Well, I’m As Nervous As I’ve Ever Been

When I was a little girl – not much older than Alex is now – I had a Mississippi State scrapbook. I faithfully cut out any article that was in either my hometown paper or the Jackson paper, and I’d carefully place it in the scrapbook, along with my ticket stubs and pictures from the game day programs. I’ve always loved words, and I’ve always loved college football, and that little scrapbook – which I believe I bought at Eckerd’s – was the first time I’d kept a record of either. I can still picture the way I wrote the score of each game next to my ticket stub – in a blue Biro pen, no less.

This week has made me think a lot about that old scrapbook. The internet has been CHOCK FULL of coverage about the Bulldogs and Auburn and their upcoming game, and it’s been a little bit like drinking from a fire hydrant. Today alone I’ve seen three or four articles about Dak Prescott, three about our coaches, a couple about recruiting, and from my perspective it’s almost been a little surreal. At State we’re pretty used to folks looking past us, so being on the cover of Sports Illustrated is, you know, SORT OF DIFFERENT.

Anyway. I think our game against Auburn will be a good one. And I can’t even imagine how nauseated I’ll be by kickoff because I’m pretty much on adrenaline overload right now. PUT ME IN, COACH LANCE.

(I may have to send a prize to the first person who gets that reference without the aid of the Google.)

Also.

The Bulldogs have gotten so much of my mental space this week that I haven’t even told y’all about something exciting and also terrifying that happened last Friday: I got home from work and found a box of Advance Reader Copies of my new book on the front porch.

First thought: WHOA NELLIE.

IMG_2986

Second thought: This is way bigger than the first book. (It’ll be a couple of months before I see the final typeset version, but there are more chapters in this one than there were in the last one, and apparently that makes a difference.)

IMG_2987

IMG_2988

(I had trouble capturing the size differential in a picture. But I promise that the 2nd book is bigger. And also, please enjoy Hazel’s manic movements in the background.)

Third thought: WHOA NELLIE.

Fourth thought: I WOULD LIKE TO HIDE NOW.

Alex actually read the new book this week, and he told me today that he gives it two thumbs up. I was thrilled for about six seconds, and then I remembered that I am in fact the person who buys his groceries and cooks his meals. So I feel that the literal home cookin’ most definitely affected his analysis and evaluation.

Last topic.

I had a speaking thing today for the Samford Legacy League, and before the luncheon someone brought me a gift bag and said she’d been given instructions to deliver it. I put the bag with my purse, and because I had a bunch of stuff to carry to my car when I left, I didn’t open the bag until I got home.

Here’s what I found.

IMG_2985

Well. Well. Well.

It’s a brand new cowbell – and can y’all see that it says “BooMama” over there on the side? Only the “M” is actually the Mississippi State logo?

YOU CAN IMAGINE MY JOY.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my unexpected cowbell gift is a sign that the Bulldogs will win this Saturday.

But I will say that receiving a customized cowbell two days before the biggest game in my school’s history – well, it sure did put a smile on my face. Maybe even a little sparkle in my eyes. So thanks, mysterious gift giver! My nerves and I surely do appreciate it.

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Hail State and Go Dawgs!

Somewhere In Between

Warning: this post is all over the place. It’s probably four posts in one. But I wrote it on and off yesterday afternoon – with plans to edit it later – and I decided this morning to just post it as-is. Clearly I’m feeling a little spontaneous and living on the edge. :-)

This is the first year that Alex has played football, and I’ve been a little surprised by what a commitment it is for our family. I don’t say that begrudgingly at all because he has loved it and David and I have loved watching him love it, but most weekdays I feel like I look up and it’s 9:00 at night. We get home from work / school and I check blog email and Alex walks Hazel and I start supper and he eats a snack and David gets home and then one of us takes Alex to practice.

I’d originally thought that practice would be a fun time for D and me to get to eat out or walk around a book store or hang out on the practice field and talk, but as it turns out Hazel’s least favorite thing in the world is going into her crate for the second time in a day. So one of us stays with her, one of us does the practice run, and by the time we’re all home again and we eat supper and try to have a conversation that lasts longer than two minutes, it’s A’s bedtime. On a good night I manage to stay awake until 10:30, but most nights I don’t make it past 10.

