Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Prayer Circle

Tonight the kids all wanted to sleep together in Caleb's bed, so we let them. They were all wound up and excited from an evening of buying Christmas presents for each other and for Kevin and me. When we got home from shopping, they each went in different rooms to wrap their many treasures and then enthusiastically put them under the tree.

A couple of minutes after "lights out," Kevin walked back to check on them, and he discovered Callie, Caleb, and Katie sitting in a circle on Caleb's bed--holding hands and praying together. They were thanking God for a great day and for the chance to get to buy presents for each other. They really love being thoughtful and generous toward each other, and catching them in times like these makes our hearts just swell and overflow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Christmas Story . . . Illustrated

My youngest sister Laurie just sent us a new Nativity story book. While the story is straight from the Bible, the illustrations are a little more irregular. They are great, but they very much deviate from the traditional pictures to which we are accustomed. You know, the ones with the soft glows and halos and somber looks upon the individuals' faces. The artwork on these pages consists more of simple and almost clumsy-looking characters, a Mary whose pregnant belly is very pronounced and exaggerated, and angels with hiking boots who sit and hang out with the holy family. My personal favorite depicts Joseph having to work exceptionally hard to heave this woman, very great with child, up onto the donkey's back. Oh yes, and there is a picture of baby Jesus, and, well, like most other babies, he wasn't born with a diaper on. So here were the comments I heard from my children upon their first flip through the book--

Caleb: "I see His secret place! You know, the place you're supposed to keep to yourself."
Callie: "What?! Who drew those pictures? Was it a boy or a girl?"
Mommy: "It was a girl."
Callie: "Whew. Then at least she wasn't giving away something that belonged to her!"

Caleb: "Whoa! Look at that big tummy! That's fat!"
Callie: "Caleb, you just wait. One day you're going to have a WIFE that looks like that!"

Callie: "Mommy, what's a virgin?"
[The sound of crickets chirping in the distance]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advice for Newlyweds

This is a list I made for one of my best friends just before she got married . . .

1. Pray together.
2. Serve each other.
3. Laugh as much as possible. (Be able to laugh at yourself, too!)
4. Never stop studying your spouse. Become experts on each other.
5. Learn how to argue; know each other's arguing style and needs.
6. Choose your battles wisely.
7. Be quick to forgive . . . and even quicker to ask for forgiveness.
8. Never withhold a compliment from each other.
9. Express appreciation for each other; thank each other for doing even the small, everyday things.
10. Be equally involved in handling your finances and realize that you're bringing together two different ways of doing things. Be open and listen to each other. Work together on a budget.
11. Learn how to accept loving criticism from each other.
12. Have good "couple friends."
13. Find something recreational that you can do together and separately.
14. SCHEDULE date nights!
15. Sit down and talk to each other as often as possible.
16. Take the time just to stop and look into each other's eyes.
17. Hold hands.
18. Have babies!

**There were one or two more, but you'll have to ask me about those later. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Caleb's Sign

This is the sign that Caleb posted on his bedroom door this week:

"No Grls a allowed
olee Bores and

To be read:

"No girls allowed--
Only boys and
my Mommy.

I'll remind him of this when he's 16!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Spiritual Birthday

When I was just five years old, I made the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ. I remember it vividly. It was a Sunday evening at Sky View Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, and I was sitting by my mother. Honestly, I have no idea what Bro. Sonny preached about that night; I just know that God had been working in my young heart for a while leading up to that moment. When the time came for the invitation (as Baptists call it), I didn't walk the aisle. I simply sat down in the pew, leaned my head on the pew in front of me, and prayed to God, asking Him to forgive me for my sins and come into my heart and save me. Then I tugged on Mama's skirt and told her what I had done.

When we got home that night, my parents took me into their bedroom to talk with me more about the decision I had made. I told them that I loved God and wanted to follow Him and spend eternity with Him in Heaven when I die. After we talked, we all prayed together, and then Daddy wrote my name and the date (November 23, 1980) on the inside cover of his Bible. Thus, November 23rd became my spiritual birthday, and I have loved remembering and celebrating it ever since.

My parents began teaching and discipling my siblings and me basically as soon as we were born. We read Bible stories before bed and talked about sin and our need for the Savior, and we prayed together. I saw a genuine love for the Lord in them. While they never pressured us into making any sort of decisions (public or private), they did talk with us about spiritual things on a regular basis. Remembering each of our spiritual birthdays was something I treasured in our family, because it emphasized to me the importance, vitality, and necessity of our relationship with our Creator. It also emphasized that this relationship is something to be CELEBRATED!

A lot of Believers don't have a particular date or time that they nail down as their spiritual birthday or point at which they began following Christ. This doesn't mean that one of us is any more or less saved or certain; it's just a difference. Many people say that there wasn't just one particular time that they decided to follow Christ; it was--and still is--a journey. I agree completely. I personally am just a stickler for dates and times; they mean something to me. So I like having this date on which I can reflect.

My friend's father-in-law makes the comparison to a couple in love. Some people fall in love over a period of time; others have an "aha" moment, feeling like they fell in love at that particular moment in time. I really love that analogy; it makes sense to me. By the way, I had an "aha" moment when I fell in love with the man who is now my husband! Speaking of which, Kevin has another analogy I really like--that baptism is a lot like a wedding ceremony. The actual observance is not the point in time in which you fall in love, because that was decided during the journey leading up to the ceremony. Instead, the observance is simply your statement to the rest of the world that you are committed to this person forever! Such a beautiful picture. And Christ does, after all, call us His Bride.

So the day after tomorrow, I'll be 28! I thank God for my relationship with Him. I have grown and changed--and questioned and feared--and loved and learned so much over these years, and the process will continue until the day I die. Then from that day on throughout eternity, I won't have to struggle with questions or fear or pain anymore; I will be in the immediate presence of God, and it will be beyond what I can imagine.

Sidenote: (I have to add this story for the amusement of my parents and siblings, because they would surely bring it up!) It took me several months to work up the nerve to get baptized, because I was afraid of the water--mainly that it would be over my head. Once I got past that, I walked the aisle in front of my church to make my decision public. Remember now that I was only five years old, so my pastor decided to pick me up when he presented me to the church. When he did this, my dad and older sister looked at each other and expressed a joint concern merely with their eyes: "Oh no," their eyes said. For you see, I was . . . well, stocky. So sure enough, after a couple of minutes, Bro. Sonny's arm that supported me started to tremble, and he finally said, "I'm going to have to put this girl down." Chuckles. At least he was able to pick me up when he baptized me!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Caleb

This afternoon Caleb was sitting at the kids' table in the kitchen, working on painting a new wooden treasure chest he received for his birthday, and out of the blue said, "I have a good life."

Caleb has always been a happy child, and his amazing smile--complete with sparkling hazel eyes that turn into moon slivers when he grins--has always dazzled anyone who sees it. Add to that his bouncy, thick, curly, dirty blond hair that has never been brushed or combed (just tousled), and you've got one of the cutest kids around! Well, in my opinion anyway.

My son, who just turned six, very often lives in his own world. The boy loves movies, and he is one who truly gets lost in them. If the TV is on, he literally cannot do anything else but watch it. It's actually pretty funny, unless you're trying to have a conversation with him. Then it's frustrating. He likes to act out whatever he's been watching, so we get to see many a Disney/Pixar movie re-enacted in the Partridge home. Oh yes--and his next birthday party theme changes constantly, depending on the latest movie he's seen.

Puzzles are also something Caleb loves to do. I love watching him focus on putting them together, and he doesn't do it at all the way that I do. He has no regard for the rule of doing the outer edges first. He simply sees which pieces go together. He also enjoys building and creating and designing. When he comes up with an idea, he looks around the house and sees what he can use to turn his idea into reality. He constantly impresses us with his creations. We may have an engineer on our hands!

Now that Caleb is in school, he is excited about reading, writing, and learning. He came home telling me all about the artist Paul Clay one day, and I was fascinated by all the details he had absorbed. He takes his homework seriously and is eager to show me all his papers as soon as he gets in the van after school. Lately he has been really into creating his own books at home. He is both the author and the illustrator, and on the back of each bunch of papers stapled together, he lists all of his previous works. Then he takes his books to share with his kindergarten class. He is proud of the smiley faces that he gets every day on his classroom behavior report, and so am I!

My son has a strong desire to be good and do what is right. Kevin and I always knew we wanted to name our son Caleb, and in reading about Caleb in the Bible, I loved that he was constantly described as having "a different heart." I think that describes my Caleb perfectly! He is kind and sensitive, and he has the gift of encouragement. He gets so excited for his sisters! He finds joy in bringing joy to others, and he's very good at it.

Happiness and contentment really describe Caleb. He showed this trait off even whilst in the womb, in that he had no intentions of leaving that warm, comfortable place on his own. So I had to be induced in order for him to be born. I was scheduled for the induction five days past his due date. I was so big, uncomfortable, and just ready for him to be born. Ready to get on with the process, I called the hospital early that morning to confirm our appointment.

"Ma'am, we're not sure that we're going to be able to take you today, because our rooms are full of women already in labor."

Silence on my end of the line.

"You can call back in a couple of hours and see if anything has changed."

Trying not to burst into tears, I reported the information to Kevin and his mom, who had already come to the house to take care of Callie. They encouraged me to go lie down and try to rest. A couple of hours later, I was awakened by a voice saying, "Carrie? It's time to go to the hospital." Groggily, I got up, and Kevin and I still laugh at how backwards that whole process was, since it's usually the wife waking the husband up with "It's time!". Nevertheless, I was ecstatic that the hospital now had room for me! We were checked into a room at 1:00 in the afternoon, and at 7:02 p.m., Caleb Aeden Partridge was born!

