Sunday, May 5, 2013

Canasta & Grandmother

It’s way too late to start a blog post, but this is how I roll. (That’s how the kids are talking these days, right?)  This pic of my sweet McBaby #3 brings back memories of my “Sitsiti” Arabic for maternal Great-Grandmother.  Something about the white headscarf she is wearing and the dark eyes.  It’s amazing how sweet memories can immediately open up Pandora’s box though.

Is it just me or does your heart almost immediately pang with longing for times gone by as soon as you revel in the memory?  A longing for things to be, well, different.  As they should be and were originally intended, I suppose.  Not confined by time.

One of the places I long to go very badly is my paternal Grandmother’s kitchen table.  I yearn to go back to that place almost daily.  As I raise my own children around the kitchen table, the memory stays very fresh, very vivid, and I have the best of memories about hers.

For starters, it was a drop-leaf table.  The perfect table for someone living on her own, but who could immediately and easily make room for us grandkids to come visit.  I long for that place because we spent so much time there in the afternoons.  “Kings on the Corner”, “Canasta”, and “Dominoes” were our favorite games - and oh how we played for hours and hours… or so it seemed as a small child.  There was no hurry.  The only other things on our agenda were playing piano, visiting the forestry, and baking bread. 

The more that I think of this place, the more romanticized it has become I’m sure.  I want to go there.  I want to be a kid.  I want to see my grandmother.  I want to have time to play cards for hours on end.  I want my brother to be little again and slide with me at the park. I want my sister to be the little baby that fit in the drawer/makeshift-crib out of my Grandmother’s dresser. I want my cousin to be thirteen and make up scavenger hunts and skits with me.  I want to smell fresh bread baking in the background and know that after I fill up on it, I will get to spend the night at her house.  I want a shiny penny to put on my dominoes.  I want a bite of her homemade jam.  I want her to ask me to practice my hymns on the piano – to play the instrument “just because” it’s a blessing to do it, hear it, sing it, be reminded of the Truth.  I want to see her closet full of homemade quilts.  I want to hear the sound of her well-taken-care-of-typewriter for which she made me use the correct fingering.  I want to nearly bust at suppressing laughter at the old man that always fell asleep at her church.  I want to sit on her white davenport.  I want to drink her sun tea.  I want to be introduced to “Anne of Green Gables” for the first time again and again in her living room.  I want to see her long skinny leather walking shoes that she wore with pantyhose even when we were just hanging out. I want to taste her taco salad.  I want to drink out of her red glasses.  I want to have a peppermint out of her never-ending-peppermint bowl.

But. I. can’t.  And my heart hurts when I think about it.  As much as I can dream of it, I can’t go back.  As much as I wish Marty McFly and Doc Brown would show up in my living room, it won’t happen.  Wahp. Wahp.  Depressing post, eh?

What brings me solace tonight before I put my head on the pillow though?  I looked up the meaning of the word “canasta” and it means basket (Spanish).  I immediately thought of Mary “treasuring these things in her heart” when she found out she was pregnant with the Christ child, and I saw that while I can’t go back, I can carry a basket forward with as many memories as I want.  It can hold whatever I’d like and memories make up my story. I treasure these things in my heart. They make me who I am.  That’s all I got.  No big word or spiritual epiphany, just a tisket, a tasket, a little memory basket… and a blog to share a bunch of things “outloud” (so to speak/write).  Good night.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My first blog GIVEAWAY!! New Post: God is having a dinner party...

My first GIVEAWAY!  I’m so excited! You’ll see the giveaway items and more details at the end of the post.  Random computer generator will pick the winner – one entry for SUBSCRIBING to this blog (see right column for signup), one for leaving a COMMENT, and one for sharing on FACEBOOK.  So, you can enter up to THREE times!

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved throwing parties. 

