Passion

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Passion.  It’s a word that invokes emotion, excitement, joy, need, soul moving desire.  Passion.

Last night I was in a rehearsal where we sang the song My Passion by Travis Cottrell.  Here are the lyrics:

You alone are my passion forever.
Song of my soul,
Desire of my heart.
You alone are my passion, my treasure.
I love You for all that you are.

To the ends of the earth I will follow.
There’s nothing that I will not do.
You alone are my reason for living;
Jesus my passion is You.
Jesus my passion is You.

My Life.
My Love.
My God.
You are my Life.
My Love.
My God.

Everything I do
Everything I have
Every breath I breathe
Everything I do is all for You.

The lyrics to this song kind of took my breath away.  It’s not just because they’re beautiful, especially paired with the melody, but because they are simplistically deep.  I found this to be a difficult song to sing.

Is He alone my passion and my treasure?  Will I follow Him to the ends of the earth?  What if that requires walking through heartache?  Can I sing this song and really mean it?

Our wise choir director addressed this last night.  “It’s not possible to always sing this song and mean every word,” he said.  “But we can sing it and genuinely want to mean it.”  There is truth in that.  Right now, I don’t think I’m being honest if I say to the Lord, You alone are my passion.  It’s the alone part that gets me.

But I want that to be true of my heart and spirit and I believe that when desire and willingness meet, passion can spring forth.

I desire to be able to fully and unabashedly sing that song without an ounce of shame.  I desire to approach the Holy of Holies, beneathe the Veil of Grace, and sing Everything I do, Everything I have, Every Breath I breathe, Everything I do is for You.

My desire is that Passion would overcome flesh.

Back to Life…

Lee, my strong, handsome, builtlikeaGreekgod, handy man of a husband, spent the week building and installing a new kitchen counter for us.  It looks awesome.  He used granite tiles and did a fabulous job.

I was shocked, however, when I walked in the door yesterday to this:

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And then the realtor called.  She has a client who wants to see our house today at 1:00.  Sing it with me, “Let the gooood times roll!”

Four hours later I had the bathrooms scrubbed, the countertops cleared and the floors vaccuumed.  Unfortunately in the shuffle and frenzy of cleaning we managed to lose a part to the kitchen faucet and cannot reassemble it so Lee is buying another one today.

And I’m seriously questioning our decision to sell this house…

Sneak Peek

I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on a novel.  In actuality I have been working on this book for a decade.  I have started and stopped more times than I can count.  I got 230 pages in the last time I worked on it, but it just didn’t feel right.  I was getting close, but I wasn’t there yet.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve stepped back a bit and gathered my thoughts, something exciting happened:

My characters found their voices.

I felt it all beginning to bubble shortly after the holidays.  Inspiration, confidence, desire and excitement.  All of these formed and gelled and moved into a rhythm that allowed me to sit down and type and suddenly things fell into place.  I’ve known these characters for a long time, but I haven’t truly discovered them.

This week, as I’ve stepped away from the computer, I’ve been inspired.  How could you not be inspired by these views:

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I still have a long way to go on this little book of mine and it will be slow going as my opportunities to write often appear in short bursts.  But I feel like I’m finally on the right track (dare I say the “Write” track? *groan*).  Here is a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on while I was away.

The setting: It’s June 22, 1941.  The Soviet Union was just surprise attacked by the Germans.  Each of my characters is loosely based on a true story as I am compiling the stories I heard when I spent a month in Ukraine interviewing veterans.  This character, Luda, has elements of truth mixed with elements of imagination. 

“Luda!”

I stood in my small bedroom and glanced into my mother’s hand mirror.  It was the only piece of her I had left.  My father had gotten rid of everything else when she died.  I don’t remember anything about her.  I don’t know what she looked like, or how she smelled.  I don’t know if her laugh sounded like a thousand bells or a babbling brook.  I have imagined her so many times.  I have no photographs to create her image.  There are no grandparents to tell me stories.  So I’m left to my imagination.  I see her as tall and pretty.  Her eyes dance when she talks and her delicate hands feel like silk when she holds me.  In my mind, she is the very picture of love.  In my mind, she sings softly to me each night as I drift to sleep.  In my mind, her voice is a melody and her movements a beat.