While I was pregnant with Caleb, I really worried that I couldn't love him as much as I loved Callie, my first-born. Of course, now I know how silly that is, but it truly worried me. But as soon as I saw his sweet face, I was smitten, just as I had been with Callie and then later with Katie. A mother's heart has an amazing capacity for love for her children, and whether she has one baby or twelve, her heart is equally filled to overflowing.

Every night while our children are sleeping, Kevin and I go into their rooms and just gaze at them. (This is especially important if it's been a wild and crazy day with them.) When I bend down to kiss Caleb on the cheek, I often have to move his light blue blanket out of the way. He has slept with this blanket every night since he was born, and it shows! (He actually used to wad it up and sleep with it right on top of his face when he was a toddler.) It is well-worn with love and has a tattered silky tag, which Caleb calls its tail. He's our little Linus.

While Caleb is definitely sweet and tenderhearted, he also has plenty of "boy traits." My sister Laurie says that she's never seen a kid who so badly wants to be thrown around! He loves superheroes and weapons and sports and guys' nights watching Star Wars with his Daddy. And of course, he thinks that bathroom humor is hysterical.

I tell my Caleb every day that he's my favorite little boy in the whole wide world. He loves this statement and always repays me with his famous grin, a tight hug, and a "Thank you, Mommy." As I'm typing this, he just came to snuggle with me on the couch. I never get tired of this, especially because I know that the days of him wanting to snuggle with his Mommy are very limited. So I'll be ending this post now.

To Blog or Not To Blog: An Electronic Alternative to Scrapbooking

Here is my first article to appear in Parents & Kids magazine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daddy's Brain

Kevin returned from Cozumel last night, and this morning he handed me a beautiful piece of white coral--about the size of the palm of my hand--that he brought back, and I commented on the fact that it looked like a brain. Katie, my four-year-old, walked into the room, so I showed it to her. Kevin said, "It's Daddy's brain." Then I said, "It's a lot bigger than we thought it was," and he and I laughed.

Katie seemed to be in her own world, just looking at and feeling the coral. But when Kevin left the room, she timidly looked up at me with kind-of an unassured grin and asked, "How did it fall out?"

They take us at our word!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Afternoon in Fall

My 7 1/2-year-old daughter Callie sat down and wrote this the other day. She just jotted it all down together with no particular spacing, planning to later rework it into a poem. I assured her that it WAS a poem already. My mother (a.k.a. Cammie) formatted it into lines for Callie, and Callie gave her smiling approval. She also gave her smiling approval when I asked if I could share it on my blog. So here it is. Enjoy!

Cool breeze---
The crickets start creeking.
The sun looks like it's dampening the world.
The birdies say their good-byes to warmth,
Leavin' in the fall.
Squirrels scampering 'round---
Saying 'bye to summer,
Collecting as they please---
The back yard---silent---
The smells get better and better---
Planes flying overhead---
Cars bringing home workers---
The crickets make sweet music.
The sunset beautiful---
Playing ball with dad---
Cross the street---NOT SAFE- 'cause cars zooming this way and that---
The bright lights cars have shining-
Already getting dark!
It's getting cool out!
There's a person passing through our street.
Cocoa 'd be nice and sweet
While it freezes.
The front yard---so still---
Halloween pumpkins are resting and rusting.
The porch is slowly freezing.
The neighborhood quiets down while everyone returns to inside.
The afternoon is great!

Written by Callie Elizabeth Partridge
November 4, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lonely Heart

My husband is currently in Cozumel on a scuba diving trip with his dad and brother. They used to do this together as a family (not in Cozumel), but this is the first time in more than ten years that they've been able to go. It's something that I want Kevin to get to do, even though I myself am scared of scuba diving. Actually, it's drowning that scares me more than scuba diving. But still, I'm glad that he gets to go.

The fact that he can't call me everyday is hard, though. Kevin and I talk to each other about anything and everything all the time, so this break in our communication is weird. It does make me miss him even more, so I guess that's a good thing. Over our ten and a half years of marriage, we have each had times when we had to leave town, and we both agree that it's much harder to be the one who is left behind. And it isn't necessarily because the one at home has to be a single parent for a few days. I guess it's that the one doing the leaving most likely has some things that can serve as diversions, whereas the one left at home is still in the normal routine of things . . . minus their best friend.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," I suppose. But I think I'd rather just have him at home with me.

I love you, Kevin, and I hope that you are safe and having a wonderful time! Hurry home to me!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


A little more than three years ago, my youngest sister Laurie taught me how to knit. I had been watching her knit for quite a while, and I could tell that it was something I would enjoy. It has the potential to be somewhat monotonous--making the same stitches over and over and over again--so I knew I would be hooked! (Actually, that would be crotcheting, but that's beside the point.)

It didn't take me very long to catch on. It helped that Laurie was staying with me for a few days, so any spare moment I had, I picked up my needles and started working. And if/when I messed up, Laurie was right there to help me correct my mistake. My first project was a scarf for my husband Kevin, and I am quite proud of it. Since then I have made many, many scarfs, hats, purses, and blankets (mostly baby blankets, which don't have to be very big), and I never get tired of it. Currently I am working on a full-size blanket for Caleb. I finished Callie's a few months ago, and she sleeps under it every night. I'll start on Katie's once Caleb's is finished. They all get really excited about their blankets and ask me often about the progress I'm making (or not making), which makes me feel even better about putting all the time into it.

Knitting is extremely therapeutic for me. It allows me to be creative and productive, but my mind is still free to ponder other things while I am working, since most of my patterns are relatively simple and don't require much concentration. This also works well with being a mom, because I am able to watch, pay attention to, and interact with my kids while simultaneously working on my knitting. And unless I'm working on a blanket that is pretty far along in the process, knitting is a quite portable hobby--very conducive to sitting in carpool lines, waiting during gymnastics/ballet lessons, etc., etc. I really love giving people gifts, so knitting fits in well with that desire, too. There is always something to be made and given away!

One of my favorite escapes from the dailyness of stay-at-home-momhood is to find a corner by myself in a coffee shop or bookstore, plug my ears with worship music coming from my iPod, let my hands work with the yarn and needles, and only take breaks to sip on my coffee (okay, or to people watch).

Laurie, THANK YOU for introducing me to this terribly addicting but incredibly rewarding hobby! I'll never be as good at it as you are, but that's okay.

Everyone else, you can see some of my master teacher's handiwork and read about the knitting process on Laurie's blog at Then you can order some of her creations on

I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of knitting tonight while watching the election results come in.

Nothing Without You

These are the lyrics to one of my very favorite songs, "Nothing Without You" by Bebo Norman. It speaks so strongly to me . . .

Take these hands
And lift them up
For I have not the strength to praise You near enough
See, I have nothing
I have nothing without You

And take my voice and pour it out
Let it sing the songs of mercy I have found
For I have nothing
I have nothing without You

And all my soul needs is all Your love
To cover me, so all the world will see
That I have nothing without You

Take my body and build it up
May it be broken as an offering of love
For I have nothing
I have nothing without You

And all my soul needs is all Your love
To cover me so all the world will see
That I have nothing
That I love You, yeah
With all my heart
With all my soul
With all my mind
And all the strength I can find

Take my time here on this earth
And let it glorify all that You are worth
For I am nothing
I am nothing without You

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I drink alone at my house. And I'm talking about coffee. Kevin might have a cup once every few months, but it's only when he really needs to stay awake for work or something. He doesn't enjoy it; it's necessity for him. He likes the smell of it, just not the taste of it.

I, on the other hand, am addicted. I'm sure that some of it is the caffeine, but I'm also quite addicted to the whole coffee experience, in which I indulge twice daily. Once a week I allow myself the luxury of a frou-frou coffee from Starbucks, Cups, or Sneaky Beans, but most of the time I just enjoy my regular coffee at home. I have a 12-cup pot, but I only make one lonely cup in it at a time. (I buy fair trade coffee, so I can't afford to let any go to waste!)

I do doctor my regular coffee up with plenty of sugar and creamer. My grandfather watched me make it once and asked, "Do you want some coffee with that cream and sugar?" If I had to drink it black, though, I would just rather not drink it at all. It tastes like burnt water to me.

I think I had my first cup of coffee when I was 14 years old. My friend Jennifer made it for me, so I started out with all the cream and sugar. I didn't become a coffee addict, though, until after my first baby was born. So it's been almost eight years now. My children all associate me with coffee, often giving me mugs and such on holidays. When we were at the State Fair earlier this month, Caleb excitedly pointed out to me the Cups booth, which was shaped like a giant red coffee cup. He wanted me to see where I could get some coffee! And Callie always tells me that I smell like coffee on Thursdays, when I usually get to spend some time writing in a coffee shop. (I'm okay with smelling like coffee, except when it's my breath they're smelling. I'll be the first one to admit that coffee breath is awful!)

Drinking coffee is a comfort to me. I love that it's warm and sweet with just a touch of bitterness. I love how it makes me feel. It's actually very calming rather than stimulating to me. My morning cup helps me ease into my day, and my afternoon cup helps me get through the rest of it. This break in the afternoon is a good time for me to sit and talk with my kids about their day at school or work on homework with them . . . or play on Facebook.

Yes, I enjoy my coffee. And I'm okay with the fact that I drink alone. But when I do get to enjoy it with friends, that just makes it even better.