5 AM is always early, you know?

At least once a day I think about all of you who have 2, 3, 4, or more kids – all involved in an activity – and in my head I applaud you for getting those young’uns where they need to be every single day. As kids get older, practice schedules are no joke, and even though I am the first person to jump on the STOP OVER-PROGRAMMING KIDS soapbox, I am also mindful that part of our job as parents is to help young’uns figure out what they love to do, to help them realize what they’re good at doing, and to put them in situations where they’re working for something way bigger than themselves.

It’s a fine line. But right now – on this Tuesday night at the tail end of September – I feel pretty good about where we’re standing. Tomorrow may be a different story.

And then there’s this. I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 20 years in a classroom. I’ve taught a bunch of different subjects, but mostly I’ve taught American literature. This year, though, I’ve shifted into a new job. I have an office instead of a classroom, and now I spend most of the school day talking to and praying with and occasionally handing out Kleenexes to high school girls. It’s weird to be in an office after so many years with chalkboards and then white boards and then SmartBoards. I have a phone on my desk now, but I’m not at all used to it and I jump when it rings. Anybody who has been a teacher can relate to the strangeness of a ringing phone during the workday. Ringing bells are one thing, but that phone? That phone is something else.

My new job doesn’t come with any sort of fancy title and doesn’t require special credentials. Thankfully we have a licensed counselor who can deal with the more serious issues, and that is such a comfort to me. I’m really just there to love on our girls and help them navigate day-to-day stuff: problems with friends, questions about faith, frustrations with hair or clothes or boys. I told somebody last week that I’m sort of like a drama coach – only my job has nothing to do with musicals or plays. And I’m not trying to help the girls get better at drama; I’m trying to encourage them to stop it. Walk away from it. Love each other. Honor each other. Honor each other. Honor each other.

(That last thing is a pretty big deal to me.)

I probably visit with an average of 8 or 10 girls every day, and for the first couple of weeks, I talked a lot. Shared my ideas. Told them how I thought they should handle things. And they were super gracious to me in my over-enthusiastic attempts to solve their problems. But somewhere around the end of week two, I felt like the Lord was reminding me over and over again to keep my mouth shut. I mean, He didn’t say, “SHUT UP” or anything like that – thankfully God’s a whole lot more patient than I am and not even a little bit rude – but almost every time I’d open my mouth to “fix” something, I’d get that check in my spirit that sounded a lot like, EASY, GLADYS. NOT SO FAST. DIAL IT BACK A NOTCH. LET HER TALK.

It’s been such a good lesson.

For those first few weeks after school started, I felt consistently overwhelmed by the new work stuff. And at least a small part of that, I think, was that I wanted to do my best to help but couldn’t figure out how to manage my days. People floated in and out of my office. I couldn’t plan what my day would look like. I missed the structure of my junior English class and the element of control that comes with HERE. LET ME TEACH YOU ABOUT JAY GATSBY. I HAVE SOME POINTS. YOU’RE GONNA WANT TO WRITE THEM DOWN.

It’s so much better now, though. I’m still smack dab in the middle of a big ole learning curve, but I’m figuring out how to flex a little more. I’m don’t feel pressure to fix everything because I’m reminded every day that the Lord’s timing is so much better than mine. It is a kick – A KICK – to see the Lord at work and marvel at how intricately He designs the details of people’s lives. And I told David tonight that I’m learning – slowly but surely – that what I’m really getting to do every day is see how Light ripples and bounces when it gets to shine in dark places. Each day preaches a new and different and beautiful sermon.

All that to say (after almost a thousand words of rambling): I feel a little bit like I’m in transition. David and I now have a boy who is finding his way and loving life and starting to figure out who he is and what makes his heart beat a little faster. I’m doing this new thing at work, and in the strangest way it feels as natural to me as writing does. It’s a different side of my personality, but the days are full and they fly by and by and large they are a blast. And then there’s this new book that comes out in about four months, and while I do feel all kinds of vulnerable about the fact that people may read it and decide they don’t like it or the first one was better or whatever, the process of turning it over to my publisher and letting go of it, so to speak, has been such a relief that I can’t even describe it. I held on to it long enough. It’s time for it to move on.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn so reflective, by the way. It was gonna be light and breezy. But I’ve been reminded so much lately that this is such a sweet, rewarding phase of life, which is sort of ironic because ten years ago I would have told you that there was nothing about the mid-40s that sounded even remotely fun to me. I always thought I’d be so sad to not be the mama of a little one anymore. But as it turns out, I’m not sad at all. I’m just grateful. I turn 45 in a couple of days – FORTY-FIVE – but I don’t feel a single bit of the inner freak-out that 40 dumped on the front doorstep of my mind and my heart. Earlier today I was trying to figure out how to put this particular time in my life into words, and here’s what I came up with:

GIDDY UP.

