was thankful for PawPaw, MawMaw and Thanksgiving.  And then she said Thanksgiving another 20 times.  I think she just enjoyed saying such a big word!

If I were to list all of the things, the people I am thankful for . . . well, I already know I can't do that.  Inevitably, I'd forget someone or something.  For the believer, Thanksgiving is more than remembering that first meal the Pilgrims ate with the Indians.  

It's about the Giver . . .

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the good pleasure of His will,
to the praise of the glory of His grace,
by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of His grace
which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
having made known to us the mystery of His will,
according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times 
He might gather together in one all things in Christ,
both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance,
being predestined according to the purpose of Him
who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
In Him you also trusted,
after you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation;
in whom also, having believed,
you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is the guarantee of our inheritance
until the redemption of the purchased possession,
to the praise of His glory.
~Ephesians 1:3-14

It's about the One who gave all simply because He loves.

Because, for the believer, Thanksgiving is not just the fourth Thursday in November.  It's everyday.  Everyday my life and my heart should reflect an attitude of gratitude and humility to the One who has so graciously and so generously given me all.  I have to be honest though.  Sometimes (well, many times) it seems like gratitude isn't rising up nearly as much as selfishness and pride.  Gratitude gets lost in the midst of complaining.  Oh, the complaining.  

But I am grateful.  I truly am.  I can't put words to it.  When I look around me, when I think about those three blessings asleep upstairs - the ones I'd start with first if I was making a list - and when I think about the man I'll soon fall asleep beside, the parades and the food and the tree lighting all begin to pale in comparison.  And when I think about the One who gave His very life for me . . . died in my place . . . because He wanted to spend forever with me . . . and then he blessed me with all of this . . . I am speechless.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

That day we took Mason to Tiger Stadium for his first-ever college football game

On the eve of what might be a rather epic football Saturday . . . not for the Tigers or my Dawgs (I'm looking at you, Mississippi State) . . . I figured it was about time to talk about that day we took Mason to Tiger Stadium for his first-ever college football game.

I really wanted to take Mason to an LSU Baseball game last spring.  That didn't work out because by the time I had the bright idea, I couldn't find tickets.  So I told Seth this summer that I definitely wanted to take him to a football game.  I thought it would be a nice surprise and maybe a little treat for what I was hoping was going to be a very successful first semester of 4th grade (and, boy, was I right!).  We bought our tickets before the season even started.  I had several requirements.  I wanted the opponent to be an SEC team (but definitely NOT Alabama), I wanted the game to be later in the season so it might (or not) be a little cooler, I did not want to sit anywhere near the student section and I did not want to sit anywhere in the upper levels.

We discussed the Mississippi State game, but since it was a September game, I told Seth I'd rather wait until a little later in the season.  And knowing what we know now, I'm so glad we did not go to that game!  It wouldn't have been very much fun for either of my guys.  Since the Alabama game was not an option (because I knew the atmosphere would be a little too spirited for my 9 year old), that left Ole Miss and Kentucky as our choices.  I really don't even remember how we chose Kentucky over Ole Miss.  Maybe the tickets were cheaper?  I just know I'm so glad we did!  That Ole Miss game was a little too spirited, too, and quite a logistical nightmare given the implications of the outcome of the game and the presence of the ESPN GameDay crew.

I was so excited when our tickets arrived in the mail.  I promptly hid them, but I was so afraid Mason was going to find them.  I don't know why.  He never could've found them in a million years.  But anyway.  So then we had to decide how to tell him.  We actually kept the secret for over two months and didn't even tell him until the night before the game.  We went out to eat and then took the kids to Tiger Stadium to "see Mike the Tiger."  Mason had already figured out that something was up.  He's just so smart!  He even said he thought we were going to take him to the game.  I told him that in order to go to the game, we had to have tickets.  He asked me how to get tickets.  Seth told him that he didn't know if any tickets were left for the game or not.  This conversation occurred before supper.  So once we got to the stadium, I brought it up again.  I told Mason that the only way he could go to the game was if he had a ticket.  And then I handed him three tickets.
Our pastor and his wife are game marshals.  They tailgate before every home game and invited us to tailgate with them.  So we did.
After we ate lunch, we headed over to the stadium.  It was a night game, and we still had a few hours to kill.  We walked around to the basketball practice facility to see the statue of Shaquille O'Neill.  Seriously . . . how did I not know about this statue?!  We had NO IDEA this was there.  Of course, it's way off the beaten path, and you have to be very intentional about walking around the back of the building to see it, but still.  It's super impressive.
And Jenn (because I know you're reading this) . . . one of the first things Mason said when we saw this was, "Mom, we HAVE to bring Carter here when they come back to Louisiana!  He will love this!"

And then Mason spotted his future truck.  Right. 
And he met Mike the Tiger.
We then found us a nice spot to sit and wait for the players and band to walk down Victory Hill.  And we sat in this nice spot for over two hours!  I was so proud of Mason.  He didn't complain one bit.  We told him that if he wanted to see everybody "up close and personal," we had to stay here so we wouldn't lose our spot.  Our Pastor's daughter and her husband bought a program for Mason since it was his first game.  So sweet and thoughtful of them!  He sat and basically memorized every page and every detail about every player while we waited.
Oh.  And in case you're wondering . . . it was HOT.