My morning cup is done now, and so is this post.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Last week I got to be part of a service project at my children's school. We collected school supplies, backpacks, and uniforms for the children involved in Stewpot Community Services in downtown Jackson. The classes competed against each other for a chance to win a pizza and brownie party, which will be awarded to the two classes who donated the most. All other classes will receive cupcakes, since ALL the classes did such a wonderful job. I am so proud of these students and just wanted to share with you what they were able to give in five days' time:

19 packs of manila paper
21 packs of construction paper
43 3-ring binders
51 packs of colored pencils
59 packs of gluesticks
70 bottles of glue
74 packs of markers
76 backpacks
79 pairs of scissors
91 primary writing tablets
92 erasers
96 boxes of crayons
139 pens
190 packs of notebook paper
230 spiral notebooks
254 uniform tops/bottoms
487 folders
1803 pencils

Also donated were: highlighters, pencil sharpeners, sandwich bags, dry erase markers, post-it pads, hand sanitizer, watercolors, pencil holders, rulers, school boxes, book covers, protractors, rubberbands, index cards, portfolios, tape, activity pads, a dictionary, and a ream of copy paper.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lunch Money

Caleb has been on a kick recently where he wants to buy his lunch at school instead of taking it from home. "I want to be lunch money today," my little kindergartner says. Happy to only pack one lunch instead of two, I gladly give him the $1.60.

We were surprised yesterday when he said that he wanted to "be lunch money" when we told him they were having fish. So when I picked him up yesterday afternoon, I asked him how he liked lunch.

"It was great!," he exclaimed.

"Really?," I asked.

"Yes. It was a fish what was a square, and I put ketchup on it and ate the whole thing!"

"Great!," I said in a bit of disbelief.

"And it was in a booger."

"I'm sorry?"

"It was in a booger!," he repeated.

Laughing, I had to ask him to explain himself.

"Well, not like a booger what's in your nose. Like a cheesebooger!"

I could hardly stop laughing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

While He's Here

"Take him home and love him while he's here."

This is what I just read on a CaringBridge website that Kevin's cousin forwarded to me. This is what this baby's parents were told when they finally got to take him home from the hospital. I don't even know these people, but my heart can hardly handle reading this statement. The doctor who made the statement wasn't being dismal; he was simply being realistic in light of this baby's extremely rare disorder, which will most likely not allow him to live very long.

I truly cannot imagine it.

No matter how many times I read stories like these, I am convicted of just how spoiled and selfish I am. For some reason, I feel entitled to complain when my kids won't leave me alone for two seconds; they want to (GASP!) talk to me and hug me and laugh with me ALL THE TIME. And I get annoyed because I think they're driving me crazy sometimes. HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT??? My children are perfectly healthy. (Katie can't eat gluten, but that is a minor inconvenience.) They do not have special needs, and they are very independent for their ages. I have it so easy.

I can remember running into an old college friend a couple of years ago, and she shared with me about her little girl, who also has a rare disorder that will most likely greatly shorten her lifespan. We both stood there crying as she shared with me about her daughter and about what their days are like. A mother's will is strong--she will do whatever it takes to take care of her baby. But a mother's heart is incredibly tender--it shouldn't have to bear such things.

This is just one more instance where I see God's intervention in people's lives. The parents who share on the CaringBridge website know that God has a purpose for their baby boy's little life, and they have already been able to share their faith with so many people because of what they are experiencing. That doesn't negate their pain and their questions; it doesn't erase the sorrow that they are experiencing now and will experience later on when the inevitable happens. But it does give them hope beyond their human understanding. And they know that God weeps with them when the pain is just too much.

My heart aches for those who experience such tragedy with a child. But the truth is that I'm not guaranteed to have my three healthy children any longer than they'll have their baby boy. So really every parent should be sent home from the hospital with this advice:

"Take him home and love him while he's here."

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Curse

True Story:
During my sophomore year at Mississippi College, my friend Missy and I rode to the MC/Samford football game (We were just going for the trip to the Galleria after the game.) with our friends Will, Chris, and Campbell. As on all good road trips, we got to talking about relationships, what we like/don't like in guys/girls, and all that good stuff. Well, at some point in the conversation, Missy mentioned that she preferred that a guy not have a hairy chest, and I agreed with this.

Those three guys would not let this go! They gave us the hardest time about it, probably telling us we were being superficial. After much torment by them, I finally looked at Missy and said, "You watch. Now one of us is going to be cursed and marry somebody like Kevin Partridge."

Fast forward:
I have been happily married to Kevin Partridge for ten years now! And, yes, he keeps me warm. Kevin also says that in the version of the story that was relayed to him, the word that Missy and I used was much stronger than "preferred." I'm sticking with this, though.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


For Father's Day this year, the kids and I told Kevin he could go buy some sod for the yard, which is something he's wanted to do for a long time now. We have lots of pine trees, which both block sunlight and continuously drop needles and pine cones (The pine cones drop like GRENADES from 100 feet up!). We also have a dog who likes to run fast and furiously, tearing up the grass with his nails like he's a tiller, when he's working to protect us from "certain danger." So the yard has taken a beating and needed a patch job.

Two days ago Kevin finally went and purchased the sod, filling the back of our minivan with wet grass and mud and bugs. (Glad he took the tarp!) In lieu of going to work out at the Y that day, I decided to offer my services in the yard. It was actually a lot of fun, especially since the weather was so nice, and there weren't any mosquitoes out. The work was hard, but it felt good.

Even little Katie did a lot to help! She was mainly in charge of watering with the hose, but she did help me "carry" a few pieces of sod. Oh yes--and she was in charge of stomping on top of each piece after it was lain down, making sure it was good and in place. I was proud of her. She worked well and had a lot of fun doing it. She did take breaks now and then--laying in the sun, resting in the hammock, playing in the van, and having me pick her up so that she could pick berries off a tree.

The effort took a few hours. We were dirty and tired. But then we stood back to admire the finished product . . .

It looked like a bad toupee.

The squares of sod were obviously a different color than the rest of the yard. They were more yellow. We are told this is normal and not to worry--that it's a process, and the reward will come in the spring when it all starts looking the same. We hope so. While we were laying the sod, one of our neighbors named Mr. Bass came walking by. (He says we can remember his name because bass have big mouths, too. He's an elderly gentleman who has been in this neighborhood forever and walks his dog "Ol' Andy" every single day, a flat cap on his head and iPod earbuds in his ears.) He stopped to see what we were doing and commented, "You're making the neighborhood look bad!" Even though he didn't crack a smile, we're hoping he meant it as a compliment--that we were doing a good thing.

Guess we'll find out in the spring.

Thus It Begins . . .

Yesterday I picked Callie and Caleb up from school, and Callie handed me a picture. It was torn out of a coloring book--a picture of Disney's Ariel and Prince Eric sitting in a little boat together (during the song "Kiss De Girl") on one side and a picture of Ariel combing her hair with a fork (a.k.a. dinglehopper) on the other side. It was very nicely colored and had a girl's name neatly printed in crayon at the top of the page. Did you catch that? A girl's name. And it wasn't "Callie" or "Katie."

I asked, "What's this?," and Callie told me that the little girl (Name withheld to protect the innocent . . . or the guilty, depending on whom you're asking.) handed it to her in the carpool line and said, "Give this to your brother." Oh my goodness!!!

So I looked at Caleb and asked who she was, and he said she was in the other kindergarten class. "Is she your friend? Is she nice?," I asked. He said yes but that she chases him all the time at recess. He said this kind-of grinning and kind-of rolling his eyes at the same time. Then he blurted, "I don't like the kissing part, though! That part can be for YOU, Callie!" Thankfully, he was referring to the picture, not the game at recess.

I just kind-of smiled to myself and left it at that. Who can blame the girl?! He IS a cutie!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


This past Friday, my mother volunteered to let all three of my children spend the night with her, and I excitedly let them.  This meant that Kevin and I had a full 24 hours to ourselves!  Just the two of us!  We love, love, love our children, but we need, need, NEED time by ourselves, too.  It's good for all of us.

We started our evening on Friday with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, La Cozuela.  We talked and talked about life, our kids, and whatever else came to mind, all the while filling our bellies with chips and salsa, fajitas, quesadillas, and huge glasses of Coke.  We didn't have anything pressing to discuss; we just enjoyed being together.

Next we went to Lowe's to check out the flooring department.  Since our dog (Uncle Rico) insists on periodically relieving his bladder on the living room carpet, we thought it best to plan for a new floor.  So we browsed around the store and ended up talking to one of the sales guys for quite a while.  Actually, we did more of the listening than the talking as he rambled on about different things (none of them flooring).  He was very nice, and we enjoyed the conversation.  I think he was hoping to just chat with us till closing time.

From Lowe's we went to a wonderful place that I haven't visited in nearly three years--Marble Slab.  If you've never been to one, you really must seek one out and partake of the amazing ice cream!  I actually had several coupons in my purse, so we had fun handing them out to all the other customers in the store.  Then we perched ourselves on a bench outside and enjoyed our frozen treat of Swiss Chocolate and Sweet Cream ice creams mixed with Reese's peanut butter cups in a waffle cup.  Oh my goodness, it was good!

Next we went to Blockbuster and rented The Bourne Identity, since we had never seen it and heard it was good.  We enjoyed the movie but mostly enjoyed getting to watch it as loudly as we wanted without having to worry about which child we might be waking up.  We finally went to bed around 2:00 in the morning.  We're such college students.  However, we did get up the next morning around 8:30, which seems crazy to us for a day with no children home, but we really had more running around we wanted to do.