So maybe I should warn you that 45 may not be a particularly eloquent time for me.

Thankfully Mumford & Sons can express themselves way better than I do. I heard the song “Below My Feet” about an hour ago, and this right here? THIS IS IT.

Keep the earth below my feet

For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

Let me learn from where I have been

Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

GIDDY UP.

A Few Friday Favorites

Here are a few things that I’m loving this week.

Besides the State/LSU game, of course.

I’ve now watched it five times.

1. For Such A Time As This by Angie Smith -

Angie is one of my favorite writers. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she has such deep, practical understanding of Scripture. She’s written a new children’s Bible storybook especially for little girls, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. It releases October 1st.

2. SheReadsTruth

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 8.08.05 PM

I’m linking to the website so you can see how this Bible study community is set up, but if you have a smartphone, you will most definitely want to download the app. In addition to being chock-full-o-Truth, it’s absolutely beautiful, and it feels like a giant exhale every single time I open it on my phone. You can look up verses, work through a study, jump into community – whatever suits your needs at the time. You can also find all sorts of beautiful artwork and photography inside the app, each with an encouraging verse or quote. There’s lots of great information right here if you’d like to learn a little more or give it a try. I think you’ll love it.

3. “Being Left Out Hurts – Let’s Stop ‘Social Engineering’ Now”

Here’s my two cents that nobody asked for: as mamas we need to be really clear – REALLY CLEAR – that if we’re gonna orchestrate and manage and hover over our children’s friendships, our kids will be the ones to suffer for it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be aware and involved. But there is no joy in cultivating a culture of exclusivity – just years of heartache and unhealthy relationships for the parents and the kids. I will spare you my soapbox, but oh have mercy the Gospel compels us to something higher and better in terms of how we treat people and how we expect our children to treat people. And that’s all I have to say about that. :-)

4. Ben Rector – Live in Denver

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 8.47.39 PM

Ben Rector has a new live album, and it is FANTASTIC. Reminds me of my college days when I’d drive back and forth to Starkville listening to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits. It’s a real treat.

5. And last but not least – MSU/LSU Highlight Video

Maybe one day it’ll get old.

But I really can’t imagine when that will be.

(And don’t worry – I’ll be completely focused on A&M next week.)

(The team needs me, you understand.)

(Except not really.)

Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend!

Big & Boo: Coming Soon To Two Cities That Might Be Near You

Well, I would’ve blogged more this week, but I’ve been very busy talking.

That really isn’t an exaggeration. Monday night I met some friends while Alex was at football practice, so that was non-stop talking, and then last night he had a game (more talking), and then work has been full of talking and then talking again and then talking some more.

So I reckon the bottom line has been that by the time I’ve gotten home every night, I’ve been fresh out of words.

But I’ll tell you when I won’t be out of words (HOW’S THAT FOR A TRANSITION?).

November 7-8 and November 16.

Here’s why.

Earlier this year I was speaking at a women’s retreat, and I was walking to the first session when I realized that I missed Melanie like crazy. Seriously. I know that sounds like the most random thing, but for the last six years we’ve done all sorts of women’s ministry stuff together (traveling & blogging for LifeWay, dotMOM, book stuff, etc.). We’ve walked into all kinds of new and different situations, but somehow those things weren’t nearly as intimidating knowing that we had each other.

So when I was walking into a retreat all by myself – well, I missed her.

The retreat turned out to be great simply because there were so many sweet women there, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Melanie were there, too. I thought about how we could’ve taught the sessions together and talked about our hair and maybe even led a discussion group about college football during the breaks.

I mean, assuming that anyone actually wanted to talk about college football, of course.

So I thought about all of these things as I drove back to Birmingham the next day, and I think I’d been home all of two hours when I called Melanie and said something along the lines of “Hey – what would you think about doing some of our speaking stuff together? Because I think it might be a ton of fun.” So we talked about some possibilities, and before we hung up the phone, I said, “Tell you what. The next time one of us gets a speaking request for something out of town, let’s just throw out the idea of us being there together, and we’ll see what happens.”

