Monday, December 18, 2006

7 years

7 years ago Tony and I got married. It was such a fun day. We were surrounded by our family and friends, in love with each other, and had not a clue what being married would entail.

7 years later we have learned a lot. We have learned to laugh about almost everything (He is still not amused that I don't balance my checkbook). We have learned that stress-full moments come and go and then your left with a memory-so extend grace at every opportunity. We have learned that you can disagree ab0ut something and then let it go. We have learned that Tony is the most disciplined person on earth and that the Lord brought me into his life so that every once in awhile- he might eat a cookie. We have learned he loves quiet and I love conversation and we have found such a rich balance between the two and such a greater appreciation for what the other likes. We have brought 2 children into the world who we are crazy about. We have learned to parent together. We have challenged each other to love the Lord more. We have pushed each other. We have sought the Lord together, even begged the Lord together for prayers that we saw answered in a glorious ways...for prayers that were not answered in the way we wanted at all...for prayers that we are still waiting to see what the Lord will do....but in the seeking we have found Him and we are stronger together for it.

We have realized that our marriage is not perfect, because neither are we...But through the power of the cross it is made wonderful. We have realized together we are better than when we are apart.

My aunt took the above picture at ACU"s homecoming this past October. We laughed when we looked at it because we realized our facial expressions, mannerisms, and standing are the same. We have become one of those couples that is starting to look alike...

I love this man...for a million reasons I could share and for another million that I could not...

I am so thankful that in this journey of life, I was given Tony.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A prayer for the season...

I just read the following prayer on the blog of Ms. Judy Thomas. She mentioned that it was read at their Wednesday night service... I loved the perspective that it offers. As we walk through this season with our boys we are trying to remind them (and ourselves), its about more than all the stuff. Jesus was the perfect gift, still is, the perfect gift...Oh that all hearts would receive Him this season.

"Dear God,
As I look through my gift shopping list, I hold up to you each person listed on it. Slowly, one by one, I ask that the fire of your abundant love burn within each of them. I pray that the gift I find for each person will bring joy into that life.

But, help me to keep a balance this season, Lord. Let me keep my buying in perspective, not to spend more than I need to or can afford. Let me not give in to the pressures of this world and not equate love with money spent. Let me always remember the many, many people who have so much less in material things. Help me to buy wisely, so that my choices will not burden those in other countries who are so deeply affected by this country's economy.

And finally, loving God, help me to find time in the frantic moments of each day to become centered on you. Walking through a store, riding on the bus, hurrying down a street: let each of these times be moments when I can remember your incredible love for me and rejoice in it. Amen

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wish List

For weeks Payton has been asking for a castle for Christmas...He always follows that up with, "and Benj really wants legos." We have both ready to go, already stashed in the attic.

They have now pulled a fast one and changed their mind...Payton came in today with Benjamin in tow and said, "We know what we want for Christmas." I responded with. "I know. I am so excited to see if you get a castle and legos." Payton then said, "those are great, but what we really want is a mini van." Needless to say, it won't happen...

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I beleive in prayer...I read everything I can about it. I enjoy studying it. I love talking to others about it. I love praying with my husband, with my boys, with anyone....It is the highest honor I have received on this earth...To have The King of the Universe listen to my thoughts is at times invigorating, at other times embaressing, at all times humbling. For I recognize that His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are higher than mine ... He is after all the Lord of Lords.

This week I have been working with Benjamin on articulating his thoughts..."Don't just scream son, use words to tell us what you need." "Benjamin, you can't just throw yourself on the floor and expect us to know what you want, you must talk to us." Sometimes Benjamin is able to pull himself out of an emotional nosedive and articulate his thoughts....other times he is removed to his bedroom until he gains some self-control. In the midst of all of this my love never ebbs for Benjamin. I am crazier about him each and everyday. Sometimes the parent-child relationship mirrors the God-child relationship and even in this example I see our Heavenly Father...but at some point it breaks down quite a bit.

I am thankful that the Lord allows me to articulate my thoughts to Him. I am thankful, in the deepest sense for Him calling me to a relationship with Him...that in His goodness He calls me to partner with Him through prayer...But this week, I am thankful, to the very core of me...that he does not ask me to articulate my thoughts or pull out of an emotional nosedive before I come to Him.

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Romans 8:26-28

My thoughts have been consumed this week with a young mother of 4 who is currently struggling for her life against leukemia. There are some battles that you hear are going on and you ache for the family, you pray for them, and go on through your day, then there are other battles that you hear of and for some reason, that cannot be explained, you find yourself thrust right into the middle of it your heart split wide open...begging the Lord with every thought, crying out on behalf of those He has bonded you to, only through the working of the Spirit. I read her husbands words, her mothers words, her siblings words as they update the world on her condition and my heart literally groans within me. Sometimes I hear myself pray and I feel like, in human terms I am doing a good job articulating my heart to my Father...other times I look like Benjamin, throwing myself down on floor, wailing, wanting so badly to get the response that I want...fighting a desperate fight for the end result that I want but can't see.

I am yearning to see a complete healing in this mother's life...and I know that some people will say, that is what death is for a Christian, complete healing. On some levels I know that, in other ways I don't want to. So I continue to beg, to plead, to wrestle in prayer. Knowing that regardless the outcome- He is God.

and Heart groans even as I type that...Be magnified Lord through an earthly healing...Extend her life as you did for Hezekiah...We wait for you alone.

***Please read comment #3 and please keep this precious family in your prayers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Mix

1. What an absolute blast the holidays are! Payton and Benjamin both are so excited about Christmas, so thrilled to see Christmas lights, so animated about our tree, their stockings, etc...having kids is so much fun!

2. We had the best Thanksgiving ever. We loved being with Tony's family in Tyler and then having an extended time with my family at the Ranch. We were with family, away from our house, for 2 weeks straight. I told someone yesterday, when you can be with family for 2 weeks straight and still cry when you leave...I know it is a gift from the. Lord.

3. The other day we got home late and I was in charge of getting Payton in his pajamas. I put him in a Buzz Light year pajama shirt and some Spiderman bottoms assuming it did not matter because he had already been asleep, I was tired, etc...I prayed with him and left. He called me back into his room later and said, "Am I just supposed to lay here knowing my pajamas don't match?"

4. On Saturday Benjamin was talking nonstop about a hot air balloon. On the way to dinner Tony said, "Benjamin did you see a hot air balloon somewhere?" Benjamin said, "Yes" Tony said, "Who was in it?" Benjamin said very matter of factly. "It was Jesus." To which Payton said, "No Benj, it was God." They began to argue over who it was, God or Jesus. Tony interupted and said, "It's ok boys, for now, I want you to know theres a new family rule. If you see God or Jesus in a hot air balloon I want you to come get your mother or me." I think that's a good rule.

5. A lot of changes are happening at Richland Hills. It is exciting to be there. I would encourage anyone to go online at www.Rhchurch. org to listen to Rick Atchley's lessons on instrumental music. We have been told the first will be online starting Tuesday. The link/podcast/ is under "The Both/And Church".

6. Today I was watching CMT as I was on the elliptical at my gym, Brad Paisley's "When I get where I'm going" came on. By the end of the video I was crying...or sweating really hard out my eyes. Sometimes my emotions totally catch me off guard.

7. Christmas cards stress me. Last year we sent our a collage of about 60 pictures (obviously shrunken down) with the words, "Grabbed a camera, got the boys dressed...Many attempts, No success. " Everyone loved it, I am glad...because they are getting part 2 this year. Not sure when we will hit the age where we sit still and just hug each other.

8. Last week I was confronted by someone about something I had handled incorrectly. They were right...I was wrong. However, I was clueless about the wrong I had done until confronted by it. It left me thinking of how many wrongs I have commmitted and never even had an inkling about. It has left me praying anew Psalm 139:23 -24, "Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life." I am so thankful for grace.

9. I love Christams carols...many of them touch me deeply. Songs about a ransomed world, held captive...saved by a baby...God made man! He came and remains and is yet, over the next horizon...So many reasons to celebrate.