So we headed out to NUTS (Neat Used Things for Sale), Hudson's (a store that buys the inventories of other stores that have experienced storm damage, fire, etc.), Ellis (a similar type store), Home Depot, Lumber Liquidators (which we continually called Liquid Lumberdators), and Floor Trader, since we were still shopping for flooring.  In the midst of all that, we also enjoyed lunch at Broad Street and went to see our neighbor's new baby at the hospital!  Lastly, we went to Callaway's Nursery and then back to Lowe's (looking at rugs this time), and we came home with some new plants, which we are hoping not to kill.

It was such a full but very fun 24 hours together!  We no longer take for granted getting to hold each other's hands while walking through a store or parking lot.  We also have a greater appreciation for uninterrupted conversation with each other.  Even after the kids came home, we fed them and put them to bed and then retreated to the back yard, where we sat around a fire in the fire pit, ate cheesecake, and talked if something came up or just simply sat there enjoying being together.  We must do this more often! 


Friday, October 10, 2008

Fresh Flowers

My thumb is about as far from being green as it can be, but that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate living, growing plants.  I have a few houseplants that I've managed to keep alive, though I wouldn't call them thriving.  Kevin takes care of all the plants and things outside, and he's much better at it all than I am.  I couldn't tell you the names of anything with leaves, except maybe for a rose or a tulip, because they're easy to recognize.  If there are no actual flowers on the plant, you can certainly forget my knowing its name!  I know what I like and what I think is pretty, but that's about the extent of it.

One of my favorite things to have on my kitchen table (you know, besides warm brownies) is fresh flowers.  I love a bouquet with lots and lots of colors!  It really brings me so much joy.  And it doesn't matter where they come from--whether they're clipped from our yard or bought in a store.  Most of my flowers come from the clearance buckets at Kroger, and they usually last a week or two!  

A few days ago, Katie and I went to the Farmer's Market and saw lots of beautiful mums.  So I let Katie pick out two (pink and purple, of course), and I picked out one (a dark orangey color). Katie loved helping me choose where to place them out front, and she took great pride in watering them herself.  Each day she looks at them and exclaims that "They've grown!"

On the kitchen table, I currently have a single bunch of white hydrangeas, which my sister-in-law had leftover from a wedding for which she did all the flower arrangements.  (She's incredibly talented, by the way!)  They are so pretty, dainty, and delicate.  I really marvel at God's creativity when I look at flowers!  And it's okay if I don't know all their names, because He does, and He wants me to enjoy them . . . even if I get them on the clearance rack. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alone Time

I am one of those people who really needs time alone. It sounds awful to some of you, I know, but I really crave time by myself. I like to just sit and reflect on things, to be alone with God and my thoughts. That's why these Thursdays that my husband makes it possible for me to steal away by myself for several hours is such a wonderful gift. When I'm at home every day, I am constantly conversing with my children (an always wonderful but sometimes draining experience), working around the house, talking on the phone, or feeling guilty because I'm sitting down for a few minutes when there is so much to be done! So I literally have to leave my house and go somewhere where nothing is expected of me (including spoken words) in order to have truly fulfilling alone time.

As I was growing up with four siblings, alone time was hard to come by then, too. I shared a room with my older sister Julie for all but about one year before she went off to college. And for several years, my two younger sisters had to walk through my room to get to their own (which was really awkward for everyone the first time Kevin and I slept in my room after we were married). Then for some unknown reason later on, my little brother's dresser got moved into my room, so he had to come in there just to get some clothes! Was this a cruel joke? My dad always called my room my "ivory tower," because I tried to make it my haven and spent a lot of time there--and because it was upstairs, I guess.

To truly get some time by myself in the Bevell home, however, I had to lock myself in the bathroom. It's not exactly the most scenic and inspirational of locations, but I was guaranteed some isolation. Granted, it came at the expense of being willing to be the last in line to take a bath, but I welcomed that sacrifice. Of course, this also meant that I might have to wait an even longer time for the hot water to be replenished for my bath, but hey--that just meant more alone time while I was waiting! So into the bathroom I would go, locking the door behind me and turning on the fan so that I didn't even have to hear the noises outside the door. There in my personal refuge, I lingered in a hot bath--sometimes reading, sometimes praying, most times sleeping. An hour was my usual time, and everyone knew this about me. As a teenager, when I'd have a friend come over to spend the night, she would go ahead and tell me good-night before I took my bath, because she was sure to be asleep when I came back. I always thought I would love to have a Jacuzzi, but each time I've had the opportunity to use one, I found it much less relaxing than my regular ol' bath. The rushing water and constant jetstream make me feel a bit stressed, actually. I prefer the really still water, because it is calm and peaceful--much more conducive to my possibility of a retreat.

Now that I'm married with children, alone time has to be even more deliberately and creatively sought after. I don't take baths every night like I used to, because once the kids are in bed, Kevin and I like to spend that time together. (On the nights that I do take a bath, Kevin often goes ahead and tells me good-night before I lock myself in and turn on the fan, just like my friends used to do!) There are occasionally evenings that Kevin has to work, so I snag some quiet time there, but mostly I am coming to depend on these Thursdays. It helps me make it through the rest of my week when I know I am going to have this time.

It may seem selfish and lazy to some people, but I am actually quite rejuvenated by sitting still, reading, writing, watching people, and just listening. It's easier for me to hear God speak to me in these hours, because I have fewer distractions. I get to kind-of regroup and re-energize, and I'm always a much better wife and mother and friend because of it. So it works out well for everyone. Besides, why should Daddy be the only one who gets the greetings of excitement and "We missed you!" all the time?!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

State Fair

Yesterday the Partridge Family went to the Mississippi State Fair! Callie and Caleb thought it was especially great, since we got them out of school a whole hour early. (I'm afraid it's not because we're "cool" parents--we're CHEAP parents who wanted to get in free by getting there before 2:00!) This annual family outing is one we look forward to . . . but neglect to save money for.

We usually take our time at the fair, patiently scoping out the rides so that we make the most informed decisions about which ones we choose. I think it's funny how much Callie and I both love rides, and here's my theory on it: She and I both have control-freak tendencies (Note: No need to leave comments about this. Thanks. --Mgmt.), but there is no way to be in control of anything when you're on one of those rides! That's what's so great. I am generally a fairly quiet soul, but I will scream like a crazy person on a fair ride! Callie's the same way. And we're both so task-oriented that it takes something like going to the fair--where the sole purpose is simply to have fun--to help us just to play. It's a fault of mine, actually. I'm just not naturally good at playing. I love watching other people play! But I digress.

Once the options and tickets were weighed, each of us made our decisions. Callie rode the big slide, the spinning bears, the log ride, Gravitron, and her favorite--Crazy Mouse! Caleb rode the Bumble Bees, the log ride, the cars, Crazy Mouse, and his favorite--the dragon roller coaster! Katie, though, had her sights set on one ride alone--the Bumble Bees! She rode it three times and would have ridden it even more. Only once did she ride something besides the Bees; she rode the cars with Caleb, but it was only because the Bumble Bees were temporarily closed. It was really cute. She got so excited about it.

We did some milling around and took in all the sights, sounds, and smells (most of them good). We looked at all the old cars and saw an antique scooter that looked like it should belong to Barbie. The kids got to pretend they were crawling through a house that was on fire, which Katie declined to do the first time around. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the smoke flowing out the doors and windows! Smart girl. But once they had all successfully escaped through the upper story window and down the ladder, they were rewarded with gold sticker badges and red fire hats.

We also visited the petting zoo, where the kids enjoyed feeding carrots to the cute and cuddly critters. Katie only wanted to feed the baby ones. And the poor zebra--he was stuck in one of the corners with a big sign that said "Do not feed." How terrible is that?! The only animal in the entire place not allowed to eat all the food the kids were handing out! I guess that's why he was put in the corner . . . and wearing stripes.

Of course, we had to eat. That's just a given. And out of all those yummy options, I ended up eating a corndog, of all things. It was good, mind you, but it's really all I ate (besides the very yummy free biscuit and honey), and I shared it with Caleb. The biggest crowd-pleaser, though, was most certainly the cotton candy! Colorful, fluffy, sugar that instantly dissolves in your mouth. We had to ration it throughout our stay at the fair, but it was a hit each and every time it emerged. Well worth the $4.

We ended the evening with the free circus, which is always fun and always a little weird. We saw little dogs jumping through hoops, a girl going through about 20 instant wardrobe changes in just a few minutes (You really had to be there. It sounds sketchy, but it wasn't.), an old man doing a clown act, a girl bending and balancing in ways that just shouldn't be possible, and a group of Chinese acrobats flying around in the air on rubber bands! Like I said, always a little weird.

It was a very fine day at the fair for all of us, I'd say. We left with adequate sugar rushes, headaches, and that nice grimy feeling all over!


I am sitting here watching the Presidential debate, and I admit how intimidated and confused I am by politics.  How are we supposed to know what is true?  They each accuse the other one of doing something, and then it's denied.  How do we know?  And can't they both say pretty much anything they want to say right now, but there's no guarantee that any of it will actually happen or not happen?  We have a system of checks and balances--for which I am grateful--that prevents them from going in with a to-do list that is easily checked off.

So I guess that's why I look more at their character.  Of course, this isn't very easily perceived either, but at least we have records to go by and other people who do know them speaking on their behalf.  Plus we get to watch them speak and debate and interact with people.