But it is only in my mind.

I was two when she died.  I don’t even know what happened.  Father won’t tell me.  The only time he mentions her name is when the vodka bottle is half empty.  My father, at half empty, is pleasant, relaxed, almost happy.  When the bottle is empty he is sad, mournful and wants only to be alone.  Most of my nights are spent wrapping a blanket around the shaking shoulders of my empty bottled father.

My father with a full bottle of vodka is frightening.  This means he’s sober and my full bottled father is filled with dashed dreams and self loathing.  He is the father I fear most.  The full bottled papa is why I keep pouring.

“Luda!”

I jump and look in the mirror again.  Is this the same reflection she saw when she looked in it?  Large brown eyes, thick brown hair and a small red mouth?  Today I don’t have time to wonder.  I quickly hide my precious mirror, protecting it from a potential rage of the full bottled father.  Rushing out the door, I smooth my tattered skirt.  My father stands by the front door of our flat, his hand wrapped around a nearly empty bottle of cheap vodka.

I haven’t eaten for two days so he could have his poison.

©Kelli Stuart 2011

Thanks for taking this journey into my imagination with me.  I’m really excited to share it with you all.  Happy Monday!

Disconnected, Unedited

I have had a lovely time in Florida with the kids.  This week I have purposely disconnected from the internet.  I felt bogged down by my overwhelming need to be online all the time and I just needed a break.  Other than a few photos on Facebook, I’ve simply kept the computer off and have relaxed.

It’s been fun to reconnect with the kids.  We’ve played tag and Crazy Eights.  We’ve watched movies and played for hours in the sand.  We visit the tennis courts daily where I “play” tennis with the kids.  It consists of me chasing the ball for a half an hour while they laugh manaically as they swing with all their might.

And today, I totally earned Mom of the Year for wading out into the frigid ocean with Sloan because he wanted to snorkle.  Apparently his skin is made out of leather because he didn’t seem to notice the cold.  I, however, thought I was going to go into hypothermic shock.  Because my skin is made out of paper…

Today could not have been more perfect day.  So perfect that I ended up with a bit of a sunburn, which I hate because I’m all paranoid about the wrinkles that are cropping up on my face.  But whatever, each new wrinkle represents a day of fun in the sun.

That doesn’t at all make me feel better, but I’m trying really hard to not freak out.

Photos, straight out of the camera because I don’t feel like editing them:

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She didn't like the cold water. Or the waves. While trying to run out of the water she fell and cut her toe. Good times...

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More fun in the sun awaits us while everyone at home is bundling up against the final remnants of winter.  I will read, rest and delight in the laughter of my kids.  Right now, I will sleep!

Emphasis on Spring

Perfect weather is a beautiful thing…

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And this last photo just to make you laugh out loud.  I freaking love this kid…

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Tomorrow? The Beach!

Spring Break

Today begins Spring Break. What are we doing so far?

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We’re counting our Spring Break money, drawing on the ipad, learning to read, being goofy and playing with the basketball that was signed for us by Zac Efron himself.

I am also in possession of a signed photo.  The kids think “Troy” signed them for him, but we all know Zac signed them for me.  I have good friends – good friends who know people…

Yes, today starts Spring Break and much fun awaits us.  In just four days we’ll be here:

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Happy Weekend and Happy Break everyone!

Not My Finest Moment

His face was pock marked, the divets in his cheeks glinting in the moonlight.  He wore skinny jeans before skinny jeans were in and his dark windbreaker hung loosely on his gaunt frame.  His frizzy hair was cut into a mullet after mullets were in style.

Were mullets ever in style?

He sauntered up to us and we froze.  The still night air thickened and for the first time we questioned our decision for coming out.  It was 1:00 am and our group was comprised of eighteen year olds, all of us wearing our newfound freedom like a superpower.