10. We got married on the 18th of this time of year has so many fun memories of showers, special time with friends and family, just being in love with Tony. I was asked earlier this year, "What has been the moment of your life when you felt most proud?" NO question...walking down to the aisle to Tony. I love him so much.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Harvest Sunday

I was raised in a family that loved missions. When I was in the 5th grade some of my parents good friends moved to South Africa. My parents told them that they (and their 4 kids) would be willing to make a once in a lifetime trip to South Africa to spend their first Christmas with them. So for Christmas of my 6th grade year, When my youngest brother was around 2 we all 6 went.

What happened on that trip in my parent's hearts was life altering. What was planned as a once in a lifetime experience became so much more in a way only the Lord could do....My dad has been back to Africa almost every year since then. My mom has made countless trips to Africa and elsewhere. I have been to Africa I believe 7 times, many of those by myself, the last trip with Tony, as well as spending summers in Russia and in Thailand. I believe my brothers have traveled overseas many more times than I have...but I lost count a long time ago. My sister, as many of you know, has now given 8 years of her life to the people of Benin, West Africa. Payton and I (you will hear more about this later) took a step of faith this past week and sent off for his passport. The two of us hope to make the trip in February to see Kelly and her family. We will miss Tony and Benjamin like crazy....(but like I said, more on that later.)

Today is our churches Harvest Sunday...the day we bring before the Lord a goal (This year 1,332,359 dollars) and then our congregation raises or pledges that money to be given in the next year. Every year I walk in to the auditorium and see that banner with those numbers I pray the same prayer..."May it be, May it be..." It is a prayer filled with memories of faces I have seen around the world, faces that are hearing about Jesus for the first time, faces that are longing for a kingdom not yet seen.

Today has been special.This is the first year Payton is aware of what is happening and understands ( a little bit) of his part. Harvest Sunday always kicks off with a flag ceremony where the flags from all the nations are walked into the auditorium. This year Payton is a flag bearer. He woke up at 4:30 AM ready to go to the church to parade his flag. We have been excited throughout the day to hear updates as the money comes in...excited... because the Lord is enabling us to reach a goal, but even more thrilled because for every dollar that comes in even more of Him goes forth.

Harvest Sunday always brings with it great anticipation for me...Anticpation that more of His Kingdom is coming and anticipation that our family, can once again, play a part. Today I anticipate that as Payton pours his can of coins into the wheel barrow, as he carries the flag, perhaps the Lord is planting in him a heart for missions, a heart that longs to see the Word of God go forth, a heart that might one day go himself. May it be Lord, May it be.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Meet Maggie the Dog

When Tony and I were dating we talked several times about how someday he wanted to own a champion bred Lab. He had visions of them hunting together, this dog running through fields of a ranch with our boys (that he just knew someday we would have), of this dog being a part of our family. My family has always been a mini-dachshund family...(We still have Cooper that I bought while I was teaching in Abilene and we love her!) so this is quite step up size wise into the dog world. This past month Tony has been so excited to receive Maggie. We knew she was born at the end of August and have been prepping Cooper and the boys for this change. We got her, all her papers, special foods, special bed, special everything on Friday. It was so fun to see Tony so excited. This weekend as the boys ran around the ranch with Maggie running right behind them our hearts smiled!

This picture shows Maggie praying for her life. We have told Benjamin, "gentle hands" at least 2000 times in the past weekend.

Payton is loving Maggie...He wants to hold her at all times. He has called her his sister with fur. I think we have finally put a stop to that. .
I snapped this picture of Payton and Benjamin watching TV at the ranch! Love these boys!

These 3 boys have spent almost every minute of October together and some of September and November. Timothy heads back to Benin next Thursday. It is so much fun to watch them love each other...sometimes with hugs, sometimes with wrestling matches that do not end until someone gets hurt...:) We are working on that last one- They are a delight to watch!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What a Great Day!

5 years ago today,October 31, 2001, I went in for my annual exam...(I know, that's not usually a good start to a blog entry.) I told my Dr. that we might want run blood work, check my spleen, see if my mono (I have had the chronic kind since high school) was acting up. I was exhausted and not being able to get enough sleep, I felt weak, nauseated, etc...they ran blood work and my Dr. walked back in the room about 45 minutes later with a smile on her face and said..."You're pregnant." I was beside myself. I do not think I heard another word the rest of the appointment. I remember her figuring out our due date was July 4th. I drove over to Tony's work and shared the news with him...we were both so excited, so stunned, so thrilled. Payton was born July 15, 2002. The thrill of a lifetime!

Fast forward 2 years...October 31, 2003. I wake up nauseated and sick...I think I have a virus. But by lunch I am not sick anymore. Surely not...We have a 15 month old and have not even started talking about the possibility of another baby. Yet the Lord in His goodness, see's a need and meets it before we even know to ask. On a whim I take a pregnancy test and see the famous 2 pink lines immediately. Tony and I are excited, thrilled, and stunned. Our due date is July 15, 2004. Benjamin is born July 10th...the thrill of a lifetime!

These tigers bring unending joy to their family! Here are a few of their latest hits...

1. Payton has started wearing boxers...for whatever reason he thinks this is the coolest. He does not understand that boxers are considered underwear. Hence him walkingup to a group of ladies at church and saying with a huge smile, "I'm not wearing any underwear!"

2. Benjamin's new favorite phrase is , "Pease don't say dat." He uses it with different tones, inflections and dramatic flair.

Have the happiest of days!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Road Trip!

This weekend I had the thrill of driving to Austin to watch Nika receive her Texas Teacher of the Year award and give her acceptance speech. Such an absolute thrill to listen to her every word and then watch people swarm her after it was over...all wanting to tell her congrats and how her words had touched them...There is so much joy in watching the Lord lift people up!

I also realized there is no gift to me like time alone in the car. I was giddy to get up at 5 AM and hit the road. As I drove down 35 I had thoughts I have not had in years...Usually I am focused on the boys, on Tony, on any number of things but on Saturday I was able to take in the sunrise, take in how much I really enjoyed Starbucks, take in how much I really love my husband, our boys, my friends...I was able to to not just pray...but feel like I was in a conversation with the Lord...and something about that made me feel young again. I came home refreshed and in someways changed...New thoughts in my mind and a new song in my heart. I am starting this week more alive in my life than I have been in awhile! It feels great!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Randy is here!

Everyone was so glad to see Randy! So great to welcome this mighty man of God home to recharge and refresh so He can go back to Benin and finish strong! The whole family will return to America in May of '07! The Lord has been so good through the years...Many of you will be greeted in heaven by your Aja brothers and sisters...a precious group of people who have claimed Jesus as their Savior because Kelly and Randy (and many others) said yes when the The Lord called! (...and many of you said yes when He asked can you contribute to getting them there and praying for them.)

The boys were a lot more excited to be there than this picture reflects.Payton had just figured out that we were not in fact getting on an airplane and was terribly disappointed.

Randy walked through the doors and all of his nephews ran to greet him. They were so excited. I love it that Payton is literally on the toes of his boots. The boy knows how to throw himself into a hug! Such a great delight to watch my brother-in-law walk through the doors. We had a wonderful time with my sister and now we get to have a wonderful time with Randy! (they are having to alternate due to the fact that Lael's adoption is still not official...Lael still cannot leave the country...) Please continue to pray for my sister as she goes through the next few weeks alone with her 2 youngest kids...and if you should so desire to email her to encourage her- her address is:

Go ahead and share the details of your life...She has time to read it! :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Current events

1. Last weekend was ACU homecoming and my 10 year reunion. It was a wonderful time of being with old friends. As we sang the "Lord Bless you and Keep You" I was overwhelmed with emotion...the Lord has been so much more than gracious in the past 10 years. Ten years ago I would of never thought I would have the marriage I have, the children I have, the friends I have, the life I have...all due to His mercy and grace...I talk to so many college students who wonder if life can get any better than college...Last weekend I thought a lot about how much I loved my time at ACU, it was an incredible season- but I love the season I am in and have no reason to believe I won't love the next one even more! Even the difficulties we have faced have been faced holding His hand...He is an awesome God and I for one am so glad He does not allow ones life to peak at age 21- it keeps going up!