My parents’ door certainly was swingin’ with kids from youth group, New Year’s Eve parties, random ol’ friends dropping in, bonfires, and birthday “slumber” (a.k.a. staying up all night) parties of 20 kids or more (praise the Lord for my fun-loving parents... more on them and the adventures they took us on HERE) among other events.  Even as I write this, my own 5-year-old McBaby #1 is upstairs taping streamers to her walls and ribbons across her closet.  She plans a party nearly nightly for dinnertime.  Everyone has a gift awaiting as each person prepares to take a seat at the supper table and sees handmade bracelets or necklaces she’s crocheted, pictures she’s drawn, designs she’s beaded and glued, and love letters she’s written.  With surprising assertion good management skills, she makes her demands loving requests and tells everyone where to sit and when to talk.

(Above pic of McBaby #1... my kids are with me in the kitchen constantly... more on that HERE.)

In between my parents and my daughter, of course, there I am.  (Lovable, huggable, me… as Elmo would say, right??…) I don’t know that I could even begin to count the number of baby showers, baby sprinkles, bridal showers, bachelorette nights, birthday parties, half-birthday parties, Pampered Chef-Arbonne-Thirty-One parties, welcome-home parties, going-away parties, tea parties, parties because it’s snowing, parties because it’s sunny, parties because someone is getting baptized/sprinkled/Christened/dedicated, or just-because parties that I’ve hosted.  (I know somewhere around halfway through that list, many of you would say “just-because” parties kind of covered the titles I gave the rest.)  The apple does not fall far from the tree.

(Above pic from "The Giving Tree" themed baby shower.)

And, nine times out of ten, I like to do it the “right” way: get out the china (that’s what it’s for, after all), real napkins, ball jars full of lemonade and sweet tea, from-scratch-everything, etc.

(Above pic from "Hello Kitty"-themed bday party... or at least our vintage-inspired-non-boxed version of it.)

So, perhaps it’s natural that I have begun to think of worship leading in these terms.  Someone recently asked me what I feel the role of the worship leader is versus the role of the worshipper.  It suddenly dawned on me - a new perspective. It feels that my role is to help God host a dinner party.  It’s His house, it’s His guest list; I’m simply the hostess for the evening.  My role is to help create an environment where no one is confused about what fork to use or when to use it.  No one wonders if they’ve taken the right amount of food – they are ensured that the feast is plentiful and satisfying.  Everyone has someone to help refill his or her cup. No one questions if he's truly welcome, but is assured by his individual, customized invitation to the community - his rightful place.  This table is a place of freedom, of candor.  This is a place of safety and ease.  This is a place of rest and of renewal.  This is a place to both toast wine glasses and cry over beers.

It has been and continues to be my immense honor and joy to serve various places in this capacity; to cry around the table with folks - some of whom I've only met hours prior; to help encourage and be encouraged; to share about our bright spaces, dark places, and, even, blind spots; to remind that nothing is too small or too big to bring up in the conversations. 

Friends, cheers!

(Above from a baby shower... see post HERE)

(The above pic is from McBaby #1 & McBaby #2 joint "Tangled" bday party.  See post HERE.)

 (Above pic from an annual half-birthday celebration... I know, I know, I'm crazy... below pics from various other parties.)

Being that today is a post about worship leading and I am, in fact, a worship leader myself, I am going to make this first giveaway a bundle of all of my projects and a shirt. Not a huge surprise there, eh??  That’s 4 CDs, a live DVD, and a "Sarah t-shirt" bundle for you or as a gift for someone!  Thanks so much for reading/posting/sharing!

 (Ends Friday, May 3 @11:59 pm.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

At least I'm not Jennifer Aniston...

I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required.  I find her writing poignant, raw, hysterical, honest, and sacred.  I do and don’t recommend her depending on the platform because her colorful language may scare away some folks.  For better or worse, it doesn’t me.  I appreciate the breadth of emotions she shares and the vivid hue of that language seems to suit.  This is also how I’m justifying some things I may or may not need to work on.

This particular book is a journal of her son’s son’s (yes, her grandson’s) first year of life; all of the family navigating that comes along with this kind of blessing.  Chaos, humor, and beauty fill the pages.