We were in college, man.  Why wouldn’t we go out at 1:00 am?

We were standing right in the middle of a field where history and tragedy had met only three years earlier.  Where crazy met the FBI.  We were standing on David Koresh’s burned down Branch Davidian compound, a group of 8 or 9 college freshman who decided at the last minute to tour the compound…in the middle of the freaking night.

As we walked through what was mostly an overgrown field we saw him walking toward us and we froze.  “What the BEEP are you kids doing out here?” he asked, the butt of the cigarette stuck between his lips dancing in the dark like a firefly.

We didn’t answer because we didn’t have a good answer.  What the BEEP were we doing out there?

Finally someone spoke.  “What are you doing out here?” he inquired.

“Aw, I was a reporter when everything went down here a few years ago.”  And that’s it.  That was his explanation for visiting this site of horror at 1:00 am.  His reason was worse than ours.

“C’mon,” he offered, puffing smoke into the already thick Waco air, “I’ll show you around.”  And with that we followed him.  Why didn’t we decline and turn away?  I don’t know.  Why were we there in the first place? 

For the next 30-45 minutes we were taken on a fascinating tour of David Koresh’s compound complete with the most colorful tour guide I’ve ever known.  His name was Michael.  I don’t think he was a reporter.  My first clue was when he took us to what looked like a fox hole in the ground and regaled us with tales of David himself hiding there.  He showed us bullet holes in the back of a burned out bus and told us about the children and wives hiding throughout the compound.

He knew more than what an average news reporter should have known.  And suddenly I knew more than an average eighteen year old should have known.

There were a couple of voices of reason who were persistently trying to convince us to leave.  Girls who were uncomfortable with this man’s in depth knowledge and offensive language.  Maybe we should have listened to their reasoning and left, but the rest of us were so intrigued that we squelched wisdom and followed curiosity.

We all know what happened to the cat who did the same, right?

At one point, one of these voices of reason spoke up as Michael set forth an obsenity filled rant on what went down on the land on which we stood.

“Um, sir?” she said, her voice small but defiant.  “Could you please watch your language?  I find it very offensive.”

Insert very awkward pause.

And on we went, Michael not toning down his color and no one else daring to say another word.  Finally we were back where we started and we stood huddled together, a group of foolish youth who had just had an unexpected adventure.

“It would probably be best if you kids didn’t come out here in the middle of the night again,” Michael said.  “Sometimes people come out here to defend the land and the people in the house over there have guns.”

He gestured to a house a few meters from the property.  For the first time it dawned on me that maybe we weren’t even supposed to be here in the middle of the night.  I do believe we all suffered from freshman brain – you know where common sense flees for a period of time and that which once seemed crazy now seemed perfectly normal. 

We nodded, thanked him for showing us around and quickly drove back to the Baylor campus, all of us talking a mile a minute.  Was he really a reporter?  Was he a Branch Davidian?  How did he know all of that?

I never visited Koresh’s compound again.  I’ve never seen it in the daylight.  I’ve heard that they have since built a museum on the grounds and that it is better protected than it was back then.

But I saw all I needed to see that sticky Texas night.  It was night that I can honestly say was not one of my finest life moments…

But what an adventure, huh?!

Images

This morning I stepped outside and smelled spring.  She is fighting back at Old Man Winter and this morning I do believe she won.  It smells fresh, new and warm.  According to Tia, “It smells like Florida.”

The Plague that settled upon our house finally caught up to me.  I thought that I just might escape it, but alas, it wasn’t to be.  It appears that some unknown force has deposited two ton sandbags in my sinuses, has jackhammered behind my eyes and has run a cheese grater down my throat.  I do believe that someone then lit a match and tossed it up my nostril, laughing maniacally as everything from my neck up began to burn.

How’s that for imagery?

I’ve been taking so many vitamins that I practically glow in the dark so I was quite certain I would laugh in the face of this crud.  Instead it is laughing at me and my flaming sinuses.