2. We have been around cousins more than ever lately and we have loved it. As a result Payton and Benjamin have started refering to their dad as Uncle Tony. The other day Payton told a man at Walmart, "Hey do you know my Uncle Tony? Well he's my dad." The man looked at me and made a strange face. We have since started telling Payton he must refer to his dad by his normal name, to which Payton responded, "OK, I will call him Babe."

3. I took a personality test most dominant that of an Introvert.

4. Benjamin is still a terrible eater as in he rarely eats...It is amazing to us that he continues to thrive. He is 33 lbs. , so he is bitesized compared to his brother who was 45 pounds at 2...but 33 lbs. is still amazing considering that today for lunch he ate a whole cashew.

5. 2 weeks ago Tony and I went for late night drive at the ranch to see if we could find the herd of wild hogs that have been tearing up some of the land. On the way back I got out to open the gate and told Tony to go ahead and pull through to the barn, I would just walk...the moon was out, the stars were beautiful and it is not a long walk at all. As I was walking I heard the familiar sound of a rattler...right between my feet. Every book tells you to stand still, a rattlesnake will not strike you if you are perfectly still. That sounds good in theory...I chose to jump and scream. Tony "took care of the snake" using a shovel. My adrenaline rush was over the top, Tony was cool as a cucumber...I married a brave man.

6. From birth I have always told Payton, "I love that body." or "I love that heart." Last night I used the I love that body phrase and he responded with, "I love your big, huge body too." Uhhh...thanks Pate.

7. Benjamin is not potty trained but he is grass trained. No problems pulling off his diaper and going to the bathroom in any patch of grass...he is however, terrified of white porcelein. We will continue to wear diapers; using the tiny medians of grass in Target's parking lot is completely unacceptable in our society.

8. Did I ever mention Nika won Teacher of the Year for the entire state of Texas? It has been the thrill of a lifetime to watch her be honored everywhere we go. We head to Austin next week to watch her give her acceptance speech.

9. I currently see my chiropractor 3 times a week...If I did all of the rehab he suggested it would be a full time case he should ever stumble upon this blog...I do about half of it and I feel good about that.

10. The Lord is moving in exciting ways in alot of different places. We love hearing about them all. So amazing to me that He is so very intimate with millions, even billions. I used to feel envious when I would hear about Him doing great things in other peoples lives, in other peoples churches...Embaressing to admit- but I was selfish, jealous, and prideful with the Creator of the Universe...then He reminded me in countless ways that I am not here on this earth for me, but for Him...that His kingdom may advance and His glory may be shown. So- may it be shown through everyone, may His kingdom continue to advance in places I have never heard about, may millions be raised up that proclaim Who He is in the midst of this life. I have been humbled to realize that He is the only essential...not talent, not money, not earthly things...May He be lifted up, that the world might know the heighth and depth of His great love.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Gift

My sister leaves today to begin her journey back to Benin, West Africa. I knew this when I went to bed last night and I was aware of it all night long, even in the deepest of sleep. Everytime I rolled over I was aware of the lump in my throat.

Yesterday the boys and I were leaving the church building after our Bible study. Benjamin's teacher had given him a cup of animal crackers for the road so I was carrying him as he ate, all of our stuff, all the while thinking about the emotional day that lay ahead. Payton had run pretty far ahead of us to open the door. When we finally got to the door we walked we passed Payton he said, "Hey mom, something is wrong with Benj." Benjamin had put his head down on my shoulder so when I dropped my stuff to hold him out and look at him I realized his color was turning and he was not breathing. There are moments when the world stops. I quickly gave him the heimlech maneuver and thankfully it worked...He was back to himself almost immediately.

I have been overwhelmed with thankfulness for Payton, the kind of brother that he is, that he notices even now when something is not right with his brother. I think back to when I was pregnant with Benjamin and feeling anxious about having 2 mom said then, "You are giving Payton a gift that will outlive you." I knew she was right for I have seen that gift in my sister and brothers.

For the past 3 weeks I have had my sister close by. I have soaked up every moment of it. She came here with her schedule packed and I made sure I was beside her for most of it. Today she boards a plane to begin her journey back to Benin. We have been putting her and her family on planes for 8 years...each time we cry, pray, embrace and cry and pray some more. Tears are the overflow of hearts full of love for these people who I am so blessed to call family.

Tony and I pray nightly that the Lord would bond our boys together with unbreakable bonds and seal them together in Christ. There is great joy in finding your best friend. To find them early, living with you in your own home, is gift only our Father can give. May the Lord be praised for the life of my sister...It is a gift to be able to spend 3 weeks solid with a person and at the end wish you had had a bit longer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I am a crummy blogger

I have been soaking up every moment with my sister...I have learned many things about her- one of which is - she is a much better blogger than I am. For the latest in pictures of our family- click on her blog. I will update on our family in words shortly.

Thanks to everyone who is still checking...which I think includes my mom, Rob, and Vicki...:)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Andy and Payton

Last night my brother Andy took Payton to the Ranger game. Payton had a blast. Anytime he goes anywhere with Andy you can tell he feels so cool. I think there is also a special thrill for Pate when he attends an event with someone who allows him to eat a bucket of fries, ice cream and a couple of Sprites for dinner. They sat right behind first base. Payton however did not mention one thing about baseball. He was mesmerized by the people, the volume, the food, and how cool Andy's truck is... What a great memory for him.

My parents have been DC this week enjoying life with the family and a big event at the DOD. It meant that they missed grandparents day at Payton's school (which was not a big deal...they have attended more events for our children than I have :)). Andy filled in for them and gave Payton the thrill of a lifetime.

Such a wonderful gift from the Lord to watch my children love my siblings...They thrill at phone calls from Sam and Kelly and practically rip the door off the hinges when they hear Andy outside. My brothers and my sister made my childhood a time of great laughter...its so fun to see them do the same for my children.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quotable Pate

This has been a great week in many far as quotes from Payton go...this may have been the best week ever. People constantly ask me, "Do you write all of this down?" My answer, "not really..." so in an attempt to capture some moments in our week...

Here's Payton:

The boys and I started back to BSF this week. Part of their incredible children's program is a 10 minute quiet time in which their teacher allows them to think of their memory verse or pray. I asked Payton on the way home if he had talked to God during quiet time...He responded with, "Not today mom, I just layed there and thought of everything I have to do today." Tony and I have laughed about this a lot wondering what was on his list...1. get Buzz Lightyear...thrown him up in the air until I endanger myself or others. 2. Get every pillow off of the couch- jump on them. 3. Push Benjamin at least once...etc...

Last night over dinner, "Mom when I go to heaven, its very important I don't forget my cowboy hat...I think the Lord will love seeing me in it."

I have been trying to teach Payton that he can look for things on his own...he does not need me everytime...I need to be his last resort. Yesterday he asked for his viewmaster and I told him he might need to go dig through his toy box. He responded with, "Here is why that is not a good idea. Dad gets really frustrated when the dogs dig and I would not want to frustrate why don't you come in here and help me find it."

Today as we were leaving the park I explained to the boys that I was not feeling well. Benjmain said he wanted to go to McDonalds. Payton said, "Benjamin that sounds great, but my priority right now is getting mom home and to bed. She needs a nice long nap."

I opened one of my talks last weekend with this story...It captures Payton as well as our hearts for him...