I don't know.  I don't pretend to know.   What I DO know is that you couldn't pay me enough money to do what they're doing!!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Doing Dishes and Loving God

"Lord of all pots and pans and things . . . Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates! . . . The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen . . . I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." --Brother Lawrence

I have this quote printed on a plain piece of white paper and taped on the wall near my kitchen sink, which is where I spend a great deal of time during my days. (I'm there now, actually.) Some of the words are smudged, because the water in the sink tends to splatter pretty badly. I think it gives the quote even more character, though. I've had this up in my kitchen for several years now, and while the prayer is a desire of my heart, it is very often forgotten in the daily grind of washing clothes, picking up toys, scrubbing toilets, and cooking meals.

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this. There are a few stay-at-home moms who take great joy and pride in cleaning their houses (my sister Christy, maybe?), but I am not one of those. I take that back. I do take pride in a clean house; I just don't take joy in being the one to clean it. I feel bogged down and held back from doing "more important" things. Hold that thought--I have to go put a new load in the washer . . .

I'm back now. Just had to get supper going, too. What was I saying? Oh yes, that I get bogged down sometimes in the dailyness of life. Some days and some chores don't seem to bother me as much as others; it's mainly when there's something that I really, really want to do that is postponed because the carpet needs to be vacuumed or the furniture needs to be dusted (HA! I'm totally just saying that. I never dust.). The point is that I can get really whiny about it sometimes. It may not always reveal itself verbally, but it's definitely going on in my head. Now I will give myself some credit here. My longings to do other things besides chores do include activities with my children, so it's not a completely self-indulgent yearning.

But back to the prayer. Even when I'm feeling more whiny than joyful about keeping house, I do at least try to remind myself that I am serving both my family and God in it. How? Well, some days it's not very clear to me, either. But then last week, I had one of those "Aha!" moments as I was preparing the house for our Small Group to come over. You see, I have no problem seeing how opening our home up for friends and neighbors and even people we've never met before to come in and feel welcome and safe is done for God's glory. I long for our home to be open to everyone, to be known as a house of peace. It's just hard to keep it clean. Actually, nevermind clean--it's hard to keep an open walkway in each room!

I've kind-of gotten over the fact that my house just won't be picture perfect--probably ever. I'm even comforted by the words of those who come over and say that they actually feel more at home when there are toys all over the floor and dirty dishes on the counters. I don't think they're just being nice; I think they really mean it. So my heart problems aren't coming from other people's comments. It's more of a self-motivation problem.

During the "Aha!" moment that I mentioned, it suddenly occurred to me that it's not just the end product of my service that is to be for God's glory; it is the entire process. I should be "working as unto the Lord, not unto men" (Colossians 3:23). With every pot that I scrub, every shirt that I fold, every tile that I mop, I am serving God. I am taking care of my family. And while I may never experience utter happiness in doing the work, I CAN experience both joy and satisfaction in understanding why I do what I do and in using that time to commune with my Creator.

This is a concept that I know I will probably never consistently grasp, but it is one that I hope to never lose sight of "in the noise and clatter of my kitchen."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Worshipful Moment: The Beach

Last weekend my family and I were on vacation in Destin, Florida. On our last full day there, we spent the entire day, with the exception of going in for lunch, on the beach. It was so perfect. The sun wasn't too hot; the water wasn't too cold; and the waves were just right for Callie to ride on her boogie board. We inhabited this wide open space, sharing it mainly with seagulls and pelicans. The occasional passers-by smiled sweetly at our children and laughed at them burying their father in the sand. They laughed harder when Kevin suddenly jumped up from the sandy grave and began chasing the little undertakers, who were running from him in their brightly colored swimsuits, cackling, and squealing "Daaaaaaddyyyyyy!"

The kids all took turns going out into the water with Kevin, each of them clinging to his neck as waves hit and fish nibbled and nudged (which is why I wasn't out there). Kevin soaked up the one-on-one time with each of our children, and I soaked up the memories we were creating. The girls and I walked a ways down the beach looking for interesting and unique seashells and talking about how awesome it is to know that the same God who created all this immense beauty is the same God who created us and loves us and wants to know us personally.

There were several minutes when Kevin and the kids were all doing different things, and I got to shuffle around at the edge of the water simply observing everything around me--a favorite pastime of mine. As I dug my toes in the thick, wet sand and witnessed the majesty of God's wonderful creativity, I couldn't help but sing.

I am nothing without You.

Each time I go to the beach, I am in awe--of the vastness of the ocean, the profusion of sand, the magnificence of all the living creatures (yes, even though I don't want them touching me), and the splendor of the boundless blue sky spotted with fluffy white clouds. And every time--every time--God blesses me with the same message, which is this:

My love for you is constant, just as these waves on the shore are constant. It never stops. And no matter how many footprints, drawings, or castles are made in this sand, the waves will always wash them away, leaving only a clean slate, just as My love and forgiveness for you unceasingly wash away your sins. It doesn't matter how deep or how ugly or how constant your mistakes are; I will always erase them with the blood of My Son, who died in your place.

When I was little I used to wonder if God turned the waves off at night, as if it were a water amusement park. As I got older and was able to take walks on the beach in the dark, I would smile to myself as I heard the crashing of the waves even before I could see them. Once again, I was reminded of God's faithful and continual love for me, a love that is much like breathing--vital and constant. Though I don't always pay attention to it, it fills my soul and keeps me alive.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Katie

In two days my Katie will be four years old. This is my baby, the youngest of my three children. I know everyone says this, but the time really has flown. I have such a vivid memory of the day she was born. She wasn't due for several more days (much to my discomfort). I woke up at about 6:00 on the morning of September 13, 2004, and immediately started having contractions five minutes apart. After waiting it out on my own for about half an hour--all the while putting on my make-up and styling my hair in between very, very deep breaths--I decided to wake Kevin up to tell him "It's time."

Kevin sprang into action. We called our dear friend Kari and asked if she could come over and stay with Callie and Caleb while we went to the hospital, and she kindly obliged. Then we called Kevin's parents to tell them to jump on the next plane from Mississippi to Maryland to meet their newest grandbaby. On the way to the hospital, we continued to call our families to share our exciting news and ask for their prayers. My sister Julie asked if we might could hold off until the next day, so that she and Katie could share a birthday. I think I said something like, "No [pant, pant, OUCH!] . . . Sorry."

Once we got to the hospital, an attendant met me with a wheelchair and took us up to a labor and delivery room. Immediately I was bombarded with questions by medical personnel. Since I was trying to focus on getting through the INTENSE pain of each contraction, I signaled Kevin with a sharp cut of my eyes and a point of my finger (no, not the middle one) to answer as many of the questions as he could.

Now settled into the hospital bed, I waited--for the doctor to break my water (Sorry, guys.), for the next contraction, for my blessed epidural . . . It was actually really quiet in our room, though. I had learned that the less noise, the better for me when I'm in labor. No words, no music, no sounds of the ocean, no yelling. Just breathing and the sound of the monitors. Since this was our third run, Kevin knew what he was doing, too. He sat quietly on the edge of the bed, smiled sweetly (but not too big), held my hand if I wanted him to, and occasionally asked if he could get me anything.

For the most part, the pain subsided once I got the epidural. But then Katie came so fast that the epidural had not worn off enough for me to feel any of the pushing! I seriously had to act like I was pushing and ask the doctor if I really was. Kevin and I were actually laughing during the delivery, which is just so telling of our Katie-Bug, her personality, and her world.

Katie was born at 11:19 a.m. that day, and she was perfect. The moment was so sweet--just Kevin, me, and our new baby. She was the fastest and easiest to deliver, and she was such a good baby. I even recovered so much faster after her birth than I had with my other two (well, until day four, but that's a different story altogether and shall not be included here).

Kevin's parents arrived later that afternoon, and they brought Callie and Caleb with them to meet their new baby sister. Everyone was enamored with her, but no one was as touched as Kevin's mother when we presented Kathryn Dorothy Partridge to her. She had no idea that we were going to use her first name as Katie's middle name, and she was overwhelmed. In fact, I don't think she even said anything; she only spoke with her tears, which were happy ones. What a special moment for all of us!

In the past four years, our Katie has brought us so much love and laughter. She is certainly the most affectionate in our brood, coming to me multiple times every single day for nothing more than a hug and a kiss. Her favorite phrases are "Pick me up," "I want you," and "Hold me." She's also the sneakiest--in more ways than one--the most consistent being her ability to place herself in your lap without you even realizing it. She loves to giggle and do "shaky bottom" (at which you really just can't help laughing); she cracks jokes and makes the funniest faces I've ever seen; she squeals and sings and dances; she's incredibly independent when she wants to do something, but she hates to be alone; she's tough and rowdy but also sweet and shy; she collects compliments on her big blue eyes and golden hair everywhere we go; and she lights up a room with her smile.

There was a time when we thought we might lose our precious Katie. The only reason I can make it through the retelling of the story is because it had such a happy ending. Just a couple of months after her first birthday, I took her in for a routine well-check with the pediatrician. Since this was the first time we had been to this doctor, I took Katie's growth chart and records and everything. But before the doctor even looked at the chart, she simply looked at Katie and said, "There is something very wrong with your child." What?! I was so confused. We were there to get weighed, measured, and get a couple of shots; then we'd be on our way. Instead, the doctor sent us to the local children's hospital in somewhat of a panic, telling us that we were probably looking at a long, hard road ahead of us, and it might involve physical therapy and who knows what else.

We were in a fog. This is Katie. She's fine. She's just laid-back, content, not concerned with "reaching her milestones." She was the third child, after all. It turned out that there actually was something very wrong with baby Katie. After a week in the hospital, where they tested her for cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and hosts of other diseases--where they drew blood from her tiny, tiny veins multiple times a day, fed her Pediasure through a tube in her nose and down her throat, and made her sleep in a steel baby bed--where we met with pediatric neurologists, geneologists, and gastroenterologists--where they put my baby girl to sleep and sent her tiny body into an enormous MRI machine. I can hardly think about it. I prefer to reminisce about pushing her around and around and around the hospital in a little pink car, stopping only at the nurses' station for them to refuel her with Pediasure and dote on the child they deemed "Precious Moments."