Nyquil gives me strange dreams.  Two night ago I spent half the night trying to outrun a very cunning snake.  I climbed trees and hid under beds but everywhere I turned the snake was there, licking his lips in anticipation.  I finally woke up and had to convince myself that I wasn’t actually being chased by a 50 foot python.

I then fell back to sleep and dreamt that the President of the United States was the target of an assassination plot and I was the one tasked with thwarting this plot.  Greg Kinnear was the President and I was bound and determined to save him.

Uuuuuummmmm….

Last night’s dreams again involved critters chasing me as well as preparations to welcome a new child into our family.  This was all in the same dream.  It was as if I would switch from one scene to another and neither related to the other.  I woke up very confused. 

And no, I’m not pregnant.  I’m just sick.  And a little drugged up.

I found a Russian App for the iPad and the kids are playing it right now.  It does my heart good to know that they are enjoying the language that is so near and dear to my heart.  They are by no means fluent and I don’t expect them to be, but I do hope that someday they will share my love for all things Russian/Ukrainian and that can be something that we share as a family.

My house exploded this morning.  Yesterday it was clean and today it’s…not.  I’m not sure how that happens but it seems to happen multiple times a day.  I clean up, the house throws up and so on and so forth.  I don’t know how we’re ever going to sell this house.

On Tuesdays, the kids and I take a Russian theater class.  The teacher is hilarious and takes her craft seriously.  Yesterday she asked us to pretend we were holding a flower and wanted us to breathe in slowly through our noses then exhale through our mouths.  We were to imagine the smell of the flower.

Sloan misunderstood her directions and after a couple of breaths leaned over to me and stage whispered, “Are we pretending to smoke?!  ‘Cause that’s bad for you.” 

Speaking of images, like everyone else I am horrified by the scenes coming from Japan.  The damage is spectacular and horrifying and my heart goes out to the thousnads of people who have been so devastatingly affected.  For a great way to help out Japan, go to my friend Nicole’s blog.

Want to see some truly beautiful images?  Visit my sister-in-law, Becke’s blog and look at the pictures she took on her photo walk.  She’s just a tiny bit talented with a camera…

This is the part of the post where I sign off.  I have to hop in my smokin’ hot minivan and play mom for the rest of the day.

Peace out.

I’m a dork…

On Earaches and Mary

On Friday night Landon asked to go to bed.  This was after he asked to take a nap on Friday afternoon and he slept for two hours.

Not normal.

At 11:00 Friday Landon woke up crying.  He was at the tail end of a cold so a little medicine, a kiss and a cup of water and everyone settled once again.  Until…

One O’clock rolled around and we heard the desperate pleas of our little one.  And he never went back to sleep.

“My eeaaaw huwts,” he cried all night, clutching at his left ear.  We rocked and sang and he’d slowly drift to sleep only to jolt awake again with a cry.  Back and forth we went between his room and our own room, Lee and I alternating trying to sleep and holding our hurting boy.  We debated heading to the ER but knew it was an ear infection and decided to wait it out until morning.

At 5:30 we put in High School Musical and I dozed on the couch.  By 9:00 we were in the pediatrician’s office where it was declared he had a nasty inner ear infection with a painful looking bulge and by 10:30 we were home with a little boy who looked like this.

Pitiful Landon

Not only did he look exhausted, he also look abused due to an unfortunate run in with the corner of the iPad the night before that left him with a shiner.  He was pitiful and in pain most of Saturday but by Sunday morning had perked up considerably thanks to numbing drops, antibiotics and twleve hours of solid sleep.  We were on the mend, and we were happy.

When his ear began dripping blood on Sunday morning we began fast and furiously treating what we think may have been a slight perforation in his ear drum with both antibiotic ear drops and oral antibiotics as we are flying a week from tomorrow and we need his ear healed.  So far the pediatrician has cleared us to fly and is confident that he will be fine by the time we leave.  This is a good thing because if she said he wouldn’t be I was already planning the car trip.