"Our 4 year old son Payton has a power issue…He thinks he has it and he does not- and its an issue. Payton is incredibly articulate. The other night as Tony and I were disciplining him we asked if he had anything to say…(we will never do this again).he responded with, “Well we would not even be sitting here if you two had not made the choices that you made. I am disappointed, frustrated, and wondering what to do…You need to obey, you need to do it now, and that’s all.” I believe Tony and I both had eyes wide as saucers by the time he was finished…Thankfully the Lord has given my husband the ability to progress in discipline with a straight face…We explained to Payton then and a few times since then that he is not the parent. We do not obey him…We respect him and want to hear his heart…but ultimately he is to obey his parents as they seek to obey God, the one who holds all of the power…"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I read a lot. I love to read. Always have. Once on a family vacation I read a total of 7 books and came home with a journal full of notes. My brothers had all sorts of fun making nerd jokes. Now Tony makes them... (not really:)). This past week I read something that deeply touched me...still can't read it without tears. Something in these words made me realize something in me is broken and I have ached over them and yet longed for the truth in them to sink deeper into my heart.

Here are some thoughts that Ken Gire (one of my favorite authors) wrote in "The Reflective Life-Becoming More Spiritually Sensitive to the Everyday Moments of Life":

"Honestly, I want to be like Christ.

But honestly, I want to be like the Christ who turned water into wine, not the Christ who thirsted on the cross. I want to be the clothed Christ, not the one whose garment was stripped and gambled away. I want to be the Christ who fed the five thousand, not the one who hungered for forty days in the wilderness. I want to be the free Christ, walking through wheatfields with His disciples, not the imprisoned Christ who was deserted by them.

I want to be the Good Samaritan, not the man who fell among thieves.
But if the man had not fallen among thieves, been beaten, stripped, and left for dead, the good in the Samaritan would of never emerged.

This is the dark side of Christianity, the side we don't see when we sign up. That if we want to be like Christ, we have to embrace both sides of His life. What else could it mean when the Bible talks about "the fellowship of His suffering?" How could we enter that fellowship apart from His suffering? How could we truly know the man of sorrows aquainted with grief if we had not ourselves known grief and sorrow?

That is how Christ grows in us, both corporately as a body and individually as members of that body. It is also the way many people come to Christ. For some people, it is the only way. And perhaps that explains, at least partially, why bad things happen to good people.

For the sake of those around them.
That they might come to Christ.
That Christ might come to them, to live in them.
So that once again a Savior can be born into the world."

Friday, August 25, 2006

An update

1. We had an incredible week of vacation last week. There is nothing like getting away from home with your family. To slow down enough to realize- I still laugh the hardest with my husband, there is great delight in watching our kids, we enjoy time together doing anything, to take time to see the Lord in all of these things...We came back greatly refreshed.

2. Back in March I realized I was drinking way too many diet cokes...the people at Sonic knew my name and whenever we pulled up Payton would roll down his window and yell, "I need a large diet coke, not a lot of ice and with a little vanilla and cherry." This and some other things in my life made me realize I was drinking too many. I quit cold turkey....and started drinking Starbucks. This past Monday I decided I would become a water girl (for at least a while)...All water, all the time...still going strong at this point, I'll keep you posted...

3. On Wednesday it was announced that one of my dearest friends, Nika, was the region 11 Teacher of the year. Out of over 20 districts she was chosen...I was so excited. Tonight she will be called out onto the field at the Ranger game to accept this honor. We will be there cheering! It is so fun to watch the Lord lift friends up. We have rejoiced over this gift straight from His hand.
Yesterday her brother Mark opened a brand new Starbucks (On Colleyville Blvd. right across from Market Street). Mark is the manager. Last night was friends and family night where we got to go and have free Starbucks before their big grand opening today. I picked a crummy week to commit to water. Its been fun to celebrate with the Maples this week.

4. The other night I was putting Benjamin to bed and Tony was in the living room reading. I told Payton, "Why don't you go and sit with your dad and I can be with you in a minute. " Payton walked in, sat down in the chair across from Tony and said, "Dad, Tell me about your problems."

5. Benjamin's favorite show at Sea World was the water-skiing show. At any given moment he will kick his legs up and start going through the whole routine. It makes us laugh everytime. He even makes the "overly- excited face" that the water skiers did at Sea World. A sight to behold...Ask him to show you his water-skiing next time you see him. It will not disappoint.

6. While in San Antonio we met up with our friends Koy, BJ and Reese. BJ and I roomed together in college. We used to talk about how we hoped our husbands would be friends and we would get the joy of watching our children play together. It was so great to spend 2 days with them. We loved every minute of it and left feeling so blessed to call them our friends.

7. I am not a nail biter. Selling stuff on Ebay makes me want to start.

8. Payton has always been an early riser. A couple of weeks ago Tony bought a digital clock and put electrical tape over the last 2 numbers (the minutes). He explained to Payton he could not off of his bed until the number turned to a 7. For the first few mornings he would crow like a rooster, "It's 7! It's 7!" Then he started sleeping past 7. This has blessed us and him greatly!

9. I love reading other peoples blogs. There is great joy in seeing old friends and new experience great joy in their life. I love reading about the good...I love having the opportunity to pray when there is something not good. My brother started this blog for me last year...Hence, if you go back to the original posts you will see some pictures and some posts that were written by Sam as if he were me. His words made me laugh then, they make me laugh now. He used the threat of continuing to post and comment as Becky on other peopes blogs as motivation for me to take over this one...Obviously, it worked. I am thankful he brought me into the blogging world. It has blessed me.

10. I am speaking next month at a Women's retreat in Fairfax. So much of what I will speak on comes from Matthew 11:28-30 (the Msg.) when Jesus says,

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I 'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely lightly."

I want to learn how to accept that invitation, how to point others to do the same, not with words, but with my life. I want to keep company with Him. In His grace He invites us to do just that. I am overwhelmed that, for each of us, the invitation still stands.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A year ago

A year ago today our family gathered around the bed of my grandmother and watched her faith become sight as she passed from this life to the next. I was one of the speakers at her funeral. I read the words I wrote, a year ago now and feel a lump rise in my throat. I miss my grandmother. I miss seeing her face light up when Payton and Benjamin walk in the room and yet...I come back to the same thought I had a year ago...My grandmother has joined the chorus around His throne, How can I keep from singing? Here are the words I spoke at her funeral:

I love my grandmother and I love my family…I have approached the writing of these words carefully. I long to honor and bless my family. I long to honor the life of my grandmother, our mom-o as we called her and above all I long to honor our Father God who was the very reason her life had such a profound impact on so many.

As I have thought and prayed about the words I would share Psalm 102:18 has been running through my mind… “Let this be written for a future generation that a people not yet created may know the Lord.” There are 11 Cardwell grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and many more that have yet to be created. I look to the day when the words, the stories, the very heritage, that has been shared today will be passed to generations yet to come.

My cousins and I are full of memories of our grandmother. So much so we could fill hours with recounting them all…thankfully the Lord gave us the opportunity to do just that. In the past week we have sat by her side as we have held her hand and shared our memories. (share memories page)

During this past week we have watched our three mothers honor their mother until the very end. The impact of having four generations present at mom-o’s side as she left this world was life changing. The room seemed to overflow with tears, praises being sung, scripture being read and love being expressed. All the life that filled the room at her moment of departure was inspiring.

Over the past week I have thought often of Isaiah 51:1 “listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.” My grandmother and my mother have taught me to always use scripture in context and I am aware that this is a verse that was meant to encourage the exiled Israelites. However in mom-o’s final days I quoted it to her and told her I was finding great encouragement from it. For I look at the rock from which our family was cut and see a lineage of faithfulness- I see my cousins and I are people who have descended from those who have pursued righteousness. My cousins and I have watched my grandmother in her final days and in her final breaths find comfort and peace in the Word of God. Her passing has left a void, no doubt, but in a profound way I find difficult to express in words it has been an encouragement.

Our mothers, Vicki, Jan and Suzy loved their mother in a beautiful way…We witnessed them singing hymns over her, massaging her sore limbs, sleeping on the floor surrounding her bed so that if a need arose they could be the one to meet it, we saw them support each other as each grieved in a different ways, we saw them encourage each others children to express hope, love and memories to mom-o, we saw them take care of each others grandchildren, we saw that when one has the hope of heaven laughter is possible- that in 1st Corinthians 15:55 when it tells us the sting of death has been swallowed up in victory- it is a verse to be claimed and rejoiced in. We saw this verse lived out for eight days as each person came to realize the destination of the journey that we were on. We saw three sisters who loved their mother tell her it was ok to go…to claim her new body…to run to Jesus…to receive her ultimate healing. We saw them declare their love for their mom and for the Lord who was waiting to take her hand. As their children we were impacted in a way we are still absorbing. But in the entire world…you will not find 11 children more proud or more thankful to call Vicki Goode, Jan Kelley, and Suzy Jeffrey…Mom. Our Lord has given us a heritage of those who fear His name. There lives will continue to give testimony to the heart and life of their mother and father.