“Deal,” Melanie said. Or maybe she didn’t say “deal.” I didn’t really commit her response to memory. But she definitely agreed.

And I kid you not. A couple of days after that conversation I got an email about speaking in Charlotte. So I responded with the idea Melanie and I had talked about – and they were nice enough to invite us both.

So just look how that all worked out. WE ARE JUST AS TICKLED.

And while we’ll still be doing most of our speaking stuff individually, we’re so excited that we get to do two speaking things together this November. The first is at First Baptist in Charlotte, NC on November 7-8. I’m speaking Friday night, Melanie is speaking Saturday morning, and then we’re going to do a fun Q&A / podcast-y type of thing after lunch. If you’re in the area, we would love to see you – and you can even make reservations online. Registration closes October 22nd.

We’re also speaking at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, Louisiana on November 16th. It should be a mighty fun Sunday afternoon. There’s tea time at 3, and then we’ll start speaking at 4. There’s even a holiday theme, and that just delights me to no end. Tickets are $15 and will go on sale in a couple of days on the First West website.

Normally I don’t mention a whole lot of speaking stuff in blog posts, but since these two churches were kind and brave enough to give our little idea a chance, we want to help them get the word out. And we’d love to see some of y’all there.

Mainly because I’m hoping some of y’all will ask Melanie about her eyebrow products during the Q&A.

And while I would not dream of frying bacon in a sanctuary, I would be so happy to talk about it in a group setting.

Y’all have a great Thursday!

Subpar Nachos, dotMOM, & Oh Have Mercy A Dak Attack

First of all, raise your hand if you cannot get Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” out of your head.

I know that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. But considering that it’s been playing on a loop in my brain for the better part of two weeks, I just felt like a group acknowledgement might turn down the internal volume a little bit.

So. I got home from Nashville early this afternoon, but only after a slight detour through some beautiful Tennessee horse farm country (I dropped Melanie off at the airport this morning before I started home, but in an attempt to bypass a blown-up bridge on I-65, I took the wrong exit and immediately developed a deep dependence on the Google Maps app). Despite my navigational troubles, I had the best time being at dotMOM and getting to visit with some folks that I don’t get to see nearly enough (even though I’m still sad that there were a few people I didn’t get to see at all). I’m reminded every year that dotMOM really is such a sweet conference, and I hope the mamas who were there left feeling encouraged and rested and relaxed.

Melanie and I got to spend tons of time together while we were in Tennessee (yay for that – we were way overdue), and as is our tradition, we managed to find some truly subpar Mexican food not far from our hotel. We split some fajita nachos, and while I could pretend that they were delicious, the truth is that they were a real low. I later told Mel that I knew we were in trouble when our waiter delivered the nachos and my first thought was, “Gosh, these sort of smell like Italian food.” The saving grace was that the chips and salsa were tasty, not to mention that Edie happened to be passing through and was able to meet us at the restaurant. OH MY WORD WE LAUGHED. And all that laughter did my heart a world of good even if my stomach was considerably less enthusiastic.

Now. Let us talk about the game.

If you are uncertain about which game I am referencing, then clearly I haven’t done a very good job of introducing myself over the course of the last nine years.

It was a little after 5 Saturday afternoon when Melanie and I left the church that was hosting dotMOM, so we went back to our hotel, changed clothes, and drove to our friend Mary Katherine’s house. Mary Katherine is also a big college football fan (specifically: Alabama), and for two years Mel and I have talked about how we’d love to watch a game or eight on Mary Katherine’s back porch. This past Saturday night was our first opportunity to do just that, and it just so happened to coincide with State’s road game against LSU. I wouldn’t say that I had high hopes for the game, but I did think that it would be a good one, and I was mighty curious to see how the Bulldogs would play against an SEC team.

I’d told myself ahead of time that I was going to be a normal person and watch the game on the porch with everybody else, but as soon as we started our first offensive series, I had to put myself in solitary confinement in Mary Katherine’s den. I mean, I don’t think my particular brand of college football crazy is any big secret, but I knew that I’d need to pace and talk to the TV and maybe even yell and I didn’t want to be a distraction to my friends. When State scored I pretty much kicked and yelled and jumped in many graceful and sophisticated ways.

tumblr_m9osywOjJi1qcvkpto1_250

And not too long after that, when our defense stopped LSU on our goal line, I managed to stay put in a chair, but my reaction was basically like this.

tumblr_n2u8dyG4cw1qit2glo1_500

GIFs via Tumblr

By halftime I was feeling borderline confident, but I didn’t dare speak the possibility of winning (long-time Mississippi State fans will totally understand this reaction). And even when it was late in the 4th quarter and I was actually sitting on the porch and feeling somewhat relaxed about the outcome, I still didn’t speak about a possible win because HISTORY HAS BEEN A VERY GOOD TEACHER FOR BULLDOG FANS.