Three years prior to this, I read her book Operating Instructions when McBaby #2 was a newborn and it was the journal of her son’s first year.  It was so timely as it was filled with unbridled joy and uncurbed insanity.  So, it was especially interesting to read the book since it was 20 years more recent and co-written with that very son. 

I found myself shocked at this passage of time.  Being that McBaby #3 is now 8 months, when the book started out and the "book baby" was 1 month, then 2, then 3, I felt a kind of sadness that my own McBaby was older.  As soon as the “book baby” passed my own baby’s age, I suddenly relaxed and felt like I was the newbie and the he was old. Somehow, it seemed like I had beat time.

The first part of the book was the feeling I get when I think I’m old.  Like when I went to a bachelorette party recently for a 20-yr old dear family member and upon being introduced to one of her friends and, consequently, shaking her hand, her friend looked at me and said “oh, shaking hands – that’s cool!”  As if I was from some other time era…  I was reminded that I was in high school when she was born and that none of them could legally even order a drink at the party.  Or like when McHusband and I feel like buddies to his amazing high school students… and then realize that we could be their parents.  Wahp wahp. 

But, when that point came that the “book baby” was over 8 months, I changed to the feeling that’s like when I remember that at least I’m not as old as Jennifer Aniston and she’s still the cat’s pajamas.  I mean she graces the cover of People still, folks care what she wears, she’s still an “it girl”.  Never mind that I don’t have her rockin’ bod, money, or resume.  When it comes to time, I win.

So, part of the book stopped me in my tracks.  Having traveled one summer of college to Finland, Sweden, and Russia, I visited many of the places she describes in this book at one point.  I’m oohing and aahing at the experiences she’s describing and then she comes to a part where she names something that is even better than these times she’s having in the magnificent, historical places that week.  She writes the following - the passage includes her tourist friend Ann and her travel companion, a Jesuit Priest named Tom.

“Ann and I walked and walked until our feet ached; we were blessed out on the sights, the views, the people.  But the best part of the visit was when I huddled alone with Tom before dinner.  After my nap, we sat in the hotel lobby, looking at a catalogue of flowers that Tom would plant at his house and mine in the fall.  He wanted me to pick out my favorite color daffodil for him to plant, but I said, ‘Don’t they just die in four or five days, and not come until the following spring? So what is the point?’

‘The point is those four or five days,’ he said.”

My, how I have missed the point.  And, sadly, often.  I shake my tiny fist at a big God and scratch my head (whose hairs he knows the number) baffled at why he didn’t do things the way I would’ve and eased the passing of time differently.  God, why make them little for such a short time?  Why take some of our friends home to Heaven “before their time?”  Why make us so aware of the tension that lies in aging?

The point is God knows that 4-5 days is complete for a daffodil.  We can either celebrate that or not. In all areas of life.

I was convicted, so I led a short devotion on this idea at worship team rehearsal last week.  We swapped Holy moments like these.

Then, the next day, my Mom met us for lunch.  Not knowing any of my reading material or thoughts, she surprised McBaby #1 with a bouquet of daffodils before we drove off.

“Get in the car Mom.  I need to talk to you.”  I said.

“Ok…” she replied.

“Why did you buy these daffodils?” I prodded.

“Well, I saw them at Trader Joe’s and they were so pretty and even though they won’t last very long, I thought of the smile on [McBaby #1’s] face and knew her reaction would bring great joy to both of us."

My, oh my, Lord.  Please continue to teach me.  Thank you for my mother that gets it, my children that get it.  Give me eyes to see.

PS – the daffodils did fade quickly, but McHusband noticed and re-filled my jar and love tank with a new bunch today.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Pain of Childbirth???