I have always loved Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Yet now at this stage of life I find this verse has taken on a deeper meaning. On August 10th at 9:33 I saw my mom-o’s flesh and her heart fail, yet in that moment I saw her take hold of a portion that will be hers for forever.

In 1860 a hymn was written by Robert Lowry…his words even now speak to my heart about our grandmother’s passage from this life to the next.
"My life flows on in endless song;Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the sweet though far off hymnThat hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;It finds an echo in my soul—How can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—How can I keep from singing?

May the Lord be praised for the life of Val Cardwell. She has joined the chorus around His throne…how can we keep from singing?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hands raised in Praise!

Just sent this email out to over 200 people that have been praying...I want the World to know how great is our GOD!

dearest friends-

The Lord has heard our cry and today the courts of Benin granted the long awaited piece of paper that Kelly and Randy have needed to begin Lael's American adoption...We are beside ourselves! So thankful to the Lord and so thankful to you for asking, seeking and knocking on our behalf!

You can read the details here: There are more steps to take but the process has started...something we have longed for for over a year now!

Join us in rejoicing He has answered our prayer of Psalm 90:16, "Let us see your miracles again; let our children see Your glory at work!"

His goodness is overwhelming!


Monday, August 07, 2006


Thank you for your prayers for Benjamin! He is feeling so much better. Tony spent the weekend in Tyler with his parents, Payton went to the ranch with my parents, so Benjamin and I had the whole weekend together to concentrate on getting him better. It was so sweet to have that time just he and I. We loved every moment of it...but the definite highlight of our weekend (right after welcoming Valerie home from England) was when we were reunited with Payton and Tony. I love watching Payton and Benjamin embrace...It is such a joy to watch their friendship grow!

I took these pictures of Benj a couple of weeks ago at the ranch. Tony has cleared out a new section of land and we had come over to explore. Tony was finishing trimming a tree so we sat down to wait on him...I loved how contented he was to just sit there and wait on his dad ( I am showing you 3 of about 10 pictures I took of this same scene...)

Thursday, August 03, 2006


This has been an interesting week...

Too many details to blog about... some mundane, some not mine to share, some just everyday frustrations of life on earth, and then on top of all of those issues, our sweetest Benjamin has been the kind of sick where he does not sleep unless held. He is currently on breathing treatments amidst other things trying to get his breathing back to normal and his temp down from 102.9...I have layed down beside his crib the past 2 nights listening for every breath (when he would allow us to put him in there) and I have prayed and thought of him and many of you.

I say all of this to say...23 comments on that last post...unheard of on this blog. But so appreciated. To all of you who commented, encouraged and made me smile, thank you! I thought of Proverbs 18:4 last night as I prayed for each of you..."A person's words can be life -giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook."

Thank you for offering life giving water to me and to my family. You thought you were posting a comment on a blog...the Lord used you to refresh my soul!


This was the boys at their birthday party...they were so excited! The party was at Glenview Baptist Church...they have a 4000 square feet, 4 story playland that our kids love.

(It was built with the vision that if you make the church a place kids love to come...they will bring their parents. They have open play several times a week when you can bring your kids and they have their childrens ministers walking around ministering to the community. We love the vision, we love the place!)

Benjamin in his flip flops...Notice he wears them between his 2nd and 3rd toes...It pains me to look at them, but everytime I fix them, he puts them back...People stop us constantly to tell me, "His flip flops are on wrong." My response, "Thank you , He's 2."

Payton was (as you can see) so excited to open his guitar. He loves it. He sits and strums and sings for hours...This morning I was holding Benjamin who was completely lethargic due to fever and Payton said, "This ones for Benj...I"m trading my sickness, I'm trading my pain, I am laying them down for the joy of the Lord..."

Benjamin blowing out his candle for most likely the 50th time! He wanted them re-lit iuntil we burned that 2 down to a nub...

Friday, July 28, 2006

The latest...

For my family who continues to check this blog...

1. We were at the ranch last weekend and had a great great that I left my camera in the little compartment on the front of the four- wheeler. Hence, still no pictures from the boys birthday...They are coming eventually (if my camera has not melted).

2. The boys and I just got back from downtown Ft. Worth where we went to see Andy and his office for the first time. His office is on the 8th floor overlooking Sundance square. Needless to say, I am impressed when someone's first job actually involves an office and a window. We are so very proud of him...Payton was a little disappointed...on they way home I was talking about how great it was and Payton said, "yes, but it does not have a pool or a train." Payton would of preferred Andy to get a job at 6-flags.

3. Sam graduated on Tuesday and is now officially back from his training and is once again with his family in the DC area. We are so proud of him as well. I believe his title is that of Special (something) for the Defense Department...He graduated at the top of his class. Way to go Sam! (and Emille, Bailey and Brylee!)

4. We continue to pray for the adoption process of precious Lael...Kelly and Randy will not be able to return to America until this happens. Please continue to lift this situation up in prayer...dealing with the government in Benin is difficult.

5. About a year ago Tony and I were feeling lost at our church. We loved it, just did not feel like we really fit anywhere. We had alot of great friends but were still feeling was one of those times in life when you start feeling restless in your spirit and realize the Lord is trying to do something new in your heart. We started praying about staying, praying about leaving, thinking of all the great places we could go and thinking about the great place we were...Completely orchestrated by the Lord we started meeting with a group of people we did not know well at all who had one common thread...we were all searching for the 3 C's...Community-Commitment-(above all) Christ.

This group has become more than a class to us (we started meeting as a class in Feb.), it has become a lifeline. We walk out of class each week talking about Great the Lord is...only He could bring a group of people from all different walks of life together and make it feel like family. It is a group of people eager to experience more of the Lord, ready to get out and share their faith, ready to love each other and ready to be Christ's hand extended to the world...I love being a part of the Body of Christ. His ability to bring unity from diversity is beautiful!

6. Payton asked the other day while I was putting him to bed for his nap if he needed to close his eyes this time. I told him Yes. He came out of his room about 5 minutes later and walked in and said, " I need you to understand something, when I close my eyes I can't see." I laughed and told him that was the point.

7. Benjamin is Eddie Haskell. He is a doll but he is up to something almost always. However, if he hears anyone coming or calling his name he quickly folds his hands behind his back and grins...if he is doing something he knows he should not be doing (like dumping syrup all over the floor) he will kick it up a notch and say, "wuv you mommy".

8. We are in a fun season of life. We love each other, our kids, and the Lord. I don't know if this makes sense but for awhile it felt as if we were constantly striving...for what, I am not really sure- it made for a hectic, fast-paced life where at the end of the day we would look around and feel as if we had accomplished nothing... there is now a deep peace in our home that we both feel and we recognize it for what it is- contentment with the Lord and the life He has given.

9. Today my car is in the shop...when we walked out into the garage today and the boys saw we were going in Tony's truck both of them started clapping. Benjamin saying, "Back tuck! Back tuck! (translated, Black truck! Black truck!) after I got them both buckled in Payton said, "Someday when I am big and you are little I will drive this truck and I will be cool, just like dad."

10. The book "Sacred Parenting" is one of the best books I have ever read. It is a life changer that talks of how the Lord seeks to mold you through your children. Tony and I were both challenged by this quote:

" What the majority of us spend the the bulk of our time worrying baout-our 9-5 job, what houses we live in, how we're going to spend the weekend, how physically fit we look, what vehicle we drive--ultimately amounts to nothing adn gets completley forgoteen. what we often ignore in our pursuit of the above--that is our children, and our families--are the only things we truly leave behind....