By the end of the week, the report came back. Katie had Celiac Disease. Holding our breaths, we waited for the full explanation of this disease we didn't even know how to spell at the time. And when the explanation was finished, we practically jumped for joy! After all the horrible, horrible possibilities, our daughter was labeled with a disease that was treated with what she ate! No medicine, no physical therapy, no handicaps, no shortened lifespan. All we had to do was make sure we kept gluten out of her mouth. Once we did that, Katie became a completely different child; she became the little girl that we now know is neither laid-back nor content with sitting still. And bringing her home from the hospital that day may have brought me even more joy than when I brought her home the day after she was born.

In two days my Katie will be four years old. And I am so thankful.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I wrote this and read it at my grandmother's funeral earlier this
year . . .

When I think of Nannie, I picture her in the kitchen, of course, her apron tied around her waist. Even if it wasn't a mealtime, she would still be cooking. Fried chicken, roast beef, stuffed baked potatoes with cheese, turkey, dressing, gravy (which could be put on just about anything on your plate!), fried okra, corn on the cob (unless you had a loose tooth--then she'd cut it off the cob for you), butter beans, black-eyed peas, and the best rolls you've ever tasted! (Before there was Sister Shubert, there was Helen Bevell.) While all of this food was amazing, it was still consumed as somewhat of a formality in order to get to the really good stuff: dessert! She made the best chocolate and lemon pies, chocolate chip cookies (which were always kept in the same round tin), chocolate oatmeal cookies, and yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing. My best memories are when Bapba was still around to make his amazing homemade vanilla ice cream to go along with Nannie's baked goods. This treat was made very much by the sweat of his brow, since he had to crank the ice cream by hand. It was truly a labor of love and one that was greatly appreciated as we consumed the ice cream much faster than it had been made. After Bapba died, though, Nannie still made sure there was Angel Food ice cream in the freezer and cans of Coke in the refrigerator. And if all of that wasn't enough, you could just about guarantee she had some Hershey bars stashed somewhere!

Nannie certainly must have spent a greater portion of her life in the kitchen. That's where she served others, and she was good at it. She couldn't stand to think that someone might be hungry, and she was nearly offended if you didn't go back for seconds. Thirst was also never an issue in her house, since she'd have your glass refilled with her wonderful sweet tea before you even realized you were low. There is definitely the lingering question in our minds about whether or not Nannie actually got to enjoy her own cooking, since she was always so busy refilling, asking who was ready for more on their plate, and passing out the next batch of hot rolls straight from the oven.

During the summer of 1996, I spent the night with Nannie every Monday, and I soaked up the one-on-one time with her and, of course, enjoyed her spoiling me with her cooking. Since it was just the two of us, I got to enjoy more conversations with her and actually saw her sit down sometimes! I loved talking to Nannie, because you just never knew what she was going to say. She had such a quick wit about her and also had some pretty strong opinions (a trait that she successfully passed down to more than one of her children and grandchildren). And if she thought you were out of line, she would let you know it--sometimes punctuating it with a tap on the behind with a wooden spoon! She was fiesty and stubborn, but she was also very loving and nurturing. I can remember more than one occasion when she picked me up from school when I wasn't feeling well, and she took me home and made me the best potato soup I have ever had. Even when I went off to college, she continued to tend to me by sending me hilarious letters--which were nearly impossible to read because of her messy handwriting--and usually included some coupons or stamps or money. She wasn't usually one for talking on the phone, though, so that didn't happen very often. One of the funniest things she did, in my opinion, was to say good-bye as she was hanging up the phone.

Nannie and Bapba always wanted to take care of all of us. They would take us on vacations to Florida, supply the grandkids with quarters, cut our grass, cook and clean, give us their old cars, provide us with the most amazing vegetables from their garden, repair our houses and vehicles, and give us advice. One of my favorite treasures is that they bestowed upon each of us grandkids a quirky, yet very special, nickname. They also provided a home that we looked forward to visiting and felt quite comfortable in. We loved the familiar surroundings and the furniture that never changed. We loved that we knew where everyone was supposed to sit and what was required of you when you were there. (The women cooked and cleaned up and then sat around the dining room table to discuss life; the men slouched in the living room in front of golf or football on TV, while dozing in and out of consciousness; and the kids were sent outside to play ball, war, or "The Dukes of Hazzard"--using Bapba's tractor as the General Lee.) We celebrated so many Thanksgivings, Christmas Eves (which was also Nannie's and Bapba's anniversary), and Easters there, and we could always count on full bellies, finding our red and green stockings--which Nannie crocheted herself--filled with money and bubble gum, and Easter egg hunts that would last all afternoon (and got pretty competitive). Holidays were important family gatherings, and it made me sad when that season came to an end. It just didn't seem right to eat Thanksgiving dinner at anyone else's house.

My Nannie worked hard, and she served her family well. She loved her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. And while I'm sure it was very frustrating for her, I think she spent these last few years making up for all the rest she didn't get when she was busy with us. I'm sure she didn't stop worrying about us all, though, because she was good at that. "Life is just a series of getting used to things," she once told me. I guess that's true, but it's awfully hard to get used to her not being here with us anymore. We love you, Nannie.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Vision of Provision

This is an article that I wrote for my church a while back . . .

About a year ago, my husband and my son boarded a small private plane that was being piloted by my father-in-law, who had received his pilot's license the previous year. Yes, I was very nervous, but I tried to conceal those feelings and trust that Kevin's dad could not have obtained a license unless he really knew how to fly a plane. But still, I was sending my beloved husband . . . and my only son (who really loves his Mommy!) . . . into the wild blue yonder . . . in a very small aircraft. I bit my lower lip while telling them good-bye and then waited for my husband's final words to me (hoping that they weren't literally his final words to me). "Carrie," he said. "Yes?," I asked, waiting for the most romantic words to trickle from his tongue. "I know this isn't the best time to talk about this, but you need to know where the life insurance policy is . . . " I can't really tell you what he said after that, because my heart jumped up into my throat; my vision blurred; and my ears wanted nothing to do with what he was saying. Are you kidding me?! was all I could think. So I spent the next few hours anxiously awaiting the phone call that told me they were on the ground (safely). The call came much later than it was supposed to, so my blood pressure was sky high! But they were fine.

I couldn't imagine losing Kevin. What would I do? How would I make it? We have three children who need their Daddy. How would I provide for us financially? I think that these are pretty normal thoughts, although in today's society we do have things like life insurance policies (that Kevin so kindly reminded me of) to help take care of loved ones who are left behind. And I'm sure I could find a job somewhere, but then who would take care of my children while I'm at work? I want to be the one to take care of them!

Obviously, these thoughts could go on forever. I could literally make myself go crazy with them. But the reality is that women become widows every day. They are suddenly left alone and no longer have their soul mates sitting beside them ready to give advice or even just to listen. A long time ago, a "certain woman," as the Bible calls her, found herself in this very situation. She was left alone with two sons and creditors banging on her door, threatening to take her sons as slaves if she couldn't pay up. I can only imagine how frightened and confused and desperate she must have felt. To whom should she turn? Well, her husband was a son of a prophet, so she went to the prophet Elisha to ask his advice.

"What do you have in the house?," he asked her. "Nothing except a jar of oil," she replied. Where is he going with this? she probably wondered. He then proceeded to tell her to go ask all her neighbors if she could borrow empty vessels from them and then to go back into her house with her sons, shut the door behind them, and begin pouring her oil into these vessels. Okaaaay. Whatever you say, Elisha. She apparently didn't ask him any questions out loud. After all, this is the guy who, just a couple of chapters ago, got two bears to destroy 42 young boys for calling him "baldhead"! Yeah, you don't mess with this guy, nor do you question him when he tells you to do something.

So this "certain woman" and her sons did just what he said. And what happened next was simply a miracle. They began pouring oil from their own jar, and it just kept flowing until ALL of the borrowed vessels were full! I wish I could have been there to see the looks on their faces and hear their comments as they saw this happening. I'll bet the boys were especially excited, and however you say "No way!" in Hebrew probably escaped their lips a time or two. And what must their neighbors have thought? I'm sure they were full of questions about what really happened behind those closed doors.

I find it really interesting that God so often chooses to perform His miracles behind closed doors and with only a handful of eyewitnesses. Jesus even told some of those whom He had healed not to tell anyone about it. I'm not sure why that is. He also seems to enjoy healing and helping people in very creative and unusual ways--using things like mud and spit, a fish with a coin in its mouth, a rod that turns into a snake and then back into a rod again, or even a talking donkey! In this case, He multiplied enough oil to allow this woman to sell it and pay off her debt as well as have enough money leftover for her and her sons to live on. Truly a miracle!

I personally haven't experienced anything quite like this woman experienced. When Kevin was in college, he received a large box of samples of shaving cream, and he didn't have to buy shaving cream for TEN YEARS!!! Yes, it's true that he doesn't like to shave all that often, but that's still a very long time to go without having to restock. That's about the closest example I can come up with to compare to the never-ending oil spill. But that wasn't a miracle--just a big promotion by Edge. Now if he had gotten ten years' supply out of just one can--well, that might be comparable!