Before McBaby #1 was born almost six years ago, my grandmother told me “life is going to get very bright”.  Oh, I had no idea what I was in for.  “Sito” (Arabic for grandmother), as we call her, was so right.  Until you’ve come to the other side (that’s parent-speak for becoming one of us), you can’t fully know the experience of parenthood of course.  Unspeakable joy, unbridled wonder, unconditional love; loads of laughter, heaps of hugs, countless cuddles.    
What she didn’t share was that it would be coupled with intense darkness.  I wonder often why, upon asking, none of our grandmothers seem to remember darkness.  Is it me?  Is it my inadequacy?  I’ve landed on the fact that it must be them. (When in doubt, blame someone else…)  Maybe times were simpler?  Maybe demands were less?  Likely, they simply have amnesia...  no wait, Gramnesia.  (Wocka wocka.)  Somehow, the good Lord has allowed them to forget the sleepless nights, the never-ending laundry and dishes, the worry about a sick-with-what-exactly child, and the bone-weary fatigue that comes in droves when multiple littles are at home – and none of them can wipe their own rear.   For me, the darkness of post-partum anxiety and depression has fallen over me like an oppressive cloud hanging dangerously low at times.  Light and dark.  Isn’t this the way?  The only way to truly appreciate the sun, the dawn, is to have wandered around after dusk and stumbled around through the night before?

My heart hangs heavy tonight.  I am left to my own demise as all the McBabies are asleep and McHubz is upstairs reading.  Me and my thoughts and the good Lord Jesus in this sacred room where children sing, toddlers play, and babies stare at their hands and find the one dangerous thing left out to put in their mouths. 

As we started to talk through the specifics of our summer plans, one mention of the calendar and vacation and it’s like a game of Jenga or pick-up sticks.  You move one piece and you’re nearer to collapse.  No plan is an island… or something like that.  We talk about the calendar and it reminds me of the looming date… August 1.  The day McBaby #1 starts kindergarten.  Mention summer and about 8 Jenga pieces have been pulled out simultaneously.  It is heavy.  I am fearful.  I already grieve time without my Grandmother – playing cards, playing piano - multiple times a week.  I tear up at the thought of not seeing my Jido (Arabic for Grandfather) again on this side of the thin places – baking bread, gathering around the table all the time as well.  Will I have this heaviness upon sending my five-year-old-McBaby to school and miss what was for the last nearly-six years?  I’m scared.  And no matter-of-fact, circle-o’-life, get-your-head-out-of-the-sand, it’s-your-job-to-raise-your-child-independent-of-you, pullin’ it together talk will set me better.  This is the pain of childbirth.

Genesis speaks of this pain.  And I’ve alluded to it before too on blog posts.  Does childbirth hurt?  Duh.  Does Dolly Parton float?  Is the Pope Catholic?  I’ve had 2 natural births.  Yes, that means no drugs at all.  It’s intense - yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It’s also why I had my 3rd with an epidural. Jury is out on what I would choose if there is a next time. Surely, that alone isn’t the pain of childbirth though.  That is short-lived, relatively speaking to the scope of a lifetime.  For me, right now, the pain of childbirth is watching each McBaby be reborn into a new season every time I turn around.  Light and dark.  Bitter and sweet.  I am preparing to help birth my child into her own new season this fall and I am pregnant with the weight of it.  I am unsure about the delivery of it.  I am ill-equipped for the newborn state of it because I’ve never done this.  This is light and this is dark.  In the beginning, God created the light and the dark; every tension comes back to this dichotomy now; childbirth is one I will have to face as long as I am a mother, which is as long as I live.  Come Lord Jesus into these tiny cracks and guide me as You conceive all new things.

Would you consider posting below and answering what has carried you in these transitions?

Pics: McBaby #1 @ 5 years old; McBaby #2 @ 3 years old; McBaby #3 @ 7 months old; Easter day after too much candy, too much stimulation, and too much bribery to get them back into their Easter outfits for one more shot... proof that we survived Easter 2013.  Thank you for appeasing me peeps.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Good grief.  Grief is partly defined as the loss of something to which a bond was formed. 