When I embrace my historical insignificance , I am set free to concentrate on very real--and eternal--relational significance. I matter to my wife. I am very important to my children. I have secure standing as an adopted child of the Most High God. (I matter to advancing His Kingdom) These are the relationships on which I want to focus my life. This is where I want to spend my energy."

If you actually made it to the end of this, I am impressed...I am figuring by now I am writing to an audience of mom, who has felt obligated to read every word I have written through out my entire existence...Thank you mom- I knew I could count on you!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Payton's Birth!

At the time of Payton's birth we were not skilled in birthing room pictures or our new digital camera...all we took have a little too much exposure for web viewing...The rest were taken with a non-digital camera...Feel free to drop by where you will be shown his creative memory scrapbook still beautiful in its box and then shoebox after shoebox of pictures taken in the first days of his life!

Payton was due on July 4th. With the exception of our wedding date, we have never anticipated a day so much in our life...(and actually we anticipated Payton's birth much longer than we anticipated our wedding, we met and married in 7 months, we waited for Payton for 9) When July 4th came and went I felt like a huge part of me deflated...except for the fact that I was still massive. We began every other day sonograms to make sure the placenta was viable and the amniotic fluid level was still good. The song that was very popular that summer was a song whose tune stuck in my head...I don't remember a word of the song except for the chorus..."You know I'd walk a thousand miles if I could just see you, if I could just hold you, tonight...." I remember singing that to Payton over and over again as I would drive down the road...and thinking I really would...we wanted nothing more than to see our boy. After 2 trips to labor and delivery because my dr. felt on the 1st one- Payton's heart was doing weird things and 2nd- he was not moving as much as he should...only to be sent home each time I was beside in seriously, I need to get a hold of myself- beside myself. My blood pressure was up so the Dr. asked me to quit excercising and take all salt out of my diet...I did and came back the next week...She told me her concerns about inducing...I listened and then begged for that option. (I look back now and think why was I so anxious...) She said not yet. Give it another week. I was dialated to nothing and was not at all effaced.

They decided to admit me to the hospital on Sunday night, July 14th at 5. Tony and I ate at Cracker Barrel on the way. The manager came by to ask how our dinner was and Tony said great, "this is where we wanted to eat on our last meal before we became parents, is there a special discount for that?" Uhhhh-no...

We got to the hospital, got my cervidil, Sam and Emille brought Subway- I was not supposed to eat again after 6 (hence my 2 huge meals within an hour of each other) and then we hung out. The hospital said there was a good chance my body would start its labor on its I waited...Tony went sound asleep on the couch bed and finally around 3 AM I went down to the lobby where my mom and Emille were waiting and told them to go on home, I bet nothing happened until tomorrow. They did and I literally sat in my bed watching the clock, praying, trying to sleep and wondering if I would ever have this baby. They checked me in the morning and the cervidel had done nothing.

My doctor said with my blood pressure up, projections on the size of Payton's head up and the fact that Tony had just explained if she sent us home we would just go wait in our car until I went into labor... she thought she would see if she could break my water. She did and they started pitosin at 7Am. I had decided, with Tony's support, to have Payton naturally. The thing I vividly remember was that I did not have any building block contractions....they were hard and fast immediately. By noon I was whipped from not having slept and not having eaten, by 2 I was exhausted...Tony, Emille and my mom where there being so encouraging the whole time...They had been checking me all morning with little result...I remember at 2:15 the nurse saying, "she is still not dialated to even a finger tip." I was crushed. The nurse explained that because my contactions were literally off the charts my body was having a hard time catching up, it was not able to relax and perhaps I needed a pain pill to take some of the edge off, my dr. came and said she highly recommended that...I said I was not sure, Tony said he was...and in the sweetest moment came over and said your exhausted, hungry and beat...let's do this and meet our son. I took the pill and went to sleep.

I was in and out of the deepest sleep the rest of the day. I remember waking up and seeing the clock read 6:45 PM and then feeling a contraction and realizing I still had not had my baby. At 8:45 they said I was ready to push. Tony later told me they had given me my epidural at 7:00 but I slept through it. I pushed on every contraction, or at least I thought I was pushing...obviously my epidural was a little strong...Tony said I was sleeping in between every contraction, (now that I have had Benjamin it is hard to imagine that is possible but I do remember him waking me up to push)...Finally after 5 minutes they decided to try to the vacuum...the first time the suction broke on Payton 's head and the dr. literally flew across the room...she then siad, we are trying this one more time, assemble the c-section team...My mom and Emille were waiting right outside the door when 5 more nurses pushed through...this time the vacuum held and out came the the most amazing baby. He screamed so loudly and then stopped suddenly and looked right at Tony and I. It was the most incredible moment. Payton James Brooks entered the world at 9PM, July 15th, 2002 weighing 7lbs, 9 ounces, 19" long.

During the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy with Payton my mom would often be the one that took me downtown for my sonograms. I remember one day in particular driving home with her and crying the whole way about how badly I wanted Pate to be born. My mom was agreeing with me and said, "I know you are ready but there is something so special about having your baby inside of you. It is wonderful when they are out, the absolute greatest joy...but there will be a part of you that misses and aches for them the rest of your life." I remember crying then, but I understand that on a different level now. There is a vulnerability to having your children exposed that brings about the greatest joy and the deepest of aches. I would not miss it for the world. The last 4 years Tony and I have laughed more, cried more, praised the Lord more, sought Him more and because He has brought us to place of realizing our children are ultimately His, we have trusted Him more. Today is a day we mark with great zeal because it is Payton's birthday, but we mark it for another reason as well. 4 years ago we became parents, when our hearts became exposed to the world in the form of our first child. What an incredible gift from the Lord!

Unofficial Birthday Post

Today is Payton's birthday...He could not goto sleep last night he was so excited...

This morning at 6AM he came in and put his hands on my face (I was sound asleep) and said, "Mom, am I really four?" I told him he was and the grin on his face was priceless. His next announcement was, "let's go tell Benjamin..." In an effort to give Benjamin a few more hours of sleep I told Payton I would take him to get a donut...Once in the car he asked if we could go to Starbucks instead. This was the first time he had been in one (We are drive thru fans).

He loved sitting on the couch to eat...(that does not happen at our house, the boys have to remind me of that often). As we were sitting there eating our Reduced fat chocolate Bannana cake (his favorite) he said, "Mom we have not talked to God today." I told him he was right. He said, "we need to tell him thanks for this Starbucks and especially for letting me be four. I think this is going to be the best day ever." I asked him to pray and he pretty much repeated everythig he had just said to the Lord. My heart was full.

I vividly remember bringing Payton home from the hospital and crying in the back seat, sitting next to his bucket, and wondering how in the world we were actually supposed to know how to raise a child. The responsibility seemed so huge and still does...In moments like the one we had this morning, my heart is filled with the purest joy and delight- I am so thankful to the Lord for placing Payton in our home, for giving us the awesome responsibility of raising him, and for letting him be four...I think this is going to be the best day ever!

***We are having the combined birthday at 10...lots of stories and pics to follow!***

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Benjamin's Birth!

Benjamin turned 2 on Monday. Our dog chose to celebrate by digging out and getting thrown in the pokie, so the time I usually would of spent writing about our sweet boy was spent negotiating her release...

On July 9, 2004 I woke up and called my mom and sister in Africa and told them I thought I was beginning labor...They were coming home the 15th (Payton's birthday and Benjamins due date) and both said they hoped I was not. I knew I wanted them there but I was also so excited to see who this baby was....we had not found out if this baby was a girl or boy and we were anxious.

Later on we took Payton to a friends house and headed to the hospital where they told me...I was not in labor. I was stunned...Tony was too- we did not have maternity coverage so before we left we had to write out a 500$ check...Ouch.