God's love, compassion, and concern for our daily lives is always so overwhelming to me. He cared about this woman, and He performed a miracle through Elisha so that she could keep her sons with her and not ever have to worry about money. The oil is such a picture of His love for us--filling us up completely and constantly--more than enough for all of us! God promises never to leave us or forsake us. He promises to provide for our needs (our true needs, not our wants for things like big screen TVs). He tells us to look at the birds and the flowers and how much He cares for them but how much MORE He cares for us, His children. I think about how much I love and care for my own children and how I would do anything in the world to provide for them. That doesn't mean that I spoil them or give them everything they want. I even allow them to go through tough experiences in order to teach them a lesson. They receive consequences for their poor choices. But it doesn't mean that I don't love them. It is because I love them that I discipline them. And while they might get angry at me at the moment, they never question my love for them. Neither do they wonder if I'll give them something to eat or a place to sleep for the night. They know that they are being provided for, just as God provides for us. His love is rich, and His promises are true.

My challenge is for each of us to be aware of how God provides for us on a daily basis. I think that we take far too much credit for how our needs are met. And I'm not just talking about our physical needs. We all have spiritual, emotional, and mental needs, too. We should be aware and be thankful for those times when God sends just the right person into our lives to give us advice or a listening ear, when He provides an especially beautiful day that lifts our spirits, or when He brings a particular song or Scripture to our minds that was exactly what we needed to hear from Him at that moment. And look for His creativity in your life! It may not be as amazing as never-ending oil, but it is still amazing. His speaking to you might also occur behind closed doors, and you might be the only eyewitness, but that just means you can praise Him and thank Him and act as crazy as you want, because it's just the two of you! You can even shout, "No way!" in Hebrew, if you want.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Callie's Poem

I have never seen my eldest daughter so excited! Callie received news today that a poem she wrote in first grade (last year) is going to be published! Her teacher entered the poem in a contest, and out of thousands of entries, hers was chosen. It will be published in an anthology called A Celebration of Poets. The contest was open to students K-12 all over the nation, and I believe they chose ten winners in each of the four age categories. Here it is for your enjoyment.

At Night When You're in Bed
By Callie Partridge

At night when you're sleeping,
You know the room is quiet.
You want to act right
And sleep nice and comfortable.
Everything in your head,
As you dream nicely in your bed.
Everywhere it's quiet.
Nicely and sweetly you want to sing a song!
Before you notice that you're sleeping,
Mommy takes off her silky ring.
One more blink
Before your last wink!
At night when you're in bed!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Are You Cereus?

Last night I encountered another one of those moments when I realize just how different my husband and I are. I had so many things planned for my evening. I was going to finish cleaning and pricing toys for a sale, post an entry on this very blog, work on an article I'm submitting for publication, and maybe do some cleaning (okay, knitting!)--all of this after folding and putting away laundry, cleaning up the supper dishes, and getting the kids to bed. At least, this was my plan.

In the midst of the kids' teeth-brushing and the putting on of pajamas, Kevin mentioned that our friends Josh and Katie were going to be stopping by a little later to watch the flower bloom. Huh?, I thought. I had forgotten that Kevin's night-blooming cereus, a strange organism that makes its bloomin' debut only once a year and in the middle of the night, was due to flaunt its stuff that very evening. "Okay," I said, thinking I might actually get more stuff done since he would be out on the porch with Josh and Katie.

A few minutes later, Josh and Katie showed up, and the kids--not yet in bed--got all excited. Still we managed to get the muchkins down, and I headed back to my chores while the other grown-ups headed to the exhibit outside. (In case you're wondering, Josh and Katie knew about the flower because Kevin sent out an e-mail to some folks about it. Only one other person responded, and he said he'd probably spend the evening reading his dictionary instead.) Content to wipe down the kitchen table and make price tags for our gently-used toys, I got to my duties.

And then Kevin came back inside.

He looked at me with those tender hazel eyes of his--the ones I so often neglect to simply gaze into, the ones that speak more love to me than any others--and asked me to please come out and join them in observing this special moment. He promised to help me finish my work the next day, although he had already done so much to help me clean up the house that afternoon (He was thinking ahead!). After an "Are you serious?" look followed by an explanation of all that I had to do--which did not include flower-gazing--, I reluctantly . . . very reluctantly . . . agreed to join them. Of course, I had to finish pricing those last few items before I could really release myself from my task-orientedness for the night.

Once I got myself to the back porch, it took me several minutes to become fully-engaged in relaxation. I get so worked up when I'm on mission! I went ahead and admitted to Josh and Katie that I was out there because my husband wanted me to be (Nothing against them.). "This is why we married each other," I told them. "He makes me stop and watch the flowers bloom, and I help him get things done." Kevin agreed.

The evening turned out to be really nice, of course. And I was glad Kevin made me stop what I was doing, of course. The flower really was remarkable; the company was enjoyable; the conversation was interesting and fun; and my soul was thankful. Oh yeah--and we had cheesecake!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh, the Drama!

Yesterday Kevin followed through on a threat. He was trying to get the kids to clean up the living room, and of course, they were not excited about it. There was much whining and complaining and "Why do we have to?" (a question to which the answer never changes). We've been noticing that Katie, however, is a bit quieter in her method to avoid the work; she just mills around and tries to look busy without actually doing anything.

So Kevin was really on top of her yesterday. He told her that if she didn't pick up the toys off the floor and put them where they belong that he was going to throw them in the garbage. She just stood there and stared at him with those enormous blue eyes, silently daring him to follow through. And he did. He grabbed up one of the smallest toys on the floor, marched to the kitchen trash can, and disposed of it.

Well, you would have thought that he had thrown a newborn puppy in the garbage, the way Callie began carrying on. That's right--Callie, not Katie. Katie did get to work, mind you, but she didn't seem to be all that bothered by the discarded item. But Callie! She was wailing and accusing Kevin of not caring about any of their toys and how special they are to them, intermixed with barking at Katie, "Well, I hope you're happy!" This was followed by threats of retrieving the treasure from the garbage, even if it meant sneaking out and digging through the trash bag once it was put out by the curb.

We really tried not to laugh at the dramatic rantings by our seven-and-a-half-year-old, but it was hard. Really, really hard. And I'd have to say we weren't completely successful, though we didn't do it to her face. I asked Kevin if we should put a time limit on the theatrical piece, but he said we should just let her get it out. So on it went. (At least she was still cleaning! Granted, it was done in fear of more toys being done away with. But hey--mission accomplished.)

A few hours later--the rantings somewhat forgotten-- we were sitting in the living room with our Small Group (our church). While listening to the discussion, I noticed Callie sit down quietly near me and open up a folded piece of notebook paper. Looking out of the corner of her eye, she made sure I was watching. After she let out a deep sigh, complete with a heave of the shoulders, I decided to give in and ask her what she was looking at. She handed me the piece of paper, while maintaining the forlorn look on her face. Curiously I opened up the paper but then wasn't sure what I was observing. When I asked Callie what it was, she said--forlorn look still in place--, "It's a picture of the baby Daddy threw away." It was so hard to contain my laughter at my melodramatic daughter.

The irony of it all: What had been thrown away was a tiny, tiny (smaller than even Callie's little finger) plastic figurine of a little girl . . . and it was MINE. Oh well. I'll sacrifice an old toy for a lesson well-learned by my children.

P.S. Since some of you might find us to be cruel, unfeeling parents through reading this, I would like to invite you to visit our home sometime. There you can observe Callie's theatrics-- as well as the explosion of a multitude of little plastic toys--for yourself!

P.P.S. Those of you who find us to be cruel, unfeeling parents, I am going to guess, do not have small children and all their toys in your home.


I am really excited today. Kevin is making it possible for me to have several hours alone to work on my writing--something I always want to do but don't make the time/don't have the time/am too scared to do. As I said previously, he is the one who really encouraged me to start this blog, and I admit that it's something I am really enjoying. (Thanks for reading, by the way. It means a lot to me!) This is a good place for me to talk about all the random things that are going on in my head all the time and a good place for me to jot down some of my memories.

We are hoping to make this a weekly event, which is such a gift. I love that Kevin is so supportive of my dreams and does practical things to help me try to realize those dreams. I am also thankful that his schedule is flexible enough to make this possible. These days will be great for him, too, because he'll get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Katie. And they might even head up to the school to eat lunch with Callie and Caleb. Very fun!

On the way to school this morning, Callie was commenting on the fact that I was going to work on my writing today. She wanted to know why I wanted to do it, and I told her that it is something that I really enjoy and that there are some people who like to read what I write. Then I told her that I would like to try to get published some day, like in a magazine or something. Then she says, "Don't you think it would get annoying to me and Daddy and Caleb and Katie if you become famous?" Ha! I told her she didn't have to worry about that but then asked her to explain why it would be annoying. She said she would get tired of people stopping me all the time to get my autograph. Double ha! I guess I should take it as an indirect compliment, though.

But since all those CRAZY FANS haven't started bombarding me with Sharpies yet, I'm going to sit here at Cups and enjoy my pensive, creative time alone. Thank you for these Thursdays, Kevin!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kirk Douglas

"Depression is caused by thinking too much about yourself. Try to think of others, try to help them. You will be amazed how that lessens your depression. That satisfaction is priceless."--Kirk Douglas

Last week when I was at the dentist's office waiting on Katie, I randomly picked up the latest Newsweek magazine and browsed through it. A biographical article ("What Old Age Taught Me") by Kirk Douglas really struck me--especially the above quote, as this is something I have discovered myself as well. Here's the link to the article. It's worth the read!

Musical Beds

Normally our nights are very peaceful. Everyone usually sleeps soundly all night long in their own beds. However, this was not the case in our home last night.