Recently, a friend from out of the country paid me a visit.  We took time to sit on the deck and chat over lemonades while our kids played barefoot in the grass… and naked in the pool.  As we processed different things going on in our lives, she reminded me, in response to one situation I shared, that I’m good at feeling guilty about many, many things. She, too, shares that experience.  She said that leading a charmed life makes one feel that he or she is not entitled to “freak out sessions” of their own.  3 healthy children? Check. Roof over my head? Check. Able body?  Check. Amazing husband? Check.  Loving and present family? Faithful, merciful, and intimate Savior?  Check.  Charmed life?  Check. How could I possibly have a freak out session?  Guilt.

So, “what do I do with that?” I asked.  She replied without missing a beat, “you entitle yourself to freak out and move on.  And if you need to revisit your freak out moment the next day, you do that and move on.  It’s your story and only you know how it feels.”

Silence. Light bulb.

Freedom to freak out? 


Tonight as we put the McBabies to bed, McBaby #1 requested that I be the one to read to her.  It was a bit surprising since we seemed at each other for a good portion of the day.  (Again, guilt…) We read a book about what it means to be a good friend.  She picked it out and the Lord used the book to tie into so many misfires from the day... for both of us.  After we read, talked, and prayed, she curled up in a little ball; wet hair, smell of clean-baby, smooth skin, seeing the very edge of a smile on her tiny little mouth as I watched her fall asleep from behind. Blessings.

After leaving her room, I passed McBaby #2’s room and the door was still open as McHusband put him to bed.  As he saw me, he called out “Mommy, rock me.” I came in – bone tired as I approach the eleven- nine- months pregnant mark and sat in the chair to rock him.  He nestled in – a feeling I’ve become very familiar with.  I’ve memorized the aroma of the nape of his neck, the sensation of kissing his squishy warm cheeks, the dimple in the back of his elbow as he drapes it across my neck in embrace.  And it set in.  Grief.  The feeling that two and a half years has already passed by since I held him in the place I’m soon to hold this new baby.  I felt my own version of loss as I thought about the boxes of too-small-clothes I’d just packed up from the kids and the legs that now dangled off of my lap as I tried to still rock and cuddle them.  I felt the impending loss of the-4-of-us the same way I did with the-3-of-us and the-2-of-us before that.  How many times will I feel this loss even when I know a greater gift awaits? 

And so, even though I've tangibly lost nothing, I freak out.  I feel the tears brimming my eyes, the sob stuck in my throat, the burning in my heart that asks God why it must all go by so quickly?  And as I let one little wimper out, McBaby #2 looks up and smiles – even though I’d thought him long out.

“Don’t be sad Momma.”

“Sometimes Mommy cries when I’m both sad and happy.  I love you.”

“I love you most.”

He leans in and gives me his signature smooch – lips puckered and a bit wet.  I’ll take it.  He instinctively knows my love language.

“Please don’t grow up too fast.”

“I don’t want to get back in my bed.”


And so we rock some more.  Just because.  And I move on from my freak out and enjoy the wonder that is my children knowing that just hours before I told the McHusband that I hadn’t spent very much of the day savoring them. 

And I thank God for the gift of today, the gift of freshly bathed little bundles, for a baby kicking inside of me, and for sweet reminders of beautiful moments that transcend the constraints of time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Road trip, letting go, & a guest post!

Recently I drove up to Detroit to visit some family.  It was just the McBabies and me as McHusband was out of town.  We spent our few days there around the table of their own restaurants, gathering for six-hour dinners, loads of laughter, and more dirty jokes than I've heard in some time.  The camaraderie was fun; corralling a 2-yr old McBaby #2 for that long in a crowded restaurant had its challenges.  As he played intently with their "Please Wait to be Seated" sign, I realized from what a long line of creative and over-protective Mediterranean women I come.  I was amazed at how many cleverly concocted ways they figured McBaby #2 could have injured himself on that seemingly-innocent little sign.