So when we snapped over our quarterback’s head and LSU picked up the ball and scored, I quietly left the porch and returned to solitary confinement in Mary Katherine’s den. If the Bulldogs were going to self-destruct, I wanted to be able to weep (and maybe kick some things) privately. And moments later, when LSU scored again, I started pacing like a madwoman. I even contemplated turning off the TV and just letting the sound of the reactions from the porch tell the tale.

Eventually, though, I decided to stand in Mary Katherine’s hallway and watch the game from a considerable distance. I don’t know why the hallway seemed like a good idea unless subconsciously I wanted to be near a bed in case we lost and I needed to lie down for a bit, but at the time I appreciated the space between the TV and me.

I watched the final play with my hands over my face, and OH, HAVE MERCY, when Will Redmond intercepted that last pass, I am fairly certain that I cried out to the Lord and maybe even fought back a few tears. Our boys just played so hard, and it was great to see things go their way. Mississippi State folks are a loyal bunch regardless, but it’s so fun to be able to celebrate after a game like that.

It’s been a long time since Bulldogs had a reason to smile in Tiger Stadium.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 9.46.51 PM

HailState.com

Once my heart rate returned to normal, I went back outside and savored the win for a bit before Mel and I drove back to our hotel. We talked about football pretty much the whole way. State has a bye week coming up, and then October 4th, we play Mel’s beloved Aggies. They’re #6, we’re #14, and I’d be willing to bet that there will be a podcast sometime between now and then so that we can talk about all of our football-y feelings.

In the meantime, I’m gonna savor this one. I actually watched the game again earlier tonight, and I was so happy that we won all over again.

I love it when that happens.

Hope y’all have a great Monday!

Hail State and Go ‘Dogs.

A New Angle (That Thankfully Did Not Require Geometry)

Well, I planned to post something Sunday night after the Miss America pageant, but then I got sidetracked by sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing cups.

Apparently anything is still possible in America, y’all.

Honestly, it took me a good hour to wind down from the pageant, and I don’t know when Twitter has tickled me more. I thought Kaye Lani Rae Rafko’s hula dance was memorable back in the late 80s, but the cup talent really just beat all.

That’s saying something considering that there was also a ventriloquist in the top 8.

I have to say, though, that not even a surprising Miss America result could put a damper on our weekend, which was delightful all the way around. I was out late Thursday night at a NEEDTOBREATHE concert, and all I could think when my alarm went off early Friday morning was, “THIS IS WHEN I AM REMINDED THAT I AM NO LONGER 27.” I was worn out, but the concert was so worth it. The Oh Hello’s were everything I thought they would be and more, and when they finished their set (do you like the hip lingo? the next thing you know I’ll be talking about when their new album drops.) I felt so inordinately proud of them that I was totally teary-eyed.

This is what happens when you’re in your 40s and enjoy the musical stylings of some folks who are at least 20 years younger than you are. There are a lot of maternal feelings.

And all I know to say about NEEDTOBREATHE is that they essentially led us in a two-hour worship service. Absolutely beautiful. Sweet mercy they’re talented.

Anyway, I had a speaking thing early Friday morning, then work, so by the time I picked up Alex Friday afternoon, I was flat-out loopy from the tired. Somehow, though, I managed to stay awake until approximately 9:30 Friday night, at which point I practically face-planted myself on the bed and slept without moving until 5 Saturday morning, when Hazel decided that there had been enough sleeping, thank you.

About mid-morning I willed myself to go to the grocery store. I don’t know if y’all realize this – because apparently I forgot for most of last week – but the grocery store is a place that has food that you can buy and then take home so that you can prepare meals for your family. WHAT A CONCEPT. So I bought some of the food that Publix had available that morning, and I brought it all home, and then I cooked for three whole days in a row.

I may have to print myself a certificate of achievement.