On the way to get Payton we stopped to get lunch at Cracker Barrel (you will soon notice this is a running theme in our birth stories) and I told Tony over lunch.."I am having some hard contractions..." I believe he said something really romantic like, " I will be able to see the head before we go back up there...." I continued to have hard contractions throughout the day but nothing regular so we swam with Payton and just enjoyed our day together. I went to bed early while Tony stayed up to watch a movie...around 11:30 I came in told Tony I knew I was in labor. We decided I would start timing the contractions and then we realized we had no idea how far apart they were supposed to be (I was induced with Payton.) Our computer was down so we called our friends Danny and Jody Allison-(Its midnight by now) apologized for waking them up -(Danny said , "No big deal, Jody just walked in from Wal-mart.") Jody googled contractions and we realized mine were coming regularly every 3 minutes...Jody drove over to keep Payton while we paced, breathed and tried to find my dad. (He had left his phone downstairs at the ranch and was sound asleep.) I called Sam and Emille and woke them bawling about how I could not find my dad...let's say that was pregnancy hormones. Sam was so encouraging and said he would take over calling my dad. Meanwhile we are on the way to the hospital...I am actually using my lamaze and cool as a cucumber Tony was actually starting to sweat.

On the way to the hospital Tony said, "We still do not have a boy name..." I said, " I know its a girl , we don't need one...if its a boy we will just see who he looks like." We both wanted another boy so badly knowing Payton would have a brother so close in age that we had decided not to find out on our sonogram...We knew we would be absolutly thrilled with a girl...we just thought we would do better finding out on the spot when she was actually in arms. We got to the hospital at 1:30 and I was dialated to a 7 and 1/2 ...The nurse said, "looks like you are going to have this one naturally." I said, "Actually I saw on TV the other day there are drugs to slow a labor down, I will have one of those and then get my epidural. (For all my natural friends that do not know, I had tried to have Payton naturally, the result was not pretty and I knew I coudl not do that again with a 2 year old at home.)

They were able to slow my labor down, I got an epidural and began pushing at 6:30. After about 15 minutes the Dr. said, "Ok- on your next push you will have your baby...ok GO" and Tony's cell phone rang and he answered it...The Dr. said, "Ok lets wait till dad is off the phone." I beleive my word were, "Babe, are you serious?" Too which he responded, "Its your dad, you have been crying all night wanting to talk to him..." We both burst out laughing then as I explained I was now focused on something else. (My dad had awoken to find he had 68 missed calls, had figured out what was going on, and was headed back to the Metroplex. ) I started pushing again, heard a cry and heard "ITS A BOY!" We were thrilled, beside ourselves, overwhelmed with love, shocked and speechless.

Tony cut the cord (this was a story that is vivid in my mind but must be told in person.) and then said, "what's his name? he does not look like anybody." We pondered names for awhile and then decided that Deuteronomy 33:12 was a verse we loved and wanted to claim at birth for our son.

" About Benjamin he said: " Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, For HE shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders."

I love it even more in The Message, "Benjamin is, God's beloved, God's permanent residence. He is encircled by God all day long, within him God is at home."

That continues to be our prayer for our precious son. He is Benjamin Jeffrey Brooks Born at 6:47 AM on July 10th, 2004, 20 inches long and 8lbs, 9 ounces. He is ours, He is the Lords.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My Roommates

We had the absolute best weekend. There is nothing like being with friends who know you inside and out, who know what it is like to live with you on a daily basis, who know things you are proud of and things you would rather forget (and sometimes they even let you)...there really is no friend like a college roommate.

As I drove home on Sunday I thought of countless blessings that come from a weekend like the one I just had....

1. I called Tony on the way home...he and the boys had had an amazing weekend at the ranch. Tony, my dad, and my brother spent the weekend taking care of our boys. I knew Payton and Benjamin were truly experiencing life with the guys when I called on Friday night at 11:30 to see how things had gone and Tony said, "I am going to have to call you back, I am in the middle of making the boys dinner..." What?! They had the best time. My dad blessed me by saying "Tony is the absolute best dad, it brought me alot of joy to watch him parent the boys."

2.I called my mom and dad and once again thanked them for ACU... loved it while I was there, love the fruit of friendship that still grows as result of my time there.

3. I am so blessed to have friends with which we can be laughing over something so ridiculous and in the next minute someone has their Bible out sharing a truth they have just taken hold of.

4. I am realizing what a gift it is to have friends who don't just support me in my marriage, they love my husband. All through out the weekend I was reminded of each of us standing as bridesmaids at each every wedding we felt confident our friend was making the best choice but now, years later- to see that affirmed by stories told and actions seen makes me love the Lord that much more. As I reflected on the weekend I realized no one ever shared a negative story about their husband...So many were told of walking through tough times and seeing the strength of the men we married...We prayed together often for these men long before we even knew them...This weekend we rejoiced together that the Lord brought Tony, Richard, Mark, Mike and Koy as the answer to those prayers.

5. We spent many a night in college staying up talking and snacking on Rice Crispie cereal...we have definitely matured...we stayed up late on Friday with an actual "fountain of chocolate" dipping everything in it we could think of.

6. We have learned a weekend is too short to spend it acting like someone we are not. I love these weekends because I am always reminded of who I am without all the layers. We laugh together a lot...but there are always challenges of really? why do you feel that way? explain that? I love the realness that emerges.

7. It is great to realize that though life is changing us...the core of who you are and your God-given gifts remain the same...

I started trying to list off every roommate and all of their gifts, but I can share that with each of them rather than the world (or the 2 people that will actually read this). The point is this...I remember on a trip to Africa when I was a child I got lost at a marketplace. I was not gone long enough for anyone in my family to even know I was gone but being in a foreign land, with a foreign language being spoken and feeling seperated was terrifying. I remember the feeling of immediate peace when I saw my dad's head (He is 6'7) across the way. My dad was there I was safe.

My senior year in college my grandmother died...I was sad, exhausted, and altogether worn out from the day of visitation, funeral and everything that goes with it. I remember feeling lost in it all as I got out of the car for the burial. I vividly remember looking up and seeing my roommates - they had all driven to Weatherford to support me. The feeling of peace was immediate, the feeling of being secure in a friendship brought tears of thankfulness.

Each year when we come together each of us has experienced joys and pain, trials and victories...easy to get lost in it all...and yet the security of old friends brings a peace and a joy that is truly a gift from God. As I drove home on Sunday I wiped away those same tears of thankfulness. It was a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The latest on Payton

Just a few quick notes from the life of our Payton...I will not go into every last detail of his life as that is coming next week...Monday- Benjamin turns two...Saturday-Payton turns four. Hold onto your seats for the upcoming birthday posts.

We are practicing blowing out candles at every turn. I have become a master this week at sticking 4 candles in one chicken nugget. The boys want Happy Birthday sung at every meal "Just to practice"- NO problem- we are happy to do it!

Payton and Benjamin and I were eating at Chick-fil-a when Payton said, "Mom- you want to hear a secret...lean in close." I leaned in and he said, "You might just be the cutest thing in here." I laughed and said, "thank you" and he said, "Mom- I am serious."

Later as we were driving home they were playing with their new toys. Benjamin somehow managed (they are on opposite sides of the SUV) to get one of Payton's action figures and an argument broke out...Basically an argument consists of Payton asking Benjamin for something back and Benjamin screaming NO in a bloodcurdling scream over and over again. I told them that that was enough, we were nearly home and I would work things out, but until then, no talking until we get there...about 2 minutes later Payton said, "Excuse me Mom, Is it ok if I unbuckle myself and hit Benjamin?" at least he is polite even in violence...

Today Payton asked if he could watch Playhouse Disney- I told him No...he said, "Mom, trust me, its fun and educational."

Today Payton said he had a surprise for me in closet...I needed to walk into Benjamin's room and sit down. As I walked in he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Boys and Girls...I present to you, Your president, (He opens the door and Benjamin walks out of the closet) President Orange Bush." We're still working on that.

I leave tomorrow for our 10th (is that possible?) annual college roommate weekend! So excited! This is the first one in 4 years that someone has not brought a baby. BJ is due with their second (a boy) at the first of November. Mike is keeping the Stegemoller 3...Koy is keeping Reese...Richard is keeping Josh and the twins and Tony is going to be having a guys weekend with our boys...Payton loves explaining to me that that means I cannot come.