Finally the Tigers made their way down Victory Hill.  Coach Les Miles.  The one thing I can say about him is every time I see him, every time I hear him talk, he makes me laugh.  That's not a bad thing.  May not be a good thing sometimes.  Just saying.
And then Mason thought he was the top Dawg on campus as he got a high five from all the players as they walked by.  I have to admit . . . all I really wanted was for him to wash his hands!  Oh, and don't ask me who these guys are.  Because I have no idea.  I just know they're on the team!

And then the cheerleaders came out and did their thing.

Mingle!  Time to mingle . . . 
This was the cheerleaders' reaction when Mason told them he was going to play baseball for LSU one day.  Yes.
Mike the Tiger.  Again.  He gets around.
And then the Golden Band from Tiger Land marched down the hill.
And who knew the Golden Girls wear fishnet stockings?!  Well, I didn't!  I know you can't tell here.  But they were wearing fishnets!  I really don't know why that is important (it's not) or what it means (nothing).

Thanks to our Pastor, we were able to go into the PMAC (the basketball arena) for a pep rally.  I was just glad to sit in air conditioning for a bit!
And then we headed into the stadium.
You can't tell from these pictures, but the sunset was beautiful that night.
I've been to several LSU games through the years, but I guess I'd forgotten about all the pre-game pageantry and hype.  The announcer gives the weather stats and then says, "Chance of rain?"  And the crowd yells, "NEVER!"  Tradition has it that it "never" rains in Tiger Stadium.  They also blare Garth Brooks singing "Callin' Baton Rouge."

I spent last night in the arms of a girl in . . .
and the whole stadium stands and yells, LOUISIANA!

I guess when you're at a football game for a team that just isn't your own, it's funny sometimes.  Anyway.

Oh, and I also have to say that this was the mildest Tiger Stadium / Death Valley atmosphere that I've ever experienced!  Usually the atmosphere is intense.  But not this night.  I guess because it was Kentucky.  We didn't see any Kentucky fans until we were walking into the stadium.  That also meant that Mason missed out on the raucous taunts of "Tiger bait!  Tiger bait!" as fans of the opponent milled about the stadium before the game.  Seth lamented that he didn't have that experience.  It didn't bother me at all!  That's the one thing I can definitely do without!

Okay.  So we really were at the game.

This kid loved every minute of it!  He ate peanuts and hollered and jumped around.  He didn't want to leave, even late in the 4th quarter when LSU was blowing them out.  I honestly don't even remember what the score was.  I guess I should look that up.

Oh yeah.  LSU won 41-3.  And this is where we differ.  Seth loves to watch blow-outs.  I, on the other hand, think they are incredibly boring.  I really enjoy close games (as long as MY team wins!).  I just think they're so much more exciting.

So by the 4th quarter, I was ready to go.  It was late, and we'd been there all. day.  Besides, the stadium was already clearing out.  Most folks had already left.  So we finally convinced Mason it was okay to leave with five minutes left in the 4th quarter.
And, yes, I wore my LSU shirt to the game.  The last game Seth and I went to was the LSU-Florida game in 2011.  LSU was ranked #1 at the time, and it was a big game.  I bought a shirt for that one.  So I pulled it out of the bottom of my drawer and wore it for only the second time at this game.

And just to prove Momma can't take a selfie, here we are.  Mason is clearly not excited.  At all.   

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

It's November.

It's November.  I love November.  It's one of my most favorite months.  And these past four days have been, indeed, quite lovely.

The weather.  Oh, the weather!  It's been boots and leggings weather.  Okay, so it's been close enough.  But I think this upcoming weekend is going to be spectacular!

My newest nephew came home on Saturday after spending 8 days in the NICU.  Jase Lee Connell arrived a bit earlier than planned, but his birth date was ordained by our Lord and was not a surprise to Him.  All of the things the doctors had prepared Rob and Kristi for were just not to be because the Great Physician answered our prayers for healing.  I can not wait to snuggle with him when we go to Georgia next month!

I got an extra hour of sleep on Saturday night.  I really did!  Usually I stay up an hour later and take advantage of the extra hour when our clocks fall back.  But this year I went to sleep instead.  And it felt so good.  I sure wish we could do that every weekend!

So many asked me what I did with my "free time" yesterday.  It was the first Monday in almost two years that Mason did not have a therapy appointment.  I cleaned my house.  Exciting, huh?!  I swept and mopped my floors and dusted.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but that's something I just can't do unless Ellie is napping.  Our house is very lived in during the weekends, and I am so excited that I now have time to clean on Mondays!  Of course, the floors already required mopping again tonight, but that's okay.

Mason and Hannah Kate didn't have school today.  And it was such a wonderful break in the middle of the week!  I love 4-day school weeks!  And we get to do it all over again next week, too, because they don't have school on Tuesday in observance of Veteran's Day.

I voted today.  I didn't have to stand in line either.  I don't have a sticker to show for it though.  I just don't understand why this parish does not do stickers!  Or does the whole state of Louisiana not do stickers?!  I always got a sticker when I voted in Georgia and Mississippi.

Speaking of the election, my cousin was re-elected today as the District 111 Representative to the Georgia State House.  So proud of him!

Today is also my most favorite niece's birthday!  She is 12 years old.  I can hardly believe it!  It was about this time 12 years ago that Seth and I were leaving the hospital after she'd been born.  She's so grown up now that it makes my heart hurt sometimes.
Ah, November, I'm so glad you're here!  I just know it's going to be a good one!

This is the time of year when it seems like people are a little more thankful than before. While I do strive to walk in gratitude each and everyday of the year, regardless of months or seasons, I can't help but be so mindful of the many good things the Lord has given me.