On the way home, McBaby #1 was begging me to read her book to her in the back seat.  (Thankfully, she just started reading a bit on her own and a whole new world is opening up!) After my repeated responses that I couldn't read and drive at the same time, she was getting quite upset and bored in the back seat.  In an effort to nip it in the bud, I expressed grave seriousness in saying that if I were to read, then get distracted, then hit another car, it could crash our car and we'd all be dead.  I know, I know, a little graphic for a 4 year old.  Hindsight is 20/20.  The look of heartbreak on her face was unforgettable.  Through tears, her sweet voice said "and Daddy would be all alone?" She started crying as she expressed the thought of her heart-broken daddy and, for the first time, I saw that she understood something about loss, something about letting go.  And, then, so did I.  I have early memories of grief and anxiety about potential loss - really, from her age.  While I would love to spare her of this burden, it is part of one's growing - no different than teething, leg cramps, or McBaby #2's out-of-control hair.

My sweet friend (happy birthday to her today by the way!!!) at Message in a Mason Jar has posted so beautifully on her blog about this process of holding on and letting go, that I want to pass the baton to her as we continue on this thread.  Click on the afore-mentioned link to head over there...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Le Ballon Rouge

Do you remember watching the film “Le Ballon Rouge” in school?  I can remember first seeing this beautiful French movie in elementary school and being moved even then.  The Albert Lamorisse film has hardly any dialogue, but portrays so much in its imagery and in watching the characters’ interactions.  The film takes place in Paris and reveals the story of a little boy who is followed around the city by a gigantic red balloon (ballon rouge).  Though many try to pop his prize and ruin his fun, ultimately the balloon prevails… the child’s spirit prevails. 

In trying to come up with a baby shower theme for one of my closest friends in the whole wide world, I thought this would fit beautifully!  She loves red, we both love France and have visited multiple times, she is a soul with her own adventurous spirit, and it would make for a great decorated table… French baguettes, vintage collectibles, and a giant red balloon!  After the shower and after posting some FB pics, I had a lot of questions about things, so I decided to make a blog post all about it!  Here ya go...

Here is a pic from the film... how awesome is the red balloon standing out amongst the old grays of the buildings.  (Parts of the film reportedly take place in north of Paris in the Montmartre area.  That is where we stayed on our last visit a few years back and it was UH-MAZING.  Also, the area is virtually unrecognizable today as the same place say film critics.)  

Here is an image I found as my muse when I started googling and "Pinteresting" images...

Then I discovered that these balloons, at the cheapest I could find them, were $7.99 apiece.  Choke.  Ok, so I'm not planning a celebrity wedding here... time to get creative and modify... here is the invitation.  It's a combo of brown cards and envelopes I bought at Hobby Lobby, printed images I found by googling, and a large fabric balloon attached with spray adhesive.  

Did you know you can find websites and download awesome fonts yourself that make things look custom?  Check out

Here is what I came up with... thank goodness the weather was PARFAIT and we were able to have everything outdoors... 20 place settings total.

I racked my brain trying to think of a party favor.  Anything that's affordable (dollar store, Target $1 bin, etc.) wouldn't really be worth carrying home and we already had so many food things available.  So, I saw an idea for party favors that were fabric flower pins... I loved that!  Then, I thought, why don't I just make some and then hot glue papers to them that they can rip off when they leave... name tags AND favors!

HERE is the link to those fabric flowers and an incredible site about beautiful baby showers in general... there are TONS of tutorials online and on pinterest if you'd like to learn to make them yourself.  Let me add that everything about doing this shower was a pleasure except for the repeated hot freakin' glue gun burns that I endured while making 20 rosettes!!

The gorgeous momma-to-be...

Here are some shots of the preggo we were celebrating and the other gal hosting with me...

 All three of us crazies are expecting bebes this summer!

 Here are a couple of other shots...

If you'd like to read a HILARIOUS blog about one gal's cake-pop-making-adventures, check this out HERE.  I had better luck, but not by much... the darn things can make you crazy.

(All of the ugliest ones are in the back.)

 Au revoir!!