1:00 a.m.--Katie is crying. I go to check on her and discover she has wet the bed. I clean her up and change her clothes, pull the sheets off her bed, and put her in bed with Caleb.

3:00 a.m.--Callie gets up to blow her nose and isn't quiet about it.

3:30 a.m.--Callie gets up again to blow her nose and then comes to report that she doesn't feel well. She gets in bed with Kevin and me. We're too sleepy to tell her to do otherwise.

3:45 a.m.--Caleb comes to me crying that Katie is in his bed. I tell him why she's there, and he cries more, because he doesn't want Katie to tee-tee in his bed. I assure him she won't, but he says he can't sleep with her in there. So I go get Katie (who is, in fact, sprawled out all over Caleb's bed!) and put her in Callie's bed, since Callie's now in our bed, and Katie's sheets are wet.

4:00 a.m.--Kevin says that Callie is burning up with fever. I go to get some ibuprofen for her.

4:05 a.m.--Since three's a crowd in our bed, Kevin gets up and moves to the couch. He isn't thinking clearly enough to remember where to find a blanket, so he covers up with all the pillows on the couch.

6:00 a.m.--Kevin's alarm goes off. He's still on the couch. I turn off his alarm and am thankful that I still have a few more minutes to sleep.

6:55 a.m.--I wake up and discover that my alarm never went off, and now I'm running late in getting Caleb to school on time!

7:30 a.m.--Caleb wonders why he is the only one going to school today.

I'm glad these nights are few and far between. I'm beat!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Little Girl Baby

Just before Callie turned one, my mother gave her a baby doll, and that doll has consistently been Callie's favorite. Her name is Little Girl Baby. (Callie, like her mother, is very "call it what it is.") This doll has endured a lot, like Callie's gnawing on her little plastic hands, but she has also been well-loved. She sleeps with Callie nearly every night, and she goes on all our trips with us.

Last week Callie did something very meaningful. She asked Katie if she would take care of Little Girl Baby while she was at school. Since Katie knows how special LGB is to Callie, she felt quite honored that Callie would ask this of her. She immediately took the doll carefully in her arms and cradled her, smiling as big as she could. Callie knew that this meant a lot to Katie, that it was showing her little sister that she loved and trusted her . . . and that it would give Katie something to do while her big brother and sister were at school. I was really proud of Callie for being so thoughtful. And I was proud of Katie for being such a loving aunt. She made sure to feed LGB, put her down for a nap, and play with her. She even took pictures of LGB with her cousin, Baby Charlie.

This morning before she left for school, Callie swaddled LGB in a tattered pink blanket (the one Callie has had since she was born and which is now really just a pile of pink thread) and handed her over to Katie to care for for the day. It was very sweet.

It doesn't seem like it's been that long ago that my sisters and I were taking care of our own baby dolls and handing them over to their aunts for babysitting. I can remember some of the favorites. Julie had Linda, who had to be treated with extra care, since she was an old doll and could fall apart at any moment. My favorite was Alisha, a baby who had velvety skin and pretty blue eyes that opened and closed and had stiff black lashes. I guess I don't particularly remember Christy's and Laurie's favorites. We all took care of them, though. We would take them for car rides, using the couch as our car. I'm pretty sure Julie always got to drive, since she's the oldest. Many times we ended up at Claire's Restaurant (a.k.a. my mother's kitchen) for dinner. Once we even held a doll show in our backyard. We invited the other girls in our neighborhood to bring their dolls, and my grandparents were the judges.

Today my sisters and I live in four different states, but we still love on and take care of each other's babies. We call each other when we're feeling frustrated or worn out from motherhood and no longer have the luxury of putting the babies down to go play something else whenever we feel like it. We now pray for each other as we are raising these little ones, who don't stay little for long. We also like to tell each other's kids what their mommies used to do when they were little, which usually gets a few giggles. And of course, we like to point out to each other when our children are acting just as we did . . . or still do.

Being an aunt, whether it's to a baby doll or to a real live human being, is a big responsibility. I'm glad my girls are practicing now, and it's fun to imagine how they'll be with their own real babies one day. Of course, that would mean I was a grandmother . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Most Important Day of My Life

Below is an essay that I just sent off to a contest in Real Simple magazine. The instructions were to write about one of the most important days in your life and how it affected you. I hope you enjoy it . . . and I hope I win.

The Most Important Day of My Life
By Carrie Bevell Partridge

The date was March 5, 1975. I don't remember what the weather was like that day or if anything particularly interesting was happening in the world. I do know that it was my grandfather's 50th birthday and that my dad was wearing a maroon warm-up suit. He had been running a basketball practice, but he came as soon as he got the news. I don't recall whether or not my sister Julie was there when it happened. My mother was close-by, though, and was crying. Everyone gathered around me in the sterile hospital room. I lay there naked, unsure, and scared. I was quite traumatized by the incident and was completely unable to talk. All I could do was cry. I didn't recognize anyone at the time, yet they all seemed to know exactly who I was. I was being poked and prodded by nurses, and they worked carefully to wash the blood out of my hair. I felt cold, and the lights seemed too bright.

I had been pushed. It wasn't an accident either. While everyone seemed confident that I was going to be okay, I wasn't so sure at that moment. Even my mother, through her own tears, assured me that everything was going to be alright and that she loved me very much. It took some time, but after observing everyone's smiling faces, I started to feel better about the situation. Though still unable to speak, I managed to blink back some tears and try to familiarize myself with my surroundings. It all looked and felt so strange. What had happened to me? One minute I was safe and warm and content, and the next minute I was thrust into a state of shock and confusion. What had happened? I was born.

Since that traumatic day more than 33 years ago, I have come to be grateful for it. I have even forgiven my mother for pushing me. After all, that day was just the beginning of an amazing journey. I have come to understand that had I not experienced the tribulation of the birthing process--literally being pushed out into the world--I would never have been able to experience all the joys and pleasures of this life, including pushing three of my own babies out into the world! I would never have known the beauty of a sunset, the joy of a good belly laugh, the serenity of a rainy day, the delight of friendships, the satisfaction of a good meal, the splendor of the mountains, or the sweetness of my husband's love. Granted, I also would never have known the pain of a heartbreak, the fear of being rejected, the disappointment of a dream that didn't come true, the frustration of injustice, or the grief in the death of a loved one. But these are all part of this life, too, and even the hard times play an important role. If nothing else, they help us fully appreciate the beautiful moments when they do happen. And they do.

If I had never been born, I never would have known how great it is to have lots of siblings and that those same sisters and brother I once fought with would later become some of my very best friends. I never would have heard the marvelous stories Granddaddy tells about growing up in the Bronx or about playing minor league baseball or about when my great-grandmother was scared to death the first time she saw an automobile (She thought it was a monster!). I never would have known how wonderful homemade ice cream is, especially after watching my grandfather labor over its making--back in the days when you had to crank it by hand. I never would have experienced the joy of learning to do things for the first time--walking, riding a bike, driving a car. I never would have seen that I'm like my mother and my father. I never would have played sports or learned to cook or write or sing. I never would have met Kevin Partridge and had three beautiful children with him. I never would have taught Callie to read or Caleb to work a puzzle or Katie to play dress-up. I never would have known how fun it is to travel and see other parts of the world and other cultures. I never would have known that knitting can be so creative and so therapeutic at the same time. I never would have known the healing effect of a hug or the power of kind words. And I never would have had the pleasure of serving God on this earth . . . had I never been born.

Now that I've been here a while, I wonder how the rest of my life will impact others. I can already see how it is affecting my family (Admittedly, it's not always good.), but I may never know how much a smile and a thank-you can mean to the lady at the check-out counter or how leaving a good tip says just as much about me as it does about the waitress who served me. Even the people standing around each of the gas pumps, as we're all filling up, can use some encouragement (especially at these prices!). Each of us leaves a legacy, and it's not just for our children. We leave traces of it everywhere we go and with every person we encounter. Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not always thinking of others before myself. In fact, I battle my selfishness daily even when serving my own family. However, each time I do consider others' needs and then act on it, I am always rewarded. I find that on the days that I am feeling down or depressed, if I will just do something to serve another human being--to really think beyond myself--that my spirits are lifted and things are put into better perspective. After all, this life is not just about me, and living as if it were will only lead to a great feeling of emptiness.

Every Christmas season while we're decorating our tree, my family and I watch It's a Wonderful Life. We snicker at some of the scenarios Clarence reveals to George--like that everyone is very mean or crazy or in jail and that Mary is a homely-looking spinster, all because George Bailey was never born. But it does make me stop and think about all the people I have touched in my lifetime, whether I realize it or not. I also consider the many roles I have played in my life thus far: daughter, sister, niece, cousin, granddaughter, aunt, wife, mother, student, employee, teacher, hostess, friend. Each of these is important, and each of these has provided an area of influence for me. The influence may be very simple, but it is there just the same. And on the days when I question my significance in the world (which can happen quite often in the life of a stay-at-home mom), I try to remind myself that God created me for a very real purpose. That purpose may not be to find the cure for cancer or to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and I might not receive a lot of recognition for my contributions, but they are a purpose and contributions that have been designated for me.

There have been many wonderfully significant days in my life--my wedding day, the days my babies were born, the day I decided to follow Christ--but the day of my birth started it all. I have heard the story of that day pretty much every March 5th since 1975, because my father recounts the tale, always beginning with, "Let's see. Fifteen years ago today . . . " (Obviously, the number changes according to my age.) He says that the details have become a bit hazy over the years, but I still like to hear it. It reminds me that my birthday truly is a day for celebration. I shouldn't moan that I'm another year older; I should rejoice that I have been given another year to live!