Sunday was our pastor’s last Sunday at our church, and it was the sweetest morning. We typically go to the 9:00 service, but Sunday we also stayed for a little bit of the 11:00 because one of Alex’s buddies was being baptized. While we were waiting for that second service to start, we were hanging out in the back corner of the church with some other families who were there for the same reason, and I realized that my view of our church was different than it normally is. We almost always sit in the same row in the same section, so something about standing in a different part of our sanctuary – which is pretty big – caught my attention and made me think.

It was almost 13 years ago when David and I stepped in our church for the first time. It was nowhere we ever thought we’d visit, much less join, so we walked into that sanctuary with some trepidation and more than a few reservations – and we thought it would more than likely be our first and only Sunday there.

Much to our surprise, though, we visited the next Sunday. And the next. And the next. Eventually we started to call it “our” church. So not too long after Alex was born, we decided to become members – and nobody was more surprised than David and I were. We grew up together in the same Methodist church, then joined the Episcopal church after we married, so every once in awhile we’d look at each other on the way to Brook Hills and say, “Are we really BAPTISTS?” Then we’d laugh. Because even though it was not necessarily the church we’d expected to be a part of, we knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

Church life, as y’all know, can be complicated. There have been times over the last 13 years when I was so involved that I could’ve told you the extension numbers of most of the ministry assistants, and there have been times when I was so unplugged that I’ve sat in the middle of a sanctuary of 1,500 people and felt just as lonely as I could be. I’ve been challenged at our church, I’ve been broken there, I’ve been encouraged there, and to be really honest there have been a few times when I’ve been ticked off there. It’s been a place where David and I have grown in our faith and in our relationship with each other, but we’ve also sat through our fair share of Sunday mornings where the music started and the tension between the two of us was so thick that you’d need a stick of dynamite to blast through it.

Over eight years ago a young whippersnapper named David Platt began serving as our interim pastor. He promptly grabbed hold of all my well-established notions of what church was supposed to be and flipped them upside down. Honestly, there were times I’d leave church flat-out mad because he wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. One Sunday I was so unnerved that I marched right up to one of our associate pastors and said, “I mean, I GET what this new guy is saying, but I AM A MAMA WITH A TWO YEAR-OLD. What does he want me to do? Go to AFRICA or something?”

The associate pastor just laughed. And a little over a year later, when I was the mama of a three year-old, I went on my first trip with Compassion. To Africa. Because God is funny like that.

(This is where I could totally go off on a tangent about how I know our pastor is most associated with being “radical,” but the area where his leadership has impacted me more than any other is worship. And while it wasn’t a super comfortable lesson, it’s been such a good one and something that I hope / pray will continue to ripple in my heart.)

(End of tangent.)

ANYWAY.

Sunday morning we were standing in that back corner of church, and that meant that I got to see all manner of folks walk into the sanctuary. I didn’t know all of them by any stretch, but there were a lot of familiar faces: one of our associate pastor’s wives, Alex’s 4th grade teacher, his 5th grade teacher, the mom of a guy that I taught eight or nine years ago, a friend from choir (back in the day when I used to sing in the choir), a former staff member who kept the nursery during Wednesday night church way back when, and a couple of “mama friends” whose boys are Alex’s buddies.

So the music started and all of us who were there for baptisms were standing against the back windows, and I happened to be in a spot where I could see most of the sanctuary, which was full to overflowing. Alex asked if he could go stand with a friend of his, and after he found his spot and started singing, I watched those two boys stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re at least a foot taller than they were a couple of years ago – closer to being teenagers than little kids – and I thought about how many Sundays they’ve run up and down the hallways and the stairs in that place, how many trips they made out to the playground when they were younger.

It’s the only church they’ve ever known.

And as they walked down the aisle for the baptism about ten minutes later – as they found a few more of their buddies and watched their friend C share his testimony – it occurred to me that while our church is about 20 times bigger than the one where David and I grew up, Alex is just as at home in that big ole sanctuary as we were in the much smaller one with the wooden pews and the stained glass windows.

That would have been impossible for me to imagine 13 years ago.

David and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what we were doing when we first walked through the doors at our church. We were just a young married couple who knew that there was a whole lot we didn’t know, and we wanted to learn. We didn’t ever dream we’d be there this long, but God has used the people in that place – the ones we know and sometimes even the ones we don’t – to change us.

And now? To see that happening in Alex’s life, too? To see that happening in the lives of his friends?

It’s a mighty sweet thing.

And I am just all kinds of grateful.