Sunday afternoon I went to a practice for an Easter drama that a few of us are putting on on Easter Sunday.  It’s a beautiful piece of work and I found myself very emotional at one point when the character of Christ speaks the word, “Mother?” This happens during the crucifixion scene.

And my heart broke a little as I pictured Mary watching her baby suffer.  My heart crumbled just seeing Landon suffer through ear pain, but Mary watched her son beaten, bruised and hung.  She watched the blood drain from the very hands that she held as a small child.  She saw the flesh torn from the back of the boy she bathed as a boy.

She suffered.

As my children grow I’m realizing more and more that I will always and forever see the infant form of them.  Sloan is developing a man-child look about him and yet I still see the expressive toddler who marveled at the moon.  Tia’s face matures a little more each day and yet I still see the big-eyed infant who couldn’t wait to conquer the world.

Landon is right where I want him right now.  He is today who I will never forget.

Mary felt the same way.  I understand that more and more the longer I parent.  She saw the man who hung on the cross, but did her mind flash to him toddling into her arms?  It most surely did.  Did she remember sloppy kisses and delighted laughter?  I’m sure of it.  As she stared at his arms stretched wide across the beams, did her own arms ache with the memory of the weight of her infant?  Did she smell the stench of the stable and see the dark, round eyes of her firstborn nuzzled against her chest? 

What kind of memories flooded her mind’s eye? 

And as he suffered and died slowly, did she experience pain herself?  What was swirling through her heart?  It pains me to even think about it, as it pained me to watch my toddler clutch at his ear in pain.

When they hurt, we hurt.

And then, when she heard He was alive – what did she feel?  What kind if disbelief and shock and fear and joy coursed through her veins?  When she saw His resurrected body, did she still see the little boy she raised or was He different somehow?  Did He give her an extra long hug and a kiss on the cheek, a balm to the wound she had suffered three days before? 

I wonder about these things.

Mary was a mother.

I am a mother.

And so I ponder.

The Spoils of His Booty

Last Saturday, Lee and I joined sweet friends at an auction/fundraiser for their kid’s school.  We spent the first hour and a half perusing the silent auction items, wishing we had the money to bid on every item and reminding ourselves that we’re trying to sell and buy a house so keep your hands to yourself and don’t get into a bidding war because By God you might win!

When our friend Lauren, a sophomore at this high school, offered us the chance to purchase tickets giving us the opportunity to play the game Heads or Tails we decided this was a fun way to invest in the school without feeling guilty later.  So we bought two tickets for forty bucks.

And we were happy.

Midway through the auction, as we were sitting on our hands not bidding on items and trips and others such delights, the game of Heads and Tails was introduced.  Everyone who had puchased a ticket stood up and had to choose: hands on your head or hands on your…tail.  Lee chose tail, I chose head.

Tails won.

And on and on it went with Lee doing his best to read the odds and somehow managing to choose right every time.  And then it was down to two – Lee and another woman.  Being the gentleman that he is, he let her choose first.  She put her hands on her head, he put his hands on his backside.

The coin flipped and spun in the air, glittering and giggling as it danced back in the palm of the MC.  He flipped it over on top of his opposite hand and slowly pulled his hand away as one of the teenagers stepped forward to read the results.

Tails!

Everyone cheered.  I had a minor heart attack.  Lee turned red and laughed and nodded his thanks then came back to our table to sit down as everyone congratulated him.  “What are the odds?!” I said.  “Well, they’re 50/50,” said a man across the table.  Hardy, har, har…

“So what did I win?” Lee asked.

Well…

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It’s a terrible picture, but that there is our brand new iPad!  We are now the proud owners of a Mac product and we feel terribly cool because of it.  The kids are certain we won it for them and Lee has quickly come to realize that he actually won it for me.

This totally beats an oversized stuffed carnival animal.

So given that Lee won this by holding onto his backside, it’s safe to say his booty is a bit of a lucky charm.  Go ahead and rub it for luck next time you see him, if you want.

I’m kidding!  Don’t do that.  That would be weird and uncomfortable for everyone involved.