I will post some pictures when I return on Sunday!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


In these pictures you get a glimpse of Benjamin and why he is not allowed to eat popsicles inside.

Everyone was playing outside the other day and we looked over and Benjamin had taken off all of his clothes and was sitting in the dog dish. Someone has tried to explain to me that he takes off all of his clothes and crawls into small spaces trying to recreate the womb...REALLY?! (said in my best, "I am trying to be respectful but you can't be serious voice.) Because I am sure the dog dish and the womb have striking resemblances...

For some added sister has added pictures of my boys on her blog. I love delighting in my children, but it is the sweetest joy to watch my family love on them as well.... Kelly and Randy have about a year left in Benin before they move back this way...Our boys anticipate their arrival (they are crazy about their cousins) more than any other event. It will be the sweetest of reunions! Check out

Our family would covet your prayers that Lael's adoption would proceed quickly. She cannot leave the country until she is official. She is more ours with every beat of our heart but the process is long as far as paperwork is concerned. Please join us in praying that the Lord woud allow all those involved to pursue the completion of this with a fervent heart. Kelly and Randy have done all of their part we wait and pray.

Monday, June 26, 2006


I have been trying on and off to post some pictures and blogger is blocking me every frustrating.

Until I can get some pictures up and running here are some words I wrote recently to a friend when asked about Benjamin.

"Benjamin will turn 2 next month on the 10th. He is an absolute delight. At about 5 months I told my mom..."Benjamin has a sparkle in his eye that looks like he is up to something...I wonder if that will hold true in his personality...." Well 18 months later it does. He is constantly on the move, not entertained by a video, would rather be dismantling something or tasting Tony 's aftershave or just trying to figure out a way to turn on the shower (he tries to rig a stepladder out of whatever he can get his hands on.) He also does not enjoy clothing, preferring nakedness...except for a navy blue pair of sandals that we cannot get off of his feet. I used to fight I have decided at least he is cute and navy does seem to go with everything. :)

We are entering the stage where we are in a constant discipline mode. When we tell Benjamin no he seems to think that means, "Go ahead and do it, just do it with a smile all the while never looking away from your parents." He makes his brother laugh like no one else. They are loving playing with each other and do great until one of them tackles the other just for good measure. Then it is a full blown wrestling match...I believe I am starting to understand why I remember hearing my mom say, "You guys have got to learn to stop before someone gets hurt." They are boys loving to get dirty, roll around, jump off of high places and take a bath, and then find some mud and roll around some more. "

Hopefully soon I will have pictures to go along with this... To all my faithful readers :) There is more to come!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stung by a Wiseman/ Watched by an Angel

Today Payton was stung by a wasp. There is a huge nest on the bottom of our slide (I obviously found it after this occurred.) The boys were playing on the slide when all of the sudden they were swarmed. I grabbed them both and ran but Payton had already been stung twice on the finger. I believe he has my flair for the dramatic...even after he stopped crying he would look down at his finger and say, "Oh...Help me....Help me, someone..." He keeps asking who hurt his finger, I reply "a wasp" to which he says, "a wiseman"...I have tried to correct him but he continues to tell people "A wise man stung me today." I am quite sure his Bible school teachers will be impressed...those guys have not gotten alot of press since they delivered their gifts to Jesus.

Yet another Payton story is that as we were reading his Bible (with pictures) the other night, we came to the page that has the angel sitting in front of Jesus tomb. Payton said, "That looks like that guy that is at Precious house." (Precious is what all of the grandkids call my mother.) My parents do not have angels hanging up anywhere in their home so I said, "I don't think there are any angels in Precious house." Payton replied, "He is not in the house, he is the backyard, he watches me and Benjamin while we play. He watched Bailey when she was here, we like him." I said, "Has he ever talked to you?" Payton said, "No, he does not talk he just runs beside us and smiles when we smile at him. He just makes sure we are ok."

I am so thankful Payton is ours...but even more thankful he is the Lords.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Looking for Some Good News?!

8 Years ago, we put my sister, her husband and my brand new niece on a plane to Benin, West Africa. It was one of the hardest, most emotional days of days of my life. like this makes me look back at that day with different eyes...that day remains an emotional one in my memory, but is now a day I see as a turning point for a nation, a people many have never heard of...The Aja people are transforming into His image as they get word of a Savior who loves them, who died for them, who frees them from the fear of Voodoo, who has conquered all.

I am so thankful that they went, so thankful that they stayed...(there have been many hardships in the past 8 years). The Lord Has been and continues to be good! His Word goes forth!

Read the May 21st report!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

MAY 16th- what a day!

33 years ago today Tony Brooks entered the world. 7 years ago today we went on our first date. We were married 7 months and 2 days later.

I look forward to May 16th every year. It marks the start of the best season of my life. Falling in love with him was so great...waking up with a smile on my face before I even could remember why...applying at the same place to work because we really thought the only way life could get better was if we worked together...realizing the Lord's best doesn't require alot of debating, it is easy to recognize.

Being married has brought even more smiles, there is no one I laugh harder with than one I would rather talk with, pray with, be with...He is it for me! I praise the Lord that 7 years ago the best part of my life began!

I celebrate this day each year with my whole heart. I am so thankful he was born! Happy Birthday Tony!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Best Day

Yesterday was a such a great one. We went downtown adn road the Forest park train. All four of the kids loved the experience and so did their moms and their Precious.

Tony and I recieved word from some dear friends about a precious baby girl that is fighting for her life in Dallas and would we pray for her?...All the time I was enjoying my life with my kids and our cousins I had Baby Eva in the back of my mind, pleading with the Lord for her life and for her family. As I grow older I am reminded of how life twists and turns goes up hill and down. The Lord is faithful through it all. I cling to Him remembering His ways are higher than mine. Much, much higher. I ache to see Him return. In the midst of a joyful life here on earth, we still are longing for the ultimate healing that will only be found in Him.

Benjamin gets a coke

Benjamin had his first coke yesterday. Needless to say, he loved it. Yet another needless to say, Tony was neither amused or accepting of the fact that I offered it to him. I am with Tony, (who is the most disciplined person to walk the planet by the way), However, it made for some cute pics.
This series of pictures made us laugh. We could not get the kid to put down his cup. He literally walked around the park with his face covered.

Emille, Mom and Brylee

My sister-in-law Emille is the best. I love laughing with her and talking with her. She is a great mom, great wife to my brother and a great friend to me. Every role she has she does well. It is a joy to watch her be a mom to Bailey and Brylee, who really are the cutest little girls.


This has been a wonderful week of the boys being with their cousins. Payton and Benjamin love Bailey and Brylee. Benjamin also has a secial affection for aunt Emille who he has decided to call LEELEE, its in all caps because that is how he says it...He wants her eyes on him at all times.

There are 8 cousins on the Jeffrey side, It has been said once, it can be said again...All 8 love their Uncle Andy. Everyone squeals when Andy walks in room.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Payton's Program

Last night was Payton's end of the year program. His class sang- Bah Bah Black Sheep, RED, Skinamarenk, Twinkle, Twinkle, Recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then played Kum ba Yah with hand bells. It was so much fun to watch. If you would like, we will be showing the video in 30 minutes intervals this coming Saturday at our house...feel free to stop by. :)

I continue to be amazed at how quickly he grows, learns and becomes his own person. We went to get ice cream afterwards and he said, "I could see from the stage that dad was really proud of me." He was right, you would of thought from Tony and I's excitement level that he was graduating with highest honors. He is a delight to us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

So refreshed!

We just returned from a week in Colorado...It was the best. You will notice there is not one family picture...the only negative to having a week where it was really just the four of us! We laughed togehter, prayed together, watched Payton and Benjamin lead praise every night on the hearth, ate every meal together, played together, realized yet again how thankful we are we married each other and how thankful we are for our two boys....there was a lot of walking around with our hands raised to the Lord...Only He could be